Seizure of Rice Anchorage
As darkness settled on the Slot, 4 July 1943, a large, high-speed APD convoy sped northward at 23 knots from Guadalcanal. Its destination: Rice Anchorage, a jungle-surrounded, swampy cove on the northwest shore of New Georgia. In the fast moving ships 2,200 troops of the Northern Landing Group, New Georgia Occupation Force, quietly awaited H-Hour (5 July at 0130). (See accompanying chart for organization and composition of force.)
Under the general direction of Admiral Turner, planning for this particular operation had begun in June. The mission was clear: Prevent Munda's defenders from receiving supplies and reinforcements from their barge bases on Dragons Peninsula. But planning and execution had to grope their way through a fog of uncertainty. Native reconnaissance patrols led by Marines had been unable to bring back any meaningful information regarding Japanese strength or installations on Dragons Peninsula. Luxuriant vegetation hid its secrets from the finest aerial camera lenses. From the scanty intelligence available, however, it appeared that possibly some 500 men occupied Bairoko.
After thorough study, Admiral Turner directed Colonel Liversedge, commanding the 1st Marine Raider Regiment, to land secretly at the Pundakona (Wharton) River mouth during the night of 4-5 July, just five days after the main landings on Rendova.2
Three considerations dictated Turner's decision. The Pundakona River, whose banks appeared suitable for landing troops and supplies, emptied into Rice Anchorage, where resupply and evacuation ships could anchor with a reasonable degree of safety from the elements or from Japanese observers on Kolombangara. Aerial observers had reported absence of hostile activity in that vicinity and Allied amphibious patrols had operated there without interference. By 4 July, Turner hoped, the main body of the enemy would be so fully occupied defending Munda that it would be unable to launch a full-scale effort against the Northern Landing Group.
Liversedge planned to land on the south bank of the Pundakona about 600 yards from its mouth, establish a supply center, then move southwesterly some eight crow-flight miles overland to seize the Dragons Peninsula bases at Enogai and Bairoko on 6 July. One Battalion (3d, 148th) would separate from the main body before reaching Enogai, push directly southward, and block the Munda-Bairoko Trail to prevent hostile movement between Munda and Dragons Peninsula. The second
LANDING AT RICE ANCHORAGE
attached Army battalion (3d, 145th) Liversedge divided into two parts. One of these, under the battalion commander, would guard the Rice Anchorage supply base. The other, under the battalion executive officer, would form the Group's reserve and accompany the main body on its approach.
While the transports sailed toward the objective, Rear Admiral Walden L. Ainsworth's cruiser force (Task Group 36.1) bombarded Japanese installations in the Vila-Stanmore (Kolombangara) and the Enogai and Bairoko (New Georgia) areas. At 0115 enemy lookouts at Enogai peered through a pouring rain and sighted the troop-laden destroyers as they hove-to off Rice Anchorage. At least two of four 140mm guns concealed in the vicinity of Enogai Inlet, previously dueling with Ainsworth's force, now turned their attention to the destroyers, but failed to cause any significant damage or casualties.3
Amid the confusion caused by the opposing counter-battery fire, none of the naval officers responsible for putting the troops ashore knew the precise location of Rice Anchorage. Rain and darkness cloaked the beaches. Finally, one destroyer, equipped with a surface sweep radar, moved close to shore, spotted the mouth of the Pundakona, and radioed the position to the other ships.4
Marines and soldiers now clambered down into boats for the trip to shore. There they were met by Captain Clay A. Boyd's amphibious patrol, which had recently arrived after an overland march from Roviana Lagoon. Guided by Boyd's men plus native scouts led by the local coastwatcher (Flight Lieutenant J. A. Corrigan, RAAF), the landing force negotiated the difficult passage between the two shallow sand bars partly blocking the Pundakona's
COLONEL HARRY B. LIVERSEDGE, fondly known by his men as "Harry the Horse," commanded the Northern Landing Group, which operated on Dragons Peninsula. Colonel Liversedge is pictured here under the poncho lean-to serving as his Enogai command post.
mouth, then pushed up the winding stream to a 200-yard "beach" on the river's south bank. But the Higgins boats grounded on every trip over the sand bars, necessitating a reduction in their loads.
With the first faint traces of dawn, commanders of the supporting vessels became restive. Even before the operation began, intelligence estimates had visualized the possibility of enemy submarine counteraction; the approach of light brought with it the added danger of enemy air attacks. The delay in locating Rice Anchorage and the counterbattery fire had used up more time than originally planned for the landing. Now enemy long-range guns, presumably on Kolombangara, began to engage the shipping. The Strong--hit at 0046 by a torpedo fired by a Japanese destroyer division then running along Kolombangara's northeast shorehad already gone down; the transport group sat dead in the water during the ship-to-shore movement.
FRIENDLY NATIVES CAME SMILING OUT OF THE BUSH to assist their liberators. These four reported to Lieutenant Colonel Freer at Rice Anchorage and gave the 3d Battalion, 145th Infantry, invaluable aid as scouts, guides and carriers. (Army Photo.)
Finally at 0559, with all troops and 90 percent of supplies, equipment and ammunition ashore, Colonel Liversedge decided that the ships had supported him as long as any reasonable man could expect. He radioed the single code word--Scram--in the clear by key to the anxious sailors. Within a few minutes the APD's got under way and churned at high speed out of Kula Gulf.
Unfortunately, among the ten percent of gear remaining on board was a high-powered TCS radio which, although not organic equipment, Admiral Turner had provided as the Northern Landing Group station for Enogai. Failure to embark communications personnel--who recognized its importance--with this fine piece of equipment can be attributed only to the fact that last-minute adjustments in the tight loading plan were unfeasible.5 Absence of this radio would have repercussions later.6
On shore the troops found the situation extremely adverse. Rain, mud, and tangled jungle impeded beachhead establishment, as the Marines followed their guides to assembly areas previously prepared under Boyd's supervision in the jungle. Shells from the Japanese Bairoko batteries whined overhead toward an inlet to the north. Sheltered by high cliffs, and using flashlights, the Americans guided boats to the landing area, stacked their blanket-rolls, packs and all excess equipment; and at 0600, operating under tight radio silence, commenced execution of the march plans. Meanwhile, because of an error on the part of the chief coxswain, Company I, 148th Infantry (Captain Denton C. Roundtree) landed at Kubo Kubo Inlet, some seven miles to the north. At this moment Roundtree was leading his men toward Rice.
Supervised by Colonel Freer, Companies I (Captain David N. Marshall) and M (Captain Arthur H. Walton), 145th Infantry, set up the supply and evacuation base. Roundtree's company would catch up with the main body as soon as possible.
A driving rain drenched the force as it started its approach along three parallel trails (previously cut by natives) extending southward from the Pundakona to the Giza Giza River. At this time Captain Boyd resumed command of Company D and, in accordance with the order given by Colonel Griffith, moved five miles down the center trail, crossed the Giza Giza at 1530, and established a bridgehead on the opposite bank. By 1700, 5 July, the remainder of the force had closed on the river and, as friendly planes bombed and strafed Enogai, set up a perimeter defense for the night.
The dripping jungle and the distant thud of gunfire from the battle of Kula Gulf permitted only snatches of sleep for the tired Marines and soldiers during the night of 5-6 July.7 But at daybreak, with Company D again in the vanguard, the column forded the stream and resumed the plodding advance toward Enogai.
Progress was painfully slow. Owing to lack of time, Corrigan's few natives had cut trails only as far as the Giza Giza. Now the troops had to hack their way through the tangled growth. Torrential rains drowned out radios, grounded telephone wires. Communications with the temporary base on the south bank of the Pundakona could be maintained only by runners.
At 0800 Liversedge directed Lieutenant Colonel Delbert E. Schultz to take his 3d Battalion, 148th Infantry, directly south along an inland track to the Munda-Bairoko Trail, and there establish a trail block. Late that evening Schultz reached a trail junction that he thought was his objective. The remainder of the force, consisting of the 1st Raider Battalion, the 1st Raider Regiment's Headquarters and Service Company, and Companies K (Captain Donald W. Fouse) and L (Captain Clifford W. Morrow), 145th Infantry, now headed west and north through a swamp toward the mouth of Enogai Inlet.8
By 1100 the 1st Raider Battalion had reached the banks of the muddy Tamoko River, which emptied into Enogai Inlet, six miles east of
CROSSING STREAMS ON FALLEN LOGS was all part of the day's work for the rain-soaked Raiders during the advance to Enogai. Ropes strung from bank to bank provided hand holds on the slippery footing. The continual drizzle varied with downpours made the jungle so dark that photographs like this could be taken only at infrequent intervals.
