from Hunter Leath
"You know I've tried to forget. Have I ever told you that before? That I went so low and drank myself into amnesia before, but it lasted for a brief amount of time. Just like everything, you always have to wake up." I took another sip out of my ever decreasing glass of whiskey. Frank sat across from me, listening intently, all the while scribbling on that notepad of his. My therapist of sorts. It wasn't my idea. When I was in my youth I would have never gone to a therapist. I saw it as a sort of weakness. You know me filled with piss and vinegar, was too tough for a therapist. They were for the weak. Either way, here I was. I had been coming here for quite some time now. It had been a few appointments already so the awkwardness of the initial opening up phase had already passed. Now I found it to be somewhat relaxing just emptying out my sorrows. I still didn't think a therapist would help solve anything, but like I said, it was soothing.
"You know something Frank. It's like in a dream, just backwards is all. I keep feeling like I am going to wake up from this. It is as if I am stuck in a nightmare only to realize that there is no waking from this dream. So the alcohol didn't help as it just made my yearning to wake up all the worse. That's when the devil inside me began to twist this idea of waking up, into and end of my dream. Suicide, I mean. It could be over, if I chose to end it. That was before I started to come here." I paused and continued to sip from my glass. I never intended to reveal that little piece of information. Frank looked down to his notes and back up to me.
"How does all of this make you feel?" He said.
I almost laughed. Damn therapists with that generic question. "For Christ sake Frank. We're not going to talk about my feelings again are we?"
"Look, I am just trying to help you open up more about what you were going through. This is a part of the healing process. It's ok though, we can talk about something else." For a moment he paused, then his focus returned to me. "How about you walk me through what happened?"
This question struck me as it made me consider the possibility of reliving that experience. My heart beat kicked up and I could feel perspiration running from my forehead. "Look Doc, I don't know if I am ready for that."
"I understand. Tom, all I ask is that if you don't want to open up to me please open up to someone. Like I said this is all a part of the healing process you understand?"
"Look Frank, I just don't feel like that is something I can do."
He paused for a second and returned to his thoughts, then back to me. "How about something simple then? Let's start with the beginning. Just run me through some of the things that were happening in your life back then."
I knew what he was doing. Sneaky bastard trying to get the ball rolling. I knew exactly where this would lead, but at some point I almost seemed to like the idea. "Back when I first enlisted?"
"...Yeah sure. Wherever you feel comfortable."
"Back in the day..." Saying this made me feel old, but I pushed through "...I was stationed in the Pacific..."
Boom, boom, boom resounded the drums of war as the artillery guns continued to sing their song, the ground shaking with every beat as if it was a concerto. The sky was filled with black fog, the smell of burnt flesh and the crackling of the woods of the island consuming my senses. The sight of the once beautiful island of Okinawa was enough to make any question the entirety of their existence, but after close to a month of us being on the island, hell seemed normal for us. I was a part of A Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. I was a second Lieutenant for all of my service in the Pacific War, directly under Captain Moore. Well enough leader, and as far as memory serves, can't say I have any complaints. Over all, good man. Poor bastard.
It was May 29, 1945 and A Company, whom originally had been deployed on the northern edge of the island, had been sent to the southern side of the island to relieve the 27th Infantry Division after suffering heavy losses. Our mission was to capture Shuri Castle, a heavily guarded castle that the Japanese had used as a staging ground to continue to prick at our advancements. It had been three days since we were given this order, three days of waiting while our artillery continued to hammer Shinu Castle. Now it was our turn to advance on the castle.
The sun was just beginning to rise and overtake the darkness, all the while the sky filled with a thousand different colors that illuminated the sky. It would have been beautiful if it wasn't so ironic. We slowly moved through the brush of the island as we made our way up the hill. A Company had been split into three different groups all designed to create a pincer move with our forward flank pushing through the castle. I was in the arrowhead of the attack. This meant I was going to be caught in the thick of it. Our sources revealed to us that most of the soldiers would have fled the castle. Time would tell.
