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those words were certainly true. theirs is a war story that deserved to be told. i'll oliver north. good night. >> oliver: tight war stories, it s apacic isla the japanese on "war stories" -- it was a pacific island the japanese were determined not toolose. >> heavily defended island the americans assaulted in world war ii. it was going to be a bitch. >> it was the bloodiest of the war. >> thousands of men would die here. >> certainly was the most traumatic event of my life. >> i was aman. hundreds, thousands. >> the lessons learned at bloody tarawa. that's next on "war stories." >> liver: good d evenin i'm
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good evening. i'm oliver north and i'm at the national museum of the pacific war hereein fredericksburg, texas. welcome to "war stories." they called it bloody tarawa. the gibraltar of the pacific. a legendary battle in world war ii that cost the lives of nearly 6,000 combatants in a scant 76 hours. how could so much blood be shed over an island the size of new york's central park? japanese commander bragged with weapons like this artillery piece and that tank, he could hold tarawa against a million americans for 100 years. but we proved him wrong. one survivor said that every participant became a hero in spite of himself. gruesome images of death from this tiny issand stunned our nation and forever changed the way americans looked at the realities of war. this is the story of 12,000 courageous marines and sailors
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who wouldn't accept defeat in capturing this island from a determined enemy for whom surrender was an option. summer 1943. america was waging war on two fronts. from north africa, the allies were battling toward sicily, the in the pacific, america was firmly on the road the tokyo and ending the crushing tide of japanese eepansion. decisive victory if june of '42 left the japanese permanently on the defensive. eight months later, u.s. forces won the battle of gath la canal. it led to the central pacific. under the direction of admiral chester nimitz, the first steppingstones of the new island hopping strategy were the
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beaches of tarawa in the gilbert islands. >> tarawa proved what a ferocious, tenacious enemy we were against. in fact, it wasn't until tarawa although we had significant battles up to that point that america realized it's going to take more than what we had thought to defeat in this enemy. >> control knell john riply is director of the museum division ann the holder of the navy cross. why were these islands so important? >> it was the winning strattgy of the war to go directly toward papan, establish air bases from which eventually we could take the war in a very major way, the air war to japan. >> for the japanese, the gilbert islands represented their furthest outpost. >> military historian and retired marine colonel joe alexander savagery." >> it was the possession of the british and had been for 50 days. the japanese swept throughout the gilberts.
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chased away residual forces. giving them an air stripe i it's 16 atols. the main is tarawa. barely two miles long and more than 3,000 miles from tokyo. >> it was small, flat, small sand dunes, a number of palm trees. no hills. no mown tns. no caves. the water table was very high. you could hardly dig into it. >> galvanik was the code name of tarawa was the atoll and it was the small island within tarawa atoll and an objective airfield sat. >> the task of prying tarawa out of the japanese hands came. >> many of us had malaria and some still had problem with what they call moo-m 0o or swelling.
