Taking the West Tan Barrier
When the landings of the RED beaches were known to be progressing without significant opposition, the 2d BLT at 0856 moved to the second transport area, west of Kotabu Island. The Neville, with its boats already lowered, the LSD Belle Grove, and the LST-179 carried the troops, tanks, and Alligators for YELLOW Beach. The Belle Grove launched the LCM's carrying medium tanks (and two LCVP's) between 0910 and 0923. The LST-179 continued to the third transport area within the lagoon and there launched the 16 Alligators which carried Special Detachment Z of the 105th Infantry; they faced the most hazardous mission of the YELLOW Beach landing force. Behind them the landing craft formed waves, started passing through the channel between Flink Point and Kotabu Island at 0952, and crossed the line of departure at 1012. From there to the beach the course ran east-southeast for about 6,000 yards, bringing them into the area between On Chong's Wharf and King's Wharf after a run of 18 minutes.
Landings at YELLOW Beach
WESTERN HALF OF YELLOW BEACH AREA at dawn of D Day, as seen from a Navy spotting plane. At right West Tank Barrier, goal of first day's operations, and hulks from which men in barges in the lagoon believed that they received enemy fire. On Chong's Wharf is in center.
YELLOW BEACH UNDER ATTACK at 1045 on D Day. Smoke pours up from four burning fuel dumps, one in center of beach. While barges are caught on reef, Alligators have gone ashore, leaving muddy trails, and tanks have begun to follow them. On Chong's Wharf is seen at left.
The naval bombardment, fluctuating in violence since 0720, grew noticeably heavier at 0930 and began once more to sweep the main defensive area. Smoke soon rose from several fires among the warehouses, barracks, and other structures, and was visible through the trees to some of the units advancing overland from the west.
Using 11 landing craft from the Alcyone and 24 which had been brought on the Neville, the 2d BLT made its way toward YELLOW Beach against a smooth ground swell. Companies E, F, and part of G, and Heavy Weapons Company H of the 165th Infantry, one platoon of Company C, 102d Engineers, some medical detachments, and the YELLOW Beach Shore Party were disembarked by the Neville. From the Belle Grove came Company A, 193d Tank Battalion, with their medium tanks (M3), part of Battery A, and the headquarters detachments of the 98th Coast Artillery (AA). Besides the Alligators and their occupants, the LST 179 sent in the headquarters section of 193d Tank Battalion (light tanks) and two antiaircraft detachments (Battery D and part of Battery A, 98th Coast Artillery (AA) ).
The movement of the first assault waves to Cie line of departure was watched by the landing detachment of marines and infantry on Kotabu Island. They had waded ashore in waist-deep water at 0742, crossed the beach, and taken possession of an empty island. With the first part of their mission accomplished, they waited on Kotabu for orders to move to another islet, and as they watched the preparations for the YELLOW Beach landings, they had time also to recover from the strafing of a "friendly" seaplane.
The scene confronting the landing forces as they moved toward YELLOW Beach was far from beautiful. A brilliant mid-morning sun poured down, intensifying the blue and green of the water and throwing Butaritari Island in shadow, but the renewed bombardment was raising banks of grayish smoke and dust over which swirled billows of thick, black smoke from fuel stores on the shore between the wharves and in the area behind King's Wharf. The light wind carried plumes of smoke over the tree tops for thousands of feet
toward the west. It raised a few whitecaps among the choppy waves formed by the backing of low swells from the ocean into the lagoon.
Over the heads of the landing craft, the destroyers Phelps and MacDonough began pumping 720 rounds of rapid 5-inch fire at 1015, aiming at the most important targets remaining. Soon they had completely severed the base of On Chong's Wharf from the wharf itself, and had further shattered the buildings there. They threw a punishing fire upon the West Tank Barrier, on King's Wharf, on the beach between the wharves, the roadside areas inland from the beach, and finally, the area just east of King's Wharf with its defiant Japanese signal tower.
CAUSEWAY OF KING'S WHARF, on the left flank of YELLOW Beach. Along the causeway below the line of fire from Japanese guns emplaced on it, a squad of Company M, 105th Infantry, crawled ashore after disembarking from an Alligator on the seaplane ramp at outer end.
Observers from the lagoon shore in the area occupied by the 1st BLT, and others in the constantly cruising air-coordination "clippers" overhead, watched and reported the progress of the YELLOW Beach assault. At 1020 the Alligators were halfway across the lagoon, with more than 3,000 yards to go. About 900 yards behind them, the tank lighters of the second wave hunted their way in an irregular line, traveling along 200 yards apart and piling several feet of spray against their blunt, sloping bows. After another 900-yard interval, the seven smaller landing craft of the third wave advanced with the first elements of two rifle companies, Company F on the right toward Butaritari, and Company E on the left. Approximately the same distance behind them were the landing boats with the remaining platoons of these two companies. The LCT and LCM of the fifth wave, which included most of Company G, were bobbing around just east of the reef which forms the lagoon's western barrier. The sixth wave, consisting chiefly of Company H, was off Flink Point and about to enter the passage through the reefs.
The men approached YELLOW Beach in a gay and confident mood. Many were inattentive to the tumult; some even slept. The Alligators launched rockets in an attempted area barrage when at a distance of 1 100 yards from the shore. Three minutes earlier, the naval bombardment bad ceased; the planes then roared in to take up the last phase of the preparatory strike. They first strafed the beach, then bombed and strafed progressively further inland, according to a plan which required breaking off their action when the boats were 100 yards from the beach. Fearful of running under the planes, the first wave slowed down and waited unnecessarily for a few minutes. The later waves, unlike those which had approached RED Beach 1 two hours earlier, also slowed down and kept their intervals when the first wave was thus impeded, although the medium tanks shortened the space between them and the Alligators before they stopped. The entire schedule was thus set back 12 minutes but the greater evil of congestion was avoided.
When 500 yards offshore, the invaders came under fire from machine guns in an unidentified position at the right of the axis of approach. Two steel hulks, sunk in shallow water, lay a little farther out from shore than the tip of On Chong's Wharf, and about 100 yards west of it. Also moored off the end of that wharf was a small green and white patrol boat. The fire could be coming from
the wharf itself, from the bulks, from the patrol boat, or even from the island. From King's Wharf, also, or from the area at its base, bullets from machine guns and possibly from automatic rifles hit the unarmored Alligators. The seaplane ramp at the end of that pier was approximately 100 yards east of the first wave's left flank. A cross-fire of bullets whizzed over the heads of the men lying on the floors of the Alligators as, 50 yards apart, they splashed over the shallow water of the reef for the last 250 to 300 yards to the beach. The touchdown was at 1041.
