LST's, LVT's and Wet TCS-TBX1
The mission of seizing Roi and its airfield, had been assigned to the 23d Marines (reinforced), which was to land from within the lagoon across the south beaches (Red 2 and 3) of the flat, sandy island. Namur, to the east, was the objective of the 24th Marines (reinforced).
During the afternoon of D-Day, Marines of both regimental combat teams transferred from the transports, outside the lagoon, to the LST's from which (it had been planned) amphibian tractors would in turn run the assault waves into the lagoon and thence to the beaches.2 Meanwhile, both Admiral Conolly and General Schmidt had already seen the confusion incident to boating the IVAN Landing Group. They concluded that the only realistic course of action would be to move the LST's inside the lagoon and launch the morrow's assault amtracs from positions reasonably near the line of departure. Moreover, considering both the scattered location of many tractors, as well as their dwindling fuel supply, movement of the LST's would bring sources of support nearer the hard-pressed, dispersed vehicles of the 10th Amphibian Tractor Battalion.
The decision was not only wise, but the only one practicable under the circumstances. Elaborate arrangements had been blocked out in advance for the return of each amphibian tractor to its parent LST for refuelling and servicing. But nightfall found many tractors stranded inside the lagoon or hopelessly lost, groping through the blackout from hulk to hulk seeking the assigned "parent." Although a number of LST's took on board whatever wandering tractors approached, others, apparently straitjacketed by plan, not only refused to provide gasoline but even to receive LVT's which would inevitably sink unless fueled or immediately retrieved. At least six of the 23 tractors sunk during the operation were casualties to this unfortunate situation while the remaining losses were attributed to high surf, faulty bilge pumps, coral heads and miscellaneous damages.3
Thus on the morning of D-plus 1, as soon as daylight permitted, Admiral Conolly dispatched his LST's inside the lagoon, there to launch tractors of the yet-uncommitted 4th Amphibian Tractor Battalion.
While the boating situation developed, the northern portion of the atoll again felt the whiplash of carrier air strikes and the sledge hammer of ships' gunfire.
The planned hour for landings (W-Hour), to which all gunfire and air strikes were keyed, had been tentatively set in advance as 1000, and as late as 0822, Admiral Conolly so signaled in confirmation. Thus, commencing at first light, ships and aircraft began timing their final preparatory fires to this reference point in the schedule.
Before sunrise, the ships of Fire Support Unit Two, commanded by Rear Admiral Laurance T. DuBose with his flag in Santa Fe, had approached station west and southwest of Roi, and the early morning antisubmarine and combat air patrols from carriers Chenango and Essex were winging out. In the western fire-support area, LST's moving into the lagoon momentarily fouled the range for the bombardment-ships. But at 0710 bombardment commenced, chiming in with the deep-throated 14-inch salvos of the Tennessee, which at 0650 had already begun to pound southeast Roi and the blockhouse PAL4 which squatted on the spit between Roi and Namur.
LANDING CRAFT gather for the amphibious assault on Roi. (Navy photo.)
HEAVY SALVOS were fired on Roi before the Marines went ashore. (Navy photo.)
Division of the targets on Roi was proportioned to the batteries of the various ships. Maryland, with her 16-inch main battery, worked steadily along the south beaches, probing for the batteries and four blockhouses reported in that sector and on WENDY Point. Covering somewhat the same area, especially back of Red 3, the light cruiser Santa Fe dropped 6-inch shells on a blockhouse just west of Tokyo Pier.5 Another light cruiser, Biloxi, was at work on the northwest 5.5-inch batteries, as well as the neighboring blockhouses and pillboxes on the north shore. The heavy cruiser, Indianapolis, was responsible for Roi's west coast, firing 8-inch salvos about the blockhouses and pillboxes between the two western extremities of the shore. From within the lagoon, the destroyer Phelps commenced 5-inch fire on Beach Red 2.
Meanwhile, the 3d and 4th Battalions, 14th Marines, firing from Mellu and Ennuebing, had joined in the preparation.6 The 3d Battalion (75mm pack howitzers) shelled Beach Red 3, while the 4th Battalion (105mm howitzers) thickened the heavy naval gunfire on Red 2, to the west.
Fires and explosions were soon visible on Roi, adding smoke and flame to the pall of dust and debris. At 0919 a heavy explosion spouted up near the boundary between Red 2 and Red 3. A lowering sky combined with the smoke to obscure targets and hinder good air observation.
But even as the bombardment grew in volume and effectiveness, the boating situation gave increasing cause for concern. The 10th Amphibian Tractor Battalion with Company A, 11th Amphibian Tractor Battalion attached, had been employed on D-Day to land the 25th Marines on the five outlying islands seized that day. Now assigned to the 24th Marines, the 10th was without many of its vehicles as a result of D-Day operations. On the other hand, the 4th Amphibian Tractor Battalion, which was to land the 23d Marines on Roi, was as yet uncommitted and accordingly intact.
Despite the fact that all of the 4th Battalion's vehicles were available, the radio communication problems which had deviled the 25th Marines and the 10th Amphibian Tractor Battalion were now reappearing in full force. Because of the heavy swells, frequent rain squalls and long running distances involved, virtually every radio mounted in the LVT's had drowned out by mid-morning.
