A tiny spit of land that could barely accommodate an airfield, Tarawa was initially thought to be a relatively simple operation for an entire Marine division. Imperial Japanese Navy Rear Admiral Meichi Shibasaki (who proclaimed that "a million Americans could not take Tarawa in one hundred years") commanded the nearly 5,000-man enemy force. Clever intelligence methods accurately judged its strength by counting the latrines over the lagoon and estimating how many men they could service. What they could not gauge, however, was the determination and ferocity of the defenders or the superiority of the defense itself. That would be revealed in the three-day battle of November 1943 that would shock the assaulting force, the American public, our leadership in the Pacific as well as the White House, and change the way the remainder of the war would be fought.
Now Hear This: 'In One Hundred Years'
By Colonel John Ripley, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired)