Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Revisits The Battle for Tarawa (11/20-23/1943) Nov. 20th, 2006
Posted on 11/19/2006 6:34:02 PM PST by snippy_about_it
are acknowledged, affirmed and commemorated.
| Our Mission:
The FReeper Foxhole is dedicated to Veterans of our Nation's military forces and to others who are affected in their relationships with Veterans.
In the FReeper Foxhole, Veterans or their family members should feel free to address their specific circumstances or whatever issues concern them in an atmosphere of peace, understanding, brotherhood and support.
The FReeper Foxhole hopes to share with it's readers an open forum where we can learn about and discuss military history, military news and other topics of concern or interest to our readers be they Veteran's, Current Duty or anyone interested in what we have to offer.
If the Foxhole makes someone appreciate, even a little, what others have sacrificed for us, then it has accomplished one of it's missions.
We hope the Foxhole in some small way helps us to remember and honor those who came before us.
A Validation of the U.S. Marines
At the Quebec conference in August of 1943, the Allied high command announced it's intention to launch an offensive in the Central Pacific, in the drive towards Japan. A prime objective of this drive, to be undertaken as a Navy-Marines operation, was to take the Marshall Islands. The Marshall Islands would serve as an air base from which further operations could be launched against the Marianas, and from there against the Japanese home islands. But 500 miles to the southeast of the Marshalls, an archipelago of atolls called the Gilberts stood between U.S. forward ground air bases and the Marshalls. The Gilberts had only one workable airstrip for refueling American aircraft and that was on the island of Betio in the western Gilbert Island atoll of Tarawa.
The Japanese commander in charge of the defense of Tarawa, Rear Admiral Keiji Shibasaki, said "A million men cannot take Tarawa in a hundred years." He commanded 2,600 imperial marines, the best amphibious troops in the Japanese armed forces. With the importation of 1,000 Japanese workers and 1,200 Korean laborers the island airstrip of Betio had been transformed into one of the most formidable fortresses in the world, boasting 14 coastal defense guns(four of which were taken from the surrendered British garrison at Singapore), 40 strategically located artillery pieces, covering every approach to the island, a coconut-log sea wall four feet high lining the lagoon and over 100 machine gun emplacements behind the wall. All this was concentrated on an island only a mile long and a few hundred yards wide.
Meanwhile an armada of 17 carriers, 12 battleships, eight heavy and four light cruisers, 66 destroyers and 36 transports carrying the 2nd Marine Division and a part of the 37th Infantry Division- some 35,000 soldiers and Marines headed for Betio in early November of 1943. In the moments before pre-invasion bombardment began, the task force naval commander, Rear Admiral Howard F. Kingman announced to the landing troops "Gentlemen, we will not neutralize Betio. We will not destroy it. We will obliterate it!" Neither Shibasaki nor Kingman knew what they were up against.
On November 20th at 2:15 A.M. the marine transports went to General Quarters. Last minute landing preparations were made and the marines received their last rites. At 5:05 A.M. the first battleship let loose a salvo on Betio's coastal batteries, followed shortly thereafter by the other battleships and destroyers in the task force. The shelling stopped only for enough time to let the dive bombers from the escort carriers pound the island. The first wave of amphtracks and Higgins boats moved in on the lagoon side of Betio. The formation was jolted to a stop 500 yards out by a reef which the amphtracks could climb over only with great difficulty. Simultaneously, a hail of fire opened up from the island, incinerating the lodged and incoming boats as well as mowing down the marines wading ashore. Few of the first wave survived. But a few got through, and with the help of four successive waves the marines established a beachhead up to a four foot sea wall.
By nightfall, the marines were pinned down on a stretch of beach 100 yards long and 20 feet inland. And rather than being obliterated, the Japanese marines had barely been scratched by the naval and air bombardment. While a brief respite between bombardment and the landings had occurred, the Japanese rushed to their gun posts and had delivered devastating fire. But because their communication lines had been cut, none of them knew what was going on. Therefore, according tot the Bushido Code, each isolated soldier or group of soldiers was obliged to either fight to the death or commit suicide unless ordered otherwise.