Maranusa Village I.9 Here another obstacle faced Liversedge. When Boyd and Corrigan had patrolled this area some weeks previously, they found the river fordable, but the recent heavy rains had turned the normally quiet stream into a raging torrent nine feet deep. Luckily, scouts shortly discovered that a large tree had fallen in such a way as to form a passable but treacherous footbridge. Over this natural span, Colonel Liversedge moved his attacking force, one man at a time. Most of the day passed before the Marines were safely on the other side. Before Major M. D. Girardeau's10 two companies of soldiers, then covering the rear, could start across, black night closed on the jungle. Darkness forced Liversedge to halt in the middle of the swamp in which he found himself. The column had advanced only about 800 map yards that day.11
As the force settled down for the night communicators intercepted signals from a powerful Army station on Rendova. Although Liversedge had set up listening watches on Army command nets at each halt in the march, he had operated under strict radio silence. As a consequence, higher echelons knew nothing of the whereabouts of the Northern Landing Group. The colonel decided accordingly to break silence and reveal his position, but because of some unexplained interference, his signals could not reach Rendova. A monitoring watch on the Raiders' crystal frequency, maintained at Admiral Turner's headquarters by Major Robert A. Nicholson, copied all of the Northern Landing Group's messages from this time on and forwarded them to General Hester. Sometimes, when radio traffic became too heavy, Admiral Turner had the intercepted messages dropped by plane.
Such was jungle communication during the first stages of the New Georgia campaign. Only in this roundabout way could the commanding general of the Occupation Force learn of the activity and location of one of his principal units.12
The Fight for Triri
The wet, tired Marines and soldiers climbed to their feet at dawn on 7 July and pushed on over terrain that impressed the men as the worst of the entire march. This was the target date for the assault on Enogai, but jagged coral outcroppings, hip-deep mangrove swamps and swollen streams so slowed the advance as to necessitate a one-day postponement. At 0800 the men heard the sounds of an air strike, designed to support the Marine attack. Soon the force broke out of the swamp near the head of Enogai Inlet. Ahead the villages of Maranusa I, Triri and Enogai could be reached only by a narrow, tortuous trail clinging to the base of a precipitous coral ridge running generally parallel to the trace of the Tamoko. The 1st Raiders' Company D (with native scouts attached) hastened over this trail, without reference to the speed of the main body, to cover Liversedge's approach.13
At about 1130 the advance unit entered Maranusa I, where it occupied the first really high ground encountered since the original landing. Leaving one platoon to organize the defense of the village, Captain Boyd sent patrols to the southwest and began a thorough survey of his new position. He found that his antagonists had failed to prepare defenses for Maranusa I, apparently believing their Enogai base to be unassailable from the swamps and jungle to their rear (despite the fact that they had done that very thing to the British at Singapore). Indeed, there were neither bunkers nor gun emplacements in the area, although the Marines found many evidences of recent enemy occupation, including an extensive charcoal dump.14
Twenty minutes after leaving Maranusa I, one Company D patrol contacted a seven-man hostile unit. Unarmed and evidently unaware
Dragons Peninsula Actions
of the Americans' presence this column was plodding listlessly up the trail from Triri, apparently bound for Maranusa I. A flurry of shots rang out; when the sounds of firing faded away, two dead Japanese lay in the field. Five wounded enemy were captured. No Marine casualties resulted. A hasty examination of dead and wounded revealed that they were members of Commander Okumura's 782-man Kure 6th SNLF, responsible for the protection of the Enogai Inlet barge base.15
Shortly afterwards the more slowly moving main body reached Maranusa I. Well knowing that Okumura must now be apprised of his presence and believing his enemy capable of striking an immediate blow, Liversedge directed Griffith to push forward at once with his 1st Raider Battalion and meet the attack when it came. With the Demolitions Platoon forming the advance guard, the Raiders rapidly marched toward Triri.
At 1230, just as the leading elements crossed a small creek within 100 yards of the village, native scouts spotted a company-size hostile patrol approaching along the trail. After a brief exchange of shots the demolitions men retired to the stream's southeast bank to take up hasty defensive positions. At Griffith's direction Companies B (Captain Edwin B. Wheeler) and C (Captain John Salmon) advanced to support the Demolitions Platoon. By 1300 the Raiders had established superiority of fire, thus pinning the enemy down and making him ripe for assault.16
At the first sound of shots Company D had reassembled just southwest of Maranusa I and was available for further commitment. Griffith directed this unit to maneuver to the left, cross the creek upstream to the west of the Demolitions Platoon, and attack the opposing right flank. Boyd's men moved out with dispatch and within two hours had accomplished their mission; upon receiving fire the foe withdrew toward Enogai, leaving behind ten dead (including one officer) and one wounded. Marine casualties totaled three killed and four wounded. All wounded were returned to the regimental command post at Maranusa I along with captured matériel and documents, including a map of Enogai's defenses, showing such detail as the emplacements for the 140mm guns.17
Promptly Liversedge drafted a dispatch to Guadalcanal requesting a heavy air strike on Enogai by SBD's and TBF's, armed with 1,000 and 2,000-pound "daisy cutters," at this point in the war considered the most effective aerial weapon for use against personnel in the jungle. After fruitless attempts to send this message through normal channels, the Marine radio operators finally raised an Army station in Eastern New Georgia, which relayed it to Guadalcanal.18
Meanwhile Griffith marched into Triri and established hasty defensive positions. Marines investigating the interiors of grass shacks discovered a small quantity of wormy rice and some stocks of rusty small-arms ammunition. Nothing of value rewarded their search.
While the 1st Raiders were digging in, Liversedge moved his reserve (Companies K and L, 145th) and his command post into Maranusa I, and prepared to resume the advance the next morning. By 1600, the Americans had thrown tight perimeters around each of the villages; medical officers worked over the wounded and chaplains conducted appropriate ceremonies for the dead.
To the south that same day, as the battle raged around Triri, the 3d Battalion, 148th, discovered that it was improperly positioned and took action to remedy this error. At 0915 that morning Schultz's scouts reported that the real Japanese trail between Munda and Bairoko lay several miles farther down the track over which he had advanced. Moreover, fresh footprints in the mud indicated that enemy troops had used it recently. Schultz's mistake was understandable. Grossly inaccurate maps had placed principal topographic features miles from their exact location. Thick vegetation blanketed the undulating hills, all of which looked alike under that growth, and prevented
BATTALION COMMANDERS ASSEMBLE to plan the abortive Bairoko attack. This photograph, taken in the Northern Landing Group command post at Enogai, shows (from left to right) Lieutenant Colonels Griffith, Currin, Freer and Schultz.
precise orientation. To execute his mission in accordance with his original directive, Schultz displaced forward. At 1725 he informed Liversedge that he was now at his objective and would have the trail-block installed early the next morning. His supplies being exhausted, he requested that a native carrying party be sent to him with rations.
Before Liversedge secured for the night, he directed Corrigan (the coastwatcher) to undertake this resupply mission. Ordinarily the Marines would have placed reliance on an airdrop in such an instance. Only a few natives were available as carriers, and this handful could not be expected to carry sufficient food for an entire battalion. But an airdrop was out of the question: Schultz could not give his exact coordinates because of the inaccurate map, and frontline panels spread beneath the jungle's green canopy were invisible from the air. Against Corrigan's wishes, therefore, his last remaining natives hiked to Rice Anchorage, picked up cases of rations, and began the long trek to Schultz's position.
The Northern Landing Group now occupied four separate perimeters: At Rice, at Triri, at Maranusa I, and at the trail-block. Native bearers were on the trail, taking supplies to Schultz. Although the Americans expected to receive probing attacks against one or more of their positions, the night of 7-8 July passed without contacts; fire discipline was excellent.19
During the night Griffith calmly plotted his moves for the next day. In his battalion he had several veterans of the Guardia Nacional de Nicaragua whose experience in jungle warfare made them especially skilled at laying ambushes. The colonel decided to capitalize on this asset and set a trap for the enemy.
At first light, one old Nicaragua hand, First Lieutenant Bennie N. Bunn, then the executive officer of Company B, led the 1st Platoon of that company about 800 yards down the path toward Bairoko. Another veteran, First Lieutenant Joseph M. Broderick, took a platoon of Company D a similar distance along a track leading to Enogai. At 0630 both officers
reported via runner that they had assumed positions from which to intercept any antagonists approaching Triri. Within 30 minutes Broderick sighted a company of Japanese, with rifles slung as they chattered unconcernedly, following a sword-wearing officer down the trail toward the Marine-held village. Trigger-happy Marines spoiled the surprise. Although caught off guard by the first scattered shots, the enemy fell back in good order and within a few minutes launched an organized attack. The first hostile shots wounded Broderick.
