August 19, 1943: 19 U.S. Marine Raiders Killed at Makin Atoll

 August 19, 2022

In the early morning hours of August 17, 1943, U.S. Marines landed on Makin Atoll in the Gilbert Islands. It was a small amphibious raid - just over 200 men - and their mission was to destroy Japanese installations and capture prisoners.

Through a difficult landing and an even more difficult battle, the Marines quickly became pinned down. Though outnumbered and outgunned, the Marine's fought bravely and took out many of the defenders.

"We landed about 100 to 150 yards from the main landing point. We hid the boat as best we could and crossed a road, contacting B Company in the village. The Japanese were in trenches outside the village and were manning several machine-gun nests. There was a lot of small-arms fire. I had the Boys [antitank] gun along with Tiny Carroll. A truck was coming down the road, so I hit the deck, braced myself, and fired, hitting the truck in the radiator. Steam poured out and several Japs tumbled out.

I also used the gun on two seaplanes that landed in the bay. All of us were firing at them. The smaller one caught fire and burned. The bigger plane was a four-engine seaplane. I remember firing about 20 rounds. It took off, and flames came up on it, and then it went down,” Marine Raider Dean Winters recalled."

The raid was successful, but the overall mission was a failure. The Marine Raiders managed to kill almost half the Japanese garrison but failed to destroy the installations, capture any prisoners, or gain any intelligence.

The story of the Makin Atoll raid is one of heroism and sacrifice. 19 U.S. Marines died during the raid, and 9 were left behind when the rest of the unit withdrew. In 2001, their bodies were reburied at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

The Makin Atoll raid was the basis for the 1943 movie "Gung Ho," which starred Randolph Scott as Lt. Col. Evans Carlson, leader of the raid.

Today, the surf passage evolution that Navy SEAL candidates go through is a direct result of the lessons learned from operations like the Makin Atoll raid. It is a reminder of the sacrifices made by U.S. Marines in World War II, and of the importance of Amphibious warfare in today's military operations.

We will never forget the brave men who gave their lives on the Gilbert Islands.

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8 comments on “August 19, 1943: 19 U.S. Marine Raiders Killed at Makin Atoll”

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  2. Yes but those Marine Raiders accomplished their mission. I was Navy but talked to quite a few Marines. Even a few Raiders. When the Raiders smiled, I smiled. When they frowned I frowned. Just had a feeling it would be good to get along with those guys because they were tough. We need more like them now. And if anyone feels like questioning their ability courage or success I suggest that person study a little history about the Soloman Islands and what the First Marine Division had to contend with. They were out manned, out gunned and had to use Jap supplies They won bigtime?

  3. I gave an opinion on what happened at Makin Island and even at the Soloman Islands. Are the younger people in this country to stupid or uneducated to even understand what happened in the most terrible war in the world's history? If that's the case I really pity our country since it obviously has no future.

  4. One more thing about the Makon Island raid. Give the Japs credit. They buried those fallen Marines with honor. According to reports, I understand that they were buried with their equipment and their rifles. That is what one honorable warrior does for another. Those men were part of the Naval Establishment and they deserved the honor they received. When I came home in 1945 I left quite a lot of shipmates behind in the Pacific. I'm no 97 years old and there's not a day but what I think of those men.

  5. Obviously there are too many people who simply don't or even remember what happened between 1941 and 1945. That is a real shame because more Americans gave their lives for our country in 4 year4s than during the 20 or more years of the fiascos known as Korea, Viet Nam and the Middle East. Stupid young people in this country? YOUR DAMN RIGHT! Study your history or you're doomed to repeat it.

    1. Richard Cunningham: Thank you for your service, Sir! God bless you and all who served to preserve freedom!

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