The Poetry of War Sonnets: War Zone

Leo’s troopship lands in the Lingayen Gulf in early February 1945, shortly after the main assault force lands in late January. They meet no resistance, but the remnants of battle are fresh. Leo’s sonnet envisions the landing troops that preceded him.

Tadashi and Kaito, the only survivors of the raid on the Cabanatuan POW camp, are now hiding out with eight thousand Japanese troops in a complex of caves at the Bigti Cliffs. overlooking the Ipo Dam, Manila’s primary water supply. Although the Allies have retaken Manila, the Japanese still control the dam and fiercely defend it from within the hidden caves.

Assigned to lead a reconnaissance team twelve men, Leo takes stock of his squad: A redneck, a cowboy, a Native American, a Polish immigrant, a city boy, and a Japanese-American. Tasked with uniting this diverse group of soldiers, Leo leads his men into the jungle where they will scout the enemy and recon what was once enemy territory.

Tadashi and his comrades must keep control of the dam at all costs. But low morale and impending starvation have sapped them of their strength. Tadashi’s poems speak of his yearning for home, his fear of what is to come.

Across the ridge, the 112th monitors Japanese activity at Bigti as the Allies develop a plan of attack. But the Japanese are well aware of their presence and are planning an attack of their own.

Bigti and Ipo Dam Region, Luzon Philippines


Haru no iro
Ougon no ine
Fuyu kitaru

The green fields of spring
The golden grains of harvest;
Then comes the winter. 


Loaded, the LCIs roar toward the beach.
The naval guns are firing in our rear. 
Motors and guns and shells drown out all speech
As we move in, our bowels tense with fear.
The LCIs strike sand; the ramps go down.
We race for shore, while bullets seek us out.
Some die at once, some fall face-down and drown.
Some gain the beach, fall flat and gaze about
As though half stunned to see their buddies fall.
Then someone shouts “Move up.” We reach the trees,
In squads assemble at the sergeant’s call,
And inch by inch drive back our enemies.
Behind us, new waves land, and in our wake,
Secure the beach so many died to take.

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.

*Image credits: United States Army in World War II: The War in the Pacific: Triumph in the Philippines by Robert Ross Smith

One thought on “The Poetry of War Sonnets: War Zone

  1. I’m reading “War Sonnets” right now and loving it; it’s so engrossing it’s hard to put down. I haven’t gotten to this part yet, so this is like a teaser for me.


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