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by Eric Hammel
and John E. Lane
Pacifica Press 2000
Glossary, Index, Appendix
Order now at amazon.com
A Narrative History with 250 Photographs
On the morning of Saturday, November 20, 1943, the US 2d Marine Division undertook the first modern amphibious assault against a well-defended beachhead:. Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll. This beautiful hardboard book covers the entire 76 hours of this sheer terror.
Read about an invasion that was virtually stopped at water's edge. When the Marines landed, boarded their Amtrac transports, they found an island garrison alive and well, hardly "pounded into coral dust" as the Navy promised. The defense of Betio was one of the best defensive positions, garrisoned by competent and brave defenders who would rather die than surrender.
Schocking revalations include how shore batteries that evaded fire, and how Amtrac landing craft had to deploy their Marines more than 500 yards from the beach due to a miscalculation of the the tides by planners. Horrible casualties were extolled by Japanese machine gunners on shore.
The most exciting part of the book are the hundreds of photographs that bring each page to life. Many are rare or unpublished, which makes the book exciting even for those already familiar with the history. Stark images of dead Marines, and flamethower scorched bunkers and bodies makes the violence very real.
Authors Hammel and Lane proved detailed history in 41 chapters of the entire operation, in coverage that feels like it is "real time", minute by minute. Their text is through and very well written. Maps, charts and excellent appendix complement their words. Of particular interest is a rooster of all American Marine and Navy personnel that participated in the invasion. Also, all of the medal of honor citations, including a photograph and description of the Marine's actions.
The Casualties from this landing generated many angry letters from the homefront. It was this baptism of fire that solidified the idea of island hopping for everyone in the military. The US would think twice about attacking determined Japanese positions. Instead opting for lightly defended targets when ever possible. This is the story of near defeat turned into an epic victory.
Review by Justin Taylan
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