The 24th Gets Ashore
The mission of assaulting and seizing the island of Namur and the neighboring spit of land (PAULINE Point) to its left was assigned Combat Team 24, commanded by Colonel Franklin A. Hart. Within this organization the 2d and 3d Landing Teams were selected to spearhead the ship-to-shore movement, Companies F and G, I and K making the initial landing for their respective battalions. Landing Team 3 was scheduled to hit Beach Green 1 in the combat team's left zone, while Landing Team 2 was responsible for the right and Beach Green 2. (See Map 9, Map Section.)
Namur (CAMOUFLAGE) Island
In preparation for the landing, Fire Support Unit 1 under Rear Admiral Howard F. Kingman moved to within 3,500 yards2 of Namur's beaches and at 0650 on D-plus 1 unloosed salvos on the 24th Marines' objective. The cacophony of ships' guns began with Tennessee's 14-inch shells rushing toward the blockhouse PAL on PAULINE Point between Roi and Namur. Colorado, sister-ship of Maryland, quickly chimed in with her armament, duly followed by the cruisers Louisville3 and Mobile and the destroyers Morris and Anderson.
Dawn's first light also brought artillery fire on Namur from the 14th Marines' batteries. The 1st Battalion, established on Ennubirr (ALLEN), and the 2d Battalion on Ennumennet (ALBERT), registered on SALLY Point and Yokohama Pier respectively prior to the 75mm pack howitzers contributing their prelanding support. This naval and artillery preparation was augmented by the massed fires of the 3d Battalion, 25th Marines. On newly won Ennugarret (ABRAHAM), Lieutenant
COLONEL FRANKLIN A. HART discusses the plan for Namur with his subordinates. Lieutenant Colonel Litzenberg is on Colonel Hart's left.
Colonel Chambers had every available weapon aimed at Namur's southeastern shore, providing a base of fire which was lifted only when the assaulting Marines neared the beach.
But while Namur was being worked over in preparation for Combat Team 24's landing, the LVT difficulties noted in Chapter IV were complicating the picture. It is well to remember that the amtracs allotted Combat Team 24 for its D-plus 1 assault had been dispatched on multiple missions on D-Day. Some of these had been lost in operational accidents, while a great many had been stranded by lack of fuel. Thus Colonel Hart's carefully laid plans for the assault on Namur were frustrated in the initial stages through no fault of his own.4
As General Schmidt later recalled:
The major difficulty [at Namur] was, of course, the inability of the amtrac crews to meet H-Hour on the morning of the principal assault. . . . Many of them could not find their parent ships and many needed service and gas. Many Navy transport commanders were to blame in not providing help at this time.5
Within Landing Team 2 (Lieutenant Colonel Francis H. Brink), Company G reported at 0300 that it had none of its allocated 12 tractors,
the number set aside (on paper) for each of the rifle companies in the two assault landing teams. Three and one-half hours later this company had accumulated only three amtracs. Company F was only slightly better off with seven tractors available, while Company E, in reserve, had its full quota. Obviously an immediate remedy was required, and Company E was ordered to replace Company G in the assault, the latter unit reverting to landing team reserve.
Landing Team 3 was faced with an identical problem which Lieutenant Colonel Austin R. Brunelli resolved in a different manner. Company I had only four of its required 12 LVT's, whereas Company L (reserve) had ten. Brunelli promptly redistributed the amtracs at hand, leaving his reserve company without transportation and thus his landing team without an embarked reserve.
Taking Combat Team 24 as a whole, at 0630 it was short 48 of its allocated 110 LVT's and Colonel Hart so notified General Schmidt, who suggested that LCVP's be utilized as a substitute. Colonel Hart fully expected this suggestion and promptly filed a request for the needed boats with the Transport Group Commander. An hour later the combat team commander started for the line of departure, arriving there at 0845.
Shortly after 0900 Colonel Hart received word of W-Hour's delay until 1100. While this was good news, it was not quite good enough. With a 33-minute run to the beach from the line of departure, the first wave would have to begin moving at 1027 at the latest. It was evident that Combat Team 24 would not be formed for the assault by that time, and Hart requested a further delay of another hour. He
LANDING CRAFT bearing the 24th Marines start in toward Namur's beaches. (Navy photo.)
MARINES on Namur's beaches. Damaged LVT's may be seen in the background.
interpreted the reply he received to mean that launching the assault would be held up until his organization was ready.
Landing Team 3 arrived on the scene with its two assault companies properly embarked, but, as noted previously, with no reserve. In Landing Team 2's area, Company F was loaded in only seven LVT's and necessarily minus elements of its 2d, 3d and Weapons Platoons. Company E's arrival at 1015 threw Navy control officers into confusion inasmuch as that unit had been scheduled as the fourth wave and it now became the left element of the second and third waves.6 Furthermore, the control officers never ceased interfering with the efforts of Captain John F. Ross, Jr., commanding Company E, to form his waves properly.
