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All Original Written Material copyright 1999, Dan Marsh; all original artwork copyright 1999 by Louie Marsh. Please use with permission only.



2nd Raiders - Makin
Part Two

                Ben Carson, who was with the “center”, was caught by the air raid as he was withdrawing:

                I was dashing from coconut tree to coconut tree as we were pulling back. . . [when] all of a sudden a Jap torpedo bomber appeared just above the trees strafing the road which was between me and the leeward beach. We were told not to fire at the planes. I was really glad when that plane got past me without hitting anything with his bullets when all of a sudden the lead was flying again. There was a machine gunner in the rear of the plane and he was getting his jollies blasting hell out of the road as the plane was pulling up.

                Howard Young apparently did not get the word when the center withdrew and rode out the air raid in the target area:

                It was my first experience with planes and I hit the deck behind a tree and was petrified. After I found I was in one piece and realized they were just shooting blind, I felt much better. . .

[After the raid] I kept going up the island looking for further resistance. I didn’t find any; in fact, I found that I was completely alone. I headed toward the lagoon and got there in time to see the two planes coining in to land.

                The main body dodged bombs and bullets for an hour and a quarter and also came through the air raid unscathed, although only a few of them enjoyed the luxury of taro-bed bomb shelters as had my group. Instead some spent the time circling palm trees to keep the thick trunks between themselves and the strafing planes, but at least one, Jim Faulkner, had to be dragged around. Incapacitated by three bullet wounds and a canteen of scotch given him by Lieutenant Lamb, Jim was in no condition to walk.

                By 1430 the raid was over, and the planes departed, except the pontoon plane and Kawanishi flying boat that landed on the lagoon due north of the command post. Unconcernedly, as if their pilots thought the island were still controlled by their own troops, the two planes began to taxi toward the pier area. Awaiting them, however, was not a line-handling detail from the Butaritari Detachment of the Special Naval Landing Force, Imperial Japanese Navy, but a formidable array of weapons manned by members of the 2d Raider Battalion. U.S. Marine Corps.

                Among the waiting Raiders were Buck Stidham and Bob Poarche, who had their Boys antitank rifle set up near the water’s edge, and the antitank-rifle team of Tiny Carroll and Dean Winters which, together with three Company’ “B” machine guns (Chapman, Dawson, and Inman), was positioned a few yards left of and inland from Stidham’s position. In addition to this heavier weaponry, most riflemen and automatic riflemen on that side of the island were adjusting their sights for windage and elevation in anticipation of a shot at the fat ducks that were swimming into range.

When the smaller plane was about 1,000 yards away, heading toward the wharf area but still between the Raiders and the flying boat, which also was taxiing slowly toward the pier area, the Raiders opened fire. Almost immediately the pontoon plane burst into flames and soon sank, but the flying boat slowly came about and in a hail of bullets headed out into the lagoon, gradually increasing its speed for takeoff. It finally managed to get airborne; but, as it struggled for altitude, suddenly nosed down and crashed into the lagoon off King’s Wharf.

                What specifically’ caused the flying boat to crash is unknown and unknowable, but anyone who fired at the planes justifiably can share credit in the kills. However, with two Boys rifles, at least three machine guns, and the Lord only knows how many M-1s and BARs firing for all they were worth (Howard Young estimates a dozen BARs and several rifles, his own included.), no one can honestly say: “My bullet did the job.” It would not be absolutely inconceivable that the flying boat fell under the sheer weight of all the lead it absorbed in the fusillade.

                More germane, however, than “Who shot down the Kawanishi?” is “Why was it there?” The only plausible explanation is that it brought reinforcements, not knowing that we still occupied the island. Inasmuch as the headquarters on Emidj heard nothing from the Butaritari garrison after the “We are now all dying in battle” message around 0615, and there had been no reaction to the air reconnaissance or the air raid, it would have been logical for the Japanese to infer that the enemy had already wiped out the garrison and departed, and it was safe to land. The almost nonchalant manner in which the two aircraft landed and taxied toward the wharf area while the others flew away suggests that this was indeed the case. Available Japanese records make no mention of any attempt to reinforce the garrison during the battle; however, that is not at all unusual. Japanese military records of World War II rarely say anything about failures.

                “At about 1430,” Carlson wrote, “I was informed by natives that the Kawanishi plane had brought about thirty-five reinforcements for the enemy. Others were expected to arrive in the next flight.” He does not explain, however, by what sleight of hand these reinforcements were landed without a single Raider seeing them—only the natives.

                My boat team saw the Kawanishi crash into the lagoon but saw no survivors. Buck Stidham, who had a ringside seat for the Kawanishi performance, unequivocally asserts: “During all this time, I had a clear unhindered view of these planes, and I did not see anyone . . . disembark from either.” Howard Young recalls that “The larger plane . . . must have been like a sieve [and] men spilled out of it. . . . We concentrated [our fire] on the men in the water until there was no further movement.” The evidence, therefore, seems to be conclusive: even if the flying boat brought reinforcements, none made it ashore.

