Marshall Islands--KWAJALEIN, MAJURO
GENERAL PLAN OF OPERATION
The general plan of operation against the Marshall Islands was to capture three key points, Roi and Kwajalein Islands, about 45 miles apart on the Kwajalein Atoll, which was believed to be the key defense point of the Marshall Islands, and the lightly defended Majuro Atoll, 250 miles to the southwest, and to establish air and naval bases at these three points from which to dominate the rest of the Marshall group. To guard against any attempt by the Japanese Fleet to interfere with this plan, the main combatant strength of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in fast carriers, fast battleships, cruisers and destroyers was to be interposed as a shield in what was called the "Carrier Group." Since the 3 main objectives were surrounded by enemy air and naval bases within easy flight range, the early neutralization and denial of these enemy bases was essential to the success of the operation. Land based aircraft (Task Force 57) would prevent such operation from Mille and Jaluit, and reduce them to minor proportions from Nauru and Kusaie, and carrier based aircraft (Task Force 58) would restrict enemy operations from Eniwetok, Wake, Roi, Kwajalein and Wotje. This would be accomplished by bombings and bombardments of these objectives by Task Force 57 thru several preceding weeks, with increasing intensity up to D-day (31 January, 1944) augmented on D-2 day by the carrier based aircraft of Task Force 58, increased on D-1 day by bombardments from the battleships and cruisers of Task Forces 58 and 51. The land-based air-forces, basing in the newly acquired Gilbert Islands to the south, formed Task Force 57. The actual attacks, landings and seizures of all 3 objectives were carried out by the "Joint Expeditionary Force," Task Force 51, which comprised some 277 vessels and carried 84,415 troops. This was organized into a northern group for the attack on Roi-Namur, a southern group for the attack on Kwajalein and a third group for the attack on Majuro.
LANDING ON MAJURO ATOLL
The assault plans against Majuro were based on intelligence information that there were three or four hundred Japanese in the atoll concentrated on Darrit Island. The Fifth Amphibious Corps Reconnaissance Company of the 1st Marine Defense Battalion landed on the entrance islands without incident at 2100 on D-1 day, and after more men had been put ashore on Dalap and Uliga Islands and had found no enemy, it was learned that there were no Japanese on Darrit Island and only 4 in the whole atoll. On D-day the Task Group entered the lagoon, among
TARGET DETAIL MAP - ROI
them the Coast Guard manned assault transport Cambria. There were extensive Japanese installations which apparently had been abandoned in November, 1943 when the 300 Japanese had been removed to Mille Island for construction of an airfield there.
LANDINGS ON SURROUNDING ISLANDS TO ROI
The initial attacks on Ennuebing and Meliu Islands, about 2 and 4 miles respectively, along the reef from Roi was carried out by a Landing Team of the Fourth Marine Division. The first wave for each island consisted of 18 Amphibious Tanks followed by successive waves of troops embarked in Amphibious Vehicles. The first wave landed on Ennuebing at 0952. The tractor waves proceeding to Meliu found heavy surf on the reef. By 1200 both islands had been secured against very light opposition. Boats and amphibious vehicles were then reassembled for the attack from inside the lagoon against Ennumennet and Ennubirr Islands, located respectively 1 to 1 1/2 miles southeast from Namur on the other side of the atoll. The first waves struck the beaches about 1515 with support of destroyer and LCI(L) fire, including rockets and smoke screening. By 1645 both islands were secured with 34 enemy killed. At 1820 a shore to shore assault was launched from Ennumennet against Ennugarret, half a mile away, and at 2000 the island was in our hands. Thus all islands immediately adjacent to Roi-Namur were secured with very little opposition. Throughout D-day, Roi and Namur were subjected to accurate and deliberate bombing and bombardment by various air and surface groups. Batteries of the 14th Marine Artillery were emplaced on adjacent islands on both sides of Roi-Namur. Transport Division 26, which included the Coast Guard manned attack transport Callaway, lay to outside the lagoon, disembarking supplies and artillery on the islands already taken, while other units proceeded to sea for the night.
LANDING ON ROI-NAMUR ISLAND
During the afternoon of D-day the troops of Combat Teams. 23 and 24, which were to make the assault on Roi-Namur next day, were transferred to LST's in the LST area outside the lagoon, preparatory to embarking next morning in the amphibious LVT's. These LVT's, which had been used on D-day, should have re-assembled on their own LST's during the night for refueling, but due to wide dispersion, many of them being out of fuel at various islands, much of this preparation had to be done on the morning of D-day. The LST's carrying Combat Team 23 had their assigned LVT's on board, but those of Combat Team 24 had considerable shortage making necessary substituting troops of the reserve battalion already embarked in LCVP's. W-hour, originally scheduled for 1000 on D+1 day was accordingly changed to 1100. Actually the first waves of Combat Team 24 landed just prior to 1200 on Namur. Combat Team 23 was meanwhile attacking Roi, on which was located the air field and which appeared completely deserted when the regiment landed. It was later found that half of some 600 Japanese there had been killed by the bombardment prior to our landing. A coordinated attack at 1500 quickly overcame organized resistance, except for a small "V" shaped sector on the north coast. Mopping up operations were completed next morning. On Namur Combat Team 24 had little trouble at the beach, but strong opposition
TARGET DETAIL MAP - KWAJALEIN
developed from an intricate network of defenses as soon as the enemy recovered somewhat from the effects of the preliminary naval gunfire, air bombing, artillery shelling, and rocket firing incident to the actual landing. The regiment did not complete the capture of the island that day. The attack was resumed at 0915 on D+2 day (2 February) by all available units of Combat Team 34 supported by tanks brought over from Roi, All organized resistance ceased at 1215. There still remained the mopping up of all islands within some 13 miles of Roi and Namur. As little opposition developed, landings were effected with reconnaissance units, there being adequate reserve in case opposition developed. On 7 February, Burie, the last of some 55 such islands was occupied.
LANDING ON KWAJALEIN
Before dawn on D-day, 31 January, elements of the 111th Infantry were landed in rubber boats on Gea Island, other units landing at the same time on Gehh Island, thought at the time to be Ninni Island. Gea Island was at the southeast entrance to Gea Pass, one of the few entrances into the lagoon. On Gea Island opposition was light but on Gehh Island, about 130 Japanese had gone ashore armed with machine guns and rifles and a number were killed that day and the remainder the next. At 1134 Ninni Island was secured without resistance, thus securing islands on both sides of Gea Pass, thru which the Mine Sweeper Group then entered the lagoon, At 0915 the first waves landed on the seaward beaches of Ennylabagan and Enubuj Islands, followed by 3 other waves, advancing southeast on both islands against light resistance, and reporting them secured at 1310 and 1122 respectively with no U.S. casualties. Artillery was immediately landed on Enubuj, nearest Kwajalein and prepared to support the landing there next day. In the late afternoon, Transport Divisions 6 and 18, the former containing the Coast Guard manned attack cargo vessel, Centaurus, transferred to LST's the troops of Regimental Combat Teams 184 and 32 that were to make the assault on Kwajalein next day. At 0615 on 1 February the final Naval gunfire preparation against Kwajalein Island had commenced and continued until 0930 when the first wave reached the beach, followed in short succession by other waves. Resistance was light and scattered as the bombardment had destroyed all organized positions for 300 yards inland. The effect of the naval gunfire was devastating. The terrific blasting effect of the continuous bombardment had terrorized the defending forces and reduced their effectiveness. It was largely responsible for the speedy capture of the islands with the relatively small number of casualties. As the advance continued the enemy's resistance stiffened. By 1700 our troops had reached a line about one third of the way up the island. By 1530 4 February, all organized resistance had ceased. Meanwhile, the occupation of the chain of smaller islands extending north along the eastern reef of the atoll was started. Ebeye was secured on 3 February and by the 6th the last island in the southern half of the atoll had been occupied. Out of a total enemy strength of 8,600, 8,122 were killed and 437 (including 290 Koreans) were made prisoners. Of our total strength of 42,546, 286 were killed, 1,148 were wounded and 82 were missing.