We never were able to make the Navy boat wave commander understand the change in plans. He kept trying to keep the company in one wave [the formation for the company in reserve] and nullified my efforts to form two waves.7
Shortly after 1100 the remainder of Company F joined the group, loaded in two LCVP's which had been commandeered by the company commander from the bridge of his LST. Thus the landing team now had its full complement of assault units.
In combat team reserve was Landing Team 1 (Lieutenant Colonel Aquilla J. Dyess) which was boated in LCVP's 3,000 yards to the rear of the line of departure.8 Colonel Hart was fully aware of the inherent dangers in permitting his assault units to hit the beach with no reserve. Therefore, Companies A and B were dispatched to the 2d and 3d Landing Teams respectively to take the place of their own absent reserve companies. As these two units reached the line of departure, however, elements of Company G appeared, embarked in LCVP's and LVT's, thus obviating the use of Company A with Landing Team 2. At that moment the control vessel dropped the Baker flag which signaled the movement to the beach. Colonel Hart was caught by surprise at this move and he attempted to intercept Landing Team 3 which had responded promptly to the signal. But when he saw that Combat Team 23 was underway, he realized that efforts to stop the drive would hurt more than help. Consequently he ordered his waves to continue.
As the tractors churned their way to the beach, explosive fury emanated from the LCI gunboats, destroyers, and other naval artillery and air support. When the approaching waves reached a point 750 yards from the beaches, the Navy planes ceased bombing Namur, and at 500 yards naval gunfire was lifted and then resumed two minutes later on targets beyond the 0-1 line just forward of PETER Road and SYCAMORE Boulevard.
Companies B and D of the 1st Armored Amphibian Battalion, constituting the first wave, had been directed to proceed 100 yards inland upon landing. Apparently because of a misunderstanding, however, the LVT(A) formation split, turning to either side and stopping
some 50 yards from the beach. And some of the armored amphibians continued firing their 37mm and machine guns, endangering Marines in Landing Team 2's area.9
GREEN 2 to O-1
Landing Team 2 hit Beach Green 2 at 1155 with Company F on the right in the lead, followed five minutes later by Company E. Instead of landing on the left, however, the latter unit landed in the center of the beach, some of it behind Company F and some of it covering a portion of the left zone. Captain Ross later recalled, "My last instructions . . . were that we substantially constituted the assault wave. Accordingly, we landed smack in the middle of the battalion zone of action."10 Both companies pushed rapidly inland, receiving only scattered rifle and machine-gun fire. As on neighboring Roi, there was no indication of an organized or planned defense on the part of the Japanese.
At 1210 about 50 percent of the landing team reserve (Company G) came ashore, followed
WAITING for the word to move out on Namur.
by its remaining elements in LVT's at 1330. Landing team headquarters arrived on the beach at 1215.
Just inland of the narrow beach a huge antitank ditch which had not been previously spotted prevented the LVT(2)'s from carrying the Marines 100 yards inland as they were supposed to do. This resulted in an aggregation of tractors and troops on the water's edge, impeding incoming waves and giving particular trouble to the tanks which were now beginning to land.
With the exception of its own extreme right flank, Company F covered the first 200 yards from the beach with a minimum of difficulty. Just north of SALLY Point two enemy machine guns which went into action halfheartedly after the first wave hit the beach were quickly overrun, but a series of pillboxes and one blockhouse which had survived the bombardment delayed the advance in this area.
The advance toward 0-1 was being made by boat teams and assault teams11 rather than by organized platoons and companies, which meant that there was no general line in the accepted sense. Division training had emphasized that upon landing the Marines would drive straight for the 0-1 line in their boat team organizations, not pausing for reorganization into normal squad, platoon and company formations until they reached that objective.12 Thus, while each team was commanded by an officer or NCO, there could be little, if any, over-all coordination until 0-1 was reached.
LIGHT TANKS come ashore and attempt forward movement.
Two other factors made coordination and control difficult during the initial stages of the landing. The streets which had been so clearly defined on the maps and on which unit commanders were depending for boundary control were actually indistinguishable in the rubble and debris that littered the island. Moreover, the undergrowth just off the beaches was more than six feet high in many places, and so dense that it was impossible to see more than a few feet. "[The undergrowth] was a major factor in preventing unit commanders from gaining control promptly."13
As noted earlier, Company E landed in the middle of the Landing Team 2's area, rather than on the left flank. As the advance toward 0-1 continued it was virtually impossible to correct this error due to the minute unit organizations, and therefore the landing team's left flank was uncovered. Upon establishing his command post on STRAWBERRY Lane, 100 yards from SILVERLEAF Lane, Lieutenant Colonel Brink sought to plug this gap by dispatching the available elements of Company G forward to contact Company E.