This situation was of direct and grave concern to the commanding officer of the 4th Amphibian Tractor Battalion, for communications were essential to carry out his mission. Colonel Jones, commanding the 23d Marines, had directed that the tractor commander take charge of all the regiment's attached amtracs, assemble them prepared to replace losses and to supervise transfer of reserve elements (Landing Team 3/23) from LCVP's to LVT's if necessary. With communications out, and with hundreds of landing craft7 now inside the lagoon, the combat team commander found himself confronted by an increasingly confused state of affairs. To compound his difficulties he was unable to locate the amtrac battalion commander,
who at that time was endeavoring to get his companies into the water.
In face of this confusion and difficulty, it became evident to Admiral Conolly and General Schmidt that W-Hour at 1000 could not be met. At 0841 the admiral queried his transport group commander as to whether W-Hour might have to be postponed. It required but two minutes for the latter to flash back an affirmative reply, recommending an hour's delay; at 0853 Admiral Conolly, therefore, signaled a change in W-Hour to 1100.8
While bombardment and air strike schedules were being adjusted to this change, the LST's began to straggle to their new stations south of Roi and Namur. Some of the ships had got as far as 40 miles away during the night's cruising. This meant that beginning at dawn and traveling at ten knots, the vessels would require four hours to reach the lagoon. Further delay was caused when one LST inadvertently let go her anchor in one of the lagoon passes, thus blocking the pass until the anchor could be weighed.9 It was 0822 by the time the LST's carrying 1st Battalion, 23d Marines (an assault unit) were ready to launch amtracs.10 Thirty-eight minutes later the LST's with the 2d Battalion (the other assault unit) embarked discharged their first LVT.11
Amphibian tractors loaded on the LST tank decks were discharged without incident, but removal of the LVT's from the weather decks was a complicated affair at best. Plans called for lowering the vehicles to the tank deck by means of an elevator, but while still at San Diego it was discovered that the amtracs were too long to clear the elevator openings. To remedy this situation, a wooden incline was constructed and placed on the elevator platform. When run onto this incline, the tractors were usually sufficiently canted to clear the opening.12 It was necessary, however, for an LVT to develop full power and have a clutch in top adjustment in order to make the grade. Once the vehicle was sufficiently canted on the incline, the elevator would be lowered to the tank deck, the LVT driven off and the procedure repeated. This was slow and subject to failure, but apparently it was the only method available to get the tractors from the weather deck to the water.
Additional complications were encountered on LST 126. Here the incline was somewhat steeper than those on other LST's, which made the task of climbing it all the more difficult. Few, if any, LVT's climbed it sufficiently to clear the elevator opening, and in those cases cutting-torch details had to shear away the rear splash fenders on the tractors, thus permitting narrow but sufficient clearance.13
A badly jammed elevator halted virtually all debarkation of Company E, 23d Marines on board LST 42, which like all her sisters, was scantily supplied with personnel experienced in operating the complicated elevators.14 It later came to the attention of Colonel Jones that on one of the landing ships bearing his regiment, only one member of the crew knew how to operate the elevator which was to lower the tractors to the tank deck.15 Under such circumstances it was no wonder that the launching was a long drawn-out, hit-or-miss affair.
At 0925, to compound the confused state of affairs in the lagoon, Salvage Boat 8 reported by radio to its parent, the USS Biddle,
WE ARE ON ABRAHAM ISLAND X JAPS ARE COUNTERATTACKING FROM CAMOUFLAGE X SEND SUPPORT IMMEDIATELY.
This alarming message was at once relayed by the commander of TransDiv 26 to Admiral Connolly. A few minutes later the admiral received from the 4th Division air observer a report that no such enemy counterattack could be discerned. Despite the conservative reports from the observer, however, torpedo planes from Chenango plastered SALLY Point on Namur, and a rain of naval gunfire and artillery began dropping on the southeast corner of the island. By 1000, it became apparent that the air
observer had the last word; the "counterattack" had been illusory. If anything, such a Japanese maneuver would have been welcomed on Ennugarret by the 3d Battalion, 25th Marines, which was heavily reinforced by attached regimental and divisional firepower.
At 1026, while boat and LVT groups were beginning to form in rear of the line of departure, naval gunfire lifted, and 16 Grumman Avengers from USS Intrepid and Cabot, each carrying a 2,000-pound bomb, hit the beaches on Roi and Namur. At 1035, as the TBF's pulled out, 15 dive bombers from Intrepid peeled off in a precision strike on the south beaches. Four minutes later, Hellcat fighters from the same carrier buzzed and swarmed over their targets for final strafing passes, and at 1055, as the last fighter shot upwards to rendezvous on his section leader, the grim pounding by naval gunfire resumed.16
The situation at the line of departure, where destroyer Phelps was again acting as control vessel, was now clearing.
