“I am reminded of when I first realized I was not immortal and protected by valiant youth alone. We were approaching from the wilderness like ghosts. We were supposed to attack in the middle of the night when we could barely see the moon between the branches above. There was a golden sun by the time we had arrived at the barracks of the enemy. Even now, I wonder who those men were. I believe they were Indians and Britons. Either way, we somehow had set off one of their diversions. I heard the jingle of wooden plates and spoons, it was a chime that one of our men had knocked down and it knocked through the trees like a maddened spirit striking the graves of its neighbors. I swallowed hard and remembered that we received fire first. The enemy had these nice rifles, their wood was red like blood. They fired on and on, endlessly at us. All we had to do was keep our heads down and charge. Some of us did not have helmets, but those of us who did had stuffed them with twigs and branches. Some stuffed berries but were tormented by birds.
I remember thinking that ‘I have been shot! By all things, I have been shot in the head and now I am bleeding!’ But it was merely my sweat running down my face. It was thick as blood and just as warm. I was so dehydrated that everything in my body felt dry. My bones grinded against each other in the joints like pegs being hammered into the earth for a tent. Every step hurt me, I could feel it in my hips, in my stomach. I fell forward and vomited. It smelled like a campfire. I got up again and we pursued the enemy back into their own base. We hopped over their fortified wall of bags and hidden foliage. Then we approached their miserable base and I swear, every time I poked up my head from behind their weapon crates, I saw a new face staring back at me. I would pop up again and fire, then go down and repeat the process. Eventually, we were doing this so often that we became immune to the terror of gunfire. I heard moaning up ahead, I thought ‘I must have killed so many of these men!’
I did not realize that I was involuntarily screaming the entire time. A bullet had cut through my cover and hit my flask. Water and blood poured out. I was badly injured. I was bleeding! It was just not on my face. When I collapsed and vomited, it was my body screaming in pain but the heat was so terrible I did not notice that a piece of bullet scraped my body. The bullet went in and out, tearing my muscle and flesh. As I breathed, I felt pressure against my ribs. My ribs had felt like a casket for my dying organs. I was a walking dead man and suddenly, I was so terrified. So terrified that I would die. I try to reload my weapon but I am out of ammo. I scavenge the body of my friends who are beside me. Many of them are bleeding, many of them crying. I find one brother who is smiling as he holds himself together. He had been shot three times and his chest was spitting blood. His rounds that I took from him were crimson red in his blood. He took one and put the round in his mouth, he spit it out and into his hand it was clean. Just as he did so, blood began to fill his cheeks. ‘If I am going to die! You better kill some for me!’ He begged me and he tried to get up, he carried himself with an empty rifle and shoveled his way toward cover but collapsed and died before me.
I felt the gravity of his spirit leaving. A sudden emptiness. I was forced to stand on his corpse, among others – shooting at the enemy. I had hit at least two. I did not know until later that I killed at least three. But another man, he had shot five and killed them all. Each shot was between the heart and the head. He was an excellent shot. I always had a terrible habit. I aim for the mid section and then my rounds aim downward. I shot many men in the pelvis. Their upper left thigh, sometimes in the groin.”
– Anonymous Imperial Japanese Solider ‘Taro’. Burma, 1942 (PART ONE)
This story was documented by Battles and Beers (TM) Every soldier has a story, and every story deserves to be told.