Culture

4 Must-Read Memorial Day War Stories

IwoJima3

“I often hear tour guides telling their customers that the flag is never displayed at half mast at the Marine Corps Memorial. Oh yes it is.” – Mark Baird

Editor’s Note:  Discover innovative fiction writers at the recently-launched new media publishing platform Liberty IslandSee this collection of interviews and story excerpts from 22 of Liberty Island’s writers. Please check out this interview Sarah Hoyt conducted with CEO Adam Bellow here to learn more: “It also has a unique mission: to serve as the platform and gathering-place for the new right-of-center counterculture.” An index of 8 more newly-released stories can be found here.

1. That In Those Times We Will Remember by David Churchill Barrow

2. Point Man by Ted Galacci

3. Shadows: A Danse Macabre in the African Desert by Roy Griffis

4. Even the Pilgrims Needed a Few Good Men: ‘By the Sword Seek Peace’ by David Churchill Barrow

1. That In Those Times We Will Remember by David Churchill Barrow

dB1ZzevbGCxB

An Excerpt from “That In Those Times We Will Remember“:

Gentlemen, I’d like to draw your attention to this outline of the continental United States,” the old Marine began, as he put the first transparency on the overhead projector. “And this, gentlemen, is an outline of the island of Cuba drawn to the same scale,” he added, superimposing a second overlay onto the first. “As you can see, it is over 800 miles long and would run from New York City to Chicago.” He paused for effect, and then put on a third overlay. “Can you all see this little red dot?”

“Just barely. What’s tha-at?”

In the relative darkness beyond the bright overhead he couldn’t quite see who had asked, but the Cape Cod twang told him it was either the boss himself or his brother the Attorney General. It didn’t surprise him that the AG was deeply involved. After the boss had had to scrape the Bay of Pigs fiasco off the bottom of his polished oxfords, there were damn few around him he still trusted. Obviously his brother was one, and this old Marine hoped that he too was on that short list. He’d served under many men since his ROTC days at DePauw – some were pompous pinheads and some weren’t – but he genuinely enjoyed serving under this C-in-C. It wasn’t just the famous “vigah” or the fact that he had served in the Pacific. The man was a quick learner, and he needed to be that above all right now.

“I’m glad you asked. That, gentlemen, represents the relative size of the island of Betio in the Tarawa atoll. About two miles long and maybe 800 yards at its widest point. It took 12,000 Marines three days to take it. Over a thousand never came home.”

He could tell from the murmuring that they got the point. Those who wore uniforms — and those who had ever worn one — were no longer looking at the red dot. Their eyes were fixed on the little sky-blue ribbon with its tiny stars in the top row of combat decorations on his Class “A” jacket. It was a slight irritant to some of the brass, since they had to salute that ribbon even if they outranked the wearer. They all knew that his had been earned on Tarawa.

On the way back to his office he stopped by the scuttlebutt, took a bottle of his favorite APC grunt candy – Anacin – out of his pocket and washed down three pills with some water. Ever since the Bay of Pigs he’d made it his mission to protect the boss as best he could from the Langley cowboys and Foggy Bottom dilettanti who wanted to play at war, but every attempt left him with a massive migraine. He’d told them before and he knew he’d have to say it again. Either do the sonofabitch and do it right, or don’t do it at all. Quit friggin’ around. He went into his office, closed the door without turning on any bright lights, leaned back in his leather chair and closed his eyes.

Continue reading at Liberty Island…

2. Point Man by Ted Galacci

NARA0312308j

An Excerpt from “Point Man“:

1944–Italy

Crack!

Before the echoes of the rifle shot died, all seven of us dropped and merged with the rocks on the dusty Italian hill. We were on the inside of a long, climbing curve and I was on the high side of the trail, up against the bank. That’s why I couldn’t see shit over the sights of my Browning Automatic Rifle–my BAR.

