• Frank Collie - April 23, 2004

My father, Frank Collie, was a rifleman assigned to Company L, 3rd Battalion, 6th Regiment, 2nd Marine Division on November 20th, 1943. My father's recollection is that the Marines in his outfit who were now experienced from fighting the Japanese on Guadalcanal “didn't look forward to the invasion”.

“Our beach landing that day was Red 1. They got us up about 2 a.m. and after we had breakfast we were on the deck of the boat for some time as the officers were explaining what was to take place with the invasion. Many of us prayed and attended church services. We disembarked in the Higgins boats before sunrise and began the trip towards the island. After my Higgins boat got stranded on the reef by the low tide I waded towards the shore with full pack and my rifle over my head. At times the water was up to my chin (my father is 5' 5 ½”).

“Men were being hit by machine gun fire in front, left and right of me. When hit they would just roll over in the water and remain buoyant from their Mae West belts. Many of the Marines had tied the belts around their waist rather than secure them across their chest so that when machine gun fire hit them they would turn bottom side-up.

“The ocean water was red with blood. I continued to move towards the beach, and something inside of me would say, 'Go to the right!' or 'Go to the left!,' and on doing so it seemed that the Marine next to me was being hit by fire. On the beach I took a hit in the back that shattered my shovel pack. We lay there hugging the sand throughout that first night, and had the Japanese counter attacked that night they would have certainly driven us off the island.”

On December 4th, 1943 the US Marines boarded their transports for the trip to Hawaii. My father recalls, “There were no fresh clothes available so that the smell of death from the island fighting hung in the air throughout the trip.”

After a long period of silence he said: “Frank, I really don't want to talk about it anymore. I lost two of my closest friends on Tarawa. They were great guys. I play golf now with a guy who was in the Army and all he talks about is the war. I've never told him I was in the war.”

That was the end of the discussion. When we talked that particular day he was 78 years of age, he is now 90 years old and still very clear in his thinking. His foxhole buddy was Benjamin Steinman from Chicago. What was left of his outfit after the battle would be assigned to the 6th Marine Division going on to Saipan, Tinian, and finally Okinawa where he received the Bronze Star with Valor while recovering a fallen comrade under enemy fire.

<<< Back to Tarawa Stories