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of the legs, your glands, whatnot. so many had to recover in the hospitals in new zealand. >> dean lad was only 22 but already a come pat veteran by the time he reached new zealand. hailing from washington, ladd was a former high school rifle champion. reserves right after graduation. the diviiion is taken back from gath la canal. >> to new zealand, wellington. >> tell me about new zealand, the training. >> it was great. we didn't get into training heavy until they wanted to us -- give us a chance to rest a while but we then did a lot of climbing these steep ridges. >> i volunteered to go into thh assault engineers. >> training alongside with ladd is harry knee half of portland, oregon. he was 17 when he joined the
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marine corps reserves and then called to duty to set up a camp at pearl harbor. he'd been there a month before the japanese attacked. >> my primary job was demolition but i trained also a little bit on the flame thrower. diesel fuel is a main fuel and then you had an igniter just like a cigarette lighter and compressing that, the ignitions went off and the compressionn forced the diesel fuel through and you had ignition. >> as the company commander, i was able to take my company out into the boondocks and do the training out there. >> michael ryan grew up in kansas. after being called up as a reservist, he also found himself at gath la canal. nicknamed the old man, he was 27 reaching new zeeland and commander of company l. your job to train the 200-plus marines ann get them ready to
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hit an island you don't know which one. >> yes, sir. >> by this time, how many are new and how many are experienced? >> well, i would say about 25% were new. so then we promoted from within and got so many replacements. we lost some people on the replaced. al and had to be >> i was very, very young. i just turned 22 and i'd never been away from home in my life. >> fresh out of the university of south dakota, lillbridge finished colleee in three years and quickly recruited by the marines at quantity coe, virginia. >> i was the younger officer in the battalion but i had men in my platoon younger than i. you know, they were 17 and 18 and 19 years old. and we trained llke mad. in new zealand. >> november 1st, 1943, the
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23,000 men of the 2nd marine division boarded ships including the sheridan, the bittle and had no idea where they were going or how long they'ddbe away. to rehearse for a large amphibious assault in the pacific. >> it's so complicated that it's almost impossible to do one successful withhut a rehearsal. >> we rendezvoused for a quick landing maneuver. because they had never had all the ships together for a landing before. we kkew that we were going to hit the next whatever island it was. and it turned out to be tarawa. i had never heard of tarawa before. >> and they broke out the maps and now this is the beach. this is the name of that place, code name helen. >> each day we had schooling on what we were toodo, who we were going to be assigned to. what our jobs were.
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what the timetable was. >> word was after the naval bombardment of the island, here would probably be nothing left and we would be walking across land and walk across the island. we'd be lucky if we fired a shot. >> coming up, how american forces take on japan's immerial marines said to be the best tojo's got. at ally bank no branches equals great rates. it's a fact. kind of like mute buttons equal danger. ...that sound good? not being on this phone call sounds good. it's not muted. was that you jason? it was geoffrey! it was jason. it could've been brenda.
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>> oliver: by 1943, most aman had seen u.s. governnt by 1943, most americans had seen u.s. governmenn propaganda films like these. >> oh, you are the enemy.
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>> they often depicted the japanese as small, ignorant. that's not who was waiting for them at tarawa. >> defending tarawa was a mixed force of japanese special naval landing forces, some people call them japanese marines. >> they probably had the best troops they had in one place at one time. >> eric campbell is author of "bloody tarawa." >> one of the battaliobattalion units had been trainers at artillery school and picked up hole and sent to tarawa to help defend the island. they were that good. >> they were selected for their physical prowess. a lot of the americans said the biggest damn japee we have ever saw and a lot of cases bigger than the americans coming in. adept at hand to hand fighting. had a lot of spirit tie commander in charge of tarawa is this man, 49-year-old rear
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fertilizer deallr. >> there's a boast attributed to him to take a million marines, 100 years to capture tarawa. good defensive plan, motivated the troops. he was genuine threat to us. i rate him as one of the four best commanders that the u.s. marines ever fought against. >> the landing at tarawa was a joint navy-marine corps operation. >> the navy delivered the task force, delivers the marines to long-range naval guns and carrier aviation and later ashore safely anddin good order, the marines say i'll take it from here. thank you very much. >> rear admiral "handsome" harry hill and major general julian c. smith.
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>> very, very competent officer. had the respect of thh senior officers and no doubt of the troops he ran into. >> smith relied heavily on 38-year-old colonel david shoop. his job was to mastermind the assault on how and when to attack the japanese. but first, he had to figure out how many there were and he did in it an unusual way. >> they found out how many men were defending by how many la treens there were. really? >> the small structures built over the water mean here are la treens. >> you can count theetoilet seats and figured an officer a seat to himself and a troop probably have to share maybe four or five of them. 4.5 to a toilet seat and came up with a total count of 4,400 people on the island and they were off by about 6 men. >> the island was surrounded by a treacherous coral reef out approximately 1,000 yards.
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known as amtraks to clear the reef rrgardless of the tide. >> they ran with these deep cleats. when they ncountered the reef they went over. >> they relied on returning lvts to transport them in if thhy were stuck but the japanese had turned the entire island into a fortress. what did they put into tarawa to defend it? >> they bruought in a lot of concrete. cut down a lot of coconut trees and put in some of the thickest walled bunkers you can imagine. they put in it four eight-inch naval turret guns. they had rifle pits. they had seawall all the way arrund. of coconut logs four feet high. >> they could see the barbed wire.
