ROBERT L. GRAHAM
Anderson, Indiana, a small rural community east of Indianapolis, is where I grew up.
From there, I joined the U.S. Marine Corps when I was 18, a year or so before the attack on Pearl Harbor.††
I was in I Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines in the 2nd Marine Division.The night before the assault began, I remember having a good big breakfast; checking and rechecking my Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR); getting my equipment together (including ammo, grenades, gas mask, pack, canteen and some extra clothes); talking with other guys, wondering what we were getting into and writing a letter to my girl friend.††
In a group of about 14 other guys, we went ashore in the 1st wave to Red Beach 1.It was touch and go as far as making it to the beach, but we succeeded, despite running into some shore-based fire.Even now, I remember the surprise, if not shock, that so much action was coming from Betio.That was a very disappointing surprise because of the heavy bombardment our Navy had given the island and because we had been told that getting the job done would be fairly quick, enabling us to get on to our next battle some place in the Marshall Islands.
The amount of noise from explosions, repeated firing at us en route to shore, the fires and smoke set the stage for a lot of subsequent confusion and chaos once we got on shore.Already, there were bodies of the enemy and Marines floating at the surf line, and the stench was terrible.And it only got worse.
Our first main task was to get to and over the sea wall and then just kill Japs.I had not been on Betio too long before I received a concussion, which effectively put me out of action.No more battles for this Marine.Vaguely I remember that by the time the fighting was over, I was somewhere in the Red Beach 2 area, not far from the pier.That means, then, my part of the Battle of Tarawa was confined largely to the area close to the beach on the lagoon side, from a point in the cove area near the Birdís Beak over closer toward the pier.I was on Betio probably for no more than about 70 hours before I was evacuated.††
Medals received include the Presidential Unit Citation for participating in the taking of Betio.There are others, the usual that all Marines received for being there.
Now at age 88, I look back on Tarawa.That battle was hell.As far as I am concerned, the whole operation was poorly planned, and that was the reason we had so many needless casualties.
Bob, thank you for your service.We will remember your service and sacrifice.
SEMPER FI,BOB !
Received 18 November 2010
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