From Long Beach, California, I joined the Marines at age 17.By the time I was 18, I had already been to and through Guadalcanal; had gone to New Zealand; and was in G Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines in the 2nd Marine Division at the invasion of Betio, one of the several small islets at Tarawa Atoll.
That battle was a long, long time ago, so Iíll have to try my best here to share what I remember of those days.
Our unit was part of the 6th Marine Regiment which was held in reserve on D-Day, 20 November 1943.But on D+1, about 15 guys and myself went ashore in the 3rd Wave on Bairiki. Thatís the islet just to the east of Betio where the main action was happening.Equipment I had included my rifle, ammo, backpack and 5 gallons of water. Our job was to establish ourselves as part of a blocking force to engage and stop the Japs who might flee from Betio.For the most part, we got that job done.
One memory in particular stands out as we came ashore:some of our own Marine .30 cal guns were shooting at us and hitting the ramp on our landing craft.Over on Betio and, to a lesser extent on Bairiki, there were bodies of dead Marines and Japs.The sheer noise, smoke, stench of dead bodies was everywhere.Being on the next islet a short distance away was no refuge from the sights and sounds of the action on Betio.The incredible heat, too, was no friend of ours.It got to well over 100į while all this was going on.
When everything was over, I was okay physically Ė no wounds. What I do remember, though, is fighting in that heat really took its toll on me and the others.At the end, we were pretty dirty, exhausted, sunburned and ready for some good chow.††
Prior to Tarawa, I had been at Guadalcanal.As a 17-year old Marine, I sure grew up fast.We had no choice.It was grow up, do the job or die.Many others were in the same situation, but luck was not on their side.They are still there.I lost severalbuddies over there.
Medals I received included the Presidential Unit Citation (Tarawa); the Asiatic-Pacific Citation with 2 stars; and some of the others that most guys got.I was no hero.
Yeah, I remember Camp Tarawa.It was very hilly and cold compared to Tarawa.
Tom, it is hard-working people like you who do the dirty, tough and lethal work your country occasionally calls for.Thank you for your service.We will remember.
Received 18 November 2010
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