I don’t recall the circumstances of this photo. I think he was taking a break from whatever work he was doing, maybe building a home.
Tarawa is just a small atoll, one that probably can’t bear its growing population too much longer without outside help. Once you’ve visited it and realize its tiny limits it’s amazing to think of the horrific battle that was fought here in WW2. That battle was mostly fought on the island of Betio (Bay-see-o) where most of the activity on the atoll is centered. What it must have been like for the inhabitants is unimagineable.
There aren’t many occupied atolls like Tarawa in the Pacific and almost every one is as isolated as you could possibly want your ocean paradise to be. Except this one had an airstrip and a garrison of almost 5,000 Japanese troops, which probably outnumbered its population. For the planners in Washington this meant it had to be taken, and the Marines got the job, as usual.
There are still old Japanese guns in the shallow water of the beaches surrounding Betio and plenty of rusting hulks of landing craft and ships sunk by those guns. It is now an out-of-the-way destination for divers who like exploring such historical wreckage.
This man’s father was probably there when it all went down so little doubt he’s heard about it from an eye witness. It’s hard for me to imagine what life must be like growing up on a little piece of coral surrounded by almost limitless ocean. What kind of person thrives in such a place? This fellow and his people have done and do so now and I am grateful that they are still here and hope they survive whatever the future holds for them.
(Don’t forget to view the video below!)