Raid on the Island of the Dead
By Dwayne MacInnes
August 17, 1942. 23:06 hours
The surf crashing on the beach softly penetrated the still night. The moon nearly in its first quarter with its neighboring stars shed their low radiance upon the sandy beach. Captain Jennings looked back towards the ocean. Not half an hour before, a US submarine had disembarked the officer and his nineteen raiders. After hitting the beach, the soldiers hid the rubber rafts inside the deep jungle brush that rose into the clear night a few yards from the beach.
"Is she still there Cap?" a young Sergeant Reynolds asked in a harsh whisper.
Jennings only shook his head. The submarine had penetrated deep into Japanese controlled waters to bring this small group of raiders here. The American boat had to remove all of its torpedoes save for those kept in the tubes in order to make room in the forward and aft torpedo rooms for the soldiers now lining the beach. The captain of the submarine would not have wasted time to ensure that the raiders had reached the beach safely before it dived. It would return in twenty-four hours to retrieve the raiders before returning to its base in Australia. More than likely it began to head out to deep waters as soon as Jennings and his army raiders motored a safe distance from the sub.
"Gather the men just inside those trees," Jennings ordered the sergeant.
"Yes sir," Reynolds said quietly his boyish face barely visible in the limited light expelled from the quarter moon.
The men gathered their supplies and all congregated in the area that the captain had indicated to Reynolds. When Jennings was reasonably sure that they were safe in the canopy and deep underbrush, he addressed the men in a low whisper. The nineteen raiders crouched low and huddled closely so that the captain would not have to make his voice more audible than necessary.
"Okay, boys you have been training for weeks for this mission, and now I am going to tell you where we are and what we are expected to do."
The excitement mixed with tedium on board the sub did little to ease the men's anxiety. Rumors spread that they were going to hit a major Japanese airbase in the Philippines or maybe free some POWs from the Japanese prisoner camps. Captain Jennings neither confirmed nor denied any of these stories. He was under strict orders not to reveal their true mission until they were actually on the beach.
"I know some of you believe that we are here to raid a Japanese controlled island. I'm now going to tell you that you are wrong," Jennings whispered.
Some of the men just looked on with stone expressions on their faces others showed obvious surprise. Jennings chuckled inwardly; these latter men would make terrible poker players.
"Lieutenant," Jennings nodded towards the one man who was not an American in the group. In fact, he was not strictly a fighting soldier but instead a chaplain.
"Right," Lieutenant Brodin whispered in a thick Australian accent. "Some of you have been wondering why an ANZAC chaplain was selected to join you. The answer is quite easy really.
"Before the war, I was a missionary on a nearby island. Now this island had a different group of missionaries that were German. I believe you can see where I am going with this.
"Though we are in Japanese controlled waters this island here is actually controlled by the Nazis and is believed to be a rendezvous point with the Japs."
"Our mission," Jennings took the over the conversation, "is to scout out what the Jerries have been up to. It is believe that they have a fortification not more than a few clicks from here.
"We are to sneak around and observe what the Jerries have been up to. If possible we are to make contact with the natives."
Jennings looked around the circle of soldiers in silence. He could read more puzzled faces than he did before. Finally, one soldier tentatively raised his hand to gain the captain's attention. Jennings nodded towards Private Williams.
"Sir, there are only twenty of us. Why didn't they send a larger force?" the private asked.
"First of all, the USS Nautilus and Argonaut are the only subs large enough to carry a large force and both are currently on another raid. Secondly, British intelligence and ours believe that the Jerries have left the island. I have also been assured that there isn't any Japanese presence."
"Military Intelligence," sniffed Corporal Vanders. "Now there's a contradiction in terms."
"Oxymoron," Williams whispered.
"What did you call me?" Vanders voice rose in a barely controlled whisper.
"Pipe down," Sergeant Reynolds ordered. "The private was just giving the proper name to what you described. A contradiction in terms is called an oxymoron."
"If the English lessons are over are there any other questions?" Jennings asked.
"Sir," Private Quaid began in a small voice, "What is the name of this island?"
The captain looked over towards the chaplain. Brodin cleared his throat before he spoke.
"This island here is called by the natives Na'h Tu Putalaki or translated -- The Island of the Dead."