Chapter 2
J-Day and Night1

Strategm at Tinian Town

While Marines of the 4th Division waited in their LSTs for the morning of 24 July, transports lifting Marines of the 2d Division sailed from the anchorage off Charan Kanoa at 0330 in darkness appropriate to their secret mission. Just before sunrise, the transports and their fire support ships--the battleship Colorado, the light cruiser Cleveland, and the destroyers Remey, Norman Scott, Wadleigh, and Monssen moved into the waters opposite Tinian Town. The 2d and 8th Marines were on board the transports Knox, Calvert, Fuller, Bell, Heywood, John Land, and Winged Arrow, with Captain Clinton A. Mission on the Knox in command of the Demonstration Group. Two patrol craft, PC 581 and PC 582, rounded out the task group.

The fire support ships were to deliver neutralizing and counterbattery fire on Tinian Town, and on the high ground north and south of the town, to divert the enemy further. The heavy cruiser New Orleans and the light cruiser Montpelier would meanwhile execute a similarly deceptive mission at Asiga Point, delivering 30 minutes of airburst fire over the vicinity of Yellow Beach.

Shortly after 0600, the Demonstration Group, lying about four miles off Tinian Town, began the planned deception. The commander of the Calvert logged the action at 0612: "Stopped ship. Commenced lowering landing craft. Simulated debarkation of landing team."2 By 0630 all 22 boats of the Calvert were waterborne. Shortly before 0700, Navy planes swept over the vicinity of Tinian Town, bombing and strafing.

From each transport the Marines descended cargo nets into the landing craft and then climbed up again. No troops remained in the boats, but to the Japanese on shore it may well have


appeared so. At 0730, the hour set for invasion of the White Beaches, coxswains guided their craft rapidly shoreward under cover of naval gunfire. Soon the Calvert reported seeing "splashes from large caliber shells 1500-2000 yards off starboard quarter,"3 and Captain Mission confirmed that artillery and heavy mortar fire was being received in the boat lanes. Under orders from Admiral Hill not to jeopardize the men, he withdrew the boats to reform. A second run was then started, to make the deception realistic enough. Fire from Japanese shore batteries was again received, and some of the landing craft were sprayed with shell fragments. But no casualties resulted, and the boats moved to within 400 yards of the beaches--impressively close--before turning back. About 1000, the transports began recovering the landing craft, and an hour later all ships were under way to the transport area off the White Beaches.

Was the demonstration a success? Measured by the results intended, it was. The Japanese did believe, for a while, that they had foiled an attempted landing. Colonel Ogata sent a message to Tokyo, claiming that he had repelled more than 100 landing barges. The feint served to hold Japanese troops in the Tinian Town area, freezing the 3d Battalion, 50th Infantry and elements of the 56th Naval Guard Force while Marines moved inland over the White Beaches.

Not only was Colonel Ogata briefly deceived but so also were his soldiers. One Japanese infantryman of 1/135 wrote in his diary: "Up to 0900 artillery fire was fierce in the direction of Port Tinian, but it became quiet after the enemy warships left. Maybe the enemy is retreating."4

Two of the American warships suffered grievously from the violent Japanese response. Air photos of Tinian, good as they were, had failed to show the battery of three 6-inch naval guns behind Sunharon Harbor. At 0740, when the Colorado had moved to within 3,200 yards west of Tinian Town, she received the first of 22 direct hits in a period of 15 minutes. Casualties were many, totaling 43 killed and 176 wounded. Of the Marines on board, 10 were killed and 31 wounded.5 The ship was badly damaged but was able to make it back to Saipan. The destroyer Norman Scott, while attempting to protect the Colorado, suffered 6 hits from the same guns and had 19 men killed and 47 wounded. Not until four days later was this Japanese battery destroyed by the battleship Tennessee.

Invasion--The Reality

Unlike those at Tinian Town, the fire support ships off the White Beaches (two battleships, one heavy cruiser, and four destroyers ) were never in danger from guns on shore. The big ships here were given a special mission before H-Hour, after the underwater demolition team assigned to destroy the ominous mines on White Beach Two had lost its explosives in an


inopportune offshore squall. The California, Tennessee, and Louisville fired directly on the beach. Still, because of the smoke and dust there, it was difficult to determine whether the mines had been detonated, so another approach, at closer range, was tried. At 0625, the naval and artillery bombardment of the area was lifted for 10 minutes in order that orbiting call-strike aircraft might ensure destruction of the mines. This air strike, which involved 12 fighters and 2 torpedo bombers, was partially successful. Observers reported that 5 of the 14 known mines were detonated. At the time of the strike, some of the LVTs were already waterborne. They had begun emerging from the LSTs at 0600, at the same time that minecraft began sweeping the waters off the beaches.

