Private First Class Neil H. Buckley
My memory of the Tarawa....
I recall that my boat could not make it over the reef so the cox'n dumped us onto the seaplane ramp. The ramp had been burning and by the time we landed on it, the wood had turned into charcoal. My clothes began burning so I knelt down and placed both knees on my right wrist to limit the area of exposure. --I'll bet some thought I was praying. --
At about that time, I looked up toward the top of the pier and saw Bulldog walking down the pier toward the beach. I remember thinking that he was either crazy or a real brave guy to do that, and I was amazed that he didn't take a hit when a shell struck some 50 gal. drums in the area where he was walking.
I felt a stinging sensation in my right shoulder but didn't think much of it at the time. I discovered that stinging was caused by a metal object that struck my shoulder and probably came from the exploding drums. By that time the charcoal had burned through my sleeve and was burning the flesh off my wrist,---and I didn't even feel it! I jumped into the water, off the right side of the pier, and began walking toward the beach, treading water up to my chin. Somebody yelled that Japs were holed up between the pylons so I carefully checked out those areas prior to moving on. It seemed that it took forever to reach the beachhead but it was possibly only one or two hours.
I remember meeting up with you at the beachhead and I think we had some conversation but I don't remember what it was. At one point you said, "let's go over the top, Buck". I took that to mean we should cross over the top of the pier to reach the CP, located next to a disabled amtrac.
Next, I recall standing watch on a TBY that day and into the night. I neither sent nor receive any messages because, as I later learned, the damn thing was inoperative, due no doubt, to having been soaked in salt water. I think that most of the radio traffic was handled either by Col. Shoup's or Maj. Crowe's TBX.
At some point in time during the second day, I was to ordered to report to a rifle company located near the large Jap concrete bunker. Some Japs made a run for it out of one of the bunkers and we all fired away but I don't think we hit them. Later that day we moved toward the bunker finding only dead Japs. The fighting was fairly intense that night.
My next recollection is that on the third day, others and I boarded Higgins boats and motored over to Abemama. Our mission was to intercept those Japs who were fleeing Tarawa. There was some sporadic fighting but we didn't see any significant action. I did not know it at the time, but 20 or 30 guys from another company were killed in a fire fight that night.
That's about all I remember. I think we were extremely lucky to have been dumped on the pier because had we landed in the designated area (on the beach left of the pier), we might not have survived. Steeb says he transited the left side of the pier. That was the side receiving most of the Jap fire so he was also lucky. My wounds and burns were tended to by a corpsman whose name I don't recall.
Thanks to Les Groshong, for making this information available.
copyright 2003 Wheaton, Illinois
Created 15 March 2003