I came from Missoula, Montana and was 17 when I entered the service.  When the assault on Betio began, I was a 19-year old amtrac driver in C Company, 2nd Amphibian Tractor Battalion.    I am now 88 years old.
Waiting to disembark in the early morning hours of 20 November, I still remember praying, trying to sleep, having a meal of steak and eggs and watching the fireworks coming from the battleships in their pre-assault bombardment of the island.  
I had 26 men in my LVT-1 and my objective was to get them to Red Beach 2 in the First Wave, but we hit the reef about 500 yards from shore and were knocked out of action there.  In fact, that day 125 amphibious tractors (amtracs) were in the assault, but fully 95 were lost on the first day of action.  The loss of men and equipment there was terrible.
Located at the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Virginia, this LVT-1 amphibious tractor is shown breaching the defensive log wall on Betio, Tarawa Atoll
More descriptive information on LVT-1 amphibious tractors can be found at:
When my part of the fighting stopped, I was at the sea wall close to the end of the pier.  What I still remember most when I got to the beach is the incredible noise and the awful stench from dead bodies.  You just can’t forget that sort of thing, even 67 years later.
For my 19 days at Tarawa, I was involved with salvaging 30 tractors and hauling troops and supplies into shore.   After Tarawa, we departed for Camp Tarawa on the Big Island of Hawaii.  We were there for a short period, but needing water, we moved down to Camp Drews on the beach, the present day location of Hapuna Beach State Park.
After Tarawa, I participated in the action at Saipan and Tinian.  All told, during this Pacific Campaign I received the Presidential Unit Citation for action at Tarawa; Victory Medal; Bronze Star (with Combat V); the American Defense Medal and the Asiatic Pacific Medal (with 3 stars).
This pretty well summarizes all I wish to share at this time.
According to a retired Marine who knows Don well, “Don is an excellent Marine and is still very active in his community."
Thanks for your lesson on the proper pronunciation of Tarawa, with the major emphasis on the second syllable … Ta RA wa!
Thanks for your service to our country, Don.  SEMPER FI !
Received 29 October 2010; updated 19 November 2012; 17 February 2013
Return to ROSTER