The front occupied by General Rockey's 5th Division on the morning of 25 February formed a 1,200-yard bow. From advanced positions in the center, held by 2/26, the right flank curved back to the south where 3/26 and one company of 1/26 made contact with the 3d Division. On the left, 2/27 bent back a like distance to hold the cliff line near the western beaches. The action of the preceding days made it evident that high ground in the center of the island dominated the 5th Division zone of action, and that no considerable gains could be registered up the west side until the enemy had been cleared from the bluffs along the 3d Division's left boundary.
5th Division on the Left (D+6--D+19)1
Since the afternoon attack on D-plus-5 had carried the 5th Division some 400 yards north of the 3d, it was decided that RCT 26 would hold up until the 9th Marines came abreast. On D-plus-6 RCT 9 gained only on its right. Consequently, the bluffs along the left 3d Division boundary remained hostile and Colonel Graham's 26th Marines could not attack. Throughout the day enemy fire from the right front made supply and evacuation difficult. Accurate enemy artillery fire, which fell in command posts that were in defilade from Japanese observers on Iwo, caused the 5th Division to repeat requests for a ground reconnaissance of Kama and Kangoku rocks.2
Although the 5th Division did not attack, the 13th Marines fired a 45-minutes preparation before K-Hour (0930) and fired on targets of opportunity throughout the day. At 1500 an aerial observer spotted Japanese artillery moving north along a road and adjusted three battalions of the 13th Marines on the target. After the mission was completed the observer reported that three artillery pieces had been destroyed, several prime movers left burning, and an ammunition dump set afire.3 As the Marine advance began to threaten enemy artillery positions, the Japanese displaced to previously prepared emplacements to the rear. Most of the movement was accomplished at
MAJOR GENERAL ROCKEY commanded the 5th Marine Division at Iwo Jima.
night, and this shift on D-plus-6 (25 February) was the only attempt of this sort observed.4 The Marines' success must have convinced the enemy that it was folly to expose his equipment in daylight, especially with United States airborne observers over the island.
The 5th Division resumed the attack on 26 February (D-plus-7) in spite of the fact that high ground in the left of the 3d's zone of action had not been cleared. The 26th Marines moved out at 0800 (K-Hour) with the 2d and 3d Battalions and 2/27 in the assault. In the center, Companies D and E of Major Rea's 2d Battalion battled slowly forward against automatic weapons fire from an enemy strong point of pillboxes and caves. In two hours they advanced only 50 yards. Then, at 1000, Company F was committed and passed through Company E, which reverted to battalion reserve. Company F, held in reserve until this day, struck out enthusiastically, reducing the strong point with the aid of tanks from Company B, 5th Tank Battalion. For the first time since landing, Marines of 2/26 could see the enemy they were fighting and close with him, "The result was a definite upsurge of morale."5
The Sweep to Hill 362A
On the right, Company A tanks supported 3/26 with overhead fire until rain and low-hanging clouds obscured targets, and that battalion gained about 100 yards. During this action the infantry smashed not only fortifications to the front, but knocked out many enemy guns emplaced in ravines that led down from the plateau, perpendicular to the route of advance. Enfilading fire from these hostile weapons had constituted a menacing thorn in the side to men of the 5th Division. But by D-plus-6 this opposition showed signs of diminishing as Marines push to the north. Gains by RCT 9 in the 3d Division sector, and weapons firing in support of that regiment also contributed to progress made in the 3d Battalion zone.
The 2d Battalion, 27th Marines, operating on the left of the 26th Marines, jumped off at K-Hour with two companies abreast. Company D on the right moved rapidly, making 400 yards in the first two hours, and Company E kept pace along the terraces overlooking the beach. After these early gains, however, 2/27 halted to permit 2/26 to come abreast and remained in position for the remainder of the day. Tanks could not be used on the left, but 20 LVT(A)'s from Companies C and D of the 2d Armored Amphibian Battalion supported this attack up the coast from the sea with 75mm fire against enemy-occupied caves. After knocking out three hostile positions, however, the LVT(A)'s were ordered to cease operations because their erratic fire endangered friendly troops.6
When the division took up final dispositions for the night on 26 February, the lines still formed a giant bow with elements in the center advanced some 400 yards ahead of the flanks. The day's action had netted about 300 yards and pushed the front to within 800 to 1,000 yards of Hill 362A. In addition to being the heavily fortified western anchor of the Japanese
main cross-island defenses, the high ground around 362A gave the Japanese unobstructed observation over the entire southwestern half of the island and most of the Motoyama Plateau. This key terrain feature, dominating the 5th Division's route of advance up the island, became the next major objective. (See Map IX.)
During the night of 26/27 February there were indications that at least some of the defenders might be suffering from a shortage of water. Alert Marines of RCT 26 spotted a large group of enemy soldiers making its way over the cliff line south of Hill 362A toward a well near the coast. Illuminated by bright moonlight, this group made an excellent target; artillery and naval gunfire adjusted on it immediately, putting an abrupt end to this foraging expedition. With the exception of this incident the night was quiet along the division front.
D-plus-8On D-plus-8 the 27th Marines relieved RCT 26 and attacked at 0800. The 1st and 3d Battalions passed through 2/26 and 3/26 respectively, while 2/27, which had reverted to parent control, continued to operate on the left. The 1st Battalion, 26th was attached to RCT 27 and held in regimental reserve. One battalion of corps artillery reinforced the fires of the 13th Marines during a 30-minute preparation, and naval guns concentrated on Hill 362A from K-minus 30 minutes to K-minus 15 minutes and again for five minutes immediately following K-Hour. Just before the infantry moved out, truck-mounted launchers from the 3d Rocket Detachment plastered the area to the front with a blistering barrage of 4.5-inch rockets, then withdrew quickly to the rear. After naval gunfire lifted from Hill 362A, carrier planes swept in to work over the same area with bombs and rockets.
With commanding terrain on the right, progress along the 5th Division front depended upon the ability of the right flank battalion (3/27) to advance. That unit moved out with two companies abreast, the third company following to fill any gap that might develop between RCT 27 and RCT 9 on its right. The
MACHINE-GUN UNIT takes cover from hostile rifle and mortar fire. With enemy holding high ground on the right, even movement behind the lines was hazardous.
advance was rapid during the morning, but about noon contact was lost on the right and 3/27 was held up. The reserve company was committed to regain contact, but by this time enemy resistance had stiffened and only small gains marked the afternoon action.
In the center the 1st Battalion jumped off against sporadic artillery and mortar fire, advancing 200 yards before a stubbornly resisting group of pillboxes stopped the attack. A 75mm halftrack came forward to help in the reduction of this strong point and destroyed one pillbox with direct fire. But when the enemy concentrated intense and accurate machine-gun and small-arms fire against the vulnerable gun crew, this weapon withdrew. There was no suitable position from which the 37mm platoon could engage the hostile emplacements, and tanks were not available, so the infantry resorted to the slow methodical reduction of position after position by assault-demolition teams.
In the afternoon Company C, on the left, ran into a similar fortified area. In this part of the battalion zone terrain allowed limited tank operations, and a request went back for armored support. Two and one-half hours later Shermans from Company B, with one flame tank from Company C attached, arrived on the scene. The flame thrower received a disabling mortar hit before it could get into action, but the other tanks provided effective aid. After giving enemy positions a thorough pounding, these machine led infantry into the pocket, knocking out several more pillboxes and a dug-in Japanese medium tank. With this armor support Company C regained its lost momentum and pushed on another 200 yards before 1915, when reduced visibility halted tank operations.
IWO PHONE BOOTH.
Meanwhile, Company A continued its advance in the face of mounting casualties. Its more rapid movement carried it ahead of adjacent units, and at 1500 the reserve company moved up as a relief and began to consolidate positions, waiting for Company C to come abreast.
Overlooking the west coast, 2/27 attacked at K-Hour with Company D moving north in contact with the 1st Battalion, and the other two companies driving northwest to fill the battalion zone of action where the island bulged out to the west. In this sector Marines had to fight their way through inland western beach defenses consisting of covered emplacements and caves. Here, too, the terrain and enemy mine fields restricted use of tanks. Gains were slow but steady, and by 1700 the left flank of the regiment had covered 500 yards.
