Poetry of Bataan and Corregidor... and more

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For more poetry, see Robert Hudson's Son of Bataan


by Frank Hewlett (1942)

We're the battling bastards of Bataan;
No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam.
No aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no nieces,
No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces.
And nobody gives a damn.
Nobody gives a damn.


by Fred W. Koenig, 1st Lt U.S.A.
Dedicated to those who died at O'Donnell Prisoner of War enclosure in the Philippine Islands

Here on this sun-scorched hill we laid us down
In silence deep as is the silence of defeat.
Upon our wasted brow you placed no laurel crown,
But neither did you sound the trumpet for retreat.
Mourn not for us for here defeat and victory are one;
We can not feel humanity's insidious harm;
The strive with famine, pain and pestilence are done,
our compromise with death laid by that mortal storm.
Though chastened, well we know our mission is not dead,
Nor are the dreams of victory in vain.
For lo, the dawn is in the east: The night is fled
before an August day which will be ours again:
So rest we here, dear comrades, on this foreign hill,
This alien clay made somehow richer by our dust,
Provides us with a transitory couch, until
the loving hills of home enfold us in maternal trust,
For we are assured brave hearts across the sea will not forget
The humble sacrifice we laid on Freedom's sacred shrine,
and hold that righteousness will be triumphant yet,
And o'er the Earth again His star of Peace will shine.


When the Gates of Hell are open well
And the devil does all he can,
There sit those souls upon the coals,
The Defenders of Bataan.

Then the devil goes high into the sky
To interview Saint Pete,
He’s full of charm in his uniform;
His horns are all shiny and neat.

“Saint Pete,” says he, “How can it be?
Those souls have called my bluff.
I’ve turned the heat up to its peak,
But they are much too tough.

“They won’t brown or even frown,
Nor ask for the water can.
What can I do with such a crew
The Defenders of Bataan?”

“I surmise,” says Pete, while looking wise,
“Those souls have called your bluff.
You’ve turned the heat up to its peak
But they are much too tough.

“It’s plain to see you must give to me
Their keeping at this point,
For they fought well while in that Hell
And now deserve this joint.”



by Cathy Evanovitz

Flowers are symbols of beauty sublime
Moments of love pressed in pages of time.
The daisy however so simple and pure
Reminds us of hardships men had to endure.
It's statement is merely that "daisies" won't tell,
Neither did the soldiers who lived through the hell.
Name, rank and number was all they would give,
In silence they'd suffer, in anguish they'd live.
Month after month turned to year after year
Of bitter imprisonment of pain and fear.
And when it was over soldiers came home to stay,
People took it for granted that they were okay.
Now they were safe and their wounds could be tended
But the pain in their souls can never be mended.
Memories of horrors that torment the mind
Leave scars on a man of a different kind.
How quickly forgotten are prisoners of war,
Once peace is achieved no one cares anymore.
Please remember the daisy and think of the men
who suffer today for what happened back then.


by Sarah Petrie
In honor of her grandfather, Wayne Joseph Petrie

He was such a hero in all that he did,
from the war that he fought in, to raising all his kids.
He fought for his life as a prisoner of war
with only rice and rats to eat and his health growing poor.
Death was all around him, he wondered if he'd be next.

And just when things couldn't get worse,
he faced the ultimate test.
He was force to walk back and forth across the island of Bataan
and if he were to fall or collapse his life would instantly be gone.
But soon he was liberated, he was finally free.

He would return home to his family where he was meant to be.
This fragile, frail man grew healthy once again,
but he still remembered the war every day
And all of those men.

I wish I could have met him, I miss him so much.
It's so crazy how you miss someone
that you haven't so much as touched.


by Lt. Henry G. Lee... a Soldier's Poet

So you are dead. The easy words contain
No sense of loss, no sorrow, no despair.
Thus hunger, thirst, fatigue, combine to drain
All feeling from our hearts, anesthetize the mind.
I cannot mourn you now. I lift my load,
The suffering column moves. I leave behind
Only another corpse, beside the road.


Cpl. Conrad Russell, who died in 1961, was a Fourth Marine, Company H, 2nd Battalion & Company I, 3rd Battalion.
This gifted writer is highly regarded as a poetic spokesman of the Japanese-POW experience. His poetry powerfully conveys the unfolding drama as a fighting Marine and subsequently as a POW.

The Fall of Corregidor

The order came to strike all arms
That tragic and blood-soaked day.

A bell might have tolled for the island
But death has a silent way.

We felt that our souls had left us
Back in that screaming hell.

We stood with only our bodies
A drained and empty shell.

