BLOODY TARAWA...76 HOURS OF HELL...
November 20-23, 1943.
In one of the most savage battles in the Pacific. The 2nd Marine Division invades Bloody Tarawa. As part of the Division's Engineers, 290 men from the 18th Seabee battalion, 3/18 land at Tarawa. The landing assignments for the 18th were diversified and required different disembarking times. For example, first priority was to get the runway repaired. On Day 1, waves of Marine assault troops went ashore. They were pinned on the beach throughout some of the next day. The official 2nd Marine Division memoirs of WWII named "Follow Me" wrote, The Seabees had begun streaming ashore during the morning of D-Plus-2, bringing their heavy equipment in and tracking it over the reef. Marines who had fought for hours with exemplary courage stood in opened mouth admiration as the Seabees drove their bulldozers out onto the strip, still swept by rifle fire, and began smoothing out the shell holes. Photographs of this are in the Marine Corps book. The most prized weapon system at Tarawa, on the 2nd and 3rd days was often a Seabee bulldozer. Some Seabees who had other assignments disembarked shortly after, the second and third days. It was only after the third day that the landing area could be cleared for support supplies to get in. Keep in mind the Tarawa battle lasted only 76 hours. Supplies and ammunition did not get on shore until there was room behind the sea wall to land and the direct heavy enemy fire could be contained. For some units in the 18th, it was staying until they could get on the beach after the third day with equipment to build roads, erect piers, observation towers, pipelines and electrical facilities. Before leaving Betio, Admiral Nimitz odered the preparation of engineering drawings of the Japanese defensive fortifications on a priority basis. The most useful drawings came from an 18th Seabee team centered on the former architect student, Larry Klatt, and two others with drafting board experience, Benson Moore and Henry Dumont. These Seabee drawings were used by the CinCPac staff to construct exact replicas of many Betio emplacements to test improved fuses, warheads, and trajectories to benifit future assaults in the Pacific. These drawings now reside in the Marine Corps archives in Quantico Va.
Many 18th men were wounded..
A Tarawa Marine Veteran once told me and I Quote:
"The Bravest act he witnessed at Tarawa" was a Seabee dozer jockey called up to cover up a stubborn Japanese log fortification/Machine Gun nest - riding high, exposed to fire, bullets whizzing all around him to get the job done..He gives him a hand salute everytime he thinks about this!