As soon as this information filtered to the rear, Colonel Liversedge hurried to Triri with his command post and the two reserve companies under Major Girardeau. Griffith ordered Company D to go to Broderick's support, and, as Bunn was not in contact, withdrew the other ambush. The volume of shooting steadily increased. Extremely rugged terrain, coupled with heavy fire, made maneuver difficult and tiring. By 1000 Company D became disorganized; Griffith ordered it relieved under fire by Company C (Captain John Salmon). Salmon turned the trick with alacrity and at 1100 assaulted with mortar and machine-gun support to drive back the foe more than 200 yards. His opponent broke contact and retired in the direction of Bairoko, leaving approximately 50 dead. The Marines, whose objective was the Enogai base, decided not to pursue.20
By 1200 the front had quieted, and Liversedge ordered the 145th's Companies K and L to hold Triri while Griffith's Battalion probed through the jungle for a path to Enogai.21 The myriad native tracks, all ending in impassable swamps soon confused the Marine scouts who spent hours in fruitless search. Confronted by continued failure, Griffith withdrew his battalion to Triri (1500 yards to the rear), with the intention of cutting his way toward his objective along high ground the following day (9 July). This decision proved a wise one.
Since Captain Salmon's successful thrusts in the late morning hours, the enemy had regrouped and was sending small reconnaissance parties to locate the American positions. By 1600 Commander Okumura had built up a force of approximately 400 men southwest of the Triri perimeter. As Griffith was moving back to the village, Okumura struck in full force at the thinly stretched lines near the junction of Companies K and L. Company K's commander, Captain Donald W. Fouse, USA, quickly became a casualty. The executive officer, First Lieutenant Alfred A. Potteiger experienced some difficulty rallying his men. Company L fell back slightly as Okumura built up pressure on its front. Major Girardeau, hoping to restore the original lines, requested Liversedge to send assistance.
At this moment the leading elements of the 1st Raider Battalion were returning to the tiny village. Liversedge directed Griffith to counterattack. Griffith, in turn ordered Company B's
The Triri Skirmish
8 July 1943
1st Platoon (First Lieutenant Robert B. Kennedy) to encircle and reduce the enemy left.
Pushing out from the village along the shores of Enogai Inlet for a distance of some 300 yards, Kennedy deployed his unit and assaulted the Okumura's left flank and rear, causing him to break off the action and retreat toward Bairoko, leaving 20 uncollected dead in front of the American lines. This engagement, in which the Marines suffered no casualties, marked the last Japanese attempt to break the Allied grip on Triri.
Meanwhile Colonel Schultz's battalion had occupied positions astride the Munda-Bairoko Trail early that morning and at 1105 had cut the enemy telephone line. Just two hours later a hostile wire-repair party stumbled into Schultz's outposts. Scattered firing resulted and the enemy immediately dove into the bush. At 1500 the foe returned, this time with 97 men,22 who lashed out furiously at the American lines but succeeded only in driving in the soldier's right flank outposts, killing one and wounding six (three seriously). Although Japanese reports of this battle fail to indicate any casualties, the Americans counted seven dead antagonists in front of their lines.
Daybreak, 9 July, found the 1st Raider Battalion marching over a well-defined path on high ground parallel to Enogai Inlet. Natives reported that the Japanese had organized strong points at Maranusa II, Baekineru, and Baevurana. Colonel Griffith perforce bypassed these villages, reached Leland Lagoon by 1100, then turned right and proceeded northward. Soon Griffith's men contacted the first enemy Enogai outposts. The Raiders continued forward some 1800 yards against rifle and machine-gun fire until 1730, when the colonel ordered them to dig in and hold their gains.23
As night settled on the jungle, Liversedge showed signs of real worry. Schultz's battalion, dangling at the end of a tenuous track over which it was supplied by native carriers, was exposed to attack either from Bairoko or Munda. Freer's battalion, of necessity split into two parts, could not be counted on for offensive work under the circumstances. Rice Anchorage must be held until Enogai was seized. The only reserve available was the 2-company unit that could be spared from Rice. And to this reserve would fall the thankless but essential task of logistic support as well as operational reinforcement of the two advance units. Griffith's battalion occupied vulnerable positions between two hostile garrisons of unknown strength and capability. His troops had packed three days rations, but rain, jungle muck, and the jutting roots of giant trees had so slowed the advances as to make the expired time greater. As their rations neared the vanishing point, exhausted men foraged for rice and canned fish in abandoned shacks and foxholes. Many of the 28 wounded needed the treatment and care possible only in a base hospital.
Despite almost insurmountable communication difficulties, arrangements were finally made via radio for a food drop the next day. Furthermore, Liversedge considered his position--on high ground south of Enogai--indefensible against a banzai attack from Bairoko coordinated with an attack by the Enogai garrison. But the enemy failed inexplicably to take advantage of his opportunity.
Throughout a dripping night the enemy remained quiet enough. But nature took a hand in opposing the American advance. A giant tree limb, partly severed by shell fragments and weighted by excess moisture, fell with a deafening crash upon a part of the communications section, to kill one man, injure six others, and wreck several precious radios.24
Primitive conditions did not stop the doctors and corpsmen who worked feverishly in the make-shift jungle hospital prepared by the natives at Triri. While operations were being performed, life-giving plasma was fed into the veins of the most seriously wounded. Care of such highly professional competence was given that all but five patients survived to be evacuated later by air.25
NATIVE SCOUTS AND COASTWATCHER CORRIGAN, facing camera, confer at Enogai with the 1st Marine Raider Regiment intelligence officer, Captain Plumley. Corrigan and his natives did a magnificent job in keeping the Americans informed of the enemy situation.
Attack on Enogai
Very early the next morning, 10 July, Colonel Griffith planned a coordinated assault to be executed by all elements of the 1st Raider Battalion. Before dawn he instructed Captain Wheeler to send a patrol along the banks of Enogai Inlet to ascertain if an axis of advance existed to the tip of the peninsula. Led by Lieutenant Bunn, the patrol executed its mission and returned to the Marine positions about 0600 to report that there was a fairly good route crossing relatively level terrain along the shore.
At 0630 Griffith gave his order, based partly on the information that Bunn had furnished. The battalion would attack with three companies abreast--A, C, and B, from left to right--and Company D in reserve. Following a heavy 60mm mortar preparation, data for which was prepared entirely from aerial photographs, the battalion jumped off at 0700 under long-range, overhead, machine-gun fire. In the Company B zone of attack, however, the jungle was much too thick to permit the machine-gun support. Wheeler therefore deployed his company's mortar section along the edge of a clearing, blasted previously in the dense growth by a large bomb that had fallen wide of its Enogai target. From this position the 60mm's fired a short, unobserved preparation which enabled Company B, with two platoons forward and one in support, to advance rapidly against flickering resistance. A small detachment of the support platoon, covering the company's right rear, fired upon an undetermined number of enemy stragglers near Baekineru. Within two hours Company B had pushed the foe out of that place, and pressed aggressively northward along the banks of the inlet toward Enogai village. Wheeler's men had killed
approximately 12 Japanese and had captured one heavy and five light machine guns.26
While Company B advanced over the relatively level ground on the right, Companies C and A faced heavier going on the center and left. Opposed by rifles, machine guns and mortars, these two companies had slugged their way slowly forward to positions within 600 yards of Enogai Point by 1300. To exploit the advantage gained by Company B, Griffith ordered one platoon of Company D, under First Lieutenant Thomas D. Pollard, to pass through Company C's zone of attack and assault Enogai Village. The Battalion Demolitions Platoon (Marine Gunner Goss) meanwhile moved to assist Wheeler in keeping up his momentum.
The rattle of machine guns and the cough of Company B's supporting mortars heralded Pollard's assault. As shells burst in the camp area, the Marines advanced down the slopes under cover of the unrelenting fire. A sandbagged heavy machine gun, emplaced to protect a key trail junction, quickly fell before the onslaught. The coral camp street leading to the beach became a scene of mad confusion. The foe, stunned and beaten, put up no resistance. Unwounded enemy raced for the inlet in a futile effort to swim to a small mangrove islet off shore while Marine machine guns mowed them down as they floundered in the water. This assault divided the Japanese into two completely surrounded groups and broke the back of the hostile defenses. By 1500 nearly all active resistance in the area, except for a small pocket immediately in front of Company A, had collapsed.27
At 0900 that morning, in response to the request made by Colonel Liversedge the proceeding day, the Northern Landing Group received an airdrop of much needed supplies. When the cargo planes (R4D's) were reported on station, troops in the vicinity of Triri tossed purple smoke grenades along the perimeter to mark the position of the force command post. After the pilots spotted the purple bursts, the force air liaison officer contacted the planes via radio and "talked" them in over the drop area. Several dry-run passes led to the dropping of parachutes from tree-top level. The first recovered batch of supplies proved to be mortar ammunition; groans of anguish were wrung from the hungry men. However, packages of rations (some of which were spoiled) and ammunition soon drifted down. Although a few parachutes, attached to cases of ammunition failed to open, thus putting the ground troops through the ordeal of being "bombed" by their own planes, practically all of the drops were recovered. The planes then flew over the trail-block being occupied by Shultz's battalion and dropped supplies to that unit. The aerial reconnaissance conducted during this latter flight revealed the gross inadequacies and inaccuracies of the map with which the Northern Landing Group was then working.28
Upon recovering the newly dropped supplies, Liversedge formed a carrying party of the regimental headquarters, the 1st Raiders Demolitions Platoon and Company L of the 145th Infantry to take food, water and ammunition to the Marines engaged at Enogai. This column reached Enogai about 1600 and was hailed with enthusiasm by men who had not tasted food for more than 30 hours. After they had eaten, Colonel Liversedge ordered that beach defenses be established in the area. While moving into position, Company D contacted another pocket of Japanese reinforced by one heavy and two light machine guns. A short hard fight ensued which left 20 Marines wounded. As it was now after 1700 and darkness was approaching rapidly, Liversedge directed that this pocket, and one in front of Company A, be surrounded and contained until morning. Companies B and C meanwhile organized an all around defense of Enogai.29
Before dark the Northern Landing Group and the 1st Raider Battalion command posts combined and opened near Enogai Point. Colonel Liversedge immediately established radio contact with Army's New Georgia net control station to inform General Hester of the capture of Enogai and request that several planes be sent to Enogai Inlet to evacuate the
wounded. Unfortunately the net control station stubbornly refused to accept even an "Urgent" message and requested Liversedge to postpone all radio traffic until 0700 the next day. As continued pleas met with stony silence, Liversedge directed his communicators to send the message without the authorization generally required, and it eventually reached the proper persons.