Colonel Jones reached the line of departure in his LCVP 15 minutes prior to W-Hour. But he was unable to locate the two LVT's assigned to combat team headquarters and found that none of his armored amphibs or other boat groups was fully formed.17 A few minutes later, however, the various groups began arriving. To expedite matters, the commanding officer of the 2d Battalion, 23d Marines, ordered his tractors to proceed independently to the line of departure. In the 1st Battalion word had not filtered down that W-Hour was delayed. As a result, when the first tractors reached the line of departure at 1045, all hands felt that "they had failed miserably" in not making the original 1000 deadline.18
Prior to 1100 the assault waves of the 23d Marines were formed, and all hands were boated in amphibian tractors generally as planned. In the adjacent zone, the 24th Marines ever since 0630 had been desperately trying to accumulate enough tractors for the assault, and matters were by no means so well along. Although sufficient LVT's were now on hand to boat some elements of the assault companies the balance of the regiment was being embarked in LCVP's assembled from every available source to make good the deficiency of tractors. As of W-Hour, this process was not completed.19
What now confronted the control officer on board Phelps was one regiment (23d Marines) ready to attack, and the other (24th Marines) still struggling to complete boating and forming up. Seven minutes after W-Hour, with no signal to commence the assault, Colonel Jones found the waiting too much and impatiently queried Phelps why the attack had not yet been ordered. Five minutes later (1112) in reply to Jones' question, the red "Baker" flag dropped from the yardarm of the control destroyer, and the first waves of the 23d Marines churned forward toward the smoking, explosive-torn shore of Roi, followed by the combat team commander in his LCVP.
Preceded by rocket-firing LCI(G)'s (449, 451, 452, 453, 457), and then by a total of 30 armored amphibians from Companies A and C, 1st Armored Amphibian Battalion, the 23d Marines traversed the 5,000-yard (33-minute) run toward Red Beaches which were still being hammered by ships' guns. In the welter of confusion the only thing certain was that the attack was underway. As Colonel Jones subsequently reported:
Adding to the confusion was the diversity of agencies who originated orders or claimed to have orders . . . Boat Group Commanders, Flotilla Commanders, amphibian tractor company commanders and platoon leaders and tractor drivers all handled and at times executed erroneous or garbled orders to land. . . . Our assault waves went in to the beach still not knowing how much water they would find over the reef, whether there were any coral heads to be watched for, or whether there were any man-made obstructions in the water.
After the battle the Marines were to learn about the beach reconnaissance of the night before, results of which had been on board the Attack Force flagship since 0500.20
Landing on RED 3
The 2d Battalion, 23d Marines, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Edward J. Dillon, had been selected to land on Beach Red 3 (see Map 8, Map Section), and deliver the main punch up the relatively short east shore of Roi. Within this battalion's zone lay most of the aviation base facilities, hangars and buildings on the island. In accordance with its leading role, the battalion had been allocated a full company of armored amphibs (as compared with the two platoons given 1st Battalion on the left), and it likewise had attached Company C, 4th Tank Battalion, the division's medium tank company.21 In addition, one platoon of light tanks from Company A was attached to the medium company.
Roi (BURLESQUE) Island
The 2d Battalion would land with two companies (E and F) in assault, Company F in turn making the battalion's main effort on the right; two platoons of medium tanks and three light tanks were to give direct support to Company F's assault. Company E on the left of Beach Red 3 would be backed up by one platoon of medium tanks plus two lights, and would guide on and assist the attack of the right assault company.22
The 2d Battalion's first wave consisted of 18 armored amphibs (Company A, 1st Armored Amphibian Battalion) which dipped and plunged through the wakes of the LCI(G)'s ahead. Behind the LVT(A)'s came two assault waves of infantry embarked in LVT(2)'s. Behind these, in turn, were two waves of tanks embarked in LCM(3)'s which would be called in as soon as conditions on the smoke-enveloped beach permitted.
A thousand yards offshore, while naval gunfire still blanketed the beach, the LCI(G)'s let loose salvos of 4.5-inch barrage rockets which hissed through the air, marking their trajectories with flashing parabolas. The massed rockets fell in the warren of fire-trenches and smashed against pillboxes near the water. Less than five minutes later, while the LCIs raked the beach with 40mm bursts, the 12 rocket launcher-equipped amphibian tractors likewise let fly,23 but their explosives "did not hit the beach, but rather landed about the LVT(A)'s leading them in."24 By now the dust and smoke were drifting steadily over from the burning ordnance stores on Namur. Across the few hundred yards left to go, the advancing waves could discern Roi only as a shore dimly seen.
Three hundred and fifty yards offshore the machine gunners opened up from the amtracs, now in the edge of the smoke. A few futile Japanese shell-spouts appeared between the boat-waves and the beach. At 1150 all naval gunfire lifted from inside the lagoon, and two minutes later the LCI's checked fire as the waves neared shore. To the west of Roi, the fire-support ships lifted fires to targets well clear of the beaches, on the north portion of the island. Shortly after 1150, the leading tractors bearing assault riflemen ground past the remains of Tokyo Pier and onto Beach Red 3.25
In the smoke and turmoil there were bound to be difficulties incident to the landing itself, and these were experienced by the armored amphibians.
We had so many vehicles in the first wave that, with our poor maneuverability and poor driver visibility, we would have had very close work if everyone had maintained perfect interval . . . there was a good deal of "accordion action," with the result that several [LVT(A)'s] were squeezed out of line from time to time, and there were a number of collisions, especially after we were near enough to the beach for the drivers to button up. My own vehicle was involved in one of those collisions, and had holes knocked in all the pontoons on one side, causing my driver to lose partial control. However, we did hit the beach in fairly good alignment.26
Japanese beach defenses had been blasted to
MARINES PINNED DOWN by Japanese immediately after landing on Namur.
pieces. Every pillbox in the zone of Company F had been hit by naval gunfire. There were no vestiges of an organized enemy defense. As the Marines scrambled clear of their tractors, they were confronted only by one machine gun at the southwest corner of Roi and a few "dazed and bewildered" Japanese,27 remnants of the aviation units which had garrisoned the island.
