Intermission Story (7) – Poem for Tarawa

Battle of Tarawa

Battle of Tarawa

The Battle for Tarawa
“The time has come,” the commander said,
“When we must fight once more;
So pack your gear and shoulder your gun,
We will board the ship at four.”
*
We boarded the ship in New Zealand
For a place we knew not where.
But deep down in our hearts we thought
Of the hardships we’d have to bear
 *
Twenty long days and twenty long nights
It took to reach the Atolls
We wiped off our guns and counted our shells
And loosened the straps on our rolls
 *
Then came the word, “All hands topside”
And our boats were lowered to sea I’ll tell you every man was scared
And we prayed for the things to be.
Our fleet was constantly pounding the isle
 *
To make things easier on shore
Then they finally slacked up around noon
To let our fighting men score
The first wave shoved off for “Helen”
 *
The coral reefs made it tough;
The tank bogged down, the boats were sunk
My God, those boys died rough.
Machine gun nests were thick on the beach
 *
But our men struggled nearer the sand
Some of them died in the water
Some of them died on the land. That was the first wave I have told about
Then the second wave moved in
*
‘Twas the same thing, but their lines grew weak

And some of the boys wore a grin.

Marines take cover behind a seawall.

Marines take cover behind a seawall.Now the Marines kept pouring i

From the places a rat wouldn’t go
 *
They tromped over bodies of dead Japanese
And onward to finish the foe.
Then our boys had formed a line
And darted from tree to tree
*
But the Japs were camouflaged so slick
It made them hard to see.
Japanese snipers in the tree tops
Pill boxes on the ground
 *
Mortar shells were flying everywhere
Hell was all around. Those pill boxes I spoke about
Were concrete, logs and steel
And the contents of the hole below
*
Our bombs could not reveal.
Our tanks pulled right up to those holes
And fired again and again
Now you can bet that it made Hell
*
For those stubborn Japs within.
Flame throwers left a path of death
And burned everything in sight
It didn’t take long for those Japs to decide
 *
That the Marines, too, could fight.
Imperial Marines the Japs called themselves
They were supposed to be tough
But they soon found out that U.S.M.C.
 *
Was built of the rugged and rough.
They were fortified to the tee
But it took the Second Division
To set up another V.
 *
Exterminated Japs filled every hole
And soon began to smell
On blood-stained coral we made our bedsbattle-of-tarawa-the-marines
And slept in that living Hell.
*
Four thousand Japs were slain on that island
Pill boxes numbered five hundred
Soon the air strip was repaired
Again our Air Force thundered.
*
More than eleven hundred Marines lost their lives
They put up a #### good fight
I salute each and everyone
Whom we buried the following night. ‘Twas the bloodiest battle in Marine history
*
Well done, what a service rendered!
I’m sure as long as time may go
Their victory will be remembered.
Just one word for the Seabees
 *
In discussion they’re always left out
But the fighting 18th was there from the first
And they were the last to move out.
*
Written by:
Claude William Hepp enlisted in the Navy Seabees (Naval Construction Battalion) Jan 13, 1943. He was a carpenter’s mate, third class and his unit was assigned to the 18th Marine Combat Engineers, Second Marine Division sent to the South Pacific. He wrote this poem after participating in the battle at Tarawa. Claude died during the bloody invasion of Saipan and was buried at sea two days after his 22nd birthday.
Acquired at the US Military Forum.
Click on images to enlarge.
###################################################################################

Farewell Salutes – 

Len Bryan – Tucson, AZ; US Navy, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Cmdr.

George Diehl – Grand Rapids, MI; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT260637844_god_bless_them_all_xlarge

Luther Gribble – Wellington, TX, US Army, WWII, PTO, Sgt., mortars

William Harrigan – Portland, ME; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Alaska

Bundy Hill – London, OH; USMC, WWII, PTO

John C. Holladay – Florence, SC; USMC, WWII, PTO, Sgt., 1st Marine Raiders, KIA (New Georgia)

John Leslie – IRE; British Army, WWII, ETO, 2nd Batt./Irish Guards, POW

John Prince – Bellerose, NY; USMC, WWII, PTO, 8th Marines, Pfc, KIA (Tarawa)

Maurice Stout Jr. – Lincoln, NE; USMC, WWII, PTO

Edward Terella – Erie, PA; USMC, WWII, PTO

###################################################################################

 

 

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on April 29, 2016, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 90 Comments.

  1. Twenty-two. A baby.

    Like

  2. This very touching poem made me read more about this battle of Tarawa. Thank you very much and best regards Martina

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Soldier poetry…. Another reason to hug a man (or woman) in uniform and thank them for their service!

    Like

  4. Extremely well written, so powerful and the photos say it all!
    Thank you for giving these heroes a voice.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Poignant and very touching. Thanks for sharing GP.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Such a chilling and vivid poem. It evokes the harsh reality of war. Thank you very much for sharing it.

    Also, on a different note, a very happy Tiger Day to you, good sir.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Tarawa.

    Just the very name says it all — to the initiated. Long may it be in mind.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. All those lives lost. And still the slaughter continues. Will we never learn?

