Celluloid NationrnHollywood Does Historyrnby Roger D. McGrathrn^^B’ MArn^^^^^^E’^ .^^-^^^^1rn^mKm- Hrn^^^^^HI^’ ^^IrnM^^^^^H” ^^H^lrnHI^^^^B J^^^w “* ^^9rn^^^^^K^n^^v braMUrni -^ ^s?–.rnH| Takern^ ^ ^rnirnI^Krn1^ /rnK ^ j j ^ ^rnprnirn1rnf-rnSrn^^ irn” ^rn: ‘ ^ »rnK&. J^rncene _rn^HK’^rn• , . ^rnuHrn-rn^slrnrSBrnH?”’rnKrnAt 0825 on 20 November 1943, the first of six waves ofrnMarines left the line of departure and headed for thernbeaeh on Betio Island, the principal objeetive for the UnitedrnStates in the Tarawa Atoll. At 4,000 yards out, shells fromrnJapanese artillery pieces started splashing around the amtraesrncarrying the Marines. At 2,000 yards, mortars joined in. Atrn1,000 yards, machine guns opened up. The sound was deafening.rnShells were exploding everywhere, and millions of metalrnfragments filled the air. Amtraes suffered direct hits and explodedrnin balls of flame and smoke. At 800 yards, the survivingrnamtraes reached a shallow reef, crawled over it, and began thernfinal run to shore. The murderous fire continued all the way tornthe beach.rnThere were only enough amtraes for the first three waves ofrnMarines. The next three waves came in Higgins boats. Therernwas nothing intrinsically wrong with the landing craft designedrnby an old Marine, Andrew Jackson Higgins, but the craft lackedrntreads and could not crawl over obstacles like the amtrae. Thisrnshould have been no problem, but the tides and the depth ofrnBetio’s reef had been miscalculated. At 800 yards out, the Higginsrnboats hit the reef and ground to a halt on the sharp coral.rnThe Marines could do nothing but leap over the sides of thernfoimdering boats and begin wading towards the shore. Shellsrnexploded all around them, throwing columns of water—andrnthe bodies of Marines—high into the air. Machine-gun fire cutrndown others. The death toll was enormous.rnRoger D. McGrath is the author of Gimfighters, Highwaymen,rnand Vigilantes.rnLt. Cdr. Robert MacPherson, a Navy pilot in a scout planernhigh overhead, looked down on the Marines wading ashorernand later recorded: “The water seemed never clear of hny men,rntheir rifles held over their heads, slowly wading beaehward….rnThey kept falling, falling, falling . . . singly, in groups, and inrnrows. I wanted to cry.”rnNo Marine ever took a step backward. As a war correspondentrnwith the fifth wave, Robert Sherrod, said: The Marinesrnwere “calm, even disdainful of death . . . black dots of men,rnholding their weapons high above their heads, moving at arnsnail’s pace, never faltering.”rnSeventy-six hours later, the Marines declared Betio (orrnTarawa, as we tend to call it) secure. In those three days, 1,100rnMarines were killed and 2,300 wounded —3,400 casualties forrnan island two miles long and less than half a mile wide.rnThose Marines did not wade ashore and claw their wayrnacross the island for some abstract set of principles enunciatedrnin founding documents—at least, not directly. Those Marinesrnexhibited uncommon valor because they were defendingrnsomething far more valuable—far more atavistic and inspiringrn—far more primal. Those Marines were defending theirrntribe—a tribe united by race, language, culture, and religion.rnThose Tarawa veterans alive today must wonder what theirrnsacrifice accomplished in the long run. The Los Angeles that Irngrew up in—in the years immediately following World WarrnII —has been transformed since the 1970’s into a dimipingrnground for the peoples of the Third World. When I wentrnthrough the Los Angeles city schools, they were 85 percentrnwhite. Now they are 85 percent non-white. English, spoken byrnMARCH 1999/17rnrnrn