USMC on Tarawa

Discussion in 'US' started by Canader, Sep 28, 2010.

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  1. Excellent vid!
    I don't think I would have liked to have been a Marine during the war! (or a Jap for that matter).
    The Marines certainly did it hard. Other battles like Peleliu, Saipan, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima were just as bad if not worse.
    There are some superb first hand accounts of marine battles during the war including Eugine B Sledge's "With the Old Breed" & Robert Leckie's "Helmet for My Pillow" well worth a read.
  2. Here is the background on this film:

    The production was a 1944 short propaganda film directed by Louis Hayward. It uses authentic footage taken at the Battle of Tarawa in November 1943 to tell the story of the participating American servicemen, from the time they get the news that they are to participate in the invasion, to the final taking of the island and raising of the Stars and Stripes.

    The film is in full color and uses no actors, making it a valuable historical document. The documentary showed more gruesome scenes of battle than other war films up to that time. President Franklin D. Roosevelt himself gave the approval to show the film to the public anyway against the wishes of military leaders. It gave the U.S. population on the homefront a more realistic view of the war — as far as showing dead Marines floating in the water, etc. — subject matter that was edited out of previous films and newsreels. The film won the 1945 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject.

    This is the story of one of those on Tarawa who did not return:

    After Pearl Harbor was attacked, William D. Hawkins enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve on January 5, 1942, and was assigned to the 7th Recruit Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. He had tried unsuccessfully to enter both the Army and the Navy Air Corps, but his scars prevented his being accepted. Now, as a Marine, he joined the 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division, completed Scout Snipers' School at Camp Elliott, San Diego, and on July 1, 1942 embarked on board the USS Crescent City for the Pacific area.

    A private first class when he went overseas, he was quickly promoted to corporal and then sergeant due to casualties among the NCOs. On November 17, 1942, for battlefield heroism he was commissioned a second lieutenant while taking part in the Guadalcanal campaign in the battle for the Solomons. On June 1, 1943, he was promoted to first lieutenant.

    Less than six months later, he was killed in action leading a scout-sniper platoon in the attack on Betio Island during the assault on Tarawa.

    The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to

    for service as set forth in the following


    For valorous and gallant conduct above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of a Scout Sniper Platoon attached to the Second Marines, Second Marine Division, in action against Japanese-held Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, November 20 and 21, 1943. The first to disembark from the jeep lighter, First lieutenant Hawkins unhesitatingly moved forward under heavy enemy fire at the end of the Betio pier, neutralizing emplacements in coverage of troops assaulting the main breach positions. Fearlessly leading his men on to join the forces fighting desperately to gain a beachhead, he repeatedly risked his life throughout the day and night to direct and lead attacks on pill boxes and installations with grenades and demolition. At dawn on the following day, First Lieutenant Hawkins returned to the dangerous mission of clearing the limited beachhead of japanese resistance, personally initiating an assault on a hostile fortified by five enemy machine guns and, crawling forward in the face of withering fire, boldly fired point-blank into the loopholes and completed the destruction with grenades. Refusing to withdraw after being seriously wounded in the chest during this skirmish, First Lieutenant Hawkins steadfastly carried the fight to the enemy, destroying three more pill boxes before he was caught in a burst of Japanese shell fire and mortally wounded. His relentless fighting spirit in the face of formidable opposition and his exceptionally daring tactics were an inspiration to his comrades during the most crucial phase of the battle and reflect the highest credit upon the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
  3. I believe at 08:36 that sequence that is the only footage in the pacific War of Armed Japanese on the battlefield who arent in the process of surrendering, but manuevering against Allied troops. Ens. Edward Albert was saving Marines offshore in his LCVP during this battle. Better known as the cowardly captain in "Attack" with Jack Palance.
  4. I recall reading somewhere that there were more US Army personnel than USMC, but the army's pr was not as good.
    This is not a wah but a genuine question, from an early age curtesy of Airfix models I believed the US Marines were in the Pacific and the US Army Europe and Africa. (In much the same way the British Eighth Army wore shorts and lived in the desert.
  5. I think you have your wars switched---(allegedly) that occurred in WWI although I do not debate that the USMC has always had quite good PR but of course we have the material for it. ;-)
  6. You are correct as usual. As to Eddie (also of Green Acres "fame"), this from his Wiki page: "he was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat "V" for his actions during the invasion of Tarawa in November, 1943, when, as the pilot of a U.S. Coast Guard landing craft, he rescued 47 Marines who were stranded offshore (and supervised the rescue of 30 others), while under heavy enemy machine-gun fire."
  7. The US Army did fight in the Pacific - a few examples:

    All operations in the Philippine Islands were U.S. Army under the overall command of Gen. Douglas McArthur -- while the island-hopping (up until Iwo Jima) operations (under Admiral Nimitz) were Marine operations.