These difficulties attest to the lack of cooperation and coordination that existed at certain levels during this stage of the war. Procedures not being standardized sufficiently for interservice work, communication between Army and Navy and Marines was beset with difficulties. Fortunately, however, there were in the area some far-seeing Americans whose solutions became the foundation upon which later procedures were based.
With the seizure of Enogai, the pressure on Liversedge eased, particularly in regard to his logistics situation. Although two hostile groups still resisted on the peninsula, he could forsee early reduction of that opposition. The Rice Anchorage base, while still an important position, was no longer vital as a physical contact with rear echelon supply and evacuation activities. For the last five days the enemy had spasmodically but ineffectually bombed and shelled that area. It now was important only as an outpost to be protected by a relatively small detachment. Then too, the enemy had hit the trail-block twice on 10 July, and had succeeded in occupying high ground formerly held by the soldiers. Colonel Schultz was requesting reinforcements in order to retake this important hill.
To Liversedge the solution was simple. He directed Colonel Freer to send Company I, 145th, to reinforce Schultz; the remainder of the Rice Anchorage force, with the exception of a small machine-gun detachment, would move to Enogai. Liversedge issued the necessary orders and retired for the night.
Just before dawn on 11 July Company D outposts on the beach heard the roar of landing craft motors close by Enogai Point. Colonel Griffith immediately prepared to repel a landing, but just near the shore the hostile boats turned about in Kula Gulf. Apparently the Japanese had thought they were approaching Bairoko and had recognized their error only at the last minute. This was the extent of activity that night.
After daybreak Company D attacked and reduced the two remaining pockets of resistance. No Japanese remained on Enogai Point.
At 1000 the enemy launched the first of their daily air attacks against Enogai; when 16 Mitsubishi 97's, striking in two waves, bombed and strafed the American positions. A second visit at 1130 caught many men in the open, killing three and wounding fifteen.
That afternoon at 1600 three Tulagi-based PBY's landed at Rice Anchorage in response to Colonel Liversedge's request of the night before. The pilots, who had not been adequately briefed, were not aware that Enogai was in friendly hands. Using all means of communication, the Marines finally contacted the planes and induced them to taxi down to Enogai Inlet. Then began the tedious process of ferrying the wounded in rubber boats to the aircraft. Meanwhile, Liversedge decided to send representatives to Admiral Turner's headquarters on Guadalcanal to describe the situation on Dragons Peninsula and request that the admiral send forward Lieutenant Colonel Michael Currin's 4th Marine Raider Battalion. This decision was dictated by the fact that Liversedge was already several days behind schedule in his attack on Bairoko. The necessity of maintaining Schultz's force in its blocking position, coupled with casualties, sickness and exhaustion, had depleted his effective strength by nearly 50 percent.
The Group's communication and air liaison officers (Major William D. Stevenson and Lieutenant George Rounds, USN) boarded one of the PBY's with the wounded to carry this information to Admiral Turner. At this moment two enemy float biplanes, probably snooping from Rekata Bay sighted the PBY's and attacked with machine guns and bombs. The Marines on the beach replied with every available weapon and shortly drove off the Japanese. Although each of the PBY's had received some damage, they all took off in the dusk carrying more than 100 sick and wounded men to sanctuary at Tulagi.30
FOUR 140MM NAVAL GUNS AT ENOGAI were captured intact by the Marines. Neat stacks of ammunition near the guns indicated that the Japanese had evacuated the position hurriedly. As shown here, the undamaged weapons were still in operating condition.
With the departure of the planes, the Marines added up the score. They had killed an estimated 350 Japanese. Balanced against this figure Marine statistics showed: 50 dead, 91 wounded, and four missing (later declared dead); four 140mm naval guns, three antiaircraft guns, four heavy and 14 light machine guns, as well as numerous rifles, small mortars, ammunition, food, clothing, two tractors, artillery scopes, and a searchlight captured. The enemy dead were positively indentified as members of the Kure 6th Naval Landing Force, the Takemura heavy artillery unit, and the 4th Company of the 13th Infantry.
Liversedge had now reached the coast. He had knocked out his first objective and established a "port" to facilitate supply and evacuation for further planned attacks on Bairoko to the south. In accordance with orders issued the night before, those elements of Freer's battalion (less detachments), which had been protecting the Rice Anchorage supply and evacuation base, now displaced forward in ten Higgins boats to join the main force at Enogai. The soldiers brought with them the rations, ammunition and equipment formerly held at Rice, thus enabling Liversedge to reorganize and resupply his force for the Bairoko attack. Simultaneously, Company I, 145th Infantry, reinforced Schultz's trail-block.
During the afternoon of 12 July, Admiral Halsey sent three light cruisers and ten destroyers,
commanded by Rear Admiral Waldon L. Ainsworth, into Kula Gulf to meet an enemy force (one cruiser and nine destroyers) which had left Rabaul with reinforcements for Kolombangara early that morning. For the second time in a week the American Navy intercepted the "Tokyo Express" before it could do any major damage or land the bulk of its troop-passengers.31
This battle, although costly to the Allies, marked the end of Tokyo Express operations between Kolombangara and New Georgia. Afterwards the Japanese resorted to long, roundabout barge movements along the west coast of Vella Lavella to Gizo and Arundel Islands when they wished to send troops and supplies to their New Georgia forces. On the other hand, Allied ships could now steam freely in the waters surrounding New Georgia without fear of surface interference.32
Meanwhile, Colonel Liversedge's officer-messenger, Major Stevenson, had reached Guadalcanal where he conferred with Admiral Turner. After a two-hour interview, during which Turner closely questioned Stevenson concerning the tactical situation, troop morale and the status of supplies and equipment, the admiral promised to send a Navy communications team, equipped with a powerful TBW radio, to Enogai. He also directed his staff to correct the deficiencies in those supplies air-dropped several days before, and tentatively agreed to send forward Colonel Currin's battalion at an early date.33
Battle for Bairoko
Back on Dragons Peninsula, during the period 11-18 July, the Northern Landing Group made preliminary moves in anticipation of the coming assault on Bairoko when reinforcements should arrive. The transfer of troops and supplies from Rice Anchorage permitted the 3d Battalion, 145th Infantry, for the first time since 5 July landing to resume tactical unity. But this optimum condition was short-lived. Intermittent enemy attacks forced Schultz to withdraw from advantageous positions and created the necessity of launching counterattacks. Even the addition of Company I, 145th, was insufficient to assure success, and Schultz feared that he would be unable to hold without reinforcement.
On 12 July Freer had moved his battalion (less Company I and the Rice Anchorage detachment) to Triri, in order to be in a centralized location and to conduct active combat patrolling down the Triri-Bairoko Trail. The very next day, however, he was called upon to furnish a rifle company to help Schultz.
Freer designated Company K. At 0800 on the 13th, this unit followed Colonel Liversedge, who desired to make a personal reconnaissance, on a long hike over the slippery paths to the trail-block sector, where it joined Schultz's battalion.
Upon arrival Liversedge surveyed the situation with disappointment.34 Although on paper Schultz now commanded six companies, his strength had been so sapped by casualties, lack of food, extended marches, and continual skirmishes that he could consider only half of his 738 men as effectives. Against him the enemy could commit well over 1,000 troops. They held high ground dominating his positions and had unimpeded use of the Munda-Bairoko Trail. To make matters worse, only a small portion of the rations airdropped in that area had been recovered; the soldiers were hungry and morale was low.