The silence that fell upon us
Was a strange unearthly pain.

I'm sure that God in Heaven
Will help us to live again.

~~ ~


Hope is an angel in the darkest night;
She bathes my soul in heavenly light.

Lovely as Spring, Or the evening star
Now an activist from afar.

Will she be at my side through the coming strife
And give me strength to go on with life?

Or will she vanish like the glow in the west
And leave me forsaken? God knows best.

~ ~ ~

Island Sunset

The sun retiring for a night of rest
Throws shafts of scarlet back from the west
Against the palms that pierce the sky
And nod in peace to the south-wind's sigh.

The ocean's roll sheens o'er the sand
A baby caressed by his mother's hand.
I think of the sunsets that passed before
To add beauty to this beach on Corregidor.

~ ~ ~

Corregidor Soliloquy

Will time ever end
What lies beyond space?

Is immortal life
The goal of this race?

Is this earthly body
Merely a clod .....as on this
Path of peril we trod?

Is each footstep spaced
by the Will of God?

O, Science, cruel surgeon
That cuts away the poet's dreams

And pulpits weight
Answers to these queries;

I will repose
In Elysian Fields
With the Red, Red Rose.


By Pvt. Leroy Gant of the 60th CAC. , Shawnee , Okla.

How many days, how many nights
Have we suffered through this war?
Hope's fading fast we'll be saved at last,
From this hell on Corregidor.
The enemy is near, but there is no fear
Of what may lie in store.
For death is a relief from the misery and grief,
We have seen on Corregidor.
All hope is gone, but we still carry on...
Each day is worse than before
Our hearts beat fast and we'll give our last
On this place called Corregidor.
No water, no sleep, nothing to eat,
Oh, how painful is defeat.
My God, we can't take much more
The sun is sinking fast over Corregidor.

The white flag is up!
The Japs have reached our shore!
The battle is lost, at a terrible cost.
Our guns will fire no more.
So till a better day, somehow, someway,
We'll be home again once more;
I'll say goodbye for those who fought and died
On this God-forsaken, Corregidor.

This poem was posted in a bar room in Olongopo, P.I. and I copied it word for word when I was in the Navy in 1954.
Sadly Pvt. Gant died in a Japanese prison camp in July of 1942. --Mr. Gary Lemon


by Frances Owens
Dedicated to her Dad - June 18, 2004

He stood there with hope,
dreams and visions for his life.
He stood so tall and straight,
Waiting for his life to unfold.

Little did he know what was before him,
The walk of despair,
hardship and pain.

He came back from Hell,
He made a new life,
His daughter made him smile.

She now gazes down at the picture,
with part of her life behind her.
A tear forms on her cheek,
because she wishes she had known,
his secret anguish,
his hopes and dreams for his life.


By Joseph Quitman Johnson (2004)

Politicians debate, rhetoric turns to hate

War is declared, bayonets are bared

Young soldiers fight, in darkness and light

The battle is won, at a great cost

The dead are buried, as lives are lost

Mothers wail, politicians meet

They Debate again

They sign their treaties in shifting sands

Peace is lost

Perdu perdui

History repeats again and again


Sit with me daughter, I have something to tell
About a young Marine when Corregidor fell.
I was on Hooker Point buried into the cliff,
50 Caliber at ready and the barges came swift.

Japs came in great waves by the light of the moon;
Guns roared to life in white hot flashes and soon
The water ran red and oh so many enemy lay dead;
But we had not enough and their hoards did spread

'Til we were overrun and locked in to surrender.
We were stripped of our weapons and the nightmare began.
Days in the sun they marched us with no water or food
A Filipino Angel gave us drink and was shot where she stood.

Cruel payment casually given for her kindness and care
Let us all know that if should we dare
To defy our captors and try to escape
They would show us no mercy and death was our fate.

We went through hell in the years to follow.
Brutal torture, disease and not a morsel to swallow.
For days on end we scavenged for just one bite
Of anything, anything at all to sustain our life.

But we made it through, Tony and me;
Half of mine for him and half of his for me,
Keeping each other alive in body and mind
We were better than brothers, survivors in kind.

©Copyright December 7, 2004 by Annette Morgan


Words ã Peter Russell Scott, Burleigh Waters,Qld, Australia 1995, 2005
Tune and format approximately after that of Kilkelly Ireland ã Peter Jones USA 1988

Donegal, Ireland, in Nineteen and Twenty, Partition had brought to an end
A happy childhood with no thought of sadness, as you fished on the banks of the Finn.
Your family is forced to find work in England, in the grey fields of Aylesbury Town
and life it is tough near the start of Depression, to emigrate offers a plan.