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saw the tetrahedrons. they saw the anti-aircraft guns protecting the airfield. and they knew by god how many troops were there. >> at d-day minus one, both sides were locked and loaded. aboard the ships, the marines gathered to pray. >> the day before we went in to tarawa, they had a morning service for everybody. and they had them in various places on the ship because so many peopleethat you couldn't get everybody to one service. it was well attended. i attended. i wanted to make sure that all my marks were in the right place. admiral nimitz told the subordinates to get the hell in anddget thh hell out. that was the plan at tarawa. but the japanese had a different ideas. they were dug in and planned to fight to the death. can a business have a mind?
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>> oliver:just before dawn on noveer 20th, 1943, afr a breakfast just before dawn on november 20th, 1943, after a breakfast of steak and eggs, the second marine division watched as tarawa was pummelled with 200,000 tons of shells. another 900 tons of bombs dropped from carrier aircraft. at the time, this was the greatest concentration of naval gun fire and aerial bombardment
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in the history of warfare. the pounding continued for three hours. >> you could see the shells, the naval shells streaking red through the sky on to the island and all the explosions and the whole place was covered in a big cloud of dust and sand. >> a carrier pilot who flew across the island said, when we started it was a tropical paradise. when we finished, it looked like an ashtray. >> didn't seem possible that this kind of thing going on could be anybody left alive on the place. >> on the morning that the task force of the americans appeared out of the mist of the sunrise, the japanese looked out and saw themselves surrounded. biggest armada they'd ever seen and they knew they were not going to walk away from this island. no more escape. they would have to fight to the death. >> looked relatively simple thing to do. this island was hardly any bigger than central park in new york, and we figured that this
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would be a staff. >> staff sergeant norman hatch had been a marine for five years as a cameraman. >> my resppnsibility was to document what went on in the course of the battle. as best i could. no one had ever photographed an amphibious landing against a well-fortified enemy. >> i said, you know, the's no reason for anything to happen to anybody. we'll just do our duty and do what you're told. and nobody's even going to get wounded. you know? this is going to be a piece of cake. >> what went through your mind when you saw that island the first time. >> i figured all that bombardment, we can get across in a hurry. >> after the naval bombardment, the plan had 5,000 marines land in three waves through the lagoon, red beaches 1, 2 and 3. red beaches 2 and 3 divided by a long pier that jutted out to th% edge of the reef.
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>> there was some confusion as to the lineup of the amtraks. theoretically, we were supposed to go in three rows. but some of the amtraks misfunctioned and by the time we reached the land the first, second and third wave were all kind of mixed in. >> when i went in on my amtrak, when we hit the reef and started to go up over it, we were hit by machine gun fire and crouched down as low as we could. i remember a bullet came through the amtrak. it wasn't armor. and passed between my dungarees and backpack. it was really quite devastating. >> they were hit with everything from the 7-millimeter to the how itsers and anti-aircraft guns
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and bazillion machine guns. the marine hopeful for a cake walk had their dreams dashed by the volume of enemy fire that opened up to them crossing the line of departure. >> it was evident the bombardment did little damage to the entrenched troops. >> naval gun fire was not particularly well designed for sand-covered bunkers. the shells go off premature. the other side. t the ships on >> you look over the edge of the boat, what did it look like? >> the tractor right in front of my boat was on fire. but all of the marines were out i thought until two climbed up on the side and their clothing was on fire and against the smoke of the beach. they were only there i thought a few ssconds before they fell into the water. >> how deep's the water? >> well, when we got out, it was up to here. >> you can't run in that,
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though. >> no, you can't. you waded in. >> all of the men who had gone out ahead of us were down dog paddling sort of in the water and all you could see were basically the helmets and looking over the field it looked like a herd of turtles. reduced the capability of being a target doing this but even though we saw several get hit. they said it was like a curtain of hell trying to wade under the beach. be a very bloody affair.wa would next, see how major mike ryan would lead the orphans to victory. ♪ i built my business with passion. but i keep it growing by making every dollar count. that's why i have the spark cash card from capital one. i earn unlimited 2% cash back on everything i buy for my studio. ♪ and that unlimited 2% cash back from spark means thousands
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>> oliver: ittook some of e
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rines seven urs the fst ta 0 to wade onto it took some of the marines seven hours that first dayyto wade on to the beach and when they finally got there, they were met by furious enemy fire of 500 pill boxes that blanketed the beach. it seems that all they did is push the sand around. >> hit the beach and they all leaked out. we leaked oot first. hhre's the seawall and very narrow, narrow beach. bodies everywhere. >> the men were just dying by the hundreds. we had the dead that were in the water, the wounded that were ii the water. we had the woonded on the beaches that we couldn't get to. >> so, anywheres you looked you saw a dead body. and it wasn't long before the smell was pretty bad, too. there were marinessfloating in the water at the beach edge back and forth with the surge of the tide. >> guys were jammed up, up against the seawall for protection against fire.
