Tarawa Beachhead

Tarawa Beachhead is a 1958 film directed by Paul Wendkos. It stars Columbia Pictures contract star Kerwin Mathews in his first leading role and the husband and wife team of Ray Danton and Julie Adams.[1] The working title of the film was Flag over Tarawa and was originally to have starred Ronald Reagan.[2]

Tarawa Beachhead
Original film poster
Directed byPaul Wendkos
Produced byCharles H. Schneer
Written byRichard Alan Simmons
StarringKerwin Mathews
Ray Danton
Julie Adams
CinematographyHenry Freulich
Edited byJerome Thoms
Release date
November 2, 1958
Running time
77 min.
CountryUnited States


Sgt. Tom Sloan sees his Lieutenant Joel Brady kill one of their own Marines, Johnny Campbell on Guadalcanal after Brady led a disastrous suicidal attack against Japanese entrenched in caves. As the only survivors of the debacle, Sloan doesn't turn Brady in as he assumes no one will believe his word against an officer's. With Brady's recommendation, Sloan is later commissioned and assigned as an aide to a general (Onslow Stevens) back in the 2nd Marine Division headquarters in New Zealand.

Lt. Sloan meets Campbell's widow, Ruth (Julie Adams) to bring her letters written by Johnny. However he meets Brady who is keeping company with Ruth's sister (Karen Sharpe).

Sloan lands on Tarawa with Brady, now a Captain; each hating each other more than the Japanese.



The film was said to contain extensive amounts of actual footage of the Battle of Tarawa, however while some actual footage used, most of the supposed actual footage was from the 1950 film, Sands of Iwo Jima. Additionally the United States Marine Corps refused to cooperate with the producers due to the theme of an officer out for glory killing his own men and a sergeant out for revenge.[3]


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