Tag Archives: Tarawa

Galvanic Battlewagon

Some 78 years ago today:

A Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless dive bomber from the Essex-class fleet carrier USS Lexington (CV-16)— or possibly her sistership Yorktown (CV-10)— in the background, flies anti-submarine patrol over the North Carolina-class fast battleship USS Washington (BB-56) while en route to the invasion of Tarawa and Makin Islands in the Gilbert Island chain (Operation Galvanic). 12 November 1943.

USN photo # 80-G-204897, now in the collection of the National Archives.

Laid down by Philadelphia Naval Ship Yard, 14 June 1938, Washington commissioned 15 May 1941 and earned 13 battle stars during World War II in operations that carried her from the Arctic Circle to the western Pacific. Decommissioned in mid-1947 and assigned to the New York group of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, she was stricken and sold in 1961 for scrap.

Ironically, both Lexington and Yorktown are preserved as floating museum ships.

Bloody Tarawa

As a note, this week is the 76th anniversary of the bloody and hard-fought Battle of Tarawa.

Maj. Gen. Julian C. Smith’s 2nd Mar Div– consisting of the 2nd, 8th, 10th, and 18th Marines– hit the Red Beach 1, 2, and 3 and Green Beach. The Marines were opposed by 4,800 mixed Imperial Japanese Navy SNLF and Korean construction troops, who were holed up in more than 500 sand-and-log pillboxes under command of RADM Keiji Shibazaki.

The effort for the Gilbert Islands atoll raged for three days, resulting in 3,301 Marine casualties out of the 18,000 that landed– a rate of one-in-six.

Of the four Marines who received the Medal of Honor for Tarawa, three did so posthumously.

Coming home from Bloody Tarawa

D-Day On Tarawa. Drawing, Charcoal on Paper; by Kerr Eby; 1944; Framed Dimensions 39H X 51W. NHHC

From the DOD:

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today the remains of at least 22 servicemen, killed during the 1943 Battle of Tarawa in World War II, are being returned to the United States in an Honorable Carry Ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, July 17, 2019.

The Battle for Tarawa was part of a larger U.S. invasion (Operation GALVANIC) to capture Japanese-held territory within the Gilbert Islands. The operation commenced on November 20, 1943, with simultaneous attacks at Betio Island (within the Tarawa Atoll) and Makin Island (more than 100 miles north of Tarawa Atoll). While lighter Japanese defenses at Makin Island meant fewer losses for U.S. forces, firmly entrenched Japanese defenders on Betio Island turned the fight for Tarawa Atoll into a costly 76-hour battle.

Over several days of intense fighting at Tarawa, approximately 1,000 Marines and Sailors were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded, while the Japanese were virtually annihilated. Servicemen killed in action were buried where they fell or placed in large trench burials constructed during and after the battle. These graves were typically marked with improvised markers, such as crosses made from sticks, or an up-turned rifle. Grave sites ranged in size from single isolated burials to large trench burials of more than 100 individuals.

Postwar Graves Registration recovery efforts were complicated by incomplete record-keeping and by the alterations to the cemeteries shortly after the battle. The locations of multiple cemeteries were lost. The alternations to other cemeteries resulted in the relocation of grave markers without relocating the remains beneath. These sites became known as memorial graves. As a result, many of the Tarawa dead were not recovered.

“Today we welcome home more than 20 American servicemen still unaccounted for from the battle of Tarawa during World War II,” said Acting Secretary of Defense Richard V. Spencer. “We do not forget those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, and it is our duty and obligation to return our missing home to their families and the nation.”

190717-M-PO745-2033 PEARL HARBOR (July 17, 2019) U.S. service members from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific (MARFORPAC), and guests stand as “Taps” is played during an honorable carry for the possible remains of unidentified service members lost in the Battle of Tarawa during WWII conducted by DPAA and MARFORPAC at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, July 17, 2019. The remains were recently recovered from the Republic of Kiribati by History Flight, a DPAA partner organization, and will be accessioned into DPAA’s laboratory facility in Hawaii to begin the identification process in support of DPAA’s mission to provide the fullest possible accounting for our missing personnel to their families and the nation. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jacqueline Clifford/Released)