Fremantle, Australia, Nineteen twenty seven, and you’ve only nineteen
You’ve a job in the east but you head up on northward to try the Australian bush scene.
and you find work in Broome and the Murchison Goldfields, ‘round campfires, by billabongs green
Then on through the Kimberley, on up to Darwin, in an old truck piled high with benzine.

Sydney, Australia, in Nineteen and Forty, you’ve volunteered for khaki
The Army needs miners to train them as Diggers, to farewell from Circular Quay.
and a minefield goes up, in the sands of Tobruk, eight Sappers lie dead as can be
and you think of old Ireland and the bush of Australia, where you and Jim Russell roamed free.

Back on a troopship, laying off Java, to stem the threat of Japan
Sent back to Australia to save the East Indies, but thrown into Japanese hands.
and thousands are cast into prison in Changi, with little idea what’s to come,
And the Japs keep on planning their overland railway, the Diggers loom large in their sums.

You and the Sappers are sent up to Burma, and beaten and starved from the start
and Jimmy he died out at Kilo 100, you buried him with heavy heart.
But worse still to come for those still left standing, where chill winter gets into your bones,
Yours is the hell ship to reach Fukuoka, the other sunk to Davy Jones.

In Tamworth, Australia, you meet a young woman who understands some of your pain
You marry in March and you raise three young children, but the coalmines still stay in your brain.
and it’s hard to find jobs, and keep off the grog, and find doctors who understand why
Your back is all broken and twisted from beating, and you nerves are all shot to the sky.

Now that you’ve gone Frank, we’ll always remember what you and the Diggers all did
Airman, Sailors and Nurses, no comfort of hearses, the Freedom you won for your kids.
And we’ll always remember your love of this Country, and old Ireland where memory was made,
Happy and proud to be an Australian, in spite of the price that you paid.

Dedicated to the Memory of DX561 Lewis Frank Scott, DX562 James Russell
and all other Sappers of the Field Companies of the Seventh Division, Australian Army 1940-1945.
Also dedicated to Mavis Scott and the wives of ex-PoWs,
who bore a lot of the burden of their husbands’ war trauma.

Written by Frank’s eldest son Peter Scott (Field Engineer veteran of the Vietnam War)
at the time of the “Australia Remembers” activities, 1995.


Poem by Don Blanding, Submitted by Robert Hudson


The hands of time have passed the years
As you lay neath the earth so green
Far from home and family
In the land of the Philippine
Your sons and daughters yearn for you
And study days of yore
When death stalked you every day
In a country wracked by war

It saddens us your next of kin
The details of your fight
Bataan and Corregidor
We are witness to your might
If courage alone could win a war
And blood could douse the flames
Then enemies would tremble
At the sounding of your names

But fortunes necessarily
Put Armies to the test
And soldiers cannot carry on
Without bullets, guns or rest
Valiant and so proud you were
Until your lines retreated
Then Generals who had no choice
Declared you were defeated

Hell began to take its shape
Along the jungle trail
Men began the march of death
Which history knows no scale
Our soldiers weakened by disease
By thirst and injury
Began to see the nature of
The conquering enemy.

The worst was as yet to come
Camp ’Donnell was the first
With death disguised as walking ghosts
Tormenting men with thirst
With flies as thick as locusts
And food in short supply
The weakest simply closed their eyes
And willed themselves to die.

Men can only take so much
When cruelty is their master
Death can seem the better choice
Amid such mass disaster
Though many soon became inured
To torture and privation
They could not clearly see the road
Leading to their salvation

Prisoners must surely cope
And learn to deal with fate
Some can only live on hope
And some can only hate
Yet all came to see the path
Of caring for fellow lives
So that the final victory
Was merely to survive

Today your sons and daughters
Your nieces and nephews too
Have banded one together
In remembrance of you
All live in awe and wonder of
Your sacrifices and we see
If not for the best in you
There would n’t be a we

Robert Logan Hudson ©2007
Son of Richard Charles Hudson 1912-1988
Philippine Dept. Attached to the 31st Infantry
Company A – Quartermaster Corps / Manila
O’Donnell/Cabanatuan/Bilibid/ Nissyo Maru/Keisen #23
Proud Polar Bear / Omnia Pro Patria

In battle there is courage
In courage there is sacrifice
In sacrifice there is death
In death there is peace


Though this poem is not an "official" Bataan poem, many Veterans have sent it to me and I feel it honors them to publish here.

Final Inspection - Part I

The soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass,
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.

