On August 17, 1942, Lt. Col. Evans F. Carlson and a force of Marine raiders come ashore Makin Island, in the west Pacific Ocean, occupied by the Japanese.

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What began as a diversionary tactic almost ended in disaster for the Americans.

Two American submarines, the Argonaut and the Nautilus, approached Makin Island, an atoll in the Gilbert Islands, which had been seized by the Japanese on December 9, 1941. The subs unloaded 122 Marines, one of two new raider battalions. Their leader was Lt. Col. Evans Carlson, a former lecturer on post-revolutionary China. Their mission was to assault the Japanese-occupied Makin Island as a diversionary tactic, keeping the Japanese troops “busy” so they would not be able to reinforce troops currently under assault by Americans on Guadalcanal Island.

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Carlson’s “Raiders” landed quietly, unobserved, coming ashore on inflatable rafts powered by outboard motors.

.. 18 men from B Company—totaling 121 troops—were embarked aboard the submarine Argonaut and the remainder of B Company—totaling 90 men—aboard Nautilus.

.. 18 men from B Company—totaling 121 troops—were embarked aboard the submarine Argonaut and the remainder of B Company—totaling 90 men—aboard Nautilus.

Suddenly, one of the Marines’ rifles went off, alerting the Japanese, who unleashed enormous firepower: grenades, flamethrowers, and machine guns. The subs gave some cover by firing their deck guns, but by night the Marines had to begin withdrawing from the island. Some Marines drowned when their rafts overturned; about 100 made it back to the subs. Carlson and a handful of his men stayed behind to sabotage a Japanese gas dump and to seize documents. They then made for the submarines too. When all was said and done, seven Marines drowned, 14 were killed by Japanese gunfire, and nine were captured and beheaded.

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Carlson went on to fight with the U.S. forces on Guadalcanal. He was a source of controversy; having been sent as a U.S. observer with Mao’s Army in 1937, he developed a great respect for the “spiritual strength” of the communist forces and even advocated their guerrilla-style tactics. He remained an avid fan of the Chinese communists even after the war.

My post from one year ago today: Michael Phelps

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2 responses

  1. Janine says:

    Gosh, they all look so young. It’s sad to see the faces and wonder who made it out alive and who didn’t.

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  2. Birgit says:

    I never heard of this raid and this must have been beyond terrifying. Carlson sounds like he was an idealist who believed in the Communist theories and had no clue about the true facts of communism. It is a shame that so few people truly know how brutal the Japanese were to civilians in China and to the soldiers they captured. They did not follow the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war and to behead men and have them starve like they did needs to be broadcast more. This should be emphasized since the Japanese were so reluctant to apologize for what they did-a slap to the noble men who fought in the pacific

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