Book 3 in the Pacific Sniper series.
Deacon Cole and the rest of Patrol Easy hoped that they had seen their last combat for a while, but they soon find themselves in the first wave during the invasion of the Philippines in October 1944. They witness the bold military leader General Douglas MacArthur wading ashore even as Japanese bullets still fly. After taking the beach, they return to Hill 522 to help knock out the enemy bastion there. Deke soon joins a patrol fighting its way across Leyte island in an effort to link up with US forces that have a toehold on the opposite shore. All that stands between Deke and the American outpost are miles of jungle, mountains, monsoon rains, fanatical Japanese troops, and an enemy sniper with a grudge. What could go wrong? Release date December 7, 2022.
Read an excerpt …
Lying in the hole, staring out into the tropical night, Deacon Cole kept his eyes focused on the darkness and his finger on the trigger.
He strained to see something, anything, but the jungle directly ahead of the US line remained impenetrable as looking down a well. Only the sky showed lighter above the tree tops, with a few brooding hills beyond that blotted out the stars. Not more than a quarter of a mile behind them was the beach that they had landed on this morning before fighting their way inland.
“Hold the line,” was Lieutenant Steele’s command. “Whatever the Japs throw at us, we hold the line.”
That had been the order, and that was what they were going to do.
Not that they had much choice.
If the Japs decided to push them back, the soldiers didn’t have anywhere to go, other than to make a swim for it out to the US fleet. Maybe that was the generals’ intention—it was either fight or drown.
He wasn’t so sure that the squids would be all that eager to take them back. Besides, they seemed to have their hands full with the Japanese navy still on the prowl.
“I reckon we’re caught between a rock and a hard place,” Deke muttered to Philly, who shared the fox hole with him.
“Back where I’m from, it’s called having your nuts in a vise,” Philly replied. “As far as I’m concerned, the Japs can have this damn island if they want it so bad.”
Deke had to admit that he’d never really heard of Guam, which was really just a flyspeck in the vast Pacific Ocean, until a few days before they had landed here. In terms of square mileage, the island was smaller than his native Hancock County back home.
Guam wasn’t anyplace famous, like Hawaii, but it had been in American hands since the last century—until the Japanese had taken it over. Now, the Americans were here to take it back.
“You see anything?” asked Philly, who was nothing more than a disembodied whisper coming from the blackness a few feet off to Deke’s left.
“Hell no, it’s darker than a banker’s soul out there,” Deke replied quietly.
Although Deke couldn’t see him, he could smell Philly’s fresh sweat, with an added aroma of stale cigarettes. Deke was one of those rare GIs who didn’t smoke, but he supposed that he smelled just as bad in his own way. His cotton fatigues had never really dried out after getting soaked in the surf coming ashore, and he now felt soaked through all over again from sweat and dew.
It didn’t help that this place was so damn hot and humid, like the worst August night back home. There was some breeze off the sea, but down here in their hastily dug fox holes, the movement of the night air didn’t do them much good. The slight breeze wafted the fetid smell of the jungle toward them, close and dank.
His eyes played tricks on him, filling the black void with swirls and shapes, any one of which might be a sneaking Jap.
Deke felt a tickling sensation as something ran across his hand in the dark, some kind of many legged beatle or maybe a spider. Lord knows, he’d seen some big ones here at the edge of the jungle. The damn things could probably take down a rabbit. He held still without letting go of his grip on the rifle, feeling the tickle of scurrying insect feet on his flesh, and whatever the thing was, moved on.
Philly cursed quietly, “Son of a bitch Japs. I know they’re gonna attack us. Why the hell don’t they just get it over with?”
“Just keep your eyes open.”
“Sure, I’ve got my eyes open, but what difference does it make? Might as well keep them closed. Can’t see a damned thing.”
“If there’s anybody out there, you’ll see them once they’re on the move.”
“I sure as hell hope so. Those sneaky Jap bastards blend right in.”
Waiting in the dark, it was easy to think of the enemy as something inhuman, something right out of the heart of the jungle. Yet, Deke had the passing thought that just maybe a few of the Japs were nervous themselves as they prepared to run at the American line. However it turned out, more than a few of them were going to meet their maker.
In addition to the fear factor of a night attack, the darkness helped the Japanese dodge American aircraft. Japanese planes had been in short supply, giving the US dominion in the skies. However, the fighter planes did not fly at night, thus giving the Japanese a window of operation.