Artillery was active throughout the day on both sides. The enemy used smoke shells to cover his own operations, and white phosphorous air bursts and time fire against the Marines. This last type was not effective, however, as the height of burst was generally too great, and the white phosphorus was more demoralizing than deadly. Japanese artillery did not engage in counterbattery duels, but succeeded in interfering with friendly artillery operations by employing deception. While Marine guns fired a preparation, the enemy often lobbed a few shells into United States front lines. This sometimes caused the belief that supporting fire was falling short on friendly troops and the bombardment was halted or lifted, thus reducing its effectiveness.7
The 13th Marines fired many successful counterbattery missions using air spot. From D-plus 1 to D-plus-8 carrier-based observers adjusted this fire. On 27 February (D-plus-8) division ordered VMO-5 to commence operations from Airfield Number 1, and the first OY,
THIS SHERMAN (M4A3) TANK is stalled in Japanese pillbox that crushed as tank rolled over it. Infantrymen stand by waiting for salvage crew to retrieve the vehicle.
flown by the commanding officer of that unit, was launched successfully from the Brodie-equipped LST 7768 and landed on the island that afternoon. The second plane was lost overboard before it could be engaged in the launching gear, but after installation of an improvised safety device on D-plus-10 a third VMO-5 plane and two 4th Division OY's were successfully launched and set down on Iwo.
The remaining seven planes of the observation squadron, which had been carried to the objective on escort carriers, were launched without incident on D-plus-9 and based on the island for the rest of the operation. Although these light planes were not equipped for night flying, 30 of the 623 flying hours logged during the campaign were scored during the hours of darkness.9 These flights by both VMO-5 and VMO-4 were popular with Marines on the ground because with planes overhead enemy activity along the front and hostile mortar and artillery fire was noticeably reduced.10
On 27 February the VAC intelligence officer issued a preliminary enemy order of battle that confirmed most of the units previously listed as present on the island. This new estimate, however, increased the number of naval troops by some 5,000 and listed a few additional army units: the 3d Battalion, 17th Independent Mixed Regiment; the 21st Marine Cannon Unit, and the 3d Independent Machine Gun
Battalion. Total strength of the Japanese on D-Day was now placed at over 20,000; an increase of more than 6,000 men.11 This document also stated that interrogation of prisoners of war indicated that Lieutenant General Kuribayashi was on the island, but that this had not been confirmed.12
LITTER BEARERS braved enemy fire to carry wounded to aid stations.
D-plus-9Hill 362A rose sheer and naked above the contorted, rocky terrain ahead as RCT 27 moved out at 0815 on D-plus-9. This formidable looking mass lay squarely in the path of the 3d Battalion, on the right of the 5th Division zone. In the center and left, 1/27 and 1/26, which had relieved 2/27, continued to attack up a slope toward the ridge that led from the ragged edge of the northern plateau to the terraces above the western beaches.
The Japanese resisted fiercely along the entire front, clinging stubbornly to their positions. On the left, the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines sent advance elements far ahead along the beach but could make no general advance until the units on the right overcame enemy resistance in the high ground along the division boundary. (See Map IX.)
In the center and on the right the 1st and 3d Battalions of the 27th Marines battled slowly ahead in the face of the most intense small-arms fire they had yet encountered. The 1st Battalion, which had benefited from armored support on the preceding day, again employed tanks with success as it pushed through the highly organized mutually supporting positions of the cross-island defenses. About noon tanks of Company C ran out of ammunition, and Shermans from Company B came forward to continue the attack. Time after time the assault bogged down; then, with infantrymen guiding and designating targets, the tanks forged ahead, blasting bunkers into temporary silence, followed by assault teams that hurried forward to finish the job. During one of these attacks, grenade-throwing Japanese soldiers rushed one of the tanks. Trying to back away from the greenish irritant smoke discharged by these missiles, the vehicle ran into a hole and threw a track. The crew was evacuated safely in another tank, but their disabled Sherman remained abandoned until a later day.
The battalion commander committed his reserve (Company A) to pass through Company C in the left of 1/27's zone at 1630. Perhaps by design, but more likely by coincidence, a Japanese counterattack hit that portion of the Marine lines just as this relief was being accomplished. The attack was not in force, however, and Company A beat off the enemy without any loss of ground. This unit then tried to fight its way forward to tie in for the night with Company B, about 150 yards ahead on the right. This effort proved unsuccessful, and the battalion commander finally ordered Company B to pull back to establish a continuous battalion front.
The 3d Battalion, 27th Marines kept abreast of the 1st throughout the morning and by noon had reached the foot of Hill 362A. While steady pressure was maintained against this hill fortress, elements of Company H on the right and Company I on the left probed for an opening. Company I pushed a patrol up the southwest slopes to the crest of the hill at 1630 after a day of extremely bitter fighting. But this gain was partially nullified when Company I called in its patrol and dropped back nearly a hundred
yards to regain contact with 1/27, lost because a small pocket held up the 1st Battalion's right. Company H then pulled back its right flank about 100 yards to make contact with RCT 21, which had replaced RCT 9 on the left of the 3d Division zone of action.
At 1645 Company H bore the brunt of a sharp, savage enemy counterattack against the 3/27 lines. Some 50 to 100 Japanese, driven from their hill positions, engaged in a desperate hand-to-hand struggle with Marines before being driven off with considerable loss. The 3d Battalion prepared its night defenses in the shadow of 362A, but this primary objective remained occupied by the enemy and still formidable. (See Map IX.)
Positions held by RCT 27 during the night of 28 February/March 1 were 300 yards ahead of the morning line of departure along a front that ran almost due east and west, passing just south of 362A.
While Colonel Wornham's 27th Marines carried the attack northward, the 26th Marines (less 1/26 attached to RCT 27) made some progress in the salvage and replacement of weapons, and tried to rest and relax as much as possible while in reserve. At 0945 the 2d Battalion was also attached to the 27th Marines, but saw no action until the end of the day when Company F went forward to reinforce the lines of 3/27.
The 28th Marines, in corps reserve since 25 February, was alerted on the 28th for a move to the north. During the afternoon the 2d Battalion, 27th Marines, relieved 2/28 of its patrol and defense responsibilities around Suribachi, and all battalions of RCT 28 moved north to assembly areas while Colonel Liversedge and his commanders reconnoitered routes forward to the front lines.
As the division moved northward, large support landing craft [LCS(L)'s], assigned to work with naval gunfire spotters, peppered caves and ravines along the west coast with their 40mm guns. Experience showed that observers on these craft could distinguish positions of
MARINE TRUCK-MOUNTED 4.5-INCH ROCKET LAUNCHERS in action. After completing the mission these trucks will change position quickly to escape enemy retaliation.
friendly troops near the coast as well, or better, than anyone ashore, and the support vessels were given more and more initiative to fire on targets of opportunity. On 28 February the division took advantage of the observation provided by these support craft by placing observer teams aboard. For the next eight days these teams, composed of an intelligence officer and artillery and naval gunfire spotters, cruised up and down the coast, directing fire against enemy installations and reporting enemy activities.13
The night of D-plus-9 was relatively quiet at the front,14 but about midnight enemy shells
HILL 362A looking at top and north face. Dotted lines indicate underground construction. (Copy of one of five sketches prepared by the 31st U.S. Naval Construction Battalion.)
ADVANCING OVER A RIDGE LINE Marines look for trouble. The Japanese on Iwo conducted vigorous reverse-slope defenses and covered all ridges with mortar fire.
began falling among positions of corps artillery and the 13th Marines. Although this activity by the Japanese artillery was greater than usual, the location of gun flashes in the north revealed that it operated from new position areas. This indicated the Marine counterbattery fire had been effective at least to the extent of forcing the displacement of many opposing field pieces.15
During this bombardment, at 0215, the 4th Division ammunition dump was hit and burned fiercely until about 0700 when men of Headquarters and Service Battery of the 13th Marines and bulldozer operators of the 5th Engineer Battalion brought the blaze under control. At least 20 percent of the division's supply of small-arms ammunition was lost, along with corresponding amounts of heavier projectiles.
