Tarawa: Lest We Forget

We have been honouring Veterans’ Day and Remembrance Day, so it is timely to write my own ‘Lest We Forget’ post about a small place in the Pacific, to which we owe an enormous debt of gratitude.  That small  place is Tarawa Atoll.

This is what happened there from 20 -23 November 1943. ( Warning! This Academy Award Winning Documentary is VERY GRAPHIC. Please do not watch it if you find war scenes disturbing.)

The Battle of Tarawa in the Pacific Theatre of War was brutal. Within the space of 76 hours, the Americans suffered approximately 3166 casualties. Enemy casualties were also horrendous.  “Of the 3,636 Japanese in the garrison, only one officer and sixteen enlisted men surrendered. Of the 1,200 Korean laborers brought to Tarawa to construct the defenses, only 129 survived. All told, 4,690 of the island’s defenders were killed.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Tarawa

And let’s not forget that the Tarawa Atoll was inhabited by its own people . Their losses, material and psychological, were immense too, particularly for the inhabitants of Betio Island, the main site of the Battle of Tarawa. Pre-war the people of Betio had enjoyed a good subsistence lifestyle. http://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/bitstream/handle/10125/15557/OP36-109-112.pdf?sequence=1   Following World War Two, their fragile environment and livelihoods were left in ruins.

And, to a large extent, in ruins they remain to this day. Not just for Betio, but for the entire country which is today known as Kiribati. In addition to war, phosphate mining and nuclear testing have  taken their toll. Now Kiribati is engaged in a new battle. It is on the front-line of another great struggle; once again not of its own making. Slowly, but surely, Kiribati is drowning. Climate change and rising sea levels are torturing Kiribati to death.

And the big powers, some of whom were once prepared to fight over Tarawa Atoll to the last man, if necessary, because it was considered so important to their success, don’t seem to give a toss.

Which means that when we come to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Tarawa in 2043, or the centenary of the end of the Second World War, there may not be much left of Tarawa to see. Within the next 50 or 60 years, most of Kiribati will be uninhabitable because of climate change.

When the land sinks beneath the sea, the people of Kiribati will become citizens of nowhere.  What a tragedy. They will be as lost and broken as the 520, or more, Marines , and the thousands of Japanese, who lie, to this day, mangled and unidentified under the fragile surface of  Tarawa. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/24/magazine/the-search-for-the-lost-marines-of-tarawa.html?pagewanted=all

‘Last week some 2,000 or 3,000 United States Marines, most of them now dead or wounded, gave the nation a name to stand beside those of Concord Bridge, the Bonhomme Richard, the Alamo, Little Bighorn, and Belleau Wood. The name was Tarawa.’

—Robert Sherrod, Time Magazine War Correspondent, 6 December 1943

 

This post is for climate warrior/peacemaker Matisse whose recent post on Kiribati and climate change reminded me how often we forget what is on our doorstep  http://matissewb.com/2014/11/12/the-arctic-is-melting-islands-are-disappearing-the-president-of-kiribati-sails-to-the-top-of-the-world-to-visit-the-ice-that-will-soon-swallow-his-nation/#respond   Please read her post. It is important.

Lest We Forget …battles old and new, and an island people whose sacrifices, present and past, allow us to live as we do.

© silkannthreades

 

 

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111 thoughts on “Tarawa: Lest We Forget

  1. Leya

    This was all new to me, and so important to know about. You are a master of telling and showing us. This must be done – we do not want to forget and we need to be rreminded.

    I’m afraid these climate disasters will reach us all, and sooner than we realize.As always it is impossible to understand how our leaders fail to face it and make this issue number one on the agenda. I admire the people of Kiribati.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Politicians/leaders are so slow to act. This issue has been around for years yet even now they are still negotiating and negotiating…….at least there is awareness and intention to do something. In the meantime, the people of Kiribati are getting on and DOING what they can. Yes, they have my admiration, too.

