BAXTER SPRINGS - At their meeting on May 17, the local Baxter Springs American Legion honored Paul C. Buckner for his service in the November 1943 Battle of Tarawa. This battle was one of American Marine's most horrific conflicts.
During this three-day battle the Marines had 1,100 Killed in Action and another 2,500 soldiers wounded. The Japanese lost 4,700 soldiers and only 17 were captured. This tiny atoll of only 1.5 miles wide and 10 miles long, with its airstrip, was one of the needed runways for American troops to refuel for the attack on the Japanese islands.
The Japanese had over 500 pill boxes and artillery emplacements on Betio Atoll of the Tarawa Islands. Paul's 2nd Division Company had to advance some 600 yards, wading in water up to their chests, to get to the beach walls for safety. His company with 200 soldiers had only 32 men survive this battle when the three days of taking this half-mile beach front came to an end, with replacements coming in on the third day of battle.
The Japanese commander boasted that it would take 1 million men and 100 years to take Tarawa. The battle losses were equivalent to the losses of six months at Okinawa, Iwo Jima, and Guadalcanal later in the war. The lessons learned at Betio helped prevent future mistakes in the war during sea landings. The American Legion Post 2096 honored Paul for his being, "Once a Marine, Always a Marine."