Friday, May 28, 2010

The Battle of Tenaru by Robert Leckie


Memorial Day is set aside to remember and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in all wars fought. I thank the families who raised the caliber of men and women who went in harms way for a bigger cause, and I send you my heartfelt condolences for your loss.

Monday is Memorial Day for our American men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice. In all your festivities this weekend, please take just a second to give a silent prayer of thanks, or just a moment of silence if you do not pray, for those who sacrificed so you can enjoy this day.

Many of you will be posting about this day. This is my Memorial Day contribution:

The HBO series, The Pacific, was based in part on a book by Robert Leckie (Dec. 18, 1920 - Dec 24, 2001) a former Marine of the 1st Division who fought as a machine-gunner in every battle of the Pacific except Okinawa (because he was recovering from a blast concussion received on Peleiu.) This poem was take from his first book written in 1957, ‘Helmet For My Pillow - From Parris Island to the Pacific.’

The Battle of the Tenaru, August 21, 1942
by Robert Leckie

A helmet for my pillow,
A poncho for my bed,
My rifle rests across my chest-
The stars swing overhead.

The whisper of the kunai,
The murmur of the sea,
The sighing palm and night so calm
Betray no enemy.

Hear! river bank so silent
You men who sleep around
That foreign scream across the stream-
Up! Fire at the sound!

Sweeping over the sandspit
That blocks the Tenaru
With Banzai-boast a mushroomed host
Vows to destroy our few.

Into your holes and gunpits!
Kill them with rifles and knives!
Feed them with lead until they are dead-
And widowed are their wives.

Sons of the mothers who gave you
Honor and gift of birth
Strike with the knife till blood and life
Run out upon the earth.

Marines, keep faith with your glory
Keep to your trembling hole.
Intruder feel of Nippon steel
Can't penetrate your soul.

Closing, they charge all howling
Their breasts all targets large.
The gun must shake, the bullets make
A slaughter of their charge.

Red are the flashing tracers,
Yellow the bursting shells.
Hoarse is the cry of men who die
Shrill are the woundeds' yells.

God, how the night reels stricken!
She shrieks with orange spark.
The mortar's lash and cannon's crash
Have crucified the dark.

Falling, the faltering foemen
Beneath our guns lie heaped.
By greenish glare of rocket's flare
We see the harvest reaped.

Now has the first fierce onslaught
Been broken and hammered back.
Hammered and hit, from hole and pit-
We rise up to attack!

Day bursts pale from a gun tube,
The gibbering night has fled.
By light of dawn the foe has drawn
A line behind his dead.

Our tanks clank in behind him,
Our riflemen move out.
Their hearts have met our bayonet-
It's ended wit a shout.

"Cease fire!" -the words go ringing,
Over the heaps of the slain.
The battle's won, the Rising Sun
Lies riddled on the plain.

St. Michael, angel of battle
We praise you to God on high.
The foe you gave was strong and brave
And unafraid to die.

Speak to the Lord for our comrades,
Killed when the battle seemed lost.
They went to meet a bright defeat-
The hero's holocaust.

False is the vaunt of the victor,
Empty our living pride.
For those who fell there is no hell-
Not for the brave who died.
.
.

9 comments:

Bringing Pretty Back said...

What a wonderful poem. Tnanks for reminding us what this weekend is all about.
Kristin

Miss Em said...

Just got my hands on the book "Helmet for my Pillow" can't wait to start it.

Miss Em

rxBambi said...

my hubs and I watched the Pacific while it was on tv. It was very powerful. I'm so grateful for you and all the service men and women who have risked -- and given -- their lives so that we can feel safe.

hugs

Ed said...

Men like this make me embarassed and unworthy to call myself a veteran.

Happy Memorial Day weekend John.

dana said...

Helmet on My Pillow: wonderful book for a commemorative day......which should be MORE than one day, considering Martin Luther King and everyone else (individuals) get an entire day, but millions of dead and living soldiers = ONE DAY

The Empress said...

Thank you for doing this.

Beautiful poem. This is one I let my son read. He loved it, too.

Lickety Splitter said...

Thanks for sharing another piece of admirable history with us and for continuosly bringing individual veterans to the spotlight. They deserve to shine!

Lickety Splitter said...

boo boo (continuously). Call my correction -- my bent towards OCD.

Anonymous said...

I have read this poem more times than I can say to the point of knowing most of it by heart, and every time it makes me feel such strong emotions I can hardly believe it.
Wonderful poem; thank you for uploading it.