Marines Depart

There were no ‘goodbyes’ when the Marines left New Zealand. On 30 October 1943, trainloads of men in full battle kit left Paekākāriki for Wellington where they boarded a fleet of 16 ships.

Their orders had implied a full-scale Divisional landing exercise north of Hawkes Bay but in fact, after they sailed, they learned that their destination was the Japanese-held atoll of Tarawa, in today’s Kiribati. The defenders were well-supplied and well-prepared and, though greatly outnumbered, they exacted a heavy toll on the Marines in a battle that lasted from 20 to 23 November.

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