Last Known Activity|
Tarawa, Gilbert Islands, Kiribati - November 20 to November 23, 1943
Of the 3,636 Japanese in the garrison, only one officer and sixteen enlisted men surrendered. Of the 1,200 Korean laborers brought to Tarawa to construct the defenses, only 129 survived. All told, 4,690 of the island's defenders were killed. The 2nd Marine Division suffered 894 killed in action, 48 officers and 846 enlisted men, while an additional 84 of the wounded survivors later succumbed to what proved to be fatal wounds. Of these, 8 were officers and 76 were enlisted men. A further 2,188 men were wounded in the battle, 102 officers and 2,086 men. Of the roughly 12,000 2nd Marine Division marines on Tarawa, 3,166 officers and men became casualties. Nearly all of these casualties were suffered in the 76 hours between the landing at 0910 20 November and the island being declared secure at 1330 23 November. The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), investigated the cases of American servicemen who remain unaccounted for from the Battle of Tarawa, including 103 who are buried as "Unknown" in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. It is a tiny island; its main feature (and the reason for its capture) was a small airstrip that ran down its middle, almost from one beach to the other. Marines commented that, in most places on the island, a pitcher with a good arm could throw a baseball from one side to the other. Rather than one big cemetery, the Americans buried their dead in several smaller cemeteries where space and convenience permitted. They were marked as well as possible, understood to be temporary and left to the care of the garrison. When graves registration teams arrived after the war, they found an enormous mess and very few remains. The small cemeteries had been moved during the war to accommodate the expanding base and while the main cemetery had been spruced up (in advance of a visit from a LIFE magazine photographer) headstones often did not line up with graves or, indeed, follow the lines of burial at all. Many of the bodies had no identification, and identifying features were long gone. By the time the graves registration teams called it quits, they had repatriated a few score remains, returned a few dozen as “unknown,” and left hundreds behind as simply unrecoverable.
NORMAN, Basil Jr, PLSGT, 321162, USMC, from California, location Gilbert Islands, date of loss November 20, 1943 + NORMAN, Basil, Platoon Sgt., Jr., USMC. Mother, Mrs. Clara Norman, Box 250, Ojai, Calif + NORMAN, Basil, Platoon Sergeant, 321162, USMC, from California, Honolulu Memorial + NORMAN, Jr, Basil, 321162, Co K, 3rd Bn, 2nd Mar, 2nd Mar Div, FMF, Gilbert Is, November 20, 1943, killed in action
Body Not Recovered
The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Silver Star (Posthumously) to Platoon Sergeant Basil Norman, Jr. (MCSN: 321162), United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity while serving with Third Battalion, Second Marines, SECOND Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands, November 20, 1943. Landing with his unit in the first wave, Platoon Sergeant Norman observed an enemy anti-boat gun of heavy caliber furiously blasting our landing boats and inflicting heavy casualties. With utter disregard for his own personal safety, he advanced on the enemy weapon in the face of intense rifle fire and reaching grenade range, quickly silenced the Japanese gun. Boldly continuing his attack on the enemy, he was killed by a Japanese sniper while neutralizing a hostile machine-gun nest. Platoon Sergeant Norman, by his extreme bravery and indomitable fighting spirit, enabled the waves following to land with greater degree of safety and made possible the capture of a section of the beach by his unit. His heroic conduct was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
Action Date: November 20, 1943