Deke glanced again at the dark where Philly lay shrouded in the foxhole. Philly might sound anxious, but Deke knew that he could count on him, even if he couldn’t see him. They had only recently been thrown together, part of a sniper squad cobbled together under the command of Lieutenant Steele. The lieutenant lay hidden nearby in another foxhole, along with the rest of their sniper squad.
Having seen his buddy from basic training killed during the first few minutes of the landing, Deke had been reluctant to make any new friends. By his very nature, Deke tended to put a hard shell around himself and not let anyone in. But sometimes, you did have to put your trust in the man on either side of you. Slowly, Deke was realizing that just maybe he could do that with the men of this patrol, starting with Philly.
The city boy was a loudmouth, all right, but from what he had seen so far of Philly, he would hold his ground if the Japs launched one of their dreaded Banzai attacks. From the shooting test that Lieutenant Steele had given them earlier, it was clear that Philly wasn’t the greatest shot. He certainly wasn’t Deke’s equal—not that many were when it came to a raw talent for hitting anything that he could put his rifle sights on.
Then again, marksmanship probably didn’t matter as much as nerves when it came to fending off a nighttime banzai attack.
Deke reckoned that Philly could be forgiven for being more than a little nervous. As the green troops on Guam had quickly discovered, there was nothing more nerve-wracking than waiting for a Japanese night attack.
Off to his other side was Yoshio, the baby-faced Nisei interpreter that they had taken to calling “the Kid.” Could he count on Yoshio? That remained to be seen. He glanced that way, but saw only darkness.
“Just checkin’ to make sure the Japs didn’t carry you off.”
“Don’t you think I’d ask them not to do that?” Yoshio was one of the few US soldiers who spoke Japanese.
“I ain’t sure they’d listen.”
“I’d ask them nicely—the first time, anyhow,” Yoshio said.
Deke smirked into the darkness. At least the kid had a sense of humor.
In addition to carrying a rifle and fighting, the idea was that Yoshio, using his ability to speak the enemy’s language, could help question prisoners. So far, there hadn’t been any prisioner. It was becoming apparent that the Japanese would just as soon shoot themselves or blow themselves up with a hand grenade, rather than surrender. This fanaticism was something that the Americans had trouble understanding. It made the enemy seem all the more strange and frightening. As for the Japanese willingness to take any Americans prisoner, the general consensus was that you couldn’t count on it.
Considering that no attack had taken place yet, Deke dared to hope that maybe the Japanese were clear on the other side of the island. It was just like the Japs to keep them guessing. The enemy soldiers were masters of the nighttime attack, in part, Deke supposed, because of the added element of fear that such attacks produced. The situation had been no different for his ancestors on the frontier, fending off the Chickamauga.
While Deke sided with his pioneer ancestors and was grateful to them, he could kind of see how the Chickamauga had a point. If Deke had been an Indian, he wouldn’t have much liked a bunch of pale faces taking over his land.
Unfortunately, it was becoming clear that the Japanese had not slipped away into the night. Deke’s ears told him everything that he needed to know, even if the admixture of jungle remained a dark blur. From time to time, opposite the American line, he heard a low, guttural voice issue what sounded like an order.
The occasional noise of metal on metal reached his ears, like maybe the buckle of a rifle sling clicking against a steel barrel. Every now and then, he heard the sound a branch breaking or a muffled footstep. The sounds provided all the evidence Deke needed that the darkness was crawling with the enemy.
Philly must have heard it too, because he muttered, “Son of a bitch.”
Deke gripped his rifle and waited.
Having grown up as a hunter with the necessity of needing to eat, Deke had plenty of patience. If it came down to it, he could sit still as a stone for hours on end. He also had no problem with killing. He had grown up killing in order to put food on the table. Now, he was killing for an equally fundamental purpose, which was to stay alive.
From his hunting days, he knew that the best strategy was simply to stare straight ahead, waiting for the target to show itself. If anything moved, he’d pick up on it. Still, the waiting was nerve-wracking. From time to time, Lieutenant Steele or another one of the officers spoke up to say, “Hold your fire, boys. And whatever you do, don’t get out of your fox hole—not unless you want somebody to shoot you by accident.”
Not long after Steele’s warning, the silence from the dark tangle of vegetation before them deepened. All sounds of shuffling feet and rattling equipment stopped. The darkness seemed to inhale and didn’t let out its breath.
It was the quiet before the storm.
“Here they come,” Deke muttered, just loud enough so that Philly and Yoshio would hear him.
An instant later, shouts and cries shattered the stillness. The Japanese assault had begun.