In order to obscure Japanese observation of such prelanding activity, a battery of 155mm howitzers on Saipan began firing a concentration of smoke shells at 0600 on Mt. Lasso, the site of Colonel Ogata's command post. Corps artillery also struck the woods and bluffs just beyond the beaches to prevent any Japanese there from observing offshore activity. Operations off the White Beaches went like clockwork until shortly before 0700, when the control group commander informed Admiral Hill that initial assault waves were not forming as rapidly as planned. H-Hour, therefore, was delayed 10 minutes--to 0740.

Shortly before H-Hour, a wind change caused the smoke and dust over the target to shift offshore, where it covered the boat lanes. Adding to this hazard to the landing was a strong tidal current running northward at a right angle to the lanes. In order to guide the initial assault waves to the beaches, two P-47s were assigned to fly at low altitude in the direction the LVTs were to move.

At 0721, 24 LVTs took the first wave of Marines across the line of departure. In eight of the craft, Company E, 2d Battalion, 24th Marines was embarked, ready to land on White Beach 1. There, the attack was to be by a column of battalions. The other 16 LVTs lifted Company G, 2d Battalion, 25th Marines and Company I of the 3d Battalion, to land them abreast on White Beach 2. Only scattered rifle and machine gun fire was received as the troops approached the shore. Preceded by armored amphibian tractors and supported by LCI gunboats firing rockets and automatic cannon, the Marines of both RCTs hit the beach almost simultaneously. Gunfire ships and corps artillery supported the landing, but because of the long-range artillery fire on the beach area the usual strafing attack to cover the initial assault was omitted.

The Situation at the Beaches

At 0747, the eight tractors bearing Company E, 2/24, ground to a halt, and Marine riflemen got their first look at the cupful of sand that was White 1. The beach was just wide enough to accept four of the LVTs; the others had to debark their troops opposite the ledges adjacent to the beach. Surprise was not complete; a small beach defense detachment offered resistance. The handful of enemy troops gave some trying moments to the Marines,


especially to those who had to climb over the jagged coral ledges from waist-deep water. Marines who crossed the beach were ab!e to tread safely above a dozen horned mines which the Japanese, expecting no landing here, had permitted to deteriorate.

The beach defenders employed hand grenades, rifles, and machine guns against the Marines. During a brief but bitter fight, Company E destroyed the Japanese in their cave and crevice defenses and then pushed inland. The attackers had to move swiftly, not only to keep the beaches cleared for successive waves, but also to keep the enemy off-balance and prevent them from counterattacking.

On the heels of Company E, the rest of the 2d Battalion landed in a column of companies--A (attached for landing only), G, F, Headquarters, and Shore Party (1341st Engineers). Company A turned left behind Company E to await its parent battalion. By 0820, Major Frank E. Garretson had his entire 2d Battalion on Tinian. Lieutenant Colonel Otto Lessing's 1st Battalion got ashore by 0846 and immediately veered left.

The advance of the two battalions was opposed by intermittent mortar and artillery fire and by small arms fire. Coming from thick brush and caves, the source of the fire was hard to spot. Yet, after the first 200 yards, progress toward the O-1 Line eased to what Major Garretson called a "cake walk."6 At 0855, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander A. Vandegrift, Jr., received orders to land the reserve 3d Battalion, and upon reaching the shore at 0925, moved his unit to an assembly area about 300 yards inland. Marine commanders considered the opposition on White Beach 1 to be "light," and it was, when contrasted to the situation during the Saipan landing or to the moderate resistance encountered on White Beach 2.

While the Japanese hardly expected any sort of landing at White Beach 1, the same was not quite true at White Beach 2, for Colonel Ogata had cautioned against the possible appearance of a small landing party there. The result was a more vigilant force and improved defenses. The known antiboat mines on the beach had not deteriorated; a few had been exploded by aircraft, but the bulk of them had escaped destruction. The better Japanese defense here was built around two pillboxes situated to put crossfire on the beach. They had not been damaged by the bombardment. Because of the perils on shore, it was decided not to send LVTs over the beach until engineers could get at the mines. Initial waves were to avoid the beach; instead, the first troops would have to climb rocky ledges, which rose 3 to 10 feet above a pounding surf.

There had been some talk on Saipan that the Tinian beaches would be easy to take, but the battle-tried men of Colonel Merton J. Batchelder's 25th Marines expected no simple landings as they crowded into the LVTs. While Lieutenant Colonel Justice M. Chambers' 3/25 would go ashore on the left in a column of companies, a different procedure was planned for 2/25, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Lewis C. Hudson, Jr. After the 2d Battalion's


Company G landed, the other two companies were to be put ashore abreast. It was believed that such a formation would permit the greatest speed in crossing the beach with the least loss of control.

