The Assault from the Western Beaches
The main body of the Northern Attack Force left Pearl Harbor bound for Makin during the afternoon of 10 November 1943. Its transports had arrived in time to rehearse loadings and landings with small craft; the departure was in most respects as if for another training exercise. The main body was the third portion of the force to leave Hawaii. The first was part of the garrison force in six LST's with an escorting destroyer. They had sailed on 31 October. Five days later, the three LST's bearing the valued Alligators and the special landing groups set forth with a destroyer escort, on a somewhat shorter route and at a speed which was to bring them to their destination at the same time as the main assault convoy. On 15 November two transports and three cargo vessels were to begin taking the bulk of the garrison force to Makin.
In the convoy carrying the main assault force, each of the three BLT's was assigned to a separate transport. The 3d BLT was on the Leonard Wood, along with Division Headquarters. The Neville carried the 2d, and the Calvert brought the 1st. Col. Gardiner J. Conroy, commander of the 165th Regiment, with some of the regimental units, the field artillery, engineer, tank, and garrison headquarters elements, and various detachments, was on the Pierce, a fourth transport. On the cargo vessel, Alcyone, were the radar group, cannon company, some service units, and some small special detachments. Smallest of the 6 transport vessels was the LSD Belle Grove, with 15 medium tanks and Company A, 193d Tank Battalion.
These ships were part of a mighty fleet of warships also bound for Makin, Four battleships, four cruisers, and nine aircraft carriers carried the main striking power; they were screened by ten destroyers.
Impressive as the Northern Attack Force must have seemed to the men on the transports bound for Makin, it was only part of a greater aggregation of ships and men advancing upon the Gilberts. From the New Hebrides two other carrier groups which had just participated in an air strike upon Rabaul were moving to neutralize Nauru and to support the assault upon Tarawa. For the latter, a larger convoy of marines was zigzagging through the New Hebrides to a point southeast of Funafuti. Its course was to bring it off Tarawa on a final leg parallel to that of the Northern Attack Force. Both would approach their objectives during the night of 19/20 November.
Assaults upon Makin and Tarawa were to begin at the same hour, 0830, on 20 November. Vice Adm. R. A. Spruance commanded the entire expedition, his fleet flag being on the Indianapolis;1 Defense Forces and Shore-based Air Forces were under Rear Adm. J. H. Hoover; the Carrier Force, under Rear Adm. C.A. Pownall; and the Assault Forces, under Admiral Turner. With him on the Pennsylvania were Maj. Gen. Holland M. Smith, USMC, commanding the V Amphibious Corps, and Col. W.O. Eareckson, commanding the Support Aircraft. Admiral Turner's direct command extended also to the Northern Attack Force. The Southern Attack Force was commanded by Rear Adm. H.W. Hill.
As soon as the landing forces were established on the island, all shore-based land, sea, and air units were to fall under the command of the senior troop commander, which at Tarawa meant Maj. Gen. Julian C. Smith, USMC, and at Makin, Maj. Geri. Ralph C. Smith of the 27th Division. When capture was complete, command was to pass to designated garrison force commanders; at Makin this Would be Col. C.H. Tenney.
The exact mission of the expedition was announced to the men on the transports two hours after the start. For the remaining nine days of the voyage, intelligence material was studied at the various levels from maps, sand tables, information folders, air and panoramic mosaics, and photo-interpretation charts. Squads and detachments reviewed their respective missions. Morale was excellent, the tension
of the first part of the trip being broken by the merriment attending a celebration of the crossing of the equator.
The expedition approached the Gilberts, knowing that some of its elements had been discovered and reported by enemy air observers. The main transport group may have escaped attention, but the slower party consisting of three LST's and their escorting destroyer was under attack during the last two days before they reached Makin. They drove away a Japanese "Mavis" late in the afternoon of 18 November, at a time when the Southern Carrier Group was also under attack, and at 1405 on the next day they watched a 10-minute battle between three friendly planes and a Japanese "Betty" which ended when the latter was shot down. Their own turn came after dark, for then two enemy planes, a "Nell" and a "Betty," returned to the attack.
