World War Two - Bloody Resolve
In this third episode of Lost Films, this landmark series of life on the frontlines during World War 2, the bloody battle of the Pacific rages on to the central Pacific atoll of Tarawa and the island of New Britain.
It is Autumn 1943, 23 months since the brutal attack on Pearl Harbor and America's shipyards, running at 24 hours a day, are building warships at an incredible pace as its war effort operates at maximum capacity. Its Pacific fleet is now the largest of all the warring powers. In the 8 months since their victory at Guadalcanal, the Americans have forced back the Japanese in the Solomon Islands and New Guinea.
The 2nd Marine Division are heading for the central Pacific island of Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands which was captured by Japanese forces from the Britsh just 3 days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese base at Tarawa is on the island of Beishio where they have built a strategic 4,000 feet runway. The island is defended by 5,000 well trained and well equipped Japanese soldiers dug in to 500 bunkers and defensive emplacements.
Tarawa Atoll - November 20th 1943 - 0505hrs
The American naval force begins shelling the island and by 0635hrs the first wave of ground troops climb aboard their landing craft and head for shore. Unknown to the Americans, the landing craft requires at least a 4ft deep clearance in order to manouevre over the islands' surrounding coral shelf, but the tide is only 3 ft deep and the boats are getting stuck. This forces the marines to wade nearly 700 yards to the shore under heavy enemy fire. Eventually the marines manage to reach the shore and find cover against a sea wall. With the death toll rising, the rest of the troops on the shore will have to hold therir precarious position on the beach throughout the night.
The next day the blood-soaked coral flats of the Beishio beach are a sad sight with the oppressive smell of death all around. In less than 24 hours since the landings, 1,500 of the 5,000 marines who landed are dead or wounded. Although the beach has been held throughout the night, the marines are in desperate need of re-inforcements from the reserve forces stationed 2 miles off-shore.
The second day of the invasion begins and in a desperate attempt to land more troops the order to send re-inforcements is given, even though the landing craft may not be able to clear the coral flats hundreds of yards from the shore. Mortars blast the boats as the marines wade to shore under unrelenting fire from the Japanese guns. Within minutes scores are dead. Although the first two waves recieved terrible casualties, by late afternoon the marines are finally able to move beyond the sea wall to overpower and destroy the Japanese positions, paving the way for more re-inforcements.
By November 23rd, after 76 hours of brutal close- quarter combat, one of the Japanese' most formidable Pacific garrisons lay in burning ruins. The island of Tarawa which is just one square mile is littered with the bodies of over 6,000 American and Japanese troops.
In the months following the Tarawa battle, casualty reports of 1,000 marines killed and a further 2,000 wounded are published. This prompts many Americans at home to question why so many had to die to take this tiny atoll when it could have been bombed into submission.
Sicily - September 1943
On September 3rd 1943, after Allied forces have forced the Germans and Italians out of Sicily and into Italy's mountainous terrain, the British 8th Army cross the strait of Messina and lands at Calabria. Just 5 days later, Italy officially surrenders to the Allies. However, at Salerno in central Italy, German forces dig in and put up a fierce resistance, Hitler has no intention of giving up Italy without a fight. As the American forces push northward to Naples they witness terrible devastation, whole towns raised to the ground by the Germans in a desparate attempt to hold up the Allies pursuit.
Outside Naples - November 22nd, 1943
North-east of Naples, Allied paratroopers and mortarmen are attempting to destroy German artillery positions from the rocky ridges. The mortars bombard the German emplacements, massive explosions are everywhere and disorientated troops stagger all around. Medics scramble from one man to the next and it takes a further month to liberate the city.
New Britain - December 26th 1943
Boxing Day, and the 1st Marine Division are making their way through the dense jungle island of New Britain, 1,000 miles south-west of Tarawa. This island is one of the Japanese's most important outposts in the chain of islands to Japan. They have a large naval base at Rabaul on the north-eastern tip of the island of which the Americans plan to encircle, cutting off any supply routes and rendering it irrelevant.
January 6th, 1944
The 5th Regiment of the 1st Marine Division have been making their way through the thick jungle for over a week , their tanks getting bogged down in the streams and dense undergrowth. They have come to the realisation that they must face the enemy without the protection of their armour. They are aware that the Japanese have taken up defensive positions in the jungle up ahead, but they do not know where. A 5 man patrol is sent out up the hill to find the enemy, but after several hours they realise they have become completely disorientated.
Suddenly a shot cries out, a Japanese soldier just 100 yards away turns on his heels, but is shot dead in his tracks. Then shots ring out from everywhere as the Japanese attack, but almost as quick as it began, the shooting stops. Strangely, the Japanese suddenly begin to retreat back into the jungle, why?, becuse amazingly a whole battalion of marines appear behind the besieged marines. Only 2 of the 5 men who set out on the scouting patrol make it safely back to camp to rejoin their company.
After 2 long hard weeks in the jungle, the 5th Marine Regiment are ordered back to the beaches and are informed that the mission on New Britain is over. By mid-January 1944, Allied forces surround the Japanese base at Rabaul and so have effectively cut it off. During the battle on New Britain the 1st Marine Division suffers over 1,300 casualties.
Dave Harris Art
- Limited edition prints of World War 2 pictures by Dave Harris Art
Highly detailed World War 2 pencil drawings are available online as limited edition Fine Art Giclee prints. A special gift for anyone interested in the second world war. Prints available include: El Alamein, Dambusters and Band of Brothers.
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