"Step forward now, you soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been true?"

The soldier squared his shoulders and
said, "No, Lord, I guess I ain't,
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can't always be a saint.

I've had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough,
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny,
That wasn't mine to keep.
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills got just too steep,

And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear,
And sometimes, God forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place,
Among the people here,
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.

If you've a place for me here, Lord,
It needn't be so grand,
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand."

There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod,
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.

"Step forward now, you soldier,
You've borne your burdens well,
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell."

Final Inspection - Part II

I'm very saddened by America today,
when they take credit for what others say.

I wrote a poem because of problems in my past,
how was I to know that it was going to last.

It has been read by all and loved the same,
but indeed at the end there is no name.

The name is simple for those who know,
it's not Kilmer, Longfellow, Service, or Poe.

It's a soldier who has fought for his country so true,
He's proud of the ole Red, White and Blue.

You now know the poem the one and the same,
The Final Inspection is the name.

I wrote it because of the trials so true,
and of my buddies who died for country and you.

So take this poem, take it as you trod,
because in Heaven I'll see my God.

He will look at me and say don't be sad
others read your poem and you made them glad.

Now step forward my son and look your best,
and come inside with all the rest.


Author - Unknown

It is the soldier, not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the soldier, not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.

It is the soldier, not the lawyer,
who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the soldier,
who salutes the flag,
who serves under the flag,
and whose coffin is draped by the flag,
who allows the protester to burn the flag.

A protest raged on a courthouse lawn,
Round a makeshift stage they charged on,
Fifteen hundred or more they say,
Had come to burn a Flag that day.

A boy held up the folded Flag,
Cursed it, and called it a dirty rag.
An OLD MAN pushed through the angry crowd,
With a rusty shotgun shouldered proud.

His uniform jacket was old and tight,
He had polished each button, shiny and bright.
He crossed that stage with a soldier's grace,
Until he and the boy stood face to face.

Is worth dying for, good men are dead,
So you can stand on this courthouse lawn,
And talk us down from dusk to dawn,
But before any Flag gets burned today,

My father died on a foreign shore,
In a war they said would end all war.
But Tommy and I wasn't even full grown,
Before we fought in a war of our own.
And Tommy died on Iwo Jima's beach,
In the shadow of a hill he couldn't quite reach
Where five good men raised this Flag so high,

I got this bum leg that I still drag,
Fighting for this same old Flag.
Now there's but one shot in this old gun,
So now it's time to decide which one,
Which one of you will follow our lead,
To stand and die for what you believe?
For as sure as there is a rising sun,
You'll burn in Hell Before this Flag burns, son.

Now this riot never came to pass.
The crowd got quiet and that can of gas,
Got set aside as they walked away
To talk about what they had heard this day.
And the boy who had called it a dirty rag,
Handed the OLD SOLDIER the folded Flag.

So the battle of the Flag this day was won
By a tired OLD SOLDIER with a rusty gun,
Who for one last time, had to show to some,


The long dark road leads from here,
We know not what its course may be;
We only know that we must go
And keep a date with destiny.

We’ve traveled far the long dark road,
By dangers side we made our bed;
The chilling breath of sudden death
Lurked right and left and overhead.

From Mount Mayon to Orion
Thru living death of O’Donnell—
From far Vigan to bleak Bataan
Thru days and nights of blazing Hell.

The road is lined with unmarked graves
Of fallen comrades, brave and true;
Beyond the skies their sleepless eyes
Are keeping watch over me and you.

The lamps of peace will burn again;
Some day we’ll drop our weary load—
Some sweet day, we trust and pray,
At the end of the long dark road.

Written four months after the date of our surrender
and on the eve of our unknown destination in Formosa.
Tarlac Prison Camp, Philippines August 9th, 1942

Brigadier General William E Brougher

Note: This poem was read by Peter Wainwright, cousin to General Jonathan Wainwright
at the Pacific War (Nimitz) Museum for a Memorial Dedication Ceremony
during the 2009 ADBC Convention


A Poem by General William E Brougher, Commander, 11th Division, Philippine Army

Ned King of Bataan
I’ll sing you a song of a soldier
I’ll tell you a tale of a man
A song I’ll sing of Old Ned King…
Ned King of doomed Bataan!

So prepare for thrills and heartaches
And prepare to shed some tears;
I’ll tell you a tale that cannot fail
To jar your jaded ears.

You plain John Does and GI Joes,
You wailing Sal and Sue,
Ned King turned up the bitter cup
And drained the dregs for you.

You post war boys with all your noise,
You homesick amateurs,
Ned King’s the chap who took the rap
And did his time and yours.