      Reply
  2. mmmarzipan

    A very moving post 😦 I wont be able to watch that video, I am afraid. As much as I hardly aspire to be ignorant regarding important matters, every single thing I have watched to do with with the wars of “our times” has ended up haunting me… even the reenactments and fictional pieces. And those poor people of Kiribati! I truly hope the world will listen!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      In this noisy world, it’s hard to make oneself heard, and it doesn’t help when one of your big neighbours doesn’t want to believe that its own Great Barrier Reef is in trouble. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/dec/09/julie-bishop-lobbying-stop-great-barrier-reef-listed-in-danger However, the people of Kiribati have shown great resilience and strength and good planning skills so perhaps they will be okay. Unlike the Australian Government they don’t have their heads buried in the sand. 😉

      Reply
  3. Mary Mageau

    What a heart-breaking and tragic story. The future of the island of Kiribati looks very bleak, as the powers that be only used it for their own short term scientific and economic gains. Thank goodness the residents may be able to migrate to Fiji, if their land is reclaimed by the Pacific Ocean. Lest we forget!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Mary, Kiribati has been very ‘used’ but still the people are dignified, and determined to fight for survival. And, of course, it is not just their survival that is in doubt; if they go, we are all at greater risk than ever before.

      Reply
  4. Tiny

    These things have to be said, thank you doing saying them. I fully agree that we need to be moral human beings and that includes taking the climate change seriously…I just hope it’s not too late already.

    Reply
  5. daniellajoe

    War is such a sad event for every one involved the dead the living I really wish the fighting would stop…
    But I do thank God for all the brave fighters, I will never forget…

    Reply
  6. Wendy Macdonald

    This is so sad and so sobering on so many fronts. When I heard the news about the comet landing (apparently as a prelude to mining asteroids) I wondered If maybe we should be mining for more wisdom so we can stop pillaging and polluting the planet… never mind how awful we’ve treated each other.

    I guess we’ll continue on going where ‘no man has gone before’ and drag along more junk to dump off into space. I wonder how long we have left? I’m not sure what to think about space exploration despite all the politically correct stuff I’ve read about how we’ve benefited from it all. It seems to me that we could use the intelligence and resources right here on earth to help our neighbours. But then we’d argue over “Who is our neighbour?” and another war might break out.

    I’m looking forward to when our Creator has had enough and packs up this Lego set.

    Blessings ~ Wendy ❀

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Oh dear, yes, I know what you mean by the “Who is our neighbour” question. Our neighbours are the people of the Pacific, like Kiribati, yet we always seem to be looking further afield; we worry about our relationship with China, we fret over what we should do about Syria, we spend long hours trying to get free trade deals with countries far away; it’s only when there is a crisis in the Pacific, like a military coup, that we suddenly remember where we reside in the world. I may be wrong but the last time we seemed to care passionately about our Pacific neighbourhood was when we were protesting against French nuclear testing; and that is quite some time ago.

      Reply
  7. Sheryl

    This post led me to spend 5 or 10 minutes looking at maps of the islands in the Pacific. I didn’t know where Tarawa was, and it took awhile for me to get myself oriented–and next thing I knew I was looking for other islands where other battle had been fought. The islands are so small–and it’s hard to image what it must have been like for the people living of them during the war.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? They are so small, some of them, that it is a wonder they didn’t simple submerge under the weight of the fighting! It’s also hard to realise that such small places were so strategically important once upon a time. In view of your interest in 1914, you may like to know that one of the earliest actions against Germany in WWI was in the Pacific, namely NZ’s ‘invasion’ of German Samoa. http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/new-zealand%27s-invasion-of-samoa

      Reply
      1. Sheryl

        Thanks for the link. It’s really interesting. I hadn’t realized that there had been any battles in WWI in the Pacific. . . or that there had once been a German presence in the Pacific. . or that NZ had been involved in WWI.

        And, you’ve again sent me to the maps–trying to figure out where Samoa is in relationship to American Samoa. 🙂

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          At least these days we have Google Maps to help us out. On the old style world maps it was often almost impossible to pick out the tiny specks of the islands. Hope you had fun finding Samoa!

  8. Dina

    Gallivanta,
    this is all new to me and very moving, so sad – and as you say, the plight of Kiribati is heartbreaking. Thank you for this post! ❤

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I am quite cheered by the emphasis that President Obama put on climate change at the recent G20 summit in Australia. But it’s probably too late to make a difference for some of the islands.

