Damocles Cover.jpg

Damocles

A suicide mission to slow the fire-bombing of their homeland discovers a unique device inside the belly of a dragon. What should they do with this device? Do they follow orders, or do they strike out on their own to deliver a death blow to the enemy? Damocles compels the reader toward war's ultimate meaning, and humanity's ultimate fate.

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Let Slip The Dogs of War

 

“FOR THE EMPEROR!” Lieutenant General Michio Sugahara yells at the top of his lungs in front of 400 of the best trained troops the Japanese Empire has ever produced.

“FOR THE EMPEROR!” we scream back at the top of our lungs; hoping to create a sense of unity and power that will drive us forth to great feats of strength and will.

“BONZAI!” Sugahara belts out, raising both of his arms, and his shimmering samurai sword, to the sky in a thrust that stabs through the heavy August air.

“BONZAI!” we all yell back, flailing our arms skyward in our own slashes at the heavens.

“BONZAI!” the General screams again, launching his arms toward the stars our best pilots are trained to see in the daylight.

“BONZAI!” we scream, our arms catapulting into the clear afternoon sky.

“BONZAI!” the General hoarsely unleashes from deep within his gut with all of his strength, rocketing himself off the ground with an incredibly powerful upward thrust of his arms and sword.

“BONZAI!” we retort with all of our energy, each leaving the ground for a split second.  As one we are floating in the air, above the sacred earth of our Empire.  We are airborne from sheer excitement brought forth from anticipation of the great feat we will accomplish this day.

We’re actually going to get to go on the mission this time!

 The Americans did not destroy our transport planes, as they had last December when we were to attack the airfield on Saipan.

 With over 400 planes, based out of airfields stretched from Formosa to mainland Japan, we are far better prepared now than we were in December.

We have over 2,000 well trained and disciplined men, hundreds of expert flight crews, and the divinity of the Emperor with us.

 We will destroy all of the enemy planes on Tinian and Saipan, putting an end to the reign of terror American bombers have unleashed upon our suffering families.

A small kimono-clad woman gently glides up to my side, as silent as a cherry blossom petal falling from an ancient cherry tree. She reaches out with both hands holding a white Chrysanthemum blossom. As still as a porcelain doll, she stands there, offering me this sign of imminent death.  This bundle of fragile doom offered from the milky-soft hands of a gentle maiden.   

To death I go, for the Emperor, for the Japanese Empire!

Turning away from the woman, I quickly march toward the waiting G6M transport plane – a converted bomber painted tan and decorated with Chrysanthemum blossoms will carry my command platoon to the Island of Tinian. The plane, and my unit transported upon its well engineered wings, will crash-land on that little dot of dirt that used to be part of our Empire, delivering ours bodies to a destiny written with the divine wisdom of our Emperor. 

The smell of cordite mixing with Chrysanthemum blossoms is nauseating.

My men are armed with our regular kit of rifles, bullets and bayonets, but we are also laden with explosive charges and excess grenades in order to blow up as many enemy bombers as we can find upon our arrival on Tinian.

What glory, to have the responsibility to lead such men on this sacred mission!

Waiting for me with excited eyes and hearts as they stand just in front of a group of transport planes, my regiment is composed of war ravaged faces of veterans from our Empire’s victories across the Pacific. We’ve been together as a unit since late 1936. 

Almost nine years of action and training with these men in China, the Philippines, Thailand, New Guinea, and now to the Marianas.

I love these men!

The entire regiment bows toward me in one machine-like motion as I approach.  

They are bowing deeper than usual.

Out of respect for these men, I bow past my mid section, so that my head is almost down below my knee line.

Major Hata, my go-to man and confidant, stands at attention between me and the rest of the men.

“Hata-san” I call out. “Let us be the Emperor’s arms.”

“Yes” Hata quickly replies with enthusiasm and a cut of the final sound as if his sword sliced the word before it finished leaving his mouth.  He then turns to the rest of the regiment.

“Board the planes! Deliver the Emperor’s blade to America’s throat.” Hata yells out.

In unison, the men scream “Yes!” They then scramble to climb aboard the transports.

Hata sharply turns back to me.

“Colonel, I will see you on Tinian.”

“Hata-san, may the wind carry us to our glory.” I reply.

Hata runs toward a waiting transport with a large red 52 painted on its tail wing. I walk slowly toward another, transport with the number 97 painted upon its tail.

My men must see me calm. 

Death is my destiny, I shall savor each moment until it arrives.

As I approach the aircraft Captain Mastuo finishes pushing his nimble body through the side door.  This is no easy feat considering the extra weight we are carrying.

At least we are not hauling parachutes too!

Mastuo turns quickly, intending to take his seat. Instead, as he sees me standing at the doorway directly behind him, he reaches out with his right arm.  He offers his hand to help me into the plane.  With my right arm I grasp below his elbow, pulling against his firm hoist that lifts me into the waiting two-engine transport.

Mastuo has a young son.

I have no children, nor a wife.

How a man with a son has been able to stay in this unit is a testament to Mastuo’s tenacity. 

 The palpable silence among the men is broken as the pilot powers up the engines.  At first they sputter.  My heart waits, knowing that aircraft engines often sputter before catching to their resilient hum of operation. A second sputter, a third, then finally the engine catches, purring into life.

We are going to take off!

