SUNDAY AT SANANANDA – MEMORIES OF THE HORRORS OF FIGHTING ON NEW GUINEA

By T-5 Don E. Rohrig – New Guinea

This is the Huggins perimeter.

As you are standing, Gona’s ahead of you.

The green desert of Papua and Dutch New Guinea.

Beyond it; beyond the Halmahera Sea, the islands of Molucca.

And the far-off places of the Moros and the temple worshipers.



To your left are the Owen Stanley’s—

The spinal column of the Papuan tortoise;

And behind you the mightiest of the oceans,

Through from here it is only a breath and a sigh.

 

To your right, a scant mile up this devious, bucolic trail.

Around many a bend, through the haunted, primordial tangle.

Past dugout and slit trench, by ford across tropical rivers.

Through mud to your thighs, and the murmuring clouds of mosquitoes.

Through kunai and sun…oh, when you get there

You’ll know…you’ll not mistake it, this hell hole;

The bloody black sands, the brown tainted sea water—

The Point Sanananda.

 

Don’t mind the skeletons. We haven’t had time to remove them;

And while we sit here with hands limply folded,

We haven’t the heart.

 

No, it isn’t the heat or the dampness;

And it certainly isn’t sickness, at least not physical sickness—

Though they may come later, the retching, the spewing.

They had it, these grandsons of Heaven,

These stench-making ex-patriots lately of Honshu;

From the slums of Kyoto, from gay Nagasaki.

These pallid-complexioned mother’s sons rom the rice paddies,

From fermenting Formosa and the smokes of Fujisan…

They had the sickness, and not wholly the fevers,

Though the swamp miasmata weren’t the least of it.



And so here’s what is left of them…hell, I don’t wonder

Your face grows a bit green…it’s not a sweet atmosphere

Here with the cadavers.

 

But after you’ve slept with then—

There’s Charlie the brainless one; and Henry the Horror.

He was clever at sniping, but my cobber resented him

And even the tree-boys are shy at machine guns!

 

That beautiful specimen under the quarter-ton

Will have to grow features or else his ancestors

Might fail to remember him among the chrysanthemums

In the honorable Heaven of Japanese heroes…

 

But these are the harmless ones. If you wait until nightfall

You won’t be misled by the quiet out yonder;

They’re clever, resourceful, and they’re not the half of it…

 

The jungle draws in on you, the sound of the wild things

Keeps your heart in your gullet, and I’d not advise you

To sleep with both eyes closed, for fear you might yield to it—

To sleep—for above all, give the go-by to nightmares.

You see, there’s the nightmares, and the start-up in cold sweat,

The scream that you can’t suppress through the darkness is listening:

And the terror remembered, of the sudden reversal

When these foul, bloody messes that lie here so motionless

Became boys from Brooklyn or Terre Haute or Omaha,

And you recognize all of them and hear the low crying

Just before the death rattle, since none of them wants to die.



And the shadowy shapes glide around in the midst of them,

And the glinting of bayonets and the steaming red rivers

Of warm blood gushing soundlessly…

 

You’re pale…You’re pulling out…back to the cities?

Glamorous cities up and down the land.

 

Well, don’t let me detain you

With ranting and preaching. That’s just our habit here.

Your blood turns to wormwood.

 

Though here it is Sunday

We forget the days. Just tell your newspaper

That the boys are still pushing, the Japs still pocketed.

 

You’d better ton down a bit—don’t tell them too much of it—

Of the corpses and skeletons, the stink and the filthiness

On Point Sanananda.sanananda



For More on the Battle of Sanananda Check Out:

War at the End of the World: Douglas MacArthur and the Forgotten Fight For New Guinea, 1942-1945




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