Two hours after the ammunition was hit a shell landed in the corps artillery fire direction center.16 No personnel casualties resulted, but wire lines were knocked out and fire consumed almost all of the telephone wire in the group dump.17 There were more hits and near misses throughout the congested rear areas, but all installations were well dug in and temporary disruption of communications was the only other damage.18
D-plus-10At 0630 on D-plus-10 RCT 28 started moving forward to pass through RCT 27 and continue the attack against Hill 362A and its supporting positions. The corps' 155mm howitzers and
BRODIE-EQUIPPED LST 776. Two OY's from the 4th and two from the 5th Division were launched successfully from this specially equipped ship. A fifth plane was lost overboard. (Navy Photo)
5th Division artillery19 commenced firing a preparation at K-minus 45 minutes (0745). One battleship and two cruisers from the gunfire and covering force added their heavy fires from 0800 to 0830. Aircraft from the support carrier group delivered strikes throughout the day, but did not participate in preparation for the attack.20
This proved one of the busiest days for TF 54 since D-Day as fire support ships dueled with enemy shore batteries until late afternoon. Shortly after dawn enemy guns in the northern part of the island opened up, and at 0725 the Terry took a direct hit by a 6-inch shell, suffering heavy casualties. The Nevada immediately engaged these hostile installations, and after completing their mission in support of the landing force, the Indianapolis and Pensacola shifted to counterbattery fire. At 1025 the Calhoun was hit by a major-caliber projectile, and soon after this enemy shells straddled the Stembel. Counterbattery fire continued throughout the day with the Nevada destroying one casemated gun and starting a fire in another emplacement, while the Pensacola's batteries accounted for a third Japanese gun.21
The 28th Marines jumped off with its 1st, 2d, and 3d Battalions in line from right to left. Hill 362A and the ridge that ran east and west from the hill formed the initial objective as on
the day before, and all units gained their first goal quickly. But as they advanced over the crest heavy machine-gun and mortar fire from the next ridge (Nishi) to the North forced them to take cover. Ahead of the center and right battalions the ground fell away sharply into a rocky draw, the sides and bottom of which were covered by fire from small arms, automatic weapons, and well zeroed-in mortars. It soon became evident that breaking through the defenses ahead would be more difficult for the 28th than the short assault to seize the hill and its supporting ridges. Beyond the draw the ground leveled off for about 200 yards, then rose abruptly to form ragged Nishi Ridge.
Faced with almost impassable terrain and an effective reverse-slope defense, the battalion commander of 1/28 tried to maneuver his companies into positions from which they could bring fire to bear against the enemy holed up in the steep northern face of the hill. He sent his reserve (Company A) around the right side of Hill 362A to work down into the draw, but this unit came under such heavy attack by grenades and small arms that the attempt stopped short. During this assault the commander of Company A was killed while leading his men. Company B made a similar short-lived effort to move down off the high ground, but achieved no permanent gain. When the battalion dug in for the night, the left flank was still on top of the hill and the right of the line strung out along the ridge to the east. (See Map X.)
Company C, 5th Tank Battalion served in support of the 2d Battalion, 28th throughout the day. Both flame and regular tanks operated effectively during the morning attack and also mopped up bypassed enemy positions. Even with this help, however, 2/28 could not advance beyond the steep northern slope of the ridge that ran west from 362A. During one of the mop-up actions a tank bellied down in soft ground. The 75's and machine guns of other Shermans could not reach the enemy that fired at this helpless target, so tankmen dismounted and fought along with the infantry to clear the area. The Japanese held out stubbornly, however, making the position too hazardous for salvage operations, and the tank was abandoned after removal of firing mechanisms from the guns.22
Despite mortar fire and strong resistance from caves in the right of the battalion zone, the 3d Battalion advanced steadily with two companies abreast, the left flank along the coast and the right unit in contact with the 2d Battalion. Artillery, naval gunfire, mortars, and rockets supported the attack, and engineers blew numerous emplacements as the units moved forward. The battalion gained about 350 yards, but as further movement would have placed the
ADVANCING TOWARD NISHI RIDGE Marines move out behind tanks. Hill 362A breaks skyline at far right.
right flank out ahead of the stalled unit on 2/28's left, a halt became necessary.
During the afternoon VAC moved the boundary between the 3d and 5th Divisions about 200 yards to the east, and ordered General Rockey to relieve units of the 3d Division in this new sector of responsibility.23 To accomplish this, 3/26 was committed on the right of RCT 28 and moved up to replace 1/21. By 1855 the 3d Battalion had established contact with the 3d Battalion, 9th Marines on the right and the 1st Battalion, 28th on the left. The 2d Battalion, 26th Marines then took up a forward position in RCT reserve.24 When the fighting ended on 1 March, the 5th Division held a 1,000-yard front along the crest of the ridge that ran east and west from Hill 362A. (See Map X.)
D-plus-11While the 5th Division battled slowly through the network of strong positions around Hill 362A, the 3d Division broke out of the Japanese cross-island defense system in the center and struck rapidly to the northeast. Anticipating the development of a gap between his center and left divisions if the 5th did not move out quickly along the boundary to the north and east of 362A, General Schmidt, on 2 March, ordered General Rockey to make his main effort on the right, maintaining contact with the 3d.
As the boundary between divisions swung northeast between Airfield Number 3 and Hill 362B25 the 5th's zone of action became wider. To meet this situation General Rockey committed RCT 26 on the right of RCT 28, giving it the relatively narrow strip of the Motoyama
155MM HOWITZERS were the heaviest artillery available to Marines at Iwo. In general support of the corps, these weapons fired a total of 43,795 rounds. Most of this ammunition was expended in counterbattery and preparatory fire missions.
Plateau included within the division zone. While operating on this short front the 26th Marines could move more rapidly than the 28th, which held a 1,200-yard line, and could commit reserve units to maintain contact with the division on the right. With only the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines as division reserve (2/27 was in corps reserve and 3/27 attached to RCT 28), Rockey also included the following somewhat unusual paragraph in his operation order for 2 March: "A unit creating a gap by advancing will be responsible for filling that gap."26 This was certainly not intended to slow a coordinated advance by all units, but warned that the division commander had no troops available for plugging holes along his front.
With two regiments in the attack on D-plus 11, the 13th Marines placed its 3d Battalion in direct support of RCT 26 while the 2d Battalion continued in direct support of RCT 28. The 1st and 4th Battalions reinforced the fires of the 3d and 2d Battalions respectively. For the 30-minute preattack preparation, and for the remainder of the day, the 13th Marines was augmented by 50 percent of the corps artillery fires.27
The 26th Marines jumped off along the division boundary at 0800 with 3/26 in the assault. As the battalion advanced, a gap opened on the left, and Companies D and F of the 2d Battalion fought forward to regain contact with 1/28 and fill the hole. Slowly Marines gained against the resolute Japanese defense. In this area the enemy depended more on positions cleverly concealed in the numerous crevices and outcroppings scattered throughout the rocky ground than on concrete emplacements, but the natural tank obstacles were extended and strengthened with mines. Kuribayashi's soldiers also crowded the Marine lines, thus further limiting the use of heavy weapons in close support. Although use of armor would be difficult, 3/26 requested and received Company A tanks to spearhead the attack.
The two companies of the 2d Battalion were heavily engaged when the battalion received orders to shift to the right flank to close a new gap that had developed between RCT 26 and the 3d Division (21st Marines). Company E, in battalion reserve, moved out immediately (1400), but D and F had to disengage under heavy fire before they could join the rest of their unit. Lack of information concerning the particular unit of RCT 21 with which contact was to be made further complicated execution of this mission. Mine fields and mortar fire harassed the companies during the shift, but exhausted Marines finally closed the gap just as night fell.
75MM HALF-TRACKS stand by as demolition team blasts enemy pillbox.
Division engineers attached to the 26th Marines moved right along with the assault elements, clearing mine fields and pushing supply roads forward. Commenting on the road-building activities of these engineers, Colonel Graham wrote, ". . . for the remainder of the operation attached engineers kept usable roads pushed right up to the front lines (and often ahead of front lines)."28
The 1st Battalion, 26th Marines was committed to plug the hole on the left of the 3d Battalion when Companies D and F (2/26) pulled out to the northeast. The 3d Battalion, using three companies along its extended lines, carved out a 500-yard gain during the day. (See Map X.)
The 28th Marines, in the left of the division zone of action, jumped off on time with its three battalions in the same positions as on 1 March. The scheme of maneuver called for 1/28 and 2/28 to attack around both sides of Hill 362A and join on the north side for a coordinated assault to the first objective: Nishi Ridge.
BULLDOZER OPERATORS pushed roads to the front. Sulfur fumes add ghostly appearance to this scene.
This elevation, 200 yards to the north, ran west from the plateau almost to the water's edge, directly across the front. Just beyond it lay what had once been the little cluster of buildings called Nishi. The 3d Battalion would continue up the west coast on 2/28's left flank.
