From Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee, I entered the U.S. Marines at age 16.When the assault on Betio, at Tarawa Atoll, began on 20 November 1943, I was 17 years old in G Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division.
Looking back all these years, I remember being on one of the transports (its name escapes me now) talking with other Marines and thinking how could there be any island left with all the bombing and shelling going on.Silently, I said a prayer for everyone, including myself.
On D-Day, I was in a group of about 16 others in a Higgins boat (a type of landing craft) in the 1st Wave heading for Red Beach 2, on the west side of the pier.With me, I had my rifle and its ammo; my backpack; and a radio.The smell of diesel fumes was nauseous, and the on-going shelling and bombing sounds all around sure inspired me to keep my head down and out of sight!We had a long way to wade in to the beach.The shelling, rifle fire and the smell of explosives were everywhere. Our lieutenant was killed early on and, with him down and no one to give commands, all we wanted to do was survive.
In our 74+ hours on Betio, we got over to the far side of the air strip, over near the south shore of Betio, at Black Beach.
After I and what was left of my unit could stop, all I can say is that we were dirty, scared, exhausted, hungry, sunburned and thirsty, but, by the Grace of God, I was physically fit.
Bt the end of the war, I had fought at both Saipan and Okinawa and was also part of the occupation troops at Nagasaki.I have just too many memories that should stay in the past.Awards I received include the Presidential Unit Citation (Tarawa) and the Asiatic Pacific campaign medal.
Anything else for this 84-year old Marine to share about the battle?No thank you.Thatís all in the past.
Charles, thank you for your service.On this roster to date, you are one a very small number of 16-year old lads who joined the Marines to serve our country.You did a lot of growing up in a hurry during terrible circumstances.We will remember.
Received 16 November 2010
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