The battle of production and supply, designed to build a foundation to support unprecedented Allied air and naval power, was won during 1942 and 1943, while Japanese air and naval power greatly diminished. Hawaii, the most important naval base in the Pacific, had become a training center and staging area for U.S. troops as well as one of the many important supply bases. In 1944, the strategic offensive against Japan began.
Following the invasion of the Gilberts in late 1943, U.S. forces prepared for an assault in the western Marshalls, the principal objective being Kwajalein and Eniwetok Atolls. According to plans for the assault on the western Marshalls, a Marine division was to seize the northern half of the Kwajalein Atoll, principally the islands of Roi and Namur; Army ground forces units were to capture the southern half of the atoll, including the island of Kwajalein, and to occupy Majuro Island, one of the finest naval anchorages west of Pearl Harbor. Supporting naval and air bombardment and artillery fire (the artillery had been ferried ashore on the small near-by islands) were brought to bear on the selected landing beaches of Kwajalein and Roi Islands of Kwajalein Atoll. Unopposed landings were made on both islands on 1 February 1944, with slight resistance developing after advance was made inland. Six days after the main landings, all the islands of the Kwajalein Atoll were in U.S. hands and Majuro had been occupied. On 17 February landings were made on the islands of Eniwetok Atoll; resistance was wiped out five days later. A two-day strike against Truk, 16 and 17 February, was executed by a large carrier task force to screen the assault of the Eniwetok Atoll and to test [the] strength of the Japanese base there.
Although the strong enemy island bases in the eastern Marshalls
were bypassed, the air forces maintained continual attacks on them throughout the year. Conquest of the western Marshalls provided air bases and a new forward fleet base in the Pacific.
The Mariana Islands, the next objective in the Central Pacific, differ from the coral atolls of the Marshalls and Gilberts. The individual islands are much larger and the distinguishing terrain features are precipitous coast lines, high hills, and deep ravines. Plans were made, ships and supplies collected, and the troops given special training for the invasion; meanwhile Japanese air and ground reinforcements poured into the Central Pacific.
An intense air offensive against enemy installations in the Marianas began on 11 June 1944 and a naval bombardment of Saipan began on the 13th, two days before the landings on the 15th. Opposition was heavy at first, but by the 25th U.S. troops, supported by tanks, heavy artillery, renewed naval gunfire, and aerial bombardment, drove the enemy from the high ground on the central part of the island. Again advances were slow and difficult with heavy troop losses. On 9 July the mission was completed, except for mopping-up operations which continued for nearly two months.
On the morning of 24 July an attack was made on Tinian, supported by artillery on Saipan. Enemy resistance, slight for first two days, increased when high ground was reached in the central part of the island. The entire island was overrun by 1 August.
Meanwhile, Guam had been invaded on 21 July by U.S. forces in two separate landings. This invasion was preceded by a thirteen-day aerial and naval softening-up process. The two beachheads were joined after three days of fighting. The troops, greatly hampered by heavy undergrowth, concentrated on the high ground in the northern part of the island and, except for resistance from small groups of scattered Japanese, were in command of the island by 10 August.
A force of nearly 800 ships from the Guadalcanal area sailed for the Palau Islands, the next hop in the Central Pacific. Marines landed on Peleliu Island on 15 September while Army units landed on Angaur on the 17th. These were the two southernmost islands of the Palau group. Opposition on Angaur was relatively light. Much stiffer resistance was met on Peleliu, which contained the site of the major Japanese airfield on the islands. The troops succeeded, by 12 October, in pushing the enemy into a small area in the central hills of Peleliu, but many more weeks were spent destroying the remaining opposition.
During the fighting in the southern Palaus, Ulithi Atoll in the western Carolines was taken to secure a naval anchorage in the western Pacific. Air attack against bypassed islands was maintained. Meanwhile, huge air bases were being developed in the Marianas for use by B-29 bombers. On 24 November B-29's operating from Saipan made the first of a series of attacks on Tokyo.
Concurrent with the operations in the Marshalls, Marianas, Palaus, and Carolines, forces of the Southwest Pacific Area moved swiftly along the northern coast of New Guinea, jumped to Vogelkop Peninsula, and then to Morotai and on into the Philippines. The first amphibious advance of 1944 in this area was made on 2 January at Saidor, to capture the airport there. The next major advance was begun early on the morning of 29 February when a landing was effected on Los Negros in the Admiralty Islands. The Japanese sent reinforcements from Manus Island, separated from Los Negros by only 100 yards of water. Except for isolated groups of enemy troops, Los Negros was cleared on the 23d and Momote airfield, on the east coast, was ready for operation. Manus Island was invaded on 15 March, after the seizure of a few smaller islands, and an airfield there was captured the next day. At the end of April most of the enemy had been cleared from the Admiralties.
In New Britain the beachheads established in 1943 were expanded. On 6 March another landing took place on Willaumez Peninsula on the north coast. This operation, together with the establishment of airfields in the Admiralties and the occupation of Green and Emirau Islands, completed the encirclement and neutralization of Rabaul, the once powerful Japanese base. On 26 November U.S. units left New Britain, the enemy being contained on the Gazelle Peninsula by the Australians.
