Was the first of July and the war all but won
But the foe wouldn’t bow to the bomb or the gun
So a mighty fleet gathered off Borneo’s coast
Under Douglas MacArthur – the lord of the host.
And he knew as he gazed at these ships on the waves
He was sending survivors at last to their graves
For these men battle hardened by six years of war
Were a sacrifice sent in to settle a score.
In a month would Japan by a maelstrom be lashed
As its cities to atoms were shattered and smashed,
But the Empire must burn, the inferno be fanned,
And the battle be joined, so he gave the command
And the land burst to flame like a funeral pyre
As the rocket ships streamed to the beaches their fire
And the smoke black and choking rose high in a cloud
Where it lay o’er the carnage – a simmering shroud.
As the fleet from their guns sent their salvos to land,
Where the broadsides spewed skyward the souls and the sand
And the blasted earth heaved as the very air burned
As to oil were the guns of the battleships turned.
And the shells tore and twisted the towering tanks.
Burning oil spilled and blistered the cowering ranks
As defenders, defeated, lay dying or dead,
Shone the sun through the dark of the sky bloody red.
As the men to their landing craft clambered and fell
And they braced for the fight as they breasted the swell
As with rifles bows bristled and shells rent the air
O’er their heads as they whistled a song of despair
As they swiftly surged on through the sea’s salty spray
To the beach scorched and peppered, a ribbon of grey,
The defenders’ defiant artillery blazed
As the troops hit the shore and the Southern Cross raised
And the Rising Sun rent, but was still much to fight,
Not so easily quelled was the Emperor’s might
For each bunker must yield up the mad and the brave
And the flame throwers make every pillbox a grave.
And each yard of ground gained did it come at a cost
And each hour of each day were so many lives lost,
For the Japanese fought without care of their life
But no digger now sought for a widow his wife.
And the war it was ending, the finish was near,
But there’s many the soldier would find his rest here,
For these men of Kokoda, that pitiless track,
From this last gasp of war, they would never come back.
In memory of the men of the 7th division AIF and in particular my father,
Sgt Noel O’Brien 2nd/31st Batallion who was in the first wave to hit the beach.
Also of the U.S. troops who manned the alligators and other landing craft
Balikpapan 1st July 1945 (warning some graphic footage – don’t go past 1.30 if you have a weak stomach)