Camp Tarawa

Signs at the entrance to the former Camp Tarawa in Waimea, Hawaii

Waimea was the site of Camp Tarawa from 1943 to 1945. The camp was built by the 2nd Marine Division which had just fought the battle of Tarawa, hence the name of the camp. Those marines then trained there for their next campaigns before moving on in spring of 1944.

They were replaced by the 5th Marine Division, who used the area to train for the attack on Iwo Jima. After that campaign, those marines returned to the camp for further training, but the war ended before they were called into action again.

The camp was closed in November 1945 and returned to Parker Ranch, which had leased the land to the U.S. government for a nominal fee, with the proviso that it be returned to them in its original condition. This meant that few buildings from that time remain, but the land between Waimea and the South Kohala coast was littered with unexploded ordinance and shrapnel, some of which remains to this day.

Signs at the entrance to the former Camp Tarawa in Waimea, Hawaii

4 thoughts on “Camp Tarawa

  1. JCH

    My Dad was US Navy corpsman attached to the 5th Marine Division in WW2, so he trained at Camp Tarawa for the amphibious assault of Iwo Jima, where he was WIA. He returned to his platoon 4 days later and walked up a ramp with the survivors once the 36-day battle as over. They returned to Camp Tarawa and began training for the invasion of Japan. With the surrender, the mission became the Occupation of Japan. On the day they were to leave for Japan, Dad got very sick and was hospitalized at a medical facility at the camp, where they performed an emergency appendectomy. The Marine Corps left for Japan without him. By the time he was ready for duty, they already knew they had too many Marines in Japan. He was given the option of either accepting a promotion to Chief Pharmacist Mate and going to Japan or going home. He tentatively asked if they were serious. They said they were. Four years of war. He went home. Somewhere on the site of Camp Tarawa are the remains of Roscoe II, the lion mascot of the 5th Marine Division. Roscoe II likely had a genetic disease, was often sick, and was euthanized shortly before the division left for the Occupation of Japan.

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    1. Graham Post author

      Thanks for sharing your knowledge of the camp. I hadn’t heard about poor Roscoe II before! I doubt your dad enjoyed his appendicitis, but he was probably happy that it led to him finally being able to go home again. I work down the hill from where the camp was and I still sometimes find shrapnel on the ground where training took place.


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