One of the Alligators ran up the seaplane ramp on King's Wharf to discharge its passengers, who made their way inland by crawling along the rough western slope of the causeway out of range of the fire which swept over its top. (See illustration.) Another developed a defective steering device and landed to the right (west) of On Chong's Wharf, so that its men dismounted there and worked their way to the left. The other Alligators swept up the beach. Three entered the cove east of the sandspit and swerved to the left; a fourth landed on the tip of the sandspit, wandered alone among the trees and ruined buildings, and likewise swung to the left; and another swung across the base of the sandspit from its western edge to join those gathering on the left flank of YELLOW Beach. One Alligator went completely out of control and continued across the island toward the ocean through the heart of the Japanese defenses. It stopped only when it hit a shell crater so large that it came to a jolting halt, nose up. Japanese rifle and machine-gun fire killed two men while others successfully took cover outside. The remaining nine Alligators crawled up the beach to the shoulder and stopped for the men of the two details of Special Detachment Z to jump down and hurry to the flanks. Shell fire struck 2 of these vehicles, and among the dismounting men 5 were killed and 12 wounded during this part of the action.
The two details moved to accomplish their missions of clearing the enemy from the two wharves (On Chong's and King's), and of constructing defensive beach blocks from the base of each wharf to a point 100 yards inland, beyond the highway. On Chong's Wharf, although beaten to kindling wood (see illustration), offered cover for the enemy, and must be seized at once. Moving by squads, the detail at the right swung forward against light opposition, pivoting on the base of the wharf, and carried out their mission. The
TERRAIN NEAR THE WEST TANK BARRIER. Base of On Chong's Wharf in the foreground. Northern end of tank trap clearing (A) and an antitank gun emplacement (B) are at the right. In the background are Ukiangong Point (U) and three warships ready to give fire support (C).
STORMING YELLOW BEACH, first wave of the 2d Battalion Landing Team, 165th Infantry, wades over wide reef under machine-gun fire from wharf on each flank. At 1040, 20 November 1943, they approach the main defensive area from the lagoon. Fires from hits by big naval guns.
men of the left force were dropped along the shore of the cove, at the base of the sandspit, and along King's Wharf. Those ashore formed a line and moved against "no great opposition" toward their goal, joining the elements coming. in along the causeway, Between the two details, Alligators on the beach fired at supposed sources of enemy resistance.
Only 100 yards behind the Alligators, the tank lighters with the medium tanks came to the reef and let down their romps. As the tanks rolled forward through shallow water some advanced successfully, but two wallowed into shell holes hidden by muddy water
and were drowned out. Machine-gun fire peppered them when the crews sought to emerge. In one of them, Capt. Robert S. Brown, who commanded the medium tanks, was thus kept out of the action at a critical phase. The others squirmed across the reef, opened fire with their 37-mm guns, and one of them, at least, knocked out a machine gun which had been firing upon it from the right flank. The Alligators ahead of them may also have suffered some damage from the tank fire.
One of the mediums drove just to the left of the fuel dump, which was in flames at the center of the beach; its occupants saw an Alligator ahead blaze up as a grenade exploded in it, and barely escaped destruction themselves from one of the few land mines found on the island, which exploded at the left and shook them badly. "Then I went into a taro (bobai) pit and hung on a stump," the tank's operator later stated. A fired about 100 rounds with the 30 at a bunch of Japs running west on the ocean side; hung up as we were, no other gun could be brought to bear." Another tank attacked a machine-gun nest on King's Wharf. The remaining tanks hesitated at the center of the beach awaiting orders, but with their commander marooned in an offshore shell hole with the communication system of the tank drowned out, no orders came through.
SECOND WAVE APPROACHING YELLOW BEACH. A mortar crew wading through murky water carrying heavy packs. Some men step into hidden underwater shell holes and are submerged. Weapons and equipment suffer; some are lost. Troops can see the beach 200 yards ahead.
The landing barges in the third and fourth waves swept across the lagoon through enemy fire from small arms and machine guns which struck them well out in the lagoon, with about five minutes more to go. Bullets penetrated the LCV's (Landing Craft, Vehicle), wounding a few men, but not the LCM's. When they reached the edge of the reef, the infantry learned abruptly that, in spite of the correct calculation which brought them in near the time of highest tide (1130 hours), miscalculation of the depth of the water meant that even at full tide their small boats would hit the bottom. More than 250 yards out, under enemy fire, they would have to clamber over the side and carry everything in. For such a situation no one bad been prepared; officers and men alike were surprised. All hesitated for a moment; then with general realization that they must get ashore rapidly, all went over the sides with equipment in their hands and on their backs.
The intensity of enemy fire increased. Some of the men crouched; others tried vainly to run; but most of them strode forward upright. (See illustration.) Struggling forward in water sometimes knee deep, sometimes up to chest or chin, and often stumbling into underwater shell holes, the men could make no speed. Radios, flame throwers, bazookas, and other equipment became soaked or lost. Although the men were rather closely bunched in the water, they escaped with surprisingly few casualties. Only three were killed. At the beach the men of Companies E and F divided. just as they reached dry shore, at about 1053, a pile of gasoline drums went up with a terrific explosion, raining metal fragments over a wide area of the lagoon. The men hesitated, then rushed across a 15-yard strip of sand and hit the dirt where the vegetation of the upper beach afforded a little cover. There they waited while Alligators and tanks cleared the beach to the flanks and enemy fire diminished. Behind them, two minutes later, the fourth wave infantrymen had an experience very similar to theirs.
ENGINEERS AT YELLOW BEACH organize to prepare for heavy vehicles by laying a screen mat. Radio is set up in the cover at left.
squares of target cloth on their backs with "X's" painted in blue, so as to be readily spotted from friendly aircraft. At 1058 both an air coordination clipper and the air-liaison team with the 3d BLT reported that the landings on YELLOW Beach were in progress. The sixth wave brought in Company H, which carried its heavy weapons ashore with less difficulty than Company D had experienced at RED Beach 1.
Boat No. 17 from the Neville acted as Salvage Boat for YELLOW Beach. It carried Ens. Andrew P. McConnell, Jr., the assistant boat group commander, and the salvage officer, Boatswain Joseph V. Kaspar, who steered the craft as leader of the second wave. Soon after the third wave had landed, he noticed a deadly stream of fire
coming from the hulks. His crew mounted three of the boat's guns on the starboard side and headed for the hulks at such an angle as to permit all guns to fire. Until one gun had jammed and the crossfire from the beach made retirement necessary, they moved against the enemy position. Boatswain Kaspar was fatally wounded by fire from one of the old derelicts.
