Iwo Blasted Again

Book Summary

by Ray Elliott

Iwo Blasted AgainJack Britton has carried the horror of combat and the loss of his young wife and his buddies with him for the past 60 years. Now, in the last 36 hours of his life in a hospital intensive care unit, a tired and embattled Britton revisits those aspects of his life and grapples with his long-suffering questions about fate and self-doubt through a psychological phenomenon known as sundown syndrome.

Britton was a Marine who had fought in the well-known and bloody battle for Iwo Jima during World War II. He survived when so many others did not, which meant he had to live with unspeakable memories of seeing friends and brother Marines die horrendous deaths ­ cut down in the prime of their lives.

Not understanding why he was spared over others, Britton moved on with his life only to find love to be just as short-lived when he wife died unexpectedly in childbirth. From then on, Britton was resigned to spend his life quietly trying to answer unanswerable questions. He made a career as an English teacher, raised his son to stand on his own and contributed to the world as best he could, all the while looking to literature and poetry ­ both his own and others¹ ­ for meaning and hope.

Having served as both father and mother in the raising of his only child, Britton is now the one being cared for by his son. As Britton¹s physical body faces its final battle, psychological hauntings of the past are triggered with intense and sorrowful detail. And it is the son who must now exhibit the quiet strength fostered by his father.

"Marine veteran Ray Elliott understands American war and warfare as few people do. His work is honest and raw and filled with truth, in the tradition of the great American war novelists who precede him."

- Kaylie Jones, a novelist and writing teacher, James Jones' daughter and a director of the James Jones Literary Society. Her novels include Speak Now, A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries, Celeste Ascending, Quite the Other Way and As Soon As it Rains.

The Author: Ray Elliott

Ray Elliott, author of "Wild Hands Toward the Sky," a post-World War II novel from the point of view of a 5-year-old boy whose father was a Marine killed on Guadalcanal before the boy can remember, and "Iwo Blasted Again," a novella about an aging Iwo Jima veteran in the last 36 hours of his life (released October 2006), has been a Marine, a farmer, an oil field roughneck, a construction worker, a truck driver, a bartender and a high school and college English and journalism educator in American public high schools and universities for more than 25 years. He retired from the classroom in 1999 to write full time.

During his enlistment in the Marine Corps, he served in the infantry with Charlie Company, First Battalion, Seventh Regiment, First Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, Calif., as a brig guard and turnkey in the guard company at Sangley Point, Luzon, Republic of the Philippines, and in the artillery with India Company Third Battalion, Tenth Regiment, Second Marine Division at Camp Lejuene, N.C.

As a journalist, he has been an editor, a publisher and an author of numerous works of nonfiction and has been a freelance writer since 1977, in addition to writing a personal column that was carried by a dozen regional newspapers in Central and Southern Illinois throughout this time. The strong interviewing skills and frank observations of human actions and motivations he has gained by these experiences are reflected in his writing.

Elliott is a board member and president of The James Jones Literary Society (a group that promotes public interest and academic research in the author's World War II novels "From Here To Eternity," "The Thin Red Line," "The Pistol," "Whistle" and the non-fiction "WWII"), a board member of the Illinois Center for the Book, and a member of the newly formed Richard L. Pittman Marine Corps League in Urbana-Champaign, Ill., he helped form.

Elliott is also an Illinois Humanities Council Road Scholar, offering two presentations entitled "James Jones: The Evolution of a Soldier and a Writer" and "The De-Evolution of a Soldier and its Effects on Others" to Illinois non-profit organizations. And he continues to work with and encourage aspiring writers of all ages to find those stories within their own lives that hold up a mirror to life and reveal aspects of life to which others can relate.

Read an Excerpt

For just a fleeting second, the line on the heart monitor went flat. Then Jack Britton gasped for air, took a harsh, rasping breath and kept on sucking in the hot, dry air with a labored, hurried irregular rhythm to take in enough oxygen to help his old heart pump another supply of fresh red blood out into his bone-tired, aching body again and make his leathery lungs crackle just a bit from the fluid that was staying in him. He felt tired, more tired than he had for years. And he had felt that way since he first woke a little before midnight and knew something was wrong. He had had difficulty breathing and drifted in and out of sleep the rest of the night. His eyes opened now, narrow slits against the light of the early morning March sun that filtered into his little house through an east-side window, and locked in on an old photo at the foot of his bed. He couldn't quite make out what was there through his blurry eyes. He could see only a hazy image of the three young Marines indelibly burned in his mind, all squinting out happily and confidently from a fading print in a long ago photo of them in dungaree jackets and trousers, hands on each other's shoulders, brash smiles on their faces. That would be Bake and Roc and him, he knew. Good buddies. They didn’t come any better. Anywhere. Ever. A couple of men moved slowly beside him and kept talking to him in low voices. What they were saying wasn't always registering, although the old man could hear exactly what they were saying.

Here, Mr. Britton,” the chunky one with the close-cropped hair and thick arms and shoulders said as he closed the Velcro cuff over the old man's arm and slowly pumped it tight, “now let me get your blood pressure … 240/120, pulse 110 …” and then put his stethoscope on the old man’s back, “okay, let me listen to you breathe now; take a deep breath … again … a little crackling in the lungs. Let's get that oxygen on him and get him out of here before ... “

“… he croaks,” the old man mumbled under his breath. “Incoming … watch out, Bake.”

The tall, thin black man looked at him, licked his moustache and the end of a yellow lead pencil and wrote something down in a notebook. Together then, the two men gently lifted the pad they had slid under the 6' 1” body and the not quite 200 pounds of dead weight to the waiting gurney in one swift, sweeping motion. Outside, they rolled the gurney and the old man through the ambulance door and began to secure them for the ride to the emergency room. Jack closed his eyes and felt the poncho relax around him and overwhelm him with anxiety. He couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on and where the Negro fit in the picture. Wasn’t any of them in the company for sure. They had their own outfits in Pioneer battalions and motor transport companies as far as he knew. Even had a separate set of serial numbers. Something’s not right here, he thought. What’s going on? He tried to look at his bloody right hand where the sniper's first round had hit, leaving the flesh hanging and fingers pointed every which way. But the shot of morphine was setting in and blurring his vision and sending him floating above the poncho in which he was lying.

Somewhere close by he heard a voice that sounded vaguely familiar say, “We'll be right with you. Try to relax.”