Something different today. An excerpt from my book: KUROFUNE: THE BLACK SHIPS – A Novel of World War II.
The sun was now getting higher and higher off of the eastern horizon. The once beautiful orange, yellow, and reddish glow of the sunrise was now tarnished by the thick, black, brown and grayish pall of the smoke plumes covering Betio and the immediate vicinity due to the highly explosive nature of the Naval gunfire support and the air strikes. The air was becoming heavier and heavier and thick with the smell of detonation, destruction, explosions, and cordite. It was the smell of death. These thick, black plumes of smoke rose out from under the coconut palms and the fields of the island, then up and over the lagoon, spreading out like a blanket of terror of biblical proportions, dark and impervious. Rows upon rows upon rows of coconut palms were scarred, naked, and pitted—their ragged palm fronds hanging down, limp, as if the life had suddenly been snuffed out of them by some horrendous otherworldly force. No tree escaped the carnage of the shelling that swept across the entire length and breadth of the island. Collectively, the palm trees just stood there, motionless, ragged in the light tropical breeze, as if standing upright in a desolate, mysterious landscape, like sentinels to hell itself. The landscape was pockmarked with both deep and shallow craters, like the surface of the moon. And, like the surface of the moon, the island was lifeless. Overlaying it all, a light gray mist hung in the air like suspended dust particles, coagulating into everything within this maelstrom of terror. Combat dust! On this island of doom, nature’s colorful palette of tropical hues—the many shades of blue, green, and turquoise—surrendered to this monochromatic nightmare. It was an eerie sight to behold.
The naval gunfire barrage continued raining death and destruction among the Japanese defenders. A sixteen-inch shell found its mark on one of the Vickers guns. The subsequent explosion of the ammo dump sent shells, debris, and shockwaves from one end of Betio to the other and across the lagoon.
“Heads down,” somebody screamed. Was Armageddon that far behind? Ted wondered, feeling the cataclysmic detonation. It was horrendous. His whole world shook.
The naval bombardment had gone on now for almost three hours. Sooner or later, it would be time for the Marines to turn to and head directly for the beach. The Marines of the first wave held back in the lagoon at the departure line in their Alligators, landing craft tanks, and their Higgins boats, but it would soon be time for the landing. In the meantime, they were getting anxious and sick of the tumultuous movement of the landing craft. Seaworthy they were not. Even Ted was anxious to go. Not really seasick, he was becoming nauseous watching his colleagues retch from the motion of the Higgins. The seasickness and the dry heaving were horrific, as everything that had been in their stomachs from breakfast was now awash in the boat’s bilge. A sour, pungent, and slightly acidic odor permeated the air. That, combined with the nauseating diesel fumes and collective sweat of all the men, was enough to turn anyone pale.