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The Navy and Marine Corps attacked the Tarawa atoll on November 20th, 1943. It was their first objective in the drive across the Central Pacific. The island was defended by 2,600 Japanese troops and about 2,200 Japanese and Korean laborers. They had spent nine months fortifying the atoll. Most of the action took place on Betio. Betio is the largest island in the atoll but it is only covered six tenths of a square mile big. In 76 hours it took to seize Betio, 1,009 Sailors and Marines died, along with virtually the entire Japanese garrison. It was a battle of utmost savagery and the reason Joseph Alexander used it for the title of this book.