You chronic haters and “brass hat” baiters,
Now listen here to me,
Ned King was tried and crucified
That you may still be free.

Ned King was a gentleman born
With riches of heart and head,
A soldier and scholar, he scorned the dollar
And chose the service instead.

He ranked with the best of his time,
He met the Army’s needs,
In courage and brains and all that pertains
To the best the Service breeds.

Distinction had marked him soon
And merit had gained his star,
In school and camp he bore the stamp
Of one who must go far.

Grim Fate, the crafty old witch,
Was pranking with Ned’s career;
She was shifting the scenes in the Philippines
In the grim and fateful year.

She should have been shot at sunrise
The furtive and fickle old hag,
She was shuffling her cards and fixing the odds
For someone to hold the bag.

MacArthur was marked for Olympus
And Skinny was called to the Rock,
So Ned was the man to go to Bataan
And weather the withering shock.

A lifetime of waiting and work
High purpose that nothing could hinder,
Cards stacked in advance and Ned had his chance
To take command… and surrender!

The fate of Democracy’s General
The lot of the hapless Defender,
The cards were stacked, the jury was packed
And Ned was the first to surrender,

On a bit of a pestilent strip
Of tropical jungle land,
Starvation, disease, and mad Japanese
Were besieging the men of Bataan.

The Jap was poised for the kill,
He’d mopped up Singapore,
He has tasted the blood and found it good
And was licking his chops for more.

The fever got half of the men
In the wake of the winging pest,
While dysentery and beri-beri
Were doing for half the rest.

The men were willing to fight,
And all they had they’d give,
But the hollow shell where the main blow fell
Was weak as a rusty sieve.

The Jap was strong and bold,
His vict’ry was quickly won…
The end of the story and proud “Old Glory”
Must bow to the rising sun.

The horns of dilemma, cruel and sharp,
The heart of the General impale;
Surrender or fight? Well, neither was right
And any solution would fail.

Remember the Alamo friends,
And Christ in the Garden of Sorrow,
Then think of Ned while his tossed his bed
With thoughts of the sad tomorrow.

In the history of American arms
Since the day of the Nations birth,
The Yankee was proud his flag had bowed
To none on the face of the earth.

But when nothings to gain by fighting
And hope no longer survives,
Commanders must face the risk of disgrace
To save their soldiers lives.

Escape was open to Ned, of course
The way that shirkers go,
A steel jacket ball would end it all
And smash his cup of woe.

But Ned was not the kind
To dodge a dreaded task;
“God make me strong to do no wrong,”
Was all that he would ask.

So Ned went down on his knees
And wrestled with his God;
When morning broke he scarcely spoke
But gave his staff a nod.

A nod to his faithful staff,
And one last smile perhaps,
Then rose to his feet and taking a sheet
Went out to meet the Japs.

Click for photos:
General King and the surrender
General King Memorial

(Poem courtesy of Robert Hudson)


Author Unknown

Another poem sent to me by so many veteran's that I believe it belongs here.

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light, I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest, My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white, Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe, Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep, Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem, So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.
The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near, But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know, Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear, And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night, A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old, Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled, Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
"What are you doing?" I asked without fear, "Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve, You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift, Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts…
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light. Then he sighed and he said,
"Its really all right, I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."
"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line, That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me, I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at 'Pearl on a day in December,"
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."

My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam', And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while, But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag, The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone, Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet, I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another, Or lay down my life with my sister and brother.
Who stand at the front against any and all, To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."

"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright, Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least, "Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done, For being away from your wife and your son."
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret, "Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead, To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."


By A. Lawrence Vaincourt

He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion, telling stories of the past.
Of a war that he had fought in and the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies; they were heroes, every one.
And tho' sometimes, to his neighbors, his tales became a joke,
All his Legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.
But we'll hear his tales no longer for old Bill has passed away,
And the world's a little poorer, for a soldier died today.
He will not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife,
For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life.
Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way,
And the world won't note his passing, though a soldier died today.
When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell their whole life stories, from the time that they were young,
But the passing of a soldier goes unnoticed and unsung.
Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land
A guy who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his Country and offers up his life?
A politician's stipend and the style in which he lives
Are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives.
While the ordinary soldier, who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal and perhaps, a pension small.
It's so easy to forget them for it was so long ago,
That the old Bills of our Country went to battle, but we know
It was not the politicians, with their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom that our Country now enjoys.
Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,
Would you want a politician with his ever-shifting stand?
Or would you prefer a soldier, who has sworn to defend
His home, his kin and Country and would fight until the end?
He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier's part
Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.
If we cannot do him honor while he's here to hear the praise,
Then at least let's give him homage at the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say,
Our Country is in mourning, for a soldier died today.
-- Joshua 24:15


By Lieut. Henry G. Lee,
Headquarters and Military Police Company of the Philippine Divison

They said we were weak, we were aimless, They said we were lost past reclaim.
We had “left the faith of our fathers” We were “blots on American’s name.