Landings on YELLOW Beach by later waves were interrupted by an attempt to blast the two hulks in the lagoon before more damage could be inflicted by the flanking fire which seemed to come from their neighborhood. The air component ordered delay in the landings while, from 1125 to 1250, planes from the Enterprise, Coral Sea, Corregidor, and Liscombe Bay bombed and strafed the bulks. From 1150 to 1207 they were also the target of the naval guns on the destroyer Dewey, firing from about 5,000 yards. In such close quarters, firing upon the hulks endangered American forces approaching the beach or near the hulks on shore. Some of the destroyer's shells hit the old ships and inflicted observable damage, but others passed over the beads of Detachment Z and landed among assault waves of the 2d BLT as they pushed across the island toward the ocean and swung against the West Tank Barrier. Medical aid men who were needed ashore, and Maj. Dennis D. Claire, who was to command the forces moving to the left from YELLOW Beach, were in landing craft waiting to go in. At 1239, the battalion air-liaison party requested the prompt conclusion of the shelling of the hulks in order that the "medics" might get in to those who urgently needed them. By 1253, the air-liaison party requested discontinuance at once.
The assaulting troops bad penetrated the main defensive area and executed much of their tactical plan by the time these waiting landing barges had come to the reef. The tide had also begun to recede.
Orders for the advance inland from the lagoon provided for a swift movement southward across the island, by which the West Tank Barrier would be cut off from the remainder of the citadel area. The left wing was then expected to bold while the right made "its main effort to the west to effect contact with RCT 165." Company E and assisting units were to form a line across the island which would face east and advance about 600 yards to the road running
The Mission of the 2d BLT
across the island from the base of King's Wharf. Company F was to execute a similar movement to the right with the support of the larger part of Company G (less the elements which had gone to Kotabu Island with the marine detail). At the lagoon end of each line was to be a detail from the Special Detachment Z, 105th Infantry. Heavy Weapons Company H was to support the inland operations from positions near the beach, To offset the enemy's supposed greater strength in the "citadel" area, the foot soldiers had been preceded across the beach by a company of medium tanks and were to have their support during the movement inland. Early in the afternoon the West Tank Barrier would be approached from both sides as the 1st BLT also advanced from the west, supported by a platoon of light tanks. The barrier would thus fall by envelopment.
The two attacks from separate beaches were to be closely coordinated. Phase lines for the 1st BLT were expected to bring it finally to the West Tank Barrier clearing at the same time that the 2d BLT overcame the defenses on the opposite side and drove retreating Japanese westward. Careful coordination was required because of the flat terrain and the cramped space, for, as the area under enemy control narrowed, the fire of one attacking element might easily carry beyond the enemy to other attacking forces. These conditions precluded artillery or naval gunfire support. Adjustment by one BLT to departures from schedule by the other would depend upon radio communication, which the soaking of radio instruments during the landings made practically impossible. It was fortunate, in the circumstances, that the interruption of the scheduled landings on YELLOW Beach had its counterpart in the delayed departure of the 1st BLT from its beachhead line. With coordinated action throughout the operation likely to be difficult, the battle awaiting the right elements of the 2d BLT might, in addition, bring them against the main enemy forces. It promised, in my case, to be a severe test for a first experience of combat.
Strong resistance was anticipated in the area behind YELLOW Beach, for there the enemy had concentrated his principal installations (Map No. 9). Adjacent to On Chong's Wharf was the section assigned to the foe's construction troops, and near the sand spit and King's Wharf were the structures most used by the garrison. From the base of King's Wharf a secondary road crossed the island to the ocean shore. Between this road and the West Tank Barrier,
SECTION OF ANTITANK TRENCH, 6 ft. deep and over 14 ft. wide, forming part of two barrier defense systems at ends of "citadel" area on Butaritari. They ran part way across island and were extended by log fences (below). Our tanks crossed these barriers very easily.
1,100 to 1,200 yards further west, and between the lagoon and ocean shores, a distance of about 300 yards, the 2d BLT was expected on D Day to clear the enemy from whatever defenses he had established there. Advance estimate of the prepared defenses was necessarily inexact, for the tropical foliage concealed the precise locations and often even the existence of some of them. Only a few of the revetted underground shelters were spotted. The defenses just east of the West Tank Barrier clearing were incompletely forecast. But it was assumed that the enemy would be ready to oppose capture of that barrier with considerable strength.
In the area inland from the right half of YELLOW Beach, and westward to the West Tank Barrier, advancing troops could expect to encounter four groups of buildings and storage dumps. The first group lay on the base of On Chong's Wharf and north of the highway, badly battered and burned by naval shelling. The second group consisted of ruined barracks and construction storehouses just south of the highway near the center of the beach. A third collection were placed on either side of a secondary road running southeast from On Chong's Wharf, and included barracks, mess hall, dispensary, and other service and administrative buildings for the labor force. The fourth and smallest group was that consisting of two barracks and a bathhouse beside a curving trail nearer the West Tank Barrier clearing. Scattered among these structures, many of which were wrecked, were at least ten shelters as deeply excavated as the terrain permitted without water seepage across their floor; projecting only a foot or two above the ground, their upper parts were reverted sturdily in most cases with logs and earth.
The perimeter of this area contained the prepared firing positions; gun emplacements and rifle pits were along the lagoon shore between On Chong's Wharf and the tank trap clearing, in the West Tank Barrier system, and along the ocean shore. The beach between On Chong's Wharf and the clearing was covered by machine guns at the tip and on the base of On Chong's Wharf and by another at the lagoon end of the tank trap. On the ocean shore opposite the right half of YELLOW Beach were three machine-gun emplacements and one antitank gun position, with adjacent rifle trenches. The estimates of the approximate strength of these defenses was nearly correct, although their sites were inexactly forecast, and more rifle trenches were expected than were actually found. The main position,
however, was the West Tank Barrier system, the objective of the first day's operations.
The West Tank Barrier consisted of a deep, wide trench zigzagging through a clearing from the lagoon shore for three-fifths of the distance to the ocean, and of a heavy log barricade for the remainder of the distance. (See illustrations, p. 66.) The main highway crossed the trench at its northern end by an offset bridge, which was commanded by an antitank gun emplacement just south of the highway under the trees at the eastern edge of the clearing. (See illustration, p. 74.) Barbed wire was strung from low posts in the clearing along the eastern edge of the trench and under the trees just west of the clearing. Air observation had revealed most of this construction, and led to correct inference as to much of what lay concealed, such as the antitank emplacement at the northern end and the two machine guns at the southern end of the system, just east of the clearing. It was assumed that rifle trenches barred the eastern approach to the clearing, and one semicircular trench about 150 yards from it had been located. What was not known before the attack was the presence of a large underground shelter near this trench, nor the existence of some 50 rifle pits, interconnected by a bending trench running the full length of the clearing, just east of it. Knowledge of a pillbox in the center of this long trench, and of a machine-gun emplacement half way between it and the antitank emplacement at the northern end, was also lacking. The West Tank Barrier system turned out to be, on the whole, a stronger position than bad been anticipated.
