Confessions Of A Wartime Memory. Feel free to point out errors and would highly appreciate feedback.
These days, when most people are asked how World War Two ended, they will point to a USA flag and simply say “We won”. Of course, I know that as well considering that I, Carl Morgan, served for the glorious country. But everytime someone tries to ask me how I did not die even though it was pretty obvious that I received life-threatening wounds, I tell them that they shouldn’t bother because I’m here and the war is won. I mean, of course, I’m 89 years old right now and I will be 90 in two weeks. But if you want to know about my experience and how I won. Then it has nothing to do with countries nor soldiers, nor people.
I may have had help instead. Maybe someone out there wanted me to have a second chance.
To clear things up, we did win. That was the idea. We were willing to isolate ourselves from other countries until Pearl Harbor came and we were put in the forefront. I was one of the unfortunate ones to be drafted into it. Three weeks of gruelling training camp and I was assigned my spot in the war as a member of 0300 Infantry like the rest of my pals. A few days later, we were put on air and sent to what I liked to call our “First Assignment”. We landed after 17 hours in Burma. A completely different land in 1942 aspects. No Kentucky Fried Chicken(there were steaks being grilled for the Marines though) and certainly no Kentucky girls like my girlfriend Lana back home(of course, there were these geishas). Most of the land was trees and grass shielding mountains from view, but where we were, tanks, jeeps, and helicopters on ground and in the sky. Military fences sealed off our area from the rest of the jungle, where other enemy infantry soldiers were common.
The party was just getting started. My friends and I were going to be going out there to find some girls and who knows what else. I met up with our platoon leader Scarborough(yeah it’s a pretty weird name, but that’s what the GI’s called him). He pointed me to a small tent which had enough room for one person. The next place he pointed at was a larger house where soldiers occasionally came out and came in.
“Remember to stay away from the Big Men on Campus. They’ll really mess you up if you try your luck against them, Country Boy.”
Country Boy. That’s what they called me. Probably due to my Kentucky heritage. Or the fact that I was not like the rest of the platoon. There were five of us and four of them had many things in common: smoking, looking for mines, hunting gooks, and paying money for the occasional chicks that the other side that was fortunate to ally with us brought in. Most of the time, I stayed faithful to my beautiful Lana and waited outside of the cots where Scarborough and the other members Tony, Hill, and Fred did their business. Thankfully on the third day, Scarborough was forced to follow the line of duty and take us out for marches across the terrain. Whenever a Burmese soldier approached, we would simply fire our guns to drive him in the opposite direction. The others, especially Tony, seemed to want to shoot them dead. I never wanted to kill until it was entirely necessary.
The only time where I was actually killed was during a village raid. It was the monsoon season(I was sent in late May and it had been over a month) and the rains were so loud that most of the external sounds were being shielded by the torrents of slicing water. The water levels rose up and everything around us became a swamp. Trucks were occasionally found buried with provisions expired. This particular village had at least seven military vehicles covered with water and the homes were already cracking down. As I was led by Scarborough, I could sense that there were some soldiers nearby. At this time, we only carried walkie-talkies and no sound devices. The rain was so deafening that I felt my ears about to pop. The direction changed quite a lot and I was close to falling. But it was not the time. My country was counting on me. As my thoughts surrounded me, I felt my foot jerk backwards.
As my platoon mates turned behind to see the distraction, I fell headfirst into the water and continued to feel a hand closing on my chest. Goddamn right I was. There was another GI here. I couldn’t see him well as dirt was obscuring and entering my eyes, causing a stinging pain. My leg felt his fingers dig into my skin and penetrate my clothes. Without stopping to think, I grabbed my collapsable knife that I had been saving for cutting down vines for fruit and plunged it forward. What I can still remember was that for every strike I took, he struck me harder. My head was spinning and I nearly fainted in the mud. After another minute of struggle, I plunged my knife forward and felt my shoulder snap for a second. I hit something and whatever it was, branch or human, I plunged it in further. The grip loosened and I jumped out of the pool of water. My throat hurt and my sight was even more disoriented by the rain. As I made my way to a nearby tree and nursed my hand, Hill came rushing over to me and laughing.