Liversedge decided accordingly to abandon the trail block, since it served no useful purpose. Before undertaking any movement, he directed Schultz to dispatch a carrying party to bring up rations. This onerous detail fell to Company K, 145th, the freshest unit present. By 0800 on the 17th the company had made the round trip, and all of Schultz's men had eaten. At that time they moved to Triri, to rest and prepare for the coming attack on Bairoko. Temporarily, at least, Schultz would conduct daily patrols down the Triri-Bairoko Trail to obtain enemy information and to attempt to contact units of the Southern Landing Group,
then believed to be operating somewhere along the Munda-Bairoko Trail. At the same time units of the 1st Raider Regiment sent reconnaissance and combat patrols down the Enogai-Bairoko Trail.
The depleted 1st Raider Battalion was reorganized into two full strength companies (B and D) and two understrength companies (A and C). These latter units were to remain in defensive positions protecting Enogai throughout succeeding actions.
On 17 July, in accordance with a directive from Admiral Turner, Colonel Currin loaded 35 officers and 666 enlisted men of his 4th Battalion on board the destroyer-transports Ward, Kilty, McKean and Waters for the seven-hour run to Enogai. Arriving at 0100 the next day, the troops disembarked quickly and unloaded the five units of fire, 15 days' rations, and 40 tons of other supplies they had brought with them. With the 1st and 4th Raider Battalions located at Enogai and the Army battalions holding Triri, Liversedge felt prepared, by 19 July, to attack Bairoko.35
That afternoon he issued his order. This entailed a column advance of the 1st and 4th Raider Battalions (1st leading) along the Enogai-Bairoko Trail, paralleling the shores of Leland Lagoon. Simultaneously, the 3d Battalion, 148th Infantry, would move out from the Triri position with its axis of attack the Triri-Bairoko Trail. The plan thus envisaged a converging assault on the northeast shore of Bairoko Harbor, designed to crush the enemy between the Marines attacking from the north and the soldiers closing in from the east. Freer's battalion would protect the vital base at Triri and provide the Rice Anchorage detachment.
Continued close air support in jungle conditions with poor communications would have been difficult if not impossible, so that Colonel Liversedge had to do without this weapon. However, in the absence of artillery and heavy mortars (save for the few 81mm mortars carried by the attached Army units) Liversedge needed some heavy fire preparation before attacking his final objective. Hence, at 1700, he dispatched a message to Guadalcanal requesting
CAPTURED ENEMY DOCUMENTS, translated in the field, greatly facilitated operations on Dragons Peninsula. The Raiders' interpreter, Captain Nicholas Radford, had lived in Japan for 13 years preceding the war. Lieutenant Commander John P. Murphy, the Raiders' Catholic Chaplain, watches as Radford works.
a heavy air strike on Bairoko prior to 0900 the next day.36
The approach began at 0800, 20 July. Schultz pushed off from Triri, and started down the inland trail to Bairoko. Just 30 minutes later the 1st Raider Battalion, followed by the 4th Raider Battalion, cleared Enogai. Both advanced with companies in column of file. The 2d Platoon, Company B, 1st Raider Battalion (Second Lieutenant William J. Christie), covered the extreme right (north) flank of the
advance by moving down the Leland Lagoon sandspit.37
The long file made slow progress over trails that crossed extremely rugged hills and mucky mangrove swamps. Huge trees with sprawling roots, hanging vines, thick underbrush and volcanic rock formations added to the difficulty of the march. At 0955 native scouts with the point of the advance (from Company B, 1st Raider Battalion) sighted four enemy in an outpost approximately 800 yards northeast of the objective. Within 15 minutes, the 1st Battalion, having reduced the outpost, deployed facing southwest with Company B (Captain Edwin B. Wheeler) on the right and Company D (now commanded by First Lieutenant Frank A. Kemp, Jr.) on the left. Riflemen on Wheeler's right flank, then resting some 300 yards east of Leland Lagoon's western tip, glimpsed Marines of Christie's platoon moving down the sandspit.38
The advance continued against ever increasing resistance from outposts. By 1045 the Marines reached the enemy outpost line of resistance where heavy and continuous firing broke out on both sides. At this juncture Colonel Griffith decided to refuse his exposed left and moved his Demolitions Platoon to that flank to prevent any envelopment.
The Marines pushed ahead, more slowly but still aggressively, on a narrow front with two companies forward and one platoon echeloned to the left rear. But hostile riflemen still sniped from trees and light Nambu machine guns in outpost foxholes continued to chatter. Finally at 1200 the Japanese retired to a series of positions in four successive lines located on parallel coral ridges running north and south some 300 to 500 yards east of the harbor. This was their main line of resistance.
At this point Marines felt the effects of the failure of aviation to hit the Bairoko Harbor area that morning, and the Raiders' lack of any heavy supporting weapon became an added handicap. The 60mm mortar afforded the greatest striking power available to the Raiders; they had no flame throwers for an assault on the mutually-supporting coconut log and coral bunkers, which were covered by Japanese riflemen in trees. Enemy 90mm mortars, sited near the camp on the east bank of Bairoko Harbor, soon began to register with devastating accuracy.39 Heavier Marine weapons were obviously needed for the necessary counterbattery fire. Colonel Liversedge attempted to contact Schultz to ascertain his situation and direct him to support Griffith's attack with 81mm mortars.
During the approach, communications men of both attack forces had strung rubber-covered assault wire (W-130) from Enogai and Triri. Navajo code talkers had used these lines intermittently throughout the morning, but when it became necessary to employ them for tactical traffic they were found to be grounded--skinned by the old habit of infantrymen who clutched the fragile wire for support while moving down a slippery trail.40 Exasperated, Liversedge turned to the low-powered radios that accompanied him, and attempted to get a message through. But the peculiarities of radio communication in the jungle thwarted him; he could not even raise the base at Enogai.
The rattle of small-arms fire spread along the breadth of the front; interlocking machine-gun fire blanketed Company B's left. The center and right platoons of Company D, finding some relatively high ground, made small gains, but the 1st Platoon on the left was pinned down by a Japanese strong point consisting of seven well camouflaged bunkers. Similarly, on the extreme right on the sandspit, severe opposition held up Christie's platoon. And by 1230, as the tempo of firing increased, the entire advance bogged down. To complicate matters, a dangerous gap now existed between Wheeler and Kemp. No reports were forthcoming from Schultz--out of communication and, unknown to Liversedge, embroiled in a fight far to the southeast across impassable swamp and jungle. Immediate action was indicated. Accordingly Liversedge
MUTUALLY SUPPORTING BUNKERS such as this formed strong points on the enemy main line of resistance at Bairoko. In the absence of heavy supporting weapons and flamethrowers, the Marines found it nearly impossible to reduce these positions.
decided to commit Currin's 4th Raider Battalion to the south in an effort to turn the enemy right.
Currin had no more success in his sector than Griffith had achieved.
Captain Walker's Company P had led the 4th Raiders' approach and thus was immediately available. To this company, therefore, fell the task of passing through the 1st Raiders' Demolitions Platoon, then engaged on Griffith's refused left. Colonel Currin directed Walker to push to the southwest and, when he had reached the shore line, turn right and assault generally northward. Carrying out these orders, Walker drove back those enemy previously opposing Company D. The Demolitions Platoon shifted into reserve positions to the 1st Raiders' rear and then into the gap between Companies B and D. Company N (Captain Snell) followed close behind Walker to protect the open flank.
Company P clawed its way to within approximately 500 yards of the harbor, but a few minutes later enemy machine-gun fire became intense from high ground to the left. Quickly Walker trotted back to Snell to report that he needed support on both flanks. In response Snell dispatched two rifle platoons, led by First Lieutenant Thomas J. Connor, to Walker's right, while he himself hastened with the remainder of Company N (including most of his machine guns) to the left in an effort to neutralize
the withering cross fire coming from that flank.
The resulting action was costly. Second Lieutenant Curtis A. Tatum pushed forward with his platoon of Company N, but a machine gun soon cut him down. Not long afterward Captain Snell was hit and put out of action. Captain Walker, although badly wounded, not only retained command of his own company but also assumed control of the two platoons of Company N immediately on his flanks. Despite heavy fire the 4th Raiders continued their attack and seized a small ridge overlooking the regiment's left front and within 200 yards of the extreme right of the hostile main line of resistance.41
Meanwhile, the 1st Raiders experienced equally heavy going. The well-entrenched foe soon stopped the two platoons of Company B still under Captain Wheeler's control, but Lieutenant Kemp's Company D continued a slow, steady advance. Griffith had already committed his Demolitions Platoon, his only reserve.
Colonel Liversedge realized that to attain victory he would have to increase pressure on the opposing right and lay effective counterbattery fire on those annoying and extremely accurate 90mm mortars. Still unable to contact Schultz and worried about the soldiers' situation, he sent his operations officer, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph McCaffrey, with a five-man patrol to investigate. This group faced a trying ordeal: a hike back to Enogai over a rough path, then up the inlet by boat to Triri, followed by another hike over the Triri-Bairoko Trail to Schultz's position.42
En route McCaffrey would pick up Company K, 145th Infantry, in garrison at Triri, and lead it to reinforce Schultz. In the meantime Company L of the 145th would move from Triri to Enogai and, together with skeletonized Companies A and C of the 1st Raiders, form the Northern Landing Group reserve.
