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Posted on May 11, 2006 in History News

WWII Veteran Upset over Neglect of Tarawa Beach

Armchair General

This year will mark the 63rd anniversary of the battle of Tarawa, known as "Bloody Tarawa" – one of the pivotal events in the Pacific Theater during World War II. 

It was the first amphibious assault that encountered tremendous Japanese resistance and represented a major turning point in the War in the Pacific.

The Marine landings were fiercely contested.  The Marines suffered heavy casualties during the three-day battle, many on the beaches.  There were more than 3,400 American casualties, 1,000 dead and 2,100 wounded.  Of the 4,600, Japanese defenders, only 17 survived.

Leon Cooper, a veteran of the Tarawa battle and author of the highly regarded book 90 Day Wonder – Darkness Remembered, served as a Navy landing craft officer, taking Marines in the first assault wave on "Red Beach" and in succeeding assault waves.  Leon saw at first hand why the battle was called “Bloody Tarawa.”


Leon, now in his mid-80’s, is upset that the beach, where so many died is in a desecrated and deteriorating condition.

“The garbage and trash keeps piling up.  It’s really hallowed ground.  It is a disgrace to the memory of the men who fought and died there.  They deserve to be honored rather than insulted.”

This photograph, taken by the AP on April 4, 2004, shows a Tarawa boy sitting on a pile of garbage near Red Beach where over 3,400 US casualties were suffered.


The AP reporter said, "Where US Marines died by the hundreds, broken bottles, crushed boxes and plastic bags are now piling up by the millions."

Leon says, “A monument to the Marines has been installed some distance from the beaches.  The garbage piles have prevented the monument from being located where the principle landings took place.”

Leon Cooper and others want the beach cleaned up and a decent memorial placed on the beach to honor the men who died there, but the government has shown no interest in taking action to do this.

Leon has written to government agencies, to politicians and to many others but has received virtually no response to his pleas.  It’s frustrating,” says Leon.  “Nobody seems to give a damn.”

“Congressman Henry Waxman is the only official who has done anything to assist me,” he states.

Tarawa is part of the Island nation of Kiribati.  With its limited financial resources, it can hardly be expected to institute a garbage removal program for Tarawa.

Unless the US government steps forward and decides to take responsibility, the garbage piles will continue to grow higher and higher, as it has over the years.

Leon is still trying to get help.  You can visit his blog to get an update.