Battle of Tarawa
The Battle of Tarawa was a battle in the Pacific Theatre of World War II, largely fought from November 20 to November 23, 1943.
It was the second time the United States was on the offensive (the Guadalcanal Campaign had been the first), and the first offensive in the critical central Pacific region.
It was also the first time in the war that the United States faced serious Japanese opposition to an amphibious landing. Previous landings met little or no initial resistance. The 4,500 Japanese defenders were well-supplied and well-prepared, and they fought almost to the last man, exacting a heavy toll on the American Marines. Medals of Honor were awarded to 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman, Staff Sgt. William J. Bordelon, 1st Lt. William D. Hawkins, and Col. David M. Shoup.
Tarawa is an atoll located approximately 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii. It consists of a series of coral islets that stretch through the ocean in a hook-like fashion. The military importance of Tarawa lay in its strategic location at the gateway of the US drive through the central Pacific towards the Philippines.
The largest of Tarawa's islets is Betio measuring less than 3 miles in length and 1/2 mile in width. Here, the Japanese built an airstrip defended by 4,700 troops dug into a labyrinth of pillboxes and bunkers interconnected by tunnels and defended by wire and mines. The task of dislodging this force fell to the Marines of the 2nd Division. The resulting struggle produced one of the fiercest and bloodiest battles in Marine Corps. History