The Battle of Tarawa was one of the more terrible American experiences in the Pacific theatre of World War Two. It was one that would shape the future of amphibious assaults.
In late 1943, the United States launched attacks in the central Pacific. These were meant to speed up victory in the war by drawing Japanese forces away from larger offensives. The Tarawa atoll, part of the Gilbert Islands, was one of the targets of this advance.
Tarawa is made of fifteen small islands in the shape of a triangle, their total land area only twelve square miles. In the center is a lagoon, and reefs shelter many parts of the atoll. The British, who had governed the atoll before the war, were remarkably ill-informed about it. All their maps were over a century old, and they had no records of the tides and currents in the…
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