The disposition of enemy troops and the effectiveness of the air and naval bombardment remained to be discovered when the inland advance began. The pattern of resistance had not been revealed, Opposition to the western landings had been insignificant, all the way to the beachhead line. Was it concentrated in the area in front of the 1st BLT, or had it been reserved for the West Tank Barrier defenses? Had the air and naval bombardment left the capacity to defend that barrier basically unimpaired, or bad the destruction wrought by bombs and shells discouraged a firm enemy stand there and caused him to retire farther east? Opposing fire at YELLOW Beach had been harassing but not determined; the enemy had fallen back. But where? These questions were soon to be answered by the events of the battle for the West Tank Barrier.
In the first few minutes of the landings the Alligators and the right wing detail of Special Detachment Z went rapidly toward the base of On Chong's Wharf. The riflemen then moved across an area from the beach to a point about half way across the island, pivoting on the base of the wharf and swinging to the right. Most of the squads met opposition only from snipers instead of the machine guns which they had been warned to expect. About 100 yards inland some of the attacking force encountered large, deep, reverted shelters (Map No. 9). They threw in grenades and, in addition to killing about 20 Korean laborers, took more than 30 prisoners among those who ran out. None of the shelters was entered, so that later in the day some enemy may have emerged to harass the rear. Two machine-gun positions and seven wholly or partly demolished buildings were found on the base of the wharf, all abandoned by the enemy.
From YELLOW Beach to the West Tank Barrier
As the special detachment was pivoting on the wharf, at its left Company F started to cross the island. The 1st and 2d Platoons, with two machine guns placed between them, and the 3d Platoon following in reserve support, moved almost due south. It took them until 1210 to reach the ocean after they had passed around the medium tanks, immobilized on the upper beach, and had begun their advance. They struggled through the debris and over the murky ,,round beyond the highway without coming to grips with the Japanese. The enemy remained out of sight, most of them withdrawing deeper into the woods, but a few snipers stayed in concealment among the tree tops.
The line of attack advanced from the right half of YELLOW Beach with the 2d Platoon, Company F, on the left between Company E and the 1st Platoon, Company F. The rate of advance was uneven, for swifter movement was possible over the cleat terrain under the tall coconut grove in the path of the 2d Platoon. Because the company could not use its damaged radios or keep in adequate Contact through the service of messengers, a gap began to develop between the two platoons. The 3d Platoon was used to fill it instead of remaining in reserve. Elements of Company G and Company H were then used to support the movement. The 3d Platoon of Company G, reinforced by one light machine-gun squad, went at 1145
to the relief of the Special Detachment Z on the base of On Chong's Wharf, permitting that detail to retire to the beach area just east of the wharf. When shells from the Dewey began to land in its zone, the 3d Platoon was pulled back, but when the firing ceased, it returned to occupy the line from the lagoon inland for about 75 yards. The 1st Platoon, Company G, and men of the company's 60-mm mortar section and of Company H who took rifles and left their other weapons behind, moved to the center of the island and combed the area behind Company F for the snipers who remained there.
"Smoking out the snipers that were in the trees was the worst part of it," reported 1st Sgt. Pasquale J. Fusco. "We could not spot them even with glasses and it made our advance very slow. When we moved forward it was as a skirmish line, with each man being covered as he rushed from cover to cover. That meant that every man spent a large part of his time on the ground. While at prone, we carefully studied the trees and the ground. If one of our men began to fire rapidly into a tree or ground location, we knew that he had spotted a sniper, and those who could see the tree took up the fire. When we saw no enemy, we fired occasional shots into trees that looked likely."
COMMAND POST MESSAGE CENTER of 2d BLT in operation near YELLOW Beach. Shelter consists of piles of ties and narrow-gauge iron rails salvaged by the enemy from an old railroad on Butaritari. The railroad had been used before the war in gathering copra for export.
Lt. Col. John F. McDonough left the battalion CP (see illustration, p. 70) in charge of subordinates and moved forward with the assault from the right half of YELLOW Beach. When the ocean had been reached, the 2d Platoon, Company F, found no live installations but the 3d Platoon came upon two unoccupied, unused machine-gun emplacements, with a barbed wire barricade and a rifle trench, all abandoned by the enemy. Although these positions were primarily designed to resist a landing from the south and to control the use of the secondary road along the ocean shore, they could have been effectively used against the 3d Platoon. Between 1210 and 1230, Company F, reinforced, reorganized its southern movement into a line facing westward, prepared to close with the enemy in what promised to be the day's main battle. Farthest from YELLOW Beach was the 1st Platoon, in the center, the 2d and 3d, and still on the extreme right, Special Detachment Z. The 3d Platoon, Company G, after acting with the other elements of that company in mopping up behind the front line, was brought forward between the 3d Platoon, Company F, and the Special Detachment Z. It straddled the highway.
The westward movement was strengthened by tank support. At noon Colonel McDonough left the line temporarily to talk directly to the tank crews at the beach. He summoned Capt. Wayne C. Sikes, a tank officer, to control their operations near the center of the line while Lt. Col, Harmon L. Edmondson, commanding the 193d Tank Battalion, led two mediums at once to the south shore. By 1230, five mediums had come to the ocean end of the line in response to a call from Capt. Francis P. Leonard of Company F. While crossing the island, they sprayed the trees with 37-mm fire, and upon coining up to the 1st Platoon, they sought the source of concealed heavy machine-gun and rifle fire, and also joined in cleaning out several shelters. An hour later Captain Sikes led other medium tanks against a strongly entrenched position in the center.
The Company F line had to advance between 300 and 400 yards to reach the tank-trap clearing. The first contact with its prepared
positions was at the southern end. There the 1st Platoon was aided by five medium tanks in quelling the heavy fire from advanced emplacements and rifle pits along the ocean shore. Once the tanks had suppressed this opposition, the infantry advanced swiftly and encircled the enemy's right flank by 1330. Japanese fire was far heavier in the center and at the northern end, where it fell most severely upon the 3d Platoon, Company F, and delayed the attainment of the clearing until late in the afternoon.
The semicircular trench and underground shelter in the center stopped the 3d Platoon almost as soon as it moved forward, and held it for two hours. Eight men were killed and six wounded as the attack opened. When Captain Sikes arrived, he courageously led the tanks forward on foot and in the face of enemy gun fire, and launched them in a confident, aggressive attack which continued for the remainder of the action. The infantry joined in assaulting the large shelter, deeply excavated in the higher ground at the center of the island. Hand grenades which they threw in were thrown back before exploding. The mechanism of a flame thrower failed. Direct shelling by 75-mm armor-piercing projectiles from a tank proved ineffective. Finally, a demolition squad of Company C, 102d Engineers, tinder 1st Lt. Thomas B. Palliser, arrived on the scene to try, for the first time in the whole operation, detonating a pole charge of TNT. Working together, one tank, two infantrymen with BAR's, and four engineers reduced the position by setting off the TNT in the entrance. The shelter was not collapsed but its 12 enemy occupants were killed.
