[Bob Tagert, publisher of the Old Town Crier in Alexandria, Virginia, has kindly given his permission for the use of his article “Last Marine Standing ... Norman Hatch” in the Living Tarawa Veterans Roster.  Mr. Tagert’s article forms the second parts of thIs report on Norman Hatch.] 
In September 1939 when World War II began, I was 18 and joined the United States Marine Corps from my hometown of Gloucester, Massachusetts.  Boot camp for me was at Parris Island in South Carolina. 
A glimpse into the origins of my interest in photography comes from National Public Radio reporter Tom Bowman, who wrote, “Hatch says he caught the photography bug early … He and his friends would grab their cameras and head to Boston’s Howard Theater, an old burlesque house, where they would secretly snap pictures of the dancers on stage … Hatch was eager to put his photography skills to work.”
After boot camp, I was chosen to teach English at the Marine Corps Institute in Washington, DC for six months.   I then became a staff writer for “Leatherneck Magazine,” the USMC journal, and was later transferred to the Navy Public Affairs office.  To this day, I still write a regular column for the “Leatherneck Magazine.”
I really wanted to become a cameraman and applied to go to “The March of Time“ school to become a motion-picture cameramen.  Finally, I got into and graduated from that school’s six month training program.  I then went to New Zealand where for 11 months I filmed training activities at our Marine camps at McCay’s Crossing and Paekakariki.  This is where men of the 2nd Marine Division were returning to after the Battle of Guadalcanal for rest, rehab, new equipment and training.
By November 1943, I was a 22-year-old Staff Sergeant and a cinematographer NCO in the Photographic Section of the 2nd Marine Division.  On 1 November, we departed from beautiful Wellington, New Zealand on the USS Heywood (APA-6). I pretty well had the run of the ship.  Because I was nearly always topside, I was comfortable - unlike most of the troops crammed into tight quarters below decks - and saw plenty of spectacularly beautiful sunrises and sunsets while at sea.  Our ultimate destination was unknown, although we stopped for about a week at Efate Island in the New Hebrides for additional amphibious landings training and a rendezvous with more vessels in our attack force.  
Heywood was originally built in 1919 for the Baltimore Mail Line and named SS Steadfast.  Acquired by the Navy on 26 October 1940, she was converted into an attack transport, becoming the first in the Heywood-class of attack transports.  She participated in campaigns at Tulagi-Guadalcanal in August 1942 and in the Aleutian Islands at Attu and Kiska in the summer of 1943.  By early October 1943, she was in New Zealand, participating in amphibious exercises training for the next campaign.  Little did we know then that the next campaign would be at Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, almost 3,000 miles to the north of Wellington, New Zealand which was the port from which we departed after many months at the training camps at Paekakariki.
USS Heywood (APA-6) in San Pedro Harbor, Los Angeles, in April 1943
USS Heywood (APA-6) in San Pedro Harbor, Los Angeles, in April 1943
Mele Bay, Efate, New Hebrides (now, Republic of Vanuatu)
I left the Heywood at Tarawa on 20 November 1943, but in 1944 she assisted in the operations in the Marshall Islands; the Marianas; and the Philippines.  In 1945 Heywood landed reinforcements at Okinawa and was back in the Philippines when Japan announced its surrender on 15 August (six days after our atomic attack on Nagasaki).  She was present in Tokyo Bay on 2 September when the formal surrender of all Imperial Japanese forces was accepted on board the USS Missouri (BB-63), and she brought occupation troops into Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945.
All told, Heywood was a well-traveled and highly decorated vessel, earning seven battle stars during the war. She returned Stateside in early 1946 and was given back her original civilian name, City of Baltimore.
Now, at close to 93, it is not as easy as it used to be to remember all the details about that battle, but I never have forgotten Tarawa, even after the elapse of 69 years!   
In the early morning hours of 20 November 1943, I remember approaching Red Beach 3, amid some fire coming from Japanese positions on shore.  Our amtrac was one of the first to get ashore on Betio, unlike many others that were stranded on the off shore reefs.  A lot of luck certainly explains our relatively safe arrival.  By shortly after 0900, my turn came to disembark with 20 other guys from Major “Jim” Crowe’s 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines just east of the long Government Pier.   
This photo of LVT-1 #45 en route to Red Beach 3, just east of the long Government Pier was taken 
at exactly the same place and the approximate time as when Norm Hatch came in to Red Beach 3
We were in the first boat wave onto Red 3. To be sure, I was a free-lancer, intent on going where I thought I could best photograph the action.  While most Marines were dog-paddling toward shore, I had to wade in carrying my photographic equipment over my head to keep it dry.  Initially, there was relative quiet, compared with events I could hear from over on Red 2 and Red 1.  I soon realized I had to change shutter speeds to compensate for the smoke. I was very busy photographing disembarking activities and movements inland.  Initially, there was some fire from machine guns and the 8” rifles, but things quickly got worse.
