Tarawa on Film
Hundreds of feet of film were shot by combat photographers on Betio, making the battle for Tarawa one of the most photographed in WWII. In addition to black and white a significant amount of color film was also used.
The first film produced on the battle was titled "With the Marines at Tarawa" which included much of the color footage. In 1944 this film won an Academy Award for the "Best Short Subject". The only footage in WWII of attacking Japanese can be seen in the film. In just a few seconds the Japanese burst out from their bunker and run past the cameraman's position only to be gunned down just out of the camera's view. Currently it is available on videotape from a number of sources. The quality of the color definately varies from one version to another.
A second short film was produced by the Marine Corps as a training film. I have only seen a black and white version and suspect no color version is available since the film was used as a USMC trainig aid. It is similar to "With the Marines" and uses much of the same film stock but it does expand on the descriptions of what is happening in the various scenes. "Official Training Film, MTF-S3, The Tarawa Operations" is a good companion to "With the Marines." This film is also available on videotape but is somewhat harder to find. The opening titles are shown here.
In 1958 a feature film premiered, called "Tarawa Beachhead." This film can be occasionally seen on cable T.V.
More recently, in the early 1990s, a History Channel doccumentary was produced for their "20th Century" series. For a brief look at the invasion the documentary is good. A number of interviews of Marines are excellent, for example Mike Ryan's interview, however the producers made poor use of the combat footage.
Another film that has come to my attention is, "Bloody Tarawa." It was shown to the 2nd Division Marines back in Camp Tarawa sometime after they had returned to Hawaii after securing Betio according to Ralph Browner. The title frame is shown below. If someone has a source for this film or any other information about it please contact the editor.
Currently a project is underway to develop a full length feature film based on Robert Sherrod's classic book.
Red Beach, Red
Tarawa Movie Project
copyright 2000 T.O.T.W.
Created 25 March 2000 - Updated 22 October 2000