Despite choppy water, some LVTs were able to edge near enough to the ledges so that two Marines, standing at the bow, could help their comrades catch a handhold on the jagged rocks along the top. The other assault companies of the regiment landed at scheduled intervals. Even the reserve 1st Battalion, 25th Marines (Lieutenant Colonel Hollis U. Mustain) was entirely ashore by 0930.

Progress of the Attack7

In the area of White Beach 1, 2/24 gained 1,400 yards, reaching its objective line by 1600, unopposed except by occasional small arms fire. Elements of the battalion reached the western edge of Airfield No. 3 and cut the main road from Airfield No. 1 to other parts of the island. To the left, however, 1/24's advance was delayed at the shore, some 400 yards short of O-1, because of Japanese resistance being offered from positions in caves and brush. Though armored amphibians were employed from the water to fire into the caves and flamethrower tanks burned out vegetation, the Japanese still would not be routed.

At 1630, the reserve 3d Battalion, 24th Marines went into line to close a gap that had opened between 1/24 and 2/24. Shortly before dark, the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines (Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence C. Hays, Jr.), after waiting in the Calvert, was landed. It thereupon became 4th Division reserve and took a position to the rear of 2/24.

While Colonel Franklin A. Hart's 24th Marines dealt with sporadic resistance at White Beach 1, Colonel Batchelder's 25th Marines encountered better-organized opposition. The enemy defenses included mortars and automatic weapons, located in pillboxes, shelters, caves, ravines, and field entrenchments. From Mt. Lasso some artillery pieces that had survived the preparation fires dropped shells into the beach area.

Fewer prepared defense positions were met as the 25th Marines progressed inland, but continual fire from small, well-hidden knots of Japanese held back the day's advance, keeping it to approximately 1,000 yards short of O-1. The two pillboxes that commanded White Beach 2, and the rifle and machine gun pits which protected the fortifications, were bypassed by the initial assault waves, which were more concerned with getting a foothold inland. Other Marines reduced the two strongpoints and found 50 dead Japanese around antiboat and antitank guns.

The entire vicinity of White Beach 2 had been methodically seeded with mines, including the powerful antiboat types on the beach and deadly antipersonnel mines and booby traps inland. Experienced Marines avoided even the tempting cases of Japanese beer, but, despite all precautions, two LVTs which


24-26 July 1944


ventured inland were blown up 30 yards from the shore, and a third detonated a mine while attempting to turn around on the beach. Removal of the mines required the diligent efforts of UDT-men, bomb disposal teams, and engineers. Not until 1337 could the infested White Beach 2 be reported clear of mines.

Resistance to the Marine landings on Tinian had been comparatively light--casualties on J-Day numbered 15 killed and 225 wounded, including casualties in the destroyed LVTs; the known enemy dead came to 438. Still, General Cates believed it wise to land the division reserve, the 23d Marines, the first day. His understrength regiments were occupying a beachhead which was, by the end of the day, some 3,000 yards wide, and at its maximum depth, approximately 1,500 yards. Moreover, an enemy counterattack was expected momentarily.

The Marine division commander was more interested in being ready for such a counterattack than in simply reaching the entire O-1 Line. He therefore ordered his regiments to cease the attack about 1630 and begin digging in. Marines strung barbed wire along the entire division front and stacked ammunition near their weapons. Machine guns were emplaced to permit interlocking bands of fire, while 60mm and 81mm mortar target areas were assigned. Bazookamen were stationed at every likely tank approach, and 37mm gun crews got ready with canister and armor-piercing shells.

All troops of the 23d Marines, though not their vehicles, were ashore by 1630, landed over White Beach 2. At 1030, division had ordered the debarkation into LVTs. At 1300, Colonel Louis R. Jones received word from General Cates, written one hour before, specifying the mission. In effect, the 23d Marines was to pass through right elements of the 25th Marines along the coast and take up a frontline position in contact with 2/25. The cramped sector assigned to the 23d, however, permitted room for only the 2d Battalion in the line. The 1st Battalion dug in behind 2/23, creating valuable depth, for here seemed the "most probable counterattack zone."8 To the 3d Battalion fell the role of division reserve.

A few vexations marked the landing of the 23d Marines. First, there was a series of communication difficulties which delayed getting the troops ashore. Then, the fact that other units, 1/25 and elements of 2/25, were still in the immediate vicinity crowded an area where artillery and tanks also kept landing. Finally, as the 2d Battalion, 23d was moving into position, it had to subdue violent resistance from lurking Japanese employing machine gun and rifle fire. Tanks, lumbering through brush and cane fields, helped to hunt down the enemy.

