New Orleans was my hometown when I joined the U.S. Marines at age 22.  Within that year, you would have found me at Betio, Tarawa Atoll, in A Battery, 1st Battalion, 10th Marines going ashore in the 3rd wave at Red Beach 2.    
Our unit came from New Zealand on the attack transport ship USS Heywood (APA-6), and in the early morning of 20 November 1943, I remember having a good big breakfast; going over instructions about what we were to do; and standing out on deck with my buddies watching our Navy shelling targets on shore.  That bombardment was a spectacular sight!
From Heywood, about 20 of us were in a Higgins boat on the run into the beach.  We went to a departure area for the final run in at about 9AM.  That run was real nasty.  We were shot at from shore installations all the way, and we ran aground on the reef and had to transfer ourselves, our 75mm pack howitzer and ammo to an amtrac.  That transfer was quite a challenge considering the choppy water and the fact that we were being shot at during the process.  My buddies and I worked like dogs to get that done.  I salute my Marine buddies from those battles in the Pacific:  Bob George, Ray Forbus, Charlie Fenolio, Dave Estes, Ed O’Brien and Chris Hinzo.  What a great group we were!
Our amtrac finally got us to shore and we unloaded, but the incoming fire was so great we had to take cover quickly at the seawall where we stayed until the next morning.  The tide came in during the night and got us and our gun all wet.  When daylight came, we went over the seawall with our gun to give fire support.  We worked our way to the point where our line ran from the pier to the airstrip, staying there during the whole battle.  During all my time on Betio, I think I did not sleep at all.
On part of D+2 and D+3, I was part of a burial detail, and on D+3 we were called back to start loading our pack howitzer aboard ship.  A couple of days later, we left Betio and headed for Hawaii and Camp Tarawa.
I remember Camp Tarawa because the people there were very friendly.  We had lots of training getting ready for Saipan.  It was so cold there compared to the temperatures of well over 100° we had at Tarawa.  Looking back, it is easy to understand why so many of us felt so cold:  Tarawa was almost directly on the equator and at sea level, where temperatures were unbelievably hot.  But Camp Tarawa was around 20° the North Latitude and up on the slopes of a snow-capped nearly 14,000’ Mauna Kea, the camp itself located on the Parker Ranch at about 6,000’ altitude!
Looking back now, Tarawa was my first combat.  Our training really helped. A lot went wrong, but all that experience made the next battles easier in some ways.  At Tarawa, there were no front lines, just fluid advancing lines. For the burial detail, we were told the graves were temporary.  We brought the island smell of dirt, sweat, blood and death back to transport, and that made the sailors wretch.  I can tell you,  the Battle for Tarawa was unique: no other battle was like it.  Action there was non-stop chaos, never a second when you did not wonder whether you’d live to see the next second.  We will never know how many were killed.  Every book, article and report gives a difference in the count.  
After Tarawa, I was at Saipan, Tinian, Okinawa and in the occupation of Japan for 5 months in the Nagasaki area.
When it was all over, I had two Presidential Unit Citations, as well as all these memories of what happened at Tarawa.  They will always be with me.
Frank, coming home must have been a great relief!  We will remember your devotion to duty and your comradeship with your buddies Bob, Ray, Charlie, Dave, Ed and Chris.  The bond forged between you guys then and lasting all these decades later is the essence of brotherhood we really admire.  Thank you for your service.
Received 23 November 2010
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