From Jackson, Michigan, I was 18 when I joined the Marines; was 19 when the assault on Betio began; and now at age 86, I still have very clear memories of the Battle of Tarawa.  
I was part of E Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, and my unit traveled from New Zealand on the USS Zeilin (APA-3).   
USS Zeilin  (APA-3)
We departed New Zealand on 01 November 1943, heading for Efate in the New Hebrides (the present-day Republic of Vanuatu) where we practiced amphibious assault tactics, and on 13 November, now part of Task Force 53, we headed for Tarawa, arriving there late in the day of 19 November … just in time for the start of the amphibious assault on Betio the next day.  I remember seeing the skipper, Commander Fitzpatrick who, I was told, had been a Governor of American Samoa before the war.  
During the night before D-Day on Betio, I kept myself busy ensuring all my gear was ready, with the result that my equipment list included a helmet full of toilet paper; a full upper pack; water; a gas mask (full of candy); my carbine rifle; ammo; as well as my wallet and all the cigarettes and matches I thought I might need, all of which were encased in small plastic bags for protection!
Along with about 25 to 30 other Marines, we landed as planned at about 9AM on Red Beach 2 on the 1st wave, a little under 200 feet directly west of the pier on the north side of Betio.  That ride in was awful!  I was sick all the way in.  All of us got out, but our driver and gunner were killed by enemy fire.  I remember so well lots of gunfire from all sides; it is impossible to forget!  It seemed that everywhere there were fires burning and smoke everywhere.  All that first day and through the first night, we made very little progress, with vicious fighting all that time done from a spot about 130 feet west of the pier.  After that first day, the smell of the dead bodies of Marines and the enemy was very strong, and when I left Betio about 5 days later, the stench was just as strong as ever.  
When we could finally move off the beach, we fought our way inland over a three-day period in a somewhat southeasterly direction, crossing the taxi strip of the airfield, then crossing the main runway before arriving in the central and eastern shore area of Black Beach 2 on the south side of Betio, close to the east end of the airstrip.
Action in our area had substantially diminished by my fourth day, and I was ever so relieved.  All of us were exhausted, hungry, dirty and totally emotionally traumatized.  Eventually, we made our way back to Zeilin.  After about a week of steaming northeasterly some 2,400 miles back to the Big Island of Hawaii, we went to Camp Tarawa for rest, training new guys and re-equipping.  
I found Camp Tarawa to be a big tent city.  In fact, while in the Marine Corps, I never lived in anything but tents during boot camp, New Zealand and Camp Tarawa until I was wounded on Saipan. Yes, I was also at Saipan, landing on 15 June 1944, but I was wounded in action one week later.  I was then sent to hospital and eventually discharged.
Medals I received from my time in the U.S. Marines include World War II Victory Medal; Asiatic Pacific Medal with 2 stars; American Theatre Medal; Good Conduct Medal; Purple Heart; the Presidential Unit Citation (Tarawa); and, later, a medal for service in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.
[Supplementary materials Bob Schultz sent for this roster included a copy of a newspaper article that appeared many years ago in what appears to be his hometown newspaper. Here is that article copied verbatim:]
Pfc. Schultz’s letter to his parents … made no mention of his part in the (Tarawa) operations, and (the Marine Corps correspondent’s) story proves (Schultz’s) modesty.  It reads:
“The 19-year old Marine was the No. 1 gunner in his squad.  Soon after the group had landed on the treacherous beach in an early assault wave, he scored a direct hit on a shack full of Jap machine gunners and snipers, setting it aflame.
“As the fleeing Japs dashed into the open to escape fire, Pfc. Schultz picked three of them off with his rifle, then resumed his chore of picking out additional mortar targets.
“But his meritorious work was not confined to combat engagements alone.  When three buddies fell, wounded, Pfc. Schultz quickly administered first aid.  Later, after he had been withdrawn from the front line, he treated 20 other injured Marines.
“When boats came in to evacuate wounded, Pfc. Schultz, working under heavy fire, got 25 casualties into them so they could be taken to waiting hospital ships for more thorough treatment.
[As a postscript to his submission for this roster, Bob also included this passage:]
I returned to Tarawa in 1993 for the 50th Reunion.  Found that some things had not changed.  Much of the old equipment, tanks, guns, etc. was still lying around.  I talked to one native who was on the island 50 years before, and he now was a 62-year old man.  He had been only 12 years old during the war.”
Additional supplementary information supplied by Bob Schultz included a highly detailed summary of the casualty list for Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division.
“E” arrived at Tarawa with a total complement of 190 enlisted and 6 officers.  55 enlisted and 6 officers were KIA.  52 enlisted and 0 officers were WIA.  30 enlisted stayed aboard ship assigned to other duties.  This means that 166 “E” Company members made the landing on Betio on D Day.  112 were wounded or KIA out of the 166 that landed.  This represents about 70% casualties.  The surprising thing is the fact that the whole battalion of 5 companies (Hq, Companies “E”, “F”, “G” and “H” had a total casualty list of 125 WIA and 120 KIA.  These 5 companies had a total of 950 men.  In other words, Co “E” had almost 50% of the total Battalion casualty list.”
At Tarawa nothing was easy for “Easy” Company.  [This summary also can help others now and in the future remember the severe impact of these combat operations on E-2-2.  Freedom and liberty are not free of costs.]
Thank you, Bob, for your fortitude and tenacity; your will to win when the situation was truly terrible; your great gallantry; and your devotion to duty, the Corps and our country.    We are truly grateful for your service.  Thank you.
Received 01 November 2010
Return to ROSTER