Chuck Smith

LECHAN AND THE MARINES a novel by Chuck Smith

                                                        INTRO – Saipan July 8, 1944  (WWII Pacfic)

 Lechan 1942 – present

Two year-old Lechan slept a deep, deep, sleep. Her breathing was in unison with the still pounding of marine Sgt. Holloway’s heart which she had somehow mysteriously captured. She slept there for several hours breathing in the intoxicating aroma of his sweat mixed with his body lotion until he was forced by the navy medics to release her in order to treat and return her to her screaming mother. The medics convinced him to let her go only by showing him her dangled, broken left finger. The squad reported that damaged finger must have been caused by an explosion but Holloway knew otherwise.  Lechan’s earliest and reoccurring memory is that of two powerful explosions followed by a blackout then an excruciating pain leading to the warm comfortable feeling of a strong protective embrace that she would long for the rest of her days.

                        

 Sgt A. Holloway, 1921 – 1951                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             (Buck Sergeant Abraham Holloway / 13yrs USMC 1938 – 1951)

The sun caught the reflection of a Japanese saber.  As it slowly rose Sgt. Holloway had the enemy soldier holding it lined up in the sights of his M1 carbine when the soldier blew apart in a loud explosion. Holloway and the rest of his marine squad hit the deck as another explosion blew in the same vicinity of the first. The marines searched for movement and seeing none Holloway signaled for a fire team to follow him.  As they maneuvered to flank the area of the explosions Holloway noticed the B.A.R. man was limping and signaled a halt and asked, “You OK marine?”  “Roger sergeant, just a twist,” was the young marine’s response. Holloway looked over the rest of the team and breathed a sigh of relief realizing Edwards was there, he then noticed that he could see the far end of the island, which was their objective. 

…Holloway’s pounding heart reminded him of how scared he was and that he, a black man, didn’t have to be there. No one actually knew his race and at this point no one cared. Two weeks ago he and several other black marines from the 1st Marine Ammunition Company,  formed at Montford Point, went up to the front lines to help fight off a serious Japanese banzi  attack. The black marines suffered heavy losses along with other units of the 4th Marines. A savvy observant Captain noticing how well the black marines fought merged them into his three shattered platoons and never gave it another thought until the island was secure…  

Holloway signaled the team to move out. As they slowly approached the area of the first explosion the point marine halted and pointed to the piece of a saber. Holloway signaled the team hit the deck as he moved toward the saber. As he maneuvered forward something popped under his heel followed by a strange piercing shriek. He flung himself to the deck expecting the explosion of a mine and immediately realized he was on top of a human body. A slight movement under his leg seemed to generate more of the piercing sound. A frighten reflective kick unveiled a small toddler tangled in rags attached to the body beneath him.  He heard an urgent call from the team leader “You OK sergeant?” “Move up,” he responded to the entire squad as he rolled off the body onto his knees picking up the small screaming child positioning it over his heart and left shoulder where he could secure both the child and his carbine at once. The child fell silent, asleep or maybe passed out, and Holloway felt the child’s small arms clinging tightly around his neck. Neither he nor the child was about to let go as he heard, “You better take a look at this sergeant.” The area of the second explosion reviled the entrance to a cave. “Shall I torch it?” asked a member of the flame thrower unit attached to the squad. The toddler swooned as Holloway barked “No, there may be other civilians in there. We’ll hold up here until the platoon catches up and see what the brass wants to do.” Each member of the squad, especially Pvt. Edwards, a huge bear of a man who had been with the always aggressive Holloway since Montford Point, knew that the child he was holding had something to do with the decision.  Pointing out positions Holloway ordered “Second team secure the point, first and third teams secure the flanks. I’ll remain here with the flame thrower unit and secure the rear and the entrance to the cave – Move out.” As the marines moved to their assigned positions Holloway heard one of them shout “Hey Sarg that thing you stumbled over is still alive.”

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 Zoe, 1925 – 1959

 (Lechan’s Mother – Her uncle was a Japanese aid to one of the ambassadors to the United States during the Japanese attack of the Pearl Habor Naval Base –  A cousin of Eva Soguri or “Tokyo Rose,” on her mother’s side: Teaches and speaks fluid English: She dies hating Americans for the death of Holloway, the internment of Japanese Americans, and the imprisonment of Eva. She was visiting with Eva in Tokyo during the 1942 Doolittle bombing raid. Frightened by the raid she made the decision to take on a Saipan teaching assignment thinking it would be safer for her and her child.)

