The Battle of Tarawa

Naval History Special Edition

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Overview

Building upon the expertise of the authors and historians of the Naval Institute Press, the Naval History Special Editions are designed to offer studies of the key vessels, battles, and events of armed conflict. Using an image-heavy, magazine-style format, these Special Editions should appeal to scholars, enthusiasts, and general readers alike.

The Battle of Tarawa was one of the most transformative engagements of World War II and for the future of the U.S. Marine Corps. Fought on a speck of coral sand in the middle of the Pacific, in just three days the battle and associated actions of Operation Galvanic killed over 1,700 U.S. service members and 5,000 Japanese defenders. Searing images of dead and wounded Marines quickly appeared in U.S. newspapers, magazines, and movie theaters, providing the public with a dismaying sense of the high cost of the upcoming Central Pacific campaign aimed at bringing the war quickly to Japan itself. From the pre-dawn of 20 November 1943, when U.S. battleships’ guns first blazed away at Japanese positions, to the landings of men over a coral reef blocking the passage of most boats, to the brutal fighting necessary to overcome well-prepared and mutually supporting Japanese firing positions, the ferocity and brutality of the battle are carefully and fully narrated. This volume also covers the background of the battle; weaponry; naval actions; Japanese defensive fortifications; specialized U.S. forces such as armor, physicians, and chaplains; the media; and the long-term consequences of the battle.

When it was over after 76 hours, lessons had been learned about amphibious landings and subsequent combat that would help the United States move quickly into the Marshall and Mariana Islands and then to the vicinity of Japan itself at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Rarely has one brief but horrific battle meant so much, for so many, for so long.

 

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