From Salt Lake City, Utah, I joined the Marines when I was 21. By the time of the assault on Betio happened, I was 23 and my unit was Headquarters, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, attached 2nd Marine Division.
Now Im 91, and here generally is what I remember of those hot days of intense battle.
From New Zealand to Tarawa the attack transport USS J. Franklin Bell (APA-16) was our means of travel. The night before the attack I remember wondering what was really going to happen next. How would it go? Would I live through it?
Our unit was held in reserve the first day, so we went to Bairiki to wait for the call about where we would be going in. That call came the next day, and our one objective right through to the end was to eliminate the enemy. We were really in the thick of it on Betio itself for perhaps two days.
Then we went over to a small island to the east of Betio where we began a sweep to the east and then up the backside (the long east side) of Tarawa Atoll all the way to the north end of the atoll. That is where we were engaged in a really intense final battle for the entire atoll. We lost over 30 of our own guys in that last fight, but no enemy were left when we were finished.
My main job was to handle and operate message center equipment. I had my 30cal carbine with me all the time. It was very hot all the time we were there, well over 100.
While most of my fellow Marines went on elsewhere after the main operations were finished on Tarawa, my unit and some others remained on Tarawa until 07 January 1943. When I left Tarawa, I was on the USS Prince Georges (AP-165) which took us to Pearl Harbor.
Looking back from the standpoint of 67 years, I was very lucky at Tarawa not to have been wounded or worse. I got a pretty good case of dengue fever, but that was finally cleared up.
Prior to Tarawa, I was at Guadalcanal, and after Tarawa I served at both Saipan and Okinawa. As for medals, I received all that was given for each of the war theaters and the Victory medal at the end.
Kay, thank you for your service. We will remember.
Received 13 November 2010
Return to ROSTER