Lt. Roy H. Elrod USMC at Tarawa
Sun May 5, 2019 09:05

In the assault on Tarawa Elrod commanded the Second Platoon of the Regimental Weapons Company, attached to Crowe's Second Batallion, Eighth Marines. The platoon was part of the fourth wave and landed from Higgins boats.
Elrod and Bonnyman befriended each other on the voyage to Tawara "since both of us were sort of outsiders" to Crowe's battalion on the USS Heywood. Ashore on D+2 Crowe ordered Chamberlain (Crowe's XO), Palopoli (commanding F Company), along with both Elrod and Bonnyman to come up with a plan to take out the enormous power house bunker on the eastern part of Red 3.
Elrod's book, 'We were Going to Win or Die There', was published in 2017 and was put together with the USMC historian, Dr. Fred H. Allison. It does not seem to have attracted much attention, which is a pity because it is an excellent account and well worth the reading, especially for the coverage of Tarawa. The latter part of Chapter Six (from p.139) covers the preparations for Tarawa and Chapter Seven (pp.159 to 184) describes the landing itself and the battle.
Elrod's account has several new things to say about Tarawa. "I felt there was a very strong possibility that we weren't going to be able to land the boats because of the reef." Realizing that "Red Beach 3 had the longest walk from the reef" he trained and equipped his platoon to drag their 37 mm guns through the water across the reef to the beach. "... I had ropes, slings, and hooks that harnessed a couple of marines to the gun to pull it. In addition a couple of others were pushing against the rammer staff that had been inserted through the lunette rings on the trails, one man on each side of the gun." "Sometimes we could actually see the coral under us and sometimes not."
Thanks largely to Elrod and some luck, the whole platoon made it to the beach unscathed together with all four of their anti-tank guns. "We would go right up to where the bullets were landing (in the water), and when it stopped I'd wave them across. We actually crossed three lines of machine gun fire."
So at least one officer had actually done some sensible and productive thinking about what might be faced during the assault on Tarawa.
Another insight Elrod adds is that the ventilation shafts that Bonnyman and his men used to drop explosives into the giant power house bunker were only revealed after the USS Ringgold in the lagoon fired direct on the bunker from just 1,000 yards on D+1. "What it did was blow away the sand, blow away camouflage that was over the building. Then you could see the ventilation ports sticking up. We realized a substantial structure was under all that sand."
An excellent memoir and a superb memorial to a first rate USMC officer.

    • Lt. Roy H. Elrod USMC at TarawaClay Bonnyman Evans, Tue May 7 06:17
      I was privileged to be able to interview Roy for my book about my grandfather, 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman, Jr., "Bones of My Grandfather." Roy gave me a bird's-eye view of my grandfather's final... more
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