As the "Nell" swept in low over the group, guns blazed at it from every ship within range, Army gun crews even manned the heavy machine guns in an LCT which was part of the deck cargo of the LST-31. The plane began to burn as it neared the LST-31, veered in a swiftly descending glide, and, like a flaming torch, headed toward the LST-179 as if to crash upon her deck. Swooping low over her bow, the plane plunged into the ocean; burning oil lighted up the entire group of ships for several minutes. Soon afterward, the second plane departed.
In the main convoy, submarine warnings were issued after contact with an unidentified submarine which was eventually found to be the Nautilus. General quarters Was Founded three times on the last afternoon. From the Colorado 12 Liberators were sighted at 1535 on their way from Nanomea to Makin, part of a bombing schedule which kept the Japanese in their shelters or manning their weak antiaircraft defenses repeatedly during the week of landing. As the expedition drew near to its goal and enemy contacts increased, it could no longer count upon surprise. The Japanese were known to have radar installations on Makin, and could also be presumed to be on general alert in normal reaction to the greatly increased air activity.
In the early hours of 20 November, the Northern Attack Force arrived at its destination. The LST's were on a somewhat different course from the remainder of the force, and radio silence made knowledge of their exact location unobtainable. The Air Support
Chart No. 3: Organization for Makin Expedition
Group deployed to an area about 20 miles southeast of Butaritari. The transports moved toward a designated transport area about four miles west of the island. Screening the carriers and transports, and preparing for the initial bombardment, the other warships moved closer to the shore. Between 0258 and 0600, as daylight came, no enemy fire was received and the attacking force prepared to launch its heavy blows.
The approach of dawn found all the convoy in place except the three LST's with their important load of Alligators. In case either the Alligators, or the medium tanks, or both had failed to reach Makin, alternative plans of attack were ready, but the LST's arrived at 0700 during the naval bombardment and completed the convoy. The plan of attack was able to proceed unaltered.
The Assault Begins
WESTERN BEACHES of Butaritari as viewed by the Northern Landing Force on the transports during the preparatory naval bombardment of 20 November 1943. Shells are bursting near the two RED Beaches, and the men have already commenced their debarkation into landing barges.
LANDING BARGES CIRCLE in the rendezvous area off Butaritari waiting for the time to form assault waves. They are to carry part of the 1st Battalion Landing Team, 165th Infantry (reinforced), into RED Beach from the transport Calvert. In the distance a heavy gun flashes.
The assault opened with air strikes from the carriers at 0617. Enemy anticraft fire was very weak. Dive-bombers bombed and strafed the beaches while glide-bombers worked over the clearing at the West Tank barrier. They dropped 74 tons of half-ton and 1-ton demolition bombs, and 1-ton "daisy-cutters."2. The transports moved to their allotted area 6,000 yards from the beach and lowered small boats. The warships took their stations and, after the airplanes had completed their missions, opened at 0640 a systematic bombardment of the entire area of the day's assigned ground operations. It was to continue for almost four hours.
At 0645, two LCVP's (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) left the side of the Neville. They carried a special detachment consisting
of 19 marines of the 4th Platoon of the V Amphibious Corps Reconnaissance Company, under 1st Lt. Harvey C. Weeks, USMCR, and the reinforced 2d Platoon, Company G, 2d BLT, under 2d Lt. Earl W. Montgomery. They headed for Kotabu Island, a small, round island about four miles away, and less than a mile and a half north of Flink Point. Naval bombardment preceded them as they plunged into the ground swell on a ride of almost an hour.
The strafing of the planes had raised one inverted cone of black smoke from a fire north of RED Beach 1, The naval bombardment raised such a pall of smoke and dust as to obscure the island completely from the transports. And then came a sudden, drenching squall from the south, which eventually cleared the air over the island and restored visibility. Reconnaissance planes reported conditions favorable for landings, with waves no higher than three feet. Fires in the "citadel" area and near Ukiangong Point attested the effectiveness of the naval bombardment there. But in the RED Beach areas it had been less damaging than the attackers desired, much of it either falling short or exploding among the coconut and pandanus trees some distance in from the beach.
