So Here’s a Connection I Hadn’t Made

I had read a while back that the rising sea levels brought on by climate change will soon leave the island nation of Kiribati under water.  Heartbreakingly, the situation is pressing enough that Kiribati is in negotiations with Fiji to purchase land for the partial transfer of its population (others would be forced onto the much larger landmasses of Australia and New Zealand).

At the time, I didn’t realize that Kiribati is the site of the Battle of Tarawa, one of a list of five WWII Pacific battles that recruits like myself were required to memorize in boot camp (I believe the five–Bougainville, Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, Okinawa, Tarawa–are those in which the Corps suffered its heaviest losses).

That means that 1,696 sailors and Marines lost their lives to free a people whose country will soon be wiped off the map on account of all of us who contribute to manmade climate change.  Just a little bit of emotional manipulation for you.

Battle of Tarawa Memorial Marker

To the People of Kiribati:
“During World War II, many lives were lost in the Battle of Tarawa which restored liberty to these islands under British administration at the time.

Through the evolution of political development the Gilbert Islands gained its independence on 12 July 1979 from Britain and became the Democratic Republic of Kiribati.

The political processes that took place on these islands, since the Battle of Tarawa, would have been difficult to achieve without the gallantry and the blood of these most remarkable men of the United States Marines.

Enjoy your independence and guard it well.”

P.S. I was also fascinated by this bit of astrophysical history:

The planners were well aware that the date chosen for the invasion — November 20, 1943 — was a time of neap tides (tides of reduced range because the Moon was near first or last quarter). But calculations indicated the boats should still clear the surrounding coral reef at the appointed H-hour, 0830, and the boats would get in.

Instead, as it turned out, the boats got stuck on the coral 600 yards from shore and the Marines were forced to wade in, rifles over their heads, under withering fire from Japanese shore batteries. According to Col. Joseph Alexander’s Utmost Savagery — The Three Days of Tarawa (Naval Institute Press, 1995), Tarawa’s mysterious “tide that failed” lacked scientific interpretation until Donald W. Olson published his seminal essay in Sky & Telescope magazine for November 1987, page 526. Olson showed that the neap tide on November 20th happened to coincide with an apogean tide (when the Moon was at the far point of its orbit around Earth). The combined effect of the two factors was a tide of such minimal range as to fully explain the disaster.

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