These tanks belonged to Company C, 4th Tank Battalion, and were among the many landed on J-Day upon an island so suitable for armor that the Marines eventually employed more tanks here than they had on any previous amphibious operation. For the Tinian campaign, Major Richard K. Schmidt's 4th Tank Battalion had received 13 new medium tanks from the 7th Field Depot. The older tanks of the battalion, however,


were hard-used veterans of the Saipan campaign.

The tank-infantry teamwork on Saipan had been potent, so every effort was made to get the tanks ashore on Tinian at the first opportunity. By H-Hour the LSD Ashland had unloaded an initial cargo of tank-bearing LCMs and was off to Saipan to pick up armor of Major Charles W. McCoy's 2d Tank Battalion. At 0800, the LSD Belle Grove departed Tinian for the same purpose, and both ships were back before noon.

The landing of the 4th Tank Battalion, however, was somewhat hampered by conditions at White Beach 2, where the fissures in the reef proved more treacherous than was expected. One of the bulldozers, which were to prepare the beach, became irretrievably caught in a pothole shortly after emerging from an LCT. The threat of holes in the reef, when added to the danger of beach mines, led to a temporary re-routing of bulldozers and tanks over White 1 instead; there, at low tide, the LCTs and LCMs could safely unload their cargo on the fringing reef. From the smaller beach, some of the dozers and tanks crawled the 1,000 yards overland to White 2. Most of the division vehicles were likewise put ashore over White 1; in fact, except for some tanks, all vehicles were unloaded on the reef at White 1 on J-Day after a mishap to two vehicles--they were lost when the LCMs transporting them swamped at the reef edge off White 2.

In view of the crowding at the smaller landing area, one LCM debarked a tank for a trial run to White 2 at 1100. But the tank required 45 minutes to negotiate the 100 yards from reef to beach. Moreover, upon arrival, the crew learned that the beach was not yet quite cleared of mines; a tank crewman and a reconnaissance man had been wounded when a jeep ran over and detonated an undiscovered mine. By afternoon, however, the beach was confirmed as clear, and one entire tank company (Company A) was landed over White 2 without loss.

Except for Company A, the 4th Tank Battalion landed over White 1; there, the LCMs could move to within 15 yards of the beach at some places. Eight of the medium tanks belonging to Company B, which was attached to the 24th Marines, led infantry attacks on J-Day. Tanks of Company C, attached to the 23d Marines, were landed after direct movement from Saipan in LCTs. Company D, the light (flamethrowing) tank unit, also made a shore-to-shore journey in LCMs and one LCT.9 Once ashore, light tanks were divided among the three medium tank companies. The initial unit ashore was the 1st Platoon, which landed at 1345 with two M5 tanks and four flamethrower tanks, and was attached to Company B. One of the M5s and two of the flame tanks were immediately dispatched to 1/24, in the area just north of White 1, where canister from the M5s helped to clean the enemy out of some heavy underbrush. The 2d Platoon was attached to Company C, and the 3d Platoon, landed at 1630, joined Company A. One platoon of four flame tanks of the 2d Tank Battalion reached Tinian in


two increments at 1700 of J-Day and early the next morning. No other 2d Battalion armor came ashore on J-Day, but all organic tanks of the 4th Marine Division were on Tinian before dark. The Headquarters and Service Company of the 4th Tank Battalion, embarked in an LST, landed during the late afternoon.

J-Day Logistics

In addition to the tanks, four battalions of artillery and the 75mm halftracks belonging to the weapons company of each assault regiment were put ashore on J-Day. The artillery pieces were successfully carried in DUKWs from the LSTs directly to firing positions. The 1st Battalion, 14th Marines landed at 1315 on White 2. The unit went into position about 300 yards inland from the southern end of the beach, and by 1430 its 75mm pack howitzers were supporting the 25th Marines. The two battalions of the 10th Marines, which were attached to the 14th Marines, landed next--2/10 at 1630 to reinforce fires of 2/14, and 1/10 at 1635 to serve with 1/14. At 1600, Colonel Louis G. DeHaven set up the regimental command post behind an abandoned railroad embankment north of White Beach 2.

After landing the artillery, the DUKWs unloaded ammunition from ships off the White Beaches, and drivers became expert at taking the loaded DUKWs through surf that ranged from four to six feet in height. It was the amphibian trucks and LVTs which were used principally for the landing of priority combat supplies on J-Day. No heavy trucks and none but essential light vehicles, such as jeeps, were put ashore. As it turned out, the small White Beach 1 had to absorb most of the landing effort on J-Day, and it inevitably became somewhat congested. Still, LVTs and DUKWs got up to the front line with ammunition, barbed wire, rations, and water.

