Posts Tagged ‘By David Allen’


Seventy years ago this week the last and bloodiest land battle in the Pacific during World War II began. Twenty years ago I was the Okinawa News Bureau Chief for Stars and Stripes and was allowed to cover the three months of reunions and ceremonies any way I wanted. Here’s one of my best stories during that period. The news piece read like a poem and here it is, unchanged except translating it into poetic form.

By David Allen

George Allen White Jr.,
Edward Lewis White,
James White

American Marines who died on Okinawa.
These names are read in June,
in April the names were soldiers,
May was for sailors.

every day.

On April 1,
the reading of the names began
to commemorate
April Fool’s Day,
Easter Sunday,
Love Day,
the day the Americans invaded Okinawa,
struck back on Japan’s home soil
in 1945.

Every day
for an hour at lunch
and in the evening
they came to read the names
at a church high on a hill
overlooking the invasion beaches.
A church with American and Japanese parishioners,
with a Japanese-Canadian priest,
who spent his war in a cold Saskatchewan internment camp.
Every day
they come to
All Souls Episcopal Church
to read the names of the souls

James Preston White,
James Thomas White,
Jerry Wilson White.

They are coming to the end.
Eighty-three days,
each day of the battle.
Returning veterans,
some with wives and grown children,
sit in the back of the chapel.

Thousands of names.
12,281 Americans,
110,000 Japanese soldiers and Okinawan conscripts,
More than 150,000 Okinawa civilians.

Logan Willard White Jr.,
Thomas George White,
Charles Edward Whiteman.

Each name another soldier,
sailor, aviator, civilian
killed in the carnage that was
the Battle of Okinawa.

Listen –

James Richard Whiteman,
Mark Edward Whiteman,
Forrest Whitt,
Joseph Henry Whitaker.

Whisper them softly,
fall into the rhythm.
it’s a Jewish Kaddish,
a Buddhist chant,
a Christian prayer.

Joseph Henry Whittaker,
Marvin Jones Wiggins,
William Robert Wiggins.

Name after name.
Each man some mother’s son,
some father’s pride.
this one the class clown;
that one the brain.

Some were orphans,
no family except their platoon
or shipmates.
That guy was a Gary steelworker,
and wasn’t little Jimmy Whit
the mechanic down at the corner garage?

And what of the names read
on other days?

David Bond,
Earl Graham,
Ernie Pyle.

Wait, that one’s familiar.

Pyle, a newspaperman,
he wrote about these people,
always making sure he got the names right.
Thousands of names for the readers back home,
’til a Japanese sniper reaped his name
for the book of the fallen.

All-American names
Howard S. Schwartz,
Louis Odachowski,
Kazuyoshi Inouye.

Some of the veterans are uneasy
on the wooden church pews,
it’s hard to sit through.
The reader’s voice is hoarse,
so many names.

Robert Wiggins,
Gray Huntley Whitman,
Hugh Whittington.

So many names.
Names inscribed on a striking monument
on Mabuni Hill, where the Japanese Army
made its last stand.
The Cornerstones of Peace,
the names of the dead from all the countries,
carved into 1,200 black granite walls,
stretching to the sea
like the wings of doves.

Donald James Wilton,
Kenneth William Wilkins,
Jack Williard.

The American list is over for the day.
the veterans leave,
handkerchiefs pat at moist eyes.
Few remain in the chapel
as a new reader sits at the table.
She begins to read.

Sato Yoshiro,
Yasuoka Tomohiko,
Murakami Minoru.

More names.
These are Japanese,
a college conscript from Tokyo,
a farmer from Hokkaido.
soldiers in the Emperor’s Army on Okinawa
when the Americans came with their
Typhoon of Steel.

Pak Man-do,
Chou Che-jiu,
Song Yong.

Korean names,
forced laborers,
comfort women.

Masahiro Kohagura,
Masao Ota,
Kiyo Yamashiro…

Okinawa names,
Page after page.
It sometimes takes 10 minutes
to read the day’s American names,
maybe 25 minutes for the Japanese,
much longer for the Okinawans.
That name belonged to a fisherman from Kin.
And wasn’t that the name of the mother from Itoman
who huddled in fear
at the rear of a deep cave with her two children,
shivering with fright as death came calling,
collecting his names?

teenage girls pressed into service to tend
the wounded.
Whole families of names,
each a sad reminder of War’s toll;
each name a testament.
To what?

This person once lived.
“I existed,
I had a name,
I was somebody.”

Read our names,
remember us.


This photo is called “Girl with the White Flag.” It was taken by a GI as a tunnel filled with civilians was cleared. They Survived. Many more did not.

This poem is included in my first book, “The Story So Far,” published by Writers Ink Press (New York), copyright 2004 and available on Or get a signed copy by emailing me at

Tropical Xmas

News item: The military community on Okinawa once was short of live Christmas trees because a bug-infested shipment from Washington state had to be destroyed. Supplies of artificial trees on island bases were woefully inadequate and trees in Japanese stores were outrageously expensive.