In New Guinea, after the Saidor operation, the enemy organized his defenses in the coastal area between Wewak and Madang. Surprise landings by U.S. troops were made at Aitape and Hollandia, both west of Wewak, on 22 April. Within five days the airfields at Hollandia and Aitape were in Allied possession. In July 1944 the Japanese Army, which had moved up the coast from Wewak, attacked the Allied perimeter at Aitape. Within a month the Japanese had been thrown back toward Wewak. At the end of the year Australian troops, which had begun relieving U.S. forces at Aitape in October, started a drive on Wewak from the west. While the enemy was
bottled up in this area, the Allies continued to leap-frog up the New Guinea coast.
On 17 May forces debarked at Arare, 125 miles northwest of Hollandia, and established a strong beachhead. Wakde Island, just offshore, was assaulted the next day and was secured by the 19th.
Other units assaulted the island of Biak on 27 May to seize additional air base sites. Here considerable resistance was met and the island with its airfields was not secured until August. Noemfoor Island, where three airfields were located, was invaded on 2 July by troops which landed at points where reefs made invasion hazardous. The Noemfoor airstrips were captured by night of the 6th. The last landing on New Guinea was an unopposed one made on 30 July in the Cape Sansapor area, on the northwestern coast of the Vogelkop Peninsula. The Japanese in New Guinea had been eliminated from the war.
Another air base site on the southern tip of Morotai Island, northwest of the Vogelkop Peninsula, was seized on 15 September at slight cost. The invasion of Morotai, lying between New Guinea and the Philippines, was the last major operation undertaken by Southwest Pacific forces before the attack on the Philippines in October.
Prior to the invasion of the Philippines a seven-day air attack, beginning on 10 October, was undertaken against enemy bases on the Ryukyu Islands, Formosa, and Luzon. On 17 October, Suluan, Homonhon, and Dinagat Islands, guarding Leyte Gulf where the main invasion was to be made, were captured.
Despite all this activity, strategic surprise proved complete when, on 20 October 1944, the assault forces landed on Leyte. Heavy opposition was encountered on only one of the many beaches. Throughout the entire campaign, opposition at times was fierce although it came from relatively small units or from separate defense positions. Between 23 and 26 October the naval battle for Leyte Gulf took place. The enemy made every effort to hold Leyte; reinforcements were rushed in by every means available to them and during November an all-out struggle for Leyte developed. Bad weather conditions in November seriously interfered with the supply of U.S. forces and with air operations. On 7 December U.S. troops landed on the west coast of Leyte at Ormoc to place new strength at the rear of Japanese forces holding out in northwestern Leyte and to prevent the Japanese from landing any more reinforcements in the Ormoc
area. By 26 December Leyte was declared secured but mopping up against strong resistance continued for several months.
SOLDIERS DEMONSTRATE METHODS OF JUDO (top); training in the technique of uphill attack (bottom). In the early fighting against the Japanese, the tropical battlegrounds of the South and Southwest Pacific imposed severe difficulties on the U.S. forces. Operations were hampered by a jungle-wise enemy whose tactics and weapons were well adapted to the terrain. In October 1942 U.S. commanders were directed to begin a program of training which would include specialized training in close-in fighting, judo, firing from trees and other elevated positions, map reading, and use of the compass for movement through dense undergrowth.
INFANTRYMAN CLIMBING OVER A BARBED WIRE FENCE during training at the Unit Jungle Training Center which was opened in September 1943 in Hawaii. The physical conditioning of troops was accomplished by cross-country marches over difficult terrain, mountain climbing, and vigorous exercises which simulated conditions of actual combat. Obstacle courses were constructed to further harden the troops. The mission of this center was to prepare troops for combat against the Japanese in difficult terrain, by day or night, under all conditions.
TRAINEE JUMPING THROUGH BURNING OIL (top); hip-shooting with 30-caliber machine guns during jungle training (bottom). Emphasis was placed on specialized training in patrolling, ambushing, hip-shooting, stream-crossing expedients, and jungle living. Training was also given in the assault of fortified areas, hand-to-hand combat, and the use of demolitions. As the varied problems of assaulting the Pacific islands arose, the training was changed to suit the particular requirements.
CLASS INSTRUCTION IN STREET AND HOUSE-TO-HOUSE FIGHTING (top); Medical Corps men move a soldier off a field under machine gun fire during training at the Jungle Training Center (bottom). The course in first aid and sanitation emphasized those aspects of the subject which pertained to combat conditions in the Pacific. Training in jungle living covered all phases of survival in the jungle terrain, on the open seas, and on Pacific atolls.
SOLDIER WEARING A CAMOUFLAGE SUIT fires a .45-caliber Thompson submachine gun M1928A1 during street-fighting course at the Jungle Training Center. The magnitude of the training given was vast. In the Hawaiian area alone, more than 250,000 men were trained for combat by these schools; additional men trained in the South Pacific and on Saipan brought the total to well over 300,000.