Two pontoon causeway piers had been assembled at Saipan. These floating docks were towed to Tinian the afternoon of J-Day, but it was 0600 on 25 July, after Seabees worked all night on the job, before the first one, installed at White Beach 1, went into use. The pier for White Beach 2 was not emplaced until three days later, because of heavy enemy artillery and mortar fire, which impeded the task and caused several casualties. Each pier carried two tractors, anchors, chains, and mooring wire. Once the causeways were secured in place, LSTs and smaller landing craft could drop their ramps on the pier ends and run loaded cargo trucks ashore.

Advance elements of the shore and beach parties landed with the assault battalions and were ashore with communications established by 0830. All other men of these units were landed by 1000, for the need of prompt beach development was well realized. Shore party equipment had been preloaded in two LCTs, and all of that was ashore by 1400, much of it routed over White Beach 1 and thence overland to the other beach.

The bulk of the shore party on White 2--Major John H. Partridge's 2d Battalion, 20th Marines--was kept busy inland at first, unloading LVTs and DUKWs for the 4th Division dumps. In general, these dumps were located


MEDIUM TANKS move through a beach exit at WHITE 1 toward Ushi Point airfields. (USN 80-G-237343)

2D DIVISION MARINES advance through a canefield on Tinian flushing enemy snipers as an OY stands guard overhead. (USMC 87890)


inland of White 2, whereas the 2d Division dumps were set up behind White 1. Just below White 1 late on J-Day, a special portable LVT ramp was set up; it helped some of the tracked vehicles climb onto the land. An LVT carrying another ramp struck a coral head on the edge of the reef and turned over. The next day eight ramps were launched, though two were swamped.

During J-Day, the 4th Division Shore Party commander, Lieutenant Colonel Nelson K. Brown, commanding officer of the 20th Marines, and the Group Beachmaster, Lieutenant Samuel C. Boardman, USN, supervised operations on shore, both personally and from a radio-equipped tender. The next day the shore party headquarters was established at a point between the two beaches. General Cates remained at his command post on LST 42 the first day, finding communications excellent from a radio jeep on deck.

Landing operations were discontinued for the night after 1/8 and the 23d Marines were fully ashore. The only elements of the division support group to land on J-Day were the Headquarters and Service Company and Company D of the 4th Medical Battalion, which, preloaded in LVTs on Saipan, landed over White 1 about 1630. Before that time, battalion and regimental aid stations had been set up, of course, and they handled the early evacuation of casualties to transports, usually by jeep ambulance loaded in an LVT. The division engineers, except for a platoon attached to each landing team, did not get ashore until 25 July. Aside from the division command ship, the control vessels, and three LSTs retained for emergency unloading, all vessels and landing craft retired to Saipan for the night. Sufficient initial supplies of ammunition, water, rations, and medical necessities had been landed prior to darkness.

J-Day had been a memorable day in the history of Navy and Marine Corps amphibious accomplishments. More than 15,600 American troops and their primary combat materiel had been put ashore efficiently over beaches which the Japanese had regarded as impassable for a major landing--and, in fact, mostly over the very beach at which the enemy utterly scoffed.10 On the next day, the 2d Marine Division would begin landing on its own vast scale. Before then, however, the Marines of the 4th Division, remembering the great banzai charge on Saipan, waited seriously but calmly for the Japanese counterattack, expected to come the first night.

The Japanese Counterattack11

No one supposed that Colonel Ogata had remained long in ignorance of


where the Marines were invading. At his command post atop Mt. Lasso, he dwelt as a virtual prisoner of American gunfire, behind thick smoke, which clouded observation but not discernment. At 1000 on J-Day, he issued orders for the reserve 1st Battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment, the Mobile Counterattack Force, to move north to the Mt. Lasso area. Still, he could not quite divorce himself from the set belief that at Tinian Town lay the greatest threat. There, while Captain Oya, hearing of the landing, fumed because his fixed guns could not be turned northwest, word was received from Colonel Ogata for the 3d Battalion, 50th Regiment to stay in position. Also kept static initially, as the Marines moved inland, was the 2d Battalion, assigned to defend the Asiga Bay vicinity. In the colonel's judgment, that was the only alternate invasion area.

Elements of the 56th Naval Guard Force had been stationed in various parts of the island or had operated patrol boats off shore. The naval troops in southern Tinian were kept at their coastal defense artillery or antiaircraft guns on J-Day. Near the White Beaches, there were also some components of the force, chiefly antiaircraft personnel trained additionally as infantry. Other Japanese units at hand for a counterattack were the tank company of the 18th Infantry Regiment and a company of engineers (both attached to the 50th Infantry Regiment). The engineers were trained to double as riflemen. Finally, Ushi Airfield harbored 600 to 1,000 naval troops, who were charged with maintenance and defense of that base.

