Volcano Islands-IWO JIMA
REASONS FOR SELECTION OF IWO JIMA
A number of small volcanic islands lay on the direct line of flight from the Marianas bases of our heavy bombers attacking Tokyo and other industrial cities of Japan Proper. Our long-range B-29's could make the flight to Tokyo and return but they could not be given fighter cover for that entire distance. Iwo Jima was about 640 miles from Tokyo on the north and an equal distance from Saipan on the south. The island had no barrier reefs and the beach slopes seemed to promise a "dry ramp" for landing craft. Being only 4.5 miles long and 2.3 miles wide, the entire island
LANDING BEACHES AND DAY-BY-DAY FRONT LINE POSITIONS
could be brought within easy range of naval gunfire. It had three airfields, two of which were operational and a third under construction. Iwo was one of the few islands of the Volcano or Bonin group that had enough flat land on its 8 square miles for the construction of airstrips. The Japanese had heavily fortified Iwo and garrisoned the island with some 21,000 men. Mount Suribachi rises to a height of 550 feet at the southern end of Iwo Jima and is joined to the rest of the island by a somewhat narrow but progressively widening isthmus of volcanic sand, along the southeast coast of which our landings were made.
ORGANIZATION OF THE ATTACK
Some nine hundred vessels were included in the various Task Groups of the Fifth Fleet and other forces supporting it. Under Task Force 50 were the special groups such as Fleet Flagship (50.1), Relief Fleet Flagship (50.2), Search and Reconnaissance Group (50.3), Anti-Submarine Warfare Group (50.7), Logistic Support Group (50.8) and Service Squadron 10 (50.9). Task Force 51 was the Joint Expeditionary Force, Task Force 52 the Amphibious Support Force, Task Force 53 the Attack Force, Task Force 54 the Gunfire and Covering Force, Task Force 56 the Expeditionary Troops, Task Force 58 the Fast Carrier Force and Task Force 9k was Forward Area, Central Pacific. Under Fleet Admiral Nimitz and supporting the operations were the Submarine Force of the Pacific Fleet, the Strategic Air Forces of the Pacific Ocean Areas, the North Pacific Force, the Forward Area Force, the South Pacific Force, the Marshalls-Gilberts Force, the Service Force of the Pacific Fleet, the Air Force of the Pacific Fleet, and the Army Forces of Pacific Ocean Areas.
COAST GUARD MANNED VESSELS
Coast Guard manned vessels were included in Task Forces 53 (Attack Force) and Task Force 51 (Miscellaneous Task Groups of the Joint Expeditionary Force). Thus the USS Bayfield was part of Task Group 53.2 (Transport Group Baker). In Task Group 53.3 (Tractor Flotilla) were Coast Guard manned LST's 70, 758, 761, 787, 789, 760, 763, 764, 792, 784, 782, 785, and 795. Under Task Group 51.1 (Joint Expeditionary Force Reserves) was the Coast Guard manned USS Callaway (APA) and in Task Group 51.3 (Service and Salvage Group) was the Coast Guard manned LST-766. In the Tractor Flotilla were the ships which carried troops, equipment and supplies to the objective and put them ashore during the assault phase. Their total was 30 APA's, 12 AKA's, 3 LSD's, 1 LSV, 46 LST's, and 30 LSM's plus appropriate flagships and escorts. The Joint Expeditionary Force Reserve comprised some 13 APA's, 1 AP, 4 AKA's, 2 AK's with 5 DD's, and 3 DE's screening. Embarked was the Landing Force Reserve (Third Marine Division) which was kept in areas removed from the objective until after D-day. There were 75,144 Landing Force employed in the Iwo Operation of which 570 were Army Assault Troops, 70,647 Marine Assault Troops and 3,927 Navy Assault Personnel. There were 36,164 Garrison Troops which were kept intact to take over the defense and development of the island after its capture. These included 23,830 Army, 492 Marine and 11,842 Navy. The Expeditionary Troops employed in the operations thus totaled 111,308. The Fourth and Fifth Marine Divisions executed the assault.
