Robert peered slightly over the side of the Higgins boat and watched in horror at what was happening all around him. There were bodies everywhere, many of them floating lifelessly in the surf. Many were in pieces only. The water had turned red all around him. Most of the Marines in the boat with him were hunched over with blank stares or quivering lips that were muttering prayers and other thoughts out loud. Many were throwing up from nerves or seasickness.
Years of riding out storms or heavy swells on the Chesapeake had made his body accustomed to rough seas. He was alert to everything going on around him. This was definitely not the Chesapeake. Nor was it the tranquil, scenic shore of the Corsica River. And, most certainly, it was not like looking down at the water lapping up against the dock of an old abandoned boatshed where he sat next to a beautiful girl whose laughter he could no longer hear. No, where he was now was unlike anything he could have ever envisioned. This was some strange, horrific nightmare he was in . . .and all of it was so far from home, and so distant from all that he had once known and loved.
A total of 125 landing craft, Amtraks and Higgins, were launched that day onto the beach at Tarawa. Only 35 completed their mission.