The Poetry of War Sonnets: Engaging the Enemy

April 1945. Leo and his men and the rest of the 112th RCT are embedded at Hot Corner, not far from the Japanese-held Ipo Dam and the Bigti Caves, in what’s being called a “reconnaissance in force.” All those Japanese troops hiding in the caves are up to something, and it’s the 112th’s job to keep track of them. The Metropolitan Road lies between the enemy forces. The route is vital for the delivery of supplies to the embedded allies, and for the past two weeks Japanese troops have surrounded the allies’ ‘mountain perch. No supplies are getting through and the situation is becoming desperate.

Deep in the Bigti Caves, Lieutenant Inoue gathers his men and divides them into two groups. One group, led by Inoue, will join a large contingent tasked with taking the ridge at Hot Corner. Inoue promotes Tadashi to Sergeant and assigns him and the other group to booby trap the Metropolitan Road, thus isolating the American troops further.

When the decision is made to abandon the ridge, Leo and his men must descend the mountain knowing that the enemy waits for them.


Go no hei ga
Shi suru ta no ue
Hibari naku

Five brave young soldiers
Lie dead in the rice paddy.
Above, a lark sings.
Luzon, 1945

Beyond the outposts of the enemy,
Surrounded and besieged, we stood at bay,
And as the furtive twilight slipped away
We waited. Darkness fell, and suddenly
The quiet night erupted with the sound
Of bursting mortar shells. Then all was still, 
But we could hear a rustling down the hill
As they advanced. We hugged the stony ground
And peered into the darkness. To my right
Some soldier threw a phosphorus grenade,
And in the sudden brightness that it made
We saw our foes, in unexpected flight.
The grass caught fire, the bamboo thicket flared.
For one more night, at least, our lives were spared.

*feature image credit

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