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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