CAPTURED JAPS, ALL THEIR FIGHT GONE, CROUCH ON LANDING BARGE WHICH HEADS FOR COAST GUARD TRANSPORT
COAST GUARDSMEN CAPTURE JAPS
"We had been ferrying Marines to the little islands near Roi and Namur, which were to he our objectives the next day," related Zabe P. Truesdale, seaman first class, USCG, "so that they could set up artillery pieces. We had discharged troops and were returning to the Callaway when the rudder broke. Then our clutch burned out and we barely managed to beach our boat on a tiny sand spit." It was half a mile from the nearest island and there two of them came across nine Japanese soldiers. "We thought all of them were dead when we first came across them lying in one large foxhole," he continued. "They were almost entirely covered with sand. Then one of them moved his arms and we knew we had a problem." The Coast Guardsmen had no guns with them. When their boat broached they had climbed out on the beach to stretch their legs. "We dropped out of sight, hoping that we hadn't been seen, then we sprinted from out boat 150 feet away and grabbed up two machine guns. Our two shipmates joined us and we went back. The Japs were still playing possum. I pointed at the one who had moved his arm and motioned for him to get up. They broke out of the sand like gophers and raised their hands. Just then I realized that my gun wasn't loaded. Quinn was just behind and he had ammunition. If they had rushed us, I would have been in a hell of a fix, altho I guess Charlie, who is our boat coxswain, would have taken care of things. He's a good shot. We marched them to the water's edge and made them wade into the boat. Not until they got soaked to the skin was I certain they packed no weapons." An hour later the party was rescued from the mounting surf by another Coast Guard manned landing craft.
COAST GUARDSMEN WITNESS BLASTING OF KWAJALEIN
Coast Guardsmen aboard the transport Centaurus were treated to an exciting and satisfying sight. The transport was a part of the largest task force in the history of the Navy, which carried out one of the greatest coups of the Pacific War. On the second day many U.S. vessels were already inside Kwajalein Atoll's lagoon. Two nights after D-day huge fires were burning on Kwajalein Island, as battleships and cruisers, under the flaring light of star shells, pounded the eastern tip of the base where the remaining Japanese were cornered. As the battleships and airplanes unloaded their fiery destruction, Marine and Coast Guard Officers and men had a blow by blow description of the battle over the radio broadcast circuit of the transport. The coordinated orders and reports between spotting planes, ground troops and tank columns could be heard clearly. "100 right -- up 15." When the fire was right on the target came the exclamation "No change, No change... Bang, Bang!" And then more shells would leave the muzzles of the battleship batteries and describe a fiery, and it seemed incredibly slow, arc towards the beach. From time to time an ammunition dump, oil dump or gas storage position would get a direct hit, and smoke and flame would tower thousands of feet into the air. Planes could be heard talking to artillery officers on the ground, reporting Japanese resistance in a pillbox, near a hangar, or in a clump of trees. Then a tank would clatter across the island, zig-zagging between tank traps and trenches, and knock out its objective. When a plane was needed, it was simply called for, and in a few minutes,
USS ARTHUR MIDDLETON (APA-25) (FORMERLY AP-55)
would be straffing or bombing the desired location. No enemy planes got thru to the transport groups and air opposition was almost nonexistent on Kwajalein. The carrier-based fighters had had mastery of the air since D-day and were still on constant patrol over the ships and shore parties. Sixteen inch Naval rifles and precision bombings quickly put most of the heavy guns out of action, although landing troops were fired upon many times before coming in close to the island. One heavy bomb hit a main seaplane hangar squarely. The entire building, airplanes, and gasoline drums shattered into a million pieces. The entire structure disappeared. There was not a single part of that hangar left. The Aquarius (AKA-16), Leonard Wood (APA-12), and Arthur Middleton (APA-25) were other fully Coast Guard manned craft participating in these operations.
AIR ATTACKS COORDINATED
Preceding the amphibious landings on Kwajalein Atoll, the principal shore installations, including the runways at Roi and Kwajalein and coastal batteries, pillboxes, blockhouses, and bivouac areas on all the major islands, were subjected to an extremely heavy bombing by our carrier-based aircraft. Carrier-based planes were also active throughout the landing operations in support of our ground forces. Wotje and Maloelap Atolls, east of Kwajalein, and other Japanese bases in the Marshalls were under continued air attacks all during the operations at Kwajalein. The bases appeared very badly damaged and no planes were seen on their airfields. There was no report of either naval or air opposition on the part of the Japanese. It is doubtful if any of the Japanese bases in the Marshalls were operational, following the intense bombardments they received. Many enemy planes were destroyed at Roi airfield during the early stages of the attack, 18 were shot down by our fighters, and another 51 were badly damaged on the ground. Our losses were small. Two squadrons of Coronado seaplanes of Fleet Air Wing Two made a strong attack on Wake Island during the night of January 31, for the purpose of pinning down Japanese aircraft based there at a time when the Japanese would be calling on every available plane for operations in the Marshalls. United States medium bombers raided Nauru twice during the week, six B-25's attacking on the 27th and an equal number attacking the island the following afternoon.
Table of Contents
Previous Part (7) ** Next Part (9)