“My guy. You let that boy drag you underneath? Shit. He was barely our age. Damn Burmese. Did you even try to put up a fight?”
I headed back to the spot where the boy was carefully concealed in the mud. Scarborough and Tony were urinating on him and his face stared up at me. He was not an adult killer. Not one that wore a helmet with a satiric or killing-promoting message. His gear wasn’t fully loaded and there were no concealed weapons. He was just a boy. He looked to be about 12 and his face resembled an American that you could see on an ordinary day back home at school. Except, this was his Burmese counterpart. I shed a tear as I realized who he may have been. A boy. A boy killed by a man whose goal was to kill anything that could kill.
After that incident, Scarborough and the others continued to poke fun at my crying by pelting me with stones and spitting. To add insult to injury and more insult, I had my name changed from Boy to Mouse. Nobody was sympathetic here. I made sure to distance myself away from these people. Even the ones back home were friendlier, but these were different people. I really wished that I could have ditched them, but if I did, the Burmese would get me and I never heard any good stories of Americans being taken by them. These guys were my ride back home.
Things changed a few days later, however.
It was Day 41 of our expedition and we had been trekking through the forests for nine hours per day. I was burning up in the lungs and my body felt very wobbly. Only 12 days had passed since I killed that boy. The boys would be coming for us to get revenge. But neither Scarborough or the others gave any importance to my feelings. In fact, whenever I said “feelings”, they would spit at my feet or start shooting in the air at birds. Thankfully, no Burmese showed up and I really hoped that they didn’t. If they did, I would be in for a rough time trying to protect them. War was definitely hell.
One day, we were scouting for an outpost that was meant to drive us to our next destination: India. We were expecting a jeep to drive us to the border to another camp. Then, we would be shooting Indians. Like ducks said Tony. I was annoyed at him. From what I could gather of them, they were forced into the war through crimes that required mandatory drafting.
Five minutes later, Tony started yelling something about shelter.
Scarborough thought that he was saying that we had reached the outpost. I found it odd because there was at least seven more miles of road up ahead and we were still four hours away from the base. I had that gut feeling that we weren’t there yet, but when Tony called out again, I followed suit. We threaded through stones and Scarborough caught and skinned a monitor lizard for dinner. At the top of the stairs, we saw that it was not the outpost that Tony had alerted us to.
It was some kind of temple. The stone walls surrounded a massive black opening that was guarded by protruding vines and roots. It was a building embedded within the forest. Our platoon never encountered these kinds of places, but now that we did, it was possible that this was an enemy ambush.
Hill for once seemed to be thinking what I was thinking. He pulled out a top that he had stolen from a dead soldier during one of the village raids and threw it on a suspicious patch of grass. It went off with a buzzer that could fill the air. It was so loud and distracting that any hidden enemy would jump up and shoot their loads into us. If it was a minefield, the top would have triggered it.
Once we did a final check, Scarborough signalled us that it was safe to move in. We did and soon, the blackness of the entrance swallowed us. I kept checking back at the last patch of light to ensure that a cave-in didn’t occur. As we took another set of stairs downstairs, that became impossible. We had to resort to a torch that Fred used. With a good amount of light, I was reassured. We moved further in before we found Tony and Scarborough at the foot of what appeared to be an altar.
I come from a place where Hindu culture was never a thing, but I do remember some Indians living nearby. Sometimes, they would often head to these altars and pray for at least 20 minutes a day. There were idols of what I presumed were their gods. The Indians were really smart and at the University of Kentucky, I heard about an Indian named Raj who was beating every other student in Engineering. I studied Business there so I couldn’t hear much, but he was smart. I often believed that it was because of his constant praying to the gods.
