BETWEEN OPERATIONS and planning for operations in the Pacific, life with the top echelons at Pearl Harbor could be very pleasant once you penetrated the inner defenses. The brass lived at Makalapa, a settlement spick-and-span as a ship's deck, on the hill behind CINCPAC, Admiral Nimitz's headquarters twelve miles outside Honolulu. Makalapa, the name of a crater, means "Flashing Eyes" in Hawaiian.
[The Marshalls (Kjawalein, Roi-Namur, Eniwetok, Engebi, Parry)]
Makalapa residents had the choice of two fine views. Looking out to sea lay West Loch, a sheltered arm of Pearl Harbor, and Battleship Row where, on that ill-starred morning of December 7, our battleships lay two by two, sitting ducks for Japanese dive bombers. Inland stretched another sea of rustling green cane, slashed by brick-red clay roads, and beyond rose the green mountains, the eternal home of Hawaii's incredible rainbows.
Our quarters were neat bungalows locate din trim lawns, where ageless, unidentifiable women from the Orient, typical of the racial admixture of the Island, settled each morning like birds. They hid beneath huge, floppy hats to weed the lawns or prune the wayward hibiscus. Makalapa was laid out like a real estate development, with tennis courts and a swimming pool, and the streets were named after Pacific battles. When we captured an island, or fought a naval engagement, the name was given to a street and Makalapa became a residential history of the Pacific war. I live on Makalapa Drive near Betio Street, named for the island where the battle of Tarawa was fought.
Dominating Makalapa was CINCPAC headquarters, a gray, four-story building with decks instead of floors, as the most junior ensign soon learned. Admiral Nimitz had a fondness for brisk walks, preferably uphill, and a passion for secrecy. This
Texan was a fine pistol shot--he practiced every morning on his private range outside CINCPAC, where a Marine stood on precautionary duty and a notice on the wall warned passersby that firing was in progress.
The Admiral's private ambition was to sink the six Japanese carriers that bombed Pearl Harbor. Four of the carriers were sunk by our Navy at the Battle of Midway but the Shokaku and Zuikaku were still afloat when I arrived at Pearl Harbor in the autumn of 1943.
"Holland," the Admiral once said to me,"the happiest day of my life will be the day when I reach my office to find a message on my desk reporting that we have sunk these two carriers." That happiness never came to Nimitz all at once but eventually--in June and October, 1944--the score was wiped off the slate.
Nimitz was godhead of the hierarchy at Makalapa and the Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues and Powers of brass ranked through Vice Admiral's down to the lowest myrmidons, who inhabited bachelor officers' quarters.
More naval brass was sheltered in this sanctuary than anywhere else in the world. God only knows what would have happened if the Japanese had learned of its existence and bombed Makalapa. The course of the war probably would have been changed but the strictest security shielded the settlement from this appalling eventuality. While Makalapa was the most brass-bound community in the world it also was the most secret. It had no existence in communiques or press handouts. The mere whisper of the sacred name Makalapa made a censor blanch, and Honolulu taxi drivers bluntly refused to go into the district under the mistaken impression that they would be arrested immediately by MP's.
Less awed by the esoteric existence imposed upon the community by security authorities were the newspaper correspondents who, with alliterative irreverence, called up "The Mad Monks of Makalapa."
I mentioned penetrating the inner defenses of Makalapa because it was difficult for a Marine to get beyond them. When I arrived at Pearl Harbor to command the V Amphibious Corps,
Rear Admiral Turner met me at the airport and took me out to Makalapa where, to my astonishment, I was conducted to quarters in the section at the foot of the hill reserved for junior lieutenants. I was a senior Major General, senior to all Rear Admirals at Pearl Harbor with one exception, but with the habitual disregard of the Navy for the Marines it was decided that any old place would do for a Marine General.
If there is one thing I have fought consistently over the years, it is this non-recognition by the Navy of the status of the Marine Corps. So I went into action and I didn't stay long in those foot-of-the-hill quarters.
