GILBERT ISLANDS. In November 1943 U. S. military planners decided that the planned assault on the Marshall Islands required the capture of the Japanese-occupied Gilbert Islands, a collection of islands and atolls about two thousand miles southwest of Honolulu. After a two-hour preliminary bombardment by ships and naval planes under the command of Adm. Chester W. Nimitz and Vice Adm. Raymond A. Spruance, army troops of the Twenty-seventh Infantry Division landed on Butaritari Island in Makin Atoll on the morning of 23 November and quickly subdued the small Japanese force there with minimal casaulties. The Second Marine Division's assault on the heavily defended Betio Island in Tarawa Atoll, however, cost 3,300 casualties, making Tarawa one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific War.
Crowl, Philip A., and Edmund G. Love. Seizure of the Gilberts and Marshalls. Washington, D. C. : Office of the Chief of Military History, 1955.
Gregg, Charles T. Tarawa. New York: Stein and Day, 1984.
Isely, Jeter A., and Philip A. Crowl. The U. S. Marines and Amphibious War: Its Theory and Its Practice in the Pacific. Princeton, N. J. : Princeton University Press, 1951.
Philip A.Crowl/a. r.
Gilbert Islands, group of 16 islands, central Pacific, one of the island groups that form the Republic of Kiribati. The group includes Tarawa, Butaritari, Makin, Little Makin, Marakei, Abaiang, Maiana, Abemama, Kuria, and Aranuka in the north; Nonouti and Tabiteuea in the central region; and Beru, Nikunau, Onotoa, Tamana, and Arorae in the south. The total land area is 102 sq mi (260 sq km). The equator runs through the center of the group. Nikunau was explored by British Commodore John Byron in 1765; other islands were explored by captains Thomas Gilbert and John Marshall in 1788, and the remainder were visited between 1799 and 1824. The British made the islands a protectorate in 1892 and a colony in 1915–16. Tarawa, Butaritari, Abaiang, Marakei, and Abemama were occupied by the Japanese in 1941 and liberated by U.S. forces in 1943.