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and without a second thought, i just said to the guys without i leaped up over the seawall and i just took off inland. they all came after me. >> 12 miles offshore, the division commander major general julian smith was aboard "the maryland" with harry hill. he waited for the call to join on base and communications were down. >> the tractors and even the boats, radios not water proof. sailed into the wind and saw columns going toward the island. and the spray soaked them. they could not xhoon kate with pach other or back with the flagship. >> by the evening of the first day, there were four battalions of marines on shore requiring eight. units disorganized. troop leaders lost, killed, couldn't find the units. landed on the wrong beach. >> by the time major mike ryan
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made it ashore, he lost almost a third of l company. late afternoon of that faiirst y you were a battalion commander. >> yeah. but i didn't know it. it dawned on they weren't going tt get in. we thought he must have been killed on the reef. >> other people in, dribs and drabs from the boats blown up on the reef or enemy fire drove them to the west and there they landed and went to major ryan. mike ryan. >> with no battalion commander in sight, major ryan organized a group of marines. they came to be called ryan'' orphans and true to the can-do spirit of the marines, they seized the western end of the island. >> had a couple of german tanks around. and they cleaned house. and made a lot of progress for a small rag tag group of ryan's orphans. >> by nightfall, 1,500 marines
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dead, wounded or missing and the ones that made it to the beech hunkered down anticipating a fierce japanese counterattack but then the japanese commander made a fatal mistake. >> he decided the move to a secondary command post. >> a marine spotted him and alerted the navy offshore. >> here was a cluster, looked like officers out in the open. the navy launched salvo over and over kill them all. his chief of staff, gunnery officer, operations officer, every one of them was dead. we didn't know that. probably biggest turning point in the battle. because he was killed and all the staff,,there was no major counterattack on that first night when we were so vulnerable. >> first lieutenant dean ladd and the rifle platoon of b company circled offshore over 24 hours before they got the signal to land. >> you've been assembled and
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circling all night. >> we didn't get the final word of where we're going to land until the battalion commander came by and said we're landing which turned out worst one it could have been. you could just see, you could just see -- like that. you had to go through where that curtain of fire was. chest deep. it was very slow. >> you've got the rest of your rifle platoon following the lieutenant. >> yeah. >> what are you telling them? >> come on. let's go. and a couple of times of that and then next thing you know i'm hit. >> hit by machine gun? >> felt weak, might die and ordered the troops to go forward. those were the orders that he had. one of the privates, a commander sullivan, grabbed him, pulled him up and back to the reef. >> it was there that dean ladd
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got for help and ultimately saved his life. and it would come from a very familiar face. >> two navy salvage officers from the "usa sheridan" took it upon themselves to try to rescue the marines and oldest marine they had seen. he was 33 years old. who's that guy? i have seen that smile and that grin. that's lieutenaat hinberger and the movie actor eddie albert. >> he probably saved dozens or scores of ma veens, wounded mari marines, marines clinging to life. >> eddie albert given up hollywood to be in the thick of battle in world war ii. >> could have served as a figure head and made raining movies and built up morale. he went to officer candidate school, commissioned and went to an attack transport and a salvage officer. >> the marines tell me that you in a boat just like that went around and rescued all kinds of
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wounded marines and brought them back out to the ships so they could be treated. >> maybe a couple. >> how about 26 trips? >> well, yeah. that's possible, yeah. there's nothing brave about it. you see the guy. you help. everybody did it the same thing. >> how does eddie albert want to be remembered? >> he did his job. that's all. i was a soldier. nothing more. at the end of the battle, would the stars and stripes fly high over tarawa? stay with us for more "war stories."