                At around 1400, while the air raid was still in progress, Donovan, my messenger, reached the main body and reported to Carlson the information on the enemy situation to the southwest. A few days later, aboard the Nautilus enroute back to Pearl Harbor, Carlson was to tell me personally that Donovan’s arrival with the news that most of my group were alive and still kicking and that there were no Japanese on the southwest end of the island was for him the “high point” of that first day. But high point notwithstanding, he seems to have discounted or completely ignored Donovan’s information on the enemy situation. Instead, he chose to remain in a defensive posture and made no attempt to link up with my group, thereby leaving the initiative in the hands of a few snipers.

                Given all of the objective evidence available to him—that of his own direct observations, that of his Raiders who had been in contact with the enemy for several hours, and that provided by Donovan—it is difficult to understand why Carlson, a seasoned combat commander and an experienced intelligence officer, was not more aggressive in carrying out his mission and persisted in overestimating the enemy’s strength or, even worse, underrating his own. It is more difficult, even impossible, to understand why he permitted the natives’ highly questionable reports of reinforcements to influence his decisions to the degree they seem to have done.

                Carlson had seen combat as a unit commander in the early 1930s in Nicaragua and again in the late 1930s in China as an observer with Mao Zedong’s 8th Route Army in action against the Japanese. Presumably from these experiences he would have developed a feeling for the significance of the sounds of battle and of a count of the enemy dead, however rough, as in-dicators of residual enemy capabilities. Furthermore, from his experience in China he would have had more than a passing acquaintance with Japanese tactics.

                As he walked along the battle line and talked with his Raiders, saw with his own eyes the enemy dead strewn about the battlefield, and heard with his own ears the marked diminution in the volume and variety of enemy fire until all that remained was intermittent sniper fire, Carlson should have realized long since that the prize was his for the taking. But he didn’t. Why?

                The first explanation that comes to mind is that he truly believed that he was outnumbered, his misappreciation of the enemy strength being the result of a misunderstanding arising from his native informants’ pidgin English being inadequate to convey a clear distinction between past, present, and future events. After all, “him bringum” tells nothing about the when of a particular event; an ambiguity that could have been present in the natives’ report of the patrol boat having brought reinforcements as well as their report on the Kawanishi.

                Carlson, however, had served many years in China, where pidgin was the lingua franca of the Marines and Chinese in their day-to-day dealings, and should have been well aware of the treacherous ambiguities lurking in the syntactical jungle of a hybrid language. Hence it seems unlikely that his apparent acceptance of the natives’ reports at face value resulted from a linguistic misunderstanding.

                A second possible explanation is that the intelligence production capability of the landing force had been crippled by the death of the battalion intelligence officer, Lieutenant Holtom. That, however, won’t stand close scrutiny as a causative factor. In the first place, Carlson was an experienced intelligence officer and fully capable of evaluating and interpreting information of the enemy for himself. In the second place, the chief of the battalion intelligence section, Platoon Sergeant Wade C. McCoy, was fully qualified to assume Lieutenant Holtom’s intelligence production duties and did so after Holtom was killed. Thus, Carlson’s inertia cannot be ascribed to the lack of an intelligence-production capability.

                Finally, it is possible that Carlson’s seeming operational timidity arose from what he saw as extremely severe casualties. Until Donovan’s arrival he would have been faced with the grim reality that he had suffered casualties exceeding 18 percent; serious enough under the best circumstances, but almost disastrous when the nearest replacements are more than 2000 miles away. Donovan’s information, therefore, should have had the effect of an absolute increase in Carlsons strength and a relative reduction in the enemy’s; however, such was not the case. This new information apparently did nothing to encourage him to resume the offensive while he still had time to complete his mission Instead, he seems to have convinced himself that the enemy was still strong and, having done so, subconsciously rejected all facts to the contrary.

                But whatever the reason, it certainly wasn’t a lack of physical courage. That morning on Butaritari, many Raiders saw Carlson walking upright along the line, smoking his pipe and seemingly oblivious to the bullets whizzing past him. And just a little more than a year later he landed on Red Beach 2 at Tarawa as an observer with then Colonel David Shoup’s Regimental Combat Team 2. In reply to a question as to Carlson’s performance, the Medal of Honor winner and future Commandant of the Marine Corps came back with one of the pithy comments for which he was well known: “He may be red, but he’s not yellow.”

                In any event, once the first air raid was over no further thought apparently was given to offensive action, and a sort of holiday air seems to have pervaded the Raiders in their new defensive position. But unlike the group of “plinkers” who gave me and Sam Brown the scare of our lives, most seemed to incline toward less martial forms of amusement. Some gathered in small groups to chat and sip the milk of coconuts, which the natives provided in exchange for cigarettes or the like, and one such gathering was even dubbed “our afternoon coconut-cocktail party” by Lieutenant Le Francois in his Saturday Evening Post article.

