Utmost Savagery: The Three Days of Tarawa 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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I had a client tell me he had been at Tarawa. That stopped the interview. He was in the second wave. so had a better chance of survival, but still waded past the dead Marines to get to the beach.
I had a great uncle that fought there too. He had joined the Seabees thinking he would only be in a construction battalion. Not at Tarawa.
This book makes it so terribly intimate, like the stories of the survivors I have met.
Tarawa was a huge learning experience for the Americans and they paid a high price. The Japanese also learn to dig in deep but their cost was almost all of their troops. The author has done excellent job describing the battle both the heroism and errors.
The attack on Betio is rightly infamous because of the harrowing experience of many US marines. A shallow reef which surrounded the atoll caused havoc with many landing craft, forcing several battalions of marines to wade hundreds of yards through ferocious defensive fire. Astonishingly, for all the terrible carnage caused by the low tide, there were some remarkable compensations. A strength of Alexander's book is his finding that other, arguably worse outcomes were likely if the circumstances had been different. Indeed, despite the appalling carnage, 2nd Marine Division got a number of very fortuitous breaks. The key one being the untimely death of the Japanese commander on the first day.
Alexander's focus is on the commanders and the key units (with some very helpful explanations of the Japanese forces) and the decisions and actions taken. Excellent research has provided a fairly full account of the ebb and flow of the battle. While there are only a sprinkling of first-hand recollections by participating marines (it is not an oral history style of book and the lack of vivid material from the attacking marines is its only weakness), considerable coverage is given to the deeds of the Medal of Honour winners as well as to some of the other heroes. These strongly convey the level of courage required for the marines to prevail. Japanese perspectives are understandably harder to come across but there is some interesting material from several of the survivors. With their incredible fighting spirit, extensive preparation and number of weapons available, they were an incredibly formidable opponent. It all resulted in some of the most bitter fighting imaginable. There truly was no quarter. Everyone was trying to kill as many of their enemies as they could.
This is a very aptly named book. While in hindsight it seems clear the Americans were always going to win, it is chilling to consider that failure was a distinct possibility. The number of casualties among the assault troops was shocking and if the run of luck had gone Japan's way, disaster could have resulted, with enormous repercussions for any future amphibious landings. Considering that these were imperative in both theatres of war, the stakes were very high indeed. Highly recommended.
Top international reviews
L'auteur est un ancien colonel de Marines : il sait de quoi il parle et toutes les sources sont fiables.
Nombreuses anecdotes et témoignages viennent enrichir la narration des évènements.