A Fictional Account
of the oldest
war correspondent of WWII
David Bruce Bozarth
The following accounts are fictionalized,
to be sure, but they are a reminder that ERB, Hully, and all the millions
of others had real lives, real considerations, and that the worlds Ed Burroughs
put on paper had roots in the real world.
After Pearl Harbor the tone and tenor
of ERB's writings no longer glorified war. Seeing it first hand had made
a marked impression on Edgar Rice Burroughs. This is one reason why the
latter Tarzans and Barsoom have a more realistic and darker character than
the previous volumes.
The series I've written moves through
the war and explains where much of the content of TARZAN AND "THE FOREIGN
LEGION" might have come from. It has been fun writing this fictional notebook.
The raw-boned man with large hands cradles
the supplied glass. "What's the news?"
The bartender, a native Hawaiian with a round
face and pearly smile answers, "Ships out. Phillipines under attack."
The old fellow, in his 60s but looking like
a spry 50, shoved his billed cap back with a weary gesture. "Damn Japs."
"Yeah," the bartender replies, then moves
off to service another customer.
A second scotch is consumed. Later a gaggle
of tars enter. The oldster sets up drinks all around, pumping the young
men for news.
"Hell, sir," one replies, "we're just in from
the States. Ain't seen nothing yet."
"Saw all I wanted," the old man replies. "Damn
ugly Sunday it was."
"Gosh!" one of the younger sailors breathes.
"We heard it was bad."
"Look in the harbor, Junior," the man says,
tossing back the smoky liquor and slapping the bar for more. "'Bottoms
up' is a nasty word around here."
"Gotcha, Pops. You wait and see. We'll give
'em hell. You can bet on it."
"I know you will, son."
At 11:30 pm, about the time the Shore Patrol
was shutting things down along the waterfront, a smart looking young lad
in uniform enters the bar. "Time to call it quits, Dad," he says, clapping
a hand on the older man's shoulder.
Fixing the younger man with a stern eye, the
drinker remarks, "'Quit' we do not understand. It's not over until we say
it is over."
Nodding, the young man grins. "We'll give
'em hell, Dad, and then some. Come on, time for some shut eye."
Staring at the empty bottom of his glass,
the old man sighed. "It's nothing like I thought, boy. Nothing at all.
But by God, we'll get through this, mark my words. And we'll be better
"Whatever you say, Dad. Get your hat, let's
As usual the Navy has me side-tracked. Can't say where or when
but it's the same old mix up we've all come to accept as S.O.P.
Saw a batch of Joes with more money than common sense paying
$5.00 for a .50 cent grass skirt. What irritates your loving father more
than anything is the price of Scotch. Can you believe thirty bucks for
I doubt the censors will quibble about the maneuvering of mosquitos
though who can say what they will black out. Saw squadrons of them the
other day. Hurtful little buggers. Good thing we have mosquito hawks. Smacked
Miss you, son.
FLASHBACK BETWEEN NIGHTMARES
"Damn it, Emma," he said, tossing the billed cap and billy club
on the battered table by the door, "I hate this job."
The woman looked up from her mending. "Are we moving again?"
Exasperated, the man raised one of his large-boned hands to comb
back his thinning hair. "No--we have to eat. But rousting bums and other
innocents just isn't my cup of tea. Pounding a beat for the railroad isn't
what I had in mind, though it pays the bills."
The woman returned to her mending, head down. In a quiet voice
she stated, "There's a pot of potato soup on the stove. And bread. Sorry--no
With a heavy sigh he knelt beside the second-hand--by several
generations--chair and gently touched her shoulder. "You're a brick. This
life will change, I promise you that. In the meantime we make lemonade
because the crop of lemons has been so very good this year."
She looked up and noticed, for the first time, the bruise below
his left eye. For a moment the woman's heart seized in her breast. Involuntarily
her hand rose, not quite touching that dark blemish.
Before she could ask, he told her. "A drunk. Scared me, actually.
But I wasn't handicapped like he was. That's the worst--no, that's not
quite true. His tale, what I could get from him afterward, was worse. Poor
For a long moment nothing was said. Then, in a whisper, Emma
said: "There's a letter from your mother on the table."