We were “soft and useless and drifters” And the last youth’s census reveals
We were “parasite growth of the nation” We had “sacrificed muscle for wheels.”

The old men wept for their country, And sighed for the days of yore.|
And sometimes we half believed them But that was before our war.

Before we heard the bombs shriek. And the howling, ugly and shrill
That ripples across the rice paddies When ”Nippie” comes in for the kill.

Before we had lived on hunger, And terror and nerves and pain
Before we had seen our buddies Die in the shattered cane.

Our war-our own little rat trap The hopeless defense of Bataan
A rear guard with no main body, But a thorn in the flesh of Japan.

So now we can laugh at our elders, And now we can give them the lie
For we “held the line that couldn’t be held” When they struck us at Abucay.

Weak? And drifters? And aimless? Go where the steel was sowed
Ask for the nameless fox graves That dot the Hacienda Road

And ask at Limay and Balanga, Where the outposts burrowed like moles
And the sky-trained flying soldiers, Died in their infantry holes.

And ask of the bamboo thicket, Deadly green and hot
And the bloody Pilar River, And the forward slopes of Samat

And, last seek the silent jungle, Where the unburied remnants lie
Asleep by their rusting rifles, The men who learned how to die.

Who first squeezed the Garand’s trigger? Who met the tanks on a mare
Who flew the primary trainers When Zeros were in the air?

Who watched the bombays open, Day after endless day
Stayed at their anti-aircraft, With tons of “H. E.” on the way?

Who lead the Scouts at Quinon? Who plugged the break at Morong?
Who but your parisite youngsters, The desperate men of Bataan.

So now we have learned our lesson, And how to apply it too
And this the application, The things they said were true.

We were weak, we were aimless and drifters We lived for ourselves alone,
But we have been tempered with fire, We are ready, U.S., to come home.


Who would survive must learn a savage tongue….

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Credit: http://www.thecimmerian.com, posted by Leo Grin

The poetry of Robert E. Howard has long been known for its martial splendor and potent battle imagery, but what is most striking to me is how successfully he managed to get into the heads of soldiers and warriors, and how completely he was able to immerse himself (and hence the reader) into the real-life thoughts and feelings of both killers and victims, the battle-hungry and the battle-weary. There’s a difference between merely sprinkling appropriate adjectives into your poetry and capturing the essence of the struggle of warfare in all its harrowing details and viewpoints. In his best work Howard achieves this again and again.

Consider this poem, written by Howard a full decade before the onset of World War II, and yet encapsulating perfectly the civilizational battle for supremacy that was about to explode upon the world:

“Little Brown Man Of Nippon”

Little brown man of Nippon
Who apes the ways of the west,
You have set the sword on your standard,
And the eagle on your crest.

Little brown man of Nippon,
You have dreamed a deadly dream;
You have waked the restless ravens
And the rousing vultures scream.

Oh, lines of an unborn empire,
Foam of a rising flood,
Your bones shall mark the borders,
The tide shall be your blood.

Little brown man of Nippon,
Though the star of the West be set,
And the last of the fair-haired strew the field
Where East and West be met –

Though you herd us down like cattle,
And hew us down like corn,
Our blood shall drown your vision
Of the empire yet unborn.

In utter desolation, and despair
At the end, on a blackened hill,
You shall sit and view your empire,
Broken and charred and still.

The beams of shattered houses,
Reared stark against the sky,
And fields wherein, for waving grain,
Long waves of dead men lie.

We will set the torch with our own hands
To wall and roof and spire;
We will cut the throats of our women,
And feed our babes to the fire;

We will fling our naked bosoms
Against your bloodied steel;
As you tread us under, dying,
Our teeth shall rend your heel.

But, little brown man of Nippon,
Should the dice fall otherwise,
And the gods of the fair-haired triumph
When the battle-dawns arise –

We will give your flesh to the sea-gulls
And your cities to the flame,
Till the world forgets your visions,
And the years forget your name.

Over your island empire
Shall our steel-clad squadrons fly
Till the land lies black and silent
Under a flame-ripped sky.

Till the hungry wolf goes slinking
Along your shattered streets,
And the kite in your ruined palace
Tears at the crimson meats.