I protested and after the usual explanation of a billeting officer's error I was moved up the hill. Two doors away lived Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood and across the street were Vice Admiral Raymond A. Spruance and Vice Admiral William L. Calhoun, which put me in a better frame of mind, although I never was able to acclimatize myself to the prevailing social conditions.
For one thing, I had no white uniforms. It never occurred to me to bring them, since I was on my way to the combat area. To my surprise, war had failed to take the starch out of Honolulu's short front and many civilians never appeared to take the war seriously. In this they were aided and abetted by ranking Army and Navy officers, who circled around the Big Five, the commercial and social apex of life in the Hawaiian Islands, enjoying lavish hospitality. Dances at the Outrigger, overlooking the beach at Waikiki, brought out as many white uniforms as a peacetime ship inspection.
At first I was stubborn; I struck to my khaki uniforms and earned the reputation of being a cranky individualist who believed that in war we should dress like soldiers. I hate to admit it but polite jeers at my habits of dress finally wore me down and on my first trip back to the Coast I decided to dig out my white uniforms and avoid embarrassment by wearing them. Once or twice I did surrender to current social standards, but not cheerfully.
Going formal in the middle of a war was part of the queer
detachment that civilians in Hawaii, working on the vanity of the services, were able to maintain. I never understood exactly how they managed it. This dressiness always impressed Marines back from the foxholes more than any other phase of Honolulu's wartime front. However, I am sure that the main endeavor of the inhabitants of Makalapa was to bring the war to a speedy and successful conclusion.
After the Gilberts, the staff of the V Amphibious COrps plunged into the next phase of the Central Pacific offensive, the capture of the Marshall Islands. During our planning of this operation, General Marshall, Army Chief of Staff, visited Pearl Harbor and addressed a conference of Army, Navy and Marine chiefs in this area.
His discussion of certain aspects of the use of machine guns and rockets from small landing boats--along experimental lines we had tried and abandoned--was an indication of his unfamiliarity (like most Army officers) with amphibious technique. It is difficult at best to hang on in a small boat plunging and wallowing among reefs, shallow waters, surf and running tide. I felt that Marshall's intention was to belittle the Marine effort instead of giving us a helpful analysis, which a soldier of his unquestioned caliber could have done; and once again I recalled his anti-Marine role in the Iceland Command controversy.
Lieutenant General Richardson sat there, eating it up. It was plain that he had not abandoned the hope that command of the offensive eventually would fall into the Army's lap and Marshall's criticism fed that hope.
Thinking over Marshall's talk that night, I began to wonder if it could be possible that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were working in the dark back in Washington. Apparently they were receiving incomplete information on the actions in the Pacific, which would account for Marshall's ill-informed opinions. For instance, Nimitz was not forwarding all information to Washington. Like MacArthur, ruling at the other side of the Pacific, the Admiral exercised a proprietary interest in his own theater of operations, to the exclusion of the Joint Chiefs.
Confirmation of this news starvation came in a letter from Admiral King, COMINCH, passed on to me for reference. I gave an interview after Tarawa and some of my remarks were badly garbled because of Navy censorship and public reaction to our losses.
King deplored the "bad press" Tarawa had received and explained that, although volumes of newspaper stories had been published on the battle, no official account had reached Washington. Apparently the Joint Chiefs had to read the newspapers or turn on the radio for news of the Pacific because Nimitz was not keeping them informed.
The letter of the Commander-in-Chief, dated December 16, 1943, nearly a month after Tarawa, demanded plaintively:
Prompt information to this Headquarters of important details of each landing operation. This may be accomplished either in a report or by sending to Washington an officer familiar with the operation.
Prompt information of detailed plans to this Headquarters. The Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet, does not demand that these be sent in advance of an operation, but he should not be left in the dark indefinitely as to what it was planned to do.
I would not go so far as to say that the Joint Chiefs did not know what was happening once they had drawn the broad lines of policy but judging by this letter their information was,to say the least, incomplete.
