Okinawa. Dammit, I'm still here. I closed my eyes for one second, hoping that it would all go away like a bad dream when I reopened them. It didn't work. I'm still out here on this boat getting ready to be vaulted on to an island full of people who want to kill me. The space around me is cramped. Too cramped. Some of these guys are anxious to get into combat. I remember overhearing some of them back on the ship. They kept on talking about how after the war, they were going to go home and marry that special girl of theirs, start up a nice big family and live in a nice big house where they can live and die peacefully. Unfortunately, the only thing most of these special girls at home are going to get is a flag. A flag that symbolizes that their loved one didn't make it. Instead of shedding tears of happiness upon the joyous return of her husband, that young gal is going to be sobbing like a baby after she reads the last letter that Private John Somebody sent her before going off to war. He promises that he'll be home soon. Instead, Johnny's lying on a beach somewhere with his guts spilled out on to the sand, crying for his mom as a medic tries to make him comfortable while he dies, and all that poor little gal has is a flag and thoughts of what could have been.
Unlike those guys, I didn't have girl at home. I never did. I never was good with the ladies. When I snagged a girl, it would just be for one night. She'd have left me the next day, just disappearing without so much as a 'goodbye.' I got used to it. My friends were the real woman-hunters. Whether it was my friends from Jersey or my marine buddies from the 1st, every guy tried to get their hands on a woman. It would only make things worse in the long run. The way I see it, when I die, no girl is going to be crying about ol' Doug Mitchell. I'm just saving them the emotional pain by not getting involved with them.
"Mitchell! Are you listening to me?!" A voice broke through my thoughts like a brick through a window. My eyes darted to the left to see a guy yelling at me. It was Lieutenant Powell. He was at the front of the boat. He yelled at me again, asking if I was listening. I nodded. I didn't feel like talking at the moment. "Listen up, Mitchell! When we land, you're on point with 2nd Squad! You have to take them along the beach, and secure an area for the rest of the platoon. Got it?" I didn't want to respond, but I knew that Powell would rip me a new one if I didn't say anything.
"Aye aye, Lieutenant." My voice was barely audible over the thrashing waves of the surrounding ocean. I felt a quick and sudden jolt as I was thrown forward. We had landed. With a shout, Lieutenant Powell exited the boat with the rest of us quickly joining behind him.
I had heard stories of Normandy. Soldiers were being slaughtered at every turn. I had heard stories of unspeakable horrors, and these thoughts plagued my mind every step of the way. Once the day of attack arrived, I was scared as hell. I thought I would just be another one of those boys: one arm missing, face drenched in blood, and trying not to cry as I hear a voice saying "You're going to be okay, Mac! You'll be just fine!" Was that going to happen to me? I was almost certain. As the ramp of the boat splashed down into the water, I was waiting for that bullet to strike me in the head.
Like the other marines, I still ran out of that boat like a bat out of hell. I never once looked behind me, for the fear of seeing a body of a close friend hitting the ground was still fresh in my mind. I reached cover soon enough. Four more marines joined me. I waited for what seemed like an eternity; I wanted to pop my head out from under the cover to take a look at the beach, but I had seen some guys do that and not make it back down. Of course, I'm not gonna make it off this beach anyway, so why prolong it? Acting quickly, I poked my head out from under the cover to take a look at the beach. I was expecting another Normandy, but surprisingly, I saw less. People had been shot, but the casualties were relatively light. I felt a hand on my shoulder. I whipped my Thompson around expecting to see a Jap staring me in the face, but it was only Lieutenant Powell. I was one flick of the trigger away from killing my commanding officer. Powell jumped back momentarily. That was expected. He lowered my gun. He had been noticeably shaken by the events.
"Jesus Christ, Mitchell! You nearly killed me! Do I look like a fuckin' Jap to you?!" I hadn't seen Powell this upset in a while. I responded quickly before the Lieutenant went crazy.
"Sorry, Lieutenant. What are my orders?" I wanted to divert the topic back to the battle at hand. Powell didn't seem to mind. Makes sense.
"Well, the resistance has been lighter than expected. We need you to scout ahead. Take your squad and move them up north, right along that pathway." He pointed to his left. "If you see any heavy resistance, fall back and await further orders." I nodded and assembled my squad of ten marines including myself. I needed to send someone out on point. My eyes settled on Private Lynn Morris. He didn't even look like he was out of high school, but was well known throughout the company for being a crack shot with a sniper rifle. He could be extremely useful. I called him over.
"Morris, I need you on point."
"With pleasure, Gunny." Morris gave a quick smirk as he moved to the front of the formation. By standards, most men aren't allowed to address a Gunnery Sergeant by anything except 'Gunnery Sergeant.' However, I shared a close bond with my men. They could call me Gunny, Mitchell, even Doug, and I wouldn't try to rip their neck open like the other Sergeants do. I moved up next to Morris who was loading his gun. I turned around to the rest of the squad. I waved them forward and we began our move up the path.
My men knew not to move too fast. It makes noise, and if the enemy can hear you, well, you're screwed. We moved along at a steady pace, making sure not to drag our feet as we moved. The path was getting steep. There was a hill up ahead that we couldn't see over. I called Private Morris over.
