Earl Hinz   Tararwa Atoll

drowned US Tank

"Many of the grounded and shot-up tanks and other vehicles still litter the beach, but are rapidly rusting away."

  Tarawa was the first amphibious invasion of the war, a testing ground for new battle tactics that were to lead to the gates of Japan. As an initial test of a new and needed strategy it had immense problems not anticipated by the planners. Even though the US had already found out what tenacious fighters the Japanese were in the battle for Guadalcanal, they did not realize what great military engineers they also were. On Guadalcanal, the Japanese were unprepared for an invasion and fought with fluid defenses over large areas. On Tararwa they were prepared for an invasion with extensive reinforced concrete fortifications, large guns, and a sea wall around the little islet of Betio made from coral blocks, coconut logs and sand. The defensive firepower was formidable, but mostly aimed seaward, which turned out to be a mistake. American strategy was to invade from the lagoon, a practical approach, except for one planning mistake.

  The British had occupied the Gilbert Islands for many years, but they had done little in the way of opening the lagoon for shipping and it was replete with coral heads, something the Navy planners did not understand at the time. The British advised against the invasion timing because of an unusually low and narrow tidal range time that would prevent the invasion craft from moving close to the beach. Navy planners believed differently and their calculations proved grossly in error. As a result the landing craft, amphibious vehicles, and tanks found themselves grounded on coral far from the beach. The Marines were forced to slog in under murderous small arms fire with resultingly high casualties.

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