Rare Color Photographs Of World War II Soldiers Stationed On Tarawa Atoll
Captured by LIFE photojournalist J.R. Eyerman in 1944, a year before WWII ended, we find ourselves looking into the island life of American soldiers stationed in the sun-drenched Tarawa Atoll, one of the many atolls in the Gilbert Islands of the Pacific Oceans.
At first glance, the island looks like an ideal posting for a young American soldier commissioned to war.
The native people welcome their presence, performing in their traditional dress.
A group of local women being trained as nurses…
Although these photos show the island restored to peace, the bloody battle that saw 6,400 Americans, Japanese and Koreans perish is still something that no one can forget easily.
US servicemen enjoying a drink at their own Officer’s Club.
The island's barber shop…
A quonset hut converted to a library…
A tiki hut for developing photographs …
A tropical al fresco shower.
Dinner at the beach...
Watching over the boys.
But further down the sandy beach, we begin to see another face of the island, revealing the scars of war.
The Battle of Tarawa, fought against the Japanese,was a short but bloody one. In a period of 76 hours, the casualty count was more than outrageous.
The American forces was hoping to advance towards Japan by island hopping, using each as a base for capturing the next, beginning in the Gilbert Islands.
Writing after the war, General Holland Smith, who led the U.S. Marine Corps in the assaults on the Gilbert Island, wrote in his biography:
Was Tarawa worth it? My answer is unqualified: No. From the very beginning the decision of the Joint Chiefs to seize Tarawa was a mistake and from their initial mistake grew the terrible drama of errors, errors of omission rather than commission, resulting in these needless casualties.