Cpl. Louis V. Reagan
Cpl. Louis Reagan was shot six times during the fighting at Tarawa. Unable to move, let alone fight, he spent much of the time worrying about his kid brother, Herbert. Both Reagans, demolitions engineers, survived the battle. Louis lives in Fortuna, Herbert in Norwalk.
The following is Louis's account, written six weeks after the battle in a letter to his sister, Thelma Reagan McDaniel:
I might as well tell you everything I can. Herbert and I were in the battle of Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands.
I landed in the first wave, and Herb in the second. Herb was up the beach from me, probably not more than 100 yards away, although I couldn't see him. We were together until I left the ship.
I guess you heard the battle was the worst in Marine history. I heard it over the radio and don't doubt it at all. It seemed almost everyone in the forst wave was killed. I was very worried about Herb, but thank God he came through without a barbed-wire scratch.
When I got to the beach, I saw plenty of Japanese behind a sand knoll about three feethigh. They were about 10 to 15 feet from where we landed. I don't know how long it was before I was hit, possibly from three to ten minutes. It is hard to judge the time.
The first (hit) came between my legs and cut my pants about six inches but did not touch me. Later, I got one somewhere about the ankle which stung and felt like a little numb.
I was searching for tank mines all the time near the water, where I was standing in plain view for anyone to shoot me. There was one fellow there to help me. He got hit getting out of the amphibian tractor or tank.*
After I was hit in the ankle, I went back to the tank beside my partner. He seemed to be getting along okay. I fored a few rounds from there and then threw my hand grenade over the sand dune where I had seen the Japanese. Our troops were face down on the ground on this side of the sand dune. Others threw grenades over there too.
Then I was hit in the hip, which put me out of action. This time it hurt badly for a while. There were many wounded lying around. I didn't feel like digging in, so I just lay really still hoping the Japanese would think I was dead. They continued firing and I don't know how they missed me so often.
That night, my partner, who had been shot in the back, crawled over to me. He had been hit again, this time in the eye. He started digging me a foxhole, and many buddies came back to set up a defensive position for the night. They dug us all a hole and got us some water off the dead.
I was pretty sure my partner was taken back to the ship that night. The next day, I could see 300 or 400 yards up and down the beach on either side of me. I saw the fourth wave try to come in. Their boats could not get to the beach because of the coral (reef).
Marines got out and started to wade toward the shore. The Japanese machine gunners seemed to have killed most of them. I saw only two get to the beach, but I found out later there were many more. It looked as if we had lost the battle that day.
The third day I felt as if I was done for. The sun was very hot as we were just a little way fro the equator and one wanted alot of water, but got very little. This day I didn't get any water at all. I could see many Marines coming in at a pier about 300 yards on my right and they were getting in easily. On the left, there were more coming towards the beach.
That morning, I got my left little finger hit when I was shaking sand out of my helmet. That afternoon, I felt preety dizzy.
The other fellows (nearby) had died, and I was the only one left. The snipers shot at me every day. By the afternoon of the third day, I was hoping they would shoot me and get me out of my misery.
Once I tried to make it to the wrecked tank about twenty feet away. I made it only one turn and saw it was impossible. I went blind and got sick. I rolled back into my foxhole and in a little while I could see again.
I wanted to get to that tank for the little shade it offered. About four o'clock, the Marines made a drive through and cleaned the Japanese out pretty well. About sundown, they came for me with a stretcher. They could only get as far as the tank because the snipers had a good bead on my foxhole.
They wanted me to crawl to the tank but I couldn't. One of the men crawled out to get me. The snipers were very active then. I had a rope which I slipped around my shoulder and (Marines) pulled the other end. By pushing with my good foot, I reached the tank.
They gave me water. I didn't know words to express my thanks for what they had done. They put me in a rubber boat and paddled me out to a barge which took me to the ship.
Everyone was so nice to me. I hadn't seen or heard from Herb since I left the ship three days before. I thought he was dead. I had prayed much for him when I was on the beach, but I didn't have any faith in my prayers helping too much.
Now that I was safe, I felt worse about him and couldn't bear the idea of meeting mother again without him. I don't have to tell you the happiest moment of my life was the forth day out in the ship when Herb walked up to my bed. We were forunate to be on the same ship.
Althogether, I was hit six times. twice in the right shoulder and once in my ankle. They didn't break any bones and it didn't amount to anything.
Another bullet went through my finger, but all my trouble was with the two bullets in my hip. It will be weeks before I can get up, but I will be as good as new, according to the doctor.
Lots of love to all, dear.
*Note: The tank Cpl. Reagan refers to is probably an LVT.
Reprinted with permission.
Source: Tom Hennessey, "Remembering Tarawa," Press Telegram, 26 June 1988, p.7.
copyright 2004 T.O.T.W.
Created 1 May 2004