Personal Summary of the Invasion of Tarawa by Salvatore J. Sagolia
Nov. 8th: Shoved off from Pearl Harbor, heading South. Usually after at sea for a few hours
the captain puts out the dope where we are proceeding to. Today we received no word, we knew
something big was up.
Nov. 13: Crossed the equator around 0200. We started to get rumors that our first
destination was Funafuti.
Nov. 14: Today and yesterday we contacted friendly surface craft. Received word that enemy
sub had been sighted a few hours before also be on the alert for a pilot adrift in a life
Nov. 15: Joined carrier task force. Witnessed two planes crashing into the water in
attempting to take off. The bombs exploded, one man cleared plane. Other died.
Nov. 16: Quite day, encountered LST, LCI's on horizon, left them.
Nov. 17: Routine day, only 1 sub alert.
Nov. 18: Today the big drive began the first wave of planes left carrier at 0415 returned at
0730. Sub alert at 0730, DD's dropped depth charges. Zed was set in 4 min., charges dropped
in 3 mins. We were expecting Jap task force but none showed up. At 0745 second wave of
planes went into bomb the island. (125 to 150 miles away). Planes returned. They
encountered heavy AA fire. At 1530 we picked up Jap seaplane shadowing us. Two torpedo
planes shot it out of the sky. Pilot bailed out. At 1800 we set Condition I. Jap planes
came in for torpedo attack around 1815. We opened up on planes with 5". The Japs want the
carriers. 1900, still shooting. 1915, planes reported all over the place. At this time the
sun had been set quite some time and it was black. The Jap planes were hard to see except
when they were in close. 2100 secured main battery. AA battery stayed in Condition I. Got
two hours sleep on watch 12 to 4.
Nov. 19: This was our big day. Approximately 0500 GQ was sounded, Jap torpedo planes
attacking us. One plane launched a fish that barley missed our bow. 0900, still at GQ,
proceeding on bombardment course. We got another boggy contact. Our planes shot her out of
the sky. It was a two motored bomber. 1116 started bombardment. We had 6 objectives to
hit. We concentrated all our fire on the first and second targets and a big gun in between.
We fired for 2 hours. No hits on any of our ships. Jap shells landing short, a few went
over. Think we put some of their shore batteries out of commission. Then went out a few
miles and patrolled. Expecting Jap task force to arrive.
Nov. 20: Short and Sweet, Hot and Fast. This morning at 0930 our troops attempted landings.
Encountered fierce resistance. Troops were scheduled to land about 0600 but Higgins Boats
could not get over the reef. LST & LCI's had a hard time. Shore batteries still firing that
we failed to silence the day before. We are now on patrol off Tarawa between Tarawa and
Truk. Another task force bombarded the island while scores of dive bombers flew over the
island, bombing and strafing. Around 1200 beeper sounded, set Zed, a submarine sighted. No
fish fired, so we secured. 1715 received word on watch US Forces having a hard time
establishing a landing. The COLORADO is bombarding the hell out of them. Casualties are
very high. Need small-arms and medical supplies. The first group of men that went ashore
were caught in a deadly cross fire and were wiped out. Our fighters are patrolling the sky,
suddenly we received word that around 15 Jap torpedo planes were flying in towards us. Our
fighters failed to see them. The sun was setting and the planes were painted black. They
were the same type of plane that attacked us before. They carry two fish and five men crew.
They came in strafing. Even before I could get to my battle station the 5" opened up 40mm
and 30mm also opened up. For around two minutes there was continuous firing. Suddenly a
cheer up came over the crew as six of the planes were shot down. The SLC got credit for
three. Remainder of planes proceeded on to the carrier. The INDEPENDENCE was hit with a
fish, believed to have been fired by a sub. She started to list about 15 degrees. At first
she did not lose speed. About five minutes later large bellows of smoke poured out of her.
She fell behind for about ten minutes. She suddenly stopped smoking and resumed speed and
cam back into column. A plane came in to close. We opened fire. It showed a light. It was
our own plane (close call). The TENNESSEE is up ahead throwing salvos into the island. We
secured for the night.
Nov. 21: Quite day.
Nov. 22: Plane landed on one wheel.
Nov. 26: Sub alert three times today (bad on the nerves).
Nov. 27: Japs claim reported sinking 18 cruisers, 2 carriers, 108 planes off Tarawa. It's a
big laugh. They reported getting the SLC again. Celebrated Thanksgiving today (Turkey).
Nov. 28: Convoyed troops and supplies to Apamama (south of Tarawa).
Nov. 29: Air attack on Tarawa (started rationing chow).
Dec. 2: Kaiser carrier sunk off Tarawa. It blew up, 600 lost.
Dec. 3: Jap air attack on Tarawa
Dec. 5: Another attack.
Dec. 7: Left Apamama area.
Dec. 9: Pulled in Funafuti.