The Poetry of War Sonnets

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the poems in my novel, War Sonnets. Today “The Poetry of War Sonnets” becomes a series.

Sonnets and haikus introduce certain scenes in Leo’s and Tadashi’s stories. Every few weeks I’ll post one or two of them with a brief summary of the scene it precedes. You’ll get a peek into the story that I hope will whet your appetite for more.

Today’s installment: “Drill Sergeant.” Leo Baldwin’s story starts during his tenure stateside, at Camp Hood, Texas where he is a Drill Sergeant training raw recruits for eventual deployment to the war front. We meet two other members of his training cadre, Ronnie Lee Nelson, aka Dooley, a fellow drill sergeant from Dulac, Louisiana, and Jim Furness, a corporal from northern New York State.

Now this here, men, is called a hand grenade –
A deadly weapon, simple and precise;
So simple, I won’t have to tell you twice.
If you can pull the pin, you’ve got it made.
There’s just one catch – ten seconds have to pass
From when you turn it loose until it blows.
That’s time for some Jap, seeing where it goes,
To grab it, throw it back, and blast your ass.
So what you have to do – it takes some guts –
Is let the handle go, then count to four.
Then let it fly, lay low, and let ‘er roar.
You’ve got ‘em then, no ifs or ands or buts,
Unless it’s quick-fused; that’s another story.
Before you count to four, you’ll go to glory.
1Fitzwarren, Albert Ezra. "Sonnets in Wartime." Slivers of Jade. Fredonia, NY. Marginal Media, 1986.


Sergeant Allen H. Benton served in the United States Army from October 1942-February 1946. He was a member of the 112th Cavalry Regimental Combat Team and saw action in Luzon and Japan. He spent twenty-four months stateside, first at Fort Riley, Kansas, and later at Camp Hood, Texas. In late September of 1944, he received his deployment orders and traveled to Fort Ord, California and in November of the same year he shipped out, landing in New Guinea around Christmas time. He arrived in Luzon, Philippines in early February 1945, and remained there until the Japanese surrender. He was onboard the Lavaca at Tokyo Bay for the formal surrender ceremony and served occupation duty near Tokyo. He left Tokyo in January 1946, arriving home about a month later. After his return from service, he completed his college education at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York where he earned BS, MS and PhD degrees, subsequently teaching at SUNY campuses in Albany and Fredonia.  He self-published a number of books including “Slivers of Jade” and “Sonnets from Nebraska and Beyond” under the pen name of Albert Ezra Fitzwarren, and “The Wheel of Life: Haiku by Followers of Basho” which he published under his own name. These publications are the source for the sonnets and haikus in War Sonnets. Dr. Benton died September 29, 2014 at the age of 93.

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