Bones in the sand...
PFC C. Douglas Caffey
Date: 1944 - 1945
Location: Kwajalein Atoll, Pacific
Unit: 509th Composite Bomb Group

Today is as bright
As the darkness of night;
When the moon fails to shine
And heaviness is mine!

No hope can be seen
And companions are mean;
The Wilderness is calling
And bivouacking is appalling!

Today's "camel-ride" is hard,
With no music from a bard;
No sweet birds are singing;
No fragrance the breeze is bringing!

Like a picture-puzzle unfinished,
The burdensome load undiminished;
Whose bones are these in the sand?
They are the bones of a Japanese man!

This is an island
Of strange sounding name;
The stench of death
Is ever the same!

Bones lie in the sand.
That were once part of man;
Yesterday he walked upright,
But gave up the ghost last night!

Guns and bullets robbed him of life.
I wonder, had he a wife?
Will she learn how he died?
He'll never know how she cried!

War is HELL: blood and guts!
Come on soldiers; move your butts!
Stand up and meet the foe,
For one of you has to go!

The sands will catch us
When we fall
And the sands sucks
Up one and all!

Does the sand absorb the soul
As well as life's blood,
When a barrage of shrapnel
Comes in like a flood?

The word is out that
Japan lost 4,000 today;
Their bones lie about
In hap-hazard array!

The decade of the forties,
When airmen flew sorties
Over the Isle of Kwajalein;
I close my eyes but bones are still seen!

It's not the sight
So much as the stench,
For it hangs heavy
Over many a trench!

A Japanese anchor
Marks the spot
Where 4,000 are buried
After being shot!

I remember the Jap
Anti-aircraft gun,
With wheels and all,
On the beach in the sun!

How many planes
Did this gun bring low,
The warm waters alone
Know where they go?

No sand to receive them
Where they fall;
Not a soul to hear them
When they call!

No trees left at all,
On Kwajalein where they fall;
No one to mourn the loss,
At so great a cost!

How many of us are left
With over a thousand a day
Of World War Two vets,
Just wasting away?

Yet we remember the sands
Of far away lands
Where bones mark the place
Of the Japanese Race!

After all these years
The memory brings tears
To the eyes of all
Who remember their fall!

War has come to an end
And the foe is a friend!
The thought comes to me,
Have the bones vanished in the sea?

If only bones could talk,
And stand up and walk,
What would they say
On Kwajalein's Isle today?

Will the memory turn loose
Of the day and the night,
When foe met foe,
And many met fright?

Are the hearts still empty
When loved ones in homes,
Received no dog tags,
Not even their bones?

Has the island grown trees,
And grasses covered the sod,
Where brave men died,
Known only to God?

My daughter e-mailed me
Just a few days ago,
Asking about what beauty
The Pacific Isles did show!

I don't know what to say,
In answering her today!
When men's bones decorate the sands
Of strange-sounding island lands!

Will you tell me what to say?
Shall I speak of stench and death?
And all the soldiers
Who lost their breath?

And those bones still lie
In the sands
Of strange-sounding
Island lands!

Names like Kwajalein, Enewetok,
Bikini and Tinian,
Where these islands hold
Men's bones in their sands!

The question comes to me,
When will memory set ME free?
When will I see bones no more
Upon that sandy shore?

And how long will
The stench remain with me,
When half a world away
I smell it again today?

When I close my eyes tonight
I will remember the sight
And the stench of days gone by,
Where 4,000 men lay down to die?

When I lie down to die
And find my home up in the sky,
My memory too will lie in the sands
Like the bones in strange-sounding island lands.

Then, and then alone
Shall the memory of the past,
Quench the workings of the mind,
Leaving all the bones and stench behind!

C. Douglas Caffey

509th Composite Bomb Group - United States Army Air Corps

I was a PFC. Though I spent a year and a half in college, while in uniform, with the prospect of becoming a fighter pilot, (ASTP- Army Specialized Training Program) my entire unit was "washed out" at the convenience of the government since they saw the war in Europe coming to an end. Instead of being officers with silver wings in 90 days, we were PFC's instead. I did qualify as a fighter pilot, and did go on to become a private pilot on my own. Went to Photographic School, Lowry Field, Denver becoming a Photo Lab Tech, Camera Tech, and Aerial Photographer. and as such, became a part of the 509th Composite Bomb Group, 58th Wing, Air Photo Unit, 20th Air Force.

After the war I went back to college, subsequently receiving four college degrees, viz., BE.A., ME.A., BE.DO., and Th.DO. Spent the last four months of wartime service in four military hospitals, two in the Pacific and two in the States. Came out of WWII with 50% disability. I was in the Pacific in the 509th Composite Bomb Group, 58th Wing, Air Photo Unit, 20th AF. It was the 509th which dropped the atomic bombs on Japan and also did the atom bomb testing at Bikini Atoll.

Personal Photographs

Shoulderpatch of the 509th CBG

Shoulderpatch of the 20th Air Force

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