Consequently, Japanese resistance was fanatical. Some Japanese swam out to disabled amphtracks that night and poured fire onto the marines from the rear- silenced only at great cost to the marines. And a lone Japanese seaplane-turned-bomber easily inflicted casualties on the concentrated beachhead. In all, the first day on Betio had been very costly for the 2nd Division- amphtracks and Higgins boats littered the lagoon, wounded marines everywhere, and dead bodies and parts of bodies everywhere: out of 5,000 men, 1,500 were dead or wounded.
At the beginning of the second day, three marine battalions held a small foothold on Betio's lagoon beach. They were ordered to attack at 6:00 A.M. while the 2nd Division reserves, the 1st and 3rd battalions of the Eighth Marines were brought up to the reef. As the Japanese defenders opened up on the wading-in marines, Colonel Shoup of Major Crowe's battalion at the far east side of the lagoon ordered a desperate attack to halt the slaughter of incoming marines. Only 450 of the 800 incoming men made it to the beach. But with this fresh reserve, the central battalion punched its way inland, across the airstrip, and seized a part of the island's sough shore. Meanwhile a high tide flooded the lagoon, allowing reinforcement boats to pass over the reef and come directly up to shore. The arrival of tanks in support of all three battalions on the beachheads proved critical that day. The tanks rolled up to the front lines, taking out Japanese pill boxes and other fortifications at close range.
By dusk, the 6th Marines, after having secured the nearby island of Makin, paddled over the reef in rubber boats and landed on the western beach. There, they met up with Major Ryan's ravaged western lagoon assault battalion. Reinforced, and having gained ground, the second day came to an end. Marine Colonel Shoup radioed the daily situation report back to the command ships: "Casualties: many. Percentage dead: unknown. Combat efficiency: we are winning." Meanwhile, Admiral Shibasaki was sending his last radio message to Tokyo: "Our weapons have been destroyed. From now on everyone is attempting a final charge. May Japan exist for ten thousand years!"
On the third day, all three battalions moved inland, with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines sweeping up the southern shore of Betio. With infantry and flame thrower support, tanks blew apart the remaining fortifications in the central and western part of the island. Taking out pill boxes, machine gun nests and snipers took up much of this third day. But by nightfall, the marines held western and central Betio. At twilight, Shibasaki's troops made one final courageous 'Banzai' suicide charge. They rushed the 6th Marines, Company B in almost overpowering numbers. The marines began to break. Lieutenant Thomas phoned Major Jones, saying "We are killing them as fast as they come at us, but we can't hold much longer; we need reinforcements." Jones replied, "We haven't got them to send you; you've got to hold." In the face of heavy losses, the 6th Marines wavered, but didn't break. When dawn appeared, the marines still held their positions.
On the morning of November 23rd, the 6th Marines counted 300 Japanese bodies scattered around their positions. As it turned out, this group of Japanese had been the last large contingent on Betio with only small pockets of resistance remaining. And following a painstaking mop up of the eastern side of the island, Japanese resistance, with the exception of a few snipers who would continue to take pot shots at marines for the next several days, came to an end. For at 1:12 P.M., after 76 hours of fighting, Betio was declared 'secure'. Upon arriving at Betio that day, General Holland Smith ordered both the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack to be raised over Betio(for Betio was to revert to the British as a Pacific trust after the war). The general then toured the island west of the airport. He noted that only seventeen Japanese had surrendered while only 129 Korean laborers had survived out of a total of 4,700 troops and construction workers
In the 76-hour fight for Betio, 1,056 marines and sailors were killed, died of wounds or were missing and presumed to be dead. Some 2,300 men were wounded, but recovered. Meanwhile, at home, Americans were appalled by the losses at Tarawa, flooding Admiral Nimitz's mail with angry letters. But Tarawa had taught the navy and the marines some vital lessons in amphibious warfare which in the near future, would save thousands of lives. More amphtracks were to be built with better armor, including side protection for marines. Higgins boats were removed from landing operations. Landing craft were converted into supporting gunboats, able to come in close on the beach. Underwater demolition teams were organized to destroy natural and artificial obstacles before future atoll landing would take place. Precision rocket and naval attacks had proven their worth against the near impregnable fortifications. And the role of the tank in turning the tide of battle proved critical. All these lessons would be applied to future campaigns with great success.