Several passages in 76 Hours: The Invasion of Tarawa by Eric Hammel and John Lane relate clearly how chaotic events became for us.   Marine units were “pulverized in the initial landing and subsequent stalemate.  Plans fell apart quickly and many Marines were cut down in enemy fire that swept the beach area.  Nobody got very far inland for three days.  Company F was particularly hard hit, and every one of its officers had been wounded.  Only Company E remained largely intact.   Elements of Major Ruud’s 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines were brought in to reinforce the Marines Hatch had come in with, but they too were raked by enemy fire and struggled to regroup.   Some of the guys fought their way in behind the palm log seawall to form a meandering perimeter roughly 100 – 200 feet inland, but casualties were heavy. Periodically, Marines had fire support from U.S. Navy battleships and U.S. Navy aircraft, and that helped quell the effect of enemy fire and reinforcements from Japanese units on the left flank, but units from the 2nd and 3rd Battalions were effectively stopped in their tracks for two days.  The tide of battle began to change on D+2. 
On that day, between 0930 and about 1400, portions of Major Crowe’s 2nd Battalion fought their way toward a group of well-built defensive positions (coconut-log structures and pillboxes) on the left flank.  One of the Marine’s Sherman M4 medium tanks – “Colorado” – hit a steel pillbox with a round from its 75mm cannon, and that permitted more freedom of movement to our Marines.
Around 1300, Company F, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, attacked a large covered bunker.  “It fell to Major Bill Chamberlin, Crowe’s exec, to organize this attack.  Chamberlin and Hatch had been crouching behind the palm log seawall when, finally, he told the men, “When I yell ‘Follow me!’ you follow me up that bombproof!”
And that’s when Chamberlin and Hatch ran like hell to the top of that bunker.”  
As Hammel and Lane recount, “the major and the cameraman – who was carrying his movie camera – stared in amazement as a squad of Japanese broke into the open and turned toward the two Marines, who were silhouetted at the highest point of Betio’s smoky skyline.  Chamberlin instantly prepared to fire, but it was then that he realized he had given his weapons away.
Norm Hatch wordlessly looked on.  The major looked at him, snapping him into action.  Hatch placed his precious movie camera under his arm and furiously sifted through his film-filled bandoleers in search of his .45-calibre pistol, which had long since been twisted out of reach behind his back.  He looked at Chamberlin in helpless dismay, and Chamberlin muttered one curt suggestion, “Let’s get the hell out of here!”
The two turned and barreled off the mound, unhurt, furious.”
The memory of the overwhelming stench of the dead and the thick black smoke will never leave me.  I tried my best to capture the visual facts of events as they unfolded.  Keep in mind that I was ‘armed’ only with my hand-cranked 16mm Bell & Howell - not a rifle!  I chose to film mainly in black-and-white, which lent itself quite well to creating very stark and powerful images.
Not long after, 1st Lieutenant Alexander “Sandy” Bonnyman (from 2nd Battalion, 18th Marines Shore Party) began his group’s attack on the same bunker Chamberlin and Hatch had just left. 
It is recommended that the reader view Lt. Bonnyman's posthumous Medal of Honor citation to learn vividly what he and his men achieved and what I saw and photographed from just a few yards away …
D+2:  Flamethrowers from Bonnyman's group clear a machine gun position on top of the bunker
The movie With the Marines at Tarawa is from film footage I shot at Tarawa.  It was made for public showing back home in 1944, and many of its scenes disturbed President Roosevelt enough that it almost did not get shown.  The President, though, was persuaded that knowing the truth of what was happening out in the Pacific was important to get people to support the war effort.  In 1945 this film won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject.  Despite what some said, it was clear to me that the Marine Corps - not I - had won that award.
D+2:  Final assault on the large Japanese bombproof shelter near the Burns-Philp pier. 
Photo by SSgt Norman Hatch
For two weeks after the battle I remained on Betio, and then I went to the next islet to the east of Betio for a week.  There, on Bairiki, I lived in the chief’s hut as his guest and went skinny dipping in the ocean while waiting for transports to arrive to take us to Camp Tarawa on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Not a bad assignment, but somebody had to do it!  Besides, what a joyful payback for what I had just been through!  Obviously, I knew I had been lucky not getting wounded during the battle.  I was in good condition. 