Our intelligence agent on the ground was following with our task force, not really sure why. That's the Office of Strategic Services though right? Always keeping secrets. His name, as I later found out was Frank Giordano. The Italian bastard stood out like a sore thumb. Captain Moore wasn't too fond of having him along with us, but he pushed on despite. Orders right? We crept closer to the castle, all the while a silence permeated the air. Ironically, I hoped that there would be noise. I wanted to be able to hear the enemy, the suspense was worse than a loud, thunderous welcome.
The gate was now in sight. It had been blown wide open by our artillery. The whole place looked abandoned. Captain Moore order the forward command, and we slowly made our way to the gate. "Stack up." He said. It was almost impossible to move through the mud. I swear I almost fell on my face more than once.
We lined up on the gate, Frank on my ass the whole time. I was his escort, almost. He insisted he didn't need one, and I believed him. It was more of a formality. Once we lined up, Griggs and Bohammer moved through the gate and gave the all clear. We followed them into the castle. I was still under the archway when it happened. That thing we all knew was going to come but hoped that it wouldn't.
I don't speak Japanese, but some fucker started yelling all types of shit and before you could react there was one explosion, then a second, then a third. This all followed by a charge of Japanese soldiers, at least the ones who stayed after all of the bombing. Most had already retreated. "Open Fire" yelled Moore.
I began to pick at targets left and right. I never could understand why they would willingly through themselves into our sights. I almost felt bad for them, almost. During the fight, I was so focused, to this day I am surprised that I heard it. Above me, I could hear cracks and shifting of stone, followed by an explosion. I grabbed Frank and dove out of the archway. It collapsed behind us. The dust flew up through the air and I popped up to one knee. As soon as I would see an oncoming Japanese soldier, I would pull the trigger. No time to rest. Frank did the same, until he began to pull on my shoulder. I looked back and could see him motioning to a building on the side of the castle. Some of our men were piling into it. We bolted for it.
The dust cleared as we entered the building. Moore and a handful of A company had taken shelter in the building. "No, we are here you fuck. I repeat do not engage, call off the strike." Yelled Moore into one of our radios. "Tom, get on the com and tell this bastard to call off the air strike or they'll blow us to hell and back."
I ran over to the radio and started to yell, just as Captain Moore did. "Repeat, call off the strike. There are friendlies in here!"
"Repeat A Company. You are outside your zone." they replied.
"A Company has been ordered to move into Shuri Castle, I repeat do not engage this position."
"Just checking now A Company." There was a pause that followed. "Ok, that checks out, calling off the strike."
"All clear sir." I yelled to the Captain, who was ordering men to move on certain positions.
"Good. Tom, you Griggs and the OSS chum follow me. Covering fire!" Captain Moore led us through another door way which led us outside and we followed the far East wall. I could see ahead that our pincer move was working as the two other groups pilled in through the West and the East sides of the castle. We entered into another building that was being occupied by our Eastern flanking group. "We need to get to their BOP" said Moore.
He led us down a hatch that opened up into a secret compartment of tunnels under the castle. I later found out that this information was given to us by Frank. The tunnels were small and compact, held up by wooden beams. Frank took the lead and led us through the tunnels. I could hear the enemy moving about the tunnels as their voices echoed. I very much disliked being underground. Perhaps it was claustrophobia, or maybe I just wasn't fond of not having an escape route.
We met little resistance as we moved through the tunnels, to everyone's surprise. Frank led us all the way to a metal door. "This should be it." he said.
"Alright, Griggs and Tom stack up." said Moore. We lined up on the door and as soon as Griggs tapped my shoulder, I pulled open the door. Click. That dreadful noise still permeates my thoughts to this day. Before I knew it, I was being flung through the air. I could hardly tell what was up or down at this point, right before I felt the crashing weight of the explosion throw me to the ground. I felt dazed and confused as I tried to get my ears to stop ringing. My eyes lifted and closed at the weight of what just happened. The air was filled with smoke, but there was something else.
Out of the mist, I saw a figure standing. I rubbed my eyes as I tried to gain a clear view of who it was. Once my vision cleared, standing in front of me was a women of immense beauty. She didn't move or blink, simply stared. Her eyes were locked on mine, just as mine were to hers. She had long dark hair, and ocean deep blue eyes. It felt like we were locked for an eternity. I felt a hand grab my shoulder behind me as I was shaken from my daze and looked to see Frank. "Get up Tom!" he yelled. I looked to him, then back to where the woman was, but she had vanished.
