November 20 to November 24, 1943
November 20, 1943, D-Day, the US Marines attacked Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands. I was aboard the USS President Polk, a passenger ship converted to carry troops. This was the first landing of its kind and a lot of mistakes were made. There were about one thousand Marines killed and about two thousand wounded on a island one square mile in size.
November 23, Day 3 Afternoon - I went ashore with a few men of my unit Acorn 14. Acorn 14 was a combat unit. We were to establish a radio station after the island was taken.
November 24, Day 4 - The Japanese would not and did not surrender. On the morning of the fourth day they did a suicide attack using grenades tied around their waist. The grenades had strings tied to the pins. When it was over all of the Marines were dead and all the Japs were dead. I thought for a while that I was the only one that survived. That's when I ran into Lt. Fallis, a Navy Chaplain. I had a small camera with me. The island was very quiet and we took some photos. The island was very quiet and the odor of death had not yet come up through the sand. We were sitting on a palm log next to the beach of the lagoon, some cooks and Bakers, a Navy Chaplain, and me a Navy Radioman. All of us were Navy Personnel. There was not a Marine in sight. The conversation went like this, "Yea there are about 6 of them in it!"" Referring to the LCM (landing craft mechanized) with 6 dead Marines in it. Probably all younger than me. I was 21. The tide was going out and the LCM was starting to move. The Chaplain handed me his New Testament Bible telling me that he didn't want it to get wet, then he got into the LCM. He was still in the LCM as it slowly moved out into the lagoon. That was the last I saw of him. I still have this small Bible. It is signed and dated in the front:
Jan 25 1941
To the armed forces
Franklin D Roosevelt
Franklin D Roosevelt
On the back of this small Bible it has:
(Bill) William F. Fallis Jr.
April 19, 1943
This is as far as George wrote before he became ill and the story was never finished. George's wife said he kept the bible hoping one day to return it.
About George W. Little Jr.
George was born in West Los Angeles in March 9, 1922. He grew up in La Verne, California. He was the oldest child. He had 3 younger sisters. He attended Bonita High School. At 19 the draft was after him, so George joined the Navy to avoid the draft. George's oldest sister was also in the Navy during WWII. The Navy arranged for George and his sister to met up so they could return to the states together. George told several stories about his time in Tarawa. One of the stories was about the first day on the island. He said there was no supplies or food on the island. He would dive and spear fish. It just so happened he carried his swimming fins with him. The men lived on fish until supplies could be brought to them. George also said that one time when supplies came it was gallons and gallons of ice cream and with no way to freeze the men ate the ice cream before it could melt.
He got married on September 27th 1942 at the Mission Inn in Riverside, Ca. Three months later George reported to the Navy. George was a Radio Operator for the Navy and he said he was a very good one. To George it was a job that had to be done. George worked for the Marines, the Army, the seventh Air Force, and at times he even worked for the Navy. When George was overseas his wife gave birth to a daughter. After the war George and his wife were blessed with their second daughter. When the war ended in 1945 he was with the Shore Patrol in Oakland, CA. In 1954 George graduated from the Los Angeles County Underwater Instructors Certification Course. UICC is considered to be the first scuba instructor training course that eventually paved the way for other national certification agencies to develop the sport of scuba diving. On the LA county Scuba UICC Roster he is on 04 UICC which is the 4th graduating class to earn his certification. George had a love for scuba diving. He also taught his wife to scuba dive. He worked at UCR as an electrician for 32 years until he retired. George and his wife and 2 daughters lived in Riverside County. George passed away on February 5, 2011 in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. He was married for 68 years. When George became ill I was asked to help out his wife.
After George passed away his wife and I were cleaning out his office and I found the above story and the small bible and many pictures of his time in the Navy and of Tarawa. I believe it is my duty and an honor to make sure George's story gets out there so people can see what life was like for a Navy Radio Operator in WWII in Tarawa.