It was a real bitch hauling those sixteen pounds up and down these hills, but the firepower–it was a light machine gun in all but name–was a real comfort sometimes. Like now.

I eased another magazine out of my bandoleer and set it down beside the one already in the receiver–just in case.

“Anybody hit?” Sarge called.

“Dutch dropped,” Padre said. “He isn’t moving.”

Dutch Boehm was point man, the most dangerous job in a patrol file. Usually it was Padre’s, but Sarge had put Dutch there today.

“Anybody see where it came from?” Sarge was doing the next most dangerous job, calling attention to himself. I waited for another shot but none came.

“Sounded like it came from up and to the right.” Russo was tail-end Charlie. He and Dutch were buddies. We called them the Axis twins.

“Okay, take New Guy and check it out.”

“Right Sarge. C’mon.” I heard rocks and dirt kicked loose behind me as they moved out. We all waited. Flies buzzed and walked undisturbed on our faces and hands. I squinted at the narrow view of shimmering rocks, leafless shrubs, and Shitter Jones’ worn boot soles ahead.

Russo and his backup came clattering back down onto the the trail. He went over and stood near Sarge. The rest of us took that as a signal to relax–but not too much. I got up into a crouch, so I could see what was going on.

“They let out Sarge.” Russo’s words came between gasps. “Found this.”

He offered Sarge a single dull brass cartridge. Sarge rolled in in his fingers and then sniffed it. He looked at New Guy. “What about you?”

“I d-didn’t see nothing.”

“Padre, you and New Guy go up and take care of Dutch. Don’t dig him in, just cover him with rocks. Bring back his tag and personals… and his ammo.”

“Why me? I just came–” I moved up behind New Guy and put a hand on a shoulder when he started to protest. He went off muttering. Padre followed silently.

“Fifteen minutes for water,” Sarge continued. “Chick, you keep an eye out.”

Chick, that’s me. I climbed a little way up the steep bank and rested my ass against it. It was so steep, you couldn’t call it sitting. The rest of the guys moved back down the trail, where the bank made some shade, and lay down, mostly.

I fumbled my canteen from its case on my right hip while scanning the barren hills for movement. The first sip was warm and metallic tasting. I swished it around in my mouth and spat. Then I chugged a good one, wishing it was a Pabst. I looked back toward the other guys.

Sarge was way down the trail, near where the tail of the squad had been when Dutch had bought it. He was leaning over and looking at something. Then he was picking it up. Whatever it was, it was shiny.

Shitter Jones was talking to Russo. He pulled out some Luckies and traded for some toilet paper from Russo’s K-rations. The way K-rations were made, most guys got clogged up and couldn’t go to the bathroom but every three, four days. This was a good thing, because it took you that long to save up the tiny packets of paper to make a decent wipe. Most guys excepting Shitter: He was always wandering off to find a bush or rock pile somewhere, and he was always desperate for paper.

Jones moved off on another privacy search and Russo started emptying his Garrand. Click-clack. He worked the action and round sprang out. Click-clack, click-clack, click-clack.

Unlike my BAR, the M1 Garrand rifle loads eight rounds through the top from a special stripper clip. When the last round is fired, the bolt locks to the rear and the clip springs out, You can’t reload until the weapon is entirely empty, so if you want to make sure it’s full, you have to empty it all the way first.

That’s what Russo was doing. Click-clack, click-clack, click-clack. Ping! The clip jumped out. Russo pulled a full one from his ammo pouch and slid it into his rifle. He glanced over at Sarge before bending over to pick up the loose brass.

Continue reading at Liberty Island…

3. Shadows: A Danse Macabre in the African Desert by Roy Griffis

EFbe8COyQkHW

An Excerpt from “Shadows“:

It is the third day. Today, I am assigned to the western, or forward, antiaircraft battery. Hans has the eastern gun. Almost every third day the British have sent a reconnaissance plane toward us: our lives have become patterned around that fact. But we look ready each day.