Debarkation of the 1st BLT from the Calvert, and of the 3d BLT from the Leonard Wood, began with the lowering of landing craft from both sides of the transports as soon as they stopped in the transport area at 0600. Soon the boats moved to the rendezvous area. (See illustration.) At 0758, they started breaking away from the circling group to form the first wave of each BLT at the line of departure, which was marked by the destroyers, Phelps and MacDonough, 2,800 yards offshore, The two destroyers moved in, pumping 5-inch shells into the boundary zone at the inner edge of the beaches as the bigger guns of the battleships and cruisers fell temporarily silent. From the LST's two "V's" of Alligators led the way in. The first waves of landing craft crossed the line of departure at 0818 with a further run of 14 minutes to the beach. Three minutes ahead of them were the Alligators; five minutes behind came the second and later waves. Even the third wave for each beach was therefore en route when the first arrived at the end of the run.
The first wave of the 1st BLT going to RED Beach 1 contained 233 men in 7 boats; the next 4 waves were somewhat smaller, consisting of six boats only. The landing craft in each wave formed two wide triangles; four LCM's (Landing Craft, Mechanized) carrying
tanks were in front and on the two wings; two LCVP's occupied the inner positions. The seventh boat in the first wave was an LCVP at the rear center in which rode the battalion and Company D commanders, the air-ground and navy liaison parties, and communications personnel.
Each of the four LCM's was expected to bring ashore a light tank (M3A1) with its crew, one light machine-gun squad, two rifle squads, several noncommissioned officers, messengers, and a company aid man, Each of the LCVP's took in a 60-mm mortar squad and 2 rifle squads, platoon and section guides and leaders, and individual specialists, a boatload totaling 33 men.
On the right of this first assault wave of the 1st BLT, heading toward RED Beach 2, was the corresponding wave of the 3d BLT, following a similar schedule of debarkations and landings. Thus, had all plans been executed without mishap, over 460 men and 8 tanks would have moved up the western shore of Butaritari at 0832, following the Alligators across the two separated beach areas.
When the men of the 1st and 3d BLT's started in toward the two RED Beaches, they could see before them a flat strip of shore and skyline stretching over 5,000 yards from point to point. Light showed under the tops of the coconut palms on either point, but elsewhere the vegetation indicated no clearings free of underbrush. The landmarks were not prominent. Dips in the treeline, bushes growing in clumps close to the water's edge, huts near the beach, and patches of dark boulders which interrupted the gleaming white of the beach furnished the few points of reference. Bobbing about in little boats in the rendezvous area, soaked by rain and spray after standing since dawn on the decks of the Calvert and the Leonard Wood, the men got a general impression of a low, flat, tree-covered island. Closer approach from the line of departure sharpened the details; the blurred smoothness of the left half of RED Beach 1 gave way to the roughness of a boulder-strewn slope, short and rocky. The right half was seen to be no beach at all but a bulge into the ocean closely studded with boulders.
The craft carrying the 1st BLT to RED Beach took them to its left half, keeping to the left of a large bush, almost a haystack in proportions, near the water and in front of four very high coconut palms. Those going to RED Beach 2 diverged toward another landmark, the northernmost of several native huts, about 1,100 yards to the
RED BEACH TWO was sandy, smooth, gently sloping, yet wide enough for only three barges at once until improved by troops of the 152d Engineers. Adjacent terrain was ideal for supply dumps. Here the 3d BLT landed, and early on D Day, 105th Field Artillery guns came in.
right of the 1st BLT landings. Centering on this hut, they found about 75 yards of reasonably smooth, stony beach to which access was readily made at high tide. The beach rose gradually over coral stones to firm and fairly level ground, shaded by a coconut grove and occupied by a native hamlet.
The Alligators approached the beaches firing upon the zone of possible enemy activity. Rocket volleys fell short at first, and then were only partly successful; rain and spray made the firing mechanism on several LVT'S useless. At 1,000 yards their .50-cal. machine guns opened up; 200 yards farther in they were joined by the .30-cal. machine guns. As they came closer to RED Beach 2, return fire coming from rifles rather than from the mounted guns believed to be
emplaced behind the southern half of that beach wounded one seaman and killed another. About 100 yards offshore, the amphibians came over the coral reef. No barbed wire, mines, or other military obstacles impeded them. At 0829, as their tracks began to touch the rocks, like clumsy, bizarre reptiles they scraped their way forward, somehow lumbered up the shoulders of the beach, and perched an boulders which held them high in the air. Over the sides, the heavily loaded men of the special detachments scrambled and dropped to seek cover. Many stood, however, waiting first for enemy fire before taking precautions. The special detachments moved to the right and left extremities of the beaches and mounted defensive flank positions. From the upper edge of the shore, on RED Beach 2, they replied to weak sniping from the woods for about five minutes, and when it ceased they moved on to the right.
