Seventy years ago in 1943, tens of thousands of war-weary U.S. Marines arrived on the Big Island, survivors of the amphibious assault and bloody three-day battle against the troops of the Imperial Japanese Special Landing Forces (Japanese Marines) at Tarawa, on the Betio Atoll, in the Gilbert Islands in the South Central Pacific.
They were transported by train and truck to their short-term home in the town of Waimea, where a tent camp had been set up as a base for training and recuperation. During the next two years, more than 50,000 troops lived and trained at this site, named Camp Tarawa, in recognition of their sacrifices far from home.
In 2006, a few local Marine veterans formed the Camp Tarawa detachment of the Marine Corps League, a national organization that bands together active duty Marines and veterans to perpetuate the traditions of the U.S. Marine Corps.
The mission of the Camp Tarawa detachment is “keeping history alive,” said Bob Strickland, Marine veteran and member of the detachment, during an informative presentation at Puu Kohola National Historic Site last Saturday.