AN 81-MM. MORTAR M1 set up in a position in the jungle during training. The value of the training received was demonstrated in every area of the Pacific. As the U.S. forces went into the Solomons, New Guinea, the Gilberts, the Marianas, the Ryukus, the Philippines, and other Pacific islands held by the Japanese, their victories were made less costly by the intensive training they had received at the various jungle training centers. Ten Army divisions and non-divisional Army units, as well as some Air Forces, Marine, and Navy personnel, were trained at these centers.
MEDIUM TANKS M4A1 WITH 75-MM. GUNS, going ashore on Kwajalein. The stacks, at the rear of the tanks, were used to extend the vented openings; unvented openings were sealed with tape and sealing compound to render the hulls watertight. Waterproofed vehicles could be operated satisfactorily in water deeper than otherwise possible, permitting them to wade in from landing craft halted at greater distances from shore.
WATERPROOFED JEEP heading from ship to shore during the Kwajalein battle. Jeeps were prepared for fording by sealing the individual components and extending air and exhaust vents above the water level. Artillery that was ferried ashore on the smaller islands registered its fire on the selected landing beaches of Kwajalein and Roi, shifting fire inland two minutes before the leading assault waves hit the beaches.
WRECKAGE OF A JAPANESE POWER INSTALLATION found on one of the islands in the Kwajalein Atoll on 31 January 1944. As a result of the air, naval, and artillery bombardment, the islands were greatly damaged. With exception of rubble left by concrete structures, there were no buildings standing; all those which had been made of any material other than concrete were completely demolished.
FIRING A 37-MM. ANTITANK GUN M3A1 at an enemy pillbox, 31 January. The operations on Roi, Namur, and Kwajalein consisted mostly of ferreting the enemy from his concrete pillboxes.
MACHINE GUNS AND AUTOMATIC RIFLES cover advancing infantrymen as a tank and tank destroyer, in background, move forward. The machine gun in foreground is a .30-caliber M1919A4. Tanks helped cover the advance of the foot soldier and clear roadways for vehicles.
INFANTRYMEN, supported by a medium tank M4A1, move forward to wipe out the remaining enemy on the island. The fire raging in the background is the result of preinvasion bombing and shelling.
TROOPS MOVING A 37-MM. ANTITANK GUN over war-torn Kwajalein, 1 February. Before the attacks in the Marshalls, the enemy had a force of about 8,000 men on the islands to guard airfields.
ROUTING THE ENEMY FROM DEFENSIVE POSITIONS, Kwajalein Atoll. Infantrymen poised to enter a well-camouflaged enemy dugout (top). Using a flame thrower to burn out the enemy from his positions; portion of rifle in right foreground is the .30-caliber M1 with fixed bayonet (bottom). The concrete pillboxes built by the enemy on Roi, Namur, and Kwajalein were, in general, effectively reduced by bazookas and flame throwers.
.30-CALIBER BROWNING WATER-COOLED MACHINE GUN M1917A1 set up amid rubble on Kwajalein. Water-cooling the barrel of this gun permitted sustained fire over comparatively long periods (top). Men taking time out (bottom). The ground was occupied yard by yard with the aid of air and naval fire and additional flank landings.
GUN MOTOR CARRIAGE M10, used to blast pillboxes on Kwajalein. This weapon, called a tank destroyer, was mounted on the medium tank chassis and had a 3-inch gun M17 in a semiopen turret, and a .50-caliber machine gun at the rear of the turret for protection against low flying planes. Six days after the main landings had taken place, Kwajalein was in U.S. hands.
CONSOLIDATED LIBERATOR HEAVY BOMBERS, B-24's, raining 500-pound bombs on Truk in the Caroline Islands as part of a two-day strike executed to screen the assault on Eniwetok Atoll in the northwestern Marshalls. The strong enemy bases in the eastern Marshalls, bypassed when the western Marshalls were invaded, were continually harassed by air attack in 1944.
ENEMY SHIPS ON FIRE, the result of direct hits during the 17-18 February air raid on Truk. During the two-day strike, 270 enemy aircraft and 32 of his ships were destroyed.
INVASION TROOPS AND SUPPLIES ready for the run in to Saipan, 15 June 1944. Craft in left foreground are LCVP; an LCM(3) can be seen just behind them. The capture of the Marianas would sever the principal enemy north-south axis of sea communications through the Central Pacific, would become the initial step in the isolation and neutralization of the large enemy base at Truk, and would furnish staging areas and air bases for future offensives.
INFANTRYMEN DISPERSE FOR BETTER PROTECTION as they approach the front lines (top). Jeep, pulling a 37-mm. antitank M3A1, passes a group of men who are advancing toward a small Japanese settlement (bottom). Prior to the invasion on15 June, a two-day naval bombardment was directed at Saipan. During the first four days of the attack on the island, Japanese artillery and mortar fire exacted a heavy toll from the invaders.
TROOPS RESTING beside the narrow gauge Japanese railroad on Saipan (top); wounded cameraman with a speed graphic camera SC PH 104 (bottom). The strong resistance and heavy casualty rate made it necessary to commit reinforcements on D plus 1. By midday of the 19th troops had captured the airfield and driven to the east coast of the island.
JAPANESE DIVE BOMBER PLUNGING TOWARD THE SEA, downed by antiaircraft fire from a Navy carrier during the Battle of the Philippine Sea, which started on 19 June. Aircraft in the foreground are Grumman Avengers (TBF-1 torpedo bombers). A Japanese naval force approaching the Marianas caused U.S. ships at Saipan, except for those unloading the most necessary supplies, to withdraw to the east. Troops ashore were left without naval gunfire, air support, or sufficient supplies.
JAPANESE FLEET UNDER ATTACK by aircraft from carriers operating west of the Marianas. In the late afternoon of 20 June the enemy fleet was discovered at extreme range and shortly before sunset U.S. carrier planes took off. In this attack the Japanese lost one carrier and two tankers; four carriers, one battleship, one cruiser, and one tanker were severely damaged. The Battle of the Philippine Sea broke the enemy effort to reinforce the Marianas.
TRACTOR TOWING A 155-MM. GUN OVER A PONTON CAUSEWAY reaching from an LST to shore on Saipan. The tractor is a high-speed 18-ton M4 model; the 155-mm. gun M1A1 is mounted on an M1 carriage (top). A landing vehicle, tracked, provides a shady spot for a game of cards during a lull in the fighting; this armored amphibian LVT (A) (4) was the same as the LVT (A) (1) except for an M8 75-mm. howitzer turret which replaced the 37-mm. gun (bottom). On Saipan tanks and heavy artillery added the weight of their guns to renewed naval gunfire and aerial bombardment after the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
A .50-CALIBER MULTIPLE MACHINE GUN EMPLACEMENT (top); a 75-mm. howitzer motor carriage M8 (bottom). The enemy had been driven out of the high ground in the central part of the island by the 25th. After that, moderate daily advances were made over steep hills and through deep ravines in the north.
INFANTRYMEN ADVANCING ALONG A ROAD ON SAIPAN to blast an enemy pillbox beyond the next ridge. The 105-mm. howitzer motor carriage M7 in the left background was called the "Priest." This vehicle was based on a medium tank M3 chassis. During the night of 6-7 July the enemy made a massed counterattack which gained some ground and inflicted heavy losses on U.S. troops. The lost ground was recovered by the end of the 7th and the advance was renewed the next day.
MARINE USING A FLAME THROWER TO ROUT THE ENEMY from a cave turns his face from the intense heat. The two men in the center foreground are watching to intercept any of the enemy who might try to escape. Note casualty on ground to the right of the two men. On 9 July organized resistance ceased but thousands of the enemy remained scattered throughout the island in small groups.
2.36-INCH ROCKET LAUNCHER M9 being fired into a cave on Saipan, 28 July. These launchers, called bazookas, were usually equipped with a flash deflector to protect the operator from unburned powder as the rocket left the tube. The bazooka was employed against tanks, armored vehicles, pillboxes, and other enemy emplacements. Operations to rid the island of the enemy continued for nearly two months after organized fighting had ceased.
STREET FIGHTING IN GARAPAN, SAIPAN. Enemy buildings and installations were set afire by supporting artillery barrage before troops entered the town to engage the enemy. About 2,100 Japanese out of the original garrison of 29,000 on Saipan were taken prisoner. American casualties were approximately 3,100 killed, 300 missing, and 13,100 wounded.
155-MM. HOWITZER M1 ON CARRIAGE M1, on Tinian in the Marianas, 28 July 1944. T he assault on Tinian was made on the morning of 24 July. By evening of the 27th the two divisions ashore had control of half the island. Enemy resistance, light at first, increased as the high ground in central part of the island was reached. On 1 August the remaining part of the island was overrun.
RESULTS OF A JAPANESE NOON RAID ON SAIPAN, November 1944 (note foamite on wing in foreground). Fire fighters attempted to quell the blaze of burning aircraft caught on the ground by the enemy. Before the fighting ended on Saipan, U.S. aircraft were operating from the captured airfield. Along with carrier-based planes, they supported ground troops landing on Tinian and Guam.
JAPANESE AIRCRAFT FOUND ON SAIPAN. A single-engined fighter plane (top) and the wreckage of bombers (bottom). Japanese aircraft markings usually consisted of a large red disc on the top and bottom of the outer section of each wing and on each side of the fuselage. The side marking was omitted on their Army aircraft but retained on Navy aircraft. Occasionally the red disc was surrounded by a narrow white line.
CAPTURED ENEMY EQUIPMENT ON SAIPAN. Type 93, 13.2-mm. machine gun mounted on a naval-type pedestal, dual-purpose single mount, which could be used emplaced on a dual-purpose position or emplaced solely for antiaircraft fire or only for ground fire (top). A Type 97 medium tank mounting a 47-mm. tank gun and weighing 15 tons; its manually operated turret could be traversed 360 degrees (bottom).
