Succession of Contrasts

I am sitting under a banana tree and it is quite cool and moist in this particular spot, although the morning sun is shining very hotly already.

At times it is hard to realize that we are on a battlefield. War is a succession of contrasts. In the evening you are sitting on the edge of your foxhole, watching a full round moon slowly climbing into the sky and throwing a soft golden light across the rice paddies. Tall coconut palms are silhouetted against the stars and billowy white clouds that hang in the heavens. Except for the chirping of the crickets and the husky croaking of the frogs in the swamps, or the occasional shrill cry of the night birds, all is quiet. You are contentedly smoking your pipe and for the first time in the day are able to forget the war and think of home.

Suddenly the enemy artillery opens up. In a second all is changed. It is a war again Down into a foxhole again. The enemy guns are located by their flashes and our own artillery sends its answer. A thunderous barrage makes the ground come to life, as though an angry giant were shaking the whole world. The concussion rattles you around in your foxhole like a bean in a jar. For 20 or 30 minutes it continues, as you lie there cursing the goddamn enemy. Then, as suddenly as it began, the whole nerve-shattering racket closes. The clouds are white again, whereas before they were angry red, reflecting the flashes of the guns. The frogs, the birds and crickets take up their interrupted symphony. The palm trees wave gently in the cool night air and the gentle moment soothes the tried nerves and you are thinking of home again.

The 17th landed on Leyte on October 20, 1944. The regiment captured the town of Dagami on October 29th. By November 23, 1944, the fighting on Shoestring Ridge was ferocious. Japanese artillery rained down on US positions and launched a fierce charge on troops holding the ridge.

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