When the 1st and 2d Battalions started forward, they met the same determined resistance as on the day before. Every time Marines moved down into the compartment that crossed the front, they received intense fire from both front and rear. Shermans' from Company B, 5th Tank Battalion, spent the entire morning trying to maneuver into effective supporting positions, but a long antitank ditch running north from Hill 362A interfered with these efforts.
The 13th Marines concentrated on Japanese mortar positions throughout the day, firing both air-spot and forward observer missions with telling effect. But against close-in enemy targets the artillery was useless, so all infantry weapons had to be exploited to the fullest extent. Men from the regimental weapons company managed to set up three .50-caliber machine guns to cover caves that honeycombed the north face of the hill, and friendly mortars blanketed the area ahead.
Finally, with the aid of an eningeer armored bulldozer and a tankdozer, the tank trap was filled in enough to permit passage. Leaving one tank behind to cover the reverse slope of the hill, the rest pushed out 200 yards until bottled up by terrain that narrowed down into one small draw. While engaged with the Japanese defenders in this defile, one of the tanks had several demolition charges detonated against its side. These explosives did no damage, however, as the tank was protected by heavy planks so attached that an air space was left between the boards and the armor plate.29
Company C tanks came forward at 1400 to relieve those of Company B, which had used up all their ammunition. On the way to the front one platoon of regular mediums and a flame tank blasted and burned hostile positions at the base of Hill 362A that still harassed advancing infantry from the rear. For the rest of the day this company provided a base of fire from stationary positions into the rugged cave-ridden sides of Nishi Ridge.
In the afternoon RCT 28's 1st and 2d Battalions broke the stalemate and pushed units ahead to the Nishi ridge line in spite of heavy casualties incurred while crossing the draw. They clung grimly to these advanced positions despite severe losses and a sharp counterattack by 150 Japanese. At 1400 Lieutenant Colonel Chandler W. Johnson, commanding 2/28, was killed by a high explosive shell while walking from the Company F command post to Company E's, and his executive officer, Major Thomas B. Pearce, Jr., took over command of the battalion. Reserve units mopped up the high ground in the vicinity of Hill 362A, and by nightfall that area was reasonably secure. (See Map X.)
The 3d Battalion, which had been working northeast along the west coast, turned north on 2 March to follow the shoreline within a narrowing zone of action. During the day Company H was squeezed out by the left flank unit of the 2d Battalion and became RCT reserve.30 The terrain constituted the major obstacle to the advance, but occasional mortar barrages fell on frontlines until late afternoon when the enemy weapons were silenced.31 At 0900, and again at 1125, a greenish smoke given off by enemy mortar shells caused men to vomit and left them with headaches. This caused a short-lived gas
scare, but it was quickly squelched and the men suffered no serious aftereffects.32
Attached 37mm guns and 81mm mortars were used extensively and effectively against Japanese positions in the rocky draws, and engineer demolitionists, following close behind the assault, blasted a total of 68 caves during the day.33
Corps ordered all divisions to consolidate positions at 1700, but skirmishes continued all along the 5th Division front as Marines fought to reach good defensible ground. By nightfall forward elements were dug in generally along the Nishi Ridge line, and on the far right 2/26 stretched out to the northeast along the division boundary to tie in with 3/9 (attached to RCT 21) just west of Hill 362B.34 The battle for 362A was over, but the struggle for Nishi Ridge was only beginning, and the 26th Marines faced bloody fighting around Hill 362B and the rocky shambles ot the north and east. (See Map X.)
Maps and simple two-dimensional photographs did not adequately portray the broken nature of the ground on Iwo, particularly in the north, and it was only by viewing stereo pairs35 of photographs that the relief could be visualized. These stereo pairs, while effective, were
TANKDOZER clears route through rocky defile. Terrain such as this limited tank operations and dozers became an integral part of any tank-infantry team.
difficult to work with, and the 5th Engineer Battalion supplied the division intelligence officer with a total of 6,054 vectograph transparencies of the island for distribution to division staff sections and lower echelons. These vectographs,36 when used with a special but simple viewer, provided even small unit commanders with an easy means of determining ground contours. In this way, front line observations could be correlated with the terrain as indicated on maps, charts, and photographs of the area. Division operations orders and fire support plans were prepared from a mosaic of vectographs prepared by the intelligence section.
Nishi Ridge and Hill 362B
D-plus-12The 5th Division resumed its attack at 0745 on 3 March with no change in formation. The 28th Marines was to attack north from positions along Nishi Ridge, while the 26th Marines, now up on the Motoyama Plateau, drove north from the division's right boundary and also pushed out northeast to relieve 3d Division units in the vicinity of Hill 362B.
In its narrowing zone of action on the far left, the 3d Battalion, 28th Marines would hold up on the line of departure until the 2d Battalion pinched out Company G. Then Company I on the left was to move out in conjunction with the 2d Battalion. During the morning 3/28 received only light enemy fire as engineer-infantry teams continued mopping up and sealing bypassed caves along the coast.
In the center of the regimental zone the 2d Battalion, supported by 75mm half-tracks, 37mm guns, and a reinforced platoon of tanks, encountered stiff resistance, and Company D, on the right, was halted shortly after 0800 by heavy mortar fire. As Company E advanced beyond stalled Company D, it was subjected to flanking fire from the right front and the tanks moved into that zone to engage enemy targets designated by the infantry. The action was at close quarters, and Marines frequently exchanged hand grenades with Japanese infantrymen. By 1000 the enemy to the immediate front had been annihilated, and the two assault companies, now reinforced by two platoons from Company F, got underway again.
As 2/28 inched forward it pinched out the right flank company of 3/28, leaving Company I the only unit of the 3d Battalion still in the lines. During the afternoon Companies I and F gained easily against light resistance, but on the right the going was more difficult and units held up for the night 150 to 200 yards forward of the line of departure. (See Map XI.)
Along the boundary between RCT 26 and RCT 28, where the regimental fronts were almost at right angles to each other, 1/28 and 1/26 launched a coordinated attack to clear the enemy facing 1/28 and advance the 28th Marines' right flank to straighten the division line at that point. Casualties mounted fast as they drove through the maze of enemy emplacements hidden in the rugged terrain. Company H, 3/28, attached to 1/28 at daybreak, relieved Company B at 1100, but by 1230 this unit had taken such high casualties that Company B had to move back into the lines. In coordination with 1/26's attack, Company C on 1/28's right flank was successful in overcoming the enemy to its front and rolled forward 500 yards. Companies A and B on the left were unable to keep up, however, and the remnants of Company H were committed late in the day to fill the hole created by this uneven progress. Actually this company was so depleted that it could only cover the gap by fire, but the night passed quietly with no serious consequence.
The line of departure for the 2d and 3d Battalion of the 26th Marines on 3 March resembled a letter "U" with 3/26 on the left and 2/26 on the right. The scheme of maneuver called for straightening and shortening the front by making the main effort in the center, pivoting on the flanks. The 2d Battalion would also try to accomplish the relief of 3d Division troops near Hill 362B to 1000. (See Map XI.)
WAR DOGS and their handlers stood sentry duty, manned outposts, and accompanied patrols. If an enemy lurks in this cave dog will signal.
The battalions moved out rapidly in one of RCT 26's most successful, but at the same time most costly, attacks of the operation.37 Tanks of Company B supported the 2d Battalion by covering the left flank of Company F as it smashed forward for a gain of 600 yards. This fire was controlled by the infantry company commander who radioed instructions via a tank liaison man stationed at the 2/26 command post. For the first 300 yards the assault swept across relatively flat and open terrain, but as elements in the center came abreast of the flanks the nature of the ground changed. The "flat land" gave way to sharply cut gorges and jutting outcrops of rock where grimly waiting Japanese slowed the Marine advance. Fierce hand-to-hand struggles raged, and flame throwers, bazookas, and hand grenades were the principal weapons used in this jungle of stone where fields of fire were so limited and surprise encounters frequent. The 5th Division intelligence officer described this area well in his D-2 operation report:
In the final defense area north of Nishi the increased natural defensive strength of the ground and
its subterranean defensive features compensated for the reduced amounts of concrete and steel used by the Japs . . . Volcanic eruption has littered the whole northern end of the island with outcrops of sandstone and loose rock. The sandstone outcrops made cave digging easy for the Japs . . . Our troops obtained cover only by defilade or by piling loose rocks on the surface to form rock-revetted positions. A series of irregularly eroded, crisscrossed gorges with precipitous sides resulted in a series of compartments of various shapes. These were usually small but some extended for several hundred yards. The compartments were lined with a labyrinth of natural and artificial caves which covered the approaches from all directions. Fields of fire were usually limited to 25 yards, and a unique or at least unusual characteristic of the Japanese defensive positions in this area was that the reverse slopes were as strongly fortified as were the forward slopes.38
Gains by the 3d Battalion were not so great as those of the 2d, but by the end of the day the dip in the lines had been completely eradicated and the flanks advanced some 200 yards.