                Some of the men now remembered (or their stomachs reminded them) that it had been almost 12 hours since their last meal and, finding unripe coconut meat not to their palate, sought sustenance from the D-ration chocolate bars they carried. Most of these, however, had been soaked in salt water during the landing and were also unpalatable. Other Raiders began to play the tourist and, breaking out cameras, began clicking shutters right and left: Government House, native houses, trees, the wounded, the front lines, and, in the next air raid, enemy aircraft. Mel Spotts, who had brought along a camera and 10 rolls of film, “had some good ones of the planes, but they like all the rest were lost when leaving the island.”

                At 1630, enemy planes again appeared over the island and for the next 30 minutes bombed the area where earlier the battle had raged. Perhaps they hoped thereby to exact from the Raiders a measure of vengeance for the loss of their two planes, but the area they bombed was now occupied only by the few survivors of their own garrison, as it had been during the earlier raid. The fragmentation effect from the exploding bombs, most equipped with super-quick fuzes, must have been devastating for any snipers still in the trees, further reducing their numbers.

                When the planes departed at around 1700, Carlson met with some of his officers and men to discuss the situation and to decide on a future course of action. At this meeting the Raider commander appeared to waver between the choices of continuing operations to complete his mission on Butaritari or of withdrawing to prepare for the raid on Little Makin the next day. Coyte recalls that it was his and Major Roosevelt’s opinion that the latter course of action should be adopted, and it was.

                Although the last Japanese ground offensive action had come before 0700, to Carlson “the enemy still appeared to be strong in our front, and he was in a position to receive reinforcements.” In view of this and the limited time remaining before the scheduled withdrawal hour, his decision was to “hold my present position and provide for an orderly withdrawal by stages so as to get away at the appointed time.”

                At 1840, Carlson began to shorten the line by pivoting on his left flank and swinging his right back to Government House. Crews were sent to the beach to assemble the boats at the launch site and prepare them for departure, and by 1900 a covering force of about 20 men was in place on the high ground behind the beach. These Raiders, most of them members of the Government House detail who had been designated and trained for this duty at Barber’s Point, were specifically instructed to remain until the last boat was off the beach.

                At 1915, as scheduled, the boats began to enter the water, starting with the flanks and working toward the center, and at about 1930 Carlson and what he thought was the last of the covering force launched. According to Calvin Inman, who was in the boat with him, “Carlson was really calm all the time, telling us to work together on the oars [sic] and even counted for us.” However, Carlson’s description of the ordeal—probably typical of boats that tried and failed—is much less laconic:

The following hour provided a struggle so intense and so futile that it will forever remain a ghastly nightmare to those who participated. . . . We walked the boat out to deep water and commenced paddling. The motor refused to work. The first three or four rollers were easy to pass. Then came the battle. Paddling rhythmically and furiously for all we were worth we would get over one roller only to be hit and thrown back by the next . . . The boat filled to the gunwhales [sic]. We bailed. We got out and swam while pulling the boat—to no avail. We jettisoned the motor. Subsequently the boat turned over. We righted it, less equipment, and continued the battle. All this time I thought ours was the only boat having his [sic] difficulty, for the others had left ahead of us. However, after nearly an hour of struggle men swam up to our stern and reported that their boat had gone back because the men were exhausted . . . I directed our boat be turned around and returned to the beach for our men were equally exhausted.

                Back on the beach, Carlson found that more than half of the boats had failed to make it through the surf, the men were in a state of extreme exhaustion, and most of their gear had been lost, although Inman had somehow managed to hang on to his machine gun and two boxes of ammunition. Unaware that the covering force was still in position, Carlson established security with Inman’s machine gun and such other arms as could be scraped together and began to take stock of his situation.

                In the meantime, the members of the covering force watched helplessly as their friends battled the surf. Ben Carson describes the ordeal from the viewpoint of the covering force:

                The next five hours have got to be the most harrowing period of my life. We in the perimeter guard force were to leave the beach only when we were sure that everyone else had been evacuated . . .

As we looked toward the surf we could see boats being turned over backwards by the onrushing waves, dumping the wounded into the surf. Raiders would stick with the wounded and drag them out of the surf back up on the beach. Nowhere could we see a boat drilling its way through that surf and time after time the boats would wash up on the shore only to be righted by the dumped-out crews, and the struggle through the surf would begin again . . . . After three or more tries to penetrate the surf the Raiders would gather in small groups on the beach and rest before trying again. During all this, [they) . . . were losing their weapons, ammunition, packs, and even their shoes. We rear guard Raiders were wondering just how long this thing could go on before [we]. . . . represented the remaining firepower.

                Many of the boat crews continued in their attempts to get out until 2300 or later and in their desperation forgot all about noise discipline. Shouting to make themselves heard over the roar of the surf, they provided a sound beacon for any surviving Japanese still seeking to die for their emperor, and there were still some of those on the prowl. For several minutes members of the covering force had been hearing noises out in front of their position but, because of the noise from the surf and the shouting of the boat crews, had been unable to pinpoint their source.

