"Perhaps it was when I noticed that bullets were hitting six inches to the left or six inches to the right. I could have sworn that I could have reached out and touched a hundred bullets."'-Robert Sherod, an editor of TIME magazine, on Tarawa.
The Battle of Tarawa was a US invasion of the Tarawa Atoll in the Pacific Theater on November 20th, 1943. It was part of the island hopping strategy used by Admiral Chester Nimitz. This was also part of a two pronged attack being carried out by Nimitz and General Douglas Macarthur. The battle lasted about 3 days and ended on the 23rd of November, 1943.
It was part of Operation Galvanic which was the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. Another island that was invaded was the Makin Atoll which had been fortified due to a raid on the island which occurred earlier in the war. Tarawa was important to the United States because it needed to be captured in order to land in the Marshall Islands and later in the Mariana Islands.After the battle, out of about 35,000 US marines, 978 were killed and about 2,190 marines were wounded. Out of 4,690 original Japanese troops, about 17 soldiers, including 1 officer survived, as well as about 120 laborers.
Planning and PreparationsEditThe objective for the invasion of Tarawa was the main island of Betio. It was the only island out of 19 smaller islands that had Japanese forces. Tarawa also had an airfield and many pillboxes and gun emplacements. The commander of the garrison on Tarawa was admiral Keji Shibasaki. Among the other defenses, there were a number of Type 95 Ha-Go Tanks, anti-vehicle mines, light machine gun emplacemnts, barbed wire, and log barriers. American planners believed that the coral reef where they had chosen to land would not be a problem to landing craft because of high tide.
The BattleEditThe battle began at about 4:00 AM off the beach of Betio. The United States Navy and aircraft bombarded the Atoll of Tarawa, hoping to lighten the defenses the Japanese had set up. United States LCVPs and LVTs began to deploy about 2 hours after the initial bombardment and most marines thought the Japanese forces were decimated. The marines soon hit a major problem; they came at low tide and most of the landing craft were stuck on the reef. Japanese artllery immediately opened fire and many landing craft were destroyed before getting anywhere close to the beach. The marines were forced to wade ashore and were facing severe machine gun fire as they were doing this. In order to establish a beachhead, United States forces sent more and more marines in landing craft. Eventually a beachhead was established, but the marines still had to fight against Japanese pillboxes. US forces pushed through Japanese lines at about midday, although they still hadn't made much progress. Early the next day, marines had managed to push their way to the airfield. Tanks, artillery, and other support came later that day.
United States intel said that Japanese forces were heading to another islet in Tarawa but they were soon eliminated by elements of the 6th Marines. Keji Shibasaki was one of these casualties. The battle raged for about 1 and half more days. It ended after a final Banzai charge was repelled by marines. The island still had some Japanese resistance, but these pockets were later dealt with.