They didn’t put us in the camps like Japs
but called us names like greasy guinea. See, we
were poor, my parents couldn’t read, and perhaps
we should have been in camp since Mussolini
was a big deal to us, okay? At last
our Italy had someone who was not
a wimp. But how we felt on that changed fast
when we got in the war, when we was caught
up in the thing, and when the navy took
my boys and I lost one in the Pacific,
and I worked factory, a parachute
a minute. So I thought it was terrific
when Mussolini was arrested. Brute,
buffoon, they hung Il Duce from a hook.
(Factory worker, Little Italy)
People forget about Massacre Bay
on Attu in the Aleutians. The Japs
was dug in there in caves, no way
to clean those rat nests out but flame. Perhaps
we lost some men we didn’t need to, cooking
them good with flamethrowers. Smarter to wait
for them to starve. Later on, I was looking
for hand grenades or flags, for stuff to take.
All the dead bodies was froze solid, so
they didn’t stink too much. I found a letter
in a Jap soldier’s pocket. Translated,
it said, “We’re all too sick to eat. There’s no
food anyway. Soon they will come. It’s better.
I love you. When you read this, I’ll be dead.”
(Navy Crew Chief and Top Turret Gunner, Attu, 1943)
The Ball Turret Gunner
Inside this ball of magic glass
they put a tiny man, with guns,
a sphere of battered plexiglass
where I am naked to the sun.
It’s like a toy world, miniature,
except with death—a sweet white flock
of lamblike clouds where colors tear
the blue with tracer fire, black flak.
A pilot close enough to knife
me with his gaze dives like a seal
and I’m the shark. My two guns speak,
then stutter, and he keeps his life.
In the blue dome, time congeals.
He swims off slowly, bleeding smoke.
(American Gunner, B-17 Flying Fortress)