The Battle of Tarawa

Battle of Tarawa

Marine prepares to attack the Japanese defenders during a reenactment of the Battle of Tarawa in Fredericksburg, Texas.

The Battle of Tarawa


November 20, 1943, Betio, Tarawa Atoll — Members of the United States Marine Corp’s 2nd Division commenced one of the bloodiest episodes in their history, in only seventy-six hours they suffered almost 4000 casualties.

After three bloody days, the US had wrested control of the island from its Japanese defenders. Of the 4819 defenders, only 17 Soldiers and 129 laborers were captured. The rest fought to the very last.

November 10, 2013, Fredericksburg Texas. Partisans and employees of the Nimitz Pacific War Museum stage a reenactment of the Battle of Tarawa.

The first part of the reenactment is to set the stage, to educate the audience on the reasons why the USA and the Japanese Empire found themselves locked in a death struggle. Both sides story is presented impartially.

The next part of the reenactment is a demonstration of the weapons used in the battle. The “Japanese Commander” presents his soldiers and their equipment, including introducing three Japanese who traveled to , Texas to participate in the reenactment.

Each piece of equipment was describe and demonstrated.

The “American Commander” follows. Again, each piece of equipment is explained and demonstrated.

Finally, it is time for the battle to commence. Japanese soldiers quickly occupy defensive positions and the US bombardment begins. Great geysers of dirt and clouds of smoke suddenly shroud the battlefield.

Battle of Tarawa

Marines with a BAR maneuver to engage Japanese defenders during a reenactment in Fredericksbug, Texas.

The booming of artillery shells mixes with the snap, pop and crackle of rifle and machine gun fire.

Marines charge out of the back of their LTV Alligator, blasting away at the Japanese defenders. An M3 Stuart tank flanks the Japanese soldiers, blasting them with its 37mm gun.

Amid falling debris and cordite-spawned smoke, the Americans continue their advance.


Marine Combat Engineer Team destroys a Japanese Pillbox during the Battle of Tarawa Reenactment in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Marine riflemen provide suppressive fire as the flamethrower team moves close enough to engage the enemy pillbox. Whoosh! Jellied gas streams from the flamethrower’s nozzle, bringing fire and destruction to the doomed Japanese soldiers.

Soon the team member with the flamethrower retreats to recharge his tanks and the final member of the combat engineer team throws an explosive satchel charge into the fiery cauldron that was once a defensive fighting position.

The battle moves on…

The Marines continue advancing against the fortified Japanese positions, their voices sounding faint among the cries of the wounded.

Battle of Tarawa

Japanese soldier retreats from American Marines during a reenactment of the Battle of Tarawa in Fredericksburg, Texas.

With the artillery barrage clearing the way, the Marines over run the outnumbered Japanese defenders, driving them into the jungle.

It was a great show. The explosions, rifle fire and smoke made it real for the audience. We were so close to the flamethrower you could feel the heat on your arms and face.

I would highly recommend everyone go see this reenactment. It gives a small glimpse into the chaos and destruction of war. It may be fun to watch, but remember in the real battle almost 7000 men gave their lives for their country.

Battle of Tarawa

Marines maneuver to drive the Japanese defenders into the jungle during a reenactment in Fredericksbug, Texas.

Comments are closed.