And over the crimson gutters
Which infant bodies choke
The raven flaps and strangles
In the drifting shreds of smoke.

No plough shall break your valleys,
No song shall rouse your hill –
Still and silent the ploughmen,
The singers silent and still.

And your nation’s only emblem,
Oh, man of the crimson dream –
Save corpses in the broken streets
And the death-fires’ baleful gleam –

Shall hang at the prow of a cruiser,
That furrows the flying foam,
Bearing the spoils of conquest
To the fair-haired people’s home.

Shall hang at the prow of a cruiser,
Grinning and dripping red,
The price of a dream of empire –
Little brown man, your head.

Men who share Howard’s predilections are plentiful for those who keep a lookout for them. I recently came across another soldier-poet in the Howardian mold. In late 1941, Lt. Henry G. Lee was a twenty-seven-year-old recruit serving with the Philippine Division of the US forces. Raised in Pasadena, California, he was an amateur versifier who wrote regularly into a journal about life and battle. In the wake of Pearl Harbor, realizing that he was about to be plunged into the thick of bloodthirsty war, Lee penned the following poem:

“Prayer Before Battle (To Mars)”
(December 8, 1941)

Before thine ancient altar, God of War,
Forlorn, afraid, alone, I kneel to pray.
The gentle shepherd whom I would adore,
Faced by thy blazing plaything, slips away.
And I am drained of faith — alone — alone.
Who now needs faith to face thy outthrust sword,
Bereft of hope, turned to pagan to the bone.
I kneel to thee and hail thee as my Lord.
From such a God as thee, I ask not life,
My life is forfeited, the hour is late.
Thou need not swerve the bullet, dull the knife.
I ask but strength to ride the wave of fate.
And one thing more — to validate this strife,
And my own sacrifice — teach me to hate.

Months later — with the islands under assault by the Japanese, and certain defeat, capture, and torture looming — Lee and the rest fought bravely alongside Philippine scouts, who he immortalized in another stirring poem:

“To the Philippine Scouts”

Philippine Scouts-N. Luzon, S. Luzon, Abucay, Moran, The Points, Toul Pocket, Mt. Samat, Corregidor
(December 8, 1941-May 8, 1942)

The desperate fight is lost; the battle done.
The brown, lean ranks are scattered to the breeze
Their cherished weapons rusting in the sun
Their mouldering guidons hidden by the leaves.
No more the men who did not fear to die
Will plug the broken line while through the din
Their beaten comrades raise the welcome cry
“Make way, make way, the Scouts are moving in.”

The jungle takes the long-defended lines
The trench erodes; the wire rusts away
The lush lank grasses and the trailing vines
Soon hide the human remains of the fray.
The battle ended and the story told
The blood-smeared leaves of history begin
To open to the Scouts, as they unfold
The little tired soldiers enter in.

The men who were besieged on every side
Who knew the disillusion of retreat
And still retained their fierce exultant pride
And were soldiers — even in defeat,
Now meet the veterans of ten thousand years
Now find a welcome worthy of their trade
From men who fought with cross bows and with spears
With bullet and with arrow and with spade.

The grizzled veterans Rome was built upon
The Death-head horde of Attila the Hun
The “Yellow Horror” of the greatest Kahn
The guardsmen of the first Napoleon
And all the men in every nameless fight
Since man first strove with man to prove his worth
Shall greet the Scouts as is their right –
No finer soldiers ever walked the earth.

And then the Scouts will form to be reviewed
Each scattered unit now once more complete
Each weapon and each bright crisp flag renewed
And high above the cadence of their feet
Will come the loud clear virile welcoming shout
From many throats before the feasts begin
Their badge of honor mid their comrades rout –
“Make way, make way, the Scouts are moving in.”

Starving and without aid of any kind, Lt. Lee and his men finally surrendered on April 9, 1942 with the rest of the Americans, and became prisoners of the fearsome Japanese. He was allowed to send a single postcard to his family with his signature on it, and then spent the next three years in hellish conditions in an Imperial prison camp. The Japanese had never signed the Geneva Conventions, and they subjected their charges to a host of horrors.

During that time, Henry Lee continued to surreptitiously record poems in his now-hidden journal, forging a series of very poignant and emotional paeans to warfare and prison that Howard fans will find very familiar.

“Fighting On”

I see no gleam of victory alluring
No chance of splendid booty or of gain
If I endure — I must go on enduring
And my reward for bearing pain — is pain
Yet, though the thrill, the zest, the hope are gone
Something within me keeps me fighting on.

