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The Battle of Tarawa was a battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II fought on 20–23 November 1943. It took place at the Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands, and was part of Operation Galvanic, the U.S. invasion of the Gilberts. It’s estimated that nearly 6,400 Japanese, Koreans, and Americans died in the fighting, mostly on and around the small island of Betio, in the extreme southwest of Tarawa Atoll.

Naval doctrine of the time held that in order for attacks to succeed, land-based aircraft would be required to weaken the defenses and protect the invasion forces. The nearest islands capable of supporting such an effort were the Marshall Islands, northeast of Guadalcanal. Taking the Marshalls would provide the base needed to launch an offensive on the Marianas, but the Marshalls were cut off from direct communications with Hawaii by a Japanese garrison and air base on the small island of Betio, on the western side of Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands. Thus, to eventually launch an invasion of the Marianas, the battle had to start far to the east, at Tarawa.

Battle - Tarawa - Offensive - Pacific - Region

The Battle of Tarawa was the first American offensive in the central Pacific region. It was also the first time in the Pacific War that the United States had faced serious Japanese opposition to an amphibious landing. Previous landings met little or no initial resistance, but on Tarawa the 4,500 Japanese defenders were well-supplied and well-prepared. They fought almost to the last man, exacting a heavy toll on the United States Marine Corps. America had lost many men on previous campaigns such as Guadalcanal. The difference was the men who were lost on Guadalcanal spanned a six month period, and the men lost on Tarawa were during a period of 76 hours.

The loss of American lives on...
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