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>> oliver: a thebattle
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enreits thirday of fighting themarines were as the battle entered the third day of fighting the marines were succeeding in the yard by yard struggle to take tarawa's red beaches 1, 2 and 3 against an enemy that was nearly invisible. >> you almost never saw the enemy. never. they were in the bunkers. and they were firing at you and you were firing at them. >> they were always hidden. most of them were dug in some place. it was only out of the block house that we were able to get pictures of actual japanese in a fighting mode. >> these motion pictures were made by staff sergeant norman hatch, a marine chorps photographer, pictures that give a close-up view. >> on the eastern end of the island, henry kneehoff had the mission of taking out a bunker. you are watching the actual footage of harry and the 8th
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marines assault on the bunker. >> we tried to get up there a couple of times. he carried so much weight with the flame thrower, he would slip and fall and then we'd use up all the fuel trying to get to the top. >> after three days of watching harry's valiant attempts, a shore water officer and kneehoff didn't know took charge of operation forewarned hope. >> they came up with a plan and they made it work. had a signal to the marines for covering fire and they charged and they went up like a hope in the revolutionary war. >> norman hatch joined tte fight. >> once we got around the sides of them, why, they were done for. no way of getting a flame throwers up, sent flame down the air vents. dropped the grenades down the air vents and it wasn't much left inside by the time we
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really got to the place. >> 13 offthe 21 men in the operation was killed. one was an unknown leader. >> nobody knew who he wws. they came back later and who was this guy? he led us up there. and had to look at the dog tags. alexander bonneman. >> he was posthumously awarded the medal of honor. after the bunker battle, harry wandered off for a much needed rest. it was then he founded a welcomed surprise. >> we sort of all receded to some place to hide and sit down and relax for a moment. when i looked around, i was in a sea of broken glass and i thought, what is this? and then i thought, well, this looks like beer bottles. and then i saw a label and i so thought, ee, i wonder if
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there's some refreshments here. >> that day tokyo received a last message. our weapons have been destroyed. from now on, everyone is attempting a final charge. may japan exist for 10,000 >> a lot of them charging without any weapons even. you know? and we could hear all the fighting and hollering and shooting and all this. >> surrender not an option, many of the surviving japanese defenders killed themselves. >> in many cases japanese privates holed up in a bunker alone with american troops all around would fight until they couldn't fight anymore and then take a shoe off, put the toe on the trigger guard, the barrel of the rifle in the mouth and squeeze the trigger with his toe. >> major general julian smith announced victory shortly after 1:00 p.m. on november 23rd, roughly 76 hours after the
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marines had hit the beach. >> the radio of the command group sent out a message that all ma reens, all sailors, all airmen, tarawa were waiting from. >> and the following day, american and british flags were raised over tarawa. >> there are no flag poles on the island so someone shim mied up the palm tree and hooked up something to haul the flag up. there was jubilation saying the battle was over. the first american plane to come in, a carrier plane. and all got a big kick out of seeing that. >> but there was still the grim task of burying the dead. everywhere you went. you know? a hand here. an arm there.
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a leg there. a shattered torso. next day or so, bodies start to swell. you know? too. and stench. the smell is incredible. >> when admiral anymore it toured the island on november 24th, he said it was the first >> after 76 hours, you had 6,000 dead men lying on a very hot island on the equator and an area that wws smaller than our pentagon and its parking lots. the loss of life at tarawa would shock the nation. what lessons would be learned from this savage bat snl that's next on "war stories."
