Major-General Tomitaro Horii watches the stars outside his cabin sparkle in a moment of peace while he finishes up the buttons on his uniform when there is a knock at the door. “Come in.”
A young Japanese soldier opens the door and enters the room carrying a breakfast tray with food laid out on the finest china alongside polished silverware and a small teapot with matching cup and saucer. Quietly, he places the tray down on a desk in the room and turns to bow to his commander.
“How long until we reach our destination?” Horii asks.
“We should be in range within the hour, sir,” the soldier replies.
“Good,” Horii approves. “Send word to ready the planes.”
“Sir,” the subordinate says with another bow. He exits the room leaving Horii alone with his breakfast tray and his thoughts.
The medals on his jacket from previous engagements jingle as Horii approaches his desk and pours himself a cup of tea. Before raising his cup to his lips, he adjusts a photograph of himself and his family also on the desk.
He will make them proud this time, he thinks to himself as he picks up the teacup and saucer. He knows thus far whether he has or not is questionable. Word had reached mainland Japan of the despicable actions some of the men in his detachment of the South Seas Force via letters and that horrible video reel and on a visit home, he could feel the fear and disappointment radiating from his wife and children as if he gladly participated himself in such unspeakable behavior.
No, this will be nothing like China. Horii has already issued his “Guide to Soldiers on the South Seas” and considers their five rules easy enough to follow by member of the Imperial Japanese Army. His men will not needlessly kill or injure the local inhabitants, behavior such as looting and violating women is strictly forbidden, buildings and property in enemy territory will not be destroyed without permission from commanding officers, security will be maintained, and to reduce waste to a minimum, all ammunition will be treated with care.
Horii recounts the regulations he has imposed on his forces as he finally raises his cup to his mouth and blows a plume of steam away from his face. As he calmly takes a sip, he turns his attention to a map laid out on a table in his quarters identifying the menial defenses Guam has at her disposal. He cannot know for certain the accuracy of their intelligence as not all of it has come from members of the military. Surely, America would not leave a territory abandoned in this way but if the Yankees did, the fighting would be brief and the casualties limited.
As Horii’s massive Imperial ship charges onward carrying thousands of trained soldiers, a canoe manned by three Chamorros from Saipan, an island north of Guam and within the Japanese mandate, is pulled ashore in the dark of the early morning hour. Their whispers in their native tongue are heard by a nearby patrol of two American Marines who go toward the voices to investigate. Spotting the trio with their flashlights, one Marine calls out, “What are you doing out here?”
The Saipanese, surprised by their discovery, turn quickly to the Marines and open fire in the direction of the patrol. The poor marksmen miss their targets and the duo of Marines take off running to meet their attackers.
At closer range, the first Marine returns fire against the unknown, hostile visitors. The shot rings out across the barren sands of Ritidan Beach but the crew of the canoe avoid the bullets. The second Marine tackles one of them as they try to recover from their close call. He punches his opponent several times before using the butt of his rifle to disorient and finally disarm the spy.
Across the international dateline, life is carrying on as usual on the island of Oahu, part of the United States territory of the Hawaiian Islands. Cars are already on the road in the early morning hours. Shops and restaurants are open for business with customers dressed in their Sunday best coming in and out of their doors. The sound of church bells ring in the distance.
On the deck of the USS Arizona, sailors of all ages and races go about their duties in their white uniforms or white uniforms. One, no older than twenty-five, squints to make out objects that seem to be headed towards him afar in the sky.
Below the steel surface, many other young men are asleep in their beds stacked in multi-layer bunks while still more are reading or readying themselves for the day. Hawaiian music plays faintly in the background over the speaker of a small transistor radio.
Among them, the naturally tan and dutifully fit nineteen year old John Aguon. With one hand he holds a mirror and a comb in his hand opposite, pushing his black strands to the side. Once satisfied with the result, he puts down the mirror and reaches for a shirt laid out on his bunk.
“Are you ready?” another youthful sailor asks. “I’d like to get a bite to eat before mass gets started.”
“Nearly finished,” John promises as he dons his shirt and starts to do up the buttons.
In the air, a Japanese bombardier holds a photograph of the same ship which John is currently aboard in his leather gloved hands. Taking his eye off the picture, he focuses in on his target below. The bomb bay doors open and he gives the command, “Bombs away!”
The bomb is released cutting through the humid atmosphere as it falls to the Earth. The incendiary makes contact with the deck of the battleship and rips through the lower decks with an echoing boom that sends waves through the harbor as it explodes, igniting fires and sending bodies flying into the air.
In the enlisted quarters, the lights have all gone out and the room is quickly filling with sea water as the ocean pours in.
John breaks the surface, gasping for breath. All around him, he can see others clinging to pipes on the ceiling and their last few precious inches of oxygen.
“I don’t want to die like this,” his friend confesses. “We can’t die like this, John!”
“The door is jammed,” John tells him. “I couldn’t - I couldn’t get it open.”
John’s friend starts to cry. “I want to go home.”
“Me, too,” John sympathizes. “I got so close.”
John watches the water around them continue to rise. His shipmate takes a swallow of the sea.
“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name,” John says in Chamorro. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…” He sputters some ocean as it enters his open mouth open in prayer. “... on earth as it is in Heaven.”
Recognizing the cadence in which John is speaking, John’s friend joins him in English. “Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses…”
“As we forgive those who trespass against us.”
John takes a large gulp of saline liquid, doing his best to expel it back out. He tilts his head, inhaling one last deep breath as that which was his family’s lifesource for millennia fills the room to take his life from his lungs trapped in a metal coffin.