Leaning forward, the man kissed her cheek. "Tea?"
"Have you heard from Florence?" the major
The elder war correspondent shuffled the cards
several times before answering. His voice held a trace of bitterness when
he replied. "She's back in the States. Letters have been few."
The poker players gathered in the small room
puffed away on cigars or cigarettes by their choice. Some frowned at the
question from the new man at the game. Waiting quietly, the five men gathered
at the table accepted the deal.
The game was five card stud, dueces wild.
The old man flipped cards and bantered with a strained voice. "Eight of
spades... no help." The cards continued to fall. After the third round,
the dealer paused to drain his glass. At a nod from the dealer a young
Hawaiian boy working for the hotel refilled the container with several
ounces of smoky Scotch.
"Any of you military types have any news fit
for my column?" the dealer asked. "I'm on a deadline and I have damn little
to offer. I'm looking for the odd or strange, the amusing or mildly tragic.
The public is not yet ready for the real war."
A lieutenant, so young his ears still glistened
with the proverbial dew behind the ears, offered an incident he thought
was amusing. "...and then the lady says to the sailor, 'Bring me back a
Jap cruiser and I'll think about it!'"
The old man shook his head with wry amusement.
"I've been writing stories like that for more years than I care to remember.
I think the first was 'The Eternal Lover.' Had a caveman attempting
to win the heart of a gal by bringing back the head of a sabertooth tiger.
When was that?" The man paused in thought, sipping his drink. Rubbing his
furrowed forehead, the dealer asked: "Lieutanant, you appear to be the
youngest in the room. When where you born?"
"That would be 1922," the young man replied.
"Make me feel old! I wrote that tale in 1913.
Your tale of the lady looking for a trophy from a fellow before she'll
say yes goes back more than 2,000 years in literature."
One of the players, a grey haired colonel,
grimaced and waved for the steward to refill his glass. "Ed--this is 1941.
Spare us the history. Tell us about Tarzan--forget the old news."
"Tarzan, Tarzan, Tarzan!" the dealer
exclaimed. "That character will haunt me to my grave! If it wasn't for
the fact that Tarzan keeps me out of the poor house, I'd kill him off in
a flash!" The dealer put the sweaty deck down on the table and lit a cigarette,
the seventh since the game began. "I am writing more than I have in years
and I can't sell it. All they want is Tarzan. You," the dealer pointed
at a long-faced officer leaning back in his chair, "what did you think
of Tangor? Now there's a character for the day!"
"Ed," the colonel replied, "I've been reading
your fantasies for years. I like them. I like Tarzan. So do thousands,
maybe millions, of others. We need a Tarzan at war. When are you going
to give that to us?"
His reply was sharp. "Tarzan can go to hell.
I've had it up to here with the ape-man." Pausing, a little embarrassed,
the old man continued. "Did I tell you I have in mind a historical novel
set in ancient Rome? That's a tale to get one's teeth into!"
The dealer chewed his lip and dealt the hole
card to each of the players then, before bets were made he said, "You boys
want more Tarzan--is that it? I'll write another Tarzan tale just as soon
as the French accept me into the Foreign Legion. Now, can we get back to
playing cards? Anyone feeling lucky tonight?"
It had been a long flight. Island hopping
from one place to another with no real results meant the war correspondent
was most despondent. He bent over the notebook, writing furiously.
The elderly man looked up from his journal.
"I'd like that, son. Thanks."
The airman poured from a silver thermos and
handed the cup over. "What's that you're writing?" the young man asked.
His face was smooth and not because of a shave. He was no more than nineteen
The weary man replied. "Just some notes. I
hear things here and there and I jot them down. Maybe one day I'll get
them in a column. Been in the service long?"
"Six months. This is my first real duty. So
far I haven't seen any action."
The old man glanced out of the C-47's window
before replying. "Do not look forward to that with any great eagerness.
War is hell, they say."
Beneath the transport the long swells of the
Pacific rolled with an eternal majesty.
"Excuse me, sir. Are you the man who wrote
Tarzan? The captain said we had a celebrity on board."
