War Sonnets | Gripping WWII Historical Fiction by Susannah Willey

War Sonnets
By Susannah Willey
1942: In the war-torn jungles of Luzon, two soldiers scout the landscape. Under ordinary circumstances they might be friends, but in the hostile environment of World War II, they are mortal enemies.
Leal Baldwin, a US Army sergeant, writes sonnets. His sights are set on serving his country honorably and returning home in one piece. But the enemy is not always Japanese…Dooley wants Leo’s job, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get it…Leo finds himself fighting for his reputation and freedom.
Lieutenant Tadashi Abukara prefers haiku. He has vowed to serve his emperor honorably, but finds himself fighting a losing battle. Through combat, starvation, and the threat of cannibalism, Tadashi’s only thought is of survival and return to his beloved wife and son. As Leo and Tadashi discover the humanity of the other side and the questionable moral acts committed by their own, they begin to ask themselves why they are here at all. When they at last meet in the jungles of Luzon, only one will survive, but their poetry will live forever.
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Read an Excerpt:

We met upon a narrow jungle trace.
He aimed his gun at me, I aimed at him.
There in the silence of the jungle dim
One shot rang out;

Chapter 54
“Filipowski, Grayson, Russo, you’re with me.” Leo nodded to all three of them as he outlined the duties for the day. There had been a report of a Japanese encampment in a gully several miles from the garrison. The entire platoon was going out. They’d establish a base camp and spread out in small groups to recon the area.
As the men readied themselves for patrol, Leo prepared himself for another unsuccessful day. Of course, they had to investigate, but he was certain that once again they’d be chasing the wind.
The encampment was where intel had reported. It was no surprise that it was now abandoned. Leo hoped that meant the Japs had moved on and out of his territory.
“Back to camp.” Leo waved his hand in a forward motion. “Let’s find out what other dead ends they’ve got for us to follow.”
As they headed back to the outpost, Leo took the point. He knew this trail by heart, knew they’d just come down it and find it empty. He relaxed his arms, dropped his rifle to his side, and let his thoughts wander.
It had been nearly three years since he’d boarded the bus to Fort Niagara. Until then, his life on the farm had been the only world he knew. He understood the rules, the routines, the way life was supposed to be. He saw clearly now that hard work and success didn’t always get you what you want. As much as he had once believed that a college degree and maybe even a career in writing was his future, he was now convinced that there was no point in chasing that dream.
Leo sighed and pushed away the pressure of regret. When this war was over—if he survived it—he would go home where he belonged, take up the plow, and accept his fate.

Chapter 55
Tadashi stumbled along the northern trail, dragging his wounded leg. He was drenched in sweat and weak from his long day of traveling. He hadn’t waited for nightfall, instead starting out as soon as he made his decision. He had many miles to cross before he would find his comrades in the north—there was no time to stop for sleep.
When he came to a small stream, he paused, knelt beside it, and filled his canteen. He lifted it to his lips and guzzled. The cool, sweet water soothed his parched throat and satisfied his empty stomach. He filled the canteen again and sipped its contents this time, feeling the liquid run down his throat and into his belly.
The third time he filled the canteen, he capped it tightly and slung it across his shoulder. With effort, he stood and scanned the trail in both directions. He wanted so badly to stop, to rest his aching leg.
But he couldn’t. He had to get north. Had to get home. Had to hold his wife and son in his arms.
He pictured his family. His faded memory produced only shadows, but he filled in the rest with his imagination. Sachiko in the fine silk kimono he would buy for her, her long dark hair arranged on top of her head and held with ornate combs. Next to her stood Ichiro, nearly four years old now. In his imagination, Ichiro resembled his mother—the porcelain skin, the deep, dark eyes. He wore the jade magatama that had belonged to Tadashi’s venerated uncle.
Tadashi clutched the magatama and nodded. Yes. His son would have the keepsake when Tadashi came home. He vowed to keep these images in his mind as he traveled north. They would be his beacon.
He started out again. This time, his steps were firm and determined.
It was late in the day when he finally gave in to exhaustion. His wound was bleeding, his leg so weak it collapsed every few steps. Ahead of him, the trail became steep and rocky as it wound up and into the mountains. He could not go on until he regained the strength to climb.
Tadashi unwrapped his senninbari, the thousand-stitch good luck belt, from his waist. Before now, he’d stubbornly refused to remove it, unwilling to risk negating its luck. But blood flowed freely from his leg now, and he needed something to bind it with.
The minute he stopped walking, he heard them: American soldiers, too far away to see, but their voices carried on the breeze. He stepped off the trail and crouched in the tall kunai grass.
His mind raced. I want to live to see my family, he reminded himself. I will not surrender, will not confront them unless I have to. He knew his chances of survival were slim, but surrender was worse than death.
The Americans came closer, their voices louder now, as if they were unconcerned about attack. Tadashi kept his body still, held his breath, and hoped they would pass by without noticing him. The soldiers tramped through the kunai grass, its rough leaves swishing against their uniforms.
They were close. Too close and there was nowhere to hide.
Tadashi had to decide—life or death. Honor or disgrace.

Susannah Willey is a baby boomer, mother of four, grandmother of three, and a recovering nerd. To facilitate her healing, she writes novels. In past lives, she has been an office assistant, stay-at-home-mom, Special Education Teaching Assistant, School Technology Coordinator, and Emergency Medical Technician. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Instructional Computing from S.U.N.Y. Empire State College, and a Master’s Degree in Instructional Design from Boise State University.
Susannah grew up in the New York boondocks and currently lives in Central New York with her companion, Charlie, their dogs, Magenta and Georgie, and Jelly Bean the cat.
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