While the rest of the regiment fought its way northward, Companies D and E launched an attack to the northeast along the boundary to seize Hill 362B and relieve the 3d Battalion, 9th Marines, in the 5th Division zone of action. By 1430 the two companies of 2/26 had gained positions southwest of the hill and completed the relief of 3/9.
The bloody assault to the crest of rough and craggy 362B was launched at 1600. The two companies burned and blasted their way to the top, using rocket launchers, flame throwers, and demolitions to the fullest extent to overcome the dense network of interconnecting caves
SMALL-UNIT COMMAND POST just behind the lines. Marine standing at center is using SCR 536 radio. Rugged terrain provides excellent protection from all enemy weapons except mortars and grenades.
and pillboxes along the southern and western slopes. Both company commanders (WIA) were among the heavy losses taken in reaching the summit of 362B.
The 5th Division front at the close of D-plus 12 (3 March) traced an irregular line west from the top of Hill 362B along the rugged northern edge of the Motoyama Plateau, then down to the west coast, passing about 200 yards north of Nishi. Gains in some sectors had been as much as 600 yards; as little as 125 yards in others. But the over-all advance by the tired and depleted division on this day was impressive. (See Map XI.)
RCT 28 spent a quiet night, marked only by sporadic mortar fire and minor attempts at infiltration, but an aggressive enemy crowded the 26th Marines throughout the hours of darkness. During the night men of that regiment killed 97 out of an estimated 100 enemy would-be infiltraters in front of the lines.
D-plus-13The 5th Division met more intensive small-caliber mortar fire on 4 March than experienced previously, and the front, except for the extreme western flank along the coast, was swept throughout the day by machine-gun and rifle fire from caves and underbrush.39 In this northern area, where the resistance came chiefly from a network of caves in very rugged terrain, front lines were usually in such close proximity to enemy positions that friendly artillery, naval gunfire, air, or even mortars, could not be employed effectively in close support. For this reason flame-throwing tanks and combat engineers with armored dozers and demolitions became the principal supporting arms.40
But it was in the narrow lanes and rocky corridors of this contorted northern terrain that the Japanese made their most effective use of mines. The removal of these from constricted areas covered by small-arms and mortar fire constituted a major problem for which no really satisfactory solution ever materialized. The following excerpt from the 5th Engineer Battalion report of the operation describes the two methods commonly employed:
"Engineer Tanks" were not available and mines had to be removed by hand, under fire; or equipment had to be run into the minefield until it was blown up, then removed and the process repeated until a path through the minefield was opened. The former method was slow, tedious, and exposed highly trained specialists to high casualties. The latter method was slow, and costly in armored dozers and tanks.41
The weather on 4 March was warm (75°), but low-hanging clouds reduced visibility and intermittent showers dampened the spirits as well as the bodies of exhausted troops. An artillery preparation and a rocket barrage42 preceded the 0730 jump-off, but an air strike scheduled in front of the 5th Division was canceled because of the low ceiling. Attempts to use 75mm half-tracks and 37mm guns of the weapons companies were hampered by the terrain and the vulnerability of gun crews to enemy fire. Tanks provided excellent support, however, particularly the flame tanks, and limited gains made during the day resulted from the coordinated efforts of infantry-tank-engineer teams.
Fighting along the entire front remained much the same and followed a pattern that continued without any great change until the end of the operation. The infantry advanced until pinned down by fire. Then, when hostile positions were located, armored dozers, working ahead of the line under protection of tank and infantry fire, prepared a road over which the Shermans could advance to engage the enemy. After flame tanks had neutralized the area, the infantrymen advanced while demolition teams dealt with bypassed caves and pillboxes. This was a slow and laborious process, but any attempt by the infantry to continue the advance before destruction of enemy positions resulted in excessive casualties. Furthermore, ground thus gained could not be held so long as the enemy controlled firing positions in the rear. The frustration of troops facing an
enemy who was rarely seen alive is again reflected in this statement from the 26th Marines action report: "Occasionally the tanks flushed out enemy personnel who could be killed by the infantry. This always raised the morale."43
In the center of the division zone of action 3/27 passed through RCT 28's right unit (1/28), and by 1800 had also relieved 1/26, which had been operating on RCT 26's left flank. After the passage of lines 1/28 moved south to replace 2/27 in corps reserve. At the eastern end of the line 1/27, now attached to the 26th Marines, took over a 1-company front, relieving the right flank unit of 2/26. Although the division made only minor gains, the fighting on D-plus 13 was bitter and costly, and units were shifted from company to company, and often between battalions, to strengthen the weakened units, most of which were operating at half strength. Headquarters personnel and men from weapons units were sent forward to bolster the rifle companies.
By this time the 26th Marines had been reduced from a D-Day strength of 3,256 officers and men to 2,153 effectives. Of this strength at the end of D-plus-13, 464 were newcomers from the 27th and 31st Replacement Drafts. Faced with similar losses in trained personnel and an influx of 322 replacements, the 28th Marines placed its combat efficiency at 40 percent on 4 March. Alarming as these figures appear, coldly mathematical comparisons do not adequately present the situation. It was the serious loss of key personnel at the company, platoon, and squad level that sorely affected operations. In addition to this, although replacement troops soon became effective and seasoned members of the units they joined, there was always an initial period of inefficiency. Even when these men were well trained and aggressive, they were not yet members of a team. They had to be told and shown what to do and, too often, how to do it.44
The Fifteenth DayDuring the afternoon of 4 March the 5th Division received the corps order directing that all divisions devote the next day to reorganization, resupply, and preparations for an attack on 6 March. This order further instructed that each division was to ". . . have one RCT, less one battalion, available for employment 6 March, exclusive of regimental reserves for units in the line. General direction of proposed attack to eastward in present zones of action.45
To implement this order General Rockey directed RCT 26 to relieve 1/27 with 1/26, and ordered RCT 27, in reserve, to take control of 1/27 and prepare to launch a coordinated attack on the right of the division zone of action. He further directed that RCT 28 have 3/28, operating on a narrow front, expand to take over 2/28's zone of action.46 This reorganization would leave the division with the 28th Marines holding a two battalion front (3/28 left, 3/27 right), the 26th Marines drawn up with three battalions abreast, (3/26, 2/26, 1/26), and the 27th Marines (less 3/27) available in compliance with the corps order.
On 5 March RCT 26 and RCT 28 made only local attacks to straighten the lines, and by 1200 the reorganization was completed. Marine artillery and naval gunfire were active throughout the day, and carrier planes flew 18 missions against enemy positions in the northern part of the island. The tankers spent most of their time in bivouac areas performing sorely needed maintenance work, but a few Shermans operated in the 26th Marines area, reducing caves and strong points in the vicinity of the front lines. During this limited action one flame tank was disabled by a mine, and one regular tank lost to antitank fire. At the end of the day the 5th Tank Battalion reported 35 machines operational, including three flame throwers.
Enemy infantry remained quiet, but Japanese mortars harassed Marine lines, and high-velocity weapons interdicted Road Junction 338. This junction, in the 3d Division zone a short distance northwest of Motoyama Village, was on the main supply road to the 26th Marines' forward areas.47 These Japanese weapons, which
were not silenced until the next day, slowed movement of supplies and knocked out several vehicles.
When relieved by the 1st Battalion, 26th, 1/27 began moving to an assembly area just west of RJ 338, along the division boundary. During this movement, Lieutenant Colonel John A. Butler, the commanding officer, was killed at the road junction when a high-velocity shell hit his jeep. That afternoon Lieutenant Colonel Justin G. Duryea, operations officer of RCT 27, assumed command of 1/27. At 1500, 2/27 moved to an assembly area just north of 1/27, from which it would pass through 1/26 on the division's right flank at daylight.
Of Guns and Men
D-plus-15 K-Hour was 0800. At 0750, 6 March, three battalions of the 13th Marines joined eight other battalions of artillery to fire a smashing, 2-phase preparation for the corps' echeloned, main-effort attack toward the northeast coast.48 In support of the first phase, a coordinated K-Hour attack to the northeast by RCT's 27 and 21, the massed artillery delivered a 10-minute preparation at a rate of five rounds per gun per minute, followed by a rolling barrage that lifted approximately 100 yards every seven minutes for 21 minutes. The rate of fire for the barrage was two rounds per gun per minute.