McCaffrey left at 1345. Shortly afterwards Company D smashed through the first two of the four enemy defense lines and seized high ground within 300 yards of Bairoko Harbor. Here the company's left platoon came under searing fire from strong points of the third line, which in that sector mounted at least seven machine guns covered by riflemen in trees. No sooner did the Marines disperse the defenders of one bunker, than they came under the fire of another.
Shells from 90mm mortars burst on the hill. When troops attempted to advance down the forward slope, they stumbled into cunningly constructed fire lanes. The number of casualties mounted alarmingly. Company D soon lost contact with Company P to its left. Accordingly, Colonel Currin committed Company O (First Lieutenant Raymond L. Luckel) to fill this gap. By 1430 Companies B, D and O, from right to left with the 1st Raiders' Demolitions Platoon between B and D, held a solid line ready to assault as soon as Companies P and N came abreast on the left or when Schultz should launch his attack on Bairoko from the Munda Trail.
At 1450 Currin moved his Company Q (Captain Lincoln N. Holdzkom) and half of his Demolitions Platoon into the left of his line to reinforce Company O and assist Companies N and P, then meeting stubborn resistance. Thus, only one-half of the 4th Raiders' Demolitions Platoon and Regimental Headquarters personnel remained to protect the Northern Landing Group command post and aid station, now far to the rear.
At 1500 communicators reestablished telephone connections between Liversedge and the base camp at Enogai. The first conversation revealed that McCaffrey had already hit the trail but had not yet contacted Schultz, and that Company L of the 145th was still at Triri. At this point Company D, having suffered many casualties as a result of a sharp enemy counterattack, was forced to withdraw to the vicinity of the first Japanese defense line. Lieutenant Kemp immediately organized a riposte and by 1547 had his adversary on the run.
On the left, Lieutenant Connor's Company N (Connor had assumed command of the company when Captain Snell was wounded) also gained the upper hand. When he saw these two companies advancing and the enemy (many without weapons) fleeing, Colonel Griffith--then with Walker on a ridge between
Companies D and N--sent a runner to Liversedge to request immediate commitment of all available reserves for a final knock-out punch. Meanwhile he directed Walker to hold Company P on the ridge as a base of fire. Meanwhile, Company B also managed to get fire superiority and the left flank platoon began to move forward. Wheeler likewise requested reinforcement in order to launch a decisive assault through the resultant gap between his 1st and 3d Platoons.
Unfortunately no reserves were available. The enemy, now pinned in an area measuring from 200 to 300 yards from east to west and approximately 600 yards from north to south, fought furiously. Deadly 90mm concentrations, unrestrained by effective counterbattery fire, fell in the vicinity of the Northern Landing Group command post as well as on the front lines. Thus, the Marines had to continue their assault without reinforcement or fire support.
McCaffrey's party had repaired the wire as it went, and at 1600 the telephone rang in the command post. Colonel Schultz reported that his battalion had proceeded slowly over the rough, jungle trail for nearly three and one-half miles (less than a mile and one-half as the crow flies) and at approximately 1400 had contacted a Japanese outpost less than 1,000 yards east of Bairoko Harbor. He had deployed immediately and attempted to probe the defenses, but the efforts of his riflemen to knock out the position proved unsuccessful. His scouts reported, moreover, that the enemy strong point bristled with four machine guns which could be approached only with difficulty.
With the foe entrenched on high ground to his front, a deep lagoon on his left (west) flank, and impassable jungle-swamp on his right, Schultz was stopped cold. His troops, enervated by a difficult 6-hour march, could not maneuver in such a restricted area, and hostile machine guns kept his forward elements pinned down. Schultz, with McCaffrey's approval, therefore had pulled back and even now was laying heavy mortar concentrations on the Japanese. Not knowing the actual extent or depth of the enemy position, he felt that he could not establish contact with the Marines before dark. He was unable to determine when
COMMANDER SABURO OKUMURA, opposed Colonel Liversedge on Dragon Peninsula. (Photograph courtesy of the Morison History Project.)
he could advance farther. Liversedge could expect no help from this quarter.43
Upon completing this conversation, Colonel Liversedge sent a runner to Griffith with instructions to reconnoiter the front and determine what action the force could take. Griffith conferred with Currin, visited each company position and talked with company commanders. All officers consulted held the opinion that they could make progress only if they were to receive reinforcements and strong fire support. All companies had suffered grievous casualties, the troops were tired, the ammunition was running low, and most of the canteens were dry.
Even while Colonel Griffith was making his tour of the battle line, the attack of all units had come to a standstill. Automatic weapons fire punctuated by mortar bursts throttled every Marine attempt to advance. Casualties accumulated at such an alarming rate that more able-bodied men appeared to be caring for the
AIR ATTACKS ON BAIROKO came one day too late. Aerial bombardment during the Raiders' withdrawal on 21 July kept the enemy pinned down and prevented them from following. Approximately 133 tons of bombs hit the Japanese that day.
wounded than were attending to firing-line duties.
At 1630 Griffith stood with Lieutenant Kemp on a ridge in Company D's position and looked down on Bairoko Harbor, less than 500 yards away. No reserves were available to push forward even that short remaining distance now that Schultz's force was pinned down. The widely dispersed companies of the 3d Battalion, 145th Infantry, then at Rice, Triri and Enogai, could never assemble and move to the front in time to be of assistance, even if sound tactics permitted leaving those vital bases unguarded. Of less than 1,000 Marines who that morning had pushed down the trail paralleling Leland Lagoon, over 200 were casualties, and all had been fighting for six hours under most unfavorable conditions. By contrast, Griffith knew also that the well situated Japanese could move reinforcements into Bairoko by barge that night. Reluctantly, he concluded that the only course of action was withdrawal.
At 1710 Griffith returned to the regimental command post and made his unavoidable recommendation. Although he had not yet successfully accomplished his assigned mission and understandably was loath to abandon it, Colonel Liversedge concurred in Griffith's opinion and issued the necessary retirement orders.
Initially, corpsmen and litter bearers would gather all wounded in the aid station and prepare them for movement back to Enogai. Then all companies would disengage in turn and, covered by Companies 0 and P, holding dominating
terrain overlooking Bairoko Harbor, pull back by easy stages to a tight perimeter on high ground 500 yards east of Bairoko Harbor near Leland Lagoon's south shore. One company of the 145th would move forward to reinforce the defenses that night. Runners were dispatched to direct Christie's platoon to hold until morning and then retire. At 1715 Liversedge advised Schultz of the plan by telephone and directed him to dig in for the night and withdraw to Triri in the morning. At daylight both the Marine and the Army companies would leap-frog rearward while supporting planes struck at the enemy's Bairoko positions.44
This directive surprised Schultz. He had no knowledge of the extent of Marine casualties, his own being relatively light. Apparently he was unaware of the enemy capabilities. Since Schultz's previous conversation with Liversedge, Lieutenant Colonel McCaffrey had arrived and after a personal reconnaissance--accompanied by natives and highly trained Marine intelligence scouts--had determined that only two, not four, machine guns were holding up the battalion. At McCaffrey's urging, Schultz at that moment was attempting to organize an assault on the stubborn Japanese. He hoped to crack the hostile position shortly. However, Schultz acceded to the directive of higher authority.45
The 1st Raider Regiment established its perimeter without incident. At 1745 First Lieutenant George E. Leppig, the R-1, led 80 ambulatory wounded back over the long trail to Enogai. At 1830 Company L of the 145th (Captain Clifford W. Morrow, USA) reached the perimeter with medical supplies, water and ammunition; just before nightfall this unit went into the lines to reinforce the Marines.
As the Marines and soldiers settled down in their new positions to await developments, Colonel Liversedge at 1900 requested (via phone to Enogai, thence to Guadalcanal by radio) a series of heavy air strikes on Bairoko hourly until nightfall the following day. At 0200 a small hostile group probed the 1st Raider Battalion lines, but Companies B and D repulsed the Japanese at the cost of one man killed and nine wounded. After daylight these Marines counted five dead Japanese immediately in front of their foxholes. At 0300 an enemy plane dropped two ineffectual bombs between the perimeter and the camp at Enogai. Otherwise the night passed uneventfully while sleepless doctors and corpsmen worked to succor the many wounded. Just before dawn Colonel Liversedge phoned the following message to Enogai to be relayed to Guadalcanal by the powerful Navy radio: "Request all available planes strike both sides Bairoko Harbor beginning 0900. You are covering our withdrawal."46
The withdrawal began at 0600. First the ambulatory wounded set out for Enogai. Then the rifle companies, carrying all salvagable matériel, retired by easy stages to four successive defensive positions or "staging areas." The enemy failure to attack at this time made these maneuvers easy to perform. The force reached the first position by 0700 and prepared to defend it if necessary. Here Liversedge decided to halt for a short time to permit litter bearers to rest and the wounded to regain some strength. About 90 minutes later 70 natives arrived with water and supplies and bore 15 stretcher cases back to Enogai.