TROOPS ON RED BEACH ONE among the jagged boulders await the signal to advance. At their right, a light tank of the 193d Tank Battalion, which came ashore in the first assault wave, moves south along the beach, having first ground its way over the rocks in foreground.
Landings on RED Beach 1 did not, unfortunately, proceed on schedule. A hoist on the Calvert was disabled before the fourth tank was unloaded. The first wave therefore bad but three tanks. The Alligators, tank lighters, and landing craft finished the journey on a course almost parallel to the swell, rising and failing about three feet as they drew near to the beach. The intervening reef was studded with coral boulders, rough and jagged lumps as much as two feet high, which left no passage from the edge of the reef, about 100 yards out, to high-water mark. Coming in on a rising tide, the several landing craft were unable to make the simultaneous touchdowns provided by the plans. Some slipped past most of the boulders and were held less than a boat's length (36 feet) from the water's edge, but many were broached, stranded, or forced to put to sea again. The tanks bad been waterproofed for the landing, and rolled off the ramps into water which did not quite drown them out, but ahead of them the men struggled in swells breast deep, stumbled over the rocks and boulders, or sought cover at the edge of the beach.
RED Beach 1 was itself very rough above the waterline; it was usable for only 15 yards of width and rose swiftly from high tide mark to vegetation. Far from taking all six craft in each of the waves, it could not take more than three abreast near the shoreline, while for unloading supplies efficiently from even one boat, a channel had to be blasted. The first barges found great difficulty in withdrawing to give room for later assault waves to land. The Army officer in charge of the Alligators declined to divert them from their original inland assignments and put them to pulling stranded boats off the rocks, but the Navy furnished a crew which operated one LVT in that service. The absence of enemy opposition to the landings at RED Beach 1 made it possible to meet the adverse beach conditions without suffering casualties.
The carefully prepared sequence in the arrival of various elements of the assault and shore parties was thrown into confusion by the conditions arising at RED Beach 1. Although the assault forces of the first five waves got ashore and moved inland, or took up their duties at the shore, the fifth wave which had been scheduled to land at 0857 actually completed its assignment at 1003. After the second wave had pushed in among the obstructions and reached the beach, the next three waves became intermingled. It had been planned to land a tractor in the second wave, to pull to cover across the open
beach the palletized material landing later. While heavy machinegun and mortar squads, and the reserve forces of Company A, came in, the shore party was to be built up by the successive arrival of its radio, command, reconnaissance, map, message center, medical, engineer, liaison, security, and naval boat control elements. Other communications material and personnel were to arrive in the fourth and fifth waves, and in the latter, four 37-mm guns with their crews and tractors. Actually it proved impossible to land jeeps and their trailers, and before long LVT's were acting as ferries, transferring cargo from the boats at the edge of the reef to the beach.
From the transport Calvert, 913 officers and enlisted men, and 81 3/4 tons of equipment were dispatched on D Day, and while the men were landed with some of the equipment, much of the latter was still afloat in the landing barges at nightfall.
The approach to RED Beach 2 was somewhat freer of impediments than that to RED Beach 1 but it was far from clear. The 3d BLT of 1,250 men was scheduled to land there in seven assault waves at 5-minute intervals beginning at 0832. Actually, beginning at 0840 the first three waves landed as such, but the remaining boats landed singly. It was 1022 before the seventh wave arrived off the beach. During D Day the Leonard Wood sent ashore 1,250 men, 4 tanks, 1 bulldozer, 5 jeeps, and 4 antitank guns. Light and ineffective enemy machine-gun fire wits reported by several wave commanders.
The inland advance from the RED Beaches proceeded so closely in accordance with the plans that it was conducted mainly under direction of officers of company grade. Colonel Conroy and other field officers were chiefly concerned with supply, communications, and intelligence. The major difficulties encountered by the infantry of the 1st and 3d BLT's came from the terrain.