MEN WADING ASHORE AT GUAM keep together and follow the shallowest area around the reef; amphibian vehicle on right is bringing in supplies and equipment (top). A beachhead casualty being evacuated in an LCM (3) (bottom). Guam was attacked on 21 July, three days before the landings on Tinian. A thirteen-day air and naval softening-up barrage was directed at Guam before the invasion.
INFANTRYMEN ON HIGH GROUND ABOVE AGAT BEACH keep their bayonets fixed for expected contact with the enemy. Vegetation is typical of much of the high ground in central Guam. Two separate landings were made by Marines and Army ground troops about 7 1/2 miles apart on either side of Orote Peninsula on the western side of Guam.
MEDIUM TRACTOR M5 dragging sleds of ammunition to the front as a jeep equipped to lay wire waits on the side of the road. Tropical rains and constant traffic produced a sea of mud on the roads to the dumps. It often took a tractor such as this three hours to make a round trip from the beach to the supply dump, a distance in some cases of only 600 yards. The two beachheads were joined after three days of fighting. Orote Peninsula with its harbor and airstrip was gained when the cut-off enemy in this area was wiped out.
CLOSING IN ON AN ENEMY POSITION. Explosives being used to destroy a dugout (top); note 37-mm. antitank gun M3A1 (bottom). On 30 July American units made an attack toward the north end of the island.
ENEMY BEING ROUTED FROM ONE OF MANY CAVES ON GUAM; before dynamite charges were set in his pillboxes, dugouts, and caves, he was given a chance to surrender (top). Men washing behind the defensive line after a long hard trek (bottom). The advance to the north end of the island was considerably hampered by jungle terrain. The enemy put up a stubborn defense on the high ground in the north and organized resistance did not cease until 10 August.
OBSERVERS USING AN OBSERVATION TELESCOPE M49 watch for signs of the enemy from the high ground (top). Two burning medium tanks M4A1 hit by enemy antitank guns near Yigo (bottom). As on Saipan, wiping out scattered enemy forces continued long after the main battle was over.
B-24'S APPROACHING FOR AN ATTACK ON YAP ISLAND, 20 August 1944. Aircraft operating from fields on Saipan had supported landings on Tinian and Guam and struck at enemy installations in the northern Marianas, and the Bonin, Volcano, Palau, Ulithi, Yap, and Ngulu islands. The next hop of the American ground forces was to the Palau Islands.
MARINES PINNED DOWN BY ENEMY FIRE on Peleliu Island in the Palaus. An American force from Guadalcanal assaulted Peleliu on 15 September and Anguar on17 September, the two southernmost islands in the Palau group. Peleliu was the site of the major Japanese airfield in the group of islands and Angaur was important as a suitable location for the construction of a large-size bomber base.
MEN STRUGGLE UP A STEEP SLOPE ON PELELIU. The assault of this island was met with considerable opposition. On D day the enemy, supported by tanks launched a counterattack against the landing forces. This attack was repulsed and the next day the airfield was captured.
BATTLE-WEARY MARINE grins at cameraman during the hard fight on Peleliu. Note hand grenades within easy reach on shirt. After the airfield was seized, attack was made to the north against heavily fortified enemy positions in the hills. Progress over the rough terrain was very slow. The enemy was forced into a small area in the central part of the island by 9 October and it took many more weeks to ferret him out.
THE VOUGHT KINGFISHER two-seat observation seaplane OS2U-3 flies over firing ships and landing craft which carried invading forces to the shores of Angaur. The final loading of men used in the operations at Angaur and Peleliu was made in the Solomons.
RAGING FIRE OF AN AMERICAN AMMUNITION DUMP after a direct hit by an enemy mortar. Compared with the battle on Peleliu, opposition was considered fairly light on Angaur. No landings were planned on Babelthuap Island, the largest and most strongly garrisoned island in the Palau group.
INFANTRYMEN ON ANGAUR PASS AN ENEMY CASUALTY lying across the narrow gauge railroad of the island. Tanks are medium M4A4's. Remaining groups of the enemy were holed up in the northwest part of the island. Angaur was declared secure on 20 September, though some fighting continued.
WAR DAMAGE FOUND ON ANGAUR near the town of Saipan. In the Palau operation, U.S. casualties amounted to approximately 1,900 killed, over 8,000 wounded, and about 135 missing. Enemy casualties for this operation were about 13,600 killed and 400 captured.
FORMATION OF LIBERATORS OVER ANGAUR ISLAND. A B-24 heavy bomber group operating from Angaur received training in raids against the northern Palaus and the Carolines. During the latter part of 1944 enemy bases were constantly bombed from newly acquired American airfields.
NAVY AIRCRAFT CARRIERS IN ULITHI ANCHORAGE. While fighting continued in the Palaus, an unopposed landing was made in the Ulithi Atoll, 23 September 1944. Steps were taken at once to develop the anchorage at Ulithi, the best available shelter in the western Carolines for large surface craft.
BOEING B-29 SUPERFORTRESS, the "Tokyo Local," taking off from Saipan to bomb Tokyo (top) and coming in for a landing after the raid (bottom). Superfortresses made the first of a series of attacks on Tokyo on 24 November 1944, operating from Saipan.
FIRES which resulted from the first raid on Tokyo by Superfortresses; note native dress of the women in the bucket-brigade line (top). Extinguishing the fires of a blazing building; note antiquated fire equipment (bottom). These photographs are copies of the originals taken from Japanese files.
LST'S UNLOADING troops and an artillery observation plane directly on shore during the amphibious landing at Saidor on the north coast of New Guinea, 2 January 1944 (top and bottom, respectively). This constituted the first advance of 1944 in the Southwest Pacific Area. Action in the Southwest and Central Areas was concurrent in 1944.
AERIAL VIEW OF SHORE LINE NEAR SAIDOR; ships along the coast are LST's. A regimental combat team landing here had the airstrip at Saidor in use on 7 January.
EQUIPMENT BEING FERRIED ACROSS A RIVER near Saidor (top). Crawler-type tractor with diesel engine plowing along a muddy road near Saidor; these tractors were mainly used to tow artillery and equipment over rough terrain (bottom). Tropical rains in this area greatly impeded the moving of supplies.
HEAVILY LOADED TROOPS CROSSING A RIVER in the Saidor area. In February reconnaissance planes reported that the Admiralty Islands were occupied by only a few small enemy units which were guarding the airfields there.
INVADING FORCES LOUNGE ON THE DECK OF A SHIP taking them to Los Negros in the Admiralty Islands. These men landed on the east shore of the island near Momote airfield on morning of 29 February 1944.
MOMOTE AIRFIELD, looking northwest on Los Negros Island, Hyane Harbour on left (top); another view of the field, looking northeast (bottom). Following an unopposed landing, the enemy guards at the airfield were overcome, leaving the field in U.S. hands. During the night of 29 February-1 March an enemy counterattack was repulsed.
155-MM. GUN M1918M1 AND 105-MM. HOWITZER M2A1 (top and bottom, respectively) firing on Japanese positions on Manus Island from Los Negros, 23 March. Japanese reinforcements from Manus Island, separated from Los Negros by about 100 yards of water, were thrown into battle. By the 23d Los Negros, except for isolated enemy units, was captured and the airfield was ready for operation.
CAPTURED JAPANESE NAVAL GUN BEING FIRED by an American soldier in the Admiralties. On 15 March, after the seizure of a few smaller islands in the Admiralties, troops landed on Manus. By the end of April most of the enemy in the Admiralties was overcome.
PART OF A TASK FORCE HITTING THE BEACH at Aitape, 22 April (top). Reinforcements moving inland to their bivouac area (bottom). This landing was one of three made that day on the northern coast of New Guinea. Earlier, the U.S. Navy pounded enemy bases in the western Carolines and western New Guinea to prevent the Japanese from launching attacks against these landing forces.
ALLIED FORCES LANDING ON GREEN ISLAND from LST's. While the fighting continued in New Guinea, the Allies occupied Green and Emirau Islands, completing the encirclement of the once powerful Japanese base at Rabaul.
MEDIUM TANKS AND THEIR CREWS pause in their drive toward the airstrip during the first day ashore. Tank in the foreground is temporarily out of use. The landing at Aitape was designed to engage the enemy in the area and provide air support for the troops at Hollandia.
CAPTURED ENEMY SOLDIER BEING QUESTIONED at Aitape. The operation there gave the Allies another airstrip.
REMAINS OF A LIGHTNING FIGHTER PLANE P-38 which crashed during a landing (top), and a Flying Fortress B-17 which crashed when its right wheel gave way on an airstrip at Aitape (bottom). Since spare parts to maintain aircraft were difficult to obtain, maintenance men would strip crashed and crippled planes of usable parts almost before the engines cooled.
ENEMY OIL DUMP ABLAZE from preinvasion naval fire as troops (top) and tanks (bottom) make their way inland from one of the invasion bases at Hollandia, 22 April. Forces invaded Hollandia, landing at Tanahmerah Bay and 25 miles to the east at Humbolt Bay. Simultaneous landings were made at Aitape, 90 miles east of Hollandia.
HOLLANDIA AREA, NEW GUINEA, looking west from Humboldt Bay across Jautefa Bay to Lake Sentani, center background. The lake is approximately eight air miles inland; the three airfields were about fifteen air miles inland, north of the lake.
TROOPS MOVING INLAND on 22 April found the way through the swampy areas near Hollandia difficult (top). The men exercised much caution as they penetrated the jungle toward the Hollandia airstrips (bottom). The landings were virtually unopposed since the enemy had taken to the hills.