The 2d Battalion, 27th Marines started forward at 0500 under cover of darkness and moved to positions just behind 1/26. The actual relief, which began at daylight, was completed by 0730, and the troops were ready to move out as soon as the preparation lifted. But just as the assault was to begin, enemy shells landed in the area of Company E (2/27), on the right, causing 35 casualties and delaying the jump-off for about ten minutes. Company E made little gain and Company F, on the left, advanced only very slowly against strong Japanese positions consisting of pillboxes and the ever-present caves. One platoon of the reserve company was committed on the left and moved out a short distance, but 2/27 did not make any significant advance on its first day of action in the indescribably rugged northern section of Iwo.
From K-plus 45 minutes to K-plus 81 minutes the 1st, 2d, and 3d Battalions of the 13th Marines shifted their fires to support the second (K-plus 60 minutes) attack launched by the 3d and 4th Divisions. Upon completion of this mission for the corps, 1/13 reverted to a general support role for the 5th Division while 2/13 and 3/13 fired in direct support of RCT's 28 and 26 respectively. The 4th Battalion supported RCT 27 in the division main effort attack throughout the day.
In the 26th's zone of action, the 1st Battalion, which had just been relieved by 2/27, moved to the left and replaced 2/26 in the line. Then at 1245, following an artillery preparation, 1/26 launched an attack. The 3d Battalion, still operating on the left of the regimental front, was to move forward as soon as 1/26 had reduced a strong point that enfiladed its lines. Repeated attempts to break through this resistance failed, however, and neither battalion made an important advance.
On the far left of the division front, RCT 28 maintained generally the same positions throughout the day. The 3d Battalion, 27th Marines (attached to RCT 28) advanced slightly when 3/26 on its right moved ahead a short distance, and 3/28 kept pace along the coast, but no major changes occurred.
In support of the K-Hour attack, one battleship and two cruisers fired 50 rounds of 14-inch and 400 rounds of 8-inch ammunition. These same ships, plus three destroyers and two LCS(LO)'s in direct support of the 5th Division, provided call fires throughout the day. In addition to naval gunfire, carrier planes flew 12 very close support missions.49
By the end of D-plus-15 it was apparent that all the blasting by artillery, ships' guns, and planes had accomplished little to reduce the enemy's ability and will to resist. It was true that his heavy artillery was not very active,
but this progressive diminution of fires had been noticed several days prior to this time. It was the light mortar and automatic-weapons fire that made every yard of advance through this nightmare of stone so costly. Heavy, long-range weapons had not been able to silence this opposition. The fiery streams from infantry and tank flame throwers had, however, proven highly successful against the tough Japanese positions, and with this in mind the 5th Division sent the following message to VAC: "Request close support planes be armed maximum amount napalm for duration operation. Urgent need in ravines along northeast coast. . . ." 50
D-plus-16Following the tremendous expenditure of ammunition on D-plus-15, VAC issued orders limiting the use of its own 155mm howitzers to ". . . deliberate destructive fires against known enemy targets,"51 and reduced the divisional artillery units allowance ". . . to keep ammunition expenditures within limits which will enable a supply to be maintained for emergencies. . . ." The 5th Division was to fire not more than 2,500 rounds of 105mm and 1,500 rounds of 75mm during the 24-hour period beginning at 1800, 6 March.52 This limitation did not prohibit the granting of any request for fires, but did limit the firing of harassing missions.53
The corps operation order for 7 March again directed the 5th Division to make its main effort in the northeast sector of the division zone of action with the high ground overlooking the sea as the objective.54 General Rockey's order to his three infantry regiments reflected the corps' scheme of maneuver, directing RCT's 26 and 28 to make ". . . minor objective attacks . . ."55 and RCT 27 to make the main effort in its zone.
K-Hour was 0730, but at 0640, in the presunrise twilight, Colonel Graham's 26th Marines (less 2/26 in corps reserve) jumped off without preparatory fires in a surprise attack to reduce the strong enemy pocket that had blocked the advance on the previous day (6 March).
The 1st Battalion, with Company H attached, moved out rapidly against moderate resistance and overran the objective by 1140, leaving demolition men, aided by tanks, to mop up and seal cave entrances. With this obstacle removed from its flank, the 3d Battalion also moved forward, but after a gain of about 150 yards resistance stiffened all along the regimental front. By the end of the day all six companies were heavily engaged on a thinly held line after an average gain of about 200 yards. (See Map XI.)
The 2d Battalion, 27th Marines, with Company A attached, attacked at K-Hour to make the division main effort. After a 15-minute preparation by 4/13, Company A passed through the right flank of Company E for an assault on a narrow front along the division boundary, while Company G, 21st Marines attacked on the right in the 3d Division zone of action. The objective was a piece of commanding ground from which enemy guns enfiladed Company E's route of advance. The first rush carried leading elements well forward, but as Marines passed into a draw that cut through the first of several ridges to the front, Japanese machine guns opened up from both sides. These hostile positions were difficult to locate and almost impossible to knock out. After considerable heaving and hauling, a 37mm gun was maneuvered into a forward position from which it engaged the opposing weapons. Throughout the day close-range hand grenade battles raged in this area and Marine casualties mounted steadily. Company G, 21st Marines met the same difficult situation, and finally both units withdrew to better positions for night defense.56 (See Map XI.)
The actions of Companies E and F duplicated the previous day's fighting. Knee mortars,
grenades, and short range rifle fire exacted an exorbitant toll in killed and wounded for a meager gain of 150 yards. Attempts were made to bring up tanks in support, but the terrain proved impassable. About noon one platoon from Company C plugged a gap on the left between RCT 26 and RCT 27. When this platoon advanced ahead of units on either side, it immediately received vicious flanking fire. Grenades and 81mm mortar smoke shells were fired to screen this small unit as it withdrew to a more sheltered line, and at 1330 a second platoon from the same company moved into the line to maintain contact with RCT 26. During the afternoon the grim cave warfare continued but with scant gain.
On the far left, along the northwest coast where enemy resistance in front of RCT 28 had been light, 3/28 and 3/27 sent out combat patrols to develop the situation before moving out in a general attack. With no special preparation fired, the patrols moved out at 0900 and met only scattered groups of the enemy. The main body followed at 1000, impeded only by extremely difficult terrain. The division reconnaissance company, attached to 3/28, was on the left, and Companies H and G extended the line to the east, maintaining contact with 3/27. Only mortars and rockets, firing well to the front, supported the attack. The two battalions pushed 500 yards to the north along the rocky gorge-cut coast by 1530 for one of the longest advances yet made in the 5th Division's zone of action. Further progress would have been possible before dark, but with the lines on ground suitable for defense the Marines halted and dug in for the night. (See Map XI.)
During the day naval gunfire supplemented the limited artillery fires for harassing missions, and all naval gunfire control parties were instructed to expend 500 rounds per ship. Based on information supplied by the corps intelligence section, the division intelligence officer assigned target priorities.57 Although shrinking enemy-held territory and consequent proximity of friendly troops to targets made close support difficult, the Landing Force Air Support Control Unit authorized ten deliberate, closely coordinated missions, using 119 carrier planes in 147 sorties. Of the 40 napalm bombs carried, however, seven failed to release, and seven of the 33 released did not ignite.58
5TH DIVISION OFFICERS study stereo pairs to orient themselves in the jumbled terrain.
D-plus-17For the first time since the beginning of the operation the corps order for the attack on 8 March departed from phase-line objectives and directed the divisions ". . . to capture the remainder of the island."59 The 5th Division was to continue its main effort on the right, with RCT 27 driving to the northeast coast along the division boundary, parallel to the 3d Division advance.
The 2d Battalion, 27th Marines, commenced its attack at K-Hour (0750) but made little progress until tanks arrived. The Shermans had set out from their bivouac area as soon as there was enough light to travel, moving along a route reconnoitered the day before. The rough terrain hampered their progress, and it was not until about 0900 that armor of Company B arrived in position to support the assault. With this aid, Company E finally managed to inch forward through the heavily mined and cave-infested area to the front, grinding out an advance of about 150 yards during the morning.
In the left of the battalion zone, where the ground was too rough for employment of tanks, a 15-man crew from Battery B, 13th Marines, wrestled a 75mm pack howitzer and 200 rounds of ammunition up close to the front to provide essential direct fire support. This weapon destroyed several enemy positions, but Japanese resistance in front of Companies D and F remained virtually undiminished and only very limited gains were made.
