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Publisher's Summary

On November 20, 1943, in the first trial by fire of America’s fledgling amphibious assault doctrine, 5,000 men stormed the beaches of Tarawa, a seemingly invincible Japanese island fortress barely the size of the 300-acre Pentagon parking lots. Before the first day ended, one-third of the marines who had crossed Tarawa’s deadly reef under murderous fire were killed, wounded, or missing. In three days of fighting, four Americans would win the Medal of Honor and six thousand combatants would die.

Now, Colonel Joseph Alexander, a combat marine himself, presents the full story of Tarawa in all its horror and glory: the extreme risks, the horrific combat, and the heroic breakthroughs. Based on exhaustive research, never-before-published accounts from marine survivors, and new evidence from Japanese sources, Colonel Alexander captures the grit, guts, and relentless courage of United States Marines overcoming outrageous odds to deliver victory for their country.

Colonel Joseph H. Alexander (Ret.), a combat veteran who served in the Marine Corps for 28 years, is the author of six books and has helped produce 25 military documentaries. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

©1995 Joseph H. Alexander, 2009 by Findaway World, LLC (P)2009 Findaway World, LLC
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

“The first complete and definitive account of the Battle of Tarawa.” (Major General Mike Ryan, USMC [Ret.], Navy Cross recipient)
“A gripping narrative of one of the bloodiest battles of WWII in the Pacific theater.” ( Publishers Weekly)
“Without a doubt the best narrative of the struggle ever produced.” (Richard B. Frank, author of Guadalcanal)

What listeners say about Utmost Savagery

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

The Definitive Battle History of Tarawa

Col. Alexander's "Utmost Savagery: The Three Days of Tarawa" is the definitive battle history of this epic event. It is my understanding that he worked closely with historian Richard B. Frank and was able to tap into newly translated official Japanese war histories to uncover the Japanese side of the story. He also drew upon numerous interviews with veteran participants including war correspondent Robert Sherrod who landed with the Marines. Alexander's work is one of the finest battle histories I have ever read. Expertly narrated, I highly recommend this title to anyone interested in WW2 history.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Read Like a Military Operation

First off, any book about the island campaigns during WW II should be read. Having said this, I am bit hesitant on one like this, for my tastes. The first several chapters contain a lot of detail about the TO lines of both the US and Japanese forces. For some readers who want to know all the pre-battle unit organizational details this is a must. I prefer to read about the battle itself and the conflicts and struggles of individual Marines during the taking of an objective.
Still a good story and narration by Tom Weiner.

6 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
  • X
  • 05-15-11

With the Marines at Tarawa

This is why I listen to books. This little book is densely packed with tons of great research. I tried to read this in print and got stuck. But, on audio, I blew through this book quickly. Terrific history of the nearly 6,000 lives lost on both sides over a couple of days in a fight to the death on the most heavily defended atoll in the Pacific, an island battleground that is the size of the parking lot at the pentagon. Impeccably researched. Well written. Boldly narrated, Very entertaining.

5 people found this helpful

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Utmost Savagery.

A Great Story about Tarawa and the Pacific War. I like history and espically WW ll in the Pacific so naturally I was drawn to this Book. I would recommend this book to others.

4 people found this helpful

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Outstanding

I have read many stories about Tarawa. This is by far the best. Very detailed and benefitting from post war information about the Japanese side of this epic battle. I highly recommend this text/audiobook.

3 people found this helpful

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Lessons Learned

This is one of the best books about amphibious warfare in the Pacific I have ever read.

Col. Alexander gives a detailed and thoughtful description of every part of the battle for Betio Island—from planning to execution—while switching between the perspectives of the most important figures in the 2nd Marine Division, as well as the island’s Japanese defenders. It is not elaboration to say the outcome of this battle hung in the balance, and that is well illustrated.

The benefits of the battle are also clear: Besides marking the outer perimeter of Japan’s atoll defenses, Tarawa served as an amphibious proving ground, and the hard-earned lessons would be applied in every subsequent landing by the Marines in the Pacific.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in operational histories of battles, the history of the Marines and amphibious warfare, the war in the Pacific, or if you like reading about men displaying awesome courage in unthinkable circumstances.

1 person found this helpful

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great for grand scheme of the battle

reads like a play by play of the history of the battle for the Atoll with excerpts from veterans versus being a story of one individual or unit's experience of the battle

1 person found this helpful

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Interesting and detailed account

Highly interesting and detailed account of one of the most bloody battles in WWII. The book is not only about the battle itself but also describes in great detail political, strategic and technological context of the time.

1 person found this helpful

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Bloody Tarawa

I was surprised and delighted to find this title as an Audible "free-be". It's one of the best regarded books on the subject.
Tarawa was one of the bloodiest battles in American history and the first seriously contested amphibious operation in the central Pacific. The lessons learned there allowed the Navy and the Marines to fight their way to Saipan, Guam, Leyte, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. This book shows the mistakes, missteps and what it took to win. It's a great, if sobering, story of a pitched battle fought well by both sides.

1 person found this helpful

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a grim education

I had to look up a map of the island while listening to the narration. it was a grim education of that 3-day conflict.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-24-22

Great Thoughtful Treatment of a Brutal Battle

The attention to detail is impressive and the narrator does a good job maintaining a consistent tone when covering the logistics of the campaign and the drama and horror of the battle.

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  • Kindle Reader
  • 08-29-22

Another poor narrator...

Robotic, monotone, disengaged, very strange pauses at odd places in sentences. He seemed to want to do his best to ruin an otherwise interesting history.

The only (minor) gripe with the content would be the sometimes irritating constant repetition of full unit names. As with all military histories, the story greatly benefits from referring to a map when listening.

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  • Craig
  • 04-27-22

Must Listen, One For History Buffs.

Extremely well researched book. It delves into the terrible price of war on a human and indavidual front. Covering both sides it tells the story of a savage battle that lasted less than two full days over an extremely small but tactical island during the Pacific WW2 campaign. Good listening.

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  • Jase W
  • 03-16-22

Engrossing !

Totally fascinating book. The most detailed account of any of the battles in the Pacific campaign I’ve read/heard.

Well narrated too! Highly recommend 👍

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  • Robert Townsend
  • 01-20-22

An insight into a much misunderstood battle.

with the use of recent updated facts about this battle it gives the listener a greater understanding of a hard fought battle from both sides.

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  • Jacques M
  • 04-08-22

Remarkable Journey

I found this book quite intense and a sensational recall of the battle. Although I did find that the narrator was intent on speaking very quickly, and also, the author spent quite a time using abbreviations and letters for many items, which became quite confusing at times, and after a while, you would forget what the letters stood for.. Overall, though, the recollection was very good and was an incredible learning experience.

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  • Hamish
  • 02-13-22

Excellent Account of a Truly Horrific Battle

It sounded like D-Day on Omaha Beach but for 72 hours and much much worse. Great book. Well read.