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One Square Mile of Hell: The Battle for Tarawa Paperback – August 7, 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: NAL; Reprint edition (August 7, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451221389
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451221384
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #169,756 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

It may be impossible to write a really dull book about the 1943 battle of Tarawa. In the assault on the island, the Second Marine Division lost a thousand dead, the Japanese garrison was annihilated, and the marines learned valuable lessons about amphibious weaponry and tactics that aided them in future campaigns. Wukovits avoids a straight narrative in favor of seeing the development of the battle through the eyes of selected survivors, whom he has interviewed intelligently and thoroughly. They were impressed, as readers may be, by the strength of the Japanese fortifications and the tenacity of their garrisons, who kept the whole island under fire for two of the battle's three days. Wukovits adds emotional punch with accounts of marines who did not survive but whose memories families have kept alive for 60 years. A worthwhile battle monograph for any Pacific theater or marine collection. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Wukovits writes as though he had gone ashore with the Marines...a worthy memorial to the Marines who fought there. (Herman Wouk)

This fast-paced chronicle of courage is a must read. (Lt. Col. Oliver L. North)

The best book I have ever read about the battle for Tarawa.(Gunnery Sgt. Jack Coughlin, U SMC (Ret.), author of Shooter: The Autobiography of the Top-Ranked Marine Sniper)

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 120 customer reviews
I thought the book was well researched, well written and very informative.
Doc B
I must say It was a great read, altho horrific in how Men lost and how they sacrificed there lives for their country.
Robert W.
Author John Wukovits has done a masterful job of telling the stories of the brave 2nd Marines.
Jeffrey T. Munson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

141 of 145 people found the following review helpful By Kay's Husband on August 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Most of us live 76 hours with little thoughts of danger, but as readers of this book will quickly find out, the 3 days the U.S. Marine 2nd Division spent on Tarawa atol, and especially Betio, was just about the most dangerous place a person could ever be.

Several people have said, including the two commanding generals of this operation, that next to Iwo Jima, Betio was the most fortified war zone they had ever seen. In fact General Smith said he had never experienced anything in WWI to compare to how the Japanese had fortified the island. The commanding Japanese Admiral Shibasaki, later killed in the battle, expressed his opinion just prior to the battle that "A million men cannot take Tarawa in a hundred years." Several thousand Marines from the 2nd Division at great cost would soon prove the Japanese admiral wrong.

The U.S. Navy bombarded the island prior to the landings, but not as much as the Marine generals would have liked. However, after the battle, it would be seen that no amount of shelling would have been able to destroy the defending Japanese troops, they were just too well fortified. In the end, it took the combined efforts of the U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, and the air force to take and hold, as Robert Sherrod said, an island no larger than 1 square mile.

I served with the Navy & USMC so this book immediately caught my attention, though I have two others on the subject, also. My opinion after reading this heart rending book is that it very well may be the best of recent times, and may be the best of any future books on the subject. The author has written a very readable book, whereas some books of military subjects are not; and he has built his book not only on individuals that were there, but also on their statements today, 60 plus years after the battle.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Steve Iaco on November 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Tarawa was one of the bloodiest engagements of the Pacific War. The Marines' successful invasion set a precedent for amphibious assaults to come -- including Normandy, seven months later -- and provided the Allies with a crucial staging area for the drive on Japan.

It's a wonder why Tarawa is not better remembered today. The ferocious three-day battle resulted in nearly as many casualties as SIX MONTHS of fighting on Guadalcanal.

John Wukovits brings the horrors and heroics of Tarawa to a new generation of readers. Like Stephen Ambrose, Wukovits relies on vivid, first-person accounts to describe the harrowing amphibious landing and the vicious, close quarter combat that followed. Wukowits offers up some of the most engaging writing on warfare I've ever encountered, surpassing even Ambrose.

In late 1943, Tarawa was not without its controversies. The high death toll had some people questioning the strategic necessity of taking the atoll as well as the tactics employed in capturing it. TIME correspondent Robert Sherrod wrote a highly acclaimed book about Tarawa in part to rebut criticisms of the campaign and bolster home-front morale. Can you imagine a journalist with such motivations today?

The battle's aftermath also saw Frank Capra direct an Academy Award-winning documentary, using footage shot by Norman Hatch, a cameraman who, like Sherrod, accompanied the Marines in the Tarawa campaign. Both Hatch and Sherrod are central players in Wukowits' excellent book.
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58 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Maxwell on August 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I don't think there'll ever be the perfect Tarawa book, that combines all the technical/human interest/personal experiences! It's like waiting for the 'next Dr.J' or 'next Hendrix!' But this one is the best so far for combat & 'before the war' stories. I was thinking, everyone has worked on cars & chased girls, why not put in more vet's stories. Maybe there's not that many Tarawa vets around anymore willing to open up - all of them need to, for the generations to come.
So, you'll want to add this to your Tarawa collection, along w/ Alexander's 'Utmost Savagery' for the technical, Hammel's '76 Hours & 'Bloody Tarawa' for the whole story & photos, Wright's 'Hell of a Way to Die' for the cover photo (!) and Sherrod's 'Story of..." for the reporter's view , along with the official Marine/Battery Press 'Battle of Tarawa.' Read about REAL American heroes and the toughest foe America ever fought, & defeated with little outside help!!
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Rod Danglewood on November 29, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a career Marine I'm frequently critical of war books written by those without a military background (though that's no guarantee of a good book). John F. Wukovits obviously doesn't have a military background, or at least not much of one. He has written on what I consider to be some embarassingly trite topics (Ben Affleck, Miley Cyrus, etc) in addition to many hard-hitting, serious books. However, that being said, this was a great book. It's not a military history study and doesn't go into tremendous detail on strategy, preparations, logistics, etc, although he does address those topics. His focus is more on individuals, their contributions, and their sacrifices than the overall tactical and strategic picture. In a few places he confuses regiments with battalions (8th Marine Regiment becomes 8th Battalion, of which there is no such thing), but I think there were only two instances of this and one typo mispelled word. Those minor issues aside, Wukovits does an outstanding job of bringing individuals to life and documenting their lives, deaths, and the legacy left to their families. He also specifically addresses some issues on the home front that don't get much attention, like the affect of labor union strikes on morale, the detached indifference of many Americans to the real war being waged thousands of miles away, and the general consesus amongst civilians at home that Tarawa was a tragedy rather than a great victory.

Being born and raised in San Antonio, this book is that much closer to my heart as some local heros are featured in great detail. This book was difficult to read at times as it is heartbreaking to see the suffering and sacrifice of so many and for so long. Freedom is not free, but the price for freedom has a name, a face, a family and a legacy.
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One Square Mile of Hell: The Battle for Tarawa
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