The famous quote by Japanese Admiral Keiji Shibasaki in regards to Tarawa was proven an error. The hubris of the Japanese commanders who so underestimated the capabilities of the United States military came at a cost of 4,690 men in the Tarawa Atoll. On this the 75th anniversary of that battle, we remember one of, if not toughest battle waged throughout the Pacific Theatre.
You had men like General Holland “Howlin’ Mad” Smith, the father of amphibious warfare, soon to be Medal of Honor recipient and Commandant, General David M. Shoup who were in charge of the Marines this fateful November day. Shoup would lead his men ashore despite being wounded in both the leg and neck.
The heavy gunfire plagued the Marines landing ashore, but thanks to those two future Marine Corps “Hall of Famers” it only took 35,000 men and 3 days to gain control of the island. Slaughtering nearly every single defender and capturing the rest, the Marines finished securing the island in record time despite the supposed ferocity and impenetrable defenses.
On this day 75 years ago men stormed the beaches of a tiny island that few could point out on the map, far far away in the Pacific Ocean. The cost was heavy and both General Smith and General Shoup (Colonel at the time) disagreed about the necessity of the assault of the Atoll.
The battle was the first of many many bloody battles that took place in the Pacific. Several commanders received letters from angry family members, but as we were soon to find out, the fight for Tarawa would not be the last bloody battle the Marine Corps and the Pacific fleet would see.
“One million men and one hundred years,” is what they said. There was no way we could take Tarawa. We just didn’t have it in us.
But remember, “History is written by the victors.”