At 1000, as the force was retiring from the second to the third "staging area," Liversedge's air strike request bore fruit. Apparently the last sentence of the message--"You are covering our withdrawal"--had worked like magic. Practically everything in the South Pacific Area that could fly (including OS2U's, landbased patrol planes) began a series of sorties over Bairoko and continued their attacks until dusk. Over 133 tons of bombs were dropped that day, to record the heaviest air strike--over 250 sorties--thus far in the New Georgia campaign.47
Company I of the 145th Infantry (Captain David N. Marshall) arrived at the third "staging area" at 1100 to cover the remainder of the withdrawal. Forty-five minutes later, while the force was at the fourth "staging area," 30 natives returned to make a second trip with litter cases; simultaneously Marines from
Companies A and C, 1st Raiders, in Higgins boats towing rubber boats, beached in Leland Lagoon to pick up the remaining wounded. By 1300 all of the wounded had been returned to Enogai. About the same time, elements of Freer's and Schultz's battalions arrived from Triri; moments later the Raider Regiment also entered the village. By 1430 Captain Marshall had returned with his company. With the exception of Christie's platoon, then making its way back along the sandspit, the retirement was complete. Liversedge set up defense lines to protect Enogai against attack from any direction.
At 1500 three PBY's landed to evacuate the wounded to Guadalcanal. When the first of these departed, it had on board Colonel Griffith, bound for Koli Point to make a personal report to Admiral Wilkinson (who had relieved Admiral Turner as CTF-31 on 15 July).48
The second plane left without incident at 1600, but 30 minutes later, just as the last was preparing to take off, the communications men received a report of 25 enemy planes heading for Enogai. No sooner had the PBY become air-borne than it was attacked by two ZEROES and received many hits that damaged its port oil line and wounded two crewmen and one passenger, himself previously wounded. The plane was forced to return and spend the night under protection of the guns the Marines had captured at Enogai.
Christie led his platoon into Enogai at 1700. The Northern Landing Group now settled down for the night, its fighting over for a few days.49
While the Marines and soldiers reorganized on 22 July, Liversedge took stock. He was forced to admit failure, since he had not accomplished his assigned mission. However, responsibility for that failure did not rest entirely on the Northern Landing Group. Liversedge had based his estimates and had laid his plans on intelligence that proved faulty. Maps of western New Georgia were in grievous error; aerial photographs were insufficient in quantity and inadequate in quality. Amphibious reconnaissance patrols had conducted their missions during the dry season when streams were fordable and swamps passable, but the operation was executed when the converse was true. Liversedge had planned to reach Enogai in three days or less, and had carried rations only for that period. Instead, unforeseen difficulties caused the advance to take six days, with the result that his troops arrived hungry as well as weary, with many sick and injured.
When communications inadequacies were finally overcome, Liversedge had counted on an air attack on Bairoko, timed to his final assault, to make up for his own lack of heavy support weapons. No such strike materialized, evidently for no better reason than that the request arrived an hour later than the air coordination people thought appropriate--though many hours in advance of the time for which the strike was requested. Without it, the lack of heavy mortars or artillery became a critical factor.50 The Marines had neither, and the inability of the 3d Battalion, 148th, to reach the scene with its 81's may well have decided between success and failure.51
The withdrawal was exceptionally well executed. The Marines fell back with their morale unimpaired, convinced that they had conducted themselves with oustanding courage and skill in what may have been the bloodiest combat and hottest fire fight of the war up to that time. Failure to take Bairoko could never be charged to any lapse on the part of any Marine or Marine unit. Although they could count only 33 Japanese dead, the retiring Marines and soldiers knew that they had hurt the enemey sorely.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff, when appraising this operation, reached a conclusion more critical of the mission than of Liversedge's execution.
PBY'S EVACUATED WOUNDED from Enogai after the Bairoko withdrawal. Raiders ferried casualties to the planes in rubber boats, and nearly 200 sick and wounded men returned to base hospitals in rearward areas. Less than five minutes after this picture was snapped, enemy aircraft attacked and damaged this plane.
Their daily report for 22 July 1943, noted that Liversedge failed to take Bairoko with the forces he had at hand, and that the Japanese apparently continued to send reinforcements into Western New Georgia. The report, however, continued:
The Marine Raiders are equipped for surprise operations. Their heaviest weapon is the 60mm mortar.
Tabulation of Casualties, Bairoko Attack Killed Wounded Missing 1st Raider Bn 17 63 0 4th Raider Bn 29 127 0 3d Bn, 148th Inf 3 10 2 3d Bn, 145th Inf 0 0 0 Totals 49 200 2
Such lightly armed troops cannot be expected to attack fixed positions defended by heavy automatic weapons, mortars, and heavy artillery. In this instance, the Japanese have been permitted to turn the tables on our forces, in that heavily armed Japanese Forces are opposite [sic] to our lightly armed forces.
The Raider Battalions are offensive units and are not intended to establish a fixed defense. . . . Failure to relieve the Marine Raiders by regular infantry units supported with artillery after the Marines had accomplished the task of seizing the beachhead is on a parallel with the failure to relieve the first [sic] Marine Division at Guadalcanal.52
A disenchanted historical view taken nine years later, places the Bairoko operation in a clearer perspective. Liversedge, although failing to occupy Bairoko, had prevented substantial numbers of that garrison from reinforcing their hard-pressed comrades at Munda. The Northern Landing Group had attracted
and held Admiral Kusaka's attention for more than two weeks. It had caused General Sasaki to commit one reinforced battalion of the 13th Japanese Infantry, the greater portion of the Kure 6th SNLF and parts of Yokosuka 7th SNLF to the containment of Liversedge's advance. By doing this, the group had achieved at least a portion of its mission.
Only slightly superior in numbers, the attackers found themselves inferior in fire-power and mobility, their strength sapped by exertions during the 15-day trek from Rice Anchorage to Bairoko Harbor. Although Admiral Turner might be criticized for neglecting to send reinforcements--well equipped Army troops--to bolster Liversedge when the force reached Enogai, the critic must remember several factors. Turner's main objective was Munda, and the operation in that area was in jeopardy. Actually, as we have already seen, Turner had requested additional units for the Central Solomons campaign as early as 12 June, but these had not been made available to him or his successor by the time of the Bairoko attack.53
Admiral Turner, and many other senior officers connected with the campaign, had vastly underestimated enemy strength and capabilities in the Bairoko area. Early reconnaissance parties had been handicapped by antagonisms and distrust existing between the natives of the Roviana and Bairoko regions, a situation that caused them to refuse to cooperate outside their own bailiwicks. And the amphibious scouts could not work without native aid. Of course, the dense jungle and rain forests made photo-intelligence practically valueless.54
Following its retirement from Bairoko, the Northern Landing Group operated out of its Enogai base. Making only local adjustments designed to strengthen Enogai, Liversedge ordered daily patrols out to reconnoiter Dragons Peninsula trails and enemy positions. Occasional light clashes arising from contacts with small hostile units resulted in some casualties on each side, but otherwise the situation on the ground became static.
In the air, however, action continued unabated. Each night one or more Japanese "snoopers" bombed the American positions to inflict casualties and rob the troops of sleep. From time to time the enemy planes attempted daylight raids, but these generally ended in dog fights with American Corsairs and Wildcats.
On 2 August one of the most curious coincidences of the campaign occurred. The previous day the 4th Raider Battalion had occupied defensive positions at Rice Anchorage. At this time Colonel Currin had placed a combat outpost on Ndukonduka (Rice) Point at the mouth of the Pundakona River. Just after dawn on the morning of 2 August alert sentries spotted six Japanese paddling a native canoe toward the position. The Marines held their fire until the enemy came within easy range, then delivered a volley that killed five and wounded one whom they captured.
When a Marine interpreter, Captain Nicholas Radford, interviewed the wounded man, he discovered that these six Japanese were survivors of the 1 July fight on Vangunu and had made their way tediously through the reefs along the northern coast of New Georgia only to meet disaster at the hands of the selfsame Marines who had destroyed the rest of their unit a month previously.55
At 1530, 3 August, in compliance with orders from General Griswold, the 3d Battalion, 138th Infantry, established a trail block on the Munda-Bairoko Trail, similar to the one they had set up during the initial advance on Enogai nearly a month before. Two days later Colonel Liversedge leading Companies I and K, 145th Infantry, Company D, 1st Raiders, and a platoon of Company Q, 4th Raiders, arrived at the trail block and relieved Schultz. The Army battalion then displaced forward to Mount Tiariakiamba, a dominant elevation southwest of Bairoko Harbor, which not only commanded the main trails in the area but also overlooked Sunday Inlet.
