Unspoken Word

 by lscollison


Field Notes:

Before you send in the troops

you’ve got to know where

you’ve got to know what

lies ahead, the lay of the land

– rivers, ravines, ridges, roads –

where the high ground and where the low

You’ll want to number those hills

measure those heights

define that perimeter beyond which the enemy roams

make maps from aerial photos taken by

cameras mounted on the fuselage of

our Cactus Air Force and

developed undercover of a tent in the dark of night

The darkest dark I’ve ever seen broken

when  tracers and artillery shells flash their hellish light

Maps drawn in the field by us combat engineers

without maps we are fighting blind

we can’t see the jungle

for the trees and vines

without them we can’t know this I-land

we’re defending with our lives

— lscollison 2023

Unspoken Word, or My Guadalcanal Diary, is part of a work-in-progress inspired and informed by my father’s World War II experiences in the South Pacific, on Guadalcanal, the Solomon Islands, and Guam. In August, 2022, Bob and I joined Valor Tours led by John Shively on Guadalcanal for a commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the United States Marine Corps landing August 7, 1942. Shively is the author of The Last Lieutenant; A Foxhole View of the Epic Battle for Iwo Jima, a portrait memoir of his uncle’s war experience.

Part one of this narrative was published on this site as My Guadalcanal Diary, or Unspoken Word:

Unspoken Word, part 1