Tarawa by Matthew A. Hamilton

Under different circumstances I would have considered Tarawa a paradise. But when we landed there on 20 November 1943, the thoughts I had of my wife frolicking on this white sandy beach similar to the one in Hawaii where we spent our honeymoon, turned to blood and fear.

Our Higgins boat jammed in the shallows and so we had to walk across razor sharp coral. Enemy fire honed in on us like swarms of bees. Salt water burned the cuts on my hands and legs.

I lost half my guys before we hit the beach. All I could see and smell was blood and sweat, metal melting on skin. The mortally wounded screamed for their mothers.

I took cover behind an Amphtrack, tried my best to lead young boys to their destiny. Provided that it was clear of Japanese snipers, I determined that the pier would be a good rallying point. Reaching the pier, we dug in as best we could. Bodies and parts of bodies, like soulless driftwood, forced my throat to burn with vomit and hate and tears.

We finally reached inland and dug in for the night. The inexperienced sleepers had their throats cut. The crabs made homes inside their stomachs. Guadalcanal taught me never to sleep and so I lay on my back, still as a rock, and waited for the sun to come up and for the fighting to resume. I thought of my wife and a peaceful paradise.

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