Planning for the Marshalls began long before I arrived in the Pacific and before we captured the Gilberts. Certain basic decisions were approved by President Roosevelt in Washington in May, 1943, and CINCPAC submitted detailed plans for the Marshalls operations to the Joint Chiefs as early as July 1, 1943. These, plans, however, involved a number of uncertain factors: lack of intelligence, ignorance of the type of defense the Japanese would adopt, absence of air photographs, and only a theoretical knowledge of the ability of amphibious vehicles to cross reefs under fire.
Kelly Turner and I did not begin actual planing on the basis of information available and on tests of amphibious equipment until the first week in October, and two weeks later Nimitz issued his operations plan establishing the task organization for the capture of the marshalls but leaving the precise objectives to be designated later.
The ground forces allocated as assault troops were the Fourth Marine Division, fresh from amphibious training at Camp Pendleton, and the Seventh Army Division, veterans of Attu, with the 106th Infantry from the Twenty-seventh Army Division, and the 22nd Marines as Corps reserve. I immediately ordered the Fourth Marines into further amphibious training at Maalaea Bay on the island of Maui, with specific attention to maneuvers for atoll warfare and also the use of supporting artillery, which was to be a feature of our tactical plan. I asked for the Seventh Division to be turned over to me for similar training but this was not immediately possible.
Our thrust into the Marshalls involved considerable revision of early plans before we were able to decide upon detailed objectives. Lying 2,400 miles west of Hawaii and almost midway between Hawaii and the Philippines, the Marshalls had been in Japanese hands since World War I, when the enemy took them from the Germans. They were mandated to Japan in 1920 by the League of Nations. From north to south, they stretch 700 miles and consist of some 30 large atolls, all following the general coral pattern of a ring of small islands encircling a central lagoon. The islands barely rise above the blue water and those which attained 20 feet above sea level were considered topographically "mountainous."
In the center of the group is Kwajalein, the largest atoll in the world, running 60 miles from north to south and 20 miles from east to west.Northwest of the great atoll, in the loneliest stretches of the ocean, are Eniwetok and Bikini atolls, which since the war have been converted into our atomic experimentation bases in the Pacific.
When we decided to invade the Marshalls the Japanese had
fortified six atolls: Eniwetok, Jaluit, Kwajalein, Maloelap, Mille, and Wotje. Their total garrison was 25,000 men. Our original plan called for the capture of Kwajalein, Maloelap, and Wotje, the development of bases on the main islands of these atolls, and the neutralization of Mille and Jaluit in order to insure our control of the Marshalls. D-day for the attack on the first atoll was set for January 1r, 1944. In my estimate of the situation, I expressed the view that we should take Maloelap and Wotje first, and then move on to Kwajalein.
The intervention of the Gilberts operation diverted my personal attention temporarily from the Marshalls, but Bobby Erskine and part of my staff remained behind at Pearl Harbor to work on the plans based on the original Nimitz directive.
When I returned from Tarawa, armed with practical experience in atoll warfare, plus a knowledge of Japanese defense tactics and our own limitations, I could see plainly that the Marshalls plan was too ambitious. To undertake an operation of the extent contemplated, we would need at least another division of troops, in addition to the two divisions assigned, and even then I was doubtful that we could gain our objectives.
On December 6 I recommended that we abandon the idea of taking the three objectives selected in the Marshalls and concentrate on one. Kelly Turner, also with Tarawa in mind, supported me. On the selection of the single preferred target, however, the top echelons differed and the conference room at CINCPAC echoed with dissent. Nimitz and his planning officer, Rear Admiral Sherman, favored striking directly at the heart of the Marshalls, bypassing other atolls. Spruance and Kelly Turner were opposed to this course, basing their objections upon the fear of air attack from Jaluit, Maloelap and Mille, lying across our route through the group. My own view was that a bold blow at Kwajalein was not only feasible but the most practical way of reducing the entire group. I favored the Nimitz-Sherman proposal.
