The tiny islet of Betio, part of the Pacific atoll of Tarawa, looks every bit the hellscape it was when this photo was taken on Nov. 22, 1943. The sandy hill hid a Japanese blockhouse that U.S. Marines — following the example of 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Jr., shown at the top of the log stairs — were storming, flamethrowers in hand.
It’s one of the last known photos of Bonnyman, who died on the hill that day. But the charge ultimately succeeded, and Bonnyman was awarded a Medal of Honor. Says his grandson, Clay Bonnyman Evans: “Atop that bunker on faraway Tarawa, he saw himself as simply a Marine with a job to do, like any other.”
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