      Reply
  9. Cynthia Reyes

    Horror upon horror, tragedy after tragedy, injustice upon injustice.
    I hardly know what to say. The victors take the spoils of war and greed and vengeance, leaving some people staggering from loss after loss.
    And we today enjoy the benefits of some of those injustices and, for a ‘peaceful’ life of our own, turn a blind eye to the tragic parts of history that continue to oppress others.
    We stand on the shoulders of many, yes, but we also walk on the graves of so many others.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      ‘Standing on shoulders and walking on graves’….so rightly said Cynthia. Speaking of which I have been following up some links to do with both. Our western world not only has military links with Kiribati but cultural ones as well. “Robert Louis Stevenson, Fanny Vandegrift Stevenson and her son Lloyd Osbourne spent 2 months on Abemama in 1889. Near Tabontebike is the tomb of tyrant-chief Tem Binoka, who was immortalized by Stevenson in his account of the 1889 voyage of the Equator published as “In the South Seas”[10] Robert Louis Stevenson, Fanny Vandegrift Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne returned to Abemama in July 1890 during their cruise on the trading steamer the Janet Nicoll.[11] ” (source Wikipedia)
      RLS’s account of his visit to Abemama is fascinating, especially when juxtaposed against this account of the Battle of Abemama which was part of the greater Battle of Tarawa. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=United_States_Marine_Corps_Amphibious_Reconnaissance_Battalion&redirect=no#Apamama.2C_November_1943 I find both accounts of Western interaction with the people of Abemama oddly similar.

      Reply
  10. Marylin Warner

    There is a sadness that lives for many generations after such a heartbreaking loss, and your post is a poignant reminder. We mourn not just for every death in war, but also for the reality we will never truly know the numbers that will never be born because of that loss. We are all connected…in sorrow and in joy.
    Excellent post, Gallivanta.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      We are connected in sorrow and joy; so true. And to add a little joy, I think those old ‘warriors’ might be heartened to know that there are new warriors out there, the Pacific Climate Warriors. Their motto is “We are not drowning. We are fighting.” http://world.350.org/pacificwarriors/the-pacific-warrior-journey/ It’s possible the efforts of these young ones may help enough to save the endangered islands, and eventually allow those soldiers of old to truly rest with dignity.

      Reply
  11. sheridegrom - From the literary and legislative trenches.

    Yours may very well be one of the most sensitive and educational blogs surrounding Veterans Day and Remembrances that I’ve had the honor of reading this week. I’ve read many of the comments and have found your reply’s as educational as your original blog.
    I’m involved in protecting our environment against global warming and other issues happening on a daily basis. The US took a heavy hit in this past mid-term election and we’re going to see a great deal more destruction to our country.
    Bravo for your hard work and your forever caring in the writing of this blog.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you Sheri for your continued support of my blog. I am glad the environment has your faithful backing. If we each try to do as much as we can, our environment stands a chance.

      Reply
  12. Britt Skrabanek

    What a moving video…thanks for sharing, love! I’ve always tried to do my part with loving the environment and made a big switch six years ago when I decided to give up my car to bike and walk. In the US, this is a bit of an anomaly, although more people are making the switch it seems.

    It’s a lifestyle change that I have managed in Milwaukee and now here in Portland, which is much easier with public transportation and milder weather. To only have one car, we have to live centrally in the city and my job must be nearby.

    So far, it’s working. And bonus…it keeps me in shape!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Britt, everything you put on your blog speaks of your love for the environment. Except when you crash on your trail runs, you seem to tread lightly on this earth. 😉

      Reply
  13. April

    I enjoyed learning more about our world. I find it a bit disturbing that the US public school system doesn’t teach much about our world. If they did, I must have missed the days it was taught.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      JAA, it’s very sad and tragic. I try to avoid gloom and doom on my blog, but, sometimes, there are things that have to be said. On the bright side, if we can send a little machine on a 10 year mission to a comet, I do think we have the capacity to save a place like Kiribati. We have the intelligence, capacity and money; it’s the resolve that is lacking. One bright idea for Kiribati is to build artificial islands.

      Reply
      1. Just Add Attitude

        I agree with you that there are somethings that just have to be said. I think it’s important that what’s happening in Kiribati is as widely know as possible. It’s tragic for the islanders and it could so easily happen again somewhere else. And yes in an age when we can do things that were undreamt of three or four decades ago it must surely be possible to do something to save Kiribati.

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Sadly it is going to happen elsewhere. In Papua New Guinea it is estimated that by 2015, Carteret Atoll will be largely submerged and entirely uninhabitable. That is next year for about a thousand people.

          They are bravely searching for a new home.

  14. Robbie

    Thank you for sharing- I had no idea this was going on to this island. I knew about “overall” climate change. This is hurting real people. Anote Tong spoke so eloquently- his voice inspiring-
    “What I would like people to be, is to be human beings. To be moral human beings and to be able to understand that what they do might be negative to those people on the other side of the world. And if they have the capacity then they have the obligation to do something about it.” – President Anote Tong”
    Wow…really moved me:-) He is right!
    I then went to the other blog you said to visit + read + watched the video of people standing up and doing something…”climate refuges” …wow….that may be us all one day, if we don’t do something to help make changes..this is very scary…
    Thank you for taking the time to educate me about something I knew nothing about before today…great post:-)

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Robbie, it is terribly sad that real people are being hurt right here, right now. These people have been telling us for years of their plight but world leaders seem to have gone after bigger fish, so to speak. However, I may have to revise one statement in my post concerning big powers not giving a toss. At the recently concluded G20 Summit in Australia, both the US and Japan pledged billions to the UN Green Climate Fund. http://www.smh.com.au/business/g20/climate-change-in-g20-communique-after-trench-warfare-20141116-11no3q.html So the pledge has been made; we will now see what happens in practice.

      Reply
      1. Robbie

        so much of life is “wait + see” + these poor people are at our mercy:-( I feel if politicians had to live the way we all do + “people” that have it a lot harder than, I do..well,…things would get done a lot quicker! I have been reading about all the money that is out there when companies donate “billions etc plus” for silly things…or sports /actors/ heads of major companies make unreasonable salaries + how wasteful people are with their money—cars that cost more than houses! come on!!! Well, what can I say..butttttt…. the people that make things happen/have power tend to be greedy but not to sound like Debbie Downer:-)….there are good souls at the heart of Politics/big business / wealthy ones- that do get things done—thank goodness they have a heart:-)

        Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      And this is how the shot got its first hearing in the world; “When word leaked out a week after the battle that Gage was sending his official description of events to London, the Provincial Congress sent over 100 of these detailed depositions on a faster ship. They were presented to a sympathetic official and printed by the London newspapers two weeks before Gage’s report arrived.” I don’t know much about the American Revolution but I doubt any of its instigators imagined that their actions would one day lead to American freedom being fought for on a tiny island in the Pacific. That’s the trouble with revolutions; one doesn’t ever know exactly where they will take one.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I found it moving, too. I was glad she brought it to my attention. She is a lovely young person who is very concerned about being a “moral human being.” .

      Reply
  15. restlessjo

    Such a moving appeal from the President of Kiribati, Ann. I’m going now to read your link post but it all sounds ‘too little, too late’. Why can we not see what is staring us in the face? All this money sent into space distresses me. There is so much we need to do here or we’ll all end up having to live ‘out there’. It must be heartbreaking for these people in the paradise that Kiribati once was.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      In another video which I put in the comments the people of Kiribati are shown preparing for “migration with dignity”; in other words working on developing skills which will allow them to live well when they no longer have their own country. That’s positive, forward thinking but how sad to be preparing for the end of your nation. At least they are thinking about it; we, on the whole, are not. As for space; I don’t mind the money we spend on that because I believe it encourages our best minds to be creative and innovative, as well as problem solvers. What I do mind is the extravagance of meetings like the current one in Brisbane; the G20. Is it really necessary? Did Putin need to bring his warships along? For me a summit like this is about posturing and positioning and grandstanding. However, to be fair, posturing is far better than fighting which is often the outcome when nations forget how to communicate with each other. 😉

      Reply
  16. Clanmother

    Oh, Gallivanta, there are so many stories and journeys that are difficult. These are the narratives that must be told and retold as a reminder that we must seek peaceful outcomes for all nations. And it starts with us – our choices, our actions, our commitment to the environment. Thank you…

    Reply
  17. Juliet

    What a tragic story. My friend Claudia Eyley has spent time on Kiribati, when fellow-artist Robin White was living there, so I’ve been very aware of this special place for many years.
    PS Thanks for the warning about the video. I can’t take graphic images any more and appreciate having the choice not to watch. That was thoughtful of you.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I am glad Kiribati is known to you, Juliet. I found the video hard to watch, even though some may consider it mild by modern day media standards. However it was relentless war for 20 minutes, and I felt it needed a warning. In the comments I have added a very lovely video on Kiribati which, apart from the sadness of the rising sea, offers a more positive view of Kiribati and its people. You may find some beauty in that.

