Well, that’s not exactly true, but it might as well be. And since we’ve been “atolling” ourselves to death the last couple days, one more should be alright. Apamama Atoll (it’s also known by similar names like Abamama, Abemama, and maybe even Alabama) is another postage-stamp-sized chunk of coral and trees about 80 miles south of Tarawa. As the Battle of Tarawa was winding down, the U.S. turned their attention to Apamama, as its deep-water lagoon would make an excellent naval base.
The submarine USS Nautilus packaged up 78 Marines, captained by James Jones, and headed south. Arriving at the atoll, the Marines started working their way around the various islets, killing a couple of Japanese soldiers. But natives told the Marines that the next island had a 25-man garrison that would need to be neutralized. So the Nautilus surfaced offshore and proceeded to soften up the landing areas before the Marines headed in. But this battle would be very different from the others.
It turned out that just before the Nautilus and the Marines arrived, the garrison commander assembled his troops. While talking to them, he was waving his sword in one hand and his pistol in the other. In the midst of his speech, he inadvertantly pulled the trigger and shot himself in the head, dying instantly. The remaining troops, shocked and now leaderless, had no idea what to do. So (I’m not making this up) the 25 soldiers dug their own graves, laid down in them, and committed suicide. When the Marines arrived on November 25, 1943, their capture of Apamama involved filling in the graves and raising the Stars and Stripes.
Recommended Reading: A Hell of a Way to Die