It was Company E, on the right, that finally broke loose during the afternoon to surge forward in a 300-yard rush to the bluff overlooking the sea. During the morning unrelenting pressure of engineer-tank-infantry teamwork had cracked the Japanese defenses to the immediate front, but this Marine advance appears to have been stimulated by more than just fire superiority. The spark that set off this charge was the fatal wounding of a tremendously popular platoon leader, 1st Lieutenant Jack Lummus.60 This officer's fearless actions had been an inspiration to his men, and when they saw him fall in battle, fierce anger blazed up to drive them forward.61
Although the attack by RCT 28 on the division's left flank was delayed somewhat while the 1st and 2d Battalions passed through 3/27 and 3/28, gains during the day were good. Along the coast 2/28 equalled the 500-yard advance of the previous day, and on that unit's right 1/28 moved ahead 300 yards.
Both battalions jumped off against light opposition and scrambled forward rapidly over the rough ground for at least 100 yards before any serious enemy reaction developed. Then Japanese fire increased along the front, and bypassed positions came to life to harass the rear of assault elements. The attached 75's and 37's of the weapons company were pressed into service, and 81mm mortars fired heavy concentrations in an attempt to neutralize Japanese weapons. Naval gunfire pounded coastal areas ahead of the advance and planes struck twice at Hill 165, one of the last significant terrain features in the regiment's zone of action.
As enemy resistance stiffened, the infantry requested armor, and 11 regular plus two flame tanks were dispatched to the front. But the only available route forward was heavily mined, and engineer clearance teams were pinned down most of the day by rifle fire with the result that only four rounds of 75mm ammunition and half a load of flame oil were expended in support of the 28th Marines on D-plus-17.
The 26th Marines, with the 1st and 3d Battalions still in the line, tried to advance the division center against the complex maze of pillboxes and interconnected caves in the area that had once been the village of Kita. The plan was for 3/26 to advance only a short distance to a point where 1/26 on the right and 1/28 on the left would pinch that unit out. Neither the 1st nor the 3d Battalion could advance far enough to place this plan in effect, however, and at the close of the day the regimental front remained essentially unchanged. (See Map XI.)
At the end of the day's fighting, the Japanese commander on Iwo made the following report to Tokyo:
Troops at "Tamanayama" and Northern district are still holding their position thoroughly and continue giving damages to the enemy. Their fighting situation believing their country's victory looks godlike.62
Looking certain defeat squarely in the face, however, he added:
I am very sorry that I have let the enemy occupy one part of the Japanese territory, but I am taking comfort in giving heavy damages to the enemy.63
Launching the Final Drive
D-plus-18-19During the next two days the division advanced its left flank about 40 yards across almost impossible terrain. Japanese resistance in this sector was light until the 28th Marines
came under intense and accurate fire from high ground that ran southeast from Kitano Point. Slowed by this fire, the drive to the northeast finally came to an abrupt halt against a long, low ridge line that overlooked a deep gorge. In this steep draw the Japanese held out 15 more days to create the final pocket of resistance on Iwo.
Along the remainder of the 5th Division front, however, the 26th and 27th Marines battled north and northeast against the stubborn enemy for meager gains. At 0700 the morning of 9 March 2/26 (released from corps reserve on 8 March) moved up and relieved the left-most units of 1/26. This placed elements of 3/26, 2/26, and 1/26 on line from left ot right. The regiment made no advance until the 28th Marines came up on the left. At 1530 the 28th pulled abreast and squeezed out Company I, 3/26. The 26th then jumped off in the attack but made no appreciable gain against extremely heavy and accurate small-arms fire. (See Map XII.)
Early in the morning of 10 March 2/26 completed relieving elements of 3/26 (Company G) and the 26th Marines attacked at 0800 for no gain. A second attack at 1400 netted only 75 yards. The plan for D-plus-19 had called for 2/26 to advance diagonally (northeastward) across the front of the 1st Battalion and pinch out that unit, leaving only the 2d Battalion on line. The day's small gain did not allow execution of this plan, and at 2000 1/26 and its zone passed to control of RCT 27, on the division right flank. The 3d Battalion became corps reserve at about noon, the 10th of March.
Although the 21st Marines, to the southwest, had reached the sea in its zone of action, the 27th made an attempt to occupy the beach physically once it gained the high bluffs overlooking the shore line. Instead, this unit fought to swing the division right flank northward to sweep the remaining enemy up into the narrow northern tip of the island. The 1st and 2d Battalions met extremely stiff resistance when they jumped off on 9 March and registered no gain during the day. (See Map XII.)
In early afternoon the hazard of land mines was forcibly demonstrated when an explosion seriously wounded Lieutenant Colonel Justin G. Duryea, commanding 1/27, and Lieutenant Colonel John W. Antonelli, commanding officer of 2/27. They had met near the front lines with other officers to confer on the situation. The company commander and another officer from Company E, and the intelligence officer of 2/27 were also wounded by this blast. Both battalion commanders and the company commander were evacuated, but the other two officers continued in action. Command of the 1st and 2d Battalions passed to the executive officers, Major William H. Tumbleston and Major Gerald F. Russell, respectively.
The 3d Battalion went into action on the right flank on 10 March with orders to attack northwest along the cliff line above the northeast coast to a point where it could pass across the 2d Battalion front. The 1st Battalion, on the left, was to continue its assault in column of companies to the northeast, squeezing out the left unit of 2/27 and then turning to the northwest along the RCT 26-27 boundary. Enemy fire, mines, and the rugged terrain combined to hold the Marines almost to a standstill, and when units tied in for the night elements of all three battalions were still in the line. (See Map XII.)
The 13th Marines fired preparations and scheduled supporting fires for the attacks on these two days, but its contribution was not limited to this normal function. About noon on 9 March General Rockey ordered his artillery regiment to have ten percent of its personnel stand by on 1-hour notice as infantry replacements. The next day a detail from Headquarters and Service Battery and the 1st and 3d Battalions reported to the 28th Marines, and men from the other two artillery battalions reported to the 26th Marines.
On 9 March Iwo-based P-51's joined carrier planes in strikes against Japanese in the northern tip of the island and continued flying troop-support missions until D-plus-23. After the strikes on 10 March the corps air officer reported, "The precision low-altitude work of the P-51's was particularly pleasing to the ground troops."64
In the 14-day period (25 February-10 March) covered in this chapter, the 5th Division drove 3,000 yards up the west coast from positions abreast of Airfield Number 2 to a line that stretched from sea to sea across the narrow northern end of the island. North of the division front, Kuribayashi and his 109th Division headquarters, elements of the 2d Battalion, 145th Infantry Regiment, the remainder of the 3d Battalion, 17th Independent Mixed Regiment, and a miscellany of stragglers from other units were compressed into an area of less than one square mile. In a dispatch to Tokyo on 10 March, General Kuribayashi summed up the Japanese situation in this manner:
Although the attacks of the enemy against our Northern districts are continuing day and night, our troops are still fighting bravely and holding their positions thoroughly * * * 200 or 300 American infantrymen with several tanks attacked "Tenzan" all day. The enemy's bombardments from one battleship (or cruiser), 11 destroyers, and aircraft are very severe, especially the bombing and machine-gun fire against Divisional Headquarters from 30 fighters and bombers are so fierce that I cannot express nor write here.65
Not until 15 bloody days later did Marines eliminate the last pocket of organized enemy resistance in the northern end of the island. By D-plus-19 all that remained for the enemy force was to fight and die for the Emperor. In his Periodic Report for 10 March the VAC intelligence officer summed up enemy morale as follows:
The enemy is now disorganized, particularly in the 4th Marine Division's sector, but his will to fight to the death is apparently undiminished.66
Evidence of the enemy's determination to resist to the end is found in the number of prisoners of war captured as of the close of this period. Total POW's taken by the corps was 111. Of this figure only 67 were Japanese, the other 44 being Korean labor troops.67
During this period the division suffered 4,292 casualties as follows:
Killed in action 830 Died of wounds 263 Wounded in action 2,974 Missing in action 5 Combat fatigue 220 Total 4,292
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (6) * Next Chapter (8)
1. Unless otherwise cited, material in this chapter is based on the following: 5th MarDiv SAR; 26th Mar SAR; 27th Mar SAR; 28th Mar SAR; 13th Mar SAR; 5th MarDiv War Diaries, Feb-Mar45.
