WITH THE MARINES AT TARAWA is a 1944 short documentary film directed by Louis Hayward. It used authentic footage taken at the Battle of Tarawa to tell the story of the American servicemen from the time they get the news that they are to participate in the invasion to the final taking of the island and raising of the Stars and Stripes.

The film is in full color and uses no actors, making it a valuable historical document. The documentary showed more gruesome scenes of battle than other war films to date. According to the documentary The War, President Roosevelt himself gave approval for showing the film, against the wishes of many advisors.

Since the pictures were far too graphic to meet the standards of Hollywood producers and distributors, only the President could grant permission for its release to the general public. President Roosevelt consulted the only man who was present at the Battle of Tarawa that he personally knew and trusted, Time-Life photographer Robert Sherrod. Quoting Sherrod, “I tell the President the truth. Our soldiers on the front want people back home to know that they don’t knock the hell out of them every day of every battle. They want people to understand that war is a horrible, nasty business, and to say otherwise is to do a disservice to those who died.” Based on Sherrod’s prompting, FDR agreed to release the film, uncensored.

The film won the 1945 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject. The Oscar was presented to the US Marine Corps, and today a replica Oscar is displayed at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Due to the shortages of metals needed during the war effort, the Academy presented the Marine Corps with a plaster statue in the shape of a tablet. It is also housed at the same museum, but is not on display.

The Battle of Tarawa was a battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II that was fought from November 20 to November 23, 1943. It took place at the Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands. Nearly 6,400 Japanese, Koreans, and Americans died in the fighting, mostly on and around the small island of Betio, in the extreme southwest of Tarawa Atoll.

The Battle of Tarawa was the first American offensive in the critical central Pacific region. It was also the first time in the Pacific War that the United States faced serious Japanese opposition to an amphibious landing. Previous landings had met little or no initial resistance, but on Tarawa the 4,500 Japanese defenders were well-supplied and well-prepared, and they fought almost to the last man, exacting a heavy toll on the United States Marine Corps. The U.S. had suffered similar casualties throughout the duration of other previous campaigns, for example over the six months of the Guadalcanal Campaign, but the losses on Tarawa were incurred within the space of 76 hours.

The failures of the Tarawa landing were a major factor in the founding of the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) the precursor of the current U.S. Navy SEALS – after Tarawa “the need for the UDT in the South Pacific became glaringly clear”. The “…landing on Tarawa Atoll emphasized the need for hydrographic reconnaissance and underwater demolition of obstacles prior to any amphibious landing.” “After the Tarawa landing, Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner directed the formation of nine Underwater Demolition Teams. Thirty officers and 150 enlisted men were moved to the Waimānalo Amphibious Training Base to form the nucleus of a demolition training program. This group became Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) ONE and TWO.”

Louis Charles Hayward (19 March 1909 – 21 February 1985) was a British actor born in Johannesburg, South Africa. During World War II, Hayward enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in July 1942. He commanded a photographic unit that filmed the Battle of Tarawa in a documentary titled With the Marines at Tarawa—winner of the 1944 Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject). Hayward was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.

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This film is part of the Periscope Film LLC archive, one of the largest historic military, transportation, and aviation stock footage collections in the USA. Entirely film backed, this material is available for licensing in 24p HD, 2k and 4k. For more information visit http://www.PeriscopeFilm.com

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