                Suddenly Private, first class, Jess Hawkins of Company “B” spotted a group of six or eight Japanese about 10 feet from his position and opened up on them with his Thompson submachine gun, firing several bursts. The Japanese returned fire and, although they were armed only with rifles, managed to hit Hawkins in the chest, wounding him gravely. Although this was Hawkins’s third wound that day (the first two were superficial) and his third strike, so to speak, it was by no means “out” for this indomitable young Raider. Aided by the quick and expert ministrations of Doctor MacCracken and bolstered by his own fortitude, he lived to fight another day.

                Later investigation revealed that Hawkins had killed three of the enemy soldiers in the instant before he was hit, and elsewhere along the perimeter there had been brief flurries of gunfire as other Raiders exchanged fire with the survivors of the Japanese patrol. “We must have scored several hits,” wrote Mel Spotts, “for they yelled like hogs and didn’t bother us in this position again.”

                Shortly after this brief engagement, things quieted down along the beach, and the exhausted Raiders sought shelter from the onshore wind and intermittent rain squalls and tried to sleep. Some were content to burrow into the sand among the trees behind the beach while others, less exhausted or more provident, crossed the island to the settlement near Government Wharf, where the natives generously shared their food and drink with them and provided them a place to sleep.

                Although tired, wet, cold, and generally miserable, many of the Raiders were not content to find a place to rest but continued in their efforts to get off the island. Noteworthy among these was Private Murphree [Craven], whose blinker request for help I have already mentioned. Murphree, an Army deserter and one-time communications chief in the reconnaissance troop of an Army division, borrowed a flashlight from Major Roosevelt, shinnied up a palm, and after many tries made contact with the Argonaut. In response to his request for assistance, the Argonaut replied “Will pick up at 0300 in the lagoon” however, this was not to be for the reasons already mentioned.

                When the submarines failed to appear, Murphree along with Corporal Lawrence J. “Red” Ricks and Private, first class, Sebock sought out Carlson and asked for permission to try to get away as best they could. Their plan was to hide in the village until nightfall and, with the natives help, head for Australia by canoe, traveling by night from island to island. (Carlson apparently had great trust and confidence in the abilities of these three, he once having told Murphree: “I would rather have you with me in combat than any man I know, but out of combat you and Sebock break ever regulation in the book.”) Upon granting their request, he added the proviso: “If you make it and we don’t, tell them what happened.” After discussing their proposed voyage further among themselves, however, the three “decided to rejoin the colonel and the rest back at the beach and stayed the rest of the night.”

                For Carlson, the skirmish with the Japanese patrol undoubtedly had made a bad situation look even worse and reinforced his conviction that the enemy was still capable of organized resistance. Consequently, as he discussed their predicament with several of his officers and men gathered under the coconut trees above the beach near Government House (the surrender meeting which Sergeant Lawson described to me), his overall estimate of the situation was far from optimistic As he wrote in his official report.

                The situation at this point was extremely grave. Our initial retirement had been orderly, but the battle with the surf had disorganized us and stripped us of our fighting power. Planes would undoubted/v return at daylight, and it was probable that a landing force would arrive . . . . a check showed that 120 men were still on the beach, and there was no assurance that others had not landed at points farther away. Rain and the fact that most of the men had even stripped themselves of their clothes in the surf added to the general misery. This was the spiritual low point of the expedition.

                Coyte recalls that Carlson was extremely upset by their failure to get away and was particularly concerned that Roosevelt was still on the island. He implied that he felt personally responsible for the safety and well being of the President’s son and indicated that he felt the death of Jimmy Roosevelt might seriously hamper the war effort and was ready to go to any extreme to save him. As far as I have been able to determine, Major Roosevelt was not present at this meeting and, based on my personal impression of his character and what I have heard and read about his relationship with his father, probably would have objected strongly to being a pretext for surrender, had he been present.

                After discussing their predicament at great length—their lack of weapons, the almost complete absence of organizational unity, and the plight of the wounded—and various plans of escape (“My plan,” wrote Carlson, “was to await daylight, move to the north end of the island and attempt to find sufficient outrigger canoes to take us to the submarines.”), Carlson decided that his only option was to surrender. Accordingly, he ordered Captain Coyte to contact the Japanese commander and arrange for the surrender of the American troops, if they would be treated as prisoners of war.

                At around 0330, Coyte and Private William McCall, “a boy. . . in whom. . . [Coyte] had a great deal of confidence,” set out to the south on their quest for the garrison commander, dressed only in trousers and shoes and unarmed. After walking only a short distance, they saw a light in a hut and, on entering, saw two adult natives, a male and a female, and a female child. Coyte attempted to find out from the natives where he could find the Japanese commandant but had trouble communicating with them; then McCall, who knew some pidgin, assumed the duties of interpreter.

