Betio city and the World War II relics
July 2nd, 2015
One of the attractions that shouldn't be missed during a trip to Tarawa, are the relics of the Battle of Tarawa, which happened during World War II in 1943 between America and Japan. Due to the limited range of first warplanes, having control of these small islands were of primary concern for strategic purposes, as important logistic bases throughout the vast expanse of Pacific ocean.
The main road across Betio, connecting the island with the other parts of Tarawa atoll.
Betio is one of the most populated cities of Kiribati and that with more facilities. In these photos, a school (left picture) and the main hospital (right picture).
People waiting for a bus in Betio.
As seen in Kiritimati, also in Tarawa, as in all other inhabited islands of Kiribati, there are the churches, and some are quite ancient. The predominant religion in Kiribati is Protestant.
A little girl plays in the small courtyard of her house.
Shops and stalls along the main road across Betio in South Tarawa atoll.
A restaurant in Tarawa.
A general market in Betio. Locals are always very happy to meet people coming from other countries.
The tour in Tarawa continues visiting Kiribati Parliament, where there is a map showing Gilbert, Phoenix and Line Islands. Kiribati is really a huge country, with a surface size similar to that of Australia, but made almost exclusively of water.
The maneaba is a typical construction of Kiribati and consists of a roof supported by a series of columns. This building has several functions: it is used as a gathering place to celebrate festivals, to meet other people, to have a rest or even for religious events. All Kiribati villages have at least one maneaba.
Picture of a maneaba built in traditional style, with a twisted leaves roof.
Tarawa is an island known for an important battle which, like that of Midway, has marked the course of the Second World War: the Battle of Tarawa. Before the mid of last century, most planes were not suitable to cross the entire Pacific without a refueling stop, therefore, controlling these small atolls throughout the Pacific was of utmost strategic importance in order to set up logistic bases. This is the main reason for which Japan has occupied Tarawa, in an attempt to advance towards the United States. A memorial in Tarawa recall the more than 1,000 victims of the bloody Tarawa Battle happened in 1943 between Japan and the States.
In Tarawa there are numerous relics documenting the occupation of Gilbert Islands by Japan and the United States attempt to regain control of the island. In the photos above, a cannon used by the Japanese to answer to the American attacks from the sea, and a picture of a beach that has played a key role in the Battle of Tarawa, along the shores of Betio island. Most of the relics look abandoned, with some garbage all around, however, there restoration and recovery projects.
Sometimes, the remains of forts, bunkers and Japanese pillboxes, is used by the locals as housing.
Other findings related to the Second World War and to the Battle of Tarawa.
The original document, recently restored, where Japan declares the occupation of Gilbert Islands.
The Japanese occupation of Gilbert Islands was mainly limited to South Tarawa, in particular to the island of Betio, where visitors can see lot of forts, bunkers and pillboxes scattered throughout the city and the beach.
The Singapore guns were sold by the British to Japanese and installed along the beaches of Betio to defend the island from American attacks coming from the sea.
A beach were the bloody Battle of Tarawa has happened. At low tide, visitors can still see the remains of American tanks.
Photos of Battle of Tarawa. A Japanese fort heavily damaged by an American attack from the sea. On the facade of the building, you can see the holes left by bullets.
Instead, this Japanese bunker housed an electricity generator, which was subsequently removed, restored and brought in a museum, as we will see later.
The training center in Betio Marina In the left photo, an historic building used as center of communications by Americans during the Second World War. In the right photo, a Japanese bunker turned into a modern building.
The Marine Training Center also houses a power generator that the Japanese used during World War II in one of their bunkers. The equipment has been restored and is still functioning.