In the book "76 Hours" about the
battle of Tarawa, there is a bit about one of the landing craft
stopping short of the reef edge because of heavy incoming fire.
The ramp was lowered and the men surged off. Too late when it
was realized that the water was still out 12ft deep. A number
of men went out fully loaded and disappeared. I believe I found
this spot where these men sank. There was also a spare mg barrel
wrapped in canvas and done up with brass buckles.
Diving around Betio can be a lot of fun for
the WWII enthusiast. Lagoon diving is filthy though. Because I used
to live there and have a boat and hookah gear I could go out when
conditions were perfect and spend hours on the bottom exploring. When
I first had a look at the lagoon floor near the jetty opposite red
beach 3 the place was just littered with junk. It was like an untouched
battlefield. I already told you about the stuff I found before.
30 06 Ammunition
Once I found three boxes of 30 06 ammo all encrusted
outside. Inside the ammo was like new. I even took some apart here and
used the powder to load up some 7.7 rounds which we then fired. It burnt
just fine! I have even found land mines in the lagoon which were not
On the ocean side of Betio when the US cleaned
up the island after the battle, they [US forces] dumped vast quantities
of ammunition just over the reef. From the reef itself and out to the
drop off can be found hundreds of complete rounds of 75mm and 127mm
ammo. There is a lot of the 8" stuff for the coastal guns and miles
of 25mm ammo and fuzes etc. Even aircraft bombs and a friend has found
complete torpedoes (I have seen engines)
95 Light Tank
out during the Battle of Tarawa. On the beach at Betio in Feb 1983
with the hull. I had just removed complete Type 97 machine gun with telescope.
This is the gun now fitted to the Type 97 tankette here in Pohnpei. Gun
was big restoration job but I had new springs made in Adelaide and
when completed I fired one test round out of it. It is still in working
order. Inside of above tank was full of exploded 37mm and 7.7mm ammo.
of four of the 8" coastal guns on Betio, Tarawa. These guns are
not from Singapore but are ex-IJN battleship guns from the Japan-Russian
war of 1905. I did a Public Works Division preservation job on one
of these guns in 1989 and we found that the entire rotating part of
the turret below decks is installed in these mountings. We could see
cutting and welding modifications made in there by the Japs probably
pre-WWII massive guns with 20 ton barrels.
is standing on the gun base which was original at ground level. This
part of the island has eroded away badly since the war. For three
years I used to live almost right next to this gun, I mean my rented
house where I stayed when I was off the outer islands where my main
work was. After a big storm I used to pick up lots of human bones
on the beach around this gun. There were a lot of bones buried in
the yard of my place before I left Tarawa and went to Nauru.
This photo shows the Japanese Command Bunker on Betio in 1986
A mass war grave containing a large number of
Japanese human remains was discovered in May 1991. The location of
this site is at North Tarawa about 1.5 km east of the village of Buariki
and near the northern ocean shore of the atoll. From contemporary
accounts it appears that a group of Japanese soldiers managed to escape
from Betio during the Battle of Tarawa in November 1943 but were pursued
by the American marines throughout the length of Tarawa until they
were trapped at this location near Buariki.
I was up at North Tarawa on the 5th and 6th of May
to make a survey of the old battleground and to see if I could find
some relics for eventual display. This search was made with a metal
detector with which the location of fired cartridge cases and fired
bullets (projectiles) both American and Japanese can determine the
position of the opposing forces and the path of the battle.
The search led me to a location beside a substantial
babai pit where numerous items were located. On the surface small
fragments of bone were noted and an exploratory dig at this site began
to reveal a number of Japanese uniform buttons and human bones. At
this stage a helmet was recovered and it proved to be the standard
WWII Japanese Army/Navy issue helmet. Further digging exposed the
remains of at least four individuals. This was in an excavation one
metre square and not more than one metre deep.
It could be seen by the appearance of bones in the
bottom of the pit and in the sides of the hole that a large number
of human remains are present at this location. I believe that all
of the remains are of Japanese soldiers who perished at North Tarawa
at the end of the Battle of Tarawa. This is because all metallic relics
recovered from the excavation include: Japanese Navy brass buttons,
Japanese helmets (three of) and Japanese 7.7mm rifle ammunition found
on one of the remains.
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