Tarawa was the first in a series of amphibious operations which carried United States forces across the Central Pacific to the homeland of Japan. When the 2d Marine Division landed on Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll on 20 November 1943, twenty years of Marine Corps study and work, already tested at Guadalcanal and at Bougainville, was put to an acid test.

Tarawa was the first example in history of a sea-borne assault against a heavily defended coral atoll. Marine preparations for this operation were thorough; its plans were executed in a noteworthy manner. In the final analysis, however, success at Tarawa depended upon the discipline, courage, and fighting ability of the individual Marine. Seldom has anyone been called upon to fight a battle under more difficult circumstances.

In capturing Tarawa, the 2d Marine Division accomplished a difficult mission in an expeditious manner. Seventy-six hours after the assault troops landed in the face of heavy resistance, the battle was over and an important base secured with the annihilation of its defending garrison.

Of even greater importance, however, was the fact that this successful operation underlined the soundness of our doctrines of amphibious assault. The lessons learned and confirmed at Tarawa paid great dividends in every subsequent operation from the Marshalls to the shores of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

General, U.S. Marine Corps,
Commandant of the Marine Corps



This operational monograph is one of a series prepared by the Historical Section, Division of Public Information, Headquarters United States Marine Corps, concerning Marine Corps operations in World War II.

The first narrative was sent out for criticism and comment to officers who were present at Tarawa in principal positions. Upon receipt of their replies, a final revision, along with further editing, was undertaken.

Tarawa is as factually accurate as the sources from which its subject matter was obtained. In the first six chapters there is no surmise; the facts are presented as they were recorded or obtained through interview. The last chapter sets forth, briefly, the importance and success of the battle for Tarawa, and mentions some of the lessons learned.

It is believed, however, that it is too early to attempt a full critical analysis or detailed evaluation of the importance of the Tarawa operation in the Pacific war, of the lessons learned in that operation, or their effect upon subsequent operations.

Maps used in this monograph were prepared by the reproduction Department Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Va. Only official Marine Corps and Navy photographs are used.

All statements contained in this monograph have been thoroughly documented, although, in the interests of textual smoothness and appearance, no citations have been made. A documented master copy of the entire monograph is on file in the Marine Corps archives and may be consulted at any time, subject to security regulations. Specific information as to documentation or source material will be furnished upon request.

Brigadier General, U.S. Marine Corps,
Director, Division of Public Information


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Transcribed and formatted by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation