In a nation at war, teamwork by the whole people is necessary for victory. But the issue is decided on the battlefield, toward which all national effort leads. The country's fate lies in the hands of its soldier citizens; in the clash of battle is found the final test of plans, training, equipment, and-above allóthe fighting spirit of units and individuals.

AMERICAN FORCES IN ACTION SERIES presents detailed accounts of particular combat operations of United States forces. To the American public, this record of high achievement by men who served their nation well is presented as a preface to the full military history of World War II. To the soldiers who took part in the operations concerned, these narratives will give the opportunity to see more clearly the results of orders which they obeyed, and of sacrifices which they and their comrades made, in performance of missions that find their meaning in the outcome of a larger plan of battle.


s/Dwight D. Eisenhower
Chief of Staff.




Historical Division
Washington 25, D. C.
4 April 1946

Small Unit Actions, eleventh in the series of monographs on American operations in World War II, marks a departure from earlier numbers in that series. It presents, instead of a coordinated treatment of a larger operation, four detailed narratives dealing with small units which took part in such operations. Each narrative has a unity of its own, but the actions dealt with are separate and distinct, relating to four campaigns in three main theaters of war.

There are several reasons that justify such a publication. The most important is to give both the military reader and the American public solid, uncolored material for a better understanding of the real nature of modern battle. Military operations on the scale of this war if treated, as they must usually be, in terms of armies and corps, can give only an outline account of the fortunes of units smaller than a battalion, and very often the battalion is treated as the smallest counter in the moves described on a battlefield. This tends to be misleading; a battalion has no such unity as a battleship, but is a complex organism that maneuvers ordinarily on a front half a mile or more in width, includes a variety of specialized weapons, and often has attachments of engineers or tanks to provide greater tactical flexibility. In jungle or hedgerow country, the battalion frequently exists only as a mechanism to coordinate, perhaps with the greatest difficulty, the separate engagements of companies, platoons, or even squads. When the record (or the military history) sums up an action by saying, "The 3d Battalion fought its way forward against heavy resistance for 500 yards," only the man who has himself experienced combat is likely to realize what this can involve, and what the phrase conceals. It does not give the story of the front line action as experienced by the combat soldier. That story, hardest of all military operations to recapture and make clear, lies in detail such as that offered by the narratives presented here.

A further reason for such a publication has been recognized in the past by American military leaders, as by others. In training for modern war, particularly in armies largely officered in lower units by men taken from civilian life, there is much need for concrete, case-history material which company and field-grade officers can use to find out what actually happens in battle. Manuals must deal with doctrines and theory; their material is generalized. There has always been need for factual supplement, to show how tactical doctrines, good and bad, actually work under the stress of battle conditions. But military literature has tended to leave this field of research to the novelists, and military records have not in the past been designed to furnish an adequate basis for study of small-unit actions. After the First World War, the American Army endeavored to collect such materials, and found them hard to get and difficult to evaluate. The best were included in a useful and interesting volume, Infantry in Battle, prepared under the auspices of The Infantry School, Fort Benning.

From its inception in 1943, the Historical Division, War Department Special Staff, had as one of its alms the securing of sufficient data to support future work of this type. For obtaining this data, as well as information at higher levels and on other phases of operations, the Information and Historical Units, attached to field armies, conducted extensive interviews with personnel of units engaged in typical, unusual, or critical actions. The interviews were accompanied by terrain study of the battlefield, sometimes conducted with members of the units being interviewed. Every effort was made, by careful checking and rechecking, to obtain a full and accurate accountónot for the sake of a colorful story, but to have a trustworthy record for


whatever use it afforded. Sometimes (as in the case of two of the actions published here) practically all survivors of participating units were involved in group interviews that might last two or three days for a single group. The scale of the effort is suggested by the fact that some 2,000 indexed interviews have come back to the War Department archives from one theater.

The four narratives given here will serve as samples of the source materials thus obtained, containing in very large measure data which are not to be found in unit records. The latter were used in every case, however, to check and supplement interviews.

The actions chosen for this publication illustrate widely varying tactical problems and methods. Only one (Pointe du Hoe) represents a highly specialized form of action; the others are typical of scores of battles in their respective theaters of operations. All are average in the sense that they are not "success" stories, but cross sections of a war which involved reverses as well as victories. This fact will be obscured in histories of campaigns and major battles. for, in these, U.S. forces were almost uniformly successful. But the larger successes were won by actions like those recorded here; in every phase of the war battalions and companies went through a daily fare of experience that was never uniform, that nearly always included some measure of trial and even defeat as part of the fuller pattern which, over a longer period, added up to victory.

The interviews for, and preparation of, the four narratives should be credited as follows: Pointe du Hoe, Historical Section, European Theater of Operations: The Fight on Tanapag Plain, 1st Information and Historical Service: Santa Maria Infante, 7th Information and Historical Service (Fifth Army); Singling, 3d Information and Historical Service (Third Army).

Small Unit Actions is based on the best military records available. As far as possible, names and ranks of personnel were checked with records in The Adjutant General's Office. Roster of the enlisted men who participated in the Santa Maria Infante Operation and The Fight on Tanapag Plain were not accessible. It was impossible to obtain full names of all men mentioned in the operations and to check last names, so it is expected that some errors occur in spelling of names and in grade designations.

Five photographs (pp. 9, 13, 37, 75, 91) are by the U.S. Navy: three (pp. 79. 87. 107) were taken by the U.S. Marine Corps; eleven (pp. 1, 8, 10, 20, 32, 42, 49, 126, 130. 160, 182) are from the U.S. Army Air Forces; three (pp. 92, 105, 109) are by the 1st Information and Historical Service; twelve (pp. 176, 191, 192. 193, 194, 198, 199, 200, 202, 203, 204, 210) were taken by the 3d Information and Historical Service: four (pp. 116, 123, 142, 212) were taken by the Joint Intelligence Collecting Agency. All others were furnished by the U.S. Army Signal Corps.



Table of Contents ** Next Chapter (Pointe du Hoe)

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation