From Cleveland, Ohio, I joined the U.S. Marines when I was 17.   On 20 November 1943, when the Battle of Tarawa began, I was 18 years and 25 days old.  While my memory on some things could be better, some dates and events are burned into my memory and will never leave.  Much of what happened at Tarawa will never leave, even though at times I really wish I could forget certain things.
I was in K Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines in the 2nd Marine Division when we left New Zealand on about 01 November on the attack transport USS Arthur Middleton (APA-25), a vessel manned jointly by Coat Guard and Navy personnel. And headed for a rendezvous with other vessels to form Task Force 53.
We arrived off Betio on the evening before the assault began.  I remember a good meal of steak and eggs and talking with guys below decks.  But in the 1st wave on D-Day, I was with about 14 buys in an amtrac headed for, I think, Red Beach #2.  With me, I took my 30 cal machine gun and ammo boxes. Personally, I thought going ashore was quite exciting, especially when bullets were hitting us all the way in.  Somehow, some things just didn’t add up because they had told us there would be hardly any opposition.
But it was an absolute horror show:  everything was so surreal, with guys getting killed left and right.  And this chaos from all directions before and after we landed went on for 4 consecutive days.  
I guess you could say that my objective after hitting the beach was to stay alive. Our company – or at least what remained of it, was scattered.  There was utter chaos that first morning.  We lobbed grenades in a couple of pillboxes, and we were constantly pinned down.  That first day is when I was wounded, but I stayed in the action until we all left on the 4th day.  We finally broke out from Red Beach #2 and by the end of everything, we found ourselves over on the south side of the island by the airstrip sometime during our third day.  On my fourth day, some of my buddies and I were taken to the USS Sheridan (APA-51) and taken to Hawaii.
After Tarawa, I was at both Saipan and Okinawa.  I earned the Purple Heart and most of the ones other guys got, but believe me, I was no hero.   I just did my job the best I could.  
I went back to Tarawa for the 50th anniversary of the battle on 30 November 1943.  I couldn’t help but notice the reception by the islanders was a lot friendlier than our 1943 visit!
Ralph, thank you for your service and grit for fighting right through to the end despite having been wounded on the first day you were there.  That says volumes about your character and dedication, and for that we as a country are truly grateful. We will remember.
Received 17 November 2010
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