When a Man Faces Absolute Horror

New York Timesbestselling author Adam Makos and I recently released a new book titled VOICES OF THE PACIFIC—the long awaited oral-history project featuring untold stories from the Marine heroes of WWII.

R.V. Burgin


The past few weeks I’ve been providing a special preview inside the covers of the book.


For today’s story, listen to RV Burgin discuss the first wave of Banzai charges he encountered during the battle of Cape Gloucester. WARNING: he describes one night of pure hell. But listen to the stoicism and resolve in his voice 67 years later. He’s worked it through, even though the horror is still part of him.



It was a sleepless night—I’ll put it that way. We could hear the Japanese in front of us as we were digging in. They were only about a dozen yards away. After dark they started yelling. You could just see their silhouettes.


What was making them come forward? I don’t exactly know. That was the Japanese attitude. You can picture it: an enemy soldier standing straight up with his rifle in his hands running straight at you.


One Jap charged right into my foxhole. I stuck my bayonet into his chest just as he was leaving his feet, heaved him right over my shoulder, and pulled the trigger, emptying my M1 into him. He was very dead when he hit the ground—I’ll tell you that. It all didn’t take but just a few seconds. I kicked him out of the way and didn’t give him another thought. I just paid attention to what was happening in front of me and got ready for the next charge.


They kept charging and charging. That was all that was going through my mind—“kill that bastard. Don’t miss. Make sure you get him.” You’re not thinking. You just try to get your sights on a man and get him down. I think most of us were wondering, “My God, how many times are we going to need to do this?! For crying out loud, how many of them are out there?” We fought off five charges that night. There wasn’t anybody who had much ammo left by daylight.


Do I remember what any of the specific Japanese soldier looked like? Hell yeah. I can close my eyes today and tell you exactly what he looked like. Instead of running like we run, he had a funny fast-paced trot. Leggings. These tennis-shoe looking shoes. That brownish uniform. That silly looking helmet. Weapons—yeah, it’s that long rifle with mechanical sights—I’ve got one in my closet today. Unbelievable determination in his face—like nothing was going to stop him. Squint-eyed. Yelling. Hollering. “Marine you die! Marine you die!”


Oh yeah, I can see him. I can see lots of them. In the morning there were more than 200 dead Japs in front of us. You could literally walk on them without stepping on the ground.




By Adam Makos with Marcus Brotherton

Ask for it at a bookstore near you, or order your copy HERE.



Question: how do you handle horror?


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  • Cornupenuria

    I’m glad he could talk about it. I am a 70 year old Viet Nam veteran who wasn’t involved in that part of combat. I came home to a church and denomination that seemed to me to have been hijacked by the anti-war movement. I reached equilibrium in another denomination; through prayer, bible study, and some informal peer support. Frankly I learned much from a couple of co-workers who had been WW-II POWs. One was a Bataan Death March survivor. He didn’t talk about it and newcomers to the office were advised never to ask him, but he did his work diligently and faced life in an exemlpary way. For this Memorial Day I re-read the articles at the following link. They too, are different from my own experience but I somehow understand them and find some purpose. I am concerned that churches today are so un-prepared to recieve the many homeless veterans of my own and subsequent generations. Many veterans see the “love the soldier, hate the war” attitude as shallow hypocracy.