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.
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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.
Good for him.
Semi-new will have to do!
Hey, that rhymes....hey miss feather, my muse must be coming back. LOL.
You're welcome ct. One of the many we should never forget.
Thank you Mayor.
Great, your muse can sure be used!
There- that rhymes too.
Things are going well with the family. I've even gotten a couple of 2 day weekends. Did you all ever find a high speed connection to use?
November 21, 2006
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It shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, Speak, LORD, for Your servant hears. 1 Samuel 3:9 Joshua, a precocious 2-year-old, watched his mother baking cookies. Please, may I have one? he asked hopefully. Not before supper, his mother replied. Joshua ran tearfully to his room, then reappeared with this message: Jesus just told me its okay to have a cookie now. Jesus didnt tell me, his mother retorted. Joshua replied, You must not have been listening!
Joshuas motivation was wrong, but he was absolutely right about two things: God longs to speak to us, and we need to listen.
In 1 Samuel 3, another young boy learned those same ageless principles. When Samuel followed Elis counsel and prayed, Speak, LORD, for Your servant hears, he was open to receiving Gods powerful message (v.9). Like Samuel, we long to hear God speaking to us but often fail to discern His voice.
God spoke audibly to Samuel. Today He speaks to us by His Spirit through the Scriptures, other people, and our circumstances. But as a result of neglect and nonstop activity, some of us have become hard of hearing. We need a spiritual hearing aid like the one in Samuels prayer: Speak, LORD, for Your servant hears (v.9). This humble attitude is a real help for the spiritually hard of hearing.
Bible in One Year: Ezekiel 16-17; James 3
Snippy, We've yet to make up the itenerary for 2007 except for the usual local events such as Pea Ridge, Lexington Fort Scott and so on. We try to do at least one 'National' event a year. Last year it was Corinth Miss. There is one that I know of in Georgia. I'll give you the info on it below. We will do it if we can be artillery and the others agree. Some of us are having reservations about performing on actual battle sites. I personally regard it as somewhat sacriligious since theres no way we can ever properly portray what those men went thru and besides that there are still remains out there under the ground. Cannon demonstration and living history events are becoming more to our liking rather than pretending to kill each other. We're getting a bit too old to enjoy marching around in the sun wearing wool, carrying nine pounds of iron on our shoulders anyway.
Note that the info below is for 2006. I don't know if this is an annual event or not.
SEPT. 8-10 Georgia Battle of Tunnel Hill
Tunnel Hill. One of Georgias most enjoyable battle events held on the original battle and skirmish site, with an average of 1,200-1,500 participants. Usual amenities, well-shaded camps, artillery by invitation due to overwhelming gun turn-out last year, bounty to first 10 full-sized guns pre-registered and participating. Six-pounder and up (no scale pieces or mortars, please). Alabama Division Guidelines and Safety Rules in effect for this event. The ball will be held for period-attired participants Saturday night adjacent to the Austin House with the 8th Georgia Regimental band. Battles Saturday and Sunday. All Confederate units required to galvanize for one battle. Living history for area school children Friday morning beginning at 8 a.m. Volunteers needed and appreciated. Please send registration before Aug. 1. Sutlers register by Aug. 1. No reenactor registration fee for 2006. Sutlers by invitation, $35. Fee must accompany registration form. No on-site sutler registration. All profits from the gate go toward history preservation of War Between the States sites at Tunnel Hill and operating the new museum. Sponsored by the Tunnel Hill Historical Foundation, Inc. Hosted by the 35th Tennessee Infantry, Inc. and the 29th Alabama Infantry. For battle information, contact K.E. Sumner, 621 Victoria Lane, Woodstock, Ga. 30189 or e-mail MtnRifles@msn.com. Event coordinator: (770) 926-1229 (9 a.m.-2 p.m. EST) or visit www.alabamadivision.org or www.geocities.com/mntain2001/
Don't give Spiderboy any ideas!
ROFL! Actually, that sounds more like something bittygirl would do if she could say "Jesus"... It's just a matter of time!
Right now, she is repeating the new mantra, "I wan eggs, one a you, one a me, one a ta." Something tells me she's hungry for lunch?
Is that the Air Force in front of a Marine bird? The must have seen it had wings on it and thought it was theirs......
It's good to "see" ya back.
I did not know the AF had any of those! Ya learn something new everyday... seriesly, though, my dad worked for Bell Helicopter/Textron (Hurst, TX) and all he could talk about (besides airplanes, cameras, motorcycles, and cars) was the V-22.
Thanks Lee. I can't say I blame you for not wanting to march around in those clothes in this heat. As for whether or not to have reenactments on the actual battlefied I understand your dilema but I wonder, if it were you, if you were a soldier who fought and died there, would you rather folks forgot about it or would you rather have a reenactment going on over the same ground to try your best to tell the story?
I'm thinking the latter.
LOL. Maybe I'll write some prose while we are at Sam's parents. No internet connection at all!!
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