For Tarawa, I was in Company I, 3rd Battalion, 2 Regiment and had just turned 20 three weeks before the Betio landing.  In fact, I had already been at Guadalcanal before I turned 19, and I was there for seven months before being wounded. 
I really don’t remember now the name of the transport I was on getting to Tarawa, and because of wounds at Tarawa I never made it to Camp Tarawa.
On 20 November, in the early morning hours before the attack, I still remember smoking and talking with the guys prior to disembarking.  About 20 of us were in a boat in the 1st wave on Red Beach 1, and I was frankly scared on the trip to the beach.  Equipment I carried was my 03 Springfield rifle, ammo, water and my field pack.  
Even before hitting the beach, the noise was terrible – chaos everywhere, it seemed.  The strong stench of dead bodies was everywhere, and in that bedlam we weren’t even sure where we had landed.  But once on shore, we just kept moving toward the sounds of gunfire.  
Sometime in the mid-morning of 21 November, I was hit by a mortar round that nearly severed my right leg, but I was only wounded.  Somehow I got to the beach, probably dragged there.   And while lying on the beach waiting to be evacuated, I was shot again and thankfully was again only wounded.   After having been on Betio perhaps 30 hours, I was floated out to the hospital ship Nieuw Amsterdam late in the afternoon of 21 November.  Perhaps 10 hours later, I began the long trip by the hospital ship to San Francisco.
What still sticks out most in my memory is how brave the Marines fought, pressing countless small unit and individual attacks regardless of the cost.
All in all, by the end of 1943, I had been awarded two Purple Hearts.  I live now in Atascadero, California, and all I can say is, “I am 87 years old … I am still here … and SEMPER FI !”  And that indomitable spirit of Ernest Way, Jr lives on!
Thank you for your dedicated service, Ernest.   We will remember!
Received 23 October 2010
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