William B. McCloskey

Warriors

From Prologue, Okinawa prison camp August 1945.
Japanese have surrendered. Marine Jones Henry on guard duty.

Once their gaze fixed on each other, Captain Tsurifune did not permit his own to falter even in disgrace. Let this soldier from another army know that I'll die proudly. Suddenly the wound scraped at his very heart, but except for a jolt he couldn't suppress he kept his look cold and steady. Blood seeped up into his mouth. He swallowed it back down. His mind dizzied. He screwed his eyes to hold the gaze. This, now, this was important. Show the victor my resolve until, Emperor willing, I can die and be released.

*******

Jones Henry decided he wasn't going to look away first from the prisoner below him. You'd kill me if you could, Jap, just as I'd kill you, and you ain't getting the better of me on this. Let me kill more of your little yellow brothers in a few days when we invade your dirty Jap homeland. Then if they get me, at least some ways even.

Slowly the Jap squatting below him teetered all together like a bush. As his head hit the ground, with eyes still fixed on Jones' own, blood started to trickle from his mouth.

"One less," Jones muttered. "Good riddance." But he couldn't turn away because the Jap kept his gaze fixed while struggling to rise again. Jones looked away at last, then back again in spite of himself. The Jap still struggled, his eyes still fixed. "Sonofabitch anyhow." Jones turned to a soldier on duty inside the tower. "I don't care, but mebbe you want to call a medic if one's around. Prisoner down there, looks like he needs help. If that's what we're up to these days." He thought about it, then added: "A man who ain't giving up."

*******

Chapter Five: HOME
Tokyo September 1945

[Defeated Japanese soldier (eventually to become a powerful fish czar challenging Americans) returns home through war-devastated Japan.]

At the Tokyo station Tsurifune needed to change trains to continue north. He picked his way toward the entrance and fresh air through haggard people who squatted virtually knee to knee on all the floors. An occasional hand pulled at his leg. By the doorway a voice barked "step aside!" and he needed to delay his exit while ragged men carried out two bodies on a single stretcher. An arm of one body swayed from the stretcher like a pendulum. He'd seen enough corpses not to care.

But at sight of the landscape he gasped. Sights coming into the city should have prepared him... Before him now stretched fields of ashes. Everything was flattened ... A breeze swirled black dust that rose to his nostrils and made him cough. Embers of burnt wood still smoked. Poking up within the level grey mass were pieces of twisted metal, broken crockery, and green stonelike mounds of what? Melted glass? Here and there protruded blocklike objects. He recognized some typical household strong boxes made of brick and cement, built to survive fire, as well as three bulky little safes with their doors pried open, probably from shops otherwise obliterated. This had been --yes, he remembered --a whole community of homes and the people in them.

Only a series of concrete troughs gave lines through the debris. He'd seen some of these from the train, when someone had volunteered wryly that these had been hastily constructed for water to fight the fires, although what good had they been when firestorms from the American planes raged through streets of wooden houses? The troughs now provided foothold for masses of scavengers in clothes the color of the ash around them.

A few people walked slowly along what remained of a street, kicking gray clouds of ash around their legs. Old, all of them. stooped and looking down. Not a youth or girl among them. The few women were poorly groomed, with uncombed hair flying loose. Could his tired mind be showing him ghosts?

"Please, Sir," said an elderly man, and bowed. The tops of his cloth shoes were torn, he wore a ragged jacket, and his eyes seemed expressionless, but he carried himself with a tired dignity.

"You've come on a train with Americans, haven't you? Can you tell me, so that I can better help my family, how it is that you escaped their harm?"

Kiyoshi bowed in return. "Nobody tried to hurt me."

"Ah. Undoubtedly they're waiting to strike, then, after more of them have arrived."

His tone made Kiyoshi uneasy. "What information do you have, sir?"

"Where have you been hiding? Over and over we've been informed, in newspapers, on wireless, in leaflets from the authorities who know. The conquerors have a plan. Rape all women. Abduct all children. Behead all former soldiers, and beat the rest of us perhaps to death. Our young women and children of course are hiding." ...

"Much has changed."

"Young man. These warnings came from the authorities. You're foolish to be so conspicuous. They might single you out for the worst. Put on oldest clothes and keep your head lowered like the rest of us, if you'll take my advice."

Kiyoshi thanked him, and they exchanged polite bows.

