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HOW THE MEN DIED

THE STORY OF THE LT 1/ 6
LANDING ON GREEN BEACH
21 NOV 1943


1ST BATTALION 6TH MARINES
ORDERED TO LAND ON GREEN BEACH

On 21 NOV 1943, the invasion of Tarawa was in its second day. The 1st Battalion, 6th Marines (1/6) were waiting aboard the USS FELAND, as part of the Corps Reserve. After heavy fighting, Marines already ashore had succeeded in capturing a strip of land along the west coast of Betio Island to a depth of about 100 to 150 yards. The beach along this section of shoreline is identified on military maps as Green Beach.

This capture afforded the first opportunity to land Marines on a beach where they would not have to face concentrated enemy fire. Therefore, about midday on 21 NOV 1943, the 1/6 was ordered to land on the southern part of Green Beach.

1ST BATTALION 6TH MARINES
BEGINS LANDING ON GREEN BEACH

The 1/6 specialized in making landings in small rubber boats known as LCPRs (Landing Craft, Personnel Rubber). The USS FELAND had stopped for a few days in the New Hebrides islands to practice these landings, on its way from New Zealand to Tarawa.

The plan for landing on Green Beach consisted of using
LCVPs (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) to tow the rubber boats as far as they could without grounding on the outer reef. The Marines would then board and paddle their rubber boats for the rest of the way in.

After a number of delays, the first wave of the 1/6 began landing on Green Beach about 1830 hours, 21 NOV 1943, as it was beginning to get dark.

TWO LVTs ACCOMPANY
THE 1/6 LANDING

Two LVTs (Landing Vehicle, Tracked), along with their three-man crews, had been aboard the USS FELAND since it left New Zealand. Both of these LVTs were of the first model type, the LVT(1), commonly known as an Alligator. The crews of these two LVT(1)s were Marines from B Company, 2nd Amphibian Tractor Battalion.

The two LVT(1)s and their crews were launched from the USS FELAND about 1645 hours, 21 NOV 1943, and accompanied the 1/6 during its landing. Both LVT(1)s were loaded with much-needed supplies, including water, rations, ammunition, medical supplies and spare radio equipment.

LCVPs DROP MARINES AT THE REEF
THE LVTs CONTINUE TOWARD BEACH

The LCVPs began dropping the 1/6 Marines, and their rubber boats, at the edge of the inner reef, about 600 to 1000 yards out from the beach itself. The Marines paddled their way in, until it became shallow enough to wade in the water. At that point many of the Marines got out of their rubber boats and (leaving their gear inside) pushed them on toward the beach.

FIRST LVT RESCUES MEN ON RUBBER BOAT

On the way to the beach, the leading LVT (driven by Cpl. Howard Bryant) came upon a rubber boat that was going flat and sinking. He stopped and took onboard at least seven of these men. The men have been identified as:

2Lt. Marius W. CHRISTENSON
California

Supply Sgt. Page WARREN
Washington

PhM1c Henry C. COBURN
Kansas

PhM1c Fred E. KATHAN
California

PhM2c John K. HILDEBRAND
Arizona

PhM2c William W. McGUFFIN
Colorado

PhM3c Clinton L. HOATSON Jr.

Nebraska


( WITH THE ADDITION OF Cpl. BRYANT, WE NOW HAVE EIGHT MEN IDENTIFIED )

Cpl. Howard L. BRYANT
Indiana


The LVT then continued toward southern Green Beach. Marines in nearby rubber boats good-naturedly jeered the LVT passengers, accusing them of hitching a free ride while everyone else had to paddle in.

THE FIRST LVT HITS JAPANESE BOAT-MINE

When the LVT had continued toward the beach for about 200 yards, it struck a large Japanese boat-mine. The huge explosion destroyed the LVT, and blew the heavy vehicle over onto its top.

There were other Marines in the water nearby, who were wading and pushing their rubber boats along. Many of them converged on the wreckage within a minute or two after the explosion, and made an immediate search for survivors. They found PhM3c Clinton L. HOATSON Jr. in the water nearby. Miraculously, he was still alive, but seriously wounded. Everyone else aboard the LVT had been killed.

THE SECOND LVT STOPS AT THE WRECKAGE

The second LVT soon arrived at the scene of the explosion. PhM3c Clinton L. HOATSON Jr. was loaded aboard and transported to Green Beach. The crewmembers of the second LVT were all from B Company, 2nd Amphibian Tractor Battalion, and have been identified as:

Sgt. William R. SMILEY

Cpl. Howard GAVIGLIO

Cpl. Frederick F. CURZAN


This second LVT landed on Green Beach, a short distance north of the large 8-inch coastal guns mounted at Temakin Point at the southwest corner of Betio Island. It was still there about 0400 hours on the following morning (22 NOV 1943), when it was destroyed in an air-attack by a Japanese twin-engine bomber.

Sgt. William R. SMILEY was badly wounded by the bomb explosions, and was very near death for a considerable period of time afterward.

WHO ARE THE MISSING CREW MEMBERS?

The LVT that hit the mine was being driven by Cpl. Howard Bryant, but there should have been a three-man crew. Who were the other two? Were there any other passengers on the LVT? The answers to these questions continue to evade me, despite my best efforts...

Jim Hildebrand

07 AUGUST 2009


PLEASE CONTACT ME IF YOU HAVE ANY KNOWLEDGE

OF THESE MEN OR EVENTS

Jim Hildebrand
j i m @ t a r a w a 1 9 4 3 . c o m



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