. . . five Japanese [came] out from a destroyed pillbox just five yards from the water's edge. The first Japanese who came out was unarmed, but seemed fully composed and his manner and uniform indicated . . . that he was a pilot. He looked around for a second or two, then waved to his comrades to come. Four Japanese followed him, only two of whom were armed. They started to run, but were eliminated.28
Four tractors of Company F had edged eastward to land on the left boundary of Beach Green 1 in the zone of Company K, 24th Marines, and a few third-wave tractors, similarly lost, ended up to the left on Red 2. Noncommissioned officers promptly took charge, however, and led their boat teams to Red 3 in the case of the Green 1 stragglers, taking out a few Japanese positions along the spit between Roi and Namur.
Over on the left Company E was encountering the same sort of disorganized resistance. As that unit's first wave hit the beach, two Japanese armed only with bayonets rushed the Marines in a futile effort to stem the invasion. Just inland of the beach some defenders in open trenches fought determinedly, but the bombardment had left them dazed and few in number. Encountering only scattered enemy and small-arms fire, Company E rapidly advanced toward the battalion objective.29
By two minutes past noon tanks were rumbling down the ramps of the LCM's into coral shallows which had stopped the barges just left of Tokyo Pier. The antitank ditch in this area had been caved in by gunfire and rockets, and with the aid of the company's tank retrievers the M4's were soon grinding and lurching their way through the rubble past advancing Marine fire teams.
At 1215 Colonel Dillon was on the beach, and the battalion command post was opened on the south edge of the aircraft taxiway at Road Junction 11, amid revetments badly battered but still capable of sheltering a CP. One hundred and fifty yards forward, Marines were being halted (more or less) by their platoon leaders along the initial objective line: 0-1. Company G, in battalion reserve, had landed in rear of Company F and was already at work flushing out and mopping up surviving Japanese who had hidden in the ruins or, particularly, in the drainage culverts which flanked the hard-surfaced airstrip.
The regimental commander had good reason for optimism following his landing at 1204. Less than an hour later, at 1311, from the 23d Marines' command post, 200 yards west of Tokyo Pier, Colonel Jones radioed his first personal report to General Schmidt, still on board the Appalachian:
THIS IS A PIP X NO OPPOSITION NEAR THE BEACH. . . .
Fifteen minutes later, his second report confirmed the first:
O-1 OURS X GIVE US THE WORD AND WE WILL TAKE THE REST OF THE ISLAND30
Landing on RED 2
The 1st Battalion, 23d Marines, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Hewin O. Hammond, had been assigned the left (west) half of Roi, a zone of action which included by far the greater portion of Japanese emplacements on the island. The beach assigned for this landing was Red 2 (see Map 8, Map Section), extending roughly from WENDY Point east to the coral-reefed edge of the channel which approached the south shore beside Tokyo Pier.
Because of the reported presence of two blockhouses on WENDY Point, together with the ever-present danger of enfilading fire from that area, the main and initial effort of the battalion was to take out these blockhouses and secure the Point. After this had been
MOVING across Roi's shattered airfield.
accomplished, the main effort would shift to the right, assisting what was projected to be the advance of the adjacent 2d Battalion.
To aid Lieutenant Colonel Hammond in his task, two platoons of armored amphibians (actually, Company C, 1st Armored Amphibian Battalion, less one platoon) had been attached to the battalion.
Hammond's first wave, also preceded by the LCI(G)'s, consisted of 12 armored amphibs. His two following waves contained the assault echelons of Companies A and B and were organized in much the same manner as already described in the case of the 2d Battalion, 23d Marines.
The first two waves were dispatched with reasonable promptness, but the third did not cross the line of departure until 1129, having been held up 13 minutes after the second wave departed. This was the first evidence of what seemed to the landing team commander a most annoying hesitancy on the part of wave commanders to move up, and of the control officer (in LCC 71) to keep the waves moving on schedule. However, here as elsewhere, the failure of radio communications during the ship-to-shore movement injected exasperating frustration into every delay.31
Following the same deluge of rockets which had pulverized adjacent Red 3, the armored amphibians shouldered their way onto Beach Red 2 at 1133. Here they sought out positions in hull defilade, concentrated the fire of their 37mm guns and machine guns on the shattered hulks of WENDY Point's installations and then swept the entire zone of action. The earlier touchdown on Beach Red 2 (which preceded that of the 2d Battalion, 23d Marines, by some minutes) resulted from the southwestward projection of Roi, which shortened the final run in by approximately 300 yards. Both Companies A and B followed the armored amphibs, and the two infantry waves were on the beach by 1155, but crowded by elements of Company E, which had eased over onto Beach Red 2.
While Company A moved to secure WENDY Point, one platoon of the armored amphibians pivoted left, proceeding across the Point itself, and, again waterborne, commenced firing on the NORBERT Circle area, in the northwest corner of Roi. Meanwhile, the riflemen of Company A soon found that if WENDY Point had ever amounted to much, the naval gunfire and air preparations had drawn its sting. Despite its critical location on the flank of the south beaches, WENDY showed evidence of comparatively scant defensive organization. In place of the two blockhouses reported by aerial-photographic interpreters, the Marines found but one stove-in pillbox, surrounded by a profusion of fuel drums and jetsam from what had evidently been a dump area.32 Light small-arms fire, with the unmistakable crack of the Japanese .256 caliber rifle, annoyed but did not appreciably hinder the Marines.
