Anyone who has ever seen the video "With the Marines at Tarawa
" or the segment of Japanese infantry and US Marines fighting at the blockhouse on Tarawa has seen the work of Norm Hatch, who was referred to as the man who was "in the right place at the right time". (The film is available online, and can be found at Warshots
War Shots: Norm Hatch and the US Marine Corps Combat Cameramen of WWII
, tells the story of Norm Hatch, opening with the invasion of Tarawa, and then going back into his early life. It tells of his growing up during the depression, how his parents managed, and he learned to work and use opportunity to his benefit, his decision to join the Marines (the Navy wanted him to wait, the Marines would take him right then), his experiences, both pre-war and during the war, and the impact he had on the future of the Marine Corps.
Norm Hatch took swimming lessons from Johnny Wiessmuller, was given pocket change by Al Capone, nearly ran over Eleanor Roosevelt on a horse and found himself standing next to the commandant of the Marine Corps in a bathroom. He helped organize the photography unit assigned to the Marine's second division, took advice and lessons from top Hollywood cinematographers and applied those lessons well at Tarawa, Iwo Jima and with the occupation forces in Japan in Nagasaki. After the war, his images were used to help preserve the Marine Corps when Congress was considering doing away with the organization.
Mixed in with all of this the story tells of the planning of Tarawa, including the controversy of limited pre-invasion bombardment and a reduced invasion force, the invasion of Iwo Jima and the controversy surrounding Joe Rosenthal's famous photo of the flag raising on Mt. Suribachi, and what occupation was like in Japan.
The book in and of itself is interesting enough, but will make the reader want to know more about the places and events Norm Hatch witnessed. The story flows easily, quickly filling in details and giving the reader good insight into major historical events, and the reader will discover that, more than being in the right place at the right time, Norm Hatch was successful because of what he did with the time in each place.