The Gilbert and Ellice Islands - Pacific War...


...from Pen & Sword



Title: The Gilbert and Ellice Islands - Pacific War

Author: Jim Moran

Publisher: Pen & Sword

ISBN: 978-1-52675-119-5


Well known expert on the US Marine Corps Jim Moran has written this new addition to the Images of War series, and includes the Marine operation on Tarawa. Split across 7 chapters, plus a couple of Appendices, each one is started by pages of background text which tells the story.  Each one is then illustrated with a series of archive photos, which in turn have more detail of the battles in their captions. 

The book starts out with a short chapter giving background context on the islands, and that the Japanese established a seaplane base just 3 days after their attack on Pearl Harbour on the island of Butaritari (Makin), leaving just a small garrison of about 44 to look after it. The following year a pair of US submarines landed a US Marine raiding force on the island, who returned to Hawaii after wiping out the Japanese force. This in turn led to a major reinforcement of the Japanese force and significant fortifications being built to defend them, including an airfield. So the story goes on as in 1943 a major US invasion was staged, Operation Galvanic, to secure Makin and three islands in the Tarawa Atoll.

While the text and captions tell the story, the photos illustrate the heavy fighting which took place, especially on the island of Betio, where the Japanese aircraft were destroyed and US aircraft moved in to be based there. The levels of casualties for such a small piece of land is really quite astonishing, and that of a Japanese garrison of well over 4,000, only some 17 were taken prisoner. The photos illustrate the casualties, including some graphic images of Japanese dead after flamethrowers and explosives were used to clear their bunkers. Other show the Marine in action, along with their Amtracks and others show us the aircraft based on the airfield.

As the Pacific island hopping campaign moved on, so the US forces on the Gilberts left them to return to a more peaceful existence. One or two of the aerial photos included show the devastation of the surface of the island after the fighting was over. A neatly presented addition to the Images of War series and a suitable tribute to the US Marines who took part in the fighting.

Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.