D+2:  SSgt Norman Hatch filming at the large Japanese bombproof shelter near the Burns-Philp pier on D+2
I was at Camp Tarawa for a short time, but I was ordered home to Washington, DC to be part of the 4th War Loan Drive which ran from mid-January to mid-February 1944.  Although our goal was $14 billion to be raised largely from farmers and women, we eventually raised $16.7 billion in sales of nearly 70 million bonds.  In 2012 dollars, that amount equals approximately $216.57 billion - in one month!
When the 4th War Loan Drive finished, I was transferred to the 5th Marine Division and was again back at work as a combat cinematographer in time to serve at the Battle of Iwo Jima (19 February - 26 March 1945).  En route to Iwo Jima, I briefly revisited Camp Tarawa.  Longer and more costly than the battle at Tarawa, the Battle of Iwo Jima in 36 days of combat caused American forces more than 26,000 casualties, of whom 6,800 died.  Japanese survivors numbered 1,083 out of an original force of about 20,000.   Both battles were hell - dirty, violent, brutal and destructive, but that is war and shooting pictures of those events was my job.
Two generally accepted assessments of the Battle of Tarawa exist.  One view is that Tarawa was the first successful amphibious assault against a heavily fortified beachhead in the history of warfare  Events at Tarawa provided lessons for future amphibious landings in the Pacific.  The other view is that Tarawa was the first in a series of battles leading to the Marshall Islands (where the Japanese 6th Fleet Forces Service was headquartered) and then to the Marianas much further to the northwest.  It would be from the islands of Saipan and Tinian in the Marianas that new long-range bombers - the B-29 Superfortress - would be within range for making successful bombing raids to and from the Japanese homeland.  It was from North Field on Tinian that the B-29 Enola Gay delivered the atomic bomb “Little Boy” to Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, followed three days later by the B-29 Bockscar which delivered the atomic bomb “Fat Boy” to Nagasaki.   These actions led to Japan’s declaration of surrender on 15 August 1945 and the signing of the formal surrender of all Imperial Japanese forces on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945.   For all that to happen, the battle at Tarawa was the starting point in the Central Pacific for that almost two-year campaign.
In total, Norm Hatch served our country with valor and distinction in the U.S. Marine Corps for 40 years and 6 months, retiring in 1981 as a Major.  Several sources convey the details of his illustrious career, including …
Still productive and going strong, Major Hatch completed his highly acclaimed new book War Shots (Stackpole Books) that was released to the public in January 2011.
Reminiscing in May 2012, about a group photograph of his fellow combat photographers taken at Tarawa and about the fierce struggle for Tarawa that had finished 68½ previously, 
Most of the Combat Cameramen unit after the capture of Betio
Front Row (l to r):               Tech. Sgt. Carlos Steele, Cpl. Jack Ely, Sgt. Ferman H. Dixon,
                                            SSgt. John F. Ercole, Cpl. E. Newcomb and Sgt. Ernest J. Diet
Second Row:                       Pvt. Chris G. Demo, Sgt. Forest Owens, Cpl. Jim R. Orton and 
                                            Cpl. Raymond Matjasic
Back Row:                          Sgt. Roy Olund, Capt. Louis Hayward, Marine Gunner John F.                                                      
                                            Leopold and SSgt. Norman Hatch.  PFC. William Kelliher, 
                                            another cameraman, was not present for the picture.
Hatch commented, “That (below) is the picture of the photographers of the 2nd Marine Division that landed on Tarawa.  I am right here (back row, fourth from the left), at the top.  They are all gone, all gone.  I have never forgotten the battle at Tarawa.”
Norm Hatch's World War II military awards include the . . .
Navy Commendation Medal for service at Tarawa (1943)
Bronze Star
for service at Iwo Jima (1945)
Norm, your service, professionalism and photographic legacy inform and inspire our entire nation.  Because of your accomplishments, we can vicariously benefit from your remarkable efforts for generations.  For this, you are and will remain a national treasure.
[From the June 2010 issue of Old Town Crier, the following article appears here verbatim because of permission given on 3 January 2011 by its author.]
“Last Marine Standing … Norman Hatch”
Bob Tagert
          When I went for my interview with World War II Marine photographer Norman Hatch I was well prepared.  I had gotten some preliminary information from Google, but what I didn’t know, was how much I would learn about the Pacific Campaign in World War II.  At 89 years old, Major Hatch, retired, can recount his days on Tarawa and Iwo Jima as clearly as the day he filmed these invasions.  If you Google Norman Hatch, you can find out a wealth of information on his pioneering of combat cinematography, but I went a little bit farther back to his early days in Gloucester, Massachusetts.  When I asked him about a number of sailboat pictures hanging on the wall in his home office, he responded, “I’m a Gloucester boy and that’s a Friendship Sloop, from Friendship, Maine.”  “You know the actor, Sterling Hayden, well he bought one up in Maine and sailed it to Gloucester … he was a good sailor, you know.  It was a beautiful boat, so I went over and introduced myself and soon we became good friends.”
