by Cpl. Robert Lin Cook
Jan 1942–Sep 1945

The sounds of battle
were around us
as we trudged 
against the tide.
Bullets making little
splashes in the sea.
Some came whizzing
past my shoulder,
tearing at my pride.
My bravery was
rapidly going out to sea.

Smoke rose above the island
as far as we could see.
There was nothing that
wasn’t in the fight.
The men who were with me
as we loaded into the boat
were less than they used to be.

I saw men lying in the water
from the wave ahead of mine.
Good Marines that
didn’t have a chance.
The odds were all against us
due to things beyond control
but we carried on and
made the advance!

We crawled upon the beach,
we who made it thru the surf.
We lucky ones who did not die.
We huddled by the sea wall,
our only safe redoubt,
‘til we had a chance to
break out or to die.

Over the wall we leapt
and ran like hell we did
to find another
place to fight.
A shell hole or a log
would do; it was up to you
to keep you out of sight.

Little by little and shot by shot
we put rounds into the fight.
With hand grenades 
and rifle butts,
with arms and legs 
and knuckles.
We somehow won the day.

Too many men were lost
during those days for
what we gained in ground.
Too many Marines faced 
the foe and were shot down.

Tarawa will always be
a battle of the ages
for bravery was commonplace
and heroes, there were many!
Let each of us
who fought the fight
be honored 
by the many.

*     *     *
The author: Robert Lin Cook served with Regimental Weapons Co. (2d-2d) from 1942–44, at Guadalcanal and Tarawa during a 33-month overseas tour.

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Ode to a Battle