We finally decided upon the capture of Kwajalein Atoll, plus an additional unnamed atoll with a good anchorage, needed
as an advanced base for the Pacific Fleet. The additional target selected later was Majuro, an atoll the Germans once intended to make their advanced Pacific base. The Japanese developed at Majuro barracks, a railroad and an airfield. These they abandoned; we found only one Japanese on Majuro. He was a shipwrecked petty officer, who built himself a pillbox on the beach and armed it with machine guns taken from an American plane that crashed on the island. The Majuro anchorage fulfilled all naval expectations.
In the light of our Tarawa experience it was apparent that the assault troops needed more training and required additional equipment, especially amphibious vehicles. This meant postponing D-day in the Marshalls until January 31, by which time I felt the troops would be at the top of their efficiency.
Meanwhile, I was having personal difficulties with the Navy command, which once again attempted to usurp my functions as V Amphibious Corps Commander. Kelly Turner, who always had suppressed ambitions to be a General, wanted to take detailed charge of the training of land forces, which was my responsibility, and I had to be very firm in opposing this usurpation because I realized that if the Navy ever got a footing in the sphere of troop training, the Marines would have the devil's own time regaining proper authority.
Once more naval tactics were following the course of my pre-Gilberts experience. The Navy command attempted to deprive the Corps of all tactical responsibility and relegate us to the realm of planning and training only. A week before the expedition sailed from Pearl Harbor for the Marshalls the directive from Nimitz again omitted my name from command. After planning the operation and training the troops, I was to be left behind at Pearl Harbor, with the Navy assuming operational and tactical control. And once again I went to bat with the higher brass. Spruance saw the final directive was changed to include me and my staff.
For the first time in the Pacific the Navy and Marine commands were accommodated in one of the AGC's specially designed
command ships, which had received first use in the Mediterranean. This was to be our floating headquarters until shore headquarters were established. In the USS Pennsylvania, flagship at Makin, only a small office on the flag bridge was available for my staff, and living quarters were limited. The new AGC's of the Appalachian class were 12,000-ton ships, good for 16 knots, with ample accommodation for task force and expeditionary force commanders and their staffs. The Rocky Mount, Kelly Turner's flagship, had good living quarters; office space was cramped, but communications facilities were excellent. I was allowed to take with me a larger staff than before, though I still did not have as many officers as the operation warranted.
With our naval gunfire inadequacies at Tarawa as a powerful argument, I had stressed as prerequisites for our assault on Kwajalein the importance of greater volume and more effective gunfire and air bombardment, as well as a wider and more prolonged range of neutralizing attacks. At Tarawa, the Japanese had fortified Betio for a hear and a half. The enemy had been in the Marshalls for 25 years and we could only guess what they had accomplished in that period. I also insisted upon naval bombardment and carrier and land-based airplane strikes at every base the Japanese might use to send air attacks against us. I recommended that these strikes be continued for at least ten days before we landed.
In preparation for the Marshalls, the Navy supported us fully. Every enemy base from Eniwetok in the northern Marshalls to Nauru in the Gilberts was attacked repeatedly. Spruance commanded four carrier task forces and at least 15 battleships in the greatest naval assembly ever seen up to that time. Our Navy was expanding rapidly, with new ships coming out to the combat zone almost daily. Cooperating with the Navy was the Seventh Air Force, whose planes dropped hundreds of tons of bombs on Japanese positions. Not for a single day was there any let-up.
The necessity for overwhelming firepower, both in preparation and during the beach assault itself, was a Marine Corps tenet of amphibious doctrine. We who knew the Navy intimately
could gauge and harness the terrific residual firepower of the Fleet for employment against shore targets. The technical achievement of adapting naval batteries to this mission--together with much of the two-way selling job required to create enthusiasm and confidence for the new technique on the part of both Navy and Marines--was to a great extent the result of the drive and ingenuity of a single officer, Lieutenant Colonel (now Colonel) Donald M. Weller, USMC. Few officers contributed so much, by singlehanded effort, to the winning of the war, as did Don Weller, Naval Academy graduate, veteran field artilleryman and Marine. A member of my staff from the prewar Atlantic Amphibious COrps days to the end of the war (with the exception of a "respite" in command of an artillery battalion in two of the Third Marine Division's hard-fought operations), Don Weller was, in his medium, that of naval gunfire support, truly an architect of victory.
