The United States goes on the offensive in the critical Central Pacific. Tarawa is the gateway to the US drive towards the Philippines, and both sides realise its importance. On this 3 mile by 1/2 mile island, the Japanese built an airstrip defended by 4,700 troops dug into a labyrinth of pillboxes and bunkers interconnected by tunnels and defended by wire and mines.
The task of dislodging this force fell to the Marines of the 2nd Division. It was also the first time in the war that the United States faced serious Japanese opposition to a U.S. amphibious landing. Previous landings met little or no initial resistance.
The resulting struggle produced one of the fiercest and bloodiest battles in Marine history.
We played out the battle in overlord style on a 6'x4' hex map. We ran it each day, so people would have the chance to play other games, take in the great social atmosphere and still get in a Banzai-Gung Ho Memoir '44 experience!
The three plays were all very different, but the results were very close and neither side came away feeling it was mission-impossible.
Saturday: Japanese won 13-18, at the end it was a case of "next score wins"
Sunday: Marines won 12-13, miraculously coming back from 5-11 deficit
Monday: Marines won 12-17, with only two break-points remaining
Marine Task Force motors towards Reef.
Japanese prepare strong defence at Red Beach 3.
LVTs followed by Higgin's Boats and LCMs.
Japanese forces abandon defensive positions on Black Beach.
Marines approach Red Beach 2.
Japanese Infantry back up emplaced Artillery in 'The Pocket'.
Marines wading ashore from the Reef.
Marines land on Red Beach 3.
Marines land on 'The Beak' driving Japanese out of their defences. Charge, counter-charge, ambush and medics all got in the act at this end of the island to make this an enthralling contest. Getting two Marine units ashore quickly using a 'Behind Enemy Lines' card was pure genius.
Battle for control of The Pier heats up. It is here that the battle for Tarawa is finally decided. The US Heroic Leader figure finally ended up on the scout-sniper platoon unit (there being no normal infantry unit left on the island!). It may have been uber-cheesy, but it was thrilling to watch.