Warriors in the Crossfire

Warriors in the Crossfire

Eager to learn to steer ocean outrigger canoes, Joseph instead must watch as the invading Japanese army makes islander men clear the jungle for runways rather than fishing to feed their families.

Instead of sitting in the men’s council of his clan on his 14th birthday, Joseph is searching for shore crabs and coconuts. Instead of school time with his half-Japanese cousin Kento, he has only worry for his family and a mental map of the hidden cave where his father stockpiled water and food as whispered words warned of the approaching American forces.

When the message to vanish comes, Joseph must lead his mother, sister, and toddler nephew silently through the jungle, armed only with his father’s ceremonial knife. As fighter planes scream overhead, the family huddles in the tiny cave and hopes the water jugs will last. Which soldiers will find them first – the Japanese, who will behead them for treachery to the Emperor, or the white-faced Americans, who might eat them?

Can honor and family both stay alive in such horror? Will the Japanese use all the Rafalawash people of Saipan as a human wall against the American invaders? Will Joseph see his father or cousin again in this lifetime?

The battles of World War II overran the native populations of many Pacific Islands, and their death tolls rarely count the thousands of islanders who also perished in the crossfire.

Recommended by: Katy Manck, Librarian-at-Large (retired academic/corporate/school librarian), Gilmer, Texas, USA

Joseph and his family live on the island of Saipan, part of Japan. They are natives and live in thatched huts and are not considered true Japanese. Joseph's best friend and cousin, Kento, (their mothers are sisters) whose father is a Japanese citizen and part of the military, live in a cement-block house. The war has come to their tiny island.

The stores are closing as the soldiers start to take over the island. Kento asks for Joseph's help on how to find food on the island to help the family stay alive. The boy's lives are similar and yet so different. They each are trying to keep their families alive as soldiers come and take over. Joseph and his family run to a cave that his father has prepared with food to last about a week. They are stuck hiding inside this cave for weeks and the food is dwindling. Does he go out of the cave to find more food or does he stay inside a little bit longer? Like a turtle hiding in its shell until it knows for sure it is safe to come out.

Warriors is a different perspective on World War II. This tiny island and its people are literally caught in the crossfire of war between America and Japan. The fighting begins and people take cover the best they can. Now Joseph needs to be the strong warrior to help his family survive. Can he do it? The beginning was very confusing with the different character names and native tribal names. Once I got past the beginning it went quickly and smooth. There is non-stop action of the end of the Second World War.

Contributed by Michelle Levy, Librarian

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