DRAGON OF THE MANGROVES: Inspired by true events of World War II
by Yasuyuki Kasai
||Dec 11, 2006
Based on a true story, a Japanese soldier fighting in the Burma campaign during World War II discovers a deadly enemy lurking below the water's surface. Here is the novel based on the most deadly crocodile attack ever happened.
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It was no time to fear animals when the possibility of the enemy counteroffensive was increasing. It didn't suit a soldier to lose nerve in the presence of a mere crocodile...
At the end of World War II, a garrison of the Twenty-eighth Japanese Army is deployed to Ramree Island, off the coast of Burma, to fight the Allies' severe counteroffensive. While on the island, Superior Private Minoru Kasuga questions a local villager about the terrible smell coming from the saltwater creek. To his horror, the old man tells him it is the stench of death from the breath of man-eating crocodiles that inhabit Myinkhon Creek.
Fierce fighting drives the battalion to the island's east coast, and they must evacuate to Burma by crossing the creek. Just before they embark, Kasuga smells the same putrid odor that he'd questioned the villager about and warns his commanding officer of the underwater danger. His sergeant ignores him, thinking Kasuga is obsessed with wild stories from the villagers, and he tells the soldiers to cross the creek.
Ordered to save the penned-in garrison, Second Lieutenant Yoshihisa Sumi arrives on Ramree Island. But what awaits him at Myinkhon Creek is a sight too horrible to contemplate...
Excellently Crafted Story Well Worth Reading
April 27, 2007
Reviewer: Tristan Parrish (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
During World War II, my father fought with the British Army's 99th (RBY) Field Regiment in India and Burma. Based on actual incidents, and viewing the war from the opposite perspective, the characters in this novel are Japanese soldiers caught in the midst of extraordinary times.
Skillfully weaving the stories of the two main characters' Second Lieutenant Yoshihisa Sumi who is ordered to rescue a penned-in garrison; and Superior Private Minoru Kasuga, a soldier in that ill-fated garrison-the author brings to life the military tactics and equipment, and the emotional effects of wartime events as well as, in this case, the horror of the dragons of the mangroves' crocodile attacks.
Vivid imagery and descriptions, keen characterizations and quick pacing all draw the reader through an exciting and interesting wartime story the like of which is very rarely seen, but one which only helps to highlight the terrible devastation of wars and their effects on human beings, and the often indescribable and wondrous machinations of Nature Herself.
An excellently crafted story well worth reading.
Reviewed in TCM Reviews
Tale Boggling the Mind
April 16, 2007
Reviewer: Mary Ann Smyth (Lyndell, PA USA)
Dragon of the Mangroves, while fiction, is 'Inspired by True Events of World War II' and involves an aspect of that war that I had never heard about.
At the end of the war, the Japanese were in flight from Burma while still trying to launch a counteroffensive from Ramee Island, just off the coast. When it became apparent that this would also fail, an attempt was made to rescue those soldiers already in place. Having to cross a mangrove swamp and at the same time dodge enemy fire proved difficult enough. But to outwit hungry, waiting crocodiles proved difficult beyond belief.
This story is told from the Japanese point of view. The author's great-great-grandfather was a samurai sent out as a coastguardsman against the first U.S. fleet to sail to Japan. His father was an army artilleryman during WW II. Yasuyuki Kasai draws from that background, along with extensive research, to produce his novel. He shows in great detail just what the soldiers faced, what their frame of minds were, and what the territory they slogged through was like.
He also describes in detail the horror the men felt as they watched their compatriots disappear beneath murky water. Dragon of the Mangroves is an intriguing tale that boggles the mind.
Reviewed in BookLoons
Well Done Anti-war Anthem
May 11, 2007
Reviewer: Nan Seal (Roswell, GA USA)
Always, well done war stories are anti-war anthems. This novel, inspired by true events of World War II, is no exception. On one hand the Japanese author insightfully follows Sumi, the hero who is a Japanese officer assigned the rescue mission of fellow soldiers trapped by the invasion of British and Indian forces in Burma. Alternately he tracks those fellow soldiers of the Japanese 121st Infantry Regiment in their desperate retreat that involves avoiding contact with the swell of enemy troops by day and ferocious crocodiles by night.
The story is well researched keeping authentic time, military units and details. The author challenges the reader to resolve fact and fiction of a popular myth regarding this most difficult time in his nation's history. At times it is brutally graphic as "...before he could finish his order, the shell burst behind the bunker. As the scenery behind him turned white, Kasuga witnessed the faint image of a soldier's body, torn in two, flying in the air. Just then he lost his hearing. All seemed like a silent movie, weirdly lacking in reality...razor splinters... blast propelled one of their bulky Type Ko ammunition boxes... Beside it... the glossy intestines hanging outside the ripped-up abdomen of one of the ammo bearers... He could smell the blood mixed with gunpowder."
Balancing such inhumanity is the lovely description of nature... "Mangroves covered almost all the coast there. Every tree was propped by many stilted roots and fanned out in boughs and branches, all luxuriant with thick green leaves, in all directions. The odor of the sea filled the air... Peaty land sometimes replaced mangroves... low reeds covered these bogs. The color was verdant..." Obviously this was a land where primitive reptiles and nature still resisted all intruders.
The suspense of the rescuers, disguised as Burmese, attempting to join up with their disorganized, desperate, retreating compatriots builds excellently. All facets of the Japanese warrior are demonstrated including the ancient Shogun practice of drinking-water filled bamboo doubling as flotation devices, the noble officer who publicly dresses down his subordinate for arrogantly helping himself to a piece of fruit from a vendor, and the insane Military Academy graduate who will not accept rescue.
The author tells an interesting and compelling story using irony as subtitle to every chapter.
Reviewed in Tregolwyn Book Reviews
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