    Liked by 2 people

  9. G.P. – It never ceases to amaze me — the amount of time and effort you present day after day in order to educate the rest of us. I’ve watched first hand the many benefits your blog has brought about in the lives of so many Veterans.
    A new victory to come: I’ve been told a new informal group is being formed between WWII Veterans (permanent residents) and Vietnam Verterans (12 week programs) and your blog is the catalast for bringing them together. The hope is that the Vietnam Veterans who up to this time have had a revolving door experience at this particular VA will find a purpose in meeting with the WWII Veterans and sharing experiences. Hopefully this program will come to Little Rock!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Only 22 years old! What a poem, packs a punch and brings home the horror, the immediacy of war. Where do you find such poems etc?

    Like

  11. I need to “introduce” you to a blog by a fellow named Bruce L. Leininger. I feel I owe him somehow.
    https://mappingtheoverlays.wordpress.com/about/ AKA blleininger.
    I can’t truthfully appreciate his map overlays the way veterans who served, especially an infantryman would.
    He does have related links which hit home, in much the same way as Ernie Pyle’s writings. They tell the story from the men who fought and died, and their day to day observations…
    This, one of his related links, says it all – http://kb8tt.net/brothers/index.html

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Such a waste – all the dead on both sides, and a writer who could have developed his craft

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Excellent first hand recording by a very brave poet, he has put into words what his eyes have seen, and his Heart has felt.
    Great post gp.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Claude captured the feeling of the war so well with his poetry. So sad that life ended for him at such a young age.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Poetry written in or post battle is often moving and realistic. This is no different, to think he died at 22 is awful. A mere child who died a man.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Thank you for bringing such a brave and talented man into my life. His story adds so much value to the poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. They said they were scared going in and I can see why. Can’t imagine going into the bloodiest battle and everything that they endured!!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. There will always be poets even among the roughest and toughest bunch of men. This fine poet is one example of fine verse writing soldiers. Thanks for sharing, GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Thank you, I will send this to my son in Afghanistan to share.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Another farewell salute is in order for Ed Baumgarten of St. George, Utah: G/511 of the 11th Airborne during WWII

    http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/thespectrum/obituary.aspx?n=edward-baumgarten&pid=179813536&fhid=4514

    I knew him personally and wrote about him a couple times: http://www.thespectrum.com/story/opinion/blogs/soldierstories/2015/04/02/vault-wwii-combat-memories-vivid-paratrooper/70828282/

    Thanks for writing your blog. You do a great job.

    David

    [http://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/37d4e6de2dab9905e1da3730e751f85a790951f3/c=42-0-709-500&r=x408&c=540×405/local/-/media/StGeorge/2015/04/02/B9316807805Z.1_20150402115355_000_GMPACJU06.1-0.jpg]

    From the vault: WWII combat memories vivid for paratrooper http://www.thespectrum.com Editor’s note: This article, detailing the memories of a WWII paratrooper who fought the Japanese in the Philippines, originally appeared in The Spectrum & Daily News …

    ________________________________

    Liked by 1 person

    • Do you know if a note about Mr. Baumgarten’s passing has been sent to the 11th A/B Division Assn.? Or should i send one off to Leo Kocher for the division’s records?
      I thank you for the notification and it will appear in the next post.
      Why can’t I find anything on line for your site?

      Like

  21. From what I’ve read there were horrible battles in the Pacific and the Poem for Tarawa certainly reinforces that. At the end of the war in Europe, Don volunteered to go to the Pacific but he wasn’t picked for the trip. Probably just as well as he suffered from PTSD for the remainder of his life anyway. Right this minute I’m enjoying eating a version of your lovely salad: tomatoes, Cuties, fresh basil, feta cheese, and a Greek salad dressing I substituted (because I already had it) for the one you suggested. The salad is beautiful and has a lovely fresh taste 🙂

    Like

    • It is pretty good, eh? I plan on having one later today myself. Sometimes I substitute toaster sesame dressing when I’m in the mood for an oriental flavor.

      Like

  22. The poetry of those who experienced these battles first hand is always so very moving. An honor to learn of CW Hepp and may we never forget the sacrifices made by these men in this particularly savage theatre of war.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Wünsche ein schönes Weekend liebe Grüße von mir Gislinde

    Like

  24. Though this battle was poorly planned, I like to think they didn’t die in vain. We still benefit from their sacrifice.

    Like

  25. Another story of Bloody Hell and Bravery.

    Like

  26. This is very moving, GP Cox. Thank you for introducing Claude William Hepp and The Battle of Tawara to us. We hardly dear look at the images, so sad.
    Love to you from Norfolk and Norway,
    Dina, Klausbernd, Siri & Selma xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  27. As per usual it is hard to find the words.. Or imagine even vaguely what it was like..

    Like

  28. Both stirring and moving in turn, GP. Nice post.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Thank you for adding this post to your list! I’ll get to your site and try out some of your other recommendations!!

    Like

  30. Thank you for helping to honor these troops.

    Like

  31. I appreciate your loyalty in passing on these memories.

    Like

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