      Reply
  18. Lavinia Ross

    Thank you for this educational post of past, present and future, Gallivanta. War is witnessed and documented through many different lenses of understanding. Loss of life to loss of livelihood and future loss of land and country – a long span of tragedy by any accounting.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      So true Lavinia. You made me think of another way we see/document/understand things; one which you know well, and that is music. At about 6.59 on this video, there is a beautiful song which captures the story of Kiribati.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thanks Dianne. We are so bombarded with news of present horrors that it is hard to remember last week’s horrors, let alone ones from 70 years ago, in an area of the world that rarely gets the attention it deserves.

      Reply
  19. danniehill

    A very nice tribute to our men and women would did their duty to our country. After serving in Vietnam I lived in the Marshall Islands for two years. Over seven thousand people died on the island where I lived. There was only on coconut tree left after the battle. It was still standing after I left. I often thanked those fighting men for my freedom when I walked passed that tree.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Dannie, it is good to give thanks, as you have done, and still do. I just wish our thankfulness would now extend to giving greater assistance to these small countries as they face their battle for survival. The Marshall Islands are at risk of being overwhelmed by rising sea levels too. This is a long but excellent article on the small island nations at risk. http://thediplomat.com/2014/05/sinking-states-climate-change-and-the-pacific/ I found this statement by the President of Nauru particularly poignant “No people or country has faced the risk of total inundation from rising seas before. Yet, that is exactly what we must contend with — losing entire languages, cultures, histories, and all the progress that came at such a high cost for those who came before us. We celebrate this special year with the sombre knowledge that unless action is taken soon some islands won’t make it to the end of the century.” You may know that 2014 is the International Year for Small Island Developing States.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes, it is scary. It’s one thing to watch it from afar but quite another when the water is washing through your own home. We are very low lying in Christchurch so we must plan for climate change too.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Not particularly hopeful at all. The G20 leaders are meeting in Brisbane, Australia. The meeting will cost the Australian taxpayer over $A400million. Individual leaders are spending thousands on their accommodation http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11357217. It makes me sad that even a meagre 1% of this massive spend would go a long way to helping Kiribati survive a while longer. Yet I doubt this tiny country will even warrant a mention at the G20 summit. 😦

      Reply
  20. shoreacres

    It’s not so much that I’ve forgotten the war in the Pacific. I never really knew what happened there. A portrait of my uniformed Uncle Jack hung in my grandparents’ home, and then in my parents’ home. I knew nothing of him, except that he died in the war. Then, I came across some correspondence that placed him in the Pacific.. With a little sleuthing, I found him in the American cemetery in Manila. Of course there were few details in his letters, but his sense of loneliness and distress at what he’d seen was palpable.

    As for our climate, it’s absolutely true that changes are occurring. Are they all a result of human activity? I don’t think so. As we’ve become increasingly ahistorical, we’ve lost the ability to see beyond the span of our own lives. The cycles of the planet are real. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t be bringing home seabed fossils from the hill country, and farmers in South Texas wouldn’t be plowing up Spanish anchors from their fields. Where LaSalle sailed, millet grows today. Were it not for the engineers, the Mississippi river would be flowing a different course. And so on.

    Of course there are examples aplenty of human activity being the direct cause of terrible changes. The loss of wetlands in Lousiana is an example. The dredging of canals for the oil industry led directly to wetland loss. Now, groups and individuals are doing what they can to reverse that process.

    The people of Kirabati deserve notice, and assistance. They’ve had enough grief in their history. But it’s a hard truth of life on a living planet that changes come.. Sometimes we can forestall them, and sometimes we can’t. I think the hardest part is figuring out what action will improve the situation, and which actions have no effect beyond making us feel better about ourselves. We’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past: some, irreversible. The fewer we make in the future, the better.

    By the way, I’m very glad you included the video. We need to see such things, however uncomfortable or distressing they may be.

    Reply
    1. shoreacres

      Speaking of videos, here’s one that shows a similar battle going on in Lousiana. So many of the same elements are present: dismissal of local concerns, a willingness to judge ordinary people as unimportant, a refusal to commit to the kind of practices that would minimize damage. The details of the struggle may differ, but not the struggle itself. By the way — the Wendy Billiot in the video is the BW who often comments on my blog. She was the one who intoduced me to the bayous, and to the issue of wetland loss.

      Reply
      1. Gallivanta Post author

        Thank you Linda for contributing this excellent video to the comments. Indeed, it is the same struggle. It’s good to know that there are people who care about these special places and who are willing to do the best they can to save them and the cultures that go with them.

