In early March 1944, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah O’Leary crouched in his muddy foxhole on Cape Gloucester in the South Pacific. Artillery pounded overhead. Visibility was poor in the mangrove swamps, but O’Leary knew that the enemy would come soon. They always did. So far, the invasion of New Breton had gone well. The First Marine Corps had landed at Cape Gloucester on December 26 and, aided by the new Sherman tanks, drove the Japanese back. As a war correspondent, O’Leary had been on the front lines the entire way with a rifle in one hand and a portable Remington in the other. With defeat eminent, the Japanese had begun their suicidal banzai charges. One would certainly come any minute. Sure enough, the artillery ceased. Off to his left, O’Leary heard, “They’re coming!,” and throaty yells came from the jungle ahead. But the expected banzai never came. Instead, O’Leary distinctly heard in broken English, “To hell with Babe Ruth!,” as several dozen Japanese made a fatal charge across the intervening swamp.
A decade earlier, some of those Imperial soldiers may have been among the five hundred thousand Japanese lining the streets of Ginza to welcome Babe Ruth and the All American ballplayers to Japan. On November 2, 1934, a motorcade took the players from Tokyo Station to the Imperial Hotel, built in 1923 by Frank Lloyd Wright. Ruth, though no longer the best player in the league, rode in the first open limousine. At thirty-nine, he had grown rotund and just weeks before had agreed to part ways with the New York Yankees. His future in professional baseball was in doubt, but his godlike charisma remained intact. To the Japanese he still represented the pinnacle of the baseball world. Millions followed his exploits in baseball magazines such as Yakyukai and Asahi Sports. Sharing the