The 1st BLT Advances
Although the two teams moved forward simultaneously, the chief improved roads, important sites for American supply installations, and the artillery positions were in the sector occupied by the 3d BLT on the right (Map No. 5). The other area had little military importance except as a beachhead. Flink Point was topographically unsuitable for either artillery positions or supply installations; it was separated from the rest of the island by a water passage
into the lagoon which ran through one of its three large areas of marsh and mangrove. The greater part of the zone at the left consisted of mangrove swamp, shallow lakes, and marshy, brush-covered terrain with trails few or poor, and only one small native hamlet north of RED Beach 1. The almost unopposed advance of the 1st BLT to the beachhead line was, in effect, a mere preliminary to its more important role in the second phase of the drive toward the West Tank Barrier.
As the forces of the 1st BLT accumulated on RED Beach 1, they organized at the top of the beach and advanced upon their several missions. The Alligators could not overcome the obstacles to lateral movement along the beach; they therefore moved onto the sandy soil above the beach and struggled through trees and debris to a flank position and to the long narrow point beyond it. The 132 men of Special Detachment Y left one platoon at the flank and continued along the point in search of enemy forces, Their progress was slow, and long before they reached the tip, they had been able to see the barges start for the YELLOW Beach landings and to notice the smoke rising from fires near that beach. The main force of the 1st BLT moved forward toward the beachhead line about 1,300 yards ahead to the east.
They met insignificant sniper fire only; their main difficulty came from the debris and the watery holes resulting from the air and naval bombardment. (See illustrations, next page.) Great masses of tough, closely matted root fibers barred their way. Working through them and through the other obstacles, the men found that preserving contact required constant attention. While taking care not to lose contact, they also watched constantly for snipers, whose fire was random and inaccurate. It was the first experience of enemy fire for the battalion.
Light tanks could not make headway against the combined obstacles of debris, shelf holes, and marsh except by remaining on the roads. Those which landed with the 1st BLT were initially held up by their refusal to receive commands except through their own company officers, and then by the difficulties of terrain. Although they came in before 0900, they were of no assistance to the infantry of the 1st BLT until late in the day, at 1430. A naval shell which struck the main highway in the swampy area created such an obstacle that the whole tank group was held up until midafternoon.
TERRAIN TORN UP by preparatory bombardment is encountered behind RED Beaches by the 1st and 3d BLT's. They advance with difficulty. (Below) A sniper's shot has just electrified these men, who are taking cover and looking for the position from which the enemy has fired.
The 1st BLT advanced with three companies abreast. At the right Company B and some of the 1st Platoon (Heavy Machine Gun), Company D, covered the widest zone; their first action was the seizure of an observation tower, protected by barbed wire and log barricades, but not defended. In the center Company C moved straight ahead without waiting for the heavily laden 2d Platoon (Heavy Machine Gun) of Company D to emerge from the water and assemble its weapons. Company A remained at first in dispersed formation as battalion reserve, along with uncommitted portions of Company D, but absence of serious enemy resistance permitted it to start inland at 0900 and to take a more advanced position from which to be available as reserve.
At the end of the first phase Company B and Company C held the left half of the beachhead line just east of "Rita Lake," and were in contact with Company K of the 3d BLT just across the island highway on the right flank. In fulfillment of the plans the 1st BLT then extended its line to cross the entire island, relieving the 3d BLT so that it might go into reserve. Patrols were sent forward as far as "Jill Lake" to locate enemy positions in preparation for a later advance (Map No. 5). The main body of the 1st BLT waited for the end of the naval bombardment of areas adjacent to YELLOW Beach; at about 1100 it started forward again.
The ineffective Japanese opposition to the landings on RED Beach 2 ceased in less than ten minutes. Special Detachment X swung to the right and established a defensive position on the southern flank. Headquarters units and Companies 1, K, and L, with a detachment of light tanks, moved inland. Company K took possession of what was discovered to be a dummy battery and pushed eastward through the wooded, northern half of the battalion's sector, next to Company B of the 1st BLT. An unimproved road at the south end of the hamlet near the beach curved gradually to a junction with the main island highway, some 300 yards in from the beach. Around this road junction (RJ-4, Map No. 5) and south of it, the invaders had been warned to expect a Japanese strongpoint. Company I moved directly upon the center, while the flanks were in the lines of advance of Company K on the left and Company L
The 3d BLT Advances
on the right. Like the dummy guns, this strongpoint proved to be unoccupied. Moving inland at the rate of 20 yards per minute, while the fifth wave came into the beach behind them, the men of the 3d BLT passed a few deserted huts and came without untoward incident to the main highway.