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    2. Gallivanta Post author

      Linda, one of the problems in Kiribati is that mistakes have been made (by aid projects) trying to correct the country’s deteriorating environment. So, yes, indeed, the fewer the mistakes made from now on, the better it will be for everyone. Also, as a people with a very fine history as navigators, and as a people who were once very closely attuned to living in a sustainable way in their environment, I am sure they would acknowledge how the world is always in a state of change. You cannot live by the sea and on the sea and be unaware of that. And their myths and stories will no doubt tell of a time/a migration when they came from somewhere else which was no longer suitable for their needs, and found Kiribati. For all that, I feel sad that the survival of this small nation is in jeopardy, and that it needn’t have been this way just yet. A very cynical part of me says that the big powers, who probably could find a solution for Kiribati, are not very interested because there is that interesting question of international law; ‘When a nation drowns, who owns the sea?” 2014/10/18/when-island-nations-drown-who-owns-their-seas/hyH9W5b1mCAyTVgwlFh7qO/story.html Kiribati controls a rich fishing area. Imagine if Japan and China and the US, for example, no longer had to pay for fishing rights, mining rights etc anymore because Kiribati no longer had land around which to have an EEZ. I hope that doesn’t happen but it’s not an impossible scenario.
      Back to your uncle; did you actually visit the grave site? And, yes, I suspect you may be right; it’s not so much that people have forgotten about the war in the Pacific but more that they weren’t told much about it in the first place. The TV series The Pacific may have changed people’s awareness levels a little, although I did find it a confusing series!

      Reply
  21. thecontentedcrafter

    Tarawa is another hidden secret of the reality of war and I applaud this post. I hope your readers will take the time to watch the documentary and to remember these things are still going on.

    Throughout these past weeks I have avoided commenting on posts that honour war in any way. My viewpoint will I know be very unpopular for I see no honour in war. I see only mindless acceptance of political and corporate rhetoric that sends nations into frenzies to protect themselves from other peoples in other lands who may or may not have also been conned into becoming soldiers or who may just simply be trying to deal with the greedy and unjust in their own political/corporate systems. And then I see the horrendous human sacrifice in terms of death, injury and mental ruination of those who went to war on behalf of the corporations. Make no mistake, wars are commercial enterprises and their stocks trade in human blood. The men and women who join the armed services believe that rhetoric. The only way for wars to stop is for people to do their own research into situations – for example the ‘weapons of destruction of Saddam Hussein’ – and to stop thinking it is okay to invade other countries to keep themselves ‘safe’.

    We cannot wait for the political/corporate beast to change for that is not in their interests at all. It is we who must stand up and begin to think for ourselves.

    Gallivanta – I will understand if you decide not to publish this comment – but there I have said what I truly believe for I cannot be quiet any longer. Your post and all the related links should be read by everyone who writes about the ‘great sacrifice’ and ‘keeping us free’ for those who allow their sons and daughters to go to war are not free. They are pawns in a corporations plans to sell their guns, their bombs, their uniforms, tanks and other war paraphernalia and to raise their stocks. Think about it.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Pauline, I had brain fatigue yesterday so was not able to process your comment properly until today. Hopefully my brain is now a little clearer. First of all, I wouldn’t dream of not publishing such a passionate, heartfelt comment. Your words reminded me of one of our greatest unsung heroes, Archibald Baxter.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archibald_Baxter And, if anyone doubts the courage of men like Baxter, I would suggest they watch Field Punishment No.1, if they can stomach it. I couldn’t.
      When I speak of war I try to avoid the word honour. I prefer words like remember, commemorate, respect. Most people I know do not wish to glorify war but I do feel that there are some world leaders/politicians who are using current commemorations to grandstand and to push their own agendas. Sad. :( Also, whilst I find memorials, like the new Ring of Remembrance in Europe, beautiful and sobering (and I would visit them!) I do have to wonder if the men whose names are recorded there would be happy to have such an edifice in their names. In many ways the memorials are for us, not them. Those men would, I am sure, rather know that their descendants are happy and well and living good lives. I, for one, would love to have seen money put into researching what has happened to the families of those fallen soldiers. Do their descendants,(or whanau) live good lives? Are the children educated and living above the poverty line. Do they earn more than the minimum wage? Do they have safe, warm houses? And, if not, why not? In this respect, Governments could follow the example of the Korean Government. Recently, it decided to give pensions to a group of Ethiopian soldiers who fought incredibly bravely during the Korean War. Practical help to veterans who had largely been ignored by everyone else. Our own Government could do more for its old veterans, too. Would you believe it quibbled about giving my father an extra few dollars a week for his veteran's disability pension because the melanoma (on his face) was in the wrong place for the skin cancer entitlement. Good grief! Now he has a melanoma on his back (the right place), but we are all too damn tired to fill out the paperwork for the miniscule financial return.
      Okay, that's my grumble over
      As for corporations!!!! Ignoring their contribution to wars for a minute, their role in the demise of countries like Nauru and Kiribati beggars belief. And now that companies have stripped land, they are stripping the sea resources of the Pacific. In Australia, the coal industry is on its way to destroying the Great Barrier Reef. And, even in dear old fuddy duddy NZ, the Government has done this "Chatham Rock Phosphate has been granted a 20-year mining permit to extract phosphate nodules from an 820 square kilometre area of the Chatham Rise, the first key step in its approvals to strip the sea floor of the fertiliser chemical." Again I say, good grief!!! Leave it alone, will ya?
      Right, and at this point, I will leave this reply alone, or I will be here all day. But I do thank you for your forthright opinions.