The magnitude of the Kwajalein bombardment was historic. Prior to our landing we dropped 15,000 tons of naval and land artillery shells and bombs the objective islands. In two days, the Navy used 5,270 tons of ammunition on Kwajalein, an island three miles long and 700 yards across at hits widest point, and 4,580 tons on the twin northern islands of Roi and Namur, less than two square miles in area. Army artillery, operating from a nearby island, Enubuj, poured 600 tons of ammunition and Army planes dropped 27 two-thousand pound bombs on one Kwajalein beach. Marine artillery likewise operated on Roi-Namur in the north.
Lieutenant Colonel E.G. Van Orman, in Weller's absence the naval gunfire specialist on my staff, worked out the bombardment to equal the firing of 326,700 seventy-five millimeter shells, or nearly two tons of explosive for every Japanese.
Referring to the bombardment, which surpassed anything in any war,a cynic on board the Rocky Mount paraphrased Winston Churchill and his remark made the rounds: "Never in the history of human conflict has so much been thrown by so many at so few."
Kelly Turner had the answer to that charge and to the fact that we needed two divisions to capture islands which conceivably could have been taken by considerably fewer men.
"Perhaps we did bring along too many men, too many ships and use too much effort," he said in an interview. "That is what people might say but it must not be regarded in that light. We determined that not a single life should be lost unnecessarily, and that the operation must be completely possible. The scale wasn't too great. It was just an indication of what we can do and will do. It is evidence of the power we are going to use against the Japs."
Considering the difficulties I had experienced in putting over my views on naval gunfire, this statement sounded very reassuring. I was happy that at Kwajalein we had "sent a man to do a boy's work." The superabundance at Kwajalein was the direct result of the insufficiency at Tarawa, although with more discriminating and effective use of comparable results could have been obtained with less ammunition. In my report, however, I did not minimize the gunfire results. Knowing that targets would get tougher as we move westward toward the Japanese homeland, I pleaded for even more intensified naval and air preparation and we never again got that concentrated amount of gunfire and air bombardment.
Operation FLINTLOCK (Kwajalein) was distinguished by the magnitude of the planning, the celerity of the Marines and the cooperation of the Army. Turner commanded the Southern Attack Force working on Kwajalein Island and Rear Admiral Richard L. "Close In" Conolly the Northern Attack Force.
Conolly justified his name by taking his battle-wagons so close (2,000 yards) that his guns almost poked their muzzles into Japanese positions. Admiral Conolly occupied a warm spot in the heart of every Marine. They admired his boldness and appreciated the way he came to their assistance, even if his action wasn't outlined in the operational plan.
The pattern for the capture of the two objectives at Kwajalein
was unvaried. In the northern part of the atoll, the Fourth Division Scout Company and the 25th Regiment (Colonel Samnuel C. Cumming), under the overall command of Brigadier General J.L. Underhill, seized a number of small islands flanking Roi and Namur and we got our artillery ashore and brought it to bear on the two enemy islands. For this phase of the operation the Seventh Division used DUKW's, the pneumatic-tired amphibious truck developed by the Army. DUKW's had never before been used in any numbers in the Pacific and they proved very successful. In the southern sector of the atoll, the Seventh Division Reconnaissance Troops and the 17th Infantry, following the same plan, seized a number of adjacent islands and landed artillery. In this way powerful artillery support was available for the main landings on the northern and southern objectives.
The 23rd Marines (Colonel Louis R.Jones) landed on Roi, originally believed the "toughest" objective, and secured it in a few hours. Roi had a three-runway airfield and was connected with Namur by a causeway. The 24th Marines (Colonel Franklin A. Hart) were assigned to Namur, the stronger position and, although facing greater opposition, secured it in 25 hours.