LAKE SENTANI NEAR HOLLANDIA. Men in a "Buffalo," LVT(A) (2), are firing a machine gun at enemy riflemen hidden in the bushes (top); troops wade through knee-deep water, 27 April (bottom). Despite the dense jungle and l ack of overland communications, satisfactory progress was made. The three airfields at Hollandia were taken within five days of the landings.
SUPPLY OPERATIONS ON A BEACH NEAR HOLLANDIA. Trucks lined up along the water's edge have just been unloaded from the LST in the background (top); a conveyor being used to help unload supplies (bottom). As soon as the airstrips were in full operation and the port facilities at Hollandia developed, U.S. forces were ready for further attacks at points along the northwestern coast of New Guinea.
155-MM. HOWITZER M1918 firing on Japanese positions. Only slight opposition was encountered when a regimental combat team debarked on 17 May at Arare just east of a major enemy supply and staging point at Sarmi.
MAIN ROAD AT ARARE being used to transport supplies, 24 May. On 18 May, with artillery support from the mainland, near-by Wakde Island was assaulted. The next day the large airfield there was taken at a cost of about a hundred U.S. casualties.
TROOPS ON BIAK ISLAND. While the positions on Wakde and in the Arare area were being consolidated, other units assaulted Biak, about 200 miles to the west, on 27 May. Only slight opposition was met during the first day ashore; on the second day the advance inland was stopped by heavy enemy fire. On 29 May the enemy counterattacked and a bitter battle ensued.
ADVANCING INLAND ON BIAK; note cave beneath footbridge. Biak was assaulted to broaden the front for air deployment.
CAVES ON BIAK, which constituted the major Japanese strong points, were north of the airfield. The enemy, entrenched in other caves commanding the coastal road to the airstrips, launched attacks on U.S. troops, thus retarding the advances.
INFANTRYMAN READING AN ISSUE OF YANK MAGAZINE, just a few feet away from an enemy casualty. The Japanese attempt to reinforce his units on Biak was repulsed by U.S. air and naval forces and by 20 June the ground forces had captured the three airfields on the island.
COMMAND POST SET UP ON D DAY, 2 JULY, near Kamiri airstrip on Noemfoor Island. Note camouflaged walkie-talkie, SCR 300. The troops went ashore at points where reefs and other natural obstacles made the landings hazardous.
INFANTRYMEN CROSS THE KAMIRI AIRSTRIP, keeping low to avoid enemy fire (top); 60-mm. mortar emplacement near the airstrip, 2 July (bottom). Prior to the landings on Noemfoor, Japanese airfields near by were effectively neutralized by aerial bombardment.
AIRDROP AT KAMIRI STRIP. The invasion forces on Noemfoor were reinforced by a parachute infantry regiment which dropped directly onto the airstrip.
A PARATROOPER HANGING SUSPENDED FROM A TREE in which his parachute was caught during the drop at Noemfoor. All three airfields here were captured by the night of 6 July.
WATER SPLASH FROM A DEPTH CHARGE dropped off the coast near Cape Sansapor, 30 July 1944. An amphibious force carried out a landing near Cape Sansapor on the Vogelkop Peninsula in western New Guinea on the same day.
INFANTRYMEN MOVING ALONG THE BEACH at Cape Sansapor on 31 July; portion of LST in right background. The landings here were unopposed and the construction of new airfields began at once. By this move a large number of the enemy were bypassed and forced to begin an immediate withdrawal to the southwest coast.
CAPE SANSAPOR; note jetty projecting out from shore. The landing here was the last made by U.S. forces on the shores of New Guinea.
END OF AN A-20. The Douglas light bomber, caught by Japanese flak off the coast of New Guinea near Karas Island, goes out of control (top) and explodes (bottom).
LCI'S UNLOADING ASSAULT FORCES offshore at Morotai, northwest of Vogelkop Peninsula. The southern tip of Morotai Island was selected as the site for one of the last air bases needed before invading the Philippines. D Day for this operation was 15 September, the same day that the invasion of Peleliu in the Palau group took place. On 30 September several airfields were made operational on the island.
CAMOUFLAGED JAPANESE PLANE, just before it went up in flames from the approaching parafrag bombs, during a low-level bombing and strafing attack on an airdrome in the Netherlands East Indies.
RAID ON JAPANESE OIL-PRODUCING FACILITIES IN BALIKPAPAN, Borneo, October 1944. Aircraft, returning to their base, are B-24's. While preparations were being made for the invasion of the Philippines, U.S. Air Forces early in October neutralized enemy air strength on Mindanao, attacked Japanese shipping throughout the Netherlands East Indies, and conducted heavy raids on the oil-producing facilities in Borneo.
FINAL INSPECTION OF TROOPS at one of the staging areas on Los Negros, an island of the Admiralty group, before they board ships for the invasion of Leyte in the Philippines. The two Army corps which were to be used for the invasion were to rendezvous at sea about 450 miles east of Leyte and then proceed to make simultaneous landings on the east coast of that island.
