Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune --
What would you think if you had to walk directly into constant machine-gun fire over razor-sharp coral through waist-deep ocean water? If you make it to the beach, you must then continue to fight Japanese soldiers for 3 1/2 more days.
The Marines at the Battle of Tarawa in November 1943 were scared, brave and determined to take control of the Tarawa atoll to provide the U.S. with a vital strategic advantage in World War II.
The cost of the victory for the Marines was extremely high, suffering nearly 3,000 casualties, but losses for the Japanese were even greater. Of the 4,700 Japanese defenders, only 17 survived the historic battle.
Veterans of the Battle of Tarawa from 2nd Marine Division visited Camp Lejeune November 19 to commemorate the 67th anniversary of one of the bloodiest battles in American history.
“I don’t know what everyone else was thinking, but I was scared, and to this day I am still thankful for still being alive,” said Eddie Owen, a Tarawa veteran. “I mainly come back for the memorial service to remember all of those I fought with who didn’t make it, but I also enjoy seeing the young Marines carrying on our tradition and doing some of the same stuff we did so many years ago.”
The Division honored the veterans in an opening ceremony held at the St. Frances Xavier Catholic Chapel. From there Marine ushers from 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, escorted the veterans to various events throughout the day, including a static display, a small arms shoot and a luncheon.
“I’m honored and I feel privileged to hang out with the veterans and hear their stories from their perspectives,” said Pfc. Christopher J. Hedden, an assault-man with 3/6. “They are an important part of Marine Corps history, the part you can’t read about in books.”