The minesweepers and the Underwater Demolition Group arrived at Iwo Jima on 16 February,1945 as part of the Amphibious Support Group. The minesweepers swept the adjacent waters to within 6,000 yards of the shore with
OFF THE FIRE-SWEPT BEACHES OF IWO JIMA, AMTRACKS LOADED WITH MARINES EMERGE FROM THE DEPTHS OF THE COAST GUARD-MANNED LST-757, AT RIGHT, AND SURGE TOWARD SHORE
negative results. Fire support ships delivered almost continuous fire at ranges from 1,800 to 3,000 yards, on pill-boxes, blockhouses, etc., on the eastern beach area and defenses behind it. This bombardment continued throughout the 16th, 17th, and 18th. Underwater demolition operations disclosed no underwater obstacles in the beach approaches and that surf and beach conditions were suitable for landing. Two batteries of Coast defense guns were silenced, one on the 17th and one on the 18th. These had been well concealed and had they not been silenced there might have been disastrous consequences on D-Day.
Just before daylight on D-Day, 19 February, 1945, the Attack Force (TF-53) arrived off the Southeastern beaches of Iwo Jima. The two Transport Groups reached the Transport Areas off the Southwestern beaches about the same time and lowering their LCM's and LCVP's, debarked their troops into them. The LST's and LSM's put their LVT's, LVT (A)'s, and DUKW's into the water and the initial waves formed up at the Line of Departure off the Southeast beaches. The first waves struck the beaches at 0900 on a front of about 3,000 yards, receiving only a small amount of gunfire. Heavy mortar and artillery fire soon developed on the beaches. Beach conditions were bad. The surf broke directly on the beach, broaching some of the landing craft. Picked up and thrown broadside on the beach, they were swamped and wrecked by succeeding waves, sinking deeply into the sand. Wreckage piled higher and higher, extending seaward to damage propellers of landing ships. Troops from the landing craft struggled up the slopes of coarse, dry, volcanic sand. The sand bogged down wheeled vehicles and tracked vehicles moved with difficulty. As soon as the beachhead was secured LST's and LSM's were sent in to the beaches, but they also had difficulty in keeping from broaching. Tugs were being constantly employed to tow them clear when their anchors failed to hold because of the steep gradient of the beach. Attempts to launch pontoon causeways were unsuccessful because of the difficulty in anchoring the seaward ends. They broached, were damaged and sank, or ran adrift, becoming a menace to navigation. The beaches had finally to be closed to craft smaller than LCT's. Amphibious vehicles were used quite successfully in evacuating casualties. The beaches were finally cleared of accumulated wreckage, boats and pontoons were salvaged, and damaged ships repaired by the Service and Salvage Group. By the end of D-Day a total of 30,000 from both Marine Divisions had been landed. Heavy opposition had developed from the high ground in both flanks, but the Fifth Marines on the left had advanced rapidly across the narrow part of the island, capturing the SW end of Airfield No. 1, then pivoting SW against Mount Suribachi. The Fourth Marines on the right advanced across the steep and open slopes leading up to Airfield No. 1. They suffered heavy casualties from machine gun and mortar fire and from mines placed inland from the beaches.
MOUNT SURIBACHI CAPTURED
Our troops gained from 100 to 500 yards during D plus 1 day (20 February), and captured Airfield No. 1. Some progress was made against Mount Suribachi and the beachhead was enlarged, making it less vulnerable to counter attack. The beaches were continually under heavy fire from both flanks
UNDER THE MENACING WALLS OF MOUNT SURIBACHI LANDING CRAFT UNLOAD SUPPLIES ON THE BEACHES OF EMBATTLED IWO JIMA
and this hampered unloading, causing many casualties and the loss of considerable equipment, ammunition, and supplies. Foxholes or trenches dug in the volcanic sand, had to be completely revetted with boards, or other material to keep them from caving in. During the night enemy tanks and infantry pressed against our left flank but were repulsed, On D plus 2 and 3, Regimental Combat Team 28, employing flame throwers and demolitions, advanced against stubborn opposition and succeeded in surrounding the base of Mount Suribachi. On the morning of D plus 4, February 23, two battalions climbed to the rim and surrounded the crater. At 1035 the American flag was raised to its summit. Its capture eliminated enemy observation and fire from our rear and permitted freer use of the southern beaches. By the end of D plus 7, all of Airfield No. 2 was under control and the Third Marine's position in the center enabled it to support the advance of the Fourth and Fifth Marines through the more difficult terrain sloping to the sea on either flank. The attack now continued toward the village of Motoyama and Airfield No. 3. The Fifth Marines advanced more rapidly than the Fourth, against whom heavy opposition and difficult terrain held the gain to 1,500 yards in 25 days. The whole advance therefore, developed into a wheeling movement pivoting on the extreme right. The result was a general expansion of the beachhead in all directions on the Motoyama plateau in the center of the island. From here the flanks could be supported. By D plus 11 (2 March) a 4,000 foot runway had been completed on No. 1 Airfield ready for fighter plane operation and the receiving of transport planes. By D plus 12 (3 March) the Motoyama tableland and the last of the three airfields was under our control.
