• Si Biggs

The U.S. Marines begin their assault on ‘Bloody Tarawa’ - 20th November 1943 @USMC

Carl Jonas was one of the Marines who went in on the first day: Many of the Higgins boats – the assault Landing Craft – were grounded 700 yards or more offshore. A neap tide meant that the depth of water was far below normal at high tide. The Marines were forced to wade the remaining distance, all the way under fire: The shore line curved like a longshoremen’s hook, and the flat part to my right was the handle of it. From the other side, near the point of the hook, a Jap machine gun kept up a steady fire across our line of advance. Another machine gun was able to spit out almost directly at us, so that the two of them made a cross fire. Also, from some point I couldn’t see, a mortar was dropping bursts ahead of us and slightly to our right. I saw no Marines on the beach, only blasted boats where they had stopped. Two of them were on fire. Beyond, a stout coconut-log barricade ran like a fence parallel to the whole shore. Then I got down as low as I could, with only my helmet showing, and began to crawl and duck-walk through the water, which was hardly three feet deep, even though we were almost a half mile out. I was heading for the right-hand flank, but just why, I couldn’t say myself… . I passed two or three dead Marines. My legs were very tired, and I couldn’t keep my rifle out of the water. Finally, I used it to push myself along with, and forgot about keeping it dry. I saw a boat coming in toward me, and I worked away from it; for, although this brought me nearer the guns, I knew the boat would draw heavy fire, and wouldn’t pick me up anyway. I kept down and pushed ahead, not very fast but steadily. Finally I came to what I thought was the beach, but as I inched up onto it I saw it was a sand bar with another fifty yards of water on the other side. At the top were fifteen or twenty dead or wounded Marines. A man who had been in our boat crawled up beside me. “Where are the other guys ?” I asked him. “I don’t know,” he said. “As soon as I find out, I’m going on in.” I didn’t want to go over the sand bar very much, so I worked to the left, which again brought me closer to the fire, but gave me the cover provided by the water. I wondered if I was doing the right or the wrong thing. I decided it was more dangerous to stay still and think it out than to keep moving, so I just went on in. Then, just as I saw some Marines lying between the bar and the shore, a current caught me and carried me along with no bottom under my feet. I swam a few strokes and felt bottom again. My pack was heavy with water, so I slipped it off and, dragging it behind, scrambled up into the lee of the shore. It seemed like the sweetest earth this side of paradise, and I wanted to lie there forever without moving a muscle. Image; Crash landing of F6F-3, Number 30 of Fighting Squadron Two (VF-2), USS Enterprise, into the carrier’s port side 20mm gun gallery, 10 November 1943. Lieutenant Walter L. Chewning, Jr., USNR, the Catapult Officer, is climbing up the plane’s side to assist the pilot from the burning aircraft. The pilot, Ensign Byron M. Johnson, escaped without significant injury. Enterprise was then en route to support the Gilberts Operation. Note the plane’s ruptured belly fuel tank.


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United Kingdom

Breakfast at Babs

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