The area traversed by the 3d BLT on its way to the beachhead line was the counterpart, in general, of that confronting the 1st BLT at the same time, But it contained three of the four suspected Japanese strongpoints, a considerable native village (Ukiangong), and the site intended for the American artillery. As Company K
A FLANK PATROL on RED Beach One is swiftly established by one of three special landing detachments formed for such missions from the 105th Infantry. These troops were the first ashore, being carried by groups of 16 LVT's (Alligators) ahead of waves of infantry with tanks.
moved almost straight eastward, Company I fanned out in a triangular area between the main highway and the ocean south of Company K's territory, and Company L, assisted by part of Special Detachment X, turned south to take Ukiangong village and to clear the whole point beyond it.
One platoon of Company L moved parallel to the western shore, a short distance inland. The rest of the company, with the light tank platoon, advanced upon the 40 or 50 thatch-roofed huts which, strung along the coral-surfaced highway, and bounded on the west by irregular patches of coconut grove and bobai pits, constituted the village. They had been warned to expect the harsh welcome of ten Japanese machine guns. No opposition whatever was encountered.
About an hour after moving inland, left flank elements of Company K reached the western extremity of "Rita Lake," the largest of several shallow ponds, The eastern edge of that pond stretched almost the entire length of the beachhead line south of the point at which it was crossed by the island highway, At a slight elevation the highway crossed the western lobe of the pond (Map No. 5), then cut for about 300 yards through scattered growth, and finally skirted the pond's northern shore for a similar distance.
Patrols from Company K probed along this highway and combed the woods between the southern edge of "Rita Lake" and the ocean shore. At last, two hours after the first landing, one of these units had the first firefight of the day with a group of the enemy, and killed five of them. At 1055 the line was reached; Company K was shortly relieved by the 1st BLT in fulfillment of the tactical plan, and withdrew to an assembly area in a coconut grove near the ocean, several hundred yards southwest of "Rita Lake."
On Ukiangong Point, Company I and its associated units overran one supposedly critical area after another, without resistance. What had been thought to be defense installations proved instead to he a stone-crushing plant, two large dummy guns, some neat square piles of coral rock, and some bomb shelters. Having pressed their search throughout the area, this unit of the 3d BLT rejoined the battalion in the coconut grove later in the day. There during the afternoon they established a perimeter defense and settled down for the night. Since it was possible that they might be needed at Tarawa, they were kept in position and were not recommitted on Makin for about 36 hours.
Arrangements to reinforce and to supply the advancing BLT's began in the wake of the early waves of the attack. The first five assault waves also brought elements of the shore parties, which eventually reached totals of approximately 250 men. Ship-to-shore communications teams from the 27th and 75th Signal Company Detachments set tip radios in the shelter of the coconut trees a few yards in from the shore itself. Radio nets and wire lines, which were laid hastily on the ground, were established by the Communications Platoon, 165th Infantry, and the signal company detachments to link the two beaches with each other and with the CP's as soon as they should be set up. Shore Fire Control Party teams and air-ground liaison teams found positions for their radios. The engineers organized teams to unload the boats, as well as others to maintain communications and liaison with other elements of the landing force. The beachmaster and his navy units prepared to survey the approaches to the beaches, to make maps, to repair boats, and to maintain communications and medical service.
Conditions at the Beaches
Against possible enemy air attack, batteries of the 93d Coast Artillery (AA) (less their 2d Platoons) prepared positions near the flank defenses on each RED Beach, but could not set up their guns until the next day. For close-in protection the security detachments of Company B, 152d Engineers, were used.
Fire support of the troops was also prepared by a reconnaissance party of the 105th Field Artillery, which came ashore in the fourth wave. It made its way with Company L to Ukiangong village, and verified the suitability of an area south of the village for the emplacement of the battalion's twelve 105-mm guns. At 1100 the guns were brought ashore, with tractors and heavy trucks for ammunition. In less than three hours they would be ready to fire.
