Tarawa: 'The bloodiest battle of the Pacific'
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  1. #1

    Cool Tarawa: 'The bloodiest battle of the Pacific'

    Tarawa: 'The bloodiest battle of the Pacific'
    November 25,2003

    "The sky this morning is just like it was 60 years ago. There weren't a cloud in the sky that morning," said Calvin Sipes, who remembered being surrounded by mild weather in November of 1943. On that same day six decades ago, Sipes was also surrounded by death.

    "I was going in, in an amtrack, and that machine gunner had us zeroed in. It sounded like hail on a tin roof," remembered Sipes. "I got out of the amtrack … (and) the machine gunner got me."

    Sipes, who eventually recovered from the gunshot wounds to his side and through his hip, joined 64 other veterans of the Battle of Tarawa Thursday aboard Camp Lejeune for 2nd Marine Division's 60th anniversary commemoration of one of the bloodiest battles in Marines Corps history.

    The fight was for the Gilbert Islands. The main assault was for control of Betio Island, an islet in the atoll of Tarawa, and its Japenese-held airstrip. Operation Galvanic began Nov. 20, 1943 and ended 76 hours later with more than 1,000 Marines killed and nearly 2,300 wounded.

    "It just seemed like it was important," said Sipes of making the trip from Loudonville, Ohio, with his wife, Nellie, for this year's reunion, "and I thought I'd run into a few fellas I used to know."

    Even though he didn't, the best part of his visit, said Sipes, was "just visiting with the other fellas."

    That included, he said, the active duty Marines who were assigned as escorts to each of the veterans.

    Cpl. David Wiseman, 22, escorted the Sipes.

    "It's an honor actually," said Wiseman of the day's duty. "The whole time Marines are in the Corps, you hear the stories and are held to a higher standard because of what they've done in the past."

    Wiseman, in turn, shared a little with Sipes about what they do in the present.

    "He's amazed with the training we're going through now," said Wiseman, as the two men took in the technology on display.

    Dean Snyder, 86 and from Streator, Ill., looked over an assault amphibian vehicle before heading on to some of the other equipment.

    "I told them fellas I hope they don't have to go through the same," said Snyder, who was a 26-year-old private first class when he found himself in eight-foot deep water and 800 yards from Betio Island.

    "You pushed the bodies out of the way and pushed through the bloody water," said Snyder of the hours he spent in the water before making it ashore. When he finally did, he was shot through the side, and a wounded Snyder headed back into the bloodied water.

    Eddie Albert, most famous for his role on TV's "Green Acres" but at the time a Navy lieutenant, rescued Snyder and 44 other men, taking them safely aboard the USS Schroeder.

    Snyder was made an honorary member of the Schroeder and usually attends their reunions. This year, he decided to make his first visit to Lejeune.

    "I thought if I'm ever gonna go, I better go now," said Snyder, who had hoped to see at least one other veteran from the intelligence division, which lost 14 of its 29 men fighting at Tarawa. At the last reunion Snyder attended, there were three. "One by one," he said, "they started dropping off."

    Hawk Rader, 79, also hoped to run into some old buddies, but he recognized only "one or two" names there.

    "There's not many of us left who fought on Tarawa," said Rader. "It was such a difficult battle. I lost a lot of friends."

    Rader, a machine gunner who was hit in the back by shrapnel but not seriously injured, believes that Tarawa, what he refers to as "the bloodiest battle of the Pacific" was horribly miscalculated - they went in at low tide, maps were outdated, the number of men on the island was estimated by the number of outhouses.

    "We faced the best the Japanese had at Tarawa," said Rader of the force that bragged it couldn't be taken by even a million troops. "We took it with less than 20,000 men."

    Rader's grandson and daughter joined him for this year's commemoration.

    "This might be my last one, and they think this might be my last one, so they wanted to come with me," said Rader. "It means a lot."

    Aaron Berthold, 18 and from Lansdale, Penn., joined his aunt in Baltimore prior to the Camp Lejeune visit with his grandfather, Rader.

    "Being here, it sort of helped me," said Berthold. "I did not understand Tarawa as much as I do now … It's one of the bloodiest battles ever."

    Growing up, Berthold had heard his grandfather's tales from that time and that place.

    "He talks about it," said Berthold, who remembered the "gruesome stories," like when Rader reached for his buddy in combat and his hand went through the guy that had been fighting at his side a moment before. "In his mind, the only way to solve the anger and everything about it is to talk about it. Some guys won't. I guess it's their way of dealing with it."




  2. #2

    Cool Marines remember Tarawa heroes

    Marines remember Tarawa heroes
    Submitted by: Marine Forces Pacific
    Story Identification Number: 20031126144243
    Story by Pfc. Bernadette L. Ainsworth

    BETIO, Tarawa Atoll (Nov. 26, 2003) -- Sixty years after one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific during World War II, Marines from U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific and the 2nd Marine Division returned to Tarawa to honor more than 1,000 killed.

    The ceremony began at the Battle of Tarawa Memorial, which was dedicated to the Marines and Sailors wounded and killed, during the 76-hour attack, changing the face of amphibious warfare forever. This coming after Imperial Marine Japanese commander in charge of the defense of Tarawa, Rear Admiral Keiji Shibasaki haughtily predicted, "A million men cannot take Tarawa in 100 years."
    It took about 4,000 Marines and Sailors three days.

    "The Japanese enemy was tough, but we were tougher," said Harry Jackson, a Tarawa veteran, who was one of the first 1,500 Marines to storm the beaches of Tarawa.

    Jackson was one of many prestigious guests that attended and spoke at the ceremony.

    During his speech, Jackson recalled the U.S. entering the war in 1941, continuing through the Pacific Island hopping campaign, and most importantly, fighting for the Tarawa Atoll.

    Because of the way in which the Japanese were dug, the air support provided before the attack did very little to disrupt the 4,700 Japanese defenders.
    That problem was compounded by a low tide, which made it impossible for the Higgins boats to get over the coral reef. Stuck on the reef, Marines became an easy target for Japanese machine guns and mortars as they waded to shore.

    That's when the Marines employed hundreds of the newly introduced amtracs. The Japanese were expecting the vehicles to get stuck on the reef, just like the Higgins boats. They were surprised when the tracked vehicle rolled right over it. Although the vehicles made it over, Japanese bullets pierced the lightly armored vehicles.

    As he spoke of the battle, Jackson recalled the ferocity of the Japanese enemy, never giving up, even when their battle was lost.

    In the end, the Marines won, and Betio, the southern most island in the Tarawa atoll was officially declared secure at 1:10 p.m., Nov. 23. The island, which was soon used for a landing strip was bought with the blood of more than 1,000 Marines and Sailors killed and 3,000 wounded.
    A Marine firing squad honored the courageous Marines with a 21-gun salute.

    "We are here today to honor our fallen Marines, (both) United States Marines and Japanese Marines. They were a great enemy," said Jackson.

    The Marine firing detail from Camp H. M. Smith marches from the Battle of Tarawa War Memorial in Betio, after the first part of the 60th anniversary ceremony of the Battle of Tarawa, to Red Beach Two, one of the three beaches that the first wave of 1,500 Marines from the 2nd Marine Division landed on, Nov. 20, 1943. Photo by: Pfc. Bernadette L. Ainsworth




  3. #3
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    Navy Marine Corps News - Nov 29, 2003
    Back In Time 60 Years To Tarawa,

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