                As the two Raiders were talking with the natives, and Coyte was beginning to enjoy the cigarette the natives had given him, a Japanese soldier armed with a rifle came into the hut. Seeing Coyte smoking, the Japanese became very angry, apparently not so much at finding two of the enemy in the hut as at finding one of them enjoying a cigarette, where only a few minutes earlier he had been told by these same natives that they didn’t have any cigarettes.

                As Coyte recalls the incident,. “. . he was most unhappy. He kept threatening to shoot me and was sticking the end of the rifle in my stomach. I was so tired and exhausted, that it really didn’t make much difference. I would push the rifle aside and. . . demand that he take me to his commanding officer.”

                With the natives help, Coyte and McCall eventually assuaged the Japanese soldier’s injured pride and calmed his anger enough to win his reluctant agreement to carry a note to his commanding officer. It was nearly daylight when Coyte addressed himself to the task of composing the offer to surrender, as ordered by Carlson. Addressed “To the Commanding Officer, Japanese forces, Makin Island,” the note read:

Dear Sir

                I am a member of the American forces now on Makin. We have suffered severe casualties and wish to make an end of the bloodshed and bombings.

                We wish to surrender according to the rules of military law and be treated as prisoners of war. We would also like to bury our dead and care for our wounded.

There are approximate/v 60 of us left. We have all voted to surrender.

                I would like to see you personally as soon as possible to prevent future bloodshed and bombing.

/s/ [obliterated]

                When Coyte finished writing the note, he had the natives tell the enemy soldier that he would wait there for a response and handed the note to McCall, who passed it on to the Japanese. The latter accepted the note without comment, which probably wouldn’t have been understood anyhow, and departed for parts unknown.

                Soon after the Japanese soldier departed, a shot was heard nearby, and when Coyte went out to investigate, he saw two Raiders coming down the road. The two, who had one pistol between them, said they had accosted a Japanese going the other way and shot him. Assuming that this was his messenger, Coyte returned to the beach and reported to Carlson that he had been unable to locate the Japanese commandant and that the one enemy soldier with whom he had talked had been killed.

                Meanwhile, as news of the surrender decision began to filter down to the troops, it was not greeted with enthusiasm by any means. Mel Spotts wrote in his diary. “The word started around here that we would surrender in the morning [and] this didn’t set so very good with anyone . . . . [but] there appeared [to be] no choice. Most of the weapons had been lost in our attempts at getting off.” Calvin Inman remembers that . . . not many of us accepted the surrender policy,” and Ben Carson remembers it as “the most terrible message I have ever been given.”

                It was this message that motivated Carson and some others of the covering force to send an emissary to Carlson to request permission to turn over their weapons and cartridge belts to exhausted Raiders and have a go at the surf. The lot fell to Private Sylvester W. Kuzniewski, who later would regale his buddies with his account of how surprised Carlson seemed to be to see someone with a weapon and cartridge belt and in a complete, almost dry uniform asking permission to have a try at shooting the surf. Even at that late hour (around 0330) Carlson evidently was still unaware that his boat had not taken off the last of the covering force.

                Although several boat crews were to continue to battle the surf in the next three hours, only the four previously mentioned managed to make it to the submarines before enemy air activity put an end to their efforts. Now the 70 or so Raiders left on the island would be at the mercy of enemy aircraft until night came, but at least they would not have to worry about being attacked by any Japanese ground forces remaining on the island.

                When Captain Coyte left the native hut to return to the beach with the news of his unsuccessful surrender attempt. McCall decided to see for himself what enemy forces remained on the island. Having relieved a dead Japanese of his rifle and leather cartridge case, he set out to explore and, after wandering through the underbrush for some time, came upon a fairly large taro pit. Approaching the pit very warily, he looked in and saw three Japanese soldiers cowering among the taro plants:

                I guess they knew I was above them and two of them attempted to make a getaway towards the opposite side of the tarn pit. As they climbed the side of the pit I shot one, reloaded and shot the other. One of them had a Nambu pistol which I took (holster and belt, too) and the other (I’m sure) was the Jap whom we gave the note to . . . . As I was going through the pockets I heard the third Nip try to make a break for it. . . He made it out of the pit and started to run away from me. I leveled the Jap rifle but found out it was empty. I forgot to check the magazine. So, I whipped out the jap pistol and fired and got the guy. . . . 

                It was unfortunate that McCall did not have time to complete his search of the bodies in the pit and possibly recover the surrender note. Had he done so, he might have deprived the enemy of grist for their propaganda mill. When the Japanese returned to Butaritari, the note was recovered, and a short time later Tokyo Rose had begun using it as the centerpiece of her broadcasts. Before the war was over, a copy of the note with the signature obliterated appeared in a popular Japanese history

                The arrival of daylight and McCall’s report gave everyone an entirely different view of things, and there was to be no further talk of surrender, then or afterwards. According to McCall, “Carlson told me not to say anything about it.” and Coyte recalls that:

                we [officers] had all prepared written reports of the operation as it pertained to our participation. After they had been submitted, they were returned to us by Colonel Carlson who advised us that Admiral Nimitz had told him that we should re-write our report, deleting all reference to the offer to surrender.