      Reply
      1. thecontentedcrafter

        You have said it all so much better than I ever could – This is a post in itself! Thank you for thinking it all through so beautifully and putting it all so clearly. Archibald Baxter was a great man! He and the hundreds of others who became conscientious objectors or were shot for going AWOL from the army or harming themselves to escape the horror are all men whose names should be honoured alongside those who were sacrificed by the ruling echelons.

        My main frustration lies with my fellow human beings who mindlessly believe the propaganda they are fed, who will not put thoughts of the collective good alongside their wish for material wealth and power. The TPPA is a major concern and yet we still let this government continue their secret talks and negotiations – we still voted them back in when we had a chance to change. The Aussies voted their horror story back in. There are more mindless than mindful – and that is a really sad and scary thought!

        A couple of years ago I read ‘Cloud Atlas’ and was horrified by David Mitchell’s future ‘corpocracy’. It is all but a reality now.

        This conversation has moved way past it’s beginning point and I can only reiterate I am glad you are here, I am grateful for your clarity, for your ability to bring these hidden issues before us and your grace in the face of my impotent and inarticulate frustration at the status quo.

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Pauline, with your mention of TPPA, you are now going to reduce me to an inarticulate…..ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGHHHHHHHHHH! 😀 At a loss for words, perhaps we need this image of protest in Australia. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/nov/13/g20-australians-bury-heads-in-sand-to-mock-government-climate-stance
          Re the men of Baxter’s ilk, I do hope the plans for a memorial to Pacifism go ahead. We have a long history of Pacifism in NZ, (Moriori, Parihaka, for starters) and it was because of the pacifists’ determination that NZ eventually stood up to the abomination of nuclear testing in the Pacific. By honouring Pacifism, I don’t believe we degrade the service of people like my grandfather and my great uncles and my own father. All they wanted when they came home was peace, and never to see anything like what they had been through again. Enjoy your day in the good company of Siddy and Orlando. 🙂

        2. thecontentedcrafter

          I do not mean to negate the sacrifice of those who go into war zones either Gallivanta. I would just like to see a little more growth, a tad more maturity, a touch more humanity, in us as a human race before I leave.

          I agree totally on the issue of Pacifism. Wouldn’t it be something to have NZ make a stand for pacifism in much the same way we did for nuclear free!

          I nominate Gallivanta for Prime Minister!!

        3. Gallivanta Post author

          Oh LOL! If I am to be Prime Minister, you will have to be made Mistress of Humanitarian Affairs. And we shall appoint Siddy as Master of the Ministry of Delight and Happiness. Orlando will have to be something serious like Non-Speaker of the House. By the way, I meant to say I was pleased to learn about Cloud Atlas. I made my remark about the Moriori and Pacifism before I realised that Cloud Atlas begins in the Chathams. How coincidental is that!

        4. thecontentedcrafter

          Serendipity as they say! I have the feeling he knows more than he reveals – if you read the book I’ll be interested in your thoughts. There’s also a movie which got slated as it is definitely not Hollywood – Tom Hanks had a lot to do with it and he is a man I admire very much.

          On the subject of books, do you know the book ‘Song of Waitaha’ ? I don’t know if it is still available, pub. 1991-2 from memory. That is a very interesting look into the far distant past and retells several myths and ‘facts’ in a most intriguing manner. Lots in there about early lifestyles and alternative takes on the history we know. Including that we are a country founded in peace.

