banzai

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[Close-range night fighting preceded this report from Tuttle.]

At first light there were three more young soldiers in the cramped hole with us. One of them had been injured by jumping into the hole right on top of my original companion’s knife where he had stuck it in the dirt.

The scene before us was a battle line still held by the 2nd Battalion of the 158th Infantry Regiment, but it was hardly a prize. Smoldering brush covered the southern skyline with smoke. A sickly smell of cooking meat mixed in with the burning pines to slip past the closed eyes of anyone who tried not to look at the carnage.

American soldiers got organized and walked forward in a careful line, medics close behind. They stepped over dead bodies, making sure the Japanese ones stayed dead, as they moved down to the river bank. The water ran fast, about four feet deep in that stretch. It had been a slow fording for the Japanese and many were caught there when the shooting started. A brown uniformed body floated past, face down, spinning slowly as the current carried it along toward the bay.

It is believed that the Japs in the pocket sent every last man into a final rush, realizing they were practically surrounded. My company counted almost a hundred dead in front of it; other units report the same. They also report each of them sending back about the same number in casualties, a third of them dead.

Ultimately the 158th did what was asked of it, again, but paid a high price, again. It was pulled back, again. I rode along as they moved out, listening to soldiers take a personal tally of their buddies – who made it, who didn’t, and who knows.

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