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.
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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.
Tarawa (tərä´wə, tăr´əwä), atoll (1990 pop. 28,802), capital of Kiribati, central Pacific, previously capital of the former British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. The administrative center of the atoll is Bairiki island. Betio island, the chief commercial center of country, is a port of entry through which copra and pearl shell exported. Tarawa is the site of a teacher's training college and a marine training school, as well as an international airport. The population is mainly Micronesian.
During World War II the colony headquarters were moved there from Banaba (formerly Ocean Island). Tarawa was occupied by the Japanese (1941–43) and fell to U.S. marines after a bloody battle. Since the early 1990s the southern part of the capital, particularly Betio, has become increasingly overcrowded, leading the government to resettle residents on less crowded islands.