                Carlson himself made no mention of the surrender incident in his after-action report, except perhaps cryptically in his recommendations:

                (i) Finally, I would invite the attention of all military leaders to the illustration provided by our situation at Makin on the night of August 17th which emphasizes a truth that is as old as the military profession: no matter how bad your own situation may appear to be, there is always the possibility that the situation of the enemy is worse.

                Admiral Nimitz also had nothing to say about the surrender offer in his report to Admiral King, the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet [CinCPac Serial 03064 of 20 October 1942], but in regard to the paragraph quoted above suggested: “To this might be added another truth that a few resolute men [presumably referring to the Japanese survivors] seem like battalions.”

                In any event, the Raiders now began to think that perhaps they weren’t in such bad shape after all. Mel Spotts recalls that after receiving information on the absence of organized resistance on the island, “the men were overjoyed. They said ‘we can lick that many with rocks if we have to.”’ Fortunately they didn’t have to resort to rocks, but picked up weapons and ammunition along the beach and from Raiders who had been killed the day before. Some of the men equipped themselves with Japanese arms and accouterments, thereby meeting a present demand for weaponry as well as an anticipated future demand for souvenirs.

                In addition to arms and equipment, some of the Raiders were in dire need of clothing, having lost or discarded all of theirs in the surf. These made do with Japanese blue and pink silk underwear liberated from the trading station at Stone Pier, and some of them brought back several pairs to share with friends who had been too rushed to look for souvenirs. One of the briefly clad Raiders (Dean Winters) was photographed upon his return to the submarine, and several months later this photograph appeared among those used to illustrate Le Francois’s article in The Saturday Evening Post, giving Winters nationwide exposure.

                Although the Japanese sent over four flights of planes between 0920 and 1730 to bomb and strafe Butaritari as well as the island to the north, they never came close to the Raiders. Their heaviest attacks came in the vicinity of King’s Wharf and On Chong’s Wharf and caused considerable damage to their own installations there. Natives from the northern part of Butaritari reported to Carlson that Little Makin also was bombed.

                In spite of the enemy air activity, Carlson sent out patrols to reconnoiter the island, to gather food, and to destroy any remaining enemy installations. A patrol to On Chong’s Wharf destroyed the radio station there and shot a Japanese marine; a patrol to the north end of the island killed another. Carlson himself took a patrol over the battlefield to count and identify our dead and to search the enemy dead for documents of intelligence value and weapons and equipment with which to outfit those Raiders who had lost theirs.

                Private Cyril A. Matelski of Company “B,” a member of the patrol that searched the enemy dead, removed a pistol and wrist watch from a body identified as that of Sergeant Major Kanemitsu. Matelski later told Ben Carson that Kanemitsu’s body was the only one he searched that had a watch. Back aboard the submarine, however, Matelski soon discovered that his trophy watch would tick only when he shook it vigorously, so at the first opportunity he took it to a watchmaker in Honolulu to get it repaired. After a cursory examination, the watchmaker pronounced the watch to be cheap and not worth repairing. Noting Matelski’s obvious disappointment, the watchmaker  asked him how he had come by the watch and after hearing the story consulted his reference books. Comparing the markings on the back of the watch and inside its back cover with pictures in his book, he announced that the watch was Japanese military issue, adding: “It’s still cheap and not worth fixing.”

                Early in the afternoon of August 18, Carlson established his “headquarters” at Government House where there was water, shelter for the wounded, and some cover from air attacks in a nearby ditch. The patrol that had been sent to forage found supplies of canned meats, fish, and biscuits at the trading station and carried as much as they could back to Government House. Now with water, shelter, and food available, things really began to look better.

                In the meantime, Carlson had decided to attempt to evacuate the remaining men by way of the lagoon and its southwestern entrance, using such means of transportation as could be found. Having already determined that there were not enough rubber boats to transport everyone, the Raiders cast about for additional transport. A small sloop with an auxiliary diesel engine was anchored off Stone Pier, and from a distance it looked like it might fill the bill. Charlie Lamb and two others, one with experience in marine diesels, volunteered to row out to the sloop and see if it could be used for the evacuation.

                As Lamb and his companions approached the sloop, a hand suddenly thrust a pistol through a porthole and fired a shot at them. Fortunately the shot went wild, and the Raiders quickly pulled alongside the sloop, tossed a hand grenade through the porthole, then boarded the vessel and finished off the Japanese marine who had been guarding it or, more likely, hiding out there. Unfortunately the sloop was half full of water and so dilapidated as to be unusable. Now they would have to make do with the four remaining rubber boats and an outrigger canoe provided by the natives.