A routine for knocking Out fortified strongpoints was developed by one of the platoons of Company G. They found several consisting of "an open pit for a machine gun, a covered shelter, and a communication trench." The walls of the pits were from three feet to five feet in thickness and the trenches about four feet deep. The pits were usually connected with a very strong dugout reverted with sandbags and logs, and on the opposite end was another entrance somewhat below the surface of the earth.
"To knock out these emplacements, an eight-man squad would crawl to within about 15 yards of it and then take up station around it according to available cover. The BAR man and his assistant would cover the main entrance. Two men armed with grenades would make ready on both flanks of the shelter. They would rush the pit and
heave grenades into it, then without stopping dash to the other side and blast the entrance with several more grenades. The other men did not fire unless essential. Once the grenades were exploded, the BAR man and assistant would follow up with bayonets. Two other men would inspect the pit with bayonets ready. The other four would lay back ready to fire. We did not lose a man in this type of action."
WELL-CONCEALED PILLBOXES like this in West Tank Barrier defense system were overcome on D Day by coordinated action of engineers using TNT charges, and tanks and infantry furnishing covering fire. The way was thus cleared for the 1st and 2d BLT's to establish contact.
As soon as the tanks and infantry in the center had taken the defensive area of the semicircular trench, they found themselves within a perimeter of persistent enemy fire coming from the central pillbox and its four flanking machine-gun nests, and from the rifle pits fringing the eastern edge of the barrier system. They were slowed down again.
The 3d Platoon, Company G, was at this stage sent into the line to advance with three medium tanks against the enemy's left wing. Underbrush was thick, and as they drew neater the clearing, shell holes and debris increased. On each side of the highway machinegun positions had been constructed. Two of them faced the lagoon between road and beach, and were connected by trench with a small shelter. They were quickly wiped out. The third had been built for an antitank gun, but as the troops advanced the barrel of a machine gun could be seen projecting from its concrete port.
ANTITANK GUN EMPLACEMENTS were part of the barrier defense systems but were taken before being used against American tanks. Capture of one of these positions is described on page 75; its location in the West Tank Barrier is seen at (B) in illustration, page 78.
Because of a misunderstanding the three tanks moved past this emplacement without attacking it; they drew no fire from the machine gun. S/Sgt. Michael Thompson, commanding the 3d Platoon, Company G, then crawled forward and rushed the emplacement. As he jumped in, he found himself in an open, 15-foot square, bounded by log walls 30 inches thick, except at 2 corners. In the corner nearest the road the thick concrete port from which the machine gun was extending interrupted the wall, while at the opposite corner was an opening leading into the barrier's protective trench system. Thompson grabbed the unmanned machine gun and swung it around to face the trench where some stupefied Japanese began to stir. Behind him a soldier who had been crawling also jumped in, only to shout: "I've been looking everywhere for one of these," snatch up a Japanese officer's saber from the floor, and disappear. Sgt. Thompson "never saw him again." The rest of the platoon came up as he moved down the trench, clearing it of Japanese.
The tanks which had left the emplacement undisturbed were able to continue across the barrier without serious opposition. At about 1600 they greeted in the clearing some light tanks which had come along the main highway from the western beaches. The enemy fire still covered the area and the tanks remained "buttoned up," but a preliminary junction of the two attacking forces was thus achieved. At the other end of the barrier, contact was made with Company B by 1500. In the center, a frontal attack by four medium tanks finally penetrated to the tank barrier trenchworks, and most of the enemy fire was silenced by 75-mm guns and 37-mm machine guns. All enemy resistance was crushed there by 1650. At 1755 the troops of the 1st and 2d BLT's had established contact all along the West Tank Barrier.
At 1230, when the 2d BLT was in line facing the eastern edge of the West Tank Barrier, the 1st BLT was well along on its advance from the division beachhead line to the western edge of the tank-trap clearing. A series of positions advantageous for resistance to their advance had been reached without meeting the enemy, The ponds, marshes, and mangrove swamps which covered so much of the island in their zone narrowed the firm terrain at various points.
Advance to the West Tank Barrier from the West
LIGHT TANKS of Company C, 193d Tank Bn, are stalled for hours when moving to support the 1st Battalion Landing Team in its attack on the West Tank Barrier. The leading tank has become deeply mired in a shell hole in the main highway where it crosses one of the swamps.
About 450 yards east of the division beachhead line at "Jill Lake" and again some 700 yards farther east, at the second American phase line, the enemy could have set up positions easily covering the firm ground (Map No. 4). The first of these opportunities bad been taken; two machine-gun positions and an antitank-gun emplacement commanded the highway while fire trenches and another machine-gun nest covered the ocean shore and the area immediately to the north of it. But the enemy did not use these works to resist the advance of the 1st BLT, and had not even erected any fortified positions at the second phase line.
The American troops were opposed only by snipers. The 1st Platoon, Company C, 102d Engineers, accompanied the 1st BLT equipped with flame throwers and TNT pole charges for blasting out enemy pillboxes and shelters, but their services were not required. The sniper fire grew sharper as, about 1200, the 1st BLT reached the second phase line, with Company B on the right and Company C on the left. One man of Company C was killed, while Company B brought down two Japanese from their concealment in the tree tops.
For every sniper in the Makin operation who worked from a tree, there were ordinarily at least three others who fired from hiding behind bushes and logs. But in this particular area tree snipers were most prevalent. They had prepared among the fronds at the tops places where they sometimes cached rifles and left gourds of water and saki. To mark such trees, they tied girdles of fronds about four feet above the ground, so that a sniper could run to such a tree, snatch off the marker, climb up by notches cut in the trunk, and find everything awaiting him. The snipers were often barefoot, and several of them had painted their faces green. From the advancing Americans, they took a small toll in casualties.
The light tanks had not come forward with the 1st BLT beyond "Jill Lake," for in the highway between that pond and another, just north of it, a naval shell hole engulfed the leading tank of the column and acted as a thorough road block. (See illustration.) The highway at that point was a causeway from which the other tanks could not depart to bypass the first one. It was necessary to extricate the semi-submerged vehicle and to fill up the shell bole before the column could proceed.
Patrols ahead of the second phase line failed to encounter any body of enemy troops, but the skirmish line was in contact with snipers at points all across the island, and Colonel Kelley, who had accompanied his advancing troops, was convinced that the Japanese would be met in force before the West Tank Barrier was reached.
To coordinate movement with the 2d BLT, observers on the lagoon shore kept watch on the progress of the YELLOW Beach landings, reporting to Colonel Kelley, and he himself, with Lt. Col. James Roosevelt and Colonel Clark Ruffner, at about 1330 went to the shore to see at first hand. Seven landing barges were observed crossing the lagoon, and just after they had passed from view behind the hulks, heavy fire, probably from them, fell on the beach and grass around the three colonels, and cut short their observation.
