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Indomitable

The Spirit of a Divine Wind

By Brannan K.Published about a year ago Updated about a year ago 11 min read
5
Indomitable
Photo by Sebastien Gabriel on Unsplash

Morning, April 6th, 1945 - Thousands of feet above Okinawa, Japan

The Mitsubishi A6M Zero's single-prop engine hummed like a finely tuned fury as it sliced in and out of cloud cover at nearly three-hundred miles per hour. Ensign Tijo Hakawa flew straight and level, mindfully keeping his position in the staggered attack formation. He sped through the wisping towers and spires of white, flanked by his countrymen. They flew so closely together that their fierce and determined stares were visible through glass cockpits. Visages were limned by the orange and yellow and amber rays shot forth by the rising sun as they flew east toward the shoreline. They were the first gust of seven Divine Winds that would sally forth and repel the invaders that morning.

The Americans had begun their assault five days prior, beginning with a days long naval and air bombardment that turned his beautiful seaside homeland into an unrecognizable hellscape. Not a palm stood straight or whole on the granulated beaches below. The sands were now littered with a plethora of unnatural shells; metal shrapnel that you would not hear the sounds of the ocean inside when held to your ear; only the screams of pained and dying men, before your eardrums burst from the ensuing bombastic concussions that ceaselessly fell from the sky. He imagined the island now had more craters blemishing its surface than the moon as it orbited above them for eons past.

After the steel rain had fallen for days, it was followed by the continued onslaught of over seven divisions of United States Army soldiers and the feared and relentless United States Marines. The latter were renowned to fight with such tenacity, such devilish delight and wanton bloodlust that they were held in the highest regard as enemies. They were tremendously respected by all within the ranks of the Imperial Japanese Army and any who held Bushido in their hearts.

It was a nearly unstoppable force being thrust upon them from the seas, borne by innumerable amphibious landing craft pouring forth from the maw of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet. It was the finest and deadliest conglomeration of naval vessels and pilots the world had yet seen. They were indeed the outstretched claws of a sleeping giant, awoken from heavy slumber and hell-bent on vengeance. They swept inexorably forward and battered their opponents backward island by island, step by merciless step. Their planes and ships and men seemed endlessly, constantly replaced, supplied by the robust industrial powerhouse that was the United States economy and labor force at war.

Yet, they must be stopped. At any cost. Each Japanese man, woman, and child's life was forfeit to the defense of the Empire. So said the code.

Some would play out their last act of defiance with a rouse; a booby trap set in their own house, a tunnel collapse meant to trap as many of the enemy as possible, or simply a grenade held in a closed fist, adjacent to a mortal wound, waiting for an unsuspecting victim to wander too close. Others would take a more direct and confrontational approach. The only certainty was that when the time came, they would all die fighting.

It was this fierce and unwavering determination that led to the establishment of Shinpū Tokubetsu Kōgekitai, or the "Divine Wind Special Attack Unit". They were reputed as "Kamikaze", and recruited from seasoned and experienced military aviators on a volunteer basis. The Empire of Japan knew that those who voluntarily subjected themselves to certain death on their own behalf would prove to be the deadliest, most driven warriors; with the pilot's own demise a forgone conclusion and offered freely, nothing would sway them from their course of action. They had proved as much at Leyte Gulf months before, successfully striking seven vessels, gripping American hearts with terror. Many sailors had been killed, multiple ships crippled, and one destroyed.

Americans considered it a most abhorrent tactic, but they did not understand the Japanese culture and their resolute warrior spirit. It was a concept they would fully grasp by the end of the war, a concept that would make necessary the most drastic of military decisions ever made. It would change the course of humanity forever.

Tijo had proven his mettle in battle for years, dueling in the skies above China as the most successful Ensign in his unit. His reputation was already sealed by three rows of Chinese flags striping the fuselage of his plane. But the promise of honor and zeal for generations to come, a place in the annals of the history of the Empire as Kamikaze was different. Tijo knew it would end with the sacrifice of his entire being. Remembering it was faithfully given for his family, countrymen, and Emperor steeled him. His entire lineage and family would be honored by all. It was altogether a rich payment. Yet the Empire still saw fit to gift their families monetary sums and see that they were provided for, if they survived.

If they survived...

The thought plagued Tijo momentarily. Mind and vision sharpened as he looked out of the cockpit and away from the gunsights he had been absently staring through; blurred tufts of condensation floating around him were now defined acutely, each water molecule glistening with fire. They magnified the golden rays spreading without as if they were passing through a crystal lens directly into his retinas. His gaze shifted back to the interior of his metal coffin, past the dials and and gauges of the instrument cluster to the black and white photograph of his wife and son. They stood stock-still and reticent for the photographer. Tijo saw details he had never noticed - or perhaps had overlooked in the moments of constant living and exposure - that were spectacular and vivid now that he looked upon them for the last time.

