• Ralph L. Browner - A/1/2 - July 31, 2001

“I was in on the assault of Betio, assigned as a Pfc to A Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment, as a .30 caliber machine gunner. My Higgins boat was sunk the first morning about 2,000 yards off shore by a Jap 76. I lost all my gear and had to swim around in the water for about an hour until I and two other Marines were picked up by a captain's gig. There were twelve survivors of the sinking left out of thirty-six.

“The boat dropped us off next to the pier, where we had to wade ashore, being shot at by Jap machine guns. We would dive under water and hold onto rocks, waiting until they stopped firing, then rise to the surface and run a few yards until they started firing at us again. The only thing we had to fight with between the three of us was a small knife that I had saved.

“We finally reached shore alongside the pier, picking up carbines from dead Marines lying on or near the shore. There was a shot-up amtrac nearby that was Colonel Shoup's headquarters for a while. We spent the first night against the coconut seawall with water up to our knees, throwing grenades at the Japs on top that were throwing them at us. Quite a night.

“The next morning our battalion, Lt. Col. Kyle's, mounted an assault across the island and cut it in two. Reaching the other side we faced a very large Jap bunker, which gave us some difficulty until a Sherman tank came along and sent a round down the entrance. The Japs came boiling out and attacked the tank with bayonets, sabers and grenades, but were cut down by the tank and the Marines. Robert Hatch, a combat correspondent, filmed most of it.

“On the third day we loaded aboard an APA and went to Camp Tarawa, where we trained for Saipan and Tinian.”

<<< Back to Tarawa Stories