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The Battle of Tarawa Research Paper

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Updated: Oct 26th, 2019


The battle of Tarawa refers to a war that occurred from 20th to 23rd November of 1943 during the Second World War in the Pacific Ocean. This is the second time the United States of America seriously provoked people and the peace in the central pacific areas. This was also the first time ever the United States was wagging a war against Japan’s opposition to a cold ending.

The initial attempt by the United States to take over Japan was fruitless as the Japanese solders were well equipped and well trained so much so that they overpowered the American marine solders and won the battle. The battle was so fierce that hundreds of American solders were injured and seriously wounded during the war and many more bodies could not be sent back to their homeland.

The images of the bodies taken when the film of this war was taken way back in 1994 were said to be distressing according to the people’s views. For this film to be availed to the public view the film maker had to obtain permission from the then president Franklin Roosevelt.

This film to this very moment is considered the only film that has been given the most horrific pictures of the dead American solders. This paper discusses the war that took place between Americans and Japanese at the island of Tarawa. It explains every undertaking of both the groups involved, the type of weapons they used and the mode of attack. The paper provides details on how the war went on for the four days as well as the events that took place during the operations of the days and nights.


The battle of Tarawa was fought in 1943 between Americans and Japanese along the pacific area from November 20th to November 23rd (Baldwin 1). In order to come up with air field that could aid in the operation successfully into Japan, the United States had to operate from Marinas Island. This was not possible as it turned out that the island was heavily guarded by the Japanese solders. To deteriorate the resistance, the U.S decided that they would use bombers.

This could be done from the Marshall Island as it was the closest and the only one that could support such an operation. This attempt also failed as their communication was hindered from Hawaii. So it was concluded that to be able to attack the Marinas Island, the ballet had to be executed from Tarawa. Tarawa is a toll found in the Gilbert Island thus the name the battle of Tarawa came up.

The Japanese solders were quite well informed about the activities that were to take place at Gilbert Island and decided to take their time to strengthen their wave of attack at that point. They placed a task force of over two thousand solders under the command of Takeo Sugai. This is said to have needed a well informed group of marines.

They used technical equipment like tankers, coastal defense guns and Vickers guns. This they are said to have used during the Russo-Japanese war. These instruments were put around Gilbert Island and hidden in concrete bankers. Over five hundred pillbox made of logs and almost forty artilleries were spread around the island in readiness for usage.

They made an air field inside the bush in the island and dug channels and canals that the solders could use for moving from one place to the next during the battle. This troop was led by Commander Kaigun Shosho who proudly said that it would cost the United States one hundred years to overtake Tarawa using a task force of a million well trained men. These preparations were done early enough in readiness for the attack.

The Japanese were well prepared for the war and had all the confidence that they would painfully and massively defeat American solders (Antill 5). On the other hand, the American solders were well over thirty five thousand thus combined with the marines. They used battle ships, heavy and light cruisers, destroyers and transporters in large numbers.

They also used well built aircraft carriers. In the group of the warriors were the second marine divisions, infantry division and a few of the strong army men. Both the armies started the war on November twentieth and continued for one hour without stopping. They only ceased shortly to give time for the dive bombers to attack from opposite directions. A large number of the Japanese guns were destroyed during this time of opposite attack by the well armed American solders.

The bombing from the American bombers severely destroyed the small island and left it in rubbles. People thought that nobody would be left behind to salvage what remained of the little island. This was because the island was very much destroyed and was in bad shape so to say. The Japanese took cover and attacked the American solders when they decided to cease fire and let their marines reload.

The Japanese destroyed every weapon of the Americans that they could see and even set their boats on fire. Many of the American troops were injured by the Japanese’s large guns but some managed to escape to the nearby reef. The Japanese continued their attack late into the evening of the first day.

On the second day of the war, November twenty second, the American marines attacked the Japanese soldiers and separated them into halves thus slightly weakening the power (Antill 7). They did this by attacking from both sides and thus surrounding them.

They stopped using direct attacks and instead attacked from off the shore as they moved forward during day time. They were then able to rearrange themselves within an hour with not many soldiers getting hurt. This enabled them to be able to move to the deserted defense areas of the Japanese and they were once again able to defeat them. By the end of the day the American troops were in control of all of the western part of the region.

On the other hand, a small number of the army moved to the south to launch the attack from there. On the twenty third day of the same month the Japanese attacked the American solders but the solders resisted the attacks by taking more artillery within a very close range. The Japanese attacks came very early in the morning. One hour later more than three hundred Japanese solders were attacked at close and far range.

The American solders moved further and conquered most of the Japanese’ protected areas and now had more control of the region. They used the available forces and machinery against the Japanese after taking them by surprise. They received strong resistance from the Japanese soldiers and for a moment thought that they could not continue the fight. They then gathered force and fought back fiercely.

The Japanese tried to resist with all their strength but they could not resist the continual attack from the American solders. Most of their army members were either dead or severely injured that they could not do much. They gave up the fight after a spirited attack and resistance. They used all the available tools and machinery they had within their reach. The Americans now had control over the southern, northeastern and western parts of the Tarawa Island (Baldwin 3). The remaining Japanese soldiers were either killed or forced to flee the area.


The battle of the Tarawa was an intense battle. Both the groups involved were well prepared for the war. They both had very heavy machinery and well qualified and highly trained solders. Both the armies had large numbers of troops working under experienced commanders. The Japanese initially had more confidence in themselves but unfortunately they were defeated and overpowered by the American solders.

Clearly they learned that the American soldiers did not need a hundred years and a million trained solders to invade and take over Tarawa within just three days. Major Adams commanded a group of American infantry soldiers into the lagoon and into the areas that were initially occupied by the Japanese to finish the war. It is reported that “by the end of the war only one Japanese officer, sixteen enlisted men and over a hundred Koreans were found alive,” (Baldwin 5). A good number of them were killed in action.

Works Cited

Antill, Peter. Operation Galvanic (1): The Battle for Tarawa November 1943. November 2003. Web.

Baldwin, Hanson. “The bloody epic that was Tarawa: The iron courage of the marines who endured the red hell of that battle.” The New York Times. 16 November 1958: 1-5.

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1. IvyPanda. "The Battle of Tarawa." October 26, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-battle-of-tarawa/.


IvyPanda. "The Battle of Tarawa." October 26, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-battle-of-tarawa/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "The Battle of Tarawa." October 26, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-battle-of-tarawa/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Battle of Tarawa'. 26 October.

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