 So naturally, Ruth Ellen and I made up this carol while on our quest for a Christmas Pine in Paradise:

By David Allen

No Christmas trees, no Christmas tree
The bugs destroyed your branches.
Shipped here by sea for you and me
You never got your chances.
No blinking lights, no angel’s heights
No shiny star atop your spar
No Christmas tree, No Christmas tree
The bugs destroyed your branches.

No Christmas tree, no Christmas tree
Cut in the great Northwest.
The Customs men had you condemned
You couldn’t pass the test.
No falling needles everywhere
No Christmas tinsel in our hair
No Christmas tree, no Christmas tree
Cut in the great Northwest.

 No Christmas tree, no Christmas tree,
Your plastic was so tempting.
But your high price turned veins to ice
We can’t afford that yen thing.
And so we’ll go sing “ho, ho, ho,”
To a beach that’s out of reach
We’ll watch the stars for Santa Claus,
And buy a Christmas wreath.”




courtroom artb y Goa Streets



The madman stands, he’s set to face the charges
From his chambers walks the Judge, so fat and old
The Spectators start to sing the Rock of Ages
The Jury’s busy counting bribes of gold.
            (and all the while the Press is cutting paper dolls of death
            to hang around the madman’s neck and wrists
            and all the while the Undertaker’s busy sawing wood
            as the midnight fog swirls in a ghostly mist.) 

The Prosecutor smiles and damns the madman
The first Witness is the Teacher from the school
The madman’s Lawyer’s busy reading Perry Mason
While the Witness cites the madman as a fool.
            (for after all, the madman never understood the rules
            he tried to find the answers different ways
            we told him that he must achieve to prove that he was good
            instead, he walked around us in a daze.) 

The Judge is laughing, farting, burping, picking at his teeth
The Prosecutor kisses his wide ass
The Spectators drink the wine and eat the host provided by the Priest
The Jury’s busy sniffing laughing gas.
            (and all the while the Press is playing word games on the sly
            Hangman’s the game that they all like the best
            and all the while the Undertaker’s carving on a stone
            as the midnight fog swirls in a ghostly mist.) 

The next Witness is the Lover from a past spring
The one the madman once wrote poems to
She recites one, barely holding back her laughter
The madman cries aloud, “I still love you!”
            (the Judge is nibbling at her ear while she just smiles,
            she understands an action more than words,
            the Jury’s busy feeling up each other just for fun,
            the Prosecutor shouts out ,”Love’s absurd!”) 

The third Witness is the friend of a long lifetime
The one the madman once helped through hard times
He damns the madman for his condescension
The Judge shouts, “Friendship is another crime!”
            (and all the while the Press is painting yellow paragraphs to sell
            the Reading Public has to feed its face,
            and all the while the Undertaker makes a flower wreath
            as the midnight fog swirls in a ghostly mist.) 

“Does anyone else wish to damn the madman?”
Asks the Judge while leafing through a book of porn
The madman’s Lawyer stands and says, “No witness”
The Bailiff, Judge and Jury stifle yawns.
            (the madman knows the end’s in sight, he anxiously looks ‘round
            the Spectators break out in a drinking song
            the Priest and Undertaker are busy talking shop
            passing ‘round a pipe and getting stoned.) 

“Argument’s denied!” the Judge says laughing,
He has to meet his Mistress after tea
“I release the Jury, hurry there’s not much time.”
The Foreman stands and shouts a loud, “Guilty!”
            (and all the while the Press is busy interviewing friends
            death enters from the side door for her kiss
            and all the while the Undertaker prepares for the end
            as the midnight fog swirls in a ghostly mist.) 

“Madman, stand,” the Bailiff barks, his voice hoarse
“You’ve been found guilty!” says the Judge with glee.
“Here comes death for her gallant hero
You must pay for your humanity.”
            (the madman stares in disbelief as Death offers her hand
            he starts to scream, but calms with her soft touch,
            he smiles, full knowing that he’s finally free,
            before the trial he only guessed as much.) 

Chaos lays her warped claim upon the courtroom
The Spectators demand the madman’s blood
But the body’s being eaten by the Jury
As the Priest drinks deep from his loving cup.
            (and all the while the Press is beating deadlines by the score
            as Agents in the corner make new lists,
            and all the while the Undertaker shakes his head in awe
            as the madman’s soul swirls in a ghostly mist.) 

    By David Allen


 Like my poetry? Then buy my book, “The Story So Far,” published by Writers Ink Press, Long Island, N.Y. You can find it on ( in paperback and Kindle formats, or by sending me $10 at:

David Allen
803 Avalon Lane
Chesterfield, IN 46017