          Thus was the life of a small town boy who one day brought the images of war to every American.  Hayden and Hatch sailed that sloop for a couple of summers.  “Here was this 6-foot handsome guy who the girls just loved, and he was terribly shy around women.”  I told him, “Sterling, you just try and bear with it, and I will take any that fall by the wayside.”  I think that, at a young age, Norman Hatch had that twinkle in his eye that I see as he remembers days gone by.  Hatch wasn’t a bad sailor himself.  “At the age of 17, I was the youngest person to take a large boat out of Gloucester Harbor in a hundred years,” he tells me.  That is no small feat when the boat is 123 feet long, the helmsman is at the stern, and you can’t see past the bow.
          When it came time for Hatch to seek gainful employment, his father advised him to join the Navy.  Here you could learn a trade, and when you got out in four years, you would have a marketable skill.  “Well, I went down to the Navy recruiting office and signed up.  They told me that there was about a three-month wait, as the quota had been reduced.   I went back in one month and they said the quota had been reduced again and they were only taking 8 recruits a month.”  This went on for a year and nothing had happened, so the last time he went to the recruiting office he had to walk by the Marine recruiting office.  “Well, I walked in there and said, Sergeant if I said that I wanted to join the Marine Corps today, when could you take me?”  “The Sergeant said, do you want to leave tomorrow or two weeks from tomorrow?”
          In 1939, at the age of 18, Norm Hatch went to Parris Island for his initial Marine training.  After which he was accepted as an English instructor for the Marine Corps Institute in Washington where he remained for 6 months.  He then joined the staff of Leatherneck Magazine, the USMC journal.  From here he traded positions with a fellow at the Navy Public Affairs office.  It was while at the Public Affairs Office that Hatch realized that he wanted to be a cameraman.  After being rejected three times, he was finally selected (with the help of a few key contacts) and went to New York to begin his training.
          At the battle of Tarawa, in the Gilbert Islands, Norm Hatch was the first cameraman to hit the beach and therefore filmed most of the first hand action.  Tarawa was one of America’s first victories in a long march up the Pacific chain.  It was also one of the war’s fiercest and bloodiest battles.  More than 1,000 Marines would die in the 76-hour battle.  The Japanese would lose almost 4,000.  “The film shot on Tarawa was a first because it showed what combat was really like,” Hatch tells me.  “When looking through the viewfinder, I was living in a movie,” he said.  “I was disassociated from what was going on around me.”  “You can’t take pictures laying down.  Being a cameraman was like having a target on your back,” Hatch said.  “We were walking upright shooting film, while everyone else was down at helmet level in the water.”  “There was one moment when someone shouted, ‘here come the Japs.”  “I turned slightly and kept shooting.  It was the first time that both fighting sides were caught in the same frame of film.”
          After Tarawa had been taken, Hatch’s film was transported to San Francisco and developed for newsreels.  It was picked up by all five of the US newsreel companies, being accredited to Hatch.  This had never been done before. The footage was subsequently edited by Warner Brothers studios in Hollywood into the short movie “With the Marines at Tarawa”, a documentary that showed audiences the true horror and intensity of the fighting in the Pacific.  Today we see images and movies of war and the horrors.  In 1943, this type of action was unknown, except to the participants.  The documentary went on to win the Academy Award in 1944.  Even though Hatch filmed at least 1/3 of the footage used and his name was linked to the film, he is quick to point out that it is not his award, but it belongs to the Marines that fought at Tarawa.  Hatch went on to film the fighting at Iwo Jima, and had a long career as a cameraman.
          As you will notice by one of the photos that accompany this article, Norman Hatch looks a bit like Errol Flynn.  “Let me tell you about that,” he said.  “When I was out in Hollywood at the Warner Brothers lot, I was having lunch in the cafeteria and Errol Flynn walked in.  He wanted to meet me and I asked him why, and he said, ‘I have all of these action roles and I would like to pick your brain to find out what war is really like’.”  For the next week they met every day and talked.    
          Norman Hatch retired from active duty in 1946.  He finally retired from the Marine Corps as a Major in 1981.  Retired?  I don’t think so.  Hatch is alive and animated as he recounts of times long ago.  He lives with his wife on Mt. Ida Street in Del Ray and is surrounded by 60 years of history among the many books and files in his office.  And he is still not done.  For the past year and a half Hatch has come up with a manuscript about his life.  He is hoping to have it published in April of next year.  He is leaning toward War Shot as the title, but I don’t think he is 100% settled on it.  After all, there is plenty of time and I think his keen mind will not stand still until he is positive of the title, and maybe the “last Marine standing”.
Received 1 February 2011; updated 15 November 2012
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