At 0200, 8 August, an APc and two LCT's pulled into Enogai Inlet with supplies and reinforcements. The latter consisted of a 50-man detachment of Battery K, 11th Defense Battalion (Captain Joseph W. Mehring, Jr.), which brought with it four 40mm antiaircraft guns, four .50-calibre machine guns, and two bulldozers. After Mehring's detachment went into position on Sand Island at Enogai Inlet's mouth, Japanese air raiders at last kept at a respectful altitude. Liversedge now instituted a regular system of surface and air supply and evacuation to keep his men in food and send out his sick and wounded without delay.56
Colonel Liversedge, with a composite company made up of personnel from both the 1st and 4th Raider Battalion, cleared the trail block at 0830, 9 August, to reinforce Schultz. Just before noon his scouts sighted unfamiliar American soldiers. They were members of a large patrol from the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, led by their commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph F. Ryneska. The Northern and Southern Groups had finally made physical contact.
The following day the Northern Landing Group passed to the control of the 25th Infantry Division (Major General J. Lawton Collins), and Collins placed Ryneska's battalion under Liversedge in place of Schultz's battalion.
Spearheaded by the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, attacking along the Munda-Bairoko Trail and the 3d Battalion, 145th Infantry, attacking down the Enogai-Bairoko Trail, American forces began to close in on Bairoko. Slowly but irresistibly pressing forward, the soldiers reduced one lightly-held outpost after another until finally on 24 August at 1700, they entered Bairoko itself against no opposition. Leaving only a few last-ditch defenders to hold the Bairoko outpost, the enemy main body had withdrawn.
With the fall of Bairoko the Marines job ended. General Collins visited Enogai on 28 August and released the 1st Marine Raider Regiment. The following day, therefore, Liversedge embarked his sadly depleted unit in Transport Division 22 (Lieutenant Commander Robert H. Wilkinson) and returned to Guadalcanal.57
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (3) * Next Chapter (5)
1. Unless otherwise cited the principal sources used in preparation of this chapter include: 1stRdr Rgt, Messages and R-2 Journal; USSBS, Campaigns and Interrogations; Southeast Area Naval Operations, II; ComSoPac CIC File. The latter two sources especially valuable for obtaining the enemy viewpoint.
2. Col S. B. Griffith ltr to CMC, 3Mar52.
3. Although Boyd had reported the location of these batteries in early June, aerial photograph interpretation had led the planners to believe that the enemy had concentrated his heavy guns in the Bairoko area. Bairoko therefore received all of Ainsworth's attention while Enogai was ignored. Cloaked by heavy rain, gun flashes at Enogai escaped the observation of shipboard spotters. Incidentally the only hit was suffered by the Waters, which had her main truck shot away. Karig, op. cit., 213; Boyd interview.
4. Combat Narratives. X, 19-21; LtCol William D. Stevenson ltr to CMC, 22Feb51.
5. The TCS had arrived at Guadalcanal only 48 hours before embarkation. An attempt to load it on one of the ships in which communicators were embarked was frustrated by those ships' captains, who feared their deck-loads were already too great.
6. 1stRdrRgt, SAR, 2; Stevenson ltr; Boyd interview; 1stRdrRgt, Combat Report, 20-21.
7. Accounts of this battle may be found in: Morison, Bismarcks; Combat Narratives, X; Karig, op. cit.
8. 1stRdrRgt, WD and SAR.
9. First of two villages of the same name, distinguished from one another by the Roman numerals I and II. See Map #13.
10. Girardeau was executive officer of the 3d Battalion, 145th Infantry.
11. Samuel B. Griffith, II, "Action at Enogai," Marine Corps Gazette, Mar44; Griffith and Boyd interviews; 1stRdrRgt, WD and SAR; Liversedge interview, 10Sep51.
12. Stevenson ltr; interview with LtCol R. A. Nicholson, 6Mar52. Further to insure communications security, the Northern Landing Group employed Marines of Navajo birth, who transmitted voice messages in their native tongue.
13. "Action at Enogai;" 1stRdrRgt, SAR, 6Oct43; 1stRdrRgt, WD, July 1943; Boyd interview.
14. Lt Robert B. Pape ltr of 22Feb51; Boyd interview.
15. 1stRdrRgt, WD and SAR; CIC Item .#598, 8; CIC Item #621; SoPac Translation, 01324, 10Aug43; Boyd interview.
16. Samuel B. Griffith, II, "Correy's Boys," Marine Corps Gazette, May49.
17. 1stRdrRgt, Combat Report, 18; Liversedge interview, 10Sep51.
18. Stevenson ltr.
19. 1stRdrRgt, WD and SAR; "Action at Enogai;" Liversedge interview 10Sept51.
20. Boyd interview; Griffith ltr.
21. Liversedge interview, 10Sep51.
22. This was the advance unit of a reinforcing element consisting of the 5th and 9th Companies, 13th Infantry; the 2d Machine Gun Company, 13th; one platoon, 10th Company, 229th; and a communications section. This force, commanded by Maj Takeo Ohashi, CO, 2dBn, 13th, moved to Bairoko at 1800 on 6 July, and passed to the control of Comdr Okumura.
23. 1stRdrRgt, SAR, 3.
24. Griffith ltr; Liversedge interview, 10Sep51; Stevenson ltr.
25. Stevenson ltr.
26. LtCol Edwin B. Wheeler ltrs to CMC, 20Mar52 and 24Mar51; Griffith 3Mar52 ltr.
27. Boyd and Griffith interviews; Wheeler and Pape ltrs; 1stRdrRgt WD; "Action at Enogai."
28. Stevenson ltr.
29. 1stRdrRgt, WD and SAR; "Action at Enogai."
30. Stevenson ltr.
31. Allied losses: DD Gwin, sunk; CL's Honolulu, St. Louis and Leander (New Zealand), damaged. Japanese losses: CL Jintsu, sunk.
32. For a more complete account of naval operations in the Solomons, accurately presented in a colorful and lucid manner, see Morison, Bismarcks.
33. Stevenson ltr.
34. Liversedge interview 10Sep51.
35. 4thRdrBn, SAR, 14Sep43; Liversedge interview, 10Sep51.
36. Liversedge had decided as early as 1600 to request this strike, which he considered essential to the success of the operation. He therefore composed a message making this request for delivery to ComAirSols. It was sent out via the Navy TBW radio station, but adverse atmospheric conditions prevented prompt transmission and it was not until 1700 that the message was finally cleared. Although acknowledgment was requested, none came through until late that night, and this was nothing more than a staff officer's confirmation of the receipt of a message. Evidently this officer had invoked a directive of his commander which stated that all requests for air support had to be received by the air operations office before 1600. In any event, no action was taken on the Liversedge request. See: 1stRdrRgt, WD and SAR; 4thRdrBn, SAR; ComSoPac 6, "Employment of Air-Ground Liaison Officers in the New Georgia Campaign;" Stevenson ltr.
37. Christie's Platoon had moved into position on the spit at 1900 the preceding evening.
38. This contact was one-way only. Christie's men did not see the remainder of the battalion until 0800 the next day. (Christie ltr.)
39. Boyd interview; Maj Earle O. Snell ltr to CMC, 16Feb51.
40. Stevenson ltr. Reels of regular wire (W-110) were much too bulky for use on trails during a rapidly moving situation.
41. Walker ltr; Snell ltr; Boyd interview.
42. Liversedge interview, 10Sep51.
43. The foregoing is a synthesis of 1stRdrRgt, SAR and WD; 1st and 4thRdrBns, SAR's; Stevenson ltr; Griffith interview; Ward ltr; 3d Bn, 148th, Daily Situation Report, 20-21 July.
44. Griffith ltrs and interview; Liversedge interview.
45. Ward ltr.
46. Slightly paraphrased.
47. Stevenson ltr; ComAirNew Georgia, AR Phase I.
48. Liversedge directed Griffith to ask Wilkinson to furnish a battery of 75mm pack howitzers and to point out the need for additional troops. The lack of heavy weapons in an extended land campaign was keenly felt throughout this operation. (Griffith ltr; Liversedge interview, 10Sep51.)
49. Stevenson ltr; Christie ltr; Liversedge interview, 10Sep51. Boyd interview; Griffith ltr.
50. Liversedge interview, 10Sep51; Griffith ltr; Stevenson ltr. JCS, TOENAILS, Running Account.
51. 1stRdrRgt, Combat Report, 3, 6, 12, 20; Liversedge interview, 10Sep51.
52. JCS, Daily Digest, TOENAILS, 22Jul43, 2.
53. RAdm Theodore S. Wilkinson relieved Adm Turner as CTF-31 on 15 July. Turner ltr; Ward ltr.
54. Turner ltr; Liversedge interview, 10Sep51; 1stRdrRgt, Combat Report, 18-20.
55. Maj Robert P. Smith ltr to CMC, 16Feb.51. (See Chapter II, supra.)
56. 11thDefBn, WD and SAR; 1stRdrRgt, Combat Report, 19.
57. See Appendix III for casualties.