Across the Reef: The Marine Assault of Tarawa

Joseph H. Alexander (1938 - 2014)

"Tarawa Atoll is 2085 miles southwest of Pearl Harbor and 540 miles southeast of Kwajalein in the Marshalls. Betio is the principal island in the atoll. The Japanese seized Tarawa from the British within the first three days after Pearl Harbor. In August 1943, to meet in secret with Major General Julian C. Smith and his principal staff officers, Vice Admiral Raymond A. Spruance flew to New Zealand from Pearl Harbor. Spruance told the Marines to prepare for an amphibious assault against Japanese positions in the Gilbert Islands in November. General Smith’s operations officer, Lieutenant Colonel David M. Shoup, studied the primitive chart of Betio and saw that the tiny island was surrounded by a barrier reef. Shoup asked Spruance if any of the Navy’s experimental, shallow-draft, plastic boats could be provided. 'Not available,' replied the admiral, 'expect only the usual wooden landing craft.' Shoup frowned. General Smith could sense that Shoup’s gifted mind was already formulating a plan. The results of that plan were momentous. The Tarawa operation became a tactical watershed: the first, large-scale test of American amphibious doctrine against a strongly fortified beachhead." - Summary by Joseph H Alexander

Genre(s): War & Military

Language: English

Section Chapter Reader Time
Play 01 Across the Reef: The Marine Assault of Tarawa Aaron Bennett
Play 02 Setting the Stage Aaron Bennett
Play 03 Assault Preparations Aaron Bennett
Play 04 Sidebars: The 2d Marine Division at Tarawa; Major General Julian C. Smith, USMC; and The Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces Aaron Bennett
Play 05 D-Day at Betio, 20 November 1943 - Part 1 Aaron Bennett
Play 06 D-Day at Betio, 20 November 1943 - Part 2 Aaron Bennett
Play 07 Sidebars: LVT-2 and LVT(A)2 Amphibian Tractors; ‘The Singapore Guns’; and Sherman Medium Tanks at Tarawa Aaron Bennett
Play 08 D+1 at Betio, 21 November 1943 Aaron Bennett
Play 09 Sidebar: Colonel David M. Shoup, USMC Aaron Bennett
Play 10 The Third Day: D+2 at Betio, 22 November 1943 Aaron Bennett
Play 11 Completing the Task: 23–28 November 1943 Aaron Bennett
Play 12 Sidebar: Incident on D+3 Aaron Bennett
Play 13 The Significance of Tarawa and Sidebar: Tarawa Today Aaron Bennett