    The 1st U.S. Army Ranger Battalion were involved in Burma, India, New Guinea, and the Philippines.

    The 7th division drove the Japanese out of the Allutiens. They were trained in amphibious operations by the marines. The 7th went on to fight at Kwajalein, Leyte and Okinawa

    The 25th Infantry Division ("Tropical Lightning") saw action at Guadalcanal, New Georgia and the Philippines.

    Two battalions of troops from the US 32 Inf Division fought on the Kokoda Trail
  8. The fact the more US Army than USMC units were in the pacific is simple logistics.

    The Marines were hard pressed to fully man the 6 divisions they had. Many of the smaller FMF units were folded (Raiders, Paramarines, AAA, Defence bn's, etc.) USA fielded 20 divisions and 3 Army's, 6 Corps in the PTO and did make more Amphibious landings

    Only Airborne Assaults- Noemfor, Nadzab(with attached Australian 2/4 FA 25pdr btry- 4 OF, 30 OR which jumped after minimal ground training) & Corregidor.

    The only 2 US Flamethrower Tank bn's were army,
    Amtraks-23 Army, 11 Marine
    Amtanks-7 Army, 3 Marine

    One of the bizarre things was the 7th infantry division was trained as motorized infantry for north africa campaign

    It initially fought in the Aleutians under Artic conditions, then in Kwajalein, Leyte, Okinawa. IMO the main reason the Marines are more well known was the spectacle of fights like the Canal & Tarawa, Iwo Jima
  9. Indeed there were many soldiers in the Pacific--including my late father! It is perhaps easiest to think of the PTO as 2 separate campaigns-1 under MacArthur with mainly the Army as ground forces (there were some USMC arty and air units attached from time to time) and the other under Nimitz with the USMC. They really only came together (in terms of major Army and USMC forces together) for Okinawa. Much ink has been spilled as to why this was so (hint-titanic egos wearing 5 stars each such that the Pacific was not really big enough for the both of them) and as to which was "better."

    As to the bolded part, this also has had much written about it but IMHO a lot had to do with the nature of the respective objectives (islands) in each force's AO--perhaps less so with the Canal but certainly the others cited there was precious little opportunity to bypass, isolate or otherwise maneuver for the USMC as compared to the Army in the Philippines etc. As a result, the casualties and highly intense nature of the fighting was more "dramatic" and thus was reported in the same fashion.
  10. Thanks very much for the info, when I posted it I had a sudden panic attack that it would turn into a Para versus the hats type slugfest.
    I think the article I read was in Military History magazine, mention was made of egos being involved.

    One thought does occur to me, apart from 'The fighting cee bees' I believe that the USMC had first call on John Wayne's services when required!
  11. Having just read the first and half way through the latter I can wholeheartedly concur. Excellent books which convey the horror of the Pacific War in quite graphic detail (With the Old Breed in particular).

  12. Eugene B Sledge, was one of the veterans who was interviewed on the American documentary "The War", well worth watching, and like so many of the veterans of all nations comes across as a very quiet self contained man. Not at all the gung-ho type so beloved of film makers. Considering what they saw and did, I take my hat off to them.
  13. I stand to be corrected but I believe Sledge has passed away before then in 2001. The excellent doc was done in 2007. His buddy Sidney Phillips was interviewed for the doc. I believe he is still with us.

    If you haven't come across this - WATCH IT. Very thoughtfully, intelligently and respectfully done. But then that's Ken Burns for you.

  14. Sadly he is now guarding the streets of Heaven (as our Hymn puts it) with his fellow Marines. His story is woven into that of several others in the recent HBO series "The Pacific"