Zoe could not clear her head from the hazing effects of the explosions nor could see the muzzle of the  M1 rifle pointed straight at her forehead. Her nostrils were filled with the smell of explosive material which she could only relate to the munitions factory near where she had lived in Yokohama since the great victory attack on the American naval base in the Hawaiian Islands. Her father, an army captain, had been killed in the invasion of China and she had fell in love with and married one of the military officials, recently killed by the Americans on the island of  who brought her family the news along with his belonging which included his saber…her mind began to clear… “SABER, the saber, Leco, my baby, my baby Lechan, my baby LECOOOO!” Zoe tried to scream but no sound came from her mouth, as her eyes began to focus seeing her child in the clutches of a grey eyed monster…

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Holloway, Edwards, and Moss

When Capt. Moss and his special unit returned to the command post they solicitated more than a few stares as they guided the Japanese civilians and island locals to the interreragation area. After they transferred them all, including the child, over to S2 Moss ordered Holloway and Edwards to try and locate any other members of their negro unit before deciding where they should be assigned. Capt. Moss had not been Saipan’s only frontline officer to fill his depleted ranks with the hard fighting negro marines. These black warriors were never once ordered to the front line but just suddenly appeared and aggressively fought long side of the white marines until the island was secure. The black marines had proven themselves. Not only had they fought, but fought well, so well in Fact that Commandant of the Marine Corps made the declaration that – The negro marines are no longer on trial. No longer will there be white marines and black marines, just Marines. 

Holloway and Edwards “found” a jeep and began searching in the opposite direction of the suicide death stench from Marfi Point. It was not a difficult task to find the information they sought. All of the negro marines in the area had been part of one of the two support (supply) battalions and like Holloway and Edwards their ships had been destroyed with most of its men and supplies. Negroes were easy to spot on the island and whenever confronted they all seemed to recognize Edwards and greeted him warmly with a “Say Brother, – My Man, – or a Gimme Five.” All were eager to talk and each spoke of their fellow marines who didn’t make it and the horror of watching most of them blown to bits. Those who finally made it to the beach were so enraged there was no stopping them from getting even with the Japanese. This was the story from the black marines all over the island. 

Their investigation ended at a field hospital in a heavy secured beach area where wounded marines were being transferred to hospital ships. It was there they found a wounded Silvie surrounded by a group of white marines singing his heroic praises for saving their lives. His face was completely bandaged and could not be recognized. Both Holloway and Edwards wandered through the unit and as the white marines were leaving Holloway suddenly stopped on hearing a familiar southern voice “Hey Cee Cee.” coming from the heavily bandaged Silvie. Holloway rushed over to his old friend and for the second time Edwards watched as his normally emotionally steel tempered grey eyed companion cracked. Holloway was speechless as he bent to greet his old friend who he hadn’t seen since ITR. It was obvious that while saying very little both men were crying inside, and while Holloway may had shed only a tear Silvie had shed a great light. Edwards now knew for sure that Holloway was a negro. Edwards had heard the term “Cee Cee.” used only, by his mother in describing her half white distant cousin as a copper coon. So now he knew what he had always suspected, Holloway had a heart and he was also a brother. Edwards tucked it all away into the back of his mind and never gave it another thought as he softly spoke, “We better get back Sarg, I gotta feeling they go be missing that jeep.” 

On the drive back Holloway composed himself as he barked complaints to Edwards about his driving and his riding of the jeep’s clutch. Half listening Edwards was more concerned with how they were going to return the confiscated vehicle. As they approached the compound a single shot from what sounded like a.45 had everyone focused on the sick bay and mess hall area. The excitement allowed them to, without notice, return the jeep exactly where they found it.  

As suspected their negro support battalion was no more and the big debate was what to do with the negro marines. The battle hard platoon leaders and company commanders wanted to keep as many of these experienced fighters as possible in their units, however this proved impossible as the temporary alliances formed between the blacks and whites in the heat of battle began to break away in the cool calm of victory.

A month later the negros marines were ordered to report to the command center for reassignment, most were sent to security details and navy supply depots on islands all over the Pacific. Capt. Moss, placed in charge of Saipan security, made sure that Sgt. Holloway and Cpl. Edwards were assigned as his personal NCO aids. The three were never separated until years later and were together in spirit for the rest of their lives…

END OF THE INTRO  > Point to Point

intimate space where Chuck created an excerpt, unedited above