The 184th and the 32nd Infantry landed on Kwajalein and it took them five days to capture the island. I fretted considerably at the slowness of the Army advance. I could see no reason why this division, with ample forces ashore, well covered by land-based artillery and receiving tremendous naval and air support, could not take the island quicker. Every hour the transports and other ships of the fleet had to remain in the vicinity of the action the greater was the danger from enemy air and submarine attack. We had not yet smashed the Japanese Combined Fleet; we hadn't been able to find it.
The Fourth Marine Division at Kwajalein was, as the British say, "blooded." Afterward they were no longer green and untried. Their landings, in the execution of an extremely complex and intricate scheme of maneuver, were less than perfect, due to communications failures and insufficient numbers of amphibian tractors--not to speak of more than equal greenness and similar
failures in the Navy's organization. In addition, like most new troops, the Fourth Division had fallen prey to a trigger-happiness only exceeded by what I had seen on Makin. Nevertheless, the division as a whole had acquitted itself well, manifesting the dash and offensive spirit which I regard as essential and characteristic in Marine Corps units, and which enabled both Roi and Namur to become ours in the shortest possible time with a minimum of casualties. Assuming that an adequate beachhead could be gained in short order, I had directed Major General Harry Schmidt, Commander of the Fourth Division, to land on Roi and Namur at the earliest possible opportunity.
"Harry," I told him, "the minute you set foot on that beach I want you to assume command ashore." He was ashore early and I was very pleased with the dash displayed by the division in capturing its objectives.
After Roi and Namur fell, Brigadier General Underhill, using the 25th Marines, captured the remaining islands in North Kwajalein, and the 17th Infantry cleaned up the islands in South Kwajalein, with the result that in a little over a week we controlled the whole of the atoll and not a single one of our ships had been hit in enemy naval or air action.
After the terrific barrage, Kwajalein proved a significant victory because of its relatively low cost in lives, time and equipment. The Army and the Marines lost 356, killed and missing, and accounted for approximately 8,500 Japanese.
From a military point of view, Kwajalein suggested certain important improvements in our amphibious technique, which had progressed from the field of pure theory to the hard reality of battle.
We needed more coordinated planning to tie up the loose ends of our assaults and more advance information on targets to facilitate training. Our amphibian tractors proved effective but they lacked speed in the water, needed more efficient radio equipment and additional armor. These defects were remedied in future designs and a stern ramp was added to some models. We also needed repair facilities afloat before we got them established
ashore, and our control and employment of amtracks was capable of improvement. What was even more important, I realized in surveying our amphibious progress, was the need for special units to remove beach obstacles and mines and give us a better picture of beach conditions. The answer to this was the underwater demolition teams, which were first tried out at Kwajalein, but did not begin to perform miracles of intelligence-gathering until later operations.
After we secured Kwajalein the place became a regular tourist haunt. The big Army and Navy brass form Pearl Harbor descended on us like flies. They came up the lagoon from Kwajalein to Roi and Namur by destroyer in such numbers that we had to drop Marine drivers and let the brass drive their own jeeps. My Marines got a shock when they saw a General playing chauffeur. It always amused me to see the boys from Pearl coming visiting after the battle was over. The photographers had a gala day snapping pictures against the background of shelled buildings while visiting brass hunted for samurai swords and other souvenirs.
The closing chapter of our occupation of the Marshalls was the capture of Eniwetok,northwest of Kwajalein. Of all the atolls in and around the Marshalls, Eniwetok ranked only after Kwajalein in strength and importance. Then northern island, Engebi, had an airfield through which all Japanese planes form bases farther west were channeled. It also possessed minor naval facilities. During our planning of the Marshalls operation, I became convinced that Kwajalein might prove to be an easy objective and, although I had the 22nd Marines and the 106th Regiment from the Twenty-seventh Army Division in reserve, it was more than possible these troops would never be needed. The two divisions we took along were quite sufficient at Kwajalein.