Tony took particular interest in the altar. For a moment, I thought they were going to piss on it as they did to anything non-American, but instead, he grabbed some of the figures and stuffed them in his bag. “Worth a fortune back home, lads.” he said. Scarborough, Hills, and Fred followed suit.
I decided to investigate further. First, I needed to cure the itching in my throat. I could feel my underwear covered in sweat. The temple was just as hot as the outdoors despite being damp and dark. I grabbed my canteen and took a swig of water. It didn’t soothe me much because the heat had burned it up. None of us could afford a thermos back home so there was no way my water was going to be cold throughout. After sipping, I used the light source to move further into the temple. There weren’t any snakes or lizards, but a lot of grass and roots growing over the walls. I could make out figures on the wall in paint. They were people who were running with spears and I think guns. They reminded me of the cavemen paintings on the stone walls back then.
As I passed through the walls, I found a drawing that drew my interest. I could have taken a picture, but my camera was nearly drained out. There were probably more worthy sights to notice than this. But now that I think of it, it really drew my interest. From left to right, it appeared to be people, who I believed were Indians. They weren’t fighting or running like the previous paintings, but they were kneeling. This was probably a Hindu prayer as their heads were down. I could see at least 20 of them doing so. As I moved my light closer, I could see more rows of people all in the same kneeling position. Head down and crouched. For 20 seconds, the walls from left to right showed people in the kneeling position. Finally, I saw what they were kneeling at.
In front of all these men was a long rectangular stone slab. Sitting on it was a larger figure. It appeared to be in a criss-cross position. Unlike the other stick figures, this one had a full body frame and was colored black with some bare patches here and there. It appeared to be wearing clothing that covered its privates, but didn’t extend to its legs. A few Indians wore these, but I knew it as a thong. The most striking feature was that its face was obscured by its hair. Long, dark hair that stretched all the way to its shoulders. The hair covered up its face so I couldn’t see what it was. As I stepped back, I could see that there were at least 100 drawings of people kneeling to this “idol”. I took a closer look at the figure, it appeared to be an Indian Sadhu or Yogi, a temple priest. But the size was clearly larger than a normal human, at least by painting standards. I accepted that this may be a statue that the Indians built.
Before I could pull out my spare notebook and record some notes that I could examine in a safe-zone, I felt Tony appear. He was struggling to keep still and his face looked pretty squirmy. Scarborough and the others were just watching him without any laughter on their faces.
“Fuck guys. That food I stole from the guys has fucked my stomach. I’m getting the runs. Move aside Country Mouse.” He pulled his pants down and I had to swallow my vomit as he did his “loose” business all over the wall. I looked at the rest of the platoon members. None of them seemed to be bothered by this. In fact, Scarborough and the others gave Tony a rare sympathetic look. I was so busy wondering how disgusting my platoon was when I saw that Tony was purposely aiming at the painting at the figure on the stone slab. By the time he was done, it was obscured by a brown, messy stain of liquid. He poked fun at it before rejoining the others. We immediately made our way out of the temple. As we were leaving, I felt as if there was a breeze inside. Then, very faintly that I think I must have been hallucinating, the sound of moving rocks as if someone was making their way through the cave.
From that day on, my platoon mates were behaving in their worst state. When we captured a female soldier from a troop, Scarborough took his pleasure in shooting her corpse and the others laughed as this happened. Everybody enjoyed it. Except for me. I stayed back. The war was trying to break me, but I wasn’t going to let it. Not today. Not now.
We made it to the Indian border where we were immediately ambushed. Prior to this, we camped in the dense jungles in tents that were large enough for only one man. I was stuck next to Scarborough and Tony, both of which reeked of a toilet and cigarettes. As I was drifting off to sleep, I felt the same breeze from the temple and then, a voice in what I speculated was Hindi. For a moment, I thought that I saw someone moving outside the tent.
Hills, Fred, and Tony were dead. The Hindu soldiers made good on their killing. They had their corpses riddled with bullets and they were showing no mercy to the innocent ones like me. They hurled grenades that swallowed everything in a bright light. I was at my end. The war had gotten to me. Soon, a grenade would absorb me. And then, the forest would absorb me and finally, India would absorb me.