The way the cherry blossom parted the fine, silken locks as it sat atop her ear. He could see the hues of pink and red starkly contrasted against the black of her hair, matching the rosy swirls on her cheeks. Cheeks that had so often dimpled at him in love and admiration. His son's inquisitive stare after asking him innumerable and unanswerable questions about the universe. About how anything and everything was or would be. A face that gave way to innocent splendor as Tijo explained as best a father could. He marveled upon the gap between his two front teeth - where grains of rice often required removal - which was now visible in a wide grin. Tijo balked, realizing they were both smiling at him now with deep and abiding love on their faces. He prayed they made it off the island. He knew what they would be forced to do if they could not.

The first flak explosion shook him from his reverie, the thundering concussion shattering him back to focus as the cloud cover thinned around him. The shell exploded to his starboard side, a mere fifty yards off his wingtip. Waves of energy rocked his plane as he fought the controls. A minefield of black powder and flying scraps of metal obscured his vision temporarily. A fragment of metal struck the glass of the cockpit near his right temple, creating a spiderweb of fractures in the smooth surface.

His plane entered and exited another cloud, revealing a dreadful spectacle on the other side. The natural blue skies were pockmarked with receding cloud cover and distorted, stained with fields of black soot thick enough to masquerade as the darkest storm you had ever seen. It was the type of other-worldly storm sent from the heavens to vanquish those below who looked up in terrified awe and saw it crawling slowly towards them, helpless before it. Every millisecond gave birth to the fiendish bloom of a deadly flower in the eye of the storm. Bolts of lightning were replaced by thousands of rounds of tracer ammunition fired in quick succession, flying every which direction. The strands seemed to be individual cohesive chords of light stretching into space, screaming for their targets. The hellish cacophony was completed by the swarms of planes swooping and diving and banking and looping around each other, fire spitting from their mouths. They sought to wound or destroy one another, like hawks in a territorial struggle. It was a stunning and depraved sight to behold. Tijo flew directly into it.

In that moment, Tijo spotted their target - the USS Bunker Hill, an American Essex-class aircraft carrier - in the distance. Darkened specks he knew to be American fighter planes lifted off the floating runway and sped towards the heart of the battle. The ship rocked back and forth violently in the tides; even the roiling waves seemed engaged in the conflict, lashing out and striking against bulkheads of steel and iron with as much might as the sea could muster. Mother Earth reached up from the deep abyss and swallowed flaming heaps of metal whole as they spun out of control into her depthless, crushing fathoms. The only traces left behind were inky stains of oil blotting the waters below like a polka-dot sheet.

A barrage of tracers whistled past Tijo's cockpit from below. He dipped his port wing slightly, both to present a smaller target and to identify the incoming threat. A trio of American fighters careened at top speed in a near vertical climb towards his unprotected belly, where a large torpedo was snuggly fastened against the fuselage. His flight officer, Lieutenant Yasunori, quickly called out the threat on their radio channel. Their fighter escorts dove steeply into the defense, engaging the Americans ferociously. Yasunori's voice came over the channel again, pinpointing a chain of low-lying cloud cover to the northeast of the Bunker Hill, instructing Tijo and his comrades to bank wide and make haste. He intended to use it as concealment for their final approach.

Tijo followed Yasunori's maneuver, banking wide to port, creating more distance between themselves and the Bunker Hill, but screening themselves from further visual detection - at least from the ship's deck guns - behind the veil of white. An excited scream flared on the radio as another pilot signaled his mayday. The dire panic and desperation was palpable, seeping through the emitter and washing over Tijo in a chill. The screams were abruptly cut off as a muffled explosion was heard. Tijo craned his neck starboard and watched the speeding comet falling from the sky a quarter-mile away, tendrils of flame and spark scarring the air with a trail of smoke.

The jarring series of vibrations preceded the screeching, clattering sound of .50-caliber shells peeling through the metal of his port wing. Four gaping holes ran parallel down the structure toward the wingtip. The rounds miraculously missed the ribs and spars of the airframe, sparing his life. The wing surely would have broken apart and sent him into a death-spiral otherwise.

Tijo, alerted to the danger, pulled back and to the left on the flight controls, forcing the plane to climb and spiral outward at an incredible angle and speed. Up he climbed, turning upside down at its apex. He lifted his gaze through the roof of the cockpit and saw the grey, nimble shape of the American P51 Mustang zoom past below him. It rolled back and forth playfully, bone-white shark's teeth and blood red tongue bared up at him. Four rows of Red Suns framed the gaping maw. The American pilot's head was turned up towards him with a determined scowl. The two opposing spirits were locked and intertwined in that moment, forever sharing a closeness in the timeline of eternity only borne by souls engaged in mortal struggle.

Tijo continued his spiral, craning to keep an eye on the American. Another Zero dove from the heavens above, and battered the American away. The Mustang entered a steep, evasive dive in the opposite direction. Tijo could not afford to give chase and see the conclusion of the fight, re-adjusting course back toward the chain of cloud cover.

Yasunori's voice crackled into existence again. "Tijo! Karera wa isado o hakai shita! Mura wa kaigun no jū ni yotte heijun-ka sa remashita! Hi to hai igai nani mo nokoranai. Gomen'nasai, tomoyo."

