From Kalispell, Montana, I entered the Marine Corps at age 18. I’m not sure what transport took us from New Zealand, but I think it may have been the USS J. Franklin Bell (AKA-16).  I was in A Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines Regiment 2nd Marine Division.  
Our unit was being held in reserve on D-Day to see where we might be needed if things got going too bad with some other unit.  My unit was in rubber boats and we were sent in during the night on the night of D+1.  I don’t remember now which beach we went in on.  I do remember, though, that while going in to shore, I was simply concerned with getting there and not being shot.  I just wanted to get ashore and dig a hole before dawn.  There even might have been a moment when I actually caught a sort nap.  I call it “sleeping with the enemy!”   We got in and on shore successfully; we didn’t have any action at that point.  I think they thought we were part of their own men landing.  It was pretty scary landing and digging in the dark because we couldn’t see too far.  I was a 60mm mortar leader and carried the base plate that the mortar tube was attached to when set to fire.
After the last part of the battle, some of us in the 6th Marines were assigned to pick up and bury the dead.  The temperature was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, so with 5,000 dead Japs and over 1,000 dead Marines, we needed to get them all buried quickly.  The SeaBees dug big trenches, and we put Japs and Marines in the same trench to try to get rid of the smell.   Recently, I have heard where they are digging up bones on the island.  There were several trenches dug.
At the very end of the whole battle, I was sent up to the last fight on Buariki, up at the north end where the Japs were pushed.  We could hear them drinking sake to wait until dawn to make their last effort to kill us Marines.  We heard them yell, “Marines, you die!”  We yelled back, “Tojo eats shit!”  When that last fight ended, I had fired about 40 rounds of 60mm shells in about a 1 hour period!
After about 65 hours at Tarawa, I was able to get on a transport (I don’t remember now which one it was) and leave for Camp Tarawa.  During that battle for Tarawa, I never even got a scratch, but I guess I was just plain lucky.
The memories I have of Camp Tarawa are few.  I remember constant training, and I remember we were hauled in stake-backed trucks to go on liberty in Hilo.  The black dust was so thick by the time we got to town, we needed another shower.  So, we finally drew straws to see which one would go to town and bring back fish and chips.
I had been at Guadalcanal prior to Tarawa.  Then I was at New Zealand for several months.  And I was at Saipan after Camp Tarawa.
Medals I received include one Purple Heart, the Presidential Unit Citation (Tarawa) and the other usual medals that other Marines got.  
The Battle for Tarawa was a long, long time ago.  Remembering that far back for this 86 year old Marine isn’t too easy to do.  Maybe that’s a good thing.
Hal, you did your duty and you were lucky. Your sacrifices, courage and love for our country shall not be forgotten.  Thank you for your service.
Received 23 November 2010
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