"I stand accused," the correspondent grinned.
"Hold that for me, will you?"
The airman held the coffee cup while the old
man poured an ounce or two from a pocket flask. "Get a cup for yourself,
son. Join me."
"I can't do that, sir."
"Like hell! Get that cup."
The young man glanced toward the cockpit to
see if the coast was clear then poured some coffee into another cup and
let the old man spice it with whatever was in the flask. Taking a sip,
the boy choked. "Wow!"
The old man chuckled. "We all have to grow
up some time. Me, I've been growing up a lot as of late."
"Sir? I mean no disrespect, but you're old
enough to be my grandaddy!"
"That I am, boy, that I am, but I'm also learning
that as far as the military is concerned I'm not going to see the real
war so I can report it. The Navy and the Army have no use for me. I can't
do my job. I can't do what I know best."
"What's that, sir?" the young airman asked.
The young man shrugged. "Write whatever needs
to be written."
The correspondent laughed. Freshening the
boy's cup, he said, "A novel thought! What's your name, son?"
"Rosetti. Anthony Rosetti--Tony."
"Let me guess...You're from Chicago, right?"
"Oak Park. Close enough, I guess."
The newspaper was nothing but bad news. Worse,
it was bad news two months old. The sun was hot on the old man's shoulders
as he sat on a crate by a recently constructed loading dock. The dirt and
wood in that pier was newer than the long boat being off-loaded by four
muscular young men without shirts. Three of them had strong tans, the island
sun was fierce. The fourth was red as an Indian--and would probably suffer
greatly thereof in the morning.
Despite the heavy work the men had energy
enough to banter and gossip. The old man waiting for transport out to the
cargo ship folded the depressing newspaper and stuffed it under one arm,
where it might do some good soaking up the perspiration staining his khaki
The tallest fellow in the detail suddenly
chuckled. "Hey, Sam, you remember a fellow on the Osmund Ingram
named Jerry Black?" Without waiting for answer, he continued. "Seems he
took up with a native girl on some island east of here. Good looking woman,
I am told, smart. Speaks four languages. Brown skin, dark eyes--a woman,
not a girl. Know what I mean?" He winked.
One of the others grinned. "Like thirty and
"Just the sort!"
Talk ceased for a moment as the four put their
backs into off-loading a gasoline generator.
"Okay, Duncan, you started it, now finish
it. You don't flap your gums without something juicy to give, so give!"
Duncan started tossing cases of .50 caliber
ammunition to the fellow on the dock. "Well, like I said, he fell for her
something fierce, and he had to be awful serious since this dame carried
a big knife and gun and looked like she could use them. To make a long
"Ha!" one of the others exclaimed. "That'll
be the day!"
"You want to hear it or not?"
The other two glared the Doubting Thomas down.
"Go ahead, Duncan," said Sam.
"Black went to the captain to get permission
to marry the girl. Captain said they'd investigate and if all was okay
then maybe. Navy checked into it and discovered the girl was the sister
or common-law wife--they couldn't tell for sure which--of a wanted bandit
hiding in the hills. A murdering rascal named Hoof or Hoot or something
like that. Somebody said the girl was a murderer, too, so the captain told
Jerry to take a cold shower and forget it."
The three men paused in their work and looked
expectantly toward Duncan. The old man on the pier was equally interested.
Sam broke the silence. "And? And?"
"And what?" Duncan grinned. "Did you think
the Navy would let one of their boys marry a murderer?"
"You bumsonofbitch!" Sam scowled.
The fellow with the red skin leaned over and
scooped a handful of the Pacific aloft to splash Duncan. "Thought you were
going somewhere with that. Geeze, what a waste of time!"
Duncan chuckled, liking the splash to cool
his sweating body. "There is a punch line, boys, but it's only marginal.
You see, this girl's name is the same as my ex-wife, who I thought was
a bloodthirty little savage as long as we were married. Her name was Sarina.
Jerry Black should count himself a lucky man."
