On the morning of November 23rd, the 6th Marines counted 300 Japanese bodies scattered around their positions. As it turned out, this group of Japanese had been the last large contingent on Betio with only small pockets of resistance remaining. And following a painstaking mop up of the eastern side of the island, Japanese resistance, with the exception of a few snipers who would continue to take pot shots at marines for the next several days, came to an end. For at 1:12 P.M., after 76 hours of fighting, Betio was declared 'secure'. Upon arriving at Betio that day, General Holland Smith ordered both the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack to be raised over Betio (for Betio was to revert to the British as a Pacific trust after the war). The general then toured the island west of the airport. He noted that only seventeen Japanese had surrendered while only 129 Korean laborers had survived out of a total of 4,700 troops and construction workers.
Read the whole story. Reading the history of the exploits of the Marines and the other armed services as they reclaimed the Pacific in WWII, it is hard to fathom why the senior administration did not let them have at it in Tora Bora four years ago, when the best information available placed Osama Bin Laden in that network of mountains and caves. We would have lost an awful number of brave young men, but we would have lost them in the purpose for which they joined the service.
For more on the parallels, read this excellent post (and the NYT article to which it links) at the blog, Arms and Influence.