The grenades were hurled in such an excessive quantity that even by night, the sky was colored red with grey.
I managed to escape into a clearing where I believed the Indians wouldn’t come. This was good for now. I was ready to signal a helicopter to get me the fuck out of here when I saw the bushes shake. I grabbed my rifle and aimed at it. The lumbering form of a partially burnt and torn Scarborough emerged.
He was staring at me glass eyed. For a fleeting second, I actually felt relief that one of my platoon members was alive. Even if it was not one that I liked. We would have to work together to get the hell out of here. My reaction was immediate.
“Thank God. Scarborough. Quick! They’re coming. We need to call in an airstrike and head back to camp. I’ve signalled the helicopter and-Scarborough? Are you okay?”
He just stared at me as if I had caused this mess. Then, he lunged forward and before I could do anything, I felt a sharp pain in my stomach. It began boiling where it hurt as if my stomach just touched a hot pan. When I looked up, Scarborough was staring at me. His expression was devoid of expressions, but rage.
He shoved my stomach again with his pocket knife. Again, that pain burnt through my skin and my stomach stung me. The pain was unbearable and soon, my mouth turned red and I spat at Scarborough. Weakly, I raised my hands to deflect his next attack when a new slicing pain came on my elbow. He was now on me. I could make out his voice.
“This is what it has to be. I’m going home. Not you. You’ve always slowed us down ever since you showed your fucking country face here. Now, you’re going to slow them down. You should’ve stayed back in your ranch, Country Mouse. Now, looks like you’re going to have to stay here.” he said this as I felt my stomach shoot a pain through me three more times. I was crying as my stomach ached with red rushing out. I was now swallowing my own blood.
Just as Scarborough laughed and raised his knife for a seventh strike, I faded out. I just begged that God would come and rid me off this hell.
I’m sorry Lana. I’m not coming home for dinner. My soul was sold ever since I made it here.
I blacked out just as I heard Scarborough’s laugh turn into a scream.
When I did wake up, I was not at the gates of heaven. Nor descending into a black void or hell. I was not back in Kentucky nor at the infirmary.
I was at the exact same spot that Scarborough killed me.
The timing was the same and the smoke had cleared. No more shouting nor explosions. And definitely, no Scarborough in sight. But something was annoying me not physically, but mentally. As I reached for my stomach, I found out the source of my problems. I was expecting more blood and shooting pain. Didn’t I feel seven shooting pains from a dagger? I pounded my stomach several times, but no pain.In fact, it felt as if nobody stabbed me at all.
In desperation, I ripped open my army shirt and saw that my stomach appeared to have been stitched back up. But even more funny, there were no stitches. Just lines that appeared to mark where Scarborough had got me. The more I pushed, the more I realized there was no pain, external or internal. I was never stabbed.
But I was.
As I got up, I felt different. I wasn’t tired from running nor shooting. My body felt fresh and as if I had been impregnated with steel or some powerful material. My legs were tighter than a ram’s and my hands had a strong grip. My head was utterly clear. I could easily remember all the times where I had been shot or beaten up by soldiers. But this time, I couldn’t understand why there was no pain.
My thoughts were interrupted by a wave of breeze. I looked around the trees to see if I was near a minefield or ambush. I called out to anybody in the open. But nobody replied in return. Just then, I heard the whispering. More clearly. More closely.
I felt as though something was behind me. I turned around and saw what was.
In front of me, was a massive figure. It was definitely taller than a human. I would say around the height of a house. I looked at it with wide eyes. Its skin was ash-black, but there were a few spots of light grey. They were often on its chest and arms. It was wearing a light brown thong that covered it up to its knees. As for its face, I couldn’t make out due to the amount of long, black hair that covered its face and eyes and extended down to its shoulders. Looking at it, I felt something strange. As if I had to bow down to this great thing. To pledge my soul. I don’t know what happened, but that’s what I did. I bowed down and remained in that position as images crossed my mind. I felt another breeze and when I stood up, it was gone.