"That's amazing!" the elderly man in khaki
The marine wearing a sleeveless vest weighed
down with grenades and ammo clips chuckled. The man's brawny arms, well-roped
with hard muscle, glistened under the tropical heat. His face was shadowed
by a beard several days old. His aroma--well, that could not be helped
under the present circumstances.
The war correspondent mopped his aging brow
with a dirty handkerchief. "Show me that again, son."
"Sit still, Pops. You move, he won't come..."
The private broke a small piece from a soda
cracker and held it a few inches away from and slightly before his left
shoulder. Uttering a soft whistle, both men froze. From the canopy above
the dugout a high pitched shriek was heard. The leaves rustled overhead,
then seemingly from nowhere, a small monkey-like creature dropped from
the foliage to land on the marine's shoulder. A moment later the scrap
of soda cracker was snatched and the tiny beast had leaped back into the
"I call him Little Nicky," the marine grinned.
"All he does is nick me for a free meal. The lieutenant says it is a lee-mur
or such, but it looks like a monkey to me."
The old man dug into his pocket and produced
a pack of Lucky Strikes. Shaking two tobacco-filled cylinders from the
rumpled pack he offered one to the marine. "Obviously a primate of some
kind," the correspondent said, sucking flame to ignite the cigarette, "but
nothing like any I've ever seen."
"You know monkeys?" The marine parked his
cigarette behind a dirty ear. "The only ones I've ever seen were in a zoo
The old man smiled lopsidedly. "I guess you
could say I know something about apes." He expelled a thick cloud of smoke
and smacked an agressive mosquito on the side of his neck. "Tell me, son.
How bad was it?"
The smile faded on the big marine's face.
He shifted the Browning rifle from his left forearm to the right and leaned
forward. "Taking the island...well, it was all over but the shouting,"
he began. "We came in as mop up. Up in the hills we heard there was a company
of Japs. The lieutenant's a thinking man and he said they probably needed
food and supplies and that we should just set up around a native village
the Japs had raided a time or two. He put two platoons on both sides of
the ravine down from the mountains and we waited. They came down, like
the lieutenant thought, about forty of them, near sunset. I was near the
village and could get a look see. The Jap officer took the headsman of
the village to one side and pulled his sword. I don't know what he said,
but it was angry and mean. His men went into the huts and came out carrying
chickens and food--a whole passel of stuff."
The war correspondent noticed the grip the
marine put to his long-barreled weapon.
"I wanted to pop the bastard but the lieutenant
said we had to wait until they left the village. So I waited. When the
Japs left, we blasted them. We killed ten. A few of them harry-karryed.
The rest we rounded up and brought down to the beach."
For a moment there was silence as can only
be found when hearts turn hard in times of trouble. The marine made a deliberate
effort to relax.
"What makes us hate so much we'd like to kill
the other guy just for breathing? Pops, I got to tell you I wanted to kill
those guys--me and Betsy here--and if it weren't for the lieutenant I think
a few of us would have just murdered those Japs. I'm glad now I didn't,
but it scares me to think I came so close."
"Just because I'm gray-haired and balding
doesn't mean I have the answer, son. All my life I wanted a military career
but now that I'm nose to it I'm not so sure. What I do know is when it
comes to us and them, us better be prepared to do what it takes."
A jeep pulled up beside the dugout. The driver
waved a hurry up. The war correspondent rose and offered his hand to the
marine. "Take care of yourself, son."
"Hey," the marine rose to his feet and hurriedly
dug through a mud-smeared backpack. "Would you mind autographing this for
The old man grinned as he was handed a war-time
copy of TARZAN OF THE APES. "It would be my pleasure. What's your
"Henry van Prins, but I'd rather you make
it to my mother. Her name is Corrie."
As usual I can't say where I am or what I'm doing. I'm between
flights so must hurry if I am to post this. I haven't seen as much of the
war as I wanted, but what I have seen is ghastly. How is your mother? Is
Really have nothing I can tell, but wanted to send you a note
to let you know I am all right. I am tired and have been smoking and drinking
too much but under the current circumstances that's just par for the course.
My love to you and Michael.
Apparently the news is bad, but you and I have been through the
worst and survived. Jack's last letter said you'd been in the hospital.
