What was the actual goal of the Makin Raid

I was in Butaritari, Makin Atoll in 2013. However I am still not sure what the actual goal was. Was it to divert Japanese forces to other islands instead of Gualdalcanal, Papua and other places were they could attack. More defenses on other islands makes them harder to conquer BUT also puts a strain on Japanese logistics.

The sad thing is that a lot of old stuff is rotting away at the island, e.g. the Mavis flying boat on Butaritari or the many ships in Tarawa which ran on the reefs and just keep rusting away. You can actually walk to those ships as the water isn’t deep.


The Raid on Makin Island (17–18 August 1942) was an attack by the United States Marine Corps Raiders on Japanese military forces on Makin Island (now known as Butaritari) in the Pacific Ocean. The aim was to destroy Imperial Japanese installations, take prisoners, gain intelligence on the Gilbert Islands area, and divert Japanese attention and reinforcements from the Allied landings on Guadalcanal and Tulagi. Only the first of these objectives was achieved, but the raid did boost morale and provide a test for Raider tactics.

Now that is the basic description. I did see Amazon still has the online version of

Forgotten raiders of 1942 by Tripp Wiles which covers the raid. It might be a good place to go for more information.


Thanks for the tips. It seems very prudent to launch a diversionary raid. Even if it did not have the effect intended. Also not sure if that alerted the Japanese to the strategic important of the Gilberts, after being routed out of Gualdalcanal I presume they still could read maps anyway ;-).In the end the Japanese did have lots of garrisons all over the place which stretched the already meagre logistics system. The commando raids in Europe and the pacific did have an effect that was greater than just x people killed.

PS The gung ho movie is easy to find. It is propaganda but VERY well done!


I view it as part of the learning process. We have these raiding units so let’s test our theories and see what needs changing. I’m sure the Japanese learned something also. Just another small slice of war. Not monumental itself but it all adds up.


I agree, training at home is no replacement for learning from real combat. They really knew very little of the terrain and Carlson also was in Tarawa as an observer which became the other learning moment and proof that an opposed landing could succeed all be it at high casualties.

The observer concept sounded weird to me but these advisers/observers participated and helped taking the learning points into the next battle. It makes sense.

At every point in time the Allies and Japanese were learning quickly, coming up with new surprises. There


It is the same mentality and strategic object (or narrow mindness depending from where you look) with Operation Jubilee , Dieppe Raid which was launched same week of August 1942. To test enemy defences , capture prisoners , booty and equipment and test their own skills and maybe divert enemy attention reinforcements from Eastern Front and Guadalcanal. Of course both ended failure on this regard , Dieppe raid was a disaster and Marine general Holland Smith described Makin raid as an unmitigated folly since it provoked Japanese to strengthen their shore defences in South West and Central Pacific atolls where US Navy and Marine landings suffered heavy casaulties later on in 1943-44 , neither raid (Dieppe , Makin) caused Germans or Japanese to divert a single soldier from other fronts.

British also will make one last similar silly “large” raid that will end in disaster once more in Operation Judgement (raid on Tobruk) final time in September 1942 (this was a concept left over from Claude Auchinleck days before he was sent to India that somehow remained and became remained in drawing board and then active in Combined Operations ) before abandoning large scale commando raid concept complately. Small scale raids , sure. Large raids no more.


Found this interesting details of the raid:


Looked for an old version on the “after the Battle” magasin about the Mankin Raid and the search of the remains of the killed soldiers. Also of course about the 9 marines left behind and whom was later executed. (se more via the link above)


It would later be one of the lessons from Guadalcanal: dont drift into small battles that had no other objectives that the battle itselves.


With all respect thanks for the great post but I don’t think this makes sense unlike one would think backwards from the future the historians know but the actors don’t.

Indy follows the queues from the historians who point out that this raid would cause problems in Tarawa but that is still 15 MONTHS in the future.

Let me put this:
In July the invasion of Gualdacanal was INCREDIBLY risky and the Japanese steamroller still seemed extremely hard to stop. And the Marines/ Navy had a really hard time.

The diversionary raid on Makin/ Butaritari did show the vulnerability of this small atolls with small airfields and seaplane plane bases.

You can’t really argue that the Japanese were building up the Gilberts and the defenses and of other vulnerable atolls and at the same time claim that no soldiers were diverted. Does that make sense?

The Japanese who were put in these upscaled defenses couldn’t be in Gualdalcanal as well but required scarce supplies which also could not go to Gualdalcanal.

So the Makin raid which was not as successful as the flick suggest hit the Japanese at the logistic bottlenecks. Suddenly they were hit in multiple places and had to play defense as well as offense.

Also, in August 1942 the Allies situation was still dire. In November 1943 it was much better so the idea that the leaders who decided on the Makin raid were stupid is a folly. They had to to anything to make Gualdalcanal a succes.

And moreover I think that after getting kicked of Gualdalcanal the Japanese would have strengthened the Gilberts anyway the whole assumption that the Japanese wouldn’t strenghtened their defenses at Tarawa had it not been for the raid is mmmm… an unproved assumption. The simple fact that they lost Gualdalcanal to an invasion is reason enough to strengthen it raid or no raid.

If we could go back in time and warn the Makin raiders about what would happen 15 months later in Tarawa IF you proceed with the raid? Would that have sounded convincing? I still think they would have concentrated on winning the battle now not some battle 15 months.