At 1210, meanwhile, Lieutenant Colonel Hammond had landed and opened his command post on WENDY Point. As Company A advanced up the west beach toward the 0-1 line, the telling effect of the bombardment became even more evident. The first blockhouse to be encountered--near the first objective line--had taken a direct 16-inch hit, together with a less effective peppering from smaller projectiles. One concrete pillbox was very new, and scattered evidence of construction in progress still strewed the ground.
The first face-to-face enemy resistance encountered by Company A came from a large blockhouse (BUSTER) 100 yards north of the 0-1 line on the coast beside a wrecked radar station. One Japanese (several were within) charged out of the exit with a grenade in each hand, but popped back in under a fusillade of rifle fire. Marines covered the approach of grenadiers who silenced the blockhouse by lobbing hand grenades through the entrance.
Whenever grenades proved insufficient in the debris, bangalore torpedoes and satchel charges of high explosive were hurled up the drainage culverts beside and under the airstrip, in
A DIRECT HIT by naval gunfire was required to make an impression on this Japanese fortification on Roi.
which enemy snipers were hiding and firing intermittently.
Even as the Marines mopped up the littered wreckage, eight SBD's and seven TBM's from USS Sangamon added to the sum of destruction by a strike which raked the north shore of Roi.
While the 1st Battalion's assault companies were advancing after a virtually unopposed landing, the medium tanks attached to both battalions began hitting the shore at noon. It had been intended that the channel west of Tokyo Pier be used to get the tank-lighters to the beach itself. While some LCM's were able to do this, many coxswains could not find the channel because of the demolished pier and consequently grounded on the coral shelf about 200 yards offshore. Having been waterproofed for such a contingency, the tanks clanked in to the beach through five and one-half feet of water, led in each case by a crewman outside who guided his vehicle around potholes. On the beach the entire tank company formed up as a unit and moved eastward in column until a breached spot could be found in the antitank ditch behind the Red Beaches. The mediums then advanced inland in line toward 0-1, overtaking the infantry and receiving nothing heavier than Japanese rifle fire which rattled and spattered harmlessly against their armor.33
By 1217 the 1st Battalion, 23d Marines, was on the first objective, reserve companies had been landed throughout the entire regimental zone, and few live Japanese had been seen. Numerous enemy dead were scattered about, however, some wearing the familiar olive-drab blouse, shapeless breeches and wrapped puttees of the Japanese forces, others more appropriately clad in shorts and shirts; a few enemy
DEBRIS and equipment litter the landing beaches on Roi.
helmets lay about, but the headgear of most, bearing the Special Naval Landing Force anchor device, was of the truncated-cone type. Many Marines stared curiously for the first time at the split-toed sneakers which projected mutely from piles of debris.34
Roi is Secured
Although Colonel Jones, after looking over the situation on Roi, could rightfully characterize the over-all picture as "a pip," a similar reaction on the part of most of the Marines, not to speak of the tanks, had caused some embarrassment to orderly continuation of the attack.
The lack of much organized resistance, the discovery that it was reasonably safe for riflemen to advance on foot, and, it was later claimed, the virtual obliteration of the land marks which denoted the 0-1 line35 had combined to permit individuals and small units to press forward without waiting on the initial objective for a coordinated attack. The first result of this more or less spontaneous reaction was the required lifting of all naval gunfire and air strikes as early at 1222.
Claiming poor radio communications and want of further instructions, the Commanding Officer of Company C, 4th Tank Battalion, had pressed his mediums forward from their exposed 0-1 line position on the airfield taxiways. The tank's vulnerability while stationary on this flat terrain caused him, he reported, to fear
anti-tank fire unless the machines kept moving. As a result, the tanks swarmed northward, machine-gunning Japanese who popped up from ditches and placing 75mm fire on every structure in sight. By 1338, three tanks reached NAT Circle, on the northeast corner of Roi, where Japanese resistance was encountered from the emplacements and gun pits there abouts. At 1400 the 4th Division air observer could see six tanks working along the north runway of Roi.36
The officer who commanded Company A, 23d Marines, explains his men's action thus:
Men of Company A were holding at the 0-1 line until the tanks barged on through. Having been trained to protect our tanks, my men stayed with them, even to within a stone's throw of the northern beach.37
At almost the same time, about 1345, a platoon of armored amphibians, not to be outdone by the tankers, was working its way, afloat or ashore as practicable, up the west beaches of Roi, raking the trenches and pillboxes that remained intact, and flushing out confused Japanese who scurried northward.38
The net result of this situation, while it indicated well-developed offensive spirit among the Marines, was highly annoying from the point of view of both the regimental and division commanders. Coordination and control, not only of infantry-tank maneuver but of all supporting fires, was virtually nullified as long as the tanks and armored amtracs galloped about northern Roi, assisted and cheered on by impatient (and frequently trigger-happy) riflemen with only a hazy idea as to exactly where 0-1 lay.