Marines had already met the well-trained soldiers of the 50th Infantry early on J-Day besides some naval and aviation personnel who bore no unit identification. The Americans had also felt the fire of the 2d Artillery Battery; then, on the night of 24 July, the 1st Artillery Battery, under cover of darkness, lugged its pieces from the Asiga Bay area.

That the 1st Artillery, or some of the other Japanese units, moved at Colonel Ogata's bidding is improbable, for enemy communications were extremely poor after the American bombardment. Every Japanese commander remembered, however, what he had been told a month before--that when the Marines land, "destroy the enemy at the beach."12 Lacking any contrary order, his duty appeared plain.

The most sizable enemy movement was that of the 1st Battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment--the Mobile Counterattack Force--believed to number more than 900 men, assembled near the Marpo radio station, about two miles northwest of Tinian Town. So cleverly did Captain Izumi move his battalion more than four miles that only once did a hedge-hopping aerial observer see some marching men beneath the trees. Unobserved fire fell along the route, but the troops plodded on, moving by squads, chiefly along tree lines between cane fields, avoiding the open roads.

A day of periodic drizzle was followed by a night of pitch darkness. Close to midnight the Marines, who were waiting for the expected enemy attack, noticed that the incoming fire


changed from an occasional mortar shell to an increased number of rounds from heavy field guns. At 0200, men of the 1st Battalion, 24th Marines made out a compact group of the enemy some 100 yards away and opened fire. The battalion was then occupying the extreme left flank of the Marines' front, anchored on the coast. The officer commanding Company A expressed the belief later that the Japanese, who had come from the Ushi Airfield vicinity, were marching along the beach road, quite innocent of the fact that they were so near the invaders they sought.13

Startled to receive Marine fire sooner than they expected, some 600 Japanese naval troops hastily deployed to attack. Their small figures emerged from the darkness into the bright light of Marine flares. The enemy here was not Colonel Ogata's professional infantry; in fact, the white gloves of some of the naval officers gave a curious dress formality to the scene of carnage after more than three hours of bitter fighting left 476 Japanese dead.

At the beginning of the battle, the Japanese tried to rush the prepared Marine positions, charging into the canister of 37mm guns, machine gun fire, mortar shells, and rifle fire.14 The enemy's weapons consisted mainly of rifles, hand grenades, and machine guns taken from aircraft. The Marines' Company A received the most pressure, being reduced to about 30 men with usable weapons, but the company well answered the enemy fire--the next morning showed that most of the Japanese dead lay forward of its lines.

In the declining phase of the battle, a platoon of Marine medium tanks moved up, while Marine artillery of 2/14 (Lieutenant Colonel George B. Wilson, Jr.) registered on the area behind the enemy, preventing retreat or reinforcement. A number of Japanese suicides by grenade signified collapse of this section of the enemy counterattack, and by 0700 the Marines were through mopping up. In that job, armored amphibians helped.

The counterattack on the left had been repulsed with no enemy breakthrough, but at the center the boundary between the 24th and 25th Marines proved insufficiently covered. The enemy's approach to the center, heralded by artillery fire, was observed shortly after midnight by a 15-man combat outpost of 2/24, stationed about 400 yards to the front. They reported Japanese in great numbers.

At 0230 the vanguard of this enemy force, including a few tanks, attacked near the boundary of the two Marine regiments, specifically on the left flank of 3/25, but was stopped by a fusillade of small arms, mortar, and 37mm fire. The battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Chambers, reported that "in the light of subsequent developments"


this thrust "appeared as a feint."15

A second attack followed, which involved elements of the 1st and 2d Battalions, 50th Infantry, and of the 1st Battalion 135th Infantry--equipped with new rifles and demolition charges. About 200 of these well-trained foot soldiers broke through the lines of Company K on the extreme left of 3/25. After getting to a swamp which was not covered by machine guns, they paused and divided into two groups.

One group headed straight for the artillery positions of 2/14 near the beach. Here Battery D, receiving the impact of the charge, employed not only howitzers but also machine guns to stem it. As the surviving Japanese stole doggedly closer, despite the fire, gunners of Batteries E and F turned infantrymen, leveling enfilading fire from their .50-caliber machine guns into the area forward of Battery D. That fire was conclusive--it "literally tore the Japanese to pieces," said the battalion executive officer.16

At 0400 Colonel Hart, commanding the 24th Marines, asked that 1/8 dispatch a company to help protect division artillery. The riflemen of Company C found the situation quite improved; a platoon of tanks also arrived to mop up any surviving Japanese behind the lines. The morning light, replacing flares and star shells,17 showed some 100 enemy dead in the area. The cost to the Marines had been two men of Battery D, killed while manning machine guns.