The price for Betio had been relatively high, but within days, Betio was converted into a forward base for the assault on the Marshalls, with bomber and fighter sorties flying out within hours of the marines victory. And within nine weeks of the battle, an invasion task force under Admiral Nimitz left Tarawa to take the Marshall Islands.
It had a few rather interesting modifications to it.
His Dad was the Plymouth, Dodge and Chrysler dealer in a small town up in Iowa. Tim picked up the Dart for free because the engine was blown. It just so happened that the Iowa State Police had wrecked a '70 Plymouth patrol car so there was a 383 HYPO engine available for free. To make it all go he got a 65 pushbutton tranny from another wrecked car. It was a fearsome beast as I recall :-)
My first car did have three on the tree.
November 29, 2006
| LISTEN TO ODB RADIO: MP3
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5
Unlike some of my familywho cant wait to go downhill skiingI dont look forward to winter. When the first snowflake falls, I immediately start calculating how many months of Michigan winter are left.
Imagine C. S. Lewis fictional world of Narnia, where for a hundred years it was always winter. Cold, wet snowwith no hope of springtime ever arriving to wipe away the memories of icy temperatures and piles of white stuff. But worst of all, in Narnia, Christmas never came. Always winter and never Christmas! To me, the best part of winter is the anticipation, excitement, and wonder of Christmas. Life is bleak when you have nothing to look forward to.
There are some whose souls are locked in winter. The hardness of life has frozen their hearts. Disappointed with life, they find that each day is filled with despair. Weeping may endure for a night, the psalmist tells us, but joy comes in the morning (Ps. 30:5). In the darkest times of our lives, God longs to turn our mourning into dancing (v.11).
David wrote, In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul (Ps. 94:19). If you cry out to God in the midst of your winter, you can experience the joy of the Christ of Christmas today.
Bible in One Year: Ezekiel 35-36; 2 Peter 1
I love a floor shifter, but it's increasingly hard to find cars with that option. I've got a dull automatic right now.
Wow, a Dart with a 383 engine. I bet that sucker could GO!
Me too. It IS nice to have in stop-go traffic.
LOL. It was a good car, the first of the smaller Darts. I'm pretty sure I put a Thrush (?) muffler on it to make it sound like it had more than it did.
You're so cruel. Sam's daughter got a car from her grandparents, an old 80 something Buick LaSabre. The "old people's car". LOL.
If she added up all the repairs it needed over the years she could have bought a new one. Well, maybe not but you're right, at least it ran, kind of.
Geez, that's no way to spend a holiday. How the mom-in-law now?
November 30, 2006
| LISTEN TO ODB RADIO: MP3
To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1
I grew up on the West Coast of the US. The possibility of snow for Christmas was so remote that my mom would point to fog in the early morning as evidence that the holidays were just around the corner.
My wife and I now live in the Midwest. Theres a lot of snow when the yuletide season comes around. And I couldnt be happier with four distinct seasons. But I dont find that same response from many who have grown up in the Midwest. I find it amusing that they dont share my appreciation for the wonderful cycles of change God has built into nature for our good.
In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, Solomon acknowledged the cycles of life. He observed a time to sow and to reap, to weep and to laugh, to mourn and to dance, to gain and to lose, to keep silent and to speak, to love and to hate.
Just as God determines the weather, He also controls the cycles in our lives: To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven (Eccl. 3:1). Do we resist those seasons and complain about the snowy conditions on the horizon? Or do we trust God and thank Him for whatever He has planned for us?
Whatever our situation is today, we can be thankful for Gods seasons.
Bible in One Year: Ezekiel 37-39; 2 Peter 2
It's about cold here. Seriesly, we have had a sleet and snow mix all day. The dogs and cats are all in and amazingly getting along pretty well. Poor Sadie has been in the crate most of the day because she insists on playing in the not-yet-frozen mud every time I let her out to pee. Mud. I'm dealing with dogs in the mud in the middle of a snowstorm. LOL!
How goes it snippy, back to work now after holiday, ugh.
Tomorrow is Friday though and I'm ready. Saturday is Sam's birthday. I think I'll bake him a cake. :-)
LOL. Happy Birthday to your youngest. Have fun at the party but don't eat too much cake!