John D. Bridgers M.D.
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Teakwood Ballads
A Clash of Colors

For days the scuttlebutt had drifted --
     gauzy rumors filled the air --

That in the sector, around the islands,
     the Empire's fleet was massing there.

We had, of course, seen no flotilla --
     just a few small escorts in Manila.

We cruised through and struck The Philippines --
     covered many islands, many scenes,

But beyond the line where sea meets sky,
     there formed the stormy battle's eye.


There on an afternoon in late October
     the whispers grew to sturdy fact.

We scrambled from our decks in numbers,
     prepared to fly to hell and back.

We took off under lowering skies
     and climbed 'mid mounting cumuli;

O'er lower Luzon we crested west
     wondering where our foes could be.

Our fighters reached down to the south
     and found them in the Inland Sea.


Through clouds we worked across these waters,
     saw wave tops but in fractured views;

There across our track an oily streak
     traced a path in iridescent hues
     to a warship beached inside a cove.

Hap prey of planes or submarines
     this cruiser would no longer rove --
     found requiem in The Philippines.


The "Skipper" bade us turn to port
     while his group to starb'd went.

Arising there above the clouds
     were bursts of flak, all spent.

To our surprise each burst was colored bright
     from red as beets to green as mint;

Each ship thus marking where it shot
     so better could their gunners spot.


Intrigued by bursting shells that flowered
     we went the way that we were sent.

Beyond the verge of a towering cloud
     steamed a battleship, most immense.

We hurtled down in darting dives
     as her main guns trained aside and fired --

Left her shrouded in a cloud of smoke
     with flames a-flaring deep inside.

Despite the bombs and "fish" we dropped
     the big ship neither slowed nor stopped.

We were most surprised to later hear
     that other strikes had sunk her there.


Through straits the ships left lurked by night
     and entered into Leyte Gulf.

We thought they'd turned and headed home, 
     but, in truth, they hadn't had enough.

The battle went a full-day more
     and Leyte entered naval lore.


As we fled away from this affray
     the ship fired 'til 'twas out of sight.

Through tides of war we made it back,
     save for the "Skipper" who'd taken flak.

He limped home from this frantic scene
     and "ditched" when back within our screen.


For the airman war's as if one's deaf
     for he cannot hear the moan and groan --

He cannot hear the whirr and crash
     above his engine's constant drone;

So the extra things that he senses
     are just those things in sight -

So went the days at Leyte Gulf
     and the things we saw in flight --

But the extra color was enough.


I still see pied and tinted puff --
     see the cruiser's eely, oily slick --

I see the wagon's shroud of smoke and flame --
     these are snap-shots brought to frame
     when I remember Leyte Gulf.

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John D. Bridgers M.D. by Carl Bridgers is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Copyright ©