At least, we are told it is a recon plane. Before he died, Herr Dietrich told us, “If it is a recon plane, we must do our best to knock them out of the skies. Our appearance of bloodthirsty determination will help the Britishers’ report of us.” So we wait.

The land here is mostly flat, unlike the steep hills and valleys of home, and it is also dead, unlike home when I was last there. I do not like to think of the green and slate colors all black, burnt and scarred by the Allied bombs. When the sun rises here, it sends the light running ahead of it, like pouring golden water on a dark tabletop. The nights are cold, the sunrise cool, and the largest part of the day is hot.

I wear an old Luftwaffe jacket, gloves on my hands as I sit at the controls. The leather jacket has ragged holes down one side. Within hours of the sun’s rise, I’ll be stripped to my undershirt.

Stretching night-stiffened limbs, I catch my leg against the metal frame. It is only a glancing blow, but the pain flies up through me like the red streaks radiating from my wound.

“Scheisse!” I mutter.

Gingerly, I move my leg aside. The seat of the gun is rough, better used on a farm tractor than for a weapon. Even so, to recline invites sleep. Instead, I look back over my shoulder at the camp.

The 10 or more cooking fires are lit, and Johann’s most important duty for the day has been performed. Prometheus–I call him that for the fire he brings to the British–huddles inside what would be the kitchen tent. He is wearing his cook’s uniform, easily seen from the air. He waits, as we all do, for the sound of the aeroplane. The serving tables are set; the containers half full of something like food. The wind shifts the smaller pots a bit. The occasional tinny clank carries across the empty field between us.

The massed trucks, the personnel carriers. All of this is for them alone. The tents, the fires, even the camouflage thrown over our weapon emplacements. It is for them.

I can hear it. Almost all of the noise from the engine, I was told, so little from the propeller. Sound travels as quickly as dawn sunlight in the desert, but deceives about the direction.

There it is…too distant to make out the details. But even were I to see them, I would not be able to correctly identify the craft. The type has ceased to be important. Only the circle within a circle of the British emblem interests me. It is a good target at which to aim.

High and fast it comes, staying hidden in the sky-filling explosion of the morning sun. The flight goes as others before it; we fire, the plane circles, we fire again, the sentries on the ground move about, and the English fly away with their photographs.

Continue reading at Liberty Island…

4. Even the Pilgrims Needed a Few Good Men: ‘By the Sword Seek Peace’ by David Churchill Barrow

uVlAKtHFdhk3

An Excerpt from “Ense Petit Placidam – By the Sword Seek Peace”:

“Tarry awhile with me, Captain?”

The governor’s assistant, Isaac Allerton, and the native Hobamock had just unlatched the door and stepped outside, leaving the two leaders to their own counsel.

The governor put a hand on his old friend’s shoulder and inclined his head towards the ladder leading to the gun deck of the fortified meetinghouse. As they climbed, the afternoon sun of a late March day shone through the observation and gun ports, in contrast to the dark room below. The light reflected off the little soldier’s shiny metal cuirass, causing the governor to blink and look away until his eyes adjusted. The captain removed his morion helmet and leaned back upon the brass five-pounder, stroking the barrel with his gauntleted hand as if it were his favorite hound.

“Doth Hobamock lie?” the governor asked.

“He doth not,” the captain answered.

“Doth the great sachem, the Massasoit lie?” The captain shook his head.

“How is it that you trust Hobamock to report to us in truth what the Massasoit told him? How do you know that the old fox has not laid a snare for us or his enemies? Both men despise the Massachusett.”

“We both know who lights these evil fires among the Massachusett, and it is not their sachem, Obtakiest. It is Wituwamat…He is a pniese, one of their magic warriors whom they say are invincible. I have seen the knives he and other pniese wear about their necks, taken from the French–knives that have killed French traders, English fishermen, and Massasoit’s people.”

“What course do you recommend?”