My eyes catch those of each man on the plane. My men left me the seat of honor next to the door, but I walk the thin aisle between the two rows of sitting men on either side of the aircraft as this lumbering beast taxis toward the runway. Making my way up the right side and down the left toward my seat, I bow before each heavily armed man. In turn, every one of them gives back a quick nod of his head. “Yes!”

Our plane’s engines rev for our final take-off. 

We shall not return from this mission for the Emperor. 

We will implement his wish upon the Americans.

May we fly, land, fight, and die with the divine wind.

 

 

Load Up

Black

Just Black

No Red, Yellow, Green, or anything as interesting.

Just Black

No picture, just letters.

“You just gonna sit there, or you gonna paint” Sarge yells toward me, not even bothering to lift his head from the scratch game he’s got going with some of the boys from the 509th.

What’s there to paint? It’s just lettering. Boring lettering.

Reaching into the front pocket of my overalls, I pull out a pencil as I approach the shiny unpainted metallic side of the B-29.

I lean in to block the sun from my work.

With deliberate slow strokes, my pencil traces the outline of precise letters on the side of the plane.

E

N

O

I should make this at an angle, huh?

Anything to make it more interesting!

What shit, having to paint letters on a plane when I could be doing much more interesting art.

Why can’t I paint a honey, similar to what I did on half the planes in the 313th?

A sweet body with a couple of breasts, now that’s art.

Lettering. . . There’s nothing artistic about lettering. . . even if it’s at an angle.

I erase the E, N, and O with vigor before pulling out a ruler to measure for two parallel lines at a 30 degree angle to the cockpit windows.

The first line is easy, as I can do it by site.

The second just requires me to measure down one foot on one end, do it again on the other end, then connect my dots.

“It’s just lettering, get on with it!” Sarge yells as he throws a wad of cash into the pot.

Just cause you’re having a bad game don’t mean you should yell at me.

“Will do, Sarge. Getting on with it.” I reply.

I start sketching out the letters again, this time at an angle on the lines.

E

N

O

L

A

What is an Enola?

G

A

Y

Why is it gay?

What a strange name for a plane.

“Stop mess’n around and just paint already!” Sarge yells.

He must really be losing.

With deliberate slowness, I pry the lid off the black paint can, setting the lid to the side.

The one paint can.

The only paint can.

The lonely paint can.

In the past I’ve painted beautiful works of art. Gorgeous women based off pictures which somehow always get lost on their way back to their rightful owners.

No pic here. Just damned letters.

Letters that don’t even make no sense.

Descending to my knees, I pick up the stirrer before placing it gently in the can of paint.

I start swirling the stirrer around in a small circle within the center of the can as I look up at the beautiful canvas before me.

I could paint this whole beautiful bomber.

Before I die, I want to paint a whole bomber to look like a woman. Oh, how that would look. No one could shoot down such a beautiful piece of art.

Picking up my thin brush, I dip its bristles into the black paint. Dry bristles soak up paint, pulling it above the point at which I stopped dipping.

I turn to the bomber to begin outlining the pencil scratches.

Even just putting on letters, I love the feeling of first putting paint to metal. Seeing that first drop of paint touch the metallic surface, covering it with a shiny coating as if to say, I now complete you.

Slowly the letters start to take shape; black outlines on a glimmering metal background.

As I finish the Y I take a step back.

It’s a good angle.

It’s utterly boring.

Maybe Enola is a woman. Maybe she’s happy about something. Now, that I can work with. A happy woman, I can paint a happy woman!

“Finish up already, will’ya!” Sarge belts out from a different place.

Looking around, I can’t see him.

“Don’t be looking for me, just get this job done. I wanna get back on the other side of the fence so we can snag some chow before the flyboys get back.”

It’s only 3:20 and he’s already thinking of dinner. No wonder he’s so fat.

“On it Sarge, finishing up already.” I reply just as I notice him lounging in the shade of a neighboring bomber.

If he’s in such a hurry, why don’t he pick up a brush and help me out?

Lazy bastard!

Setting down the fine brush, I pick up the filler: A thick bristled wide brush to finish off the lettering.

I quickly fill in all of the letters so no black went outside my pencil marks.

Taking a step back, I admire my handiwork.

 Not bad for a rush job, even if it’s boring.

“Watch your step paint monkey” someone yells at me as I keep backing up.

I turn to find myself face to face with a stalled truck pulling a cart, followed by a group of frustrated looking men.

“Damn it, now we got to get this thing moving again you jerk.” One of them yells.

On the cart in front of me sits a tarp covered object the shape of a big bomb.

“Move it, artist. We have work to do.” The same one yells at me.

I quickly step out of the way of the truck as I watch them heave it back into motion.

They lug that thing toward a bomb loading pit next to the plane I just painted.

“Hey, any of you guys know what Enola Gay means?” I ask no one in particular.

“Yeah, it’s the name of Colonel Tibbet’s Mom.“ One of them yells as they keep moving, not even bothering to look back.

Glad I didn’t add boobs then.

Who names a plane pregnant with death after his mom?

“Clean up, let’s go!” Sarge calls as he heads towards me.

I head back to my painting supplies. Sarge joins me, helping me pick’em up and put’em away.

“Who names a plane after his ma?” Sarge asks.

“Don’t know Sarge, some Colonel names Tibbits, I guess.” I reply as we start walking toward South Field.