On 20 November 1943, I was in M Battery, 4th Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment (artillery), with the 2nd Marine Division.  With a group of about 18 men, we were in a Higgins landing craft heading to shore in the 2nd wave on Red Beach 2.  
From New Zealand to Tarawa (in the Gilbert Islands; the present-day Republic of Kiribati), I traveled with my unit on the attack transport USS Doyen (APA-1).  We departed the wonderful Land of the Kiwis on 01 November 1943, heading for Efate Island (in the present-day Republic of Vanuatu) for a rendezvous with other transports in Task Force 53. Doyen herself had a remarkable service record during World War II, logging over 100,000 miles in 2.8 years and earning six battle stars along the way.  At one point while at Betio, Doyen came under attack from enemy shore batteries and enemy torpedo bomber aircraft, at the same time as she was embarking Marine casualties from Betio!
We arrived at Betio in the early morning darkness of D-Day, 20 November 1943.  To this day I remember standing at the rail talking with my buddies and watching in the dark as our Navy ships bombarded various targets, followed in daylight by watching our aircraft on bombing and strafing runs.   That action was tremendous to watch!  We thought they had accomplished so much, but the enemy managed to hide deep in prepared bunkers and were there ready to take us on when the assault finally began.
On our run to Red Beach 2, we got hung up on some of the barbed wire on the coral reefs not too far west of the pier, meaning we were sitting ducks for enemy mortars for at least 30 minutes.  In that time, mortars landed all around us but never actually ‘in’ our landing craft.  We were splashed with water, yet we rode out the nearby explosions without injuries.  
Eventually, another landing craft towed us off the reef, and we moved closer to our landing on Red 2.  Our situation became much riskier, though, because we soon discovered something not working as it should with our motor; running onto the reef or when we were towed off, we must have damaged our motor.  As a result, we diverted to Green Beach over on the west end of Betio.  So, an unintentional stranding and a change of course were our first tactical moves when the amphibious assault on Tarawa began.
Very quickly, I can tell you, a greater contrast between the beaches of Tarawa that day and the beaches in my hometown of Santa Monica, California does not exist!
On D-Day at Betio, I was a 22 year-old radio operator with a 68-pound radio on my back with my own backpack suspended beneath that – not good for maneuvering in water or on land while dodging enemy fire!  As a radio operator, my job was to work within a forward observation group and send locations of enemy target sightings to field guns behind and to our battalion headquarters. We worked very close to headquarters simply because the island was so small.
On our initial run to Red 2, the objective was to land not too far to the west of the pier and make our way to battalion headquarters, but because we diverted to the west around the Bird’s Beak to Green Beach, we were a fair distance to the west of our Headquarters.
We found a route through a break in the barbed wire and in a channel of some sort through the coral, and we finally made it to shore.  We saw many dead and wounded, mostly Japs, but there was still lots of shooting.   In that hot midday sun, conditions were awful.
But landing on Green meant we were a long way to the west of where our battalion headquarters was located, back near the pier and not too far from a big bunker.  
We spent the rest of D-Day very close to Green Beach. In fact, I remember digging a foxhole on the beach itself and inflating some life jackets to lie on in the hole!  On D+1, in an eastwardly direction somewhat parallel to and inland from the seawall lining Red 1 and Red 2, we fought our way about halfway back to our battalion headquarters. This means repeatedly running, dropping, crawling, firing, hiding, being fired at, crawling and firing some more until we had to set up for spending the night of D+1.  Keep in mind that all this was happening in something like 115° heat while being shot at! Then, on D+2 we arrived at our headquarters just before the final assaults were made on the big bunker.
Distinctly, I remember carefully approaching one of the entrances to the bunker.  This entrance was down a flight of maybe eight steps with a 90° turn at the bottom of the steps.  A friend of mine was right in front of me when suddenly a Jap appeared from behind the corner and shot my friend.  Immediately, a couple of other Marines threw a couple of grenades down by the base of the steps and killed the Jap.  
By D+3 sometime, our unit had got as far as the east end of the airstrip when the action really tapered off quite noticeably. The overall distance from the bunker area to the east end of the airstrip wasn’t too far, but the fighting was intense and non-stop.  Progress seemed to be made in just inches.
That is when we were called back to the lagoon side of Betio.  I remember seeing the flag-raising ceremony, and then we headed over to a Higgins landing craft for a ride back to Doyen.   All told, I was on Tarawa about four full days.
Fortunately for me, I was not wounded and returned to Doyen which took many of us to Camp Tarawa on the Big Island of Hawaii.  There we did a lot of construction setting up the camp.  I had several liberties.  I was issued a radio Jeep which I used there and later in the war as part of our forward observation group.
Looking back on these events at the age of 91, events at Tarawa really do stand out, possibly even more so than my time at Guadalcanal (before Tarawa) and at Saipan, Tinian and Okinawa (after Tarawa).  After Okinawa, I also spent some time on occupation duty in the Nagasaki area on Kyushu … the Japanese mainland!
As for medals, I guess I’d have to say the ones usually given then to Marines.  That would include the Presidential Unit Citation (Tarawa); the Asiatic-Pacific medal; the WWII Victory medal.  Remarkably, I wasn’t wounded at all in any of the five campaigns I was on, at least nothing serious enough to  and I guess that is why there was no Purple Heart!  I was just very, very, lucky!
Yes, Carl, you were very, very lucky, and this grateful nation is very lucky you were the fine fighting Marine there on Tarawa and the other Pacific campaigns.  Thank you for your service.  We will remember.
Received 28 January 2011
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