Marine and Army assault troops. The sudden American proclivity for amphibious frontal assaults against fortified islands astonished Japanese commanders, who called them storm landings because they differed so sharply from the limited landings of About the Author Joseph Alexander was a retired colonel of the U. Average Review. Write a Review. Related Searches. Fifth Book in the apocalyptic epic series, Dominion.
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The Americans will attack Tarawa frontally, and a frontal assault, even if it works, is guaranteed to be bloody. The Japanese have dug in as deeply as you can on a coral atoll. They have done their work well, placing 14 coastal defense guns dug in concrete firing positions, building stockades from logs and sand, scattering 40 artillery pieces around the island in firing pits.
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Trenches link all the defensive strongpoints, allowing the defenders to communicate and move under cover. There is even an airstrip in the center of the island, the main reason Nimitz has chosen to assault it.
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It is an impressive array for such a petite island: Betio is only two miles long and yards wide. The Japanese commander, Rear Admiral Keiji Shibazaki, is confident, telling his men, "it would take one million men one hundred years" to conquer Tarawa. Uncle Sam disagrees.
The United States amasses a vast array of land, sea, and air power: 17 aircraft carriers, 12 battleships, 66 destroyers, plus 36 types of transport carrying the 2nd Marine Division and parts of the U. Army's 27th Infantry Division. The United States has over 30, men in the Gilberts, a advantage over the defenders.
Joseph H. Alexander
Image: U. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation photo. The Americans open up early in the morning of November 20 with a heavy air raid on Betio, followed by a sustained, 3-hour naval bombardment. It does terrific damage, smashing the Japanese communications net, but the Japanese defenders are sitting in deep bunkers, and many survive to man the guns just as the first Marines hit the north shore.
For the U. The main problem is the coral reef around Betio. The Higgins Boats which carry the Marines draft four feet of water, and need at least five feet for navigation. This day sees a neap tide, however, and the ocean stubbornly remains just three feet deep.
The landing craft hangs up on the coral, while Japanese gunfire pounds away. The Marines on board hop off and desperately try to free their boats. When that fails, they decide to jump off the boats and wade ashore, over the coral reef and into the deeper water of the lagoon. They are yards from shore, holding their rifles aloft, trudging forward in chest deep water.
Enemy fire rakes them the entire time, killing and maiming. Japanese fire is grim, merciless. Of the 5, Marines who attempted to land, some 1, are killed or wounded. The Marines will go on to win this fight. They are superb troops, well trained and equipped.