Rifleman of 22nd Marine RCT Boards USS Middleton (APA-25) After Battle of Engebi

United States Marine Corps Private Theodore James Miller (February 12, 1925 - March 24, 1944) of Hennepin County, Minnesota assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Marine Independent Regiment returns to Coast Guard-manned attack transport USS Arthur Middleton (APA-25) at 1400 Hours after two days of combat on Engebi. Engebi was the first of the Eniwetok Atoll to be invaded by American forces. In Operation "Fragile" the 1st and 2nd Battalions landed on February 18, 1944, with 3rd Battalion in reserve. Opposing the landing force was Colonel Toshio Yano and the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Mobile Shipborne Brigade, which numbered 736 officers and men, including 44 personnel from the 61st Keibitai (garrison) detachment. In addition to his men's rifles and sidearms, Yano had available two flame throwers, two 75mm mountain guns, three 20mm guns, two 120mm naval guns, two twin-mount 13mm AA machine guns, three light tanks and a variety of machine guns, mortars, and grenade dischargers. Because they themselves landed only six weeks before the American onslaught, the Japanese did not have time to prepare the kind of defenses encountered at Tarawa and Iwo Jima. Instead they prepared trenches covered with palm fronds and camouflage called "spider holes." Marines threw in smoke grenades, pinpointed the exits, and attacked with mortars, flamethrowers and explosives. In the attack on Engebi American losses were 78 killed, 166 wounded, and 7 missing, totaling 251 casualties. All of Engebi's defenders were killed, except for nineteen prisoners taken. Miller himself was killed during the invasion of Ebon Atoll a month later. 25 Japanese, including six civilians (two women and two children among them), put up a 20-minute fire-fight that left Miller and another Marine dead and eight others wounded. Seventeen Japanese, including one woman, were killed. Marshallese natives brought the children to safety behind American lines. Ebon was declared secure after the Japanese radio station was destroyed and all Japanese civilians killed or captured. Ebon was abandoned by American forces on March 25, 1944. This photo, widely distributed in the United States after Miller's death, was one of the few to openly portray the stress of combat to the American public.
Caption Written By: 
Jason McDonald
National Archives
Date Photographed: 
Saturday, February 19, 1944
Off Engebi