        5. Gallivanta Post author

          ‘Song of Waitaha’ is a new book to me. I have just had a quick read about it via Google. Intriguing, especially the connection the author made with the Lakota people of North America. There’s always so much to learn.

  22. cindy knoke

    So sad. The Navy has a ship, the USS Tarawa. The plight of Kiribati is heartbreaking. I read several books written about it from a guy who taught school there. Fabulous books. We are heading to French Polynesia in the first of the year, possibly Fiji as well……

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes, Cindy, the first USS Tarawa is apparently laid up at Pearl Harbour with plans to turn it into a museum on the West Coast of the US. How exciting to be making a visit to French Polynesia! If you get to Fiji, I would highly recommend a visit to the home of the lovely Matisse. http://www.fijibeachouse.com/ The Beachouse, where I spent many of my youthful holidays (before it was the Beachouse), has one of the most beautiful beaches in the whole of Fiji.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you Mary for coming by to read. With your love for natural landscapes, particularly your beloved Maine, you will understand my sadness at what is happening to our beautiful Pacific Islands.

      Reply
  23. womanseyeview

    A fascinating post to say the least – we all have such different perspectives on rememberances if this war. We’re United though in the upcoming ‘war’ of climate change as we watch our world change around us. Thank you for sharing especially the eloquent appeal by the President of Kiribati … It seems too late for his land but perhaps we can still mitigate some of the worse effects – perhaps…

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      For the people of Kiribati the impact of rising sea levels is all too real. I have to wonder if climate change negotiations would go a little faster if the leaders of the world were asked to do their negotiating at a table where their feet were getting wet, and there were no boats off the island. And their drinking glasses contained saltwater. Oops that sounds bitter and mean. 😦 Unfortunately, some of the steps taken to mitigate Kiribati’s problems have actually worsened them, and there are some who believe that the structures on Betio, particularly the runway built during WW2, were the beginning of the undermining of the island’s ability to withstand climate change.

      Reply
  24. LaVagabonde

    The Pacific islands were the scene for so many battles. They kind of got lost in people’s memories. Lots of relics remain. I went snorkeling in Truk Lagoon and saw some for myself. When I lived in New Caledonia, I often passed by old military buildings from the “time of the Americans”. And in Guam, the memory of the war is always present. It is even more of a military base now than in the past.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Julie, that’s what I find so disturbing; that the Pacific suffering is becoming lost from our collective memory; and if whole nations disappear, what then? I am glad you have seen some of the relics.

      Reply
  25. colorpencil2014

    How terryfying and heartbreaking ‘the numbers’ are and how dreadful long the shadows of War and evil deeds can be. I knew about this history but not the names and numbers. It is devasting to see so much hardship and Mother Nature so violated. I have seen the shores of Normandy, still scarred by the War. It makes me sad and sometimes almost desperate. But always comes in mind this brave young girl, the only surviver of her village during the slaughter in Rwanda, who simply said: ” If I give up, evil really has his Victory.” Thanks Gallivanta, for helping keeping us alert! Hugs from Ohio, Johanna

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Johanna, the shadows of war are long, indeed. But I agree with the young girl from Rwanda…. we must not give up. The people of Kiribati haven’t given up their fight to survive either. I have tremendous admiration for them.

      Reply
  26. gpcox

    Great coverage, Ann. I read a book on Tarawa and have researched for it – WOW – it is impossible to condense all that info that transpired in 3 days. I don’t know how anyone got off that island atoll alive!! Betio claimed a lot of lives.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      When you look at the documentary and read only the basic accounts, as I have, it really is amazing anyone survived. The sadness is that so many of those that died still lie there, unidentified. This must be heartbreaking for the families.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes, the Korean casualties were high as well. They too are lying in Tarawa. They also provided labour for the Japanese at Guadalcanal; another Pacific campaign with high casualties.

      Reply
  27. KerryCan

    Fascinating–I knew nothing of any of it. If nothing else, Kiribati should be the “canary in the mine” for the rest of us–who among us won’t be affected by this climate change?! Why can’t we get this through our heads!?

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Kerry, the plight of Kiribati is heartbreaking. There doesn’t appear to be much hope for the survival of their nation. The Kiribati Government has already bought land in Fiji in case they need to move the whole population. How sad to have to do that.

      Reply

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