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>> ,000 japanese, 13 captured and a 5,000 japanese died. 13 captured and a few more than 100 korean slave laborers were captured or gave themselves up. >> when prisoners were captured, they would be stripped down to their underwear, actually, so that they couldn't hide anything. you know? it was just a case of very quickly divesting them of their uniform. >> some of the guys spit on them going past. i told them, don't do that, you know? i didn't like that at all. it just didn't seem right. >> and more than 1,000 marines were killed. it was a very high price to pay in terms of square yards were life it was the bloodiest landing of the war. >> after nearly 76 hours of no sleep, no food and very little
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water, the survivors on tarawa were exhausted. >> first thing they did was to strip off their clothes, jump into the water and scrub down and scrub their clothes and the% it dried within very short time in that heat. and i think everybody laid down to go to sleep. i kept having a niggtmare with mine that somebodyywas over me with a bayonet and a couple of the fellows near me, they said, you must have been thinking some pretty weird thoughts. >> medical officer said to me, lillibridge, you took terrible. took out one of those deals on the airplane of whiskey, you know, little tiny bottles and gave it to me and said i think you better drink this. >> we were walking by a japanese tank. i heard this sound, sounded like a cry.
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and i thought, well, maybe some wounded jap crawled in there or maybe even a mmrine. just to gettout of the mayhem that was going on. finally i got in there and took a light and took a good look and discovered it was a kitten. >> you get nominated for the navy cross, the nation's second highest award for heroism and citation reflects the fact you basically were in charge of a battalion. >> not because i wanted to be but because there was no other major there. >> three medals of honor awarded posthumously for heroism at tarawa. william bort el william dean hawkins. a fourth to a survivor and a battle's mastermind, colonel david shoop. back in washington, president roosevelt got the first look at the devastation on tarawa
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captured by combat camera men like hatch. >> the battle of tarawa the most ferocious fight the marines have ever been in. each hour terrifying with violence of gun fire and hurling of grenades. >> it was very graphic. it was very accurate. very realistic. scary. it was up to the president of the united states whether or not he should release this. roosevelt was in a dilemma. showed the pictures, show what it's going to cost to fight our way all the way back across the% pacific to tokyo or cover it up and keep it as we had light casualties and no problem here. ♪ >> fdr decided to rellase the footage later made into the 1944 academy awarding winning documentary with the marines at tarawa.
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the public was shocked and horrified by what they saw. war bond sales increased dramatically. recruitment dropped by 35%. >> but the people knew going to be a rough road all the way % across the next year and a half. >> everything about tarawa was the first time it was done. so we pay for lives. lessons are learned in blood. >> when admiral nimitz went ashore after the battle he was astounded all of the facilitiis seemed to be lightly damaged in spite of the three-hour bombardment and asked if he could do mechanic kl drawings of the fortifications. and admiral nimitz staff took it back to hawaii and built the replicas of the japanese defenses and every ship that went to the western pacific thereafter had to go through and pass a course of blowing up these same tarawa defenses before nimitz would let them go to war. >> yours is a generation that
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waged the great depression, came through it and then won the war in oth the pacific and in europe. and changed this world for the good. >> i think we're humble about it, though. we realize, we look back at it and just consider ourselves to be just to be fortunate we're alive. >> not forgetting is maybe the real heroism of the survivor. and you should not forget. >> these are the marines who took tarawa. >> we had what it took. we were on the right track. we were going to tokyo. i'm oliver north and you're watching "war stories" on the fox news channel. stay with us.
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oler: the bloody battle tara laste hours but in that tim bloody battle of tarawa lasted only 76 hours but in that time nearly everything that could go wrong d. despite horrendous losses, the island was won princely because sergeants and junior officers rallied small groups of exhausted marines who with sheer will and determination proved that even the most fortified island couldn't hold them back. theirs is a war story that deserves to be told. a paid advertisement for
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time life's music collection. ♪ chances are 'cause i wear a silly grin ♪ there are artists we'll always remember... ♪ mona lisa, mona lisa ♪ men have named you there are beautiful songs, words and memories that will always touch our hearts... ♪ it's impossible ♪ to tell the sun to leave the sky ♪ ♪ it's just impossible this is the music of your life. ♪ she wore blue velvet

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