B-29 MAKES FORCED LANDING
The first B-29 to make a successful forced landing on 4 March, demonstrated the value of the newly acquired Airfield No. 1. Two days later the first Land-based fighters came in and relieved carrier aircraft in effective close support of troops three days later. The attack was now concentrated on the eastern shore of the northern plateau but little progress was made until 8-9 March, when a major infiltration of 500 to 1,000 enemy troops was wiped out. After this, resistance to our attack towards the beaches greatly diminished and in the next three days all the eastern coast to within 4,000 yards of Kitano Point, at the extreme north was secured. From 13 March, all supporting forces were engaged in reducing the defenses of Kitano Point and by 16 March (D plus 25) all organized resistance was declared at an end on Iwo Jima. Total U.S. casualties between 19 February and 23 March were 4,590 killed, 15,954 wounded, and 301 missing or a total of 20,845. The total enemy dead were 21,304 including 13,234 officially counted and buried and 8,070 estimated sealed in caves or buried by the enemy. Prisoners totaled 212, including 154 Japanese and 58 Korean.
USS BAYFIELD AT IWO JIMA
The landing boats from the Coast Guard manned assault transport USS Bayfield (APA-33) and those from all the other transports, trying to put men on Iwo Jima beaches on D Day, took a terrific punishment which far exceeded anything their boat crewmen had experienced the previous summer in Normandy or Southern France. The entire beach area was littered with wrecked boats
OUT OF GAPING MOUTHS OF COAST GUARD-MANNED AND NAVY LANDING CRAFT ROSE THE GREAT FLOW OF INVASION SUPPLIES TO THE BLACKENED SANDS OF IWO JIMA
and wreckage was so thick along some parts of the beach that the boats were finding difficulty in spotting a space clear enough to hit land. Japanese mortar emplacements concealed in the sides of Mount Suribachi and in the high wooded area looking down on the beach from the northeast, were laying a constant barrage right at the water's edge. Many of the boats were hit by this barrage. Others had broached and swung sideways so that the crews couldn't get them into deep water. Salvage boats, which ordinarily kept the beach clear by refloating or towing out and sinking wrecked craft, were unable to get into the beach long enough to work. Mortar fire drove them off. Nevertheless, the young Coast Guard boat crewman, most of them of teen-age, went into the beach time and again. As they approached the shore the water became dotted with shell splashes. The Japanese mortars controlled the beach. When the landing boats came to a halt at the water's edge, no longer a moving target, they had to lay there, completely exposed, for the time it took their cargo of men to run out. Other craft, loaded with jeeps, communication equipment and other material were on the beach for a much longer time. Some of the Coast Guardsmen manning these boats, did not get back to their ships, Those who did get back were soon off again with another load.
NO BEACHMASTERS COULD REMAIN ON BEACH
On other assault beaches in previous operations there had been beachmasters, salvage parties, and beach parties to keep the landing area clear. There was none of that on D Day at Iwo Jima because no one could remain on the beach. The Marine assault forces could only keep alive by moving inland. As a result the landing boats were operating pretty much on the initiative of their youthful coxswains, When a boat was wrecked it remained on the beach, a swashing, shifting menace to whatever came in next. Boats going back to the transport carried casualties, as many as could be brought down to the water's edge and taken aboard before the fire made it necessary to shove off. In spite of this the wounded were lying helplessly in shellholes a few yards in along the entire beach area. The fire was so heavy they could not be carried down to the boats even when the boats were available. Many of the hospital corpsmen themselves were wounded. Those of the assault forces who were alive had to keep moving forward.
