Lungs burning, legs aching, arms straining, somehow Hiroaki kept moving. He could see the shore from where he floated. His oxygen was almost depleted. He had long since lost his explosives.
The young sailor unhooked his weight belt, oxygen tanks, and let them disappear beneath him. He had failed his mission, the only thing left was survival. Though he probably should have just let himself drown, a failed and disgraced warrior should kill himself for the dishonor he’d brought to his family name.
He struggled toward the surface, the ripples on his ceiling were calling for him. Somehow he kicked with one leg and broke through to the air. While it smelled of smoke and blood it was the best tasting thing in the world. He gasped filing his lungs with the sweet nectar of life.
“Hiroaki, pull yourself together, or you are going to drown.” He said silently to himself. Something exploded on the beach; it was farther away than he thought. His muscles were cramping and his bleeding leg would soon be attracting sharks.
Nearby floating in the water was the wreckage of an American landing craft that one of the frogmen who wasn’t a disgrace to the empire had destroyed. Hiroaki swam toward it, his strokes awkward and stiff.
Reaching the flotsam with the last bit of strength he possessed he grabbed a large piece that he believed would help keep him afloat. The dark shape rolled as he put a hand on it. It was a man!
Hiroaki sank breathing in a health gulp of petrol contaminated water. He kicked and forced his head out of the water.
Sputtering and coughing he grabbed onto the dead American. Their eyes met, hollow sightless eyes stared at him, trying to bore a hole through the back of his skull. “Please Buddha deliver me.” He managed to gasp between ragged breaths.
Despite his revulsion he held tight to the dead American, Hiroaki had no strength left to swim, and would surely sink if he let go. Distant machinegun fire fought with the roar of the waves. Many more people would die this day. He thought as he struggled to keep his head above the water.
All around the pair was violence, but the wounded frogman found a small oasis of peace as they floated toward shore. “Who were you?” he asked the dead man.
He noticed a little chain around his neck and pulled it out, he tried to read the letters stamped into the metal but the American’s language looked like gibberish to him. “How can you fools communicate with this language?” He asked the dead Marine.
They floated for a long time, as the frogman regained some strength he kicked with his good leg toward shore. The process was painfully slow, and at first he feared he was being pulled out into the ocean. Thankfully the burning coastline looked like it was getting closer. The water was littered with rubbish, boats, and bodies.
It began to rain from the dark sky, Hiroki would have laughed if he could have spared the air. His chest hurt, every breath was a labor. The explosions underwater had tried to crust his chest. He knew from his dive training that underwater blasts could be deadly just from the pressure wave they created.
The Americans were bringing in more landing craft, but none passed closer than a couple hundred yards, but never the less when they did Hiroki lay still, doing his best to look dead. This wasn’t hard because he could feel death trying to grab him at any moment.
The currents turned the pair around and Hiroki looked out into the ocean. The Americans and their allies had assembled a massive armada of ships. Airplanes launched from far off carriers and flew overhead. Battleships fired their guns shelling his homeland.
Could the Emperor be so blind? The enemy was too strong even for the might of the Empire to destroy. Japan had already lost, but how many more dead would be required for them to understand.
His thoughts turned to the propaganda broadcasts. “The Americans claimed to have super weapons capable of destroying entire cities. More lies their weapons failed! The enemies of the Empire are incompetent fools who will soon be crushed. We will make them bleed for every inch of ground they try and take. The sooner the Americans come, the better…One hundred million die proudly.”
Hiroki didn’t know what to think anymore, why did the man he clung to have to die? He didn’t look like a vicious baby killing savage. He looked young and dead, he had a mother and father somewhere who wouldn’t ever see him again. His life had been extinguished so that Hiroki would have something to hang onto after failing his mission.
Sometime later his feet found the sand. “Farewell American, thank you for giving your life for me.” He said as he let go of the body and crawled up onto the sand. He looked down at his leg, a piece of metal was sticking out of his thigh, the blood long since congealed around the wound. The frogman knew he was lucky, had it hit an artery he would now be floating in the water next to the American.
He lay gasping for air as mortars, artillery and machineguns filled the air with lead and steel. A while later a large landing craft nearly crushed him as it beached. Massive doors opened and a tank roared its engines, emerging from its lair like some ancient dragon.
Hiroki lay still as the metal behemoth rolled past, the ground shook and the whole world filled with noise as the tracks churned up the beach. As quickly as it came it went. The young man risked a look up, and another tank followed it. Five of the war machines disembarked and roared up the beach.
A while later another large landing craft beached and Americans stormed down the ramps. Hundreds of them. All manner of weapons in their hands.
Hiroki couldn’t stand, and hardly move, he knew it was time to surrender. He waved his arms and a few Americans ran toward him, they seemed surprised to see him lying there.
The Marines pointed their weapons at him, he knew they were going to finish him when he heard one say, “Jap.”
The frogman managed to say, “Watashi wa gobuku.”
The Americans began arguing and Hiroki waited for the shot that would end his life. He didn’t understand what they were saying but both men were very agitated.
Then the oddest thing happened, a Navy medical man was brought forward, he poured some powder on his leg wound, wrapped it in a bandage and hauled him aboard the ship. Hiroki was going to live, even if as a coward he didn’t deserve to.
Satomi crouched down behind the Americans they seemed so alien with their camouflage uniforms, strange heavy weapons, and steel pots on their heads. But they were men, true their skin hair and eyes were different, but they weren’t beasts like she was lead to believe.