The other group of the Japanese breakthrough force fared no better. After turning west into the rear areas of the 25th Marines, the enemy was stopped by a support platoon of 3/25, employing machine guns. Some of the Japanese, caught in a wooded area near Company K, were destroyed by 60mm mortars shells lobbed into their midst.

The enemy's push at the center of the Marine line had cost them approximately 500 dead. Many of these were Japanese that got caught on the barbed wire forward of the line and were cut down by machine gun fire. Identification of the Japanese that fell while attacking the center showed that most of them were of the 1st Battalion, 135th Regiment. Some were engineers, armed and fighting as infantry, and just as dangerous with the rifle, bayonet, or grenade.

The counterattack on the right, or south, took the form of a mechanized thrust. Up the coastal road, which was crossed near the end by the lines of the 23d Marines, moved five or six Japanese tanks,18 each transporting some infantrymen and camouflaged with leaves and branches. Other


Japanese soldiers followed on foot, marching over the hard white coral in the total darkness of the night. The tanks represented half the armor of the tank company attached to the 50th Regiment--in fact, half of the enemy's entire armor on Tinian, all of which consisted of light tanks mounting 37mm guns and 7.7mm machine guns.

Marine listening posts reported the approach of the tanks; the stepping up of Japanese artillery fire and patrol activity had already indicated that some sort of attack was due here. At 0330 the enemy tanks were observed 400 yards forward of the Marine perimeter, specifically that section guarded by 2/23. The Japanese column then ploughed right into the weird daylight created by naval star shells, to receive at short range the fire of bazookas, 75mm half-tracks, and 37mm guns.19 The scene could be described only by someone that had seen it:

The three lead tanks broke through our wall of fire. One began to glow blood-red, turned crazily on its tracks, and careened into a ditch. A second, mortally wounded, turned its machine guns on its tormentors, firing into the ditches in a last desperate effort to fight its way free. One hundred yards more and it stopped dead in its tracks. The third tried frantically to turn and then retreat, but our men closed in, literally blasting it apart. . . . Bazookas knocked out the fourth tank with a direct hit which killed the driver. The rest of the crew piled out of the turret, screaming. The fifth tank, completely surrounded, attempted to flee. Bazookas made short work of it. Another hit set it afire, and its crew was cremated.20

Such was the fate of five of the tanks, which, being visible over a wide area, received fire even from the attached 37mm platoon of the regimental reserve, 1/25.21 Despite the concerted Marine fire, however, a sixth tank at the far rear was believed to have fled undamaged.

The catastrophe which befell their armor did not break the fighting will of the surviving infantry, dedicated veterans of the 1st and 2d Battalions, 50th Regiment, and of the 1st Batttalion, 135th Regiment. Unwavering before the canister of 37mm guns and machine gun fire, they charged the lines of 2/23 and 2/25, the former unit receiving the hardest thrust of the assault. A few of the Japanese even got through to engage at savage combat the Marines of the regimental reserve, 1/23 (Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Haas), positioned to provide depth here. But total destruction was the fate of the enemy's infantry, no less than of their tanks. In the last hopeless moments of the assault, just at dawn, some of the wounded Japanese destroyed themselves by detonating a magnetic tank mine, which produced a terrific blast. Evidently, these men had been ordered to break through and


demolish Marine tanks at the rear of the lines. Some of those tanks were of Company C, 4th Tank Battalion, which helped to mop up the forward area after the battle.

The Japanese effort here had cost them 267 casualties. The number of counted enemy dead resulting from the total counterattack came to 1,241, of which some 700 were irreplaceable infantrymen of organized units. Such a loss represented one-seventh of Colonel Ogata's entire defense force and signaled the virtual extinction of the Mobile Counterattack Force.22 The percentage did not include those casualties which the enemy suffered during the bombardment of Tinian or from the landing and initial advance of the Marines on J-Day.

In retrospect, General Cates felt that by more than withstanding the organized counterattack, the Marines "broke the Jap's back in the battle for Tinian."23 The victory certainly proved decisive, yet on the morning of 25 July no Marine believed the fight was over. As a matter of fact, the 50th Infantry Regiment was still largely intact and composed of well-equipped troops. Its entire 3d Battalion had not yet been committed.