Time seemed to kick back to its normal pace as Frank helped me to my feet. I steadied myself on a table as Frank moved on towards some terminals that were set up and wired. I took a quick look around and noticed that I no longer recognized quite where I was. The floors were made of cobblestone as where the walls and ceiling. It seemed to be some sort of chapel. The room was filled with computers and filling cabinets. "Frank, where are we."
"Tom what can you tell me about the woman you saw?"
"Woman? How did you..."
"Tom we don't have much time. Listen to me." he walked over to me and handed me an M1911 "Guard the door and do as I say."
"What's happened Frank? Where is the Captain? Where is Griggs. Where are we?"
Ignoring me he continued with the terminals. "He should be here by now. It doesn't make sense. He should be here. Tom you were telling me about that woman you saw."
"Um, well she was tall, with dark somewhat curly hair and blue eyes."
"Yes, yes what else did you see? Did you recognize her?"
"No" I replied.
"Shit. Look we need to keep moving ok? I thought he would be here, but he isn't. Come on Tom, you need to continue on." Frank grabbed me and took me through another door at the other side of the room. As soon as I went through the door, I tripped and fell to my knees. Before me was Captain Moore.
"Tom! Tom!" Frank ran up to me saying, "..we have to get the plans before they blow the place." I looked back to Captain Moore. "He's gone Tom. Poor Bastard" My head buzzed with confusion, almost as if I had just lost a precious memory.
After having one last look at Captain Moore, I grabbed my gun and followed Frank through more tunnels. "The BOP is just ahead. We need those plans if we are to have any chance of getting through Japan's air defenses."
"What are you talking about?"
"Look, I didn't tell you this ok?"
"We're going to bomb Japan. Very soon but all we need are their air defense plans. So come on."
My feet sank with every step in the cold, damp dirt that encompassed the tunnel. As I followed Frank through the labyrinth, I could feel something nagging at the back of my head. Something that I had forgotten was trying to come to fruition as my mind tried to make sense of things. I shook it off and continued through the tunnels. Now is no time to get distracted, I told myself.
Frank stopped at a turn, and looked back to me. "This is it. It doesn't look like they have moved on yet. We need those plans. Follow my lead." Frank swung around the corner, me covering his attack. We walked into a clear in the tunnel that had wooden tables out with papers thrown all over them. In the room there was a map of the island hung on the wall and another of the castle and its tunnel system. Then, of course, there were the handful of Japanese soldiers to add to the mess. Frank fired first, followed by me. We picked our targets and moved quickly. They barely had any time to react. I moved up, aiming down my sights. I would hit one, then turn and look for my next target. It was like a dance as we cleared the room. A couple of them lifted a table, but we riddled it. It was moments like this that I truly appreciated the ability to focus.
After the fighting, Frank began to run around frantically. "Tom help me find the plans. They have to be here." I started to look for anything that would resemble air defenses. I moved from one table to the next until finally, I found them. "Here" I yelled.
Frank ran over and took a look at the pieces of paper in my hands. "Good, good. This is perfect. You know Tom, you would make a good agent...."
"...So you and the CIA agent found the plans? Then what happened?" asked Frank.
I took another sip of whiskey. "We all got killed. There was an explosion that went off, Frank didn't make it."
"How did you survive the blast?" he asked.
"After the attack, one of the commanding officers put a confederate flag up. It didn't really mean anything. It was a practical joke for the commander of A Company, he thought it was funny as hell. Despite this, they had it taken down."
"Tom! How did you survive the blast? What happened after Okinawa?"
"You know I saw him again."
Frank focused in on me. "Who?"
"The OSS agent."
"I thought you said that he died in Okinawa."
"Yeah. He did."
Frank took a deep breath. His impatience was becoming evident. "Tom. Tell me about the woman."
My mind began to run at this question. I could feel a nagging on my mind as it tried to work something out. My head began to feel very heavy and my vision began to dim from the weight. I could see Frank get out of his chair and come over to me. "Tom! Tom?"
"I was in Chicago, and the year was nineteen forty eight...."