Immediately, I made my way back to camp, although I had no idea how. I just did. I felt like returning back to the battlefield to retrieve my artillery from my fallen squadmates. As the thought crossed my mind, I remembered something. And this was definitely a memory. But I couldn’t really imagine it. I decided to write it down later.
Seven days later, I was at the infirmary. The strange thing was that the doctor, who was a Hindu, said that my stomach showed clear signs of gangrenous injuries and yet I was still on my feet. In fact, I could tell that the doctor knew that I should’ve been dead.
I was nearly discharged. Dishonorably. My senior officers offered me a promotion in Burma, but I said that I was done with fighting. This was a lost cause that we were fighting for. It was a war I did not want to be a part of. They were prepared to say no. I had to complete my duty in Burma and only then, I would go home. Otherwise, prison it would be. This was clearly not a hollow threat and the only thing I could do was stay.
As the years went by with the constant fighting, I noticed something that was different about me. Something that did not occur when I arrived in Burma. On the battlefield, I never felt the calamity nor the wounds. Everytime someone shot me, I would feel a brief pain as if a needle struck me and then, it was gone. The one time I got shot was in the neck. Went clean through, but a few minutes later, I appeared to be fine. Nobody could of course see me so it was a story that was never told. But when I told my platoon mates(I was reassigned to a group of less rude soldiers), they said that it was probably since I had been here for two years and the war really toughened me up. But this was something different. Especially when it came to killing. Before, I never killed anybody except for that boy. Even during the raid that wiped out my original platoon. Now, whenever someone came near me, I had them by the throat and if it was a Burmese, their throat would be squashed and their body would be found with their eyes demonstrating utmost terror.
Nothing hurt me during my time here. By 1944, I had a kill count of 650 enemy soldiers. Even women and children that were bombers.
In 1945, we got a letter. The war had ended. America had won with the help of Russia and the Allies. We were going home. By the time I returned to Kentucky, I felt different. No longer was I interested in the simple farming and partying life. But I just wanted to go back to Burma. I had to kill. Because that was a way to channel my inner urges that I couldn’t explain.
I wasn’t able to find any information on what happened back in Burma, but I know that people aren’t telling the truth when they say that America won the war. I was there in Burma and I could tell that we were failing badly. If it hadn’t been for me, I would
Ever since I made it back to Kentucky, I have felt as though whatever saved my life back in Burma has been sticking around. Followed me here. Occasionally, I hear whispers around the house and of course, the rush of breeze. But never have I seen that idol appear. Except one time before my 70th birthday. As I was changing into a suit for the day, I do believe that I saw that figure standing behind me with hair covering its face. Only for a few seconds before disappearing. I never saw it again, but I feel as if it never left.
The war was definitely won of course. I killed until my killing became rewarded with a trip home. But every night, something irks me. Something saved my life back there. It saved me and now I believe that it walks with me.
I turned to becoming an artist and my grandchildren observed my paintings. When my son came to visit yesterday, he marveled at one of my paintings that I created about my time in the war. Everybody thinks it's a work of art and war. But I know better.
Here’s what the portrait is: It’s a basic landscape of mountains in Burma. On the bottom of the page, soldiers represented by stick figures are rushing forward. They're ready to kill and their guns are out. Fires surround the forest around them. At the middle of the page, below the foot of the mountain, a lone figure is standing with a gun and knife in hand. His eyes are blazing and grenades cover his front. It’s the final part that catches the viewer’s interest. Above the figure is another larger one enclosed by fire. This one is much taller. The other colored element, the body is ash-black and a light brown thong covers its waist and chest. Its face is obscured by the black strands of hair and it is carrying a long rod with three, sharp prongs. The soldiers in the painting are running away from it in terror. From it and from me.
Based off a memory from a war
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