20th November 1943: The US Marines attack from the sea again - in a costly assault to take a key stepping stone on the route to Japan
The Pacific war now moved into a new stage, as the United States began its 'island hopping' campaign across the central Pacific. Some islands could be sidestepped but there were a sequence of islands that needed to be occupied so that the United States could get within striking distance of Japan itself.
First on the list were the Gilbert and Marshall islands. Prime amongst these was Betio island, part of Tarawa atoll at the end of the Gilbert islands. The airstrip here was of crucial importance - and the Japanese had spent the past year fortifying the two mile long island with gun emplacements and over 500 pillboxes and strongpoints. They were to claim that 'a million men could not take it in a hundred years'. The Marines were to prove them wrong, but at considerable cost.
Carl Jonas was one of the Marines who went in on the first day. Many of the Higgins boats - the assault Landing Craft - were grounded 700 yards or more offshore. A neap tide meant that the depth of water was far below normal at high tide. The Marines were forced to wade the remaining distance, all the way under fire1:
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to World War II Today to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.