“Death March”

So you are dead. The easy words contain
No sense of loss, no sorrow, no despair.
Thus hunger, thirst, fatigue, combines to drain
All feeling from our hearts. The endless glare,
The brutal heat, anesthetize the mind.
I can not mourn you now. I lift my load,
The suffering column moves. I leave behind
Only another corpse, beside the road.

Howard’s own fascination with capture, torture, and escape, with the evil that men do to those under their bloody thumbs and bootheels, finds echo in Lt. Lee’s lines about an execution, perhaps one of many which he himself witnessed during those grim years:

Red in the eastern sun, before he died,
We saw his glinting hair; his arms were tied.
There by his lonely form, ugly and grim
We saw an open grave waiting for him.

We watched him from our fence, in silent throng,
Each with the fervent prayer, “God make him strong.”
They offered him a smoke, he’d not have that,
Then at his captor’s feet he coldly spat.

He faced the leaden hail, his eyes were bare;
We saw the tropic rays glint in his hair.
What mattered why he stood facing the gun?
We saw a nation’s pride there in the sun.

How desolate must his soul have become after three years of such misery, not knowing if he would ever be rescued, or whether the next crack of a pistol would signify his own death. By 1944 the war was going America’s way, but to the prisoners victory and freedom were but a stale dream. Three years to the day after his Pearl Harbor-inspired poem, Lt. Lee wrote another that gives us an idea of how much he had changed by that time:

“Three Years After”

(December 8, 1944)

“Teach me to hate,” I prayed — for I was young,
And fear was in my heart, and faith had fled.
“Teach me to hate! for hate is strength,” I said
“A staff to lean on.” Thus my challenge flung
Into the thunder of the clouds that hung
Cloaking with terror all the days ahead –
“Teach me to hate — the world I loved is dead;
Who would survive must learn a savage tongue.”

And I have learned — and paid in days that ran
To bitter schooling. Love was lost in pains,
Hunger replaced the beauty in life’s plan,
Honor and virtue vanished with the rains
And faith in God dissolved with faith in man.
I have my hate! But nothing else remains.

Had Howard lived, would he have reached a similar state of mind? Would he have perhaps fought in that very war, and experienced its horrors for himself? How would it have affected his fiction? We’ll never know, but in the writing of Lt. Lee we see what might have been, a man who sees the darkness and the unadorned ferocity of the human soul in ways seldom expressed in this comparatively tender age.

Howard didn’t have war to contend with, but he was engaged for all his life in a war of the mind and of the soul, a battle against the scourges of depression, the pulp marketplace, and the hatred directed at him by the very town in which he lived. Howard was in a prison camp of sorts, too, and with no way out. And it eventually killed him every bit as dead as if he had fallen under the bayonets of the Japanese.

As it happened, there was no escape for Henry Lee, either. In late December 1944, he was put on a transport ship and sent to Japan as slave labor. Before leaving, he hastily dug a hole under a prison hut and buried his journal of poems, hoping that someday in the future — as a free soldier in a victorious American army — he might come back and retrieve it. En route to Japan, an American plane caught sight of the unmarked boat and unleashed a hail of bombs, sending the transport to the bottom of the ocean — and the young Poet of Bataan along with it. Lee was thirty years old — the exact age Howard was when he met his own violent end. Two young poets possessed of searing thoughts and a preternatural sensitivity for the power of words and rhyme, both lost to the worms and the ages.

If there is a happy ending to be found in either man’s story, it is that neither has been forgotten. In Howard’s case, we ultimately have people like Glenn Lord, L. Sprague de Camp, Novalyne Price Ellis, and Rusty Burke to thank for that. As for Lee, on January 30, 1945 the prison where he had spent three years, Camp Cabanatuan, was liberated by the Sixth Ranger Infantry Battalion led by Lt. Col. Henry A. Mucci, who had audaciously led his men far behind the Japanese front and taken the enemy unawares. This unbelievable action — depicted in the book Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II’s Greatest Rescue Mission, and later in the 2005 film The Great Raid — resulted in the rediscovery of Lee’s buried journal, and subsequently (in 1948) the publishing of his poems for posterity in a volume called Nothing But Praise. The Great Raid had come a few precious weeks too late to save Henry Lee, but it managed to save his life’s work: a small dirt-encrusted journal containing faded poetry scribbled out with such emotion that it may as well have been penned in blood.

Something tells me that Robert E. Howard and Lt. Lee would have made fine friends. Both understood that speaking truth often requires a savage tongue, and that there is honor and succor to be found in struggle and warfare and death. The worlds of history and poetry are both the better for having known them.