Camp Betio, in Northern Kuwait, was home to Camp Pendleton Marines readying for war, including the 7th Engineers Support Battalion.
In 1943, US forces advanced through the Central Pacific, continuing the offensive thrust aimed ultimately at the Japanese home islands. The plan of attack called for them to take the Gilbert Islands, then the Marshalls and finally the Marianas. Operation Galvanic, the seizure of the Gilbert Islands, began on Nov. 20, 1943. Tarawa Atoll, specifically Betio Island, was selected as the target of the main assault because it contained the bulk of the Japanese defenses in the Gilberts. Surrounded by a barrier reef, Tarawa's Betio Island presented a serious challenge to amphibious landing craft, which would hang up on the reef if there wasn't a sufficient tide depth to allow them to cross. The defenders of Betio were well protected. Japanese engineers had built a system of bomb-proof shelters made of coconut logs braced with angle irons. The roofs of these shelters measured at least 6 feet thick. The Marines landed Nov. 20, 1943, on Betio's northwest shore. After 76 hours of fierce and bloody yard-by-yard fighting, Betio was theirs.
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