A Monument for Tarawa, as Poignant as Iwo Jima: Ours, Yours, Mine, Theirs
I collect photographs of moments that I think ought never perish from memory… for the sake of Peace, and for the sake of remembering to think ten times before running the young to war… again… from any side.
When I first saw this photo, traced the hands of the wounded Marine trailing in the water, touched the bodies of the other Marines, wounded and dying on the barge pulled by brothers waist deep in the water… I thought… This too, ought be a monument in Washington, close to the ground with the men pulling the barge half-buried in the earth and all around the sound of water coming into shore and rattling back out again… and the sound of men pulling and going … and leaving.
During the battle of trying to invade Tarawa /Japan (this photo Dec 1943, a year and a half before the end of the war) 1026 young Marines died. One-thousand and twenty six instant gold star mothers. What grief waves must have swept over all countries week after week, month after month for so many years. It must have felt like Russian roulette to the heart. The supplicatory prayers for life and safe passage all over the world, must have papered all of heaven.
In the same attempt to take Tarawa, 2,557 young soldiers from the US were severely wounded; blinded, gut shot, bones shattered, burnt, helmet creased and head wounded. Nearly 4000 young dead and wounded. The equivalent, in our small town Midwest, of 30 entire high school classes of graduating seniors, badly hurt or dead.
I think of how that would be received, had all 4000 befallen in some terrible series of plane accidents all on one day. I try to remember-understand how much life 4000 lives really are. Of ours, yours, mine, theirs. All life that is life.
And I go back to this picture, of remembering these predecessors of those who would later wade in water til wither-skinned in Nam, those who would yet come to be in a far away place in full intent to ‘end this thing as soon as possible’ …not to fall into greed for gore. And I think of the men who will not leave their wounded and dead brothers on the field or floating in the water. I think of them especially. Ours. Yours. Mine. Theirs.
And I want a monument. To all those who felt they were true brothers, only from different mothers.
1. Please click on photo to see it full size and not condensed.
2. I know there are others who think otherwise about yours, ours, mine, and especially the ‘theirs.’ I’ve had elderly veteran friends who could not speak of various parts of Asia and the Pacific without using more expletives than words about ‘theirs.’ I give them their due, for they were literally the ones marched from Bataan; or in POW– ‘camps’ is too fine a word for where they were caged. And also, having seen six wars in my lifetime, and having witnessed the annihilation of the young –ours, mine, yours, theirs, –over and over again, and almost worse, the injured minds and hearts that too often return home without ever completely returning home again… and in all honor toward all called… I want memories and monuments not to glorification of war, but to the humane moments that break through perhaps not even despite war, but because of it. Not far away. Not ‘over there.’ Rather right here with us, we are witnesses to those humane acts. These affect our hearts and minds and souls daily through out any war… and all the way to the heart, which is the often the last bastion of order, sanity and humanity most of us truly know.
To that. To preserve that. Even in the midst of tempest nearly inconceivable.