Revisiting the Marines at Tarawa
Lieutenant Colonel Tom C. McKenney, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired)
I was surprised and disappointed as I read Daniel E. Rogers’ article, “Combat Leadership Amid Chaos,” in the December 2018 issue (pp. 12–17).
First, I was disappointed he essentially omitted the major tactical impact of the unusually low tide that made it impossible to get the landing craft, with the exception of tracked vehicles, over the reef off Tarawa Atoll’s Betio Island. This forced the vast majority of the Marines to wade to the beach in the chest-deep lagoon, through preplanned mortar and sweeping machine-gun fire. This was the major cause of the confusion and loss of unit integrity by the time the survivors reached the beach.
Second, in the very first paragraph, Rogers states that Colonel Shoup “would earn the Medal of Honor.” The Medal of Honor is received—not earned.