Tarawa is an atoll in the central Pacific Ocean, previously the capital of the former British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. It is the location of the capital of the Republic of Kiribati, South Tarawa. The island is known by outsiders as being the site of the Battle of Tarawa during World War II.


Tarawa consists of around 24 larger islets, of which at least 8 are inhabited. The largest islet (South Tarawa) extends from Bonriki (southeast corner of the atoll) along the entire south side but Betio of the lagoon to Bairiki. A causeway now connects Bairiki to Betio ("Japanese causeway"). The largest town, Bikenibeu, and the only airport on Tarawa, Bonriki International Airport, are on South Tarawa. Tarawa is located at approximately latitude 1°22'47" N, longitude 173°09'06" E (Bonriki Airport).


* Abanuea (submerged since 1999 due to changing ocean currents)
* Abaokoro
* Abatao
* Bairiki
* Betio
* Bikeman Island (now submerged due to changing ocean currents)
* Biketawa
* Bonriki
* Buariki
* Buota
* Kainaba
* Marenanuka
* Na'a
* Nabeina
* Notoue (Eretibou)
* Nuatabu
* Tabiang
* Tabiteuea
* Tabonibara
* Taratai
* Tearinibai
* Tebua Tarawa (submerged since 1999 due to changing ocean currents)
* Temaiku

Towns and villages

* Abatao
* Bairiki
* Bikenibeu
* Bonriki
* Buariki
* Buota
* Eita, Tarawa
* Marenanuka
* Taborio
* Teaoraereke


The population (as of 1990) was 28,802. The population is mostly Gilbertese (Micronesian). This probably exceeds the carrying capacity of the islands and is maintained at its current level without starvation principally due to foreign aid, largely from New Zealand.

Government administration

Tarawa atoll has three administrative subdivisions:
*Teinainano Urban Council (or TUC), from Bairiki to Bonriki, known in English as South Tarawa, the capital of the Republic of Kiribati;
*Betio Town Council (or BTC), on Betio Islet;
*North Tarawa or Tarawa Ieta (all the islets on the east side north of Bonriki).

The main administrative centre for the Republic of Kiribati is located at Bairiki on South Tarawa. The Parliament meets on Ambo islet and some administration offices are on Betio Islet and in Bikenibeu and one is located on Kiritimati.


During World War II, Tarawa was occupied by the Japanese, and starting on November 20, 1943 it was the scene of the bloody Battle of Tarawa. On that day United States Marines landed on Tarawa and suffered heavy losses from Japanese soldiers occupying entrenched positions on the atoll. The Marines secured the island after three days of intense fighting.


Betio Islet includes the main port through which copra and pearl shell are exported.

The currency of Kiribati is the Australian dollar.


USS "Tarawa" is the name of the first LHA-class amphibious assault ship.

Tarawa is the site of a teachers' training college and a marine training school, as well as an international airport.

The book "The Sex Lives of Cannibals" by J. Maarten Troost is a humorous account of the author's two years living on Tarawa.

Tarawa is the site of the 1944 Pulitzer Prize winning photograph depicting a blown-up bunker by Frank Filan.

The book "Return to Mars" by Ben Bova uses Tarawa as mission control for an expedition to Mars.

External links

* [http://tarawaontheweb.org/ Tarawa on The Web - A History of the Bloodiest Battle]
* [http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USMC/USMC-C-Tarawa/ The Marine Assault of Tarawa]
* [http://tarawatheaftermath.com/ Tarawa the Aftermath]
* [http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-cp/history/Mascots_2.html "Tarawa" the USCG cat]

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