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.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 beds
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.
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.