At 1410 the tanks joined the ground troops, and as orders were received from Division Headquarters: "Continue your attack vigorously to effect a junction with McDonough without delay," the advance was resumed. Company B at the right of the line was about 200 yards nearer the West Tank Barrier clearing, nearly half a mile away. To the east could be heard the firing of Company F and its supporting tanks as they assailed the defenses from the rear.
Company B's attempt to approach the southern end of the clearing brought it, before long, within range of the fire from Company F. It sent forward patrols, being unable to establish contact with that company through any of the communications already in operation. For safety, it was obliged to take cover.
Company C made slower progress, for after some 500 yards it reached very difficult terrain, and when it came to a point about 250 yards from the barrier clearing, it ran upon stalwart enemy resistance. The Japanese had taken advantage of the cover offered by a zone of soft, swampy gullies, small pools, bobai patches, and some large trees to set up a machine gun in a well-concealed covert. The position was in a dip on slightly rising ground behind a bobai patch and a pool of water, while from trees around it, riflemen protected the machinegun detail. The fire cut obliquely across the road, between two sharp
WEST TANK BARRIER and approaches. Advancing with The 1st BLT, Col. J. G. Convoy, CO, 165th RCT, was killed in a clearing (A) by fire from a concealed MG (B). Strong defensive positions (C) delayed the 2d BLT, but the BLT's established flank contact (D) before 1500.
bends, and stopped the 1st Platoon, Company C, in a small clearing north of the highway.
On the lagoon side of the road in the line of fire was a large palm tree which had around its base a square of heavy coconut logs and raised earth; 2d Lt. Daniel T. Nunnery took cover on the west side this base and with his hand signalled to Colonel Kelley a warning to take cover, indicating the direction from which fire was coming.
Was this the beginning of an encounter with a substantial body of the enemy, which had fallen back from the western beaches and was now about to oppose American advance with vigor? Or was it merely another sniping position? Colonel Kelley believed that a considerable force was confronting Company C; Colonel Conroy came forward at this time and hastily concluded that only a single sniper was holding Lip the line. He was persuaded by Colonel Kelley that the opposition might be greater, and then decided to bring light tanks up to feel out the position, in spite of the danger that the tank fire might carry into the advanced right wing of the American line. While he withdrew to bring the. tanks Lip, Colonel Kelley went to the boxed palm, and flung himself on the lagoon side of it as enemy fire quickened. Lieutenant Nunnery had been killed where be lay. Another man lay wounded in the open beyond him, From the shelter of a nearby tree, Chaplain Meany dashed across the road, hit the dirt beside the injured man, arid started to give him assistance. Enemy bullets pierced the chaplain's arm and struck him in the chest, where a medal and an identification disc saved his life by deflecting them, but he fell limp. A soldier who tried to aid him was killed, and seven others were wounded at this juncture.
Four light tanks lumbered into the line of fire and passed a few feet beyond it before stopping. Then Colonel Conroy walked back into the scene, still upright, still believing that the Japanese fire was that of a lone sniper, and still shouting for the platoon to get forward. just as Colonel Kelley bad made his superior recognize the actual situation, and as Conroy seemed about to seek cover, lie was struck between the eyes. By 1455 on D Day, the three BLT's of the 165th Infantry had lost their regimental commander.
For a moment Colonel Ruffner and Colonel Roosevelt tried to pull Colonel Conroy's body to safety, but Colonel Kelley shouted to them: "Let him go. He's dead!" Machine-gun and rifle fire was kicking up dirt on both sides of the boxed palm as Colonel Kelley
and the other two colonels retired. Command of the regiment passed to Colonel Kelley, while that of the 1st BLT was assumed by its executive officer, Mai. James H. Mahoney. The tanks which Colonel Conroy had summoned also retired, without firing a shot, because of the likelihood of hitting friendly troops if they fired toward the supposed position of the enemy gun. Mortar fire, hand grenades, or even a machine-gun spraying of the area could not be used because American troops had infiltrated all around it.
Colonel Kelley ordered ten men of the regimental I and R Platoon under 1st Lt. Warren T. Lindquist to attack the position while other American troops withdrew. They were also to bring out Chaplain Meany. Locating the Lewis gun in a shallow depression ringed with brush, they flung two grenades against it but could not observe the effects. They then started to move upon a supporting enemy gun but retired when a Company C machine gun began to fire into the area. Instead, they found Father Meany and brought him safely to a waiting vehicle where medics gave him plasma. It was too dark for evacuation by that time, so the I and R Platoon furnished a protective perimeter for the night about 300 yards west of the boxed palm.
While the 1st Platoon, Company C, was held up, the 2d and 3d Platoons advanced to the edge of the West Tank Barrier clearing. Enemy resistance was weakening there, and the two platoons were able to move along the clearing and surround such forces as might have remained in the area uncovered by the 1st Platoon.
Company A, which had been in reserve throughout the first phase of the attack, advanced at 1500 from its position near "Rita Lake" and acted as a mopping-up force in the rear of Company B. By the time it had come up to Company B, at the ocean end of the clearing, that unit had established contact with the 1st Platoon, Company F, on the opposite side of the barrier. At about 1700, after the enemy in the center were destroyed, contact between the BLT's extended the length of the barrier.
The first portion of the plan for occupying Butaritari Island was accomplished, therefore, late on D Day. In the entire zone from the western beaches to the center of the "citadel" area, enemy resistance had been overcome except for one small wedge-shaped pocket northwest of the West Tank Barrier clearing. On orders from Division Headquarters hostilities were broken off and positions for the night were selected and secured.
Upon landing at YELLOW Beach, the 2d BLT had divided into two forces of which one, as has been described, moved right toward a junction with the 1st BLT after assault upon the West Tank Barrier. The second moved to the left to take up a holding position, This leftwing force consisted of Company E, 165th Infantry, half of the Special Detachment Z, 105th Infantry, and, before the end of the day, a platoon of light tanks. On the beach, in reserve, elements of Heavy Weapons Company H were available.
Holding Action to the East
The mission of the 1st Platoon, Company E, was to push directly across the atoll to the ocean shore, while maintaining contact with Company F on its right (Map No. 9a). It was then to turn left and to act as company reserve behind the 2d Platoon. The 2d Platoon was expected to move inland 50 yards beyond the highway, and at that point to swing left and to extend its line to the ocean shore, forming the right platoon of the force by which the eastern half of the island would be seated off from the remainder. One reinforced squad from the 3d Platoon was to mop up the sandspit and the remainder to advance left, occupying a position in the line between the 2d Platoon on its right and Detachment Z on its left. By nightfall Company E was expected to reach a fine along a dirt road crossing the island from King's Wharf, an advance of about 500 yards east of YELLOW Beach. With Colonel McDonough directing the drive on the West Tank Barrier, and Major Claire, designated to command Company E, detained in the lagoon while the hulks were under fire, actual command during most of D Day fell to Capt. Bernard Ryan, company commander.