On November 16 these two regiments were organized into a subordinate tactical group under the command of Brigadier General Thomas E. Watson and group landing maneuvers were practiced on Maui. Some time before the Joint Expeditionary Force left Pearl Harbor for Kwajalein a joint study by the CINCPAC staff indicated that the next operation should be Eniwetok and a
provisional date was fixed for May 1, although Spruance recommended that the operation could be undertaken early in April.
While CINCPAC was contemplating this distant study, the idea occurred to me that Kwajalein might be so easy that we could go directly from that atoll to Eniwetok without the laborious, time-wasting procedure of returning to Pearl Harbor after Kwajalein had been captured. My staff started planning along these lines, preparing estimates and concepts and we were soon convinced of the feasibility of the idea.
I did not mention the plan to Spruance or Turner, or to any of the top Navy echelons at Pearl Harbor. My reason for this secrecy lay in the fear that Navy conservatism would kill the idea at birth because, from the Navy viewpoint, it was inconceivable to proceed from one operation to another without returning to base to refuel, reprovision and rearm the ships. Any argument that these preparations could be made in the forward areas always met with a monumental list of difficulties and objections which the Navy had little difficulty invoking.
En route to Kwajalein, we completed our Eniwetok concept, which I tucked away and waited for a favorable opportunity to produce. As soon as it became apparent that we would not need the Corps reserve, Kelly Turner mentioned the possibility of going ahead and taking Eniwetok. I agreed that this action was possible and added that I had already discussed the suggestion with Bobby Erskine, my Chief of Staff. While Kelly Turner delved into generalities about the operation, I put my hand in the drawer of my desk and pulled out the plan.
Kelly Turner is an aggressive fighter. I knew that if I waited for the right moment in the forward areas to produce my plan he would be less hampered by the inmate conservatism of the higher Navy echelons, and much more likely to accept it. That is precisely what happened. The plan appealed to him and he approved. Spruance added his approval. Nimitz later concurred and we set to work on the details. The 22nd Marines and the 106th Infantry, less its 2nd Battalion, which was at Majuro, were assigned the task of taking Eniwetok.
Speed was the essence of our efforts. The more time we spent planning and preparing, the longer the Japanese, warned by Kwajalein, would have to strengthen their defenses, and the more costly would be our victory. If we could strike before their defenses were completed,we could save many lives. In advocating this approach, I was following my old policy of speed and my favorite theory: "When you get hold of the Jap, never turn him loose. Keep the pressure on him and he can't take it."
Harry Hill was called from Majuro on board the USS Cambria to take command of Operation CATCHPOLE, and I wanted to go along with the expeditionary troops but Kelly Turner insisted that Tommy Watson should do the job.
The main Japanese positions at Eniwetok had received a good going over from our carriers and, to prevent any interference from other Japanese bases, Spruance took all the fast battleships he could muster, plus Rear Admiral Marc A. Mitscher and his fast carriers--afterwards known as the famous Task Force 58. In the middle of February he struck at Truk, the Japanese headquarters farther west, and Ponape and Kusaie in the Carolines, while Army planes from Midway hit Wake. Bypassed islands in the Marshalls were kept under control by cruiser patrols.
Hill and Watson took the two regiments to Eniwetok and were blessed with good luck from the start. Although our intelligence was meager, we had the good fortune at Kwajalein to capture a secret Japanese chart showing the main channel to the lagoon and all the soundings. In fact, we captured so many of these charts that we were able to distribute a Japanese original to every ship. The main elements of our force steamed directly into the lagoon and anchored off the beaches. This greatly helped landing operations because we had no surf to contend with, and enemy defenses were weakest on the lagoon side of the islands.
In less than half a day we captured Engebi, in the north, and in five days took Eniwetok and Parry, in the south, completing the conquest of the atoll on the evening of February 22, 1944, Washington's Birthday. Had we waited another three months in
accordance with the CINCPAC plan, the Japanese would have had time to fortify Eniwetok and the cost would have been much higher. As it was, our losses were small and by capturing Eniwetok we won control of the entire Marshalls group.
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