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
The old fellow, in his 60s but
looking like a spry 50, shoved his billed cap back with a weary gesture.
"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 for it."
"Whatever you say, Dad. Get
your hat, let's go."
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
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 a bottle???
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 them silly!
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
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 butter."
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 fellow."
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 asked.
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
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
"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 years old.
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
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
"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 shirt.
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
"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,
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 story short--"
"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 grinned.
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 in Brooklyn."
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
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 me?"
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 name, son?"
"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 she well?
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 you!
(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 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 can do."
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 apes."
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