As early as 1325, when the medium tanks were just coming to grips with Japanese machine gunners firing from the northeast corner of Roi, General Schmidt asked Colonel Jones if he could get the tanks back to the 0-1 line in order to make a coordinated attack across the island. To accomplish this and to regain control of all
PRIVATE FIRST CLASS RICHARD B. ANDERSON, posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, fell on an armed hand grenade in order that his companions' lives might be spared.
hands required about an hour, during which the tank company commander attempted, under the handicap of continuing radio interference, to urge that infantry be ordered up across the airstrips to consolidate the impromptu bite which the tanks had taken.
By 1445 both troops and tanks on Roi were being recalled to the 0-1 line in preparation for a coordinated attack ordered by the combat team commander for 1515. The assault battalions were to make main efforts up the respective east and west shore lines of Roi, where more cover was to be had, and also where the bulk of enemy positions lay. The fire-swept, billiard-table flatness of the center would of course fall to whoever held the edges. At 1510, on call from the fire control party attached to the 2d Battalion, 23d Marines, the light cruiser Santa Fe placed a five-salvo 5-inch preparation on NAT Circle, where mixed Japanese aviation personnel from the 231st, 752d, and 755th Naval Air Groups still held out. The bulk of the
enemy fire came from 20mm antiaircraft guns, machine guns and rifles in the dozen-odd emplacements and fire trenches which surrounded the end of NAT Circle and covered the northeast corner of Roi.39
At about 1530 the 2d Battalion, 23d Marines' attack jumped off on the right, covered by flanking fire from a 75mm half-track in position just north of the central junction of runways. Within seven minutes Company F had reached the northern hangar, a twisted tangle of girders and sheet metal, and four medium tanks were again working into the NAT Circle area. Some Japanese, flushed out of their trenches, attempted to take cover behind the seawall which ran along the shore in this vicinity. After noting their presence, the 4th Division air observer reported:
THERE ARE SEVEN JAPS ON SEAWARD SIDE OF SEAWALL X THEY ARE RECEIVING FIRE FROM OUR TANKS.
Five minutes later, the observer radioed:
OF SEVEN HONORABLE JAPS ONLY TWO REMAIN WHO HAVE NOT AS YET MET HONORABLE ANCESTORS.
By 1600, resistance in the zone of the 2d Battalion had been confined entirely to NAT Circle, which was even then under tank-infantry cleanup. Directly in rear of the 2d Battalion advanced Company K of the 3d Battalion, which had landed at 1450. The remaining two companies (I and L) of the reserve battalion were assembled on Beach Red 2, awaiting orders and in position to cover the right flank of the 23d Marines against any Japanese attempt to cross the spit between Roi and Namur.40
THESE JAPANESE PLANES, once a part of the 24th Air Flotilla, will fly no more.
DRAINAGE CULVERTS, such as the smashed one in the foreground of this photograph, furnished excellent hiding places for Japanese.
Considerable small-arms fire, both U. S. and Japanese, from the hot action on Namur only 500 yards away was falling among the Marines along the east shore of Roi.
The 1st Battalion, 23d Marines, did not launch its attack until almost 1600, supporting the advance on its right by fire. Both Companies A and B (those which had landed in assault) stood fast on the 0-1 line, and Company C (the reserve company) passed through Company A to attack northward up the shoreline on a 200-yard front. This advance was preceded by a platoon of medium tanks (attached from the 2d Battalion) and backed up by three 75mm half-tracks from the Regimental Weapons Company.
Only rifle and light machine-gun fire was encountered. By 1642, Company C was mopping up NORBERT Circle, northwest corner of Roi, and organized enemy fire had ceased in the battalion zone. A trench just north of the circle was found to contain more than 40 recently killed Japanese, many of whom had evidently committed suicide. By 1800, all resistance had ceased, and Company C, together with
A MEMBER OF THE 23d MARINES moves past a gutted hangar on Roi.
Companies A and B, still on 0-1, had commenced taking up defensive positions for the night, covering the northern and western beaches against any possibility of counterlanding. 41
There now remained to be dealt with only the defenders of NAT Circle, and the 2d Battalion, closing in behind medium tanks, was systematically reducing this strong point. Japanese riflemen continued to fire from the trenches around the circle, and from three pillboxes on the periphery; in the Island Administration Building, remarkably untouched by the bombardment, a single determined Japanese was killed by Company F. Three Japanese machine gunners in a concrete pillbox just west of the circle offered resistance, but Company F by-passed them and moved in on the adjacent trenches.
Company G, in reserve, assumed the pillbox problem. A moving 75mm half-track was obtained from the Regimental Weapons Company; five rounds blew in the one-half-inch steel door and the company demolitions squad placed charges and a bangalore torpedo at each fire-port. That was the end of that.42 The
three log-and-sand pillboxes still firing from amid the trenches were neutralized by 37mm guns of the Division Special Weapons Battalion, and Company F demolition squads did the rest. The open trenches were now occupied only by dead Japanese, and NAT Circle was secured. The time was 1802.
Colonel Jones radioed to General Schmidt:
GRADUALLY MOPPING UP X JAP'S HIDDEN IN DRAINAGE DITCHES ON AIRFIELD FIRING MACHINE GUNS AND RIFLES X BLOWING THEM UP FOUR OR FIVE AT A TIME.
