FLASHBACK: Japan Said It Would Take One Million Men 100 Years To Take This Fortified Atoll, A Few Thousand US Marines Did It In Three Days

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Top Tier Gear USA


Seventy-four years ago, the U.S. Marines waged war against Japanese forces across the Tarawa atoll in the Gilbert Islands.

Japanese Admiral Keiji Shibasaki, commander of the highly-fortified garrison on Betio Island, was reportedly so confident in his position that he claimed it would take one million men 100 years to take control of the atoll.

The U.S. Marines took it in three days, but it was, according to one historian, “the toughest battle in Marine Corps history,” Business Insider introduced.

The Battle of Tarawa, the first target of the broader Central Pacific campaign in World War II and part of Operation Galvanic, began on November 20, 1943 as 18,000 U.S. Marines stormed the beaches at Betio, Tarawa’s largest island defended by around 4,500 Japanese troops, many of which were first-rate troops, as well as mines, barbed wire, machine gun nests and pillboxes, and various heavy artillery.

As Tarawa was the most fortified atoll the U.S. would invade during the Pacific campaign, the brutal battle proved to be much more difficult than U.S. troops initially expected.

Before the Marines made their assault, the Navy opened fire on the beach defenses with repeated bombardments, but the Navy warships failed to eliminate the vast majority of the Japanese defenses.

The Marines encountered numerous setbacks during the Tarawa assault, including low tides that prevented the landing craft from clearing the coral reefs. As the Japanese pounded the stranded crafts, the U.S. Marines were forced to wade over 500 yards in chest-deep water under fire to get to shore. After reaching the beach, the exhausted Marines pushed forward, engaging the elite Japanese troops in a bloody battle that resulted in the deaths of thousands on both sides.

The U.S. Marines lost around 1,000 men, and another 2,000 were wounded in the Battle of Tarawa, but the Japanese losses were far worse. After three days of intense fighting, only seventeen Japanese soldiers were left to surrender.

Admiral Shibasaki was reportedly killed on the third of the fight. Sixteen enlisted men and one officer were all that remained at first light on November 23, 1943, 76 hours after the battle began.

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  • An article cheer leading American War Machine?
    Really, this is what is needed?

    • Rick E.

      Yes it is a cheer leading article, they have to continue to justify the perpetual warmongering and interventions. There’s always “nation building” and “spreading democracy” to attend to, lol.

      • Well then, I better get my float ready for the parade 🙂

    • gazoo3

      WW2 was orchestrated by the Masons & co, just like all the other wars.

  • David Williams

    18,000 is not “a few thousand” or even “several thousand”.

  • KreepyJoe

    All the more reason to wonder how a guy in a cave defeated NORAD on 09/11/2001.

    • roger

      nope. 09/11/2001 was an inside job of controlled demolition. no planes, no hijackers. do some research for fuck’s sake………….

      • KreepyJoe

        Yes, you’re right! That’s why I said wonder…Semper Fi, 82-86…

        • roger

          Semper Fi, ’70-’76……….

      • Soul60

        Many are so brainwashed and dumbed down they do not even care.

  • Rick E.

    Really? Why can’t our military defeat goat herders in Afghanistan after trying for 16 years? Are they unable to “win” on purpose then? This should make the general populace wonder what the hell is going on!

    • Simon says

      back then our troops didn’t take micromanaged orders half a world away from the fight, didn’t have misinformed CIA sticking nose in everything and we ground our boys into the ground taking the pacific… we would not be allowed to put troops through now.

  • davee

    Dead men are cheap, Wounded men are a lifetime of expense. Was it a win?

    • roger


  • Cynical Old Bastard

    “…a few thousand…”

    Gotta question your math there, skippy. Since when is nearly 20,000 a “few?” Then the matter of the naval bombardment. That makes your headline even worse.

    You should work at Dollar General. They’re always looking for a few good help.