The Poetry of War Sonnets: Hunter and Hunted

May/June 1945


Eda hiroge
Oite madowasu
Mango no ki

The great mango tree
Hides me from my searching foes
Under wide branches.

Luzon, 1945
Outside the closed perimeter, we wait
Until full dark; then , at a word, we go
Like green-clad ghosts to stalk the distant foe.
Still harbingers of death, grim tools of fate,
Beside a road, we crouch in silent dread
As files of soldiers pass, and never know
That Nemesis is watching. If they show
Some signs of knowing, many will be dead.
Most of us, too, will die, for we are few,
And far from any help; but we sit tight.
We come to watch their movements, not to fight,
Though, if they see us, we will do that too.
But they pass on into the midnight murk,
Past this dark place where death and horror lurk.

Near the Bigti outpost in Luzon, Leo and two of his men are on a night reconnaissance mission when they encounter a small group of Japanese soldiers camped near a hayrick. As Leo`s team takes cover, the Japanese soldiers flee, leaving behind their packs.

Leo, Dooley, and Myoga have begun to search the area for intel when they discover a wounded Japanese soldier who was left behind. Before Leo can administer first aid, Dooley bayonets the injured soldier to “put him out of his misery.”

Leo and Dooley argue, and Leo puts Dooley on report. It’s another slap on the face for Dooley. His resentment toward Leo grows. How much more can he take?

Meanwhile, Tadashi and what remain of his platoon have escaped the enemy attack on their mountain hideout and found shelter under an enormous mango tree.

Having witnessed Dooley`s brutal slaying of the wounded soldier, Tadashi’s feelings about the Americans is forever changed. Instead of a grudging respect he now vows revenge. He and his men become a team of snipers. From high atop their mango tree they track the small American reconnaissance teams, kill them, scavenge the bodies for weapons, clothing, and food, then burn the bodies to destroy any evidence.

For months now, food has been scarce, their uniforms in tatters. By killing the enemy, Tadashi and his men get food and clothing as well as revenge. But the stresses of war and starvation are taking their toll. Dissension is growing. Fujita, who was passed over for a promotion in favor of Tadashi, is filled with bitterness, and his tolerance for Tadashi’s command won’t last much longer.

*Feature image by @mithunmsm95

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