Over the years I have interviewed Tarawa survivors, including some involved in recovery and burial.
As early as the morning of the first day, aviators reported "Jap bodies" being washed out into the lagoon, and swept out to sea by currents through the channel at the west end of the island. Some were dismembered; one man recalled recovering what he thought was the lower torso and legs of his company First Sergeant. Others were obliterated by explosions, or sank under the weight of their equipment. On the first night the rising tide washed away the bodies of some men who had been moved to places near the base of the seawall.
Recovery teams were instructed to move bodies to the vicinity of the Long Pier, but the rising tide washed than away again. Some floating bodies were too badly decomposed to recover, so they were weighted down and sunk in place in the lagoon.
Bottom line: anybody who would try to make an estimate is crazy.
Hi, all. I wonder if anyone has ever run across a credible estimate of the number of Marines killed before making it to the beach during the battle. In all my reading, I've seen only vague estimates. ... more
It's because it's imposible Ed Gilbert,Sun Apr 2 07:27
I appreciate that explanation, and certainly it would have been a difficult number to calculate. It's interesting to me, however, that you don't even read that "hundreds" or "dozens" of marines were... more
As of today, the "Master Tarawa Casualty Database" used by researchers and investigators of the Chief Rick Stone and Family Charitable Foundation to assist the families of Tarawa MIA's, estimates the ... more
The bodies sunk in place were only ones that had washed well out into the lagoon, past the lip of the dished reef edge. When bodies were too badly decomposed it was impossible to recover them from... more
I can certainly see that bodies found floating in the lagoon beyond the reef might have been sunk, though of course there are many, many reports of Navy personnel using hooks to retrieve remains from ... more
Great news on the book Clay. I am looking forward to reading it. As far as the KIA in the water estimate, I have to believe that very close to half died before ever reaching the seawall. Just my... more