A pit welled in Tijo's stomach as the forlorn and sincere tone of Yasunori's words crashed upon him. Isado had been leveled by an artillery barrage, leaving nothing but a smoking, cratered heap of fire and ash. The small fishing village had been his home. He had grown as a child there, as many generations of his family before him had, and as his son...

His eyes fell again upon the photograph. His wife and son were once again stolid and unmoving for the photographer. No smiles or joy graced their expressionless faces now. Tears welled in Tijo's eyes and a grim determination set upon him as he entered the chain cloud cover.

The pain and emotion washed over him, enfolding every fiber of his being as tightly as the white folds of mist clung to his wings. The water accumulated on the metal and dripped as profusely as the tears from his eyes as he soared through the purgatory. He loosed a wail and cry that would make a man shudder to hear. The wracking fit was hidden from all about him. He attempted to gather himself, breathing deeply. The rally was thrust upon him by outside forces yet again as Yasunori's voice exclaimed his final command.

"Tijo! Ima Daibu, watashitachi wa karera no ue ni imasu! Idainaru kyōdai yo! Teikoku no tame ni!"

Yasunori ordered a dive, yelling they were directly above the Bunker Hill. Now was the time for honor. Tijo tipped the nose of the aircraft downward, ripping out of the womb of the sky and plunging toward the writhing sea beast below.

Orange and yellow flashes burst forth from all manner of guns and turrets on deck, bullets and shells arcing toward him like a swarm of frenzied hornets. The desperate protestations from the ship found purchase, slicing and piercing through both metal and flesh in free-fall. Tijo's trajectory was set and unwavering. He held the plane on course, fighting through the nearly incapacitating pain and heat blossoming all over his body. The cockpit glass was stained like a church window. Yasunori's plane had already shattered into the Bunker Hill, its flaming wreckage being extinguished on the flight deck by a mass of men. Tijo's thumb found the button, releasing the torpedo strapped to his belly. He sent it hurling into the throng of sailors with water-hoses clustered around Yasunori's smoldering heap. The sailors were enveloped in a plume of fire and limbs sailed into the air. Tijo's warcry echoed inside the cockpit, his last breath exhuming a mixture of rage and despair.

The wind struck the bridge of the ship with relentless force, toppling the entire structure. It seemed to gust straight through and onward, a truly indomitable force. Tijo flew east into the rising blood red orb and disappeared over the horizon.

Short StoryHistorical
5

About the Creator

Brannan K.

****Vivid prose and thrills****

Favorite Reads:

Terry Brooks - The Shannara Trilogy

J.R.R.Tolkien - Lord of the Rings

James Rollins - Ice Hunt

Ernest Hemingway - The Sun Also Rises

Cormac McCarthy - Blood Meridian

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Comments (7)

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  • Gina C.about a year ago

    I just read this for the second time! Enjoyed it even more this time around as I picked up on some stuff I missed! I love your vivid descriptions of the sky meshed with the action scenes. You really helped the reader root for Tijo. I wish I could understand the Japanese! 😅 Awesome job, and thank you for serving! 😊

  • L.C. Schäferabout a year ago

    Overall, I enjoyed this. There were two small things that pulled me out. 1. It's a black and white photo, but he's looking at colour? Can you clarify that, is he filling in the colour from memory? 2, Some of the sentences feel a little long. Here's a tip - ditch "as" whenever you can. I think you'll get fewer overlong sentences that way, and a better balance of short:long sentences 👍👍 Definitely subscribing, this is the content I'm here for!

  • Gina C.about a year ago

    This is quite impressive - you have a lot of knowledge about the military, it seems. It made the story feel very well researched and accurate. Well done!

  • J. S. Wadeabout a year ago

    Excellent historical read! Subscribed. 😎

  • Zack Grahamabout a year ago

    I've told you my thoughts in passing about this one - I really think this is your breakout short story. The balance of external actions and internal emotions throughout your prose made this fresh and super easy to read. Again, your awareness of historical military information is wondrous; just enough factual reflection sprinkled throughout the meat of your plot line. I loved the change of perspective and desperation seen therein. Would love to see more of this faster pacing in your prose.

  • Dean F. Hardyabout a year ago

    You clearly have some chops and your passion and knowledge of military history is evident. For me personally, you're not getting into the nitty gritty quick enough. The first half of the story reads like a summary of events. Don't be afraid to rip half of your paragraphs apart after a couple of edits. Be aggressive there and allow the reader to fill in some of the blanks. Leave elements unsaid in order that the reader does half the work for you. This will help with pacing. The second half of the story is the better half for that reason. Good job man, keep up the grind.

  • Shane Dobbieabout a year ago

    This is fantastic. Have subscribed. Personal thing really (but you asked for criticism) and it’s small - Some of your sentences can feel overwritten and occasionally over descriptive. Reading back aloud helps me catch these things. It’ll tighten up your prose. Like I say though, this is a small criticism as it was an excellent bit of work.

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