Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Knowledge often is costly

Marines storm the command bunker on Tarawa, November 1943

Remembrance Day .... just another reminder

For better or for worse, some battles become mythic in proportion in the memory of mankind after the guns have become silent. So it is in Marine Corps' lore when speaking of an epic struggle which took place on November 20-23, 1943, on the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands in the Pacific Ocean during World War II. The primary fighting took place on Betio Island, where this photograph was taken on the third and final full day of "major" combat.

The "hill" the Marines are storming in the photo, incidentally, is not a natural phenomenon, but the Japanese command bunker, which had been constructed from tons of concrete with tons of sand placed atop that to make it virtually indestructible to air or artillery weapons of the era.

About 1,200 Americans and nearly 5,000 Japanese died during the 76-hour ordeal to determine which country would control a tiny piece of land -- only about 300 acres -- in the middle of an ocean. A few years in the aftermath, military analysts agreed it was an unnecessary island invasion in the American war effort to defeat the Japanese Empire -- a battle that should never have been fought.

Why mention this battle today? Because today is Veterans Day, a day of remembrance. In the United States, it first was observed as Armistice Day to honor those who fought in World War I. The date selected to mark this event was that on which an armistice was signed to end the fighting in the "war to end all wars" -- the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Unfortunately and predictably, not all wars ended with the conclusion of World War I, so, in the 1950s, the decision was made to use this occasion to honor those who fought in World War II and Korea, as well, and the day was renamed Veterans Day. Some countries in Europe and elsewhere, maybe more appropriately, simply call it Remembrance Day.

Many of the men shown in the photograph died only minutes after it was taken. One of them, the fourth man from the right -- if you are able to distinguish him -- was one of four Marines to win the Medal of Honor that day.

Statistics from the battle include these: Four Medals of Honor, America's highest military award for valor (three of them posthumous); 46 Navy Crosses, the Marine Corps' and Navy's second highest award for valor (22 of them posthumous); four Distinguished Service Medals; 248 Silver Stars; 21 Legion of Merits. The Purple Heart is presented to Americans both killed and wounded in action, which puts that number at roughly 3,500 for this unnecessary, tiny island campaign.

The Battle of Tarawa was fought just a few days after Armistice Day / Veterans Day / Remembrance Day in 1943, barely 25 years after the final shots had been fired in the "war to end all wars." Today, still another 66 years later, it is very evident that few, if any, of those who have been entrusted to "replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth" have learned a blessed thing.


TheChicGeek said...

Hello Fram :)
Came to wish you a Happy Veteran's Day! I hope you are doing something nice to enjoy your day today. I like your post...but then I knew you would do a nice one for today :)

The Beethoven video is super pretty! I love the music and the beautiful nature scenes...pretty flowers, butterflies, rainbow and trees...ahhh, makes me want to go on a pretty vacation.

If only we could all learn to live in peace and enjoy our beautiful planet instead of living with war and destruction. It is good to honor those that have made such a great sacrifice and you are one of those men. :) So thank you!! and Happy Remembrance Day!
Love and Hugs :)
Kelly :)

Fram Actual said...

Actually, I did have a pleasant day, Kelly. Thank you. It included a few hours out and about in a T-shirt. The weather has been more like late September than early November around here, with highs generally in the 60s, for five or six days in a row now. That is especially welcome and makes every day sort of special this far north.

You seem to be spending a fair amount of time enjoying both music and the outdoors yourself. More power to you in that regard.

There is no need to note my Marine Corps time, Kelly. When I was young, I was doing what I wanted to be doing and I was where I wanted to be and I was among the type of men I wanted to be among. When it gets right down to it, I believe people like you, who are active in "Support Our Troops" events and activities, are the ones who deserve a "well done" more than anyone.

Thank you, also, for making the trip all the way from California to Minnesota to say hello.

Something special ....