2. The 13th Marines had also recommended the occupation of these two tiny islets to give United States forces observation posts from which a large portion of the northern part of the island could be seen, and also as a site for sound and flash ranging stations. 13th Mar SAR, 34, 35.
3. Ibid., 13. Only three battalions were available for this mission as 4/13 had been assigned to reinforce the fires of the 12th Marines. The three battalions fired 584 rounds on this choice target.
4. Ibid., 39.
5. 26th Mar SAR, Appendix 4, 7.
6. 5th MarDiv SAR, Annex M, 12, 15. Since these LVT(A)'s had no gyrostabilizer to steady the gun tube, firing from water-borne positions on a choppy sea was extremely difficult.
7. 5th MarDiv SAR, Sec VII, 22; 13th Mar SAR, 40.
8. This LST was equipped with booms and cables, called a Brodie device, for launching and recovery of light planes. CominCh P-0012, 3-3.
9. 5th MarDiv SAR, Annex G, Appendix 2, 1.
10. Ibid., Appendix 1, 5.
11. It is of interest to note that as of 1800, 27Feb, the corps reported enemy dead as 5,483. Of course this figure was only an estimate as it could not accurately account for the large number of Japanese sealed in caves. C-2 Periodic Rpt, 27Feb45.
12. VAC IntelRpt, Encl A, "VAC Preliminary Order of Battle, Iwo Jima," 27Feb45.
13. 5th MarDiv IntelRpt, 39; 5th MarDiv SAR, Annex H, 7; TF 51 Rpt, Pt V, C, 13.
14. Bn 2/26 established four listening posts along the beach the night of 28Feb/1Mar to assist in night defense measures. One dog from the 6th War Dog Platoon and a small fire group of Marines were stationed at each post. These elements reported that the only resistance met during the night came from the watch(?) dogs who were kept awake only with great difficulty and constant prodding.
20th Mar SAR, Appendix 4, 9.
15. VAC ArtyRpt, 14.
16. This was a friendly 105mm howitzer shell, thrown out from the burning ammunition. Fortunately, this missile did not explode with great force in the FDC. Outside of causing the fire, it did little damage. Ltr BrigGen J.S. Letcher (Ret) to CMC, 13Mar53.
17. VAC ArtyRpt, 14.
18. At 0238 an air-raid alert was passed, and at 0300 further excitement was added when exploding white phosphorous shells caused someone to sound the gas alarm. This mistake was quickly corrected, however, and the gas alert cancelled at 0310. No enemy planes approached the island, and the "all clear" was given at 0430. VAC OpRpt, 28.
19. The 5th Div now had the use of all four battalions of the 13th Marines, 4/13 having been released from its supporting role with the 12th Marines at 1600, 28Feb45. 13th Mar SAR, 15.
20. In this connection the following message from VAC to all divisions is of interest: "In order to effect coordination and to employ available fire power more effectively during King Hour preparations no air strike will be conducted during the period King-minus 45 to King-plus 15 within the zone in which artillery and naval gunfire are shooting." Disp VAC to 3d, 4th, 5th, Divs, 1412, 1Mar45.
21. TF 51 Rpt, Pt 111, 16; TF 54 OpRpt, 20.
22. 5th TkBn SAR, Encl C, 5.
23. As noted in Chapter VI.
24. Disp VAC to 5th and 3d Division, 1325, 1Mar45; 5th MarDiv Record of Telephone Conversations, 5th MarDiv to VAC, 1855, 1Mar45.
25. This was the second Hill 362 that lay at the north end of the plateau.
26. 5th MarDiv OpOrder 9-45, 1Mar45.
27. VAC OpOrder 10-45, 1Mar45.
28. 26th Mar SAR, 9.
29. 5th TkBn SAR, Encl B, 5.
30. 28th Mar R-3 Periodic Rpt No 12, 2Mar45.
31. 28th Mar SAR, Annex O, 18.
32. A report of this incident made by the R-3 (RCT 28) describes the gas as ". . . fairly dense and heavy enough that it went into foxholes. The gas seemed to dissipate quickly. Men did not wear gas masks and it did not affect men unless they were in immediate area of the shell burst. It is the opinion of personnel in [3/28] that the gas is probably picric acid." 28th Mar AR-3 hand written report, 3Mar45.
33. 28th Mar SAR, Annex O, 18.
34. As narrated in the preceding chapter, the 3d Division had received permission to seize Hill 362B, which was located in the 5th Division zone of action but threatened the flank of the advancing 3d. Although 3/9 reached the foot of Hill 362B on 2Mar, corps ordered 5th Division to relive 3d Division troops in the 5th's zone the following morning.
35. Two photographs of the same object or area taken from slightly different angle are called stereo pairs. By means of a special viewer the images of two such photos can be merged to make one picture clearly showing depth.
36. To make vectographs, transparencies from a stereo pair are polarized at right angles to each other and mounted together. Through another polarizing agent, the viewer, the right eye sees the top image only and the left eye the back image only. The effect is the same as normal three-dimensional vision with both eyes. Impact, Vol 1, No. 3, August 1943, 45, published by Office of the Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Intelligence. Washington, D.C.; 5th MarDiv IntelRpt, 9, 36, 37; Ltr LtCol G.A. Roll to CMC, 7Apr 53.
37. The 26th Marines (not including attachments) suffered 8 officer and 273 enlisted casualties on this date, 3Mar45. 26th Mar War Diary, Mar45.
38. 5th MarDiv IntelRpt, 26.
39. C-2 Periodic Rpt No. 14, 4Mar45.
40. 26th Mar SAR, 41.
41. 5th MarDiv SAR, Annex J, 24.
42. The sudden and intense concentration of these 4.5-inch barrage rockets, fired from Mk-7 rocket launchers, made this weapon ideal for last-minute preparations. It was often used as a signal for the jump-off in an attack.
43. Ibid., 41.
44. Ibid., 37; 27th Mar SAR, Encl A, 5; 28th Mar SAR, 30, 51; 26th Mar War Diary, 4Mar45.
45. Disp VAC to 3d, 4th, 5th Divs, 1624 4Mar45.
46. Disp 5th MarDiv to organic units, 1945, 4Mar45.
47. As the best routes to the north lay in the 3d Div zone of action, the flanking divisions frequently moved troops and equipment through the center to their fighting fronts. Beginning on 2 March the Corps OpOrders specifically authorized this. VAC OpOrder 11-45, 2Mar45.
48. These roles of the 3d and 4th Divisions in this attack are related in Chapters VI and VIII respectively.
49. C-3 Periodic Rpt No 16, 6Mar45; TF 51 Rpt, Pt V, C, 32; VAC Air Rpt, Encl A.
50. Disp 5th MarDiv to VAC, 1425, 6Mar45.
51. VAC OpOrder 14-45, 6Mar45.
52. Disp VAC to division and corps artillery units, 1715, 5Mar45. This dispatch was dated 5 March but the VAC G-3 Journal shows it logged out at 1739, 6Mar45.
53. 13th Mar SAR, 17.
54. VAC OpOrder 14-45, 6Mar45.
55. 5th MarDiv OpOrder 13-45, 6Mar45.
56. SSgt Henry Giniger and SSgt Tony Smith, "The Twenty-Seventh Marines in Combat, Iwo Jima," manuscript, undated. Hereafter cited as Ginger and Smith.
57. 5th MarDiv D-3 Periodic Rpt No 17, 7Mar45.
58. VAC Air Rpt, Encl A, 5. Other ordnance dropped in these strikes included 67 500-lb bombs, 170 100-lb bombs, and 426 rockets.
59. VAC OpOrder, 15-45, 7Mar45.
60. Lieutenant Lummus was awarded the Medal of Honor for his dauntless leadership on 8 March.
61. 27th Mar SAR, Encl F, 13. In another report this attack was described as ". . . a terrific Marine drive . . . which at times assumed the proportions of an American banzai charge." Giniger and Smith, 18.
62. Horie, 9. Tamanayama refers to the area east of Airfield No. 2 in the 4th Division zone of action. The "Northern districts" fell in the 5th Division zone.
64. VAC Air Rpt, Encl A, 6.
65. Horie, 10. Tenzan was the area east and north of Hill 362B where RCT 27 was attacking.
66. C-2 Periodic Rpt No 20, 10Mar45.
67. Ibid. Broken down by divisions the number of POW's taken as of 10 March was: 3d MarDiv--49, 4th MarDiv--28, 5th MarDiv--34.