*******

Chapter Forty, JONES
Alaska: Adak Navy Base June 1952

[Fisherman Jones Henry and cannery boss Swede Scorden have just paid a semi-hostile unofficial visit to a Japanese trawler newly arrived to fish directly off Alaska, at a time when anything beyond 12 miles from shore remains international waters. With the Korean War the United States is now buttering the Japanese for their support.]

Jones Henry returned his boat to Adak harbor to deposit Swede and to fuel his boat. By now, the sight of volcanic mountains that seemed to rise from the sea had become routine, as well as of green-swept hills in places where land had eroded beneath the cones. This wild country suited him. At the fuel dock, before he could lift a hose, a Navy boatswain and several seamen converged, all wearing sidearms. The boatswain declared: "Sorry sir. Orders are to impound you." They even pulled the spark plugs from his engine, and put a padlock on his cabin door.

"What the Hell. I'm a goddamned American citizen."

Jones miqht have been more outraged if they hadn't treated him well. As it was, he'd been taken to a room with only a cot in one of the enlisted men's buildings when a young Ensign came, apologized for the mistake, and led him to furnished quarters with a bed and private bathroom in another building.

Swede stood in the door of the adjacent room. "We're VIP guests, Jones. Not mere fishermen. I called strongly upon the commander of the Base, showing my credentials. Accommodation together. All paid. So. Let's enjoy the sights of Adak for a while. I see from a menu that they're serving famous king crab in the officers' dining room tonight. OK?"

Jones shrugged. The sea had been rough, and a hot bath wouldn't be bad with a full meal waiting afterward.

*******

[Alaska fisherman Jones, hostile to the Japanese, with the Navy unsure of his status within the changing politics of the time, has his boat impounded in Adak while he is left free to wander. The Adak hills are pocked with ruined bunkers built by the Japanese during WW II. Some are restored by Navy for recreation. Jones, ex-combat Marine on Okinawa, is disgusted by the easy attitude of the new military generation he sees partying and casually bird-shooting in the restored bunkers.]

Jones walked out the quonset doorway into the rain, then uphill through undergrowth that tangled in his feet. Water streamed down his face and sogged in his shoes. He paused, panting, only when he stood high enough to see only hut roofs below. The one that he'd just left puffed smoke. Steve at the entrance called "Hey Jones. Don't need to go that far to take a piss, man! You'd think that ol'boy had a bear on his tail!"

The long buildings of the Base further down misted grey. The sea beyond undulated in dim rows of waves. On he kept until his feet had stopped pulling at vines, and only moss covered the rocky ground. With nothing to break its drive, a gust stronger than the steady blow tattooed rain in horizontal streaks. The force made him sway before he leaned into it. For a moment the sky cleared enough to show a peak whitened by snow, then closed again. Top of the world. World gone spook.

At least, with the wind, he couldn't hear them any more if they were still calling. Men with authority who were nothing but kids wanting war. Booze, bitch, shoot eagles just to ease boredom when they hadn't a clue what they'd been spared!

Dripping wet suited him. He felt bent to raw weather like the weeds and brush. With sudden energy he planted feet apart, spread his arms, and shouted "Fuck!" to the wind. Then "Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" until he needed to cough. All the buddies he'd held dead while their blood burned his hands! They'd left him to booze with kids who wanted war because they didn't know it. Left him alone and alive on a mountain of tumbled quonset huts. "You hear me, guys? I'm alive and you're dead. I can't help it. That's just how it turned out! Jamie! Buss! Bootmug! Callihan! You guys hear? You died, and I'm alive with kids bitching 'cause they don't have a war! Aii!" Silence except for rain pelting against metal, and a foghorn far below.

"Sir. You must come in from the rain." [It's Tsurifune, now an envoy for the Japanese.]

There stood a figure at the entrance to the nearest collapsed quonset hut. Jones squinted to clear his sight throuqh rain. A Jap. Ambush? And his own hands were empty.

"Sir! I am friend."

A face he knew.

"What're you doing here? Just saw you back on that ship where you belong."

Selected Works

Fiction
(New manuscript unpublished)
Warriors
Older "Highliners Trilogy" characters (including Japanese) end of WWII as they enter the Alaskan fisheries.
Fiction
(in print 1979-2006, all rights returned)
Highliners
Alaska commercial fishermen for crab, salmon, halibut. Re Kirkus: "Raw and bracing as icy seawater"
Fiction
(novella stowaways and short stories)
Stowaways, Ice of March Month, Toiletpaper Sopa etc.
Seafarers–merchant seamen, sealers, military–face challenges to their personal and national loyalties.

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