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TARAWA (20–24 November 1943). As the opening blow in the American offensive through the central Pacific, the Second Marine Division began landing on Betio, an islet in the Tarawa atoll, part of the Gilbert Islands, on the morning of 20 November 1943. The island's forty-five hundred Japanese defenders fought back stubbornly from behind solid fortifications. With air support and naval gunfire, the marines rooted out the Japanese defensive positions one at a time. A final Japanese counterattack was defeated on the night of 22–23 November, and the last defenders were eliminated on the 24th. Tarawa, which proved a valuable base, cost more than one thousand American lives, and twice as many wounded.


Alexander, Joseph H. Utmost Savagery: The Three Days of Tarawa. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1995.

Graham, Michael B. Mantle of Heroism. Novato, Calif.: Presidio, 1993.

Gregg, Charles T. Tarawa. New York: Stein and Day, 1984.

Sherrod, Robert. Tarawa: The Story of a Battle. Fredericksburg, Tex.: Admiral Nimitz Foundation, 1973.

Stanley L.Falk/a. r.

See alsoGilbert Islands ; Marshall Islands ; World War II, Air War against Japan .

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Tarawa Town on an atoll of the same name in the w Pacific Ocean, capital of Kiribati. Located in the n central part of the group, it is the main trade centre for the islands. Copra, fish and fish products are its principal exports. Pop. (2002) 39,000.