And to Colonel Jones the 1st Battalion Operations Officer, Captain James R. Miller, had just reported:
HAVE GOOD BIG FLAG TO RUN UP WHEN YOU WANT IT.43
Clean-up on Roi
As soon as it was plain to General Schmidt44 that the situation on Roi was well in hand, he ordered that the medium tanks attached to the 23d Marines be withdrawn from action and sent to the aid of the 24th Marines on Namur, where the going was anything but easy. At 1701 these orders reached Colonel Jones on Roi, and within 20 minutes the tanks were being pulled back and assembled for movement across the spit.45
At about 1800, just as NAT Circle was being overrun, the east shore of Roi was the scene of a violent, uncontrolled, and highly contagious outburst of indiscriminate firing, largely localized just north of the main Japanese hangar in the area of the 3d Battalion, 23d Marines. The wounding of a single Marine in Company G nearby, presumably by a sniper, caused men of the 3d Battalion first to take cover, and then to open fire on what appeared to be a Japanese rifleman on the hangar roof. Within a matter of seconds, the hangar became the target of a deluge of fire from rifles, carbines, machine guns, and even pistols. The battalion commander, who was present and managed to stop the firing in remarkably quick order, considering the extent of the outbreak, estimated that 3,000 to 5,000 rounds were discharged in a matter of minutes. Fortunately only three men--all in the 2d Battalion, forward of the hangar--were wounded, and none was killed. Two dead Japanese were found on the roof next day.46
But this was not the only outbreak of wild firing that day. Company A on the west coast of Roi found imaginary targets which were subsequently described:
Late in the afternoon of the first day [on Roi] firing broke out along the southwestern beaches. I questioned several Marines who were pumping round after round out to sea in a westerly direction. One lad I questioned told me, "The Japs are swimming in on us!" Upon focusing my glasses on the "counter-landing," I readily observed that the Japanese "swimmers" were nothing more than coral heads along the edge of the outer reef. Still, to the unaided eye, those coral heads did look like swimmers. As far as I could tell there were no casualties--either Marine or Japanese--from the spirited and contagious firing.47
After the smoke and din of the hangar episode had been dispelled, the 23d Marines completed their night defensive dispositions on Roi. To guard against any incursions from the Japanese gradually being compressed into the northwest portion of Namur, the 3d Battalion, 23d Marines, was ordered into defensive positions along the east shore of Roi, with particular attention to covering the spit, shallows, and causeway between the two islands. To the 3d Battalion's left, the 2d Battalion covered the northeast angle of Roi, while the 1st Battalion occupied beach positions along the remainder of the north, as well as all the west shore.
Despite the hot action in progress less than a quarter-mile away on Namur, there remained on Roi only the tedious business of tidying up a messy, demolished island and of converting it into an efficient air base. This task was
primarily one for the 20th Marines, but it was shared by the assault troops themselves, who in two days flushed out the few surviving Japanese from the wreckage. There was also the far less pleasant duty of the burial details, working to keep pace with flies, humidity, and tropical sun.
The preponderance of the Japanese on Roi, it was evident to the Marines, had been killed by the crushing air and naval gunfire bombardment. Those who survived had been, in most cases, too dazed or disorganized to offer resistance of the type which Tarawa had led the division to expect. Lieutenant Colonel Dillon reported that of the 400 dead Japanese in his 2d Battalion area, some 250 showed signs of death by bombardment, and perhaps 150 had been killed by Marines after W-Hour. Those figures appeared typical of the ratio of enemy casualties induced by bombardment as compared to those sustained in combat.
Roi had indeed been "a pip." Despite very logical apprehensions that the capture of Roi's airstrips might precipitate another Tarawa, it was apparent that Betio's lessons had been well learned and applied, especially in terms of preparation before the landing. For the Marines who secured Roi, the day's combat had afforded inexpensive lessons regarding control, fire discipline, and landing technique. As men of the 23d Marines settled down for the night, they might well congratulate themselves not only on successful accomplishment of a mission, but on good fortune and light opposition--opposition which was in marked contrast to that which Marine comrades were encountering but a few hundred yards away on Namur.
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (3) * Next Chapter (5)
1. TCS and TBX radios were set up in the LVT's and LCVP's for communication during the ship-to-shore operation.
2. Sources for this and following summary of the initial ship-to-shore movement of the 4th Division are, unless otherwise cited. 4th MarDiv SAR, 5-6; PhibGrp3 SAR, 6; Action Report, 23d Marines, FLINTLOCK, 4Mar44, 2-3, hereinafter cited as 23d Mar SAR; Unit Journal, 23d Marines, 31Jan-3Feb44, hereinafter cited as 23Mar Jnl.
3. Report by CO, 10th Amphibian Tractor Battalion, FLINTLOCK Operation, 27May44, hereinafter cited as 10th Amtrac SAR. This report includes detailed individual reports by each platoon leader in the battalion, and presents a detailed picture of the amphibian tractor situation at Roi-Namur.
4. Blockhouses and what were thought to be blockhouses on Roi were labeled with code names for the operation. For instance, there were PAL, BRUCE, BERNIE, BOBBY, and others. In this narrative they are referred to by name when known.
5. A small pier that extended from Roi into the lagoon, but which was wrecked during the bombardment. A larger L-shaped dock, labeled "Yokohama Pier," extended from Namur and was taken virtually intact. It was about 15 yards wide, extended 100 yards into the lagoon and had a 50-yard ell. At the other end was a hammerhead crane that had been severely damaged by naval fire.
6. 1st and 2d Battalions, 14th Marines, were firing on Namur. See Chap V.
7. 4th MarDiv SAR, 5-6.
8. 4th MarDiv Jnl, 1Feb44.