NO SAFETY ANYWHERE
A bare, completely vegetationless hillside rising in terraces, from three to ten feet in height was the beach area. It looked like a fine gravel dump. Our ships and planes had shelled and bombed the Japanese mortar emplacements on Mount Suribachi and in the high wooded areas, but the mortar shells continued to rain down on the beach relentlessly. At the water's edge were wrecked amphibious tanks, amphibious tractors and a few jeeps. Beside and under this wreckage was a scattering of dead and wounded. A few uninjured were trying to salvage a bit of radio or other equipment. The men lying there were the men who got it the moment they set foot on the beach. To run, even to crawl, in the soft gravelly volcanic sand was like trying to move through foot-deep mud. It was impossible to move at much more than a fast shuffle. Yet to remain near the water's edge any length of time was inviting certain death from the mortars. It was not much better in from the beach, except that here the deep holes and ridges dug by gunfire offered some protection. From time to time, even when
COAST GUARD LIEUT. (JG) TRUMAN C. HARDIN PICTURED ABOARD THE COAST GUARD MANNED LST ON WHICH HE PARTICIPATED IN THE INVASION OF IWO JIMA
not spurred into movement as the constantly Shifting line of fire traced and retraced its path, some of the men crawled cautiously forward up the slope and into another hole. There was nothing to do but go forward. There was no safety anywhere. The Marines were trying to inch their way up to the point where they could come to hand to hand grips With the enemy. It was the only way they could fight. They had nothing at first but rifles and hand grenades. As yet they had no artillery, no mortars. They had no choice but to keep going until they could get to the enemy mortars and silence them with direct assault.
THE LST's MOVE IN
"The coffee-ground black dirt of Iwo island is on the decks of this LST tonight" wrote a Coast Guard correspondent a few nights later. "It was tramped in by thousands of rain-drenched, unshaven, dog-tired, U. S. Marines. Ever since the LST beached they have been moving along a galley line, carrying trays of steak or hot spaghetti and gravy, cornbread, and paper cups of coffee.
"The battle for Iwo is only a few hundred yards away. The ship lies in the brightness of star shells overhead. Beneath her bow explosive flashes come from a Marine artillery position. A short time ago a man was hit there by sniper fire. Occasionally the rifles of sentries aboard ship crack. They are looking for Jap swimmers.
"The Marines are still coming out of the blackness of Iwo. You hear comments like 'This is the first hot chow I've had since D-Day' and 'Boy, What a meal!'
"Coast Guardsmen are pulling dry clothes from their lockers. One man is wearing a white jumper and trousers,-he had given everything else away. The Marines have left behind their soaking wet battle-dirty clothing. Some of the crew are washing it and hanging it to dry under blowers, 'You can get it when you come back aboard' they say.
"Tired men are lying in bunks vacated by Coast Guardsmen. The wounded are here, too. They lie under blankets in every available place, on mess tables, in the crew's quarters and in the wardroom, tended by the ship's doctor.
"'My buddy next to me was hit' one Marine relates. He said to me 'I think I'm hit.' He was. I said, 'You're darned right you are.' He told me 'Isn't this a heck of a way to make a living?' Gee, that guy had courage.
"Below on the tank deck sweating men are loading howitzer shells into the amtracks which can make the grade in Iwo's loose coarse black dirt. With each load go ration cans of hot coffee and sandwiches for the men at the guns.
"Aboard, the Chief Commissary Steward said at last count he had fed 'at least three thousand men. But they're still coming.' They're still coming out of the blackness and the grit and the fighting."
AMTRACKS FROM COAST GUARD-MANNED LST'S CARRYING FOURTH DIVISION MARINES POKE THROUGH THE WRECKAGE TO CRAWL UP ON THE BLACKENED SANDS OF IWO JIMA
LST-761 UNDER FIRE FROM MT. SURIBACHI
The Coast Guard manned LST-761 arrived off the southeast coast of Iwo Jima at 0730 on 19 February, 1945 as part of Task Group 51.13. By 0750 all LVT's had been launched with their assault personnel and the LST remained on station until evening, loading and repairing LVT'S. At 2305 she proceeded to a point 300 yards off Yellow Beach and loaded all LVT's with ammunition, being under continuous shell from Mt. Suribachi. At 0600 on the 20th she stood out to her original position off the beach. On the afternoon of the 21st she proceeded shoreward launching causeways and anchoring them 0,000 yards off Yellow Beach. These were to be used as fuel barges for LVT's and DUKW's. On the 23rd at 1922 all battle stations were manned in preparation for an enemy air raid and at 1730 she fired for two minutes at enemy aircraft overhead. On the 24th the LST beached, transferring ashore CB's and their maintenance equipment, as well as Marines with their LST repair equipment and incidental gear. On the 25th and 26th, due to the heavy seas and wind, the LST was damaged while loading alongside an AKA and on the 27th while beached she received a near miss on her starboard side amidship from enemy mortar fire.
