Warrior Flash Fiction: Cliffs

warrior Flash Fiction
No. That side was impenetrable. Swamp. Cliffs. The jungle itself added more protection to that side with thick stands of trees, vines, dense undergrowth, snakes, and biting bugs. No that side stood guarded by nature herself. The Japanese laid their lines with care, precision, control, and pride. The jungle was theirs. This Atoll was theirs. Their lines encircled them, opening only on that side. The side with the cliffs. The side with the swamps. The side with sucking clay. The side the jungle guarded. No need. That side was impenetrable.

Moldy. Damp. Rusting, rotting came the Marines.
They charged the swamp.
They charged the cliff.
They took on the jungle itself.
Don’t tell a Marine where he can and can’t go.

No! They can’t come this way. The jungle guards our back.

The exhausted, beaten marines came.
They came and they took the path that wasn’t there. They came together, as one, battling, screaming, firing. Each one encouraged his brother. Up! Up! Up!
The Japanese believed it impossible. The Marines showed them nothing was. The Japanese thought the jungle had their back. They had yet to understand that these wild men—stubborn, fierce, and brave—bent the jungle to their own wills, swamp, cliff, and clay.
Up the precipice the boys went, atrophied with damp. They took the Atoll.
They took the jungle.
The Marines went the way everyone thought they couldn’t, and the day was theirs.

The End

–Inspired by “Buse ordered his men up and they went up. They went up in a sudden burst of energy and valor as mystifying as it was marvelous. They clawed up that vertical face of gummy clay and came in on the startled enemy and put him to death among his guns.” from Strong Men Armed by Robert Leckie.

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New Flash Fiction

warrior Flash Fiction

Years and years ago I discovered my love of warrior stories. I started reading and watching every warrior story I could get my hands on. I look for moments of strong men standing for what is right, realizing that being a warrior isn’t a bad thing if you’re using it for the right thing. I look for “between” moments when the warrior stands between something evil and the one they love. I look for brotherhood moments.

In the middle of reading a book about WW2 fathers and their Vietnam sons, I came across a scene involving a downed helicopter and a soldier who stood on it to hold off the Vietcong while the other soldiers boarded a rescuing helicopter. The moment blazed with courage. I told one of my dear readers, Deanna, I wanted to write Historical-Fiction short stories about these heroic sacrifices and battles.

A great idea, but I shelved it, busy with stories for my nieces and nephews.

Whenever I read a modern, military book I wonder why we have so many movie remakes. There are hundreds of moving, amazing, self-sacrificing war stories. There are tender stories, hard stories, stories that will make you weep with their beauty. Instead, Hollywood badly retells something done well years ago. Why, when there are a wealth of stories in any given history book, especially military history?

A great idea, but I don’t make movies.

I have, on the other hand, had a certain amount of positive feedback from some of my flash fiction.

Hmmm. Two thoughts. Can I tie them together? Can I do something here?

I recently discovered Strong Men Armed by Robert Leckie. It tracks the Marines as they move through the Pacific during WW2. It’s beautiful. It’s amazing. And so sad. Leckie is a good writer and paints the scenes with a detailed, loving brush. Reading the book, I was moved by a small snippet of a battle Leckie shared to write a flash fiction. I wrote it. I loved it. I was thrilled. I found a way to share something I read, something that really happened, in a new and fresh way. I did what I always wanted: I took a heroic moment in the middle of a messy war and shared it with the world so that these men aren’t forgotten. I sent it to a handful of readers. Their response was overwhelmingly positive. I entered it into a contest and wrote another one. Here is Story 2:

This Way

The small blue and white flag fluttered in the warm, tropical breeze, glowing in the setting sun. Two generals—Julian Smith and Howlin’ Mad Smith—stood, gazing, eyes dimmed by tears.

Bodies lay piled up against the sea wall, some stirred by the still pink waves.

One body topped the pile.

One dead boy reached over the wall.

The flag planted.

The flag that called fellow Marines, “This way!”

Here was the beach to attack. Here was the force before which your lives must be thrown. The pillbox. The machine guns. The mortars. The field of fire. Here. Come this way. Attack here.

One boy on top of others, placed a flag, with his life.

“This way.”

The chief’s eye flashed; but presently
Softened itself, as sheathes
A film the mother-eagle’s eye
When her bruised eaglet breathes;
“You’re wounded!” “Nay,” the soldier’s pride
Touched to the quick, he said:
“I’m killed, Sire!” And his chief beside
Smiling the boy fell dead.[1]

Marines saw the small flag. Marines poured from amtraks and LCMs.

They charged. Slogged. Crawled.

They fired. Tossed grenades. Fought hand to hand.

They died. Cried. Bled-out.

They won.

Days later, the Generals toured the scene of the dance with death. They saw their brave boys mixed with the enemy. They saw courage, sacrifice, and bitter loss. Carcasses of men jumbled with carcasses of machines. But, the day was won. The Atoll was theirs. The Generals toured and toured, measuring the ground gained against the lives lost.

But this. This blue and white flag planted as the last act of a dead boy brought tears to two old Marines’ eyes. This one little flag.

“This way,” it whispered in the evening breeze.

In poured the Marines.

“Julian,” Howlin’ Mad Smith went on in soft amendment—“how can such men be defeated?[2]

—Inspired by Strong Men Armed by Robert Leckie

[1] Incident at the French Camp by Robert Browning

[2] Quote from Strong Men Armed by Robert Leckie

Quote of the Weekend

“Now I was shocked! The old shibboleth, intelligence! Had not our government been culpable enough in pampering the high-IQ draftees as though they were too intelligent to fight for their country? Could not Doctor Gentle see that I was proud to be a scout, and before that a machine gunner? Intelligence, intelligence, intelligence. Keep it up, America, keep telling your youth that mud and danger are fit only for intellectual pigs. Keep on saying that only the stupid are fit to sacrifice, that America must be defended by the low-brow and enjoyed by the high-brow. Keep vaunting head over heart, and soon the head will arrive at the complete folly of any kind of fight and meekly surrender the treasure to the first bandit with enough heart to demand it.”
Helmet for my Pillow by Robert Leckie

74th Anniversary of D-Day

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Omaha Beach, June 1, 2018.

This D-Day is extra special to me.

Less than a week ago, on June 1st, I stood on Omaha beach. I stood in the sand where they bled, died, fought, screamed, and won. I stood on the beach looking out at the English Channel and imagined it filled with ships. I imagined the sounds of German gunfire, the pounding booms from the ship guns, the rifle fire of the men charging up on those beaches. I stood on Omaha beach and listened to the quiet whisper of a nearby tour guide explaining that the French people here don’t want our boys to be forgotten, that they watched them die to free them and they still try to honor that. I stood there with American flags flapping in a cool breeze next to a monument surrounded by flowers set lovingly around it. I stood where they stood, and cried.

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Me on Omaha Beach.