Capt. John T. O'Neil
"Landing Ordeal On Tarawa Described By Guadal Vet"
By: Sgt. Hy Hurwitz, Combat Correspondant,
Chevron December 18, 1943
Tarawa Gilbert Islands Nov. 22 (delayed) - "Guadalcanal was child's play compared to this," said Capt. John T. O'Neil of West Sommerville. Mass. who led one of the first assault group onto this heavily fortified island, and who did the same thing when the Marines invaded the Solomons 7 Aug., 1942.
"I had 18 men in my boat," Capt. O'Neil related about his Tarawa ordeal, "and when we were 500 yards from the spot we were supposed to hit, the Japs opened up on us from all directions. About 100 yards from the beach, I was up with my driver and giving him instructions. Before I could finish, he was shot in the heart and slumped into my lap.
Eight of the other men in the boat were hit. So was the boat, but by some miralce I got it straightened around and went back out to evacuate the wounded. I started in a second time in a different craft. This time we met heavier fire. I went back and started in towards a different point, as our original landing position was too heavily defneded.
"I finally landed with 10 men about two hours after we were due to hit the beach. We had to swim about a quarter of a mile to make the beach. All of us had to discard out combat packs and some men even lost their weapons. We were surrounded by the Jap fire, and the only thing we could do was dig in. We stayed there all night in out foxholes and the Japs wiped out half of my men, They seemed to pick out every other foxhole."
The second day, Capt. O'Neil teamed up with a few other groups and began a push across the island.
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