9. Historical Section interview with Col E. J. Dillon, 15Mar49.
10. Ship's log, USS LST 119, 1Feb44.
11. Special Action Report, 2d Bn, 23d Marines, 14Feb44, 1-3, hereinafter cited as 2/23 SAR.
13. Ltr Maj Theodore M. Garhart to CMC, 14Nov52, hereinafter cited as Garhart.
14. 2/23 SAR, 3.
15. 23dMar SAR, 2.
16. Details of the air strikes are taken from 4th MarDiv Jnl, 10-12, passim.
17. Col Jones was never able to find his two LVT's and he eventually went into the beach in his LCVP. Comments on preliminary draft by BrigGen Louis R. Jones, 11Apr49.
18. Action Report, 1st Bn, 23d Marines, FLINTLOCK, hereinafter cited as 1/23 SAR, 2-3.
19. Action Report by 24th Marines, FLINTLOCK, 10Mar44, 6-8, hereinafter cited as 24th Mar SAR.
20. 23d Mar SAR, 2-3.
21. At this time, due to general shortages of supply as well as to the fact that medium tanks still constituted somewhat of a problem in terms of weight and bulk for amphibious shipping, only one company of the Marine tank battalion was equipped with the M4 medium tank which later became standard. The balance of the battalion was equipped with light tanks.
22. Operation Order 2-44, 2d Battalion, 23d Marines, 19Jan44.
23. "The rockets discharged properly from the launchers . . . [but] the LVT's pitched up and down in such a manner as to have some rounds go high while others fell miserably short." Garhart.
25. The ship-to-shore movement of the 2d Battalion, 23d Marines, has been synthesized from 23d Mar SAR, 4; 4th MarDiv Jnl, 1Feb44.
26. Ltr Maj Ellis N. Livingston to CMC, 8Nov52.
27. Action Report, Company F, 23d Marines.
28. Ltr Maj John J. Padley to Director, DivPubInfo, 16Apr49.
29. Ltr Maj Carl O. J. Grussendorf to Director, DivPublnfo, 30Mar49.
30. 4th MarDiv Jnl, 1Feb44; Unit Journal, 2d Bn, 23d Marines. 1Feb44; 2/23 SAR, passim.
31. Action Report, 1st Bn, 23d Marines, FLINTLOCK, 4-5, hereinafter cited as 1/23 SAR. LtCol Hammond finally had to send written orders to the control officer to dispatch the landing team's call waves in accordance with the plan previously worked out. Even then, the fourth and succeeding waves were not ordered in until Hammond's orders had been ratified, so to speak, by the Beachmaster in SC 1012.
32. Ibid., 6.
33. Action Report, Company C, 4th Tank Battalion, FLINTLOCK, 25Mar44, hereinafter cited as C/4thTkBn SAR 1.
34. Report by Battalion Intelligence Officer, 3d Battalion, 23d Marines, 11Feb44.
35. Beginning at the Peter Road causeway on Roi's east beach, the 0-1 line extended west of the intersection of the runways, then just forward of Runway Able southwest 350 yards, then directly west to a Japanese medium AA gun position, labeled BW 22 (on the map), on the west coast of Roi.
36. C/4thTkBn SAR, passim; 4th MarDiv Jnl, 1Feb44.
37. Maj James S. Scales comments on preliminary draft, 18Mar49, hereinafter cited as Scales.
38. "The commanding officer of Company C, 1st Armored Amphibian Battalion, the company involved . . . informed me at the time that he had been ordered by the battalion commander of the 1st Battalion, 23d Marines, to stay on the flank and keep abreast with the advancing infantry. This he did, and his LVT(A)'s neutralized several pillboxes and killed an undetermined number of Japanese." Metzger.
39. Sketch map of Roi, prepared by 2dLt Charles J. Stines, to accompany Intelligence Report of 3d Battalion, 23d Marines.
40. Action Report, 3d Battalion, 23d Marines, FLINTLOCK, 2. The landing of this battalion had been confused badly by misunderstandings on the part of boat control officers of TransDiv 28, who insisted on sending in elements of Companies I and K, on the strength of orders to land reserve waves of the assault battalions. In the course of this and immediately subsequent events, the battalion commander, LtCol John J. Cosgrove, received orders from regimental headquarters, first, to land his battalion across Beach Red 2 (at 1320); and then (at 1404), after four waves had reached Red 2, to land across Red 3, where the fifth, sixth and seventh waves were then landed. This resulted in understandable confusion within the battalion, which, however, once on the beach, assembled promptly. 1Feb44, 23d Mar Jnl.
41. All information on the 1st Battalion, 23d Marines' advance from 0-1 taken from Report of Activities, Company C, 23d Marines, 13Feb44, 3.
42. Combat Report, Company G, 23d Marines, 14Feb44, 5.
43. 23d Mar Jnl, 1Feb44.
44. Gen Schmidt landed on Namur, where his command post was established. This will be dealt with in Chapter V, which takes up the Namur phase of the operation.
45. 23d Mar Jnl, 1Feb44.
46. A penetrating, detailed, and analytical report of this incident is given as Enclosure (D) to SAR 3/23, by LtCol Cosgrove, the battalion commander, who directed an on-the-spot, man-for-man investigation. The results of these interrogations, while too detailed for this work, present a remarkable case history in trigger-happiness, both as to cause and cure.