“Render unto me a commission to place Wituwamat’s head upon this parapet before the last frost melts, that it might be a warning and a terror to all of that disposition.”

“The yearly public court day is nigh. I will lay out the threat for the men of the plantation, but seek only a general authority for me, Allerton and yourself to do as we think fit. If blood be shed it will be upon our hands.”

The governor paused, and brought both hands to his temples, as if his head had begun to throb. “It is the Wessagussett men that have brought this down upon us. They steal victuals from the Massachusett, and treat with them duplicitously.”

“Far worse, there are some who have debased themselves to be servants among the Massachusett, selling their birthright as free Englishmen for handfuls of parched corn not worth even Esau’s pottage,” the captain added.

“Then why not send emissaries to the Massachusett, and make ourselves distinct from the men of Wessagussett?”

“That will waste time and endanger the emissaries. To them we are all Yengeese, as weak and dissolute as the men of Wessagussett. As we speak, they make canoes to attack us by both land and water.”

“Perhaps we can quickly gather up those of the Wessagussett men that are willing within the safety of these impalements,” the Governor suggested.

The captain waved his hand over the fenced-in village below them. “I designed these fortifications to withstand attack from a single tribe or a French raiding party. They will not stand against the combined nations of the Massachusett, the Narragansett, the Nauset and perhaps even some of the Massasoit’s Wampanoag. We will all perish, just as the three hundred did last year in Jamestown. Yet if I slay Wituwamat and a goodly portion of his band, their sachem may see the bad magic. If the sachem himself comes forth, I will slay him also as an example. But our purpose will be met in either case.”

“It is shameful that such blood must be shed for sheer want of Godliness among the Wessagussett men,” the governor lamented.

“They lack more than Godliness–they lack God-given wisdom, which instructs how to arrange our affairs so as to account for man’s fallen state, even here in the wilderness.”

“Seeking to replace Elder Brewster in his exhortations, are you?” The governor smiled, as if to welcome a different conversation.

“No. Let him preach the truth of scripture whilst you and I preach–and act–upon the interaction of the holy with the profane,” the captain answered. “You have strangers to your faith among you, yet there be good order in general. Why? What did you do when some expressed a desire for the unfettered freedom of the savage over well-ordered liberty, before we even set foot on this shore?”

“The Compact…” The governor began to see the captain’s point.

“Indeed…wherein we covenanted to ‘combine ourselves into a civil Body Politick’ and pledged submission and obedience to ‘just and equal laws.’ By such means were we saved from both the tyrant and the mob.”

The sun was sinking lower, and both men sensed it was time to conclude their business and return to their homes.

“How many men do you propose to take?”

“Eight…Good and stout of heart, and Hobamock, of course.”

“Eight?”

“I had considered two or three, but such a small number might presume too much upon Providence. Do you not agree?” The captain grinned from ear to ear.

“I do see that taking a multitude would leave this place defenseless. But what can eight men do in this circumstance?”

“More than a multitude, for my purposes. We are not opposing a regular army of Frenchmen, or the Spaniards I fought in the Low Countries. Did not the LORD winnow down Gideon’s host from 32,000 to 300 so the Midianites were confounded? A few good men–employing ruse, improvising and adapting to the tactics of the foe–will overcome and destroy as few of the natives as will suffice.”

“Will you go by land or water?” the governor asked, as they descended to the meeting house below.

“We will take the shallop. This will be good training for those chosen. There are entirely too many whose physick doth appear soft and womanly. We should remedy that by and by. I have been considering more drill for all of them. We are in a new land, wherein we must preserve a force in readiness to act at a moment’s notice. By land or sea. We know not whence the next danger may come, be it from savages, Frenchmen, Spaniards, or rogue Englishmen under no flag or law.”

Dusk was beginning to fall as the two men exited the meetinghouse.

“Go with God to your hearth, William.”

“The peace of God go also with you,” the governor answered, as they parted for the evening–each to his own supper.

Continue Reading at Liberty Island