I'm sure my father must have been mild-mannered and bookish even as a young man, so the picture of young Ken dodging and returning deadly fire with Japanese troops in the Pacific islands is both incongruous and tantalizing. Following the war, he returned to a quiet and uneventful civilian life (or at any rate, as quiet and uneventful as a life could be when my mother became involved in it), completed his education in literature at Wesleyan University, and spent the last decades of his life on the editorial staff of Choice Magazine, which reviews books for academic libraries. (The offices of Choice were in Middletown, Connecticut, just a short distance from Dad's alma mater.)
He made occasional ventures into creative writing during the time I was growing up, crafting poems on the mechanical typewriter in the family room. But he also left an unpublished - and unfinished - memoir of the war, which I later recovered from his personal effects following his passing. It was among many articles and letters that he kept neatly filed in manila folders within a cardboard box.
Along with his own memoir - which frustratingly comes to an abrupt end just before the real fighting begins - was a mimeographed booklet titled 'Pacific Driftwood', created by the men of my Dad's unit following the war. I do not know who was the editor or creator of the booklet (it could very well have been my father, but I have no idea) but it contains reminiscences, anecdotes, and poetry written by the men during and after the war.
A few years later, I reproduced the contents of both Dad's own memoir and the booklet at a Blogspot site under the title Pacific Memories.
From Pacific Driftwood:
Here is bitterness of the most acute sort expressed in the following lines which some unknown soldier scrawled on an ink-splotched piece of paper. I came across it while in Fiji.
SOLDIER, WHERE'S YOUR HATRED NOW? (F.I., March 1943)
Where's your hatred now?
You haven't any? But you ought to have.
Remember the advice we gave.
Where will you be anyhow
If you forget that you must fight,
That they are wrong, and we are right?
You must make their heads to bow.
"I will fight because I must.
My hatred falters. In the heat of war
The hatred that was once a sore
Festered with a bitter lust,
Becomes a heartache, throbbing deep,
So that I cannot help but weep
Seeing comrades fall to dust."
Why that tear-wet eye?
Your fallen comrades you won't see again?
Remember, this affair is plain:
You may be about to die
Like them; but while you live, be strong,
For right will conquer all that's wrong.
Fight till they for mercy cry.
"You are right, my hatred's gone,
But I remember they are human too -
Those boys who in a sick world grew,
Groping - while afar, the dawn
Awaits to shine on them again
As it has on Freedom's men.
Can I , hating, speed the dawn?"
Spare no love for those
Who try to tear down what we want to save.
They're bestial, and they're not so brave.
Bring conflict to a quicker close:
Destroy their tanks, destroy their planes;
It is this Justice ordains.
Give them death if death they chose!
"I will wreck their tanks and planes
And let their cities fall, for all I care,
And in the name of right, I'll tear
Their bowels out, and smash their brains,
(For you, my country, killed my soul)
And as we approach the goal,
Clamp them in Revenge's chains!"
Bear it for a while,
And if you find no hatred for the foe,
Hate, then, the evil that brought woe.
Hate the greed and hate the guile.
Hate, then, the motive, not the man.
Love the Truth, for if you can,
Soldier, you have won God's smile.
And from my father's memoir: The cannoneers had radar ears.
There was good reason for our reliance on our ears. On many occasions a Jap plane would be above us for as much as five minutes (and presumably within range of the radar detectors for longer than that) before the sirens would make it officially an air raid. Since we had been aware of the plane's presence for some time before the alarm was given by the siren, there was much derisive laughter and comment when we finally did hear the siren. "Well, well, well!" we'd apostrophize. "So you finally woke up! Thanks for letting us know." Sometimes the plane would come, circle around, go into its bombing run, drop the bombs, and fly off even before we'd get a "condition red". Then the laughter and remaks would be more bitter than ever. "Condition red, men. That means it's safe now. But if you hear a condition green 'all clear', look out!" It sound strange but it is quite true that this was the case more than once. The plane would come in and drop its bomb load, then scoot away before the condition red sounded. After everything was quiet, the condition green would sound, and then, of course, the plane would return! ...