LST-782 LANDS DUKW's AT IWO JIMA
The LST-782, Coast Guard manned, was flagship of LST Unit Six (53.3.9) under Commander W. G. Millington, USCG. This was included in Tractor Group CHARLIE (53.3.7) under Captain Peterson, USCG, which in turn was part of Tractor Flotilla (53.3) Captain Brereton, USN. The LST arrived on station in LST area off Iwo Jima at 0755 on 19th February, 1945 and at 1250 commenced moving toward the Line of Departure to launch her DUKW's. The last of the 21 DUKW's was disembarked at 1620 and an hour later the first DUKW returned for reloading. At 1918 she retired to the Inner Transport area for the night. The bombardment of Iwo Jima by our ships was evident at all times from the moment the island hove into view. Battleship, cruiser, and destroyer bombardment continued at all times. Plane bombardment was almost continuous during daylight hours but in varying degrees of intensity. The crew witnessed bombing, rocket assaults and straffing. No air opposition was seen and there was very little antiaircraft fire. On the 20th unloading at the Line of Departure was resumed via DUKW's and LVT's. The LCT-1030 was launched without difficulty. By 1800, 60% of the cargo, 95% of the rations and 30% of the ammunition had been unloaded. By the 21st the casualties among the DUKW's was quite high with fewer returning. LCVP's were loaded over the side in response to urgent appeal for artillery, ammunition, and white phosphorous. On the 22nd the LST began taking aboard casualties and then beached and completed unloading. While beached every effort was made to feed all comers. 5,500 cups of coffee with an undetermined amount of hot food was handed out in twelve hours. The engines had to be kept going to maintain the LST's position on the unusually steep beach and strong current parallel to it. There were 7 fathoms of water at the stern. On the 24th the LST rendezvoused with Task Unit 51.16.3 and departed for Guam.
LST-790 IN KAMIKAZE ATTACK
The LST-790, which was Coast Guard manned arrived off Iwo Jima on the morning of 20 February, 1945 and about noon headed for the retirement area southeast of the island and north of Minami Iwo Jima where she cruised for the night. On the 21st while about 46 miles
COAST GUARD-MANNED LST UNLOADS AT IWO JIMA
southeast of Iwo Jima with Task Group 51.5, an enemy plane dove into the starboard side of LST-477, setting her afire forward with a loud explosion. About a minute later a second plane dove into the AKN-4 (Keokuk) and a fire ensued with a loud explosion. Three Japanese planes were now observed coming from 300° in a shallow glide for the middle of the convoy with motors out. All ships were already at general quarters and put up considerable AA fire. One plane came in very low over the stern of LST-809, making firing difficult except by that ship and was splashed, about 300 yards, on the port side of LST- 790. The two planes pulled out of their dive and out of range, circled the convoy and seemed to deliberate another attack. Upon closing in they were once more repelled by AA fire from all ships and faded out of sight, heading north. The fires on the stricken ships looked very serious at first but they were extinguished rather rapidly. The LST was again attacked on the 22nd about 2 miles southeast of Iwo Jima, while in company with two other LST's and DE-750. At 1510 four planes were sighted coming in abreast, with two more astern of them. All guns of the LST-790, bearing to starboard, opened fire and all four planes appeared to be hit almost immediately after all our ships had opened fire. Two turned to their right and splashed ahead of the LST, one exploding in the air and the other going down after running out about 2½ miles. The third and fourth planes turned to their left, the third splashing ahead and the fourth to starboard. Observers claimed that fire from the LST-790 definitely accounted for three of the four planes. On the 24th the LST beached and unloaded 31 trucks in 32 minutes. She then commenced unloading pallets of food and water but this proceeded slowly due to lack of trucks from the beach. On the 26th she retracted and prepared to take in tow LST-42, which had a damaged rudder, with orders to beach her at Blue or Yellow Beach. Before this could be accomplished a sea going tug took over LST-42. The LST-790, unable to find a suitable anchorage, lay to and cruised for the balance of the day and at night took station with other LST's to the north of the big ship anchorage. On the 28th the LST sortied for departure, as part of the TU 51.16.8 for Saipan.