The 1st Platoon's zone contained no buildings within the first 120 yards of advance, and only two fortified positions near the main island highway on its left flank. These were soon found to be out of action: one of them, for a machine gun, had been rendered inoperative by the bombardment, or had been abandoned, while the other, containing a 37-mm gun, was an antitank position commanding the main island highway. The gun was mounted on wheels, and had been disabled; its cover was stilt on. It had not been manned. The men advanced some 12 to 14 yards every 5 minutes, under scattered coconut trees and through light underbrush, from which they were subject to sniping fire. About halfway across the island they came
ACTION FROM EASTERN HALF OF YELLOW BEACH on D Day brought three platoons of Co E, 165th Infantry, on a line across the island. In the area shown the 3d Platoon met stiff resistance at a "tunnel-like emplacement" from which the enemy were finally driven.
upon a group of bobai pits, and beyond them, a thick grove of coconut palms extending through to the ocean. Near the ocean shore road storage buildings for bombs and food were found undefended, but the enemy was occupying a defensive position beyond the road at the very end of the platoon's route across the island. There a machine-gun emplacement which was designed principally to rake the ocean approach, and which was flanked by rifle pits and by double-apron barbed wire, was turned against the Americans approaching from the north.
The platoon had sustained three killed and one wounded from snipers as they crossed the island, the enemy timing his fire so that the sound would be masked by airplane passes and the din of other American operations. In the machine-gun emplacement and the associated rifle pits, ten Japanese were killed. A medium tank fired its 75-mm gun into the entrance to silence the emplacement.
The 2d Platoon met even lighter opposition in an area having less enemy installations, and moved slowly forward to take up the position planned for it on the right of the cross-island line. Three men were wounded in this phase. At the end, the platoon was held up until the 3d Platoon could fill in the gap at its left.
Mopping up the sandspit area ("Area X") proved to be an easy task for the reinforced squad from the 3d Platoon, Company E. All resistance there bad been destroyed previously by the air and naval bombardment and by the Alligator detail. The mopping-up unit worked carefully among the wreckage of the large barracks, a building for the enemy commander and his staff, two wireless installations, small storehouses, and a telephone exchange. A machine-gun emplacement on the roof of a bomb shelter, near the comer of the sandspit and the cove beach, had been knocked out. The larger radio station was without a roof and in disorder. Its mission readily completed, the "Area X" detail waited for the left wing of the Company E line to move along the beach as far as the base of the sandspit.
Eventually, when the company had established contact with Special Detachment Z at the base of King's Wharf, the 3d Platoon detail expected to leave the sandspit and join in the eastward advance. The line never got that far, however, and the special detachment, like the "Area X" detail, remained isolated for several hours. At 1430 the right element of the special detachment came from On Chong's
Wharf to join the left element, and both portions withdrew from the base of King's Wharf shortly afterward when they were pulled back to avoid being hit by a forthcoming artillery barrage. The 3d Platoon detail, in a less exposed position on the sandspit, waited out the barrage. One badly aimed shell landed among them, killing three men and wounding three or four.
The artillery had been called upon to lay a barrage in the area just west of the King's Wharf road. There, the main portion of the 3d Platoon, Company E, was stopped. It ran upon the day's most difficult ground fighting at a position strongly constructed and cleverly disguised, lying directly opposite the sandspit, south of the main island highway. (See illustration, p. 82.) Near the road was a revetment for one of the two Japanese tankettes on the island, with five rifle pits beside it. A few yards east was the position which gave the most trouble. At a bend in the highway was a machine gun, facing west, which delivered enfilading fire upon the 3d Platoon. Adjoining the emplacement, to the south, was a large bobai pit. The earth from the pit seemed to have been piled up along its western edge in a curving mound about 8 feet high, extending, as the men discovered, about 35 yards from the machine-gun position to a concrete pillbox nearer the center of the island (Map No. 9).
While most of the platoon remained pinned down, several men approached the mound from the extreme right of the bobai pit without drawing fire. They discovered a kneeling trench about 2 feet deep and 15 feet long, cut diagonally across the top of the mound, in which 3 men took cover temporarily, Beneath them, and unknown to them, ran a tunnel connecting the machine gun with the pillbox position. The convex eastern side of the mound contained a series of apertures which they had not yet seen, commanding a clearing farther east, and along the top were still others just large enough for a man to squeeze through. Before these apertures were noticed, several Japanese suddenly emerged while the three Americans were trying to locate the machine-gun fire, and charged with bayonets, Before they had been cut down by fire from the platoon, they had killed one and wounded another. Machine-gun fire then protected a second set of enemy as they bayoneted to death the wounded man and slashed the third man on the mound. The rest of the infiltrating party withdrew.
Bazookas and rifle grenades were tried against the emplacement with no effect. Its triple-thick walls of coconut logs, covered with earth, were impervious. Since the entire line was being held up, artillery fire from the Ukiangong Point position, and mortar fire from YELLOW Beach, were requested to deny the enemy any opportunity to gather reinforcements and to counterattack Communications operated promptly and effectively. The enemy were cut off from the east by a barrage from the 105th Field Artillery.
Sgt. Hoyl Mersereau next led i detail of six or seven men past the long tunnel to the shelter of a low bank about 40 yards east. By creeping and crawling they reached a position from which they could fire into the tunnel openings from the east. Flame throwers were unavailable because, after other difficulties had been overcome, their oxygen tanks were all misplaced on the beach. But the combat engineers exploded TNT blocks in the machine-gun nests
Map No. 6: The First Night on Butaritari, 20-21 November 1943
at either end, and light tanks fired 37-mm shells into the entrances until the enemy began making desperate sorties, charging with bayonets upon soldiers who cut them down with rifle fire. At 1600, some four hours after the tunnel was first encountered, it was possible to leave it covered by a detail while the rest of the 3d Platoon moved forward. Eight casualties had been sustained.
One hundred and fifty yards farther east was an underground CP and bomb shelter, with telephone, radio, and electric lights. The platoon advanced and took it quickly, but before they could reach the road, the line of advance marked out for D Day, they came under fire which stopped them. Directly in front of them, the thickness of the woods made the terrain seem undesirable for in all-night position, Under orders at 1720 to cease action and to take secure positions until next day, Company E withdrew to an area south of the sandspit's western edge, and near the center of the island. As it was digging in for the night, a platoon of Company G appeared to reinforce it.