                After Lamb returned from inspecting the sloop, Carlson took a patrol to King’s Wharf and destroyed the nearby fuel dump of 700-1,000 drums of aviation gasoline. The destruction of this fuel was accomplished by the simple expedient of shooting the drums full of holes, tossing a burning fuse lighter into the gasoline pouring out onto the ground, and moving out of the way quickly. On its way back, this patrol searched the garrison administrative office and collected a chart and all the papers it could find. This office was in one end of the barracks that my boat team had checked early in the morning of the 17th; however, at that time, we were interested only in human occupancy and couldn’t have cared less about documents, which we couldn’t have read anyhow.

                After the departure of the last of the Japanese planes around 1800, the four serviceable rubber boats were carried across the island to the vicinity of Government Wharf, and Charlie Lamb displayed another of his many talents by playing the role of Noah in the construction of an ark for the Raiders. By lashing the four rubber boats to the wooden outrigger canoe, two on either side, and attaching the only two workable motors to the outermost rubber boats, Lamb and his crew came up with a rather shaky looking craft that, although not made of gopher wood and nowhere near 300 by 50 cubits, was to serve its builders just as well as had Noah’s divinely inspired creation.

                While Lamb and his crew were struggling to come up with transport, Carlson was out negotiating with the natives and arranging with them to bury our dead, paying them in advance with Raider knives and other items that by then were just so much excess baggage. He also instructed the native Chief of Police, Joe Miller, and his cousin. William Miller, how to organize a local constabulary and suggested that they arm it by salvaging the weapons we had lost in the surf. The Millers of course promised faithfully to do that, although there probably were several crossed fingers out of Carlson’s view.

                Now all that remained to be done was to arrange for the submarines to make the pickup off the lagoon entrance instead of the landing beach, move the wounded to Government Wharf, go aboard Lamb’s ark, and return to the submarines. All very simple in concept, but fraught with potential complications, not least of which was communicating their intentions to the submarines. Fortunately the problem of means of communications already had been resolved.

                Earlier in the day, Carlson had discovered that he still had a qualified signalman ashore, Sergeant Kenneth L. McCullough, a Company “B” radio operator, and, apparently not wanting to risk losing him, had kept him close by thereafter. During the day the two of them had talked about a variety of subjects in the comradely fashion that Carlson encouraged in the 2d Raiders, but one conversation in particular sticks in McCullough’s mind.

                While discussing the various aspects of the raid—the only critique of the operation there would ever be—Carlson suddenly had paused and, almost self critically and apropos of nothing, interjected: “No commander ever expects to fail in an operation, but he should have a plan ready, just in case he does.” He might well have added: “and a signalman too.” It was only sheer good fortune that there was a qualified signalman with a workable flashlight still ashore. Otherwise, the story might well have had a much different ending.

                The Nautilus surfaced at 1810 and 14 minutes later sighted the Argonaut surfacing about five miles to the south. Both submarines then headed for the predesignated rendezvous point and by 1930 were one-half to three-quarters mile off the reef. Soon after our arrival, the bridge lookout sighted a light blinking Morse code from the area where our troops were last known to have been located--the first intelligible message we had received from shore since my return almost 24 hours earlier. (I still hadn’t heard of Murphree’s message to the Argonaut.)

                When the Raiders spotted the submarines just after dusk, Carlson sent McCullough to attempt to contact them by blinker. Positioning himself on an elevation with an unobstructed view and using a flashlight salvaged during the day, McCullough began his message with an interrogatory: “Argonaut or Nautilus?” After he had sent only a couple of letters, however, the submarine signalman broke in and began to send “Who. . . ?”

                McCullough, thinking he had been misread, broke and started his interrogatory again, only to have the submarine interrupt. This break and break was repeated four or five times, with McCullough growing more and more concerned all the while. “I was scared stiff,” he recalls, “because I could feel about a dozen Jap rifles aimed right at me. Although we thought we had the place secure, I had been through a lot the past two days and was not quite a believer. I also thought the batteries in the light would go dead before I could get the message off.”

                Although Commodore Haines felt reasonably certain that this signal was from the Raiders, he wanted to assure himself that the Japanese were not up to some devious trick. After all, on the previous night the Raiders had been unable to communicate intelligibly with the Nautilus, and now they were coming through loud and clear, so to speak. After some quick thinking, he came up with an authenticator that he felt Carlson would be sure to know. In the wardroom a few evenings before Haines and Carlson had a friendly argument over who had relieved Haines’s father as Adjutant and Inspector of the Marine Corps. Carlson had been adamant in his insistence that it had been “Squeegie” Long, so Haines directed his signalman to send the query, “Who followed my father as A & I?”

                When McCullough finally decided to see what followed “Who” and read the rest of Haines’s query, he of course had no idea “Who,” so he relayed the question to Carlson. At first Carlson also was puzzled by the message; however, after discussing its possible meanings with Coyte, he recalled the argument with Haines and realized that the submarine was only seeking authentication of his request. Obviously relieved, he chuckled and told McCullough to reply, “Squeegie Long.”