LOADING OF MEN AND SUPPLIES AT SEEADLER HARBOUR, Los Negros. The entire expedition comprised more than 650 ships of all categories. Before invading Leyte, three sentinel islands guarding Leyte Gulf, Suluan, Homonhon, and Dinagat, were taken on 17 and 18 October, after which Navy mine sweepers cleared a channel for the approaching armada.
UNLOADING AT A BEACH ON LEYTE, 21 October 1944. Beyond the two barges are several LCM (3)'s. An LVT (A) (2), the armored Buffalo, can be seen on the beach. On 20 October landings were made on three beaches: one in the Palo area; another between San Jose and Dulag; and the third about fifty-five miles to the south to control Panaon Strait which was between Leyte and the near by island of Panaon.
PORTION OF A LANDING BEACH ON LEYTE where Philippine civilians left their hiding places to see the American forces. Fires smouldering in the background were caused by preinvasion aerial and naval bombardment. On one of the beaches heavy opposition was encountered. Enemy mortar and artillery fire sank several landing craft and U.S. forces had to fight their way across the beach.
WATER SUPPLY POINT set up near a beach on Leyte, 21 October; note the collapsible water tank. By the end of the 21st, Tacloban, San Jose, Dulag, and two airfields were captured. Heavy fighting continued at Palo.
INFANTRYMEN AND A MEDIUM TANK MOVING FORWARD on Leyte. At the time of the invasion, the Japanese had only one division stationed on Leyte. Their vital supplies at Tacloban were lost to them on the 21st and they appeared to have no organized plan of defense, offering resistance only at widely scattered points.
MEN CAUTIOUSLY MOVING IN on an enemy machine gun position, 24 October. The infantryman on the right is armed with a .30-caliber Browning automatic rifle M1918A2. The fight for Palo ended on 24 October when a suicidal enemy counterattack that penetrated the center of town was repulsed.
FIRING A 155-MM. GUN M1A1 on an advancing Japanese column. While U.S. ground troops advanced on Leyte, the battle for Leyte Gulf took place, 23-26 October. The enemy, using a force comprising more than half his naval strength, suffered a crippling blow.
8-INCH HOWITZERS M1 EMPLACED ON LEYTE. By 5 November American forces reached the vicinity of Limon at the northern end of the valley road leading to Ormoc, the principal Japanese installation of the island. Bitter fighting continued and was made more difficult by typhoons which inaugurated the rainy season.
B-25 APPROACHING A JAPANESE WARSHIP in Ormoc Bay. U.S. planes, operating from fields on Morotai, raided enemy ships in Ormoc Bay on 2 November in an attempt to keep the Japanese from landing reinforcements.
DIRECT HIT ON A JAPANESE WARSHIP by a B-25 in Ormoc Bay. Two transports and six escorting ships were sunk in the 2 November raid; however, by 3 November the Japanese had landed some 22,000 fresh troops at Ormoc Bay to reinforce the 16,000 original troops on Leyte.
PHILIPPINE CIVILIANS carrying supplies to the front for U.S. troops. Heavy rains and deep mud harassed the supply lines and forward units were dependent on hand-carry or improvised means of transporting supplies.
60-MM. MORTAR used to fire on enemy pillboxes. The Japanese, battling fiercely, delayed but could not stop the U.S. drive in the Ormoc valley. By the end of November troops were closing in on Limon and were threatening Ormoc from the south.
TROOPS USING JAPANESE HORSES AND MULE to transport their supplies. On 1 December seven divisions were ashore and five airfields were in operation. On 7 December a division landed south of Ormoc and by 10 December Ormoc was captured together with great quantities of enemy supplies and equipment. Some enemy survivors fled to the hills.
AMERICAN MOTOR CONVOY moving through the streets of a town on Leyte; vehicle in foreground is a cargo carrier M29. Valencia was taken on 18 December, Libungao on 20 December. After troops moved down from the mountains to take Cananga on 21 December, the enemy retreated westward. The Leyte Campaign was considered closed on 26 December but mopping-up activities continued for several months.
LINESMAN STRINGING COMMUNICATIONS WIRE ON GUAM stops to watch Liberators taking off from the airfield there. During the last part of 1944 the number of B-29's based in the Marianas was rapidly increased for participation in strategic bombing attacks on Japanese industrial centers. Large-scale raids on the industry of Japan were soon to be launched.
B-29'S LEAVING THEIR BASE ON GUAM for a strategic bombing mission on Japanese industry. As 1944 drew to a close, although the Allies had gained a foothold in the Philippines, the enemy continued to fight with the same fanatical zeal and tenacity of purpose as he did in the early days of the war. While his air, naval and ground forces had been considerably reduced, he still had strong forces at his disposal for defense.
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1. See Philip A. Crowl, The Seizure of the Gilberts and Marshalls, and Campaign in the Marianas; Robert R. Smith, The Approach to the Philippines; and M. Hamlin Cannon, Leyte: The Return to the Philippines. All volumes are in the series U. S. ARMY IN WORLD WAR II.