"Morris," I said in an almost inaudible whisper, "Go to the top of that hill. If you see any Japs, let us know." Morris nodded and moved up to the top. I'll never forget what happened next. Morris gazed down the other side of the hill, and then quickly turned around to look at us. Before he could say anything, he was hit in the side. Before he could even drop, he was hit in the head. His rifle came clattering down the hill, his body soon following. My squad ducked out into the sides of the path, but for some reason, I didn't move. Lynn's body had stopped moving only a few steps in front of me. Only chunks of his head were remaining, and he was bleeding profusely from the side. Our medic started to get up, but I motioned for him to stay down. There was no need trying to rescue him. Private Lynn Morris was dead.
I don't know what came over me in those next few minutes. Without notice, I began charging up the hill. Every step felt like I was getting closer and closer to hell. Before I reached the top, I saw a Japanese soldier walking over the hill. He probably wanted to check on his kill. I bolted towards him. I almost felt sorry for him. This poor Jap had no idea what was about to happen. He had no idea what I was about to do to him. With a grunt, I tackled the soldier to the ground. I could hear my men running behind me. The soldier screamed something at me. I had no idea what he was saying. I didn't care. I grabbed my pistol from its holster and smashed it into the side of the Jap's head. I could feel his blood soaked over my hand. I paid no attention to it. The bastard had stopped yelling, but he wasn't dead. I didn't give him the chance to yell again. I must have put a dent in his cheek as I shoved the barrel to his face. I don't know how many shots I fired. He had stopped screaming. My gun ran empty. I started to reload it, but I suddenly felt myself being picked up by a few pairs of arms. One of my marines, who I recognized as Corporal Joseph Black, was staring at me with a look of horror, like his mother had just been shot. I looked back down at the Jap. His head was gone. Did I just do that? My head began to clear as I stared down at the bloody pulp in front of me. There was an eerie silence among my squad. Corporal Black was the first to speak.
"You alright, Doug?" I stuttered when I tried to deliver my answer.
"Uh…y-yeah. I'm fine." Like hell I was. Black knew it just as well as I did. I reached down to pick up my helmet. It must have fallen off during my moment of rage. Putting it back on, I quickly readjusted myself back into a combat state of mind. The last thing a marine needs to see is his CO going crazy. I still didn't know where to go from here. Seeing Morris's corpse shot up like that was a definite clue as to how many Japs there were over the ridge. Powell's orders instantly flashed back into my head.
"If you see any heavy resistance, fall back and await further orders."
My men were anxious to move. It didn't seem to matter to them just where they moved, but they wanted to go.
"L-listen up, marines!" Dammit, I still had that stutter. "We're falling back to Lieutenant Powell's position. He'll give us our orders once we arrive. Let's move out! Go!" My men started to run back down the hill, but I didn't move for some reason. Everything seemed surreal at this point. Morris's corpse was to my right. Two marines were picking him up. The dead Jap was behind me. I didn't even want to look back. Part of me felt ashamed for what I had just done. But another part of me felt it was worth it. It was for Morris. I did it for revenge.
I could feel my feet begin to move. I didn't want to walk, so why was I? I looked back behind me. Corporal Black was pushing me. Joseph Black. I had never really noticed him before. I was starting to like him.
"Come on, Gunny. We have to move," he said. For once, I took an order from a marine of a lower rank. I started to run back towards our original position. It didn't take long; the hill seemed shorter on the way down. When Black and I arrived back to the beach, I saw a group of marines gathered around something. No, it was someone. Another person had been shot. I cleared my way through the marines, only to see Lieutenant Powell lying on the ground, a pool of blood formed around his head.
"A Jap sniper got him, Gunny. Just a few minutes before you showed up," one of the marines said. "I guess that puts you in charge." My head whirled around to face the marine that said that. I was in shock. Me? I was in charge of all these marines? Impossible.
"Aren't there any other officers around?" I asked. The marine had a grim look on his face.
"No, sir. The Master Guns got shot during the initial landing." Master Gunnery Sergeant Wilkins. Dead? I couldn't believe it. I leave for only a few minutes, and two of our highest officers are killed. I was expected to lead these men. I couldn't.
"I can't do it. We have to find -"
You know, I have the worst luck. If I had taken command and moved my marines out, this wouldn't have happened. Before I could finish my sentence, I felt a wave of heat flash over me, and suddenly I was being lifted off of my feet. When I opened my eyes, I was covered in dirt and ash. What the hell just happened? Why can't I hear anything? I looked around, my eyes still squinting from the heat. And that's when it hit me: the Japs had artillery. I still couldn't hear anything, but that didn't stop me from getting up. My sight was back at this point; I could finally see the carnage that had ensued around me. A large number of marines had been killed, and even more had been wounded. I saw Corporal Joseph Black out in front of me, desperately looking for the lower half of his torso. Poor bastard had been blown in half. I staggered over to him. My hearing was starting to come back. The first thing I heard was Joseph sobbing as he flailed his arms about, trying to feel anything. I knelt down next to him. When his hand bumped into my leg, he looked up at me. Poor bastard. His face was disfigured beyond belief. He was smiling at me. I smiled back and gave him a quick pat on the shoulder. He managed to squeak out a chuckle, and then Joseph Peter Black drew his last breath.
Poor bastard. I was just starting to like him.