The terrain in the rear of RED Beach 2 was convenient and suitable for supply dumps. During the morning of D Day, ammunition, signal and medical supplies, water in cans, and ordnance repair facilities were established in the area. Rations were also stored near RED Beach 1. Medical aid stations were put into operation on each beach, but seriously wounded men were sent out to the ships for treatment on the first day; it had not been possible to land the clearing station materiel in its three 21/2-ton trucks.
INFANTRY MOVES ALONG MAIN ISLAND HIGHWAY toward the West Tank Barrier. Hastily unreeled signal wire lies on the road.
Although the enemy offered no resistance to the steps taken to support and supply the attacking troops, the difficult off-shore landing conditions interfered seriously with the plans. These conditions first curtailed the use of RED Beach 1 and forced the diversion at 1300 of some boats to RED Beach 2. At 1030 the latter was operating satisfactorily but RED Beach 1 was able to handle only one small boat at a time. The divisional G-4, Lt. Col. Charles B. Ferris, discovered a beach about 300 yards nearer Flink Point which was itself satisfactory, and the approach to which could be made adequate by blasting coral pinnacles and boulders on the reef. He so reported. By midafternoon, as the tide went down, RED Beach 2 was also the scene of congested boat traffic. Landing craft were stranded so thoroughly that it took the combined efforts of a bulldozer and an amphibian tractor to slide them into deeper water. No boats were sent to tire RED Beaches after 1700, and those as yet unloaded were then ordered into the lagoon for the night.
From the Calvert, approximately one-tenth of the scheduled landings of supplies and equipment upon RED Beach 1 had been possible during the entire day.
Early in the course of the landings, natives of Makin began emerging from their hiding places in the brush; at first a chief and soon scores of all ages appeared on RED Beach 1. Some of the adults seemed to be still stunned by the bombardment, but the preliminary action had had surprisingly little effect and losses were taken calmly by the Survivors. They acted as if pleased by the advent of the Americans, swarmed aboard the Alligators, and seemed fascinated by the modern weapons of war. To interrogators they declared that about 400 enemy soldiers, 450 workers, and 2 tanks comprised the Japanese strength on Butaritari. This report was sent to the Leonard Wood at 1040. Half an hour later another group was interrogated on RED Beach 2, and a report sent to General Ralph C. Smith that they estimated the enemy strength to be 500 men, with 6 large-caliber guns.
The Japanese had denied water to the natives for three days prior to the attack. American troops shared some of the water which they brought ashore and gave them K rations.
Ukiangong village was now deserted but the small village on RED Beach 2 remained occupied by the natives until they were moved out near a source of fresh water on Flink Point, where they would
not get in the way of the work with equipment and supplies. About 480 natives finally congregated at the point and, except for a labor force, were kept there by a staff of military police.
Enemy documents were found and sent out to Admiral Turner early in the afternoon. They had been left behind in a hasty departure from the shelter near the lookout tower, at the point between the two RED Beaches. Two prisoners were also taken, who reported their belief that a Japanese relief expedition consisting of two task forces was coming.
Before the end of the morning, each of the BLT's and the regiment had set up CP's, while Division Headquarters had an advanced station ashore. Lt. Col. Gerard W. Kelley's post in command of the 1st BLT was then near RJ-1 (Map No. 5), while that of Lt. Col, Joseph T. Hart was near RJ-5. After the beachhead line had been reached, Colonel Conroy took over regimental command from a station near RJ-4. The advance post of the 27th Division Headquarters was on a trail about 50 yards inland from RED Beach 2 and 100 yards south of RJ-4.
As the 1st BLT resumed its advance toward the West Tank Barrier at about 1100 and the 2d BLT came ashore through the lagoon, the supply lines on the western beaches were being strengthened, and communications teams were struggling to link CP's with advance elements and with headquarters afloat. The artillery was being sent ashore. The main battle seemed about to begin.
Contents ** Previous Chapter (2) * Next Chapter (4)
1. See Organization Chart, p. 32.
2. The commanding officer of the garrison was killed, according to a prisoner of war, Cpl. Toshimitsu Saito, interviewed on 4 December 1943.