The Poetry of “War Sonnets”: En Route to War

In September, 1942, Tadashi is on a troop carrier in the East China Sea en route to the Philippines when their ship is hit by a monsoon. As the ship rocks violently, as men are blown overboard and booms toppled, Tadashi fears that his decision to leave his family and defend his country will have been in vain. Will he die before he even has a chance to fight?

Leo’s voyage to the Philippines is in January of 1945. The weather in the Philippine Sea is calm, but the waters are dangerous, crawling with Japanese Kaiten, manned torpedos that were the underwater equivalent of a Kamikaze. When their battleship escort starts firing depth charges, Leo and his mates scramble for cover. He hadn’t counted on random things like kamikaze and kaiten. He hadn’t faced the fact that life and death didn’t take sides. When they finally land at Lingayen Gulf on Luzon, the beaches are quiet. But Leo’s adventure is just beginning.


Yami no naka
Unmei norou
Shi no sekai

Alone in the dark
I curse the fate that brought me
To this land of death1
                           ASSAULT FORCE
The sea is calm; upon its boundless deep
Our troopship glides, lost in infinity.
Beneath her decks two thousand soldiers sleep,
Or, waking, wonder what their fate will be.
From my assigned position here on high
I peer ahead, and in the east I see
The dawn’s pale fingers clawing at the sky,
And then, a speck of land. The enemy
 Will not be sleeping. 
		    Now the troops are out
And stand in little groups beside each boat.
The gunship’s roar drowns out the sergeant’s shout.
Rope ladders fall, the LCIs, afloat,
Receive two thousand men in war array.
Each boat, full loaded, quickly moves away.2

1Benton, Allen H. “By a Poor Farmer.” The Wheel of Life: Haiku by Followers of Basho. Nymphaea Productions, 2003.
2Fitzwarren, Albert Ezra. “Sonnets in Wartime.” Slivers of Jade. Fredonia, NY. Marginal Media, 1986. (Note: Albert Ezra Fitzwarren is a pen name of Allen H. Benton)

Many thanks to Sam Hakoyama and her family for translating Tadashi’s haikus from English to Japanese.

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