They had been in the wrecked house for what seemed like hours. One of the Americans had bandaged her ankle, and then reached up under her skirt. She cried out and the one they called Gunny yelled, and punched him in the face, splitting his lip. She stayed away from the Skip American after that.
They couldn’t move forward because of the pillboxes covering the approach. The battle for the beach had raged on all around them. Imperial forces wouldn’t quit until the Americans were pushed back into the sea.
She heard a strange sound, and saw one of the men was sobbing quietly; it was the one that spoke Japanese.
“Rodigez Are you crying?”
He looked up eyes red and moist, “Of course not. Don’t be no foolish girl.”
She brushed a lock of filthy hair out of her eyes. “Silly American, you lie as badly as a schoolboy.”
He took a deep breath before replying, “Shut mouth prisoner.”
She probably should have done as she ordered, but she never really liked obeying, “You’re not monsters.”
Rodriguez looked up, “What you mean?”
“You have feelings. I didn’t think you invaders would feel anything. We were told you would march in here and murder babies for sport.”
The tears in his eyes returned with a vengeance, “We shot civilians, teenage boys, girls… your class friends. It wasn’t to be like that. We were to fight soldiers, not young ones.”
An artillery shell landed uncomfortably close to their position, then another, and another, eliminating any more chance for conversation. Gunny Stan moved forward, a plume of smoke was visible high up on the hill. He yelled something that Satomi didn’t understand and the Marines began moving back.
“What’s going on?”
“They’re… heavy shooting!”
“What does that mean?”
“Your Jap buddies are dropping… shells all over.”
“Rodigez, I just want to go home.”
He looked into her eyes for a moment, “You and me both sister.”
The Marines yelled and ran back toward the beach, past her dead friends. Every step her ankle throbbed, but what choice did she have. She could either stay and be killed by the artillery, go with the Americans, or run away and risk getting shot in the back.
The artillery rained from the sky as they lay huddled behind the small hill she had charged with a piece of bamboo earlier. Satomi covered her ears and tried to make herself as small as possible while she shelling continued.
Gunny looked through a pair of binoculars he had snatched from a dead lieutenant. He focused on the blasts from one of the Japanese guns. As he watched the gun moved back inside the mountain. “What the hell?” He asked as it vanished inside a cave mouth. “The guns are disappearing.”
Skip tried to grab the field glasses, but they were held out of his reach. “Aww come on Gunny, let me see.”
Rodriguez asked the Jap girl something and she responded with a curt, “Nai!”
“Whatever she said it sounds a bit like ‘no’, what did you ask her?”
The Hispanic Marine shrugged, “I asked her if she could tell us what’s making the guns disappear.”
“You tell her I want to know everything she knows about the guns, yesterday!”
Rodriguez and the girl jabbered back and forth for a bit. He turned back to the Sergeant and shrugged, “She’s not saying.”
“The hell she aint. I may not speak Jap mumbo jumbo like you but I know she’ll understand this.” He got up in her grill and yelled, “Damn it girl, you tell me everything you know about those dammed Jap guns right fucking now or you can join your friends!” He gestured to the piles of her dead classmates.
“Gunny!” Rodriguez protested. “We don’t shoot prisoners!”
“Shut it, she don’t know that.”
Tears filled Satomi’s eyes and she muttered two words.
Gunny turned to Rodriguez for the translation.
“Shit, we’ve got to get that intel to command… yesterday.”
American naval guns fired at the Japanese positions, the sixteen inch, high explosive projectiles landed harmlessly where the Japanese batteries had been moments before.
The USS Landing Ship Medium-45 and its cargo of three fresh-from-the-factory M26 Pershing Heavy tanks and their crews were itching to get to shore. So was Petty Officer Clarence Dunkle as he sat in the gunner’s seat on the 40mm Bofors. The sooner they dropped off the tanks and won the war, the sooner he could go back home to Wisconsin, and see Jennifer again.
They had been going up and down the shore looking for a place that wasn’t littered with wrecked landing craft, tanks, and bodies. The Japs were doing their best to turn the beaches into a meat grinder. He had fired at a couple of confirmed enemy machinegun positions, silencing them with his cannon, but mainly he had been a big target on the front of the ship. A few rounds zipped by his head, causing his heart to race.
Finally they found it, a little stretch of beach with seemingly little debris. The helmsman revved the massive diesel engines up to full power, and Clarence felt the ship shift as the bow came up slightly. As they approached the ship heavy machinegun tracers zipped toward them, a few striking their armored gun shields.
“Pillbox!” Seaman Thomas, his assistant gunner yelled, “Two o’clock high!”
The gun was loaded with its standard anti-aircraft high explosive shells, not really bunker busters, but Clarence knew they didn’t have much time, if he could suppress them long enough he’d get the crew to load armor piercers.
He followed the tracers and put the front sight just above the bunker and depressed the trigger. Four heavy high explosive shells designed to shoot down airplanes were fired in about two seconds.
“Load AP!” He yelled.
The loaders hauled up new four round clips, and jammed them into the breach. As soon as he heard the first round drop into place the sailor fired again into the bunker. The ship beached and began offloading its tanks. As soon as the last one hit the beach the back of the landing ship exploded.
Clarence continued firing as the troops poured down the ramp following the tanks. The middle of the ship went up knocking out the conning tower, and most of the ship’s crew. “They’ve got us zeroed!” The gunner yelled and ran toward the railing.
Some of his crew realized they were being shelled and ran with him, trying to abandon ship. One of the loaders was in the middle of picking up a new clip of 40mm rounds when a third artillery shell landed on the bow.