                As soon as he had transmitted “Squeegie,” the submarine broke in with “send your message,” and a much relieved McCullough transmitted their request for pickup at about 2130 off Flink Point at the western entrance to the lagoon. The Commodore immediately acknowledged receipt and advised Carlson that the submarines would be at the lagoon entrance at the time requested.

                Having confirmed the new time and place of the pickup, Carlson ordered final preparations for the departure to begin. The wounded were moved to Government Wharf and loaded aboard Lamb’s waiting ark; then the others boarded with such souvenirs and war trophies as the limited space permitted. By this time Carlson was virtually exhausted and, when his turn came to embark, had to be awakened and almost forcibly placed aboard by Coyte and Lamb. He kept insisting that he wanted to remain on the island to organize the natives to fight the Japanese upon their return. Nevertheless, he was coaxed into coming along with the rest, and at about 2030 the Raiders shoved off from Government Wharf and pointed their ungainly craft toward ‘the lagoon entrance, some three and one-half miles to the west.

                The trip across the lagoon was uneventful but agonizingly slow, and ages seemed to have passed before the burning fuel dump at King’s Wharf was broad on their port beam, marking completion of only the first third of the voyage. One of the motors worked only intermittently, and the other, aided by a maximum effort from the nearly exhausted paddlers, provided only enough power for a speed of advance of less than two knots across the calm waters. Consequently, it was after 2200 when the tired Raiders finally reached the lagoon entrance.

                Meanwhile the submarines, having got underway at 2005, hove to off Flink Point near the lagoon entrance at 2127 and attempted to contact the Raiders. There was no response, however, to our signal, and once again we prepared ourselves for an agonizing wait, hoping for the best but expecting the worst. Finally at 2213, to our indescribable relief, a recognition signal flashed out of the darkness, and the Nautilus responded immediately.

                As the weary Raiders passed out of the lagoon into the open sea, their already slow speed of advance was reduced to a snail’s pace by the opposing force of waves and the half-knot Pacific equatorial countercurrent. Although the submarines were positioned less than a mile from the lagoon entrance, it took the Raiders almost another hour to reach them, and it was not until 2308 that the 72 exhausted Raiders in four rubber boats and a wooden outrigger canoe came alongside.

                Never before or since have I seen such a motley looking group of humans or such an outlandish looking craft as that which came alongside the Nautilus that night. In comparison, the Raiders who came out the first night would have looked healthy. As I watched Carlson come aboard, I was astounded at the change in his appearance. He had always been somewhat lanky, but now he was gaunt—a walking skeleton. In the 43 hours that had passed since I put him aboard the Company “A” boat for the trip to the beach, he seemed to have aged at least 10 years.

                Without wasting a second on commiseration, pleasantries, or protocol, however, we helped the returnees aboard, wounded first. Insofar as was possible, everyone returned to the submarine he had come out on, however, intermixing was unavoidable. There had already been some the first night and the following morning, and now there was more as Doctor MacCracken and his corpsmen divided up the wounded, bringing aboard the Nautilus the most serious cases, irrespective of their units, so he could continue the treatment he had begun ashore. Since Doctor Stigler and his corpsmen had returned to the Argonaut the previous night, and each submarine now had a surgical team, the other wounded were divided proportionately between the two, which entailed further intermixing.

                As the men came aboard, we of course made a hasty accounting of names and numbers, however, an accurate count at that time was impossible because of the mixing of troops between the two vessels and the fact that no single person had total knowledge of the killed, wounded, and missing. The Raiders who had just come aboard, however, had been all over Butaritari that day without seeing another living Raider; hence there was no reason to think that anyone had been left ashore. Had there been, it is almost dead certain that the submarines would have remained “until we get every living Raider off the island.” as the Commodore had told the ill-fated rescue party that morning.

                Later, after interviewing nearly all of the Raiders aboard the Nautilus, my best estimate was that the only men unaccounted for were the five men in the rescue party, and we had good reason to believe that they had been killed. Most of the men I interviewed, however, were still in a state of shock, and their stories were indeterminate and confused with regard to times and places. For example, Sergeant Lawson had seen one of the missing men in his boat before it capsized one time or another, and he believed that the man had drowned. On the other hand, another Raider was sure he had seen the same man about two hours after Lawson, but no one aboard the Nautilus had seen him since. Yet it was very possible that he was aboard the Argonaut. and so it went. A final and definitive accounting would have to await our return to Camp Catlin.

                Once everyone had been loaded aboard the submarines, the rubber boats were slashed and the wooden canoe holed, and every thing was sent to the bottom of the Pacific. “even my machine gun and ammo.” deplored Calvin Inman. “They didn’t take time to take it aboard,” notwithstanding all the care he had taken to bring the gun back. At 2353. having decided that a raid on Little Makin was now out of the question, Commodore Haines ordered course set for Pearl Harbor. and the two submarines got underway.