WWII Battlefield Archaeology of Tarawa

Author(s): Kristen Baker

Year: 2017


A central tenant of military philosophy is "adapt, improvise, and overcome". Navigating battlefields requires constant adaptation to dynamic surroundings due to the interplay of several variables such as 1) pre-existing landscape and terrain, 2) enemy defenses, 3) enemy opposing forces, and 4) friendly and enemy fire. To successfully navigate the archaeology of a historic or prehistoric battlefield, archaeologists must attempt to understand the variables (such as those listed) that contributed to their battlefield of interest and be willing to constantly adapt their search and recovery strategy to their findings.

This presentation will detail the archaeological methods employed by History Flight specifically for battlefield archaeological purposes, and the corresponding findings that resulted from search and recovery activity in the WWII battle site of Tarawa that occurred in what is now the Republic of Kiribati, Tarawa, Betio Island. From 20 to 23 November 1943, the battle of Tarawa resulted in the loss roughly 1,200 United States service men and approximately 5,500 + Japanese military and Korean laborers. While the historical record details much of the events that occurred, careful forensic and battlefield archaeology has brought to light data that in some cases contradicts and in others cases confirms the historical record.

Cite this Record

WWII Battlefield Archaeology of Tarawa. Kristen Baker. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429889)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: 111.973; min lat: -52.052 ; max long: -87.715; max lat: 53.331 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16792