Company E had contained the enemy in the eastern part of the main defensive area, even though its line of advance fell short of the road from King's Wharf to the ocean. Four of the medium tanks did penetrate almost to that position. They had worked with Company F until the ocean end of the West Tank Barrier was subdued, and had then gone east along the shore road, blazing at likely targets on the ground and in the trees; being unaccompanied by infantry, they turned back and went to spend the night with a tank park near YELLOW Beach. Infantry and tanks together were to resume the advance next day.
As the night closed the first day's operations on Butaritari Island, the infantry elements established defensive perimeters and settled down to wait for dawn. Since early afternoon, the 3d BLT had been assembled in divisional reserve southwest of "Rita Lake." General Ralph C. Smith had ordered it to be prepared to move from YELLOW Beach to Kuma Island at 0900 next morning, but General Holland M. Smith, with Admiral Turner's concurrence, disapproved the project, stating that it was necessary to retain one battalion in readiness to aid the operation at Tarawa.
Situation at the Close of D Day
Of the 1st BLT, Companies A, B, and D bivouacked in adjacent areas on the ocean side of the island, west of tire West Tank Barrier. Company C, however, set up its position in the northern half of the barrier clearing, just east of the "pocket" of still active Japanese (Map No. 6).
Just east of the barrier's northern extremity, Company G developed its perimeter, after one of its platoons had gone to the support of Company E. Directly south of Company G in the same area was Company F. At least 1,000 yards farther east was the position established by Company E and one platoon of Company G. North of them, maintaining a line from the highway to the lagoon, were the consolidated details of Special Detachment Z of the 105th Infantry.
The 105th Field Artillery dug in for the night near their guns, south of Ukiangong village. Not far from them was the Alligator CP of the 193d Tank Battalion. The tanks and Alligators were gathered together near each of the main beaches, The reserve platoon of light tanks at RED Beach 2 had been out of contact with the others since 1330, and was expecting action early next day. The mediums reassembled, after their separate forays of the day, inland from YELLOW Beach and not far from the CP of Colonel McDonough.
FOX HOLES ON YELLOW BEACH are dug by members of shore party as they prepare for their first night. Note signal markers in background. (Below) Along the highway behind beach, tanks, bulldozers, and jeeps are parked wherever shell holes and debris do not prevent.
General Ralph C. Smith came ashore at 1830 and moved up to the forward echelons. The communications problems still existing made it advisable to delay the moving of Division Headquarters from the Leonard Wood until next day.
Supply conditions at the beaches were disturbing. Although on the average the transports were one-fourth unloaded, many of the barges, LST's, and LCT's, to which cargo bad been shifted, remained
to be unloaded later because they could not get to the beaches or use any of the wharves. Early in the afternoon, operations on RED Beach 1 had become merely the salvaging of what had foundered earlier on the reef. Nothing could be landed on RED Beach 2 after 1700, and many barges had sat off shore for hours waiting in vain for their turn to unload into LVT's and thus have their cargoes taken over the impassable reef. Loaded barges, LST's, and the Alcyone were ordered into the lagoon for the night, where they lay at anchor and continued to wait.
Quartermaster and Ordnance dumps bad been set up on RED Beach 2, but the ammunition for the 105-mm guns of the 105th Field Artillery needed hauling to the position on Ukiangong Point. Gasoline for the LVT's would be needed next day. Too few trucks and bulldozers had come ashore to accomplish all the pressing tasks requiring them. The clearing station team was ashore, but its equipment remained on the transport, packed in two trucks.
FOXBATTALION MEDICAL AID STATION near YELLOW Beach in an old bobai pit, lined with grass and palm fronds. Wounded were taken from aid station to transport until noon of 2d day, when a clearing station and surgical service had been installed on Ukiangong Point to treat them.
YELLOW Beach had not been far developed, for what it lacked in roughness was counterbalanced by the facts that it had been repeatedly under fire, that its 300 yards of width led quickly to an inland area of no great depth, across which troops were moving, and lastly, that its reef made necessary a long drag ashore by LVT's, at least until King's Wharf could be converted to use by the invaders.
At 1705 air patrols ceased. The transports and warships moved out to sea, maintaining patrols against enemy submarines and air attacks. Radio silence was resumed. The landing forces were "on their own" until morning.
Using artillery, tanks, the command of the air, and overwhelming numbers, the invaders had driven the enemy before them. The use of force had been economical and casualties were relatively light (25 killed and 62 wounded seriously enough to be taken out of action), but the troops were tired. They had been roused before dawn, had made their first landing on a hostile beach under fire, and had moved through the island's marshes and tropical growth during hours of incessant strain. Many of them had abandoned heavy packs, rations and all, and had gone without food all day. Some were "triggerhappy," and none knew just what to expect of the enemy now that darkness would cloak his movements; on every side the advent of night was greeted by increasing small-arms fire.
The men dug in for the night expecting the next day's fighting to be more severe. Not all of them were thorough in the digging. One of them, as he later told the chaplain, thought that the Lord would not approve of his job. "God, if you only let me live until tomorrow," he prayed, "I'll guarantee that this damned fox hole will be deeper by morning.''
Some of the enemy remained in the area between the tank barriers even after it had been passed over by the initial line of assault and by one or more mopping-up details. They may have continued to hide in the tree tops, for snipers there tended to withhold their fire until it could be delivered on scattered skirmishers, or, as happened
in one instance, on the surgeon at work in the aid station established near YELLOW Beach. Some certainly lurked in the shelters among the dead. Late that afternoon, when two officers were sitting on a dugout swapping experiences, one of them jumped to his feet. "There's something under here," fie said, and just then a machine gun opened up upon some of the beach party who were still bringing supplies inshore. He slipped around to the rear of the mound and found an opening covered by a curtain. Lifting the curtain with his left hand, he threw a grenade inside with his right. Almost at the same instant, just before the grenade exploded, one of the enemy fired a pistol she, which grazed the lieutenant's arm.
Mopping-up activities in the "citadel" area were incomplete as the first night arrived. The enemy was believed capable of defending his present positions to the death, withdrawing to the east on Butaritari and crossing to Kuma Island, or even of counterattack.
Enemy opposition on D Day revealed both weakness and disorganization. During the first air strike, antiaircraft artillery troops suspended firing, abandoned their guns, fled to the eastern OP, and took refuge in its air raid shelter. Many of the enemy, especially the Korean labor troops, cowered in shelters even after the bombardment had ceased. The landings on YELLOW Beach received relatively strong resistance, but even there withdrawal was unavoidable soon after the touchdown. The enemy then left snipers in scattered positions and gathered the main portion of his forces opposite the left wing of the invading troops. A smaller detachment was left in the West Tank Barrier to resist the junction of the 1st and 2d BLT's; the air and naval bombardment had greatly weakened the detachment by causing heavy casualties among those in open emplacements arid trenches. Thus on D Day the firmest enemy opposition was that encountered by the smallest of the attacking elements, Company E.
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