LST-792 HIT BY MORTARS
The Coast Guard manned LST-792 arrived off Iwo Jima on 19 February, 1945 after an uneventful trip from Hawaii carrying 70 Army troops and 360 Marines with their equipment. A tremendous bombardment was followed by the landing of the first waves. On 24 February she beached at dusk to unload cargo and shortly after dark underwent one of the first air raids on the island. The crew opened fire and soon after received thirteen mortar hits and had to retract from the beach to prevent further damage to ship and personnel. Five men were wounded, and two were recommended for the Purple Heart. While beached at Iwo Jima, Mr. Rosenthal, the A.P. photographer who snapped the now immortal picture of the flag raising on Mt. Suribachi came aboard for a meal, having been on the beach since early in the landing. On the 28th the LST returned to Saipan,
LST-784 DUKW's DO NOT RETURN
The crew of the Coast Guard manned LST-784 saw the battle for Iwo Jima early on the dark morning of 19 February, 1945 as star shells were dropped over the island by bombarding fighting ships. At 0800 on D-Day the LST swung into position off the beach and maneuvered all day to avoid the projectiles which were detonating in the water in the tractor area. On the 20th she moved in to a position 500 yards off Blue
COAST GUARD MANNED COMBAT TRANSPORT BAYFIELD (APA-33)
Beach and released five Army DUKW's. They did not come back to the Line of Departure as planned and the ship waited for them most of the night. It was later discovered that all the DUKW's had been hit or had capsized in the heavy surf. The LST then proceeded to launch all of the pontoon barges. There was a strong offshore wind and two of the barges would not start and could be towed only by proceeding at one-third speed on one engine. All barges had to be serviced and by the time the 784 started back to the Line of Departure she was 22 miles offshore, out with the destroyer pickets. Two barges started in under their own power and the 784 managed to tow one of the remaining barges to the Line of Departure but was forced to abandon the other. On the 23rd, two boatloads of Marines were sent in to the beach and next day beached at "Red One" beach. That night an air raid interrupted unloading. Having finished unloading on the 25th the LST moored alongside AK-91 to transfer cargo to the beach. On the 28th, the LST took on post office personnel and equipment and became "Fleet Post Office, IWO JIMA." This duty continued until 5 March when she went alongside a merchant vessel to take more cargo to the beach. Air raids occurred on the first and second of March. On the l5th of March the LST got underway for Saipan.
LST-760 IS HIT
During the first three days of the assault on Iwo Jima, the Coast Guard manned LST-760 remained in the LST area, save for one night of retirement and several runs close to the beach to launch and retrieve DUKW's manned by reconnaissance parties. In the midafternoon of "D" plus three, the LST landed on Green Beach, a littered waste of black, volcanic ash at the foot of Mt. Suribachi. Unloading continued for two days. During the first night, sixteen casualties, an overflow from a nearby crowded field hospital unit, were taken aboard and treated by the ships pharmacists' mates, Occasional mortar shells burst on the beach close to the bow. On the morning of the 23rd, those on deck watched the scaling of Suribachi and the raising of the first American flag on its summit. During midmorning of the 25th the ship received its only serious hit, a heavy mortar shell which crashed on the main deck forward, scattering shrapnel and wounding two men in the compartment beneath. That afternoon the LST joined a convoy bound for Saipan.
BAYFIELD TAKES ABOARD CASUALTIES
It was the doctors and pharmacists' mates who had probably the toughest job aboard the Bayfield. They took aboard between 250 and 300 Marine casualties. They began coming aboard at night, brought to the ship on the small amphibious craft from the beach 2,000 yards away. Then they were transferred to the transport's landing boats and hoisted up to the deck in them. Some of the wounded, who were able to stand, clutched the gunwales. Others lay on stretchers on the floor boards. Blood-soaked bandages covered hands and arms and feet and legs and faces and showed through ragged holes in the dirt-caked uniforms. In the background was the incessant pounding of the artillery, the burst of mortar shells and rockets, the chattering of machine guns, and the crack of rifles. One by one they were gently helped and carried from the landing boats to the deck of the transport then taken below to the tiered bunks in sick bay and the crew's quarters.
THE COAST GUARD COMBAT CUTTER SPENCER
Here in the cramped, overcrowded compartments the ship's medical staff went to work. Pharmacists' mates went quietly from bunk to bunk with hypos and morphine. Bottles of whole blood and blood plasma hung from over-head pipes. In the ship's tiny operating room the powerful lights were focused on the bare abdomen of a young Marine. Three surgeons in white gowns and masks and rubber gloves bent over the boy deftly removing jagged pieces of shrapnel. Just outside the operating room, other men lay on blood-soaked stretchers waiting for surgery. At the end of the corridor was another compartment packed with the less seriously wounded: minor shrapnel and bullet wounds and concussion and shock cases, men who seemed to be physically whole but who had fought day after day until they had reached a point of physical and nervous exhaustion. One of the men in the first row of bunks was the only survivor of an entire platoon. In the next compartment, one man already had died and others were dying.
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