Despite all that's happened between us, I am very concerned. It is late
November here in the Pacific. I can't say where. Hang in there, love. Fight
the fight. Remember all we have been through. Thick and thin we did it.
We raised three grand kids. For that, if nothing else, we should be damn
proud! My thoughts are with you.
Wish I had more time but the plane is waiting. All my best to
(Editor's note: Emma died 5 Nov 1944)
Aggie is a brick. I've not met a librarian like her before. She
was here from the States and is one of the ladies managing the Honolulu
Library. I needed to research this absurd Tarzan tale that has been burning
in my brain and she was kind enough to drag the shelves and then tell me
there was nothing there. On her personal inititive she produced a list
of must sees and those folks provided me what I needed.
In a gesture of gratitude I took her out to dinner Tuesday. Aggie
is no heroine as I've ever written but in truth she was more heroic than
Dejah or Jane. I mean, there were results from her dogged efforts that
will make "Tarzan and the "Foreign Legion" work. I think I can sell
this tale, so that means Aggie saved my butt since I need to earn income
to offset the divorce from Florence and the little that I can send to Emma.
Now that the Navy and Army have effectively grounded me there's
little I can do. The newspaper column is gone and my traveling days courtesy
of Uncle Sam have passed...it is time to make a dollar if I can.
I need to see the surgeon as soon as possible. The pain in my
crotch is driving me nuts. How many times will I have to endure this crap?
The nightmares continue.
I miss Florence.
There's a rumor I can make one more flight! Maybe I will get
a chance to do some real reporting!
Note: send flowers to the librarian!
The prisoners being loaded on a Navy transport
did not look like monsters. That was the first thought which ran through
the correspondent's mind. They were men of a different mold, smaller than
the Americans guarding them, but men nonetheless. To look at them one was
forced to wonder about the tales of horror the press and radio retold.
"Captain," the old man in khaki asked, "may
I talk to a few of these prisoners?"
"Damn few of them speak English, sir," the
straight backed man with broad shoulders replied, "but I'll see what I
Twenty minutes later two Japanese were brought
into the shell-torn building at the edge of the island harbor town being
used as a headquarters. The marine guards were grim young men, heavily
armed and without an ounce of humor. The war correspondent gestured for
the Japanese prisoners to sit at the table. He offered them cigarettes,
which they took with effusive thanks.
"This isn't an interrogation," the elderly
American began. "You do not have to talk to me."
The older Japanese, perhaps 30 years old and
apparently an officer, bowed his head. "I understand. It is regrettable
that we should met under these circumstances. I am Tokujo Matsuo. When
I attended university in United States I read some of your many books.
If one may offer a pleasant disagreement, no human baby can be raised by
The war correspondent suddenly chuckled. "I
agree but please do not repeat that in public! My audience has, over these
many years, elevated that jungle cretin to near godhood."
The second Japanese, hardly more than a boy,
politely remarked, "My brother likes your work. I find it difficult to
accept. I mean no disrespect."
With pen hovering over his notebook the correspondent
asked, "Your name?"
"Hideo Sokabe. My parents live in California
not far from your home."
With furrowed brow the war correspondent leaned
forward. "Your parents are American?"
"Yes," the young man replied, not bothering
to explain his uniform. He drew deeply on the cigarette and slowly exhaled.
"They are in an internment camp."
"My people," the old man sighed, "have reacted
badly in that regard."
Tokujo Matsuo gently interrupted. "No more
so than my people. Not all of us wanted this war, but all us, your people
and mine, will fight for their country."
A hard-faced major entered the room. "You
have no authorization to speak to these prisoners. Guards, take them to
the ship. Now!"
The two Japanese extinguished their cigarettes
and quietly left the room surrounded by big Americans. The war correspondent
exchanged glances with the scowling major, who turned on his heel and left.
Jotting in his notebook he wrote:
I made them heroes once. We are enemies
now. If I write any of this down I cannot write but that they are evil.
It will be years before there can be acceptance. Forgiveness, however,
may take generations.
With a heavy sigh he closed his notebook and
lit another cigarette.
- David Bruce Bozarth