An excerpt for Kurofune: The Black Ships:

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.

Ted was nervous, but not really scared, as he just wanted to go and get on with it. Lou and the Reverend remained silent, even as they looked at one another for mutual encouragement, as if to say everything is going to be okay. The Reverend clutched his Bible for his own spiritual support and emotional fortitude. Lou was a nonbeliever, yet Ted could see the abject fear in his eyes. Ted kissed the crucifix of his rosary one last time. He also stole one more peek at the picture of Ruth, protected as it was from the seawater by a plastic sheath that he had in his shirt pocket.


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Akira Mizutani, his wife Mariko and their 9-year old son Shoichi loved Saipan. But Akira was fearful that Japan’s vision of South East Asian expansion and Micronesian control in the 1930s and 40s was madness and would have dire consequences for the safety of his family and the people of his small island.

Ted Culp of Bremerton Washington wanted to be a Marine more than anything else. The unprovoked Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour had set a fire in his soul. He was eager to go! Yet he was torn between his sense of duty to serve his country and his faith. He ultimately decides to leave Bremerton and the love of his life for the killing beaches and jungles of the central Pacific atolls and islands.

Unbeknownst to Ted and Akira, this Pacific War would bring them together in a way that they could never have imagined. Their lives would never be the same again.

“Kurofune: The Black Ships: A Novel of World War II” is John Morrison’s first novel. John became fascinated with the stories and the legacy of the Marine’s island hopping strategy across the Central Pacific Ocean during World War II. In his view the battle honors of Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima and many others may have been entrenched into the consciousness of the American people and the United States Marine Corp, but Saipan holds a special place of interest for the author after a visit there in 1974. The civilian horror that occurred during the final days of the Battle for Saipan left an indelible mark on his sense of humanity in the world. It is a tragedy that he feels most people are not aware of.

Garapan, Saipan, July 1944

“Kurofune” tells the story of that tragedy against a backdrop of nationalism, military fanaticism, heroism and self sacrifice. Yet Kurofune is also a love story, a war story, a story of redemption and a story of rebirth.

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19 thoughts on “KUROFUNE: THE BLACK SHIPS – A Novel of World War II”

  1. Kurofune: The Black Ships is a well balanced, descriptive novel depicting both the lives of a young US marine and a family from Saipan brought together during the war in the Pacific. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this first novel by John Morrison and hope there will be more to come! BZ!

  2. Just finished reading “Kurofune – The Black Ships” a novel of World War 11 written by John Morrison. I found it very educational as I knew nothing about the Pacific War, or even where Saipan was located. The author has gone into great detail to keep this history as accurate as possible, yet still opening up their stories, for both sides, Japanese and Americans. How life changes with war, yet still trying to find the good in people, making some sense of it all and carry on. There is the loss of friends, hope for a better day, and of course a little romance. Totally enjoyed the book, and learned a lot about that era.

  3. “GREAT BOOK” John, couldn’t put it down. Loved the way you wove in the military, historical and personal aspects of this very important part of WW II. Your descriptions of the battle from a marines prospectus really made me appreciate the sacrifices these young men made. Also really enjoyed the way you interwove the personal stories of the family on Siapan and Ted Culp, showing the huge and lasting consequence of War on peoples lives. Well done, a must read and I can see a movie coming out of this. Marijke would have been very proud.

  4. Wow! What a great book. There is not that many authors that can put you right there with the characters as their stories unfold. This author has achieved that and more. You don’t just read this book you feel it. This book should be made into a movie so more people can get a better understanding of both sides of that horrible conflict, or better yet “read the book”.

  5. John Morrison’s recent novel “Kurofune The Black Ships” is a superb first effort.

    The epic story of American gallantry and victory over the brave, but totally fanatical Japanese military is well organized and researched. The cast of characters from the main protagonist Pte Ted Culp, to Pte Airie (Boo Hoo), and Pte Niles (the Reverend) are true comrades-in-arms soldiers. This particular story of the US Marines who literally fought their way through hell, in the numerous campaigns of the South Pacific, is well worth telling again. Focusing on how just one Marine Pte Culp, left his small American town to answer his country’s call to Arms. John’s novel is a joy to read and
    is reminiscent of the millions of young men and women who also sacrificed their lives and health for the freedom we enjoy today! At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them. SEMPER FIDELIS.

  6. Just finished reading Kurofuni, it starts off slowly as you have to get the backstory in order to understand the events leading up to the war. Not many people realize that Japan was given a lot of Germany’s colonial holdings in the Pacific for helping defeat them in the first World War. I learned a lot of history while enjoying a good war story and it places you back among the people who lived in the 1940s, their outlook, their beliefs, their limited worldview (compared to ours today) and the events that unfolded from both sides but primarily from the US.
    It doesn’t try to explain the grand strategy but concentrates on how it affected families on both sides of the conflict. It also points out how young men from a non militaristic background (young US Marines) had to adapt to being thrown into serious combat against an enemy who had already been fighting for years. If the High Command in Tokyo hadn’t made so many mistakes things might have turned out differently.
    Most of our information on World War II concentrates on the events in Europe while the Pacific front was, in many ways, much broader. This is a worth while book to read and I highly recommend it.

  7. I was very ignorant of the Pacific part of World War II before reading this novel. John’s descriptions bought it to light for me. There were times I thought I could be reading non fiction…that’s how realistic the narrative was. He also wove a story of what seemed like real characters into the book. I truly enjoyed the read and was crying near the end…always a sign I’ve felt immersed in a book.

  8. I have just finished reading Kurofune a novel that kept me captivated form beginning to end. The blending of powerful WWII action, with it’s historical basis, and an endearing love story provides the reader with a source of continuing interest. The author’s strong descriptive ability and character development are hallmarks of this book. One hopes he will write another.

  9. A wonderful journey of a read that educates and entertains you through a conflict, as well as the lives and families of men and women fighting through a deadly war, from the perspective of both sides. Recommended!

    P.S – agreed with the previous post about a movie

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