Bringing Battle to the Home Front: With the Marines at Tarawa
Will you be watching the Oscars this Sunday? Did you know that a number of films produced by the United States government were nominated or won Academy Awards? One such film is With the Marines at Tarawa, which brought the experience of a major battle to the American public and consequently won the 1945 Academy Award for best documentary short.
With the Marines at Tarawa hit theaters March 2nd, 1944. Sunday’s Oscar broadcast marks the 70th anniversary of the film’s release.
The Unites States Marine Corps fought the Battle of Tarawa over four days in November, 1943. At the end of the battle, nearly a thousand Marines were dead, and over two thousand were wounded. Of those holding the island, there were nearly 4700 casualties. Only seventeen Japanese soldiers surrendered; of about a thousand Korean forced laborers, 129 survived the battle.
Beyond the strategic value of the victory, the battle is significant today because so much of it was caught on film by our combat cameramen. Seeing the footage made the experience real for those on the home front, and serves as a record of the horror of war for those of us who watch it now.
With the Marines at Tarawa was carefully crafted to bring viewers into the experience, from the somber mood during preparation, through the chaos of battle, the overwhelming sadness of counting and caring for the dead, and the sense of accomplishment as the American flag was raised on the island.
In addition, the film focuses on how lives were saved by competent medical personnel and the possibility of blood transfusions, a fact that would have provided hope to those with loved ones on the front lines. Viewers are left with a sense of grief, as well as patriotism in knowing that “our boys” were bravely fighting this “war we did not want.”
Remembering Pearl Harbor - USS Nevada escapes
The Japanese air attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii began at 8:01 AM, Sunday, December 7, 1941. The Nevada, tied up with the U.S. Pacific Fleet, brought down several attacking planes. Although she sustained many hits; she was able to slip her mooring and unsuccessfully attempted to reach the open sea. The logbook entry describes those first harrowing 40 minutes of the attack that resulted in over 100 wounded and 47 killed or missing crewmembers.
The entire entry for December 7th 1941 can be viewed in our catalog: Logbook of the USS Nevada
Photograph of the USS Nevada beached at Hospital Point after the attack on Pearl Harbor, 12/07/1941
"U.S. troops go over the side of a Coast Guard manned combat transport to enter the landing barges at Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, as the invasion gets under way., 11/1943"
The Bougainville campaign by the Allies to dislodge Japanese forces from the strategically placed island off Papau New Guinea by the Allies began 70 years ago today on November 1, 1943, with an amphibious landing by U.S. Marines and a naval engagement.
"The old (Pacific) swimmin’ hole. Come on in mates; the water’s fine. And there’s plenty of it between the coast of California and the shores of the Philippines. Coast Guardsmen and Marines "beat the heat" by taking a dip from the side of the ship., 1944"
What’s your favorite way to beat the heat over Labor Day weekend?
"…August 6, word was received from the Coastwatcher and by Native Messenger that eleven survivors of PT 109, sunk in a collision with an enemy destroyer on the morning of August 2, were alive and on a small Islet…”
Action Report of the Loss of the USS PT-109 on August 1-2, 1943, 08/01/1943 - 08/02/1943
You can read more about the story of PT-109 in Sixty Years Later, the Story of PT-109 Still Captivates, via Prologue Magazine
"At the time of turning, PT 109 was seen to collide with the warship, followed by an explosion and a large flame with died down a little, but continued to burn for 10 or 15 minutes. The warship when it was about 3000 yards away headed toward them at high speed. The PT 169 stopped just before the warship hit PT 109, turned toward it and fired two torpedoes when abeam at 150 yards range. The destroyer straddled the PT 169 with shell fire, just after its collision with PT 109, and then circled left toward Gizo Island at increased speed and disappeared."
On August 2, 1943, while on patrol in the Solomon Islands, PT 109, with Lt. (jg) Jack Kennedy in command, was sunk after being rammed by the Japanese Destroyer Amagiri.
U.S. Navy Douglas SBD-3 “Dauntless” dive bombers are launched at the Japanese Fleet during the Battle of Midway, June 4-6, 1942.
THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY, 1942
From the Navy Motion Picture Films series
Fought six months after the attack at Pearl Harbor, the battle was a decisive victory for the U.S. Navy. Four Japanese aircraft carriers were sunk, and the loss was was a crippling blow to the Japanese fleet.
Silhouetted in the golden glory of a Pacific sunrise, crosses mark the graves of American boys who gave their lives to win a small atoll on the road to the Philippines. A Coast Guardsman stands in silent reverence beside the resting place of a comrade. 1944
In the only land battle of World War II to take place on incorporated U.S. territory, American forces began the invasion of Attu, in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, to dislodge occupying Japanese Forces on May 11, 1943.
U.S. FORCES BLAST JAPANESE FROM ATTU [ETC.], 1943
From the "United News" Newsreels series from the Office of War Information
Captured Japanese photograph. U.S. soldiers and sailors surrendering to Japanese forces at Corregidor, Philippine Islands, 05/1942
On May 6, 1942, 11,000 U.S. and Filipino troops surrendered on the island fortress of Corregidor, known as the Gibraltar of the East. This marked the final Japanese conquest of the Philippines. U.S. and Filipino forces would recapture the island in 1945.