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[1] Unless otherwise noted, the material in this chapter is derived from: TF 51 OpRpt; TF 52 OpRpt; TF 56 OpRpt; NTLF OpRpt; NTLF OPlan 30-44; NTLF Jnl, 23Jul-8Aug44, hereafter NTLF Jnl; 2d MarDiv Rpt of Ops (Pts 1 & 2), Phase III, FORAGER, dtd 11Sep44, hereafter 2d MarDiv OpRpt Tinian; 4th MarDiv Rpt of Ops (incl Rpts on Admin, Intel, Ops, Sup and Evac, Sig, SpecCmts and Recoms, 14th, 20th, 23d, 24th, and 25th Mar and 4th TkBn, dtd 25Sep 44, hereafter 4th MarDiv OpRpt Tinian; 4th MarDiv D-4 Jnl, 21Jul-3Aug44; 4th MarDiv Translations (Tinian); Capt John W. Thomason, III, "The Fourth Division at Tinian," Marine Corps Gazette, v. 29, no. 1 (Jan45), hereafter Thomason, "Tinian;" Chapin,4th MarDiv in WWII; Crowl, Marianas Campaign; Hoffman, Tinian; Isely and Crowl, Marines and Amphibious War; Johnston, Follow Me!; Morison, New Guinea and the Marianas; Proehl, 4th MarDiv History; Smith and Finch, Coral and Brass; Stockman and Carleton, Campaign for the Marianas.

[2] USS Calvert (APA 32) AR, dtd 4Aug44.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Diary of Takayoshi Yamazaki, in 4th MarDiv Translations (Tinian).

[5] USS Colorado AR, ser 0033 of 12Aug44. (OAB, NHD) .

[6] Maj Frank E. Garretson ltr to Maj Carl W. Hoffman, dtd 17Aug50.

[7] Additional sources for this section include: 8th Mar SAR, FORAGER, Phase III, dtd 19Aug44, hereafter 8th Mar SAR Tinian; 1/8 Rpt of Ops, dtd 13Aug44, hereafter 1/8 Rpt Tinian; 2d TkBn SAR, dtd 14Aug44, hereafter 2d TkBn SAR.

[8] Gen William W. Rogers ltr to CMC, dtd 20Dec50.

[9] The flamethrowing tanks used at Tinian were M3A1 light tanks, which had their turret-mounted 37mm guns and ammunition racks removed and Ronson (Canadian) flamethrowers installed to replace them.

[10] Some idea of the logistical miracle of J-Day on Tinian may be gained from the following partial list of items unloaded prior to 2148: 99 DUKWs loaded with 75mm howitzer ammunition; 48 DUKWs loaded with 75mm gun ammunition; 48 medium tanks; 15 light tanks; 6 jeeps; 6 radio jeeps; 20 1-ton trucks; 12 2½-ton trucks; 7 bulldozers. TransDiv 7 AR, dtd 1Aug44.

[11] Additional sources for this section include: NTLF G-2 Jnl, 27May-13Aug44, hereafter NTLF G-2 Jnl; Anx A to NTLF G2 Periodic Rpt No. 46, dtd 30Jul44; 4th MarDiv D-2 Periodic Rpt, dtd 25Jul44; 2/23 Jnl, 7May-24Aug44, hereafter 2/23 Jnl; 2/24 Narrative of Bat of Tinian Island, n.d., hereafter 2/24 Narrative Tinian.

[12] DefFor Plan.

[13] Maj Irving Schecter interview with Hist Div, HQMC, dtd 2Jan51.

[14] In preparation for the counterattack, Lieutenant Colonel Lessing of 1/24 had emplaced attached half-tracks and 37mm guns directly in the front line, where, that night, "gun crews fought in the dual role of gunners and riflemen." Col Otto Lessing ltr to CMC, dtd 11Dec50.

[15] "Combat Narrative of Tinian Operation," Encl B to 3/25 AR (Saipan-Tinian), dtd 19Aug44.

[16] Maj William McReynolds ltr to CMC, dtd 8Jan51.

[17] Naval supporting ships lit up the entire length of the Japanese counterattack--left, center, and right. The destroyers Monssen, Eaton, and Conway provided constant illumination.

[18] 4th MarDiv IntelRpt, Anx B to 4th Mar Div OpRpt Tinian, gives six as the number of attacking Japanese tanks; the battalion commander of 2/23 has stated that only five tanks actually took part, an opinion supported by other witnesses. Colonel Edward J. Dillon interviews with HistDiv, HQMC, dtd 25Sep50 and 22Jan51.

[19] Col Louis R. Jones had fortunately reinforced the position of the 2d Battalion with the 37mm gun platoon of the 3d Battalion, thus doubling the 37mm firepower of 2/23.

[20] Lt Jim G. Lucas, AsstDiv PubRelO, quoted in Proehl, 4th MarDiv History, p. 101.

[21] The parent unit of a 37mm gun platoon was the regimental weapons company, which, besides three 37mm platoons (one ordinarily assigned to each battalion), had a platoon of 75mm half-tracks. Bazookas, which showed well what they could do in stopping a light tank attack, were carried by teams of a rifle company.

[22] Only two POWs were taken from 1/135 in the counterattack. They said that their battalion was practically annihilated, that only a few stragglers could have remained.

[23] 4th MarDiv OpRpt Tinian, Sec IV, p. 25, dtd 25Sep44.

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