Moving along Landing Team 2's left boundary inland about 100 yards, the Company G contingent met an assault team from Company E. But this was an isolated group with no idea where its parent organization might be. Furthermore, the team, under Lieutenant William R. West, was engaged in a fight with an undetermined number of Japanese entrenched around a badly damaged blockhouse 40 yards to the left front. This obstacle was eventually knocked out by Lieutenant West's assault unit, but he was killed in the engagement.14
As it progressed forward, Company G ran into increasing enemy resistance in the form of rifle and machine-gun fire. By 1300 the unit was inland 175 yards, out of contact with friendly units and receiving fire on front and flanks.15 The company command post was pinned down by machine-gun fire and suffering its first casualties. Thirty minutes later the remainder of Company G landed on Beach Green 2 and Lieutenant Colonel Brink ordered it forward to join the company's advance elements.16
By 130017 a majority of the boat teams of Companies F and E were on 0-1, with the exception of the latter's right flank which was still engaged with the enemy to the right rear. There was no clear cut boundary between the two companies, their component teams having become thoroughly intermingled between the beach and 0-1. Company officers and NCO's had kept the advance moving by placing under their respective commands any lonely cluster that appeared to need leadership.
Landing Team 3 Reaches 0-1
At 1200 the amtracs in which Companies I and K were embarked ground ashore on Beach Green 1. As noted previously, Landing Team 3 would secure Combat Team 24's left area, Company I operating on the right and Company K attacking on the left. The latter unit's zone included the spit of land that lay between Rol and Namur. But the smoke and dust drifting from the explosions on Namur limited vision, and once ashore the Marines discovered elements of the two companies intermingled. Disregarding this temporary confusion, however, the landing units drove straight for the 0-1 line.18
Company B, landing team reserve in the absence of Company L, hit the beach 45 minutes later, while the latter unit was not able to obtain LCVP's and join its parent organization until about 1530.
The situation in Landing Team 3's zone was quite similar to that described in Landing Team
FIRST LIEUTENANT JOHN V. POWER attacked a pillbox on Namur and was seriously wounded. Holding his hand over his wound he attacked a second pillbox and while so engaged was fatally wounded. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.
2's area. "Each boat team attacked straight to its front, under the leadership of its boat team commander, until reaching the initial objective 0-1."19
The assaulting elements met enemy fire from pillboxes, shell holes, and debris, as did Landing Team 2 on the right. The Japanese defenders were punch-drunk from the constant hammering they had received from naval, artillery, and air bombardments and were unable to put up an organized or coordinated defense. Resistance was a matter of small groups of defenders armed only with light weapons and the ingrained will to resist.
Although unknown to the Marines at the time, the lack of positive Japanese command also played an important part in preventing the enemy from organizing an effective resistance. Preliminary bombardment of Namur had virtually destroyed the administration building housing the communication and intelligence facilities for both Namur and Roi. Thus at one swoop the means of effective command were lost. Moreover, the enemy was early deprived of the very source of command-experienced high-echelon officers. Many of the ranking officers of Roi-Namur, including Vice Admiral Yamada, air commander for the Marshalls, perished in the destruction of the administration building. And on D-plus 1 the seven surviving senior officers were killed almost simultaneously while seeking sanctuary in a bomb shelter. The few prisoners taken during the operation reported that from then on it was a matter of every man for himself and no attempt was made to organize resistance.20
The landing team shore party landed at 1230 and began operations on the beach. Fifteen minutes later two half-tracks of the 2d Platoon, Battery D, 4th Special Weapons Battalion, approached Beach Green 1. One of the vehicles drowned out during the landing, but the other proceeded to the landing team's right boundary to take pillboxes under fire with its 75mm gun.
Meanwhile, the boat teams of Companies K and I were punching toward SYCAMORE Boulevard. In Company K's zone, First Lieutenant John V. Power's assault team attacked a series of pillboxes which were holding up the advance. As the lieutenant set a demolition charge on one of the fortifications, he was severely wounded. Holding his left hand over his wound, he rushed the opening made by the explosion, firing his carbine with his right hand and emptying the weapon. As he paused to reload he received two additional severe
wounds. For his action he was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.21
At 1300 three light tanks of Company B, 4th Tank Battalion, came ashore in support of Landing Team 3, the vehicles landing on the left flank of beach Green 2 (Landing Team 2's area). The armor attempted to move laterally across the beach to Lieutenant Colonel Brunelli's unit, but the beach was littered with equipment22 and crowded by men reluctant to give way. While trying to avoid the congestion, two tanks bellied in the soft sand, one of them throwing a track in the process. The third tank proceeded inland about 30 yards where it slipped into a shell hole and threw a track when it began climbing out.
Although the crews were temporarily immobilized as tankmen, this did not keep them from combat. As they worked on their stalled armor, they were rushed by 15 Japanese from a nearby pillbox (thought to have been cleared). The tankers beat off the attack and cleared the pillbox. This enemy sortie was quickly followed by another attack from a second pillbox, with the same result. After that the crewmen were undisturbed. They accounted for 30 Japanese dead and two prisoners at the cost of one fatality. Two remaining tanks of the 3d Platoon landed at 1500 and 1630 respectively and these were used to get the three disabled vehicles back into service.23
Lieutenant Colonel Brunelli had come ashore at 1250 in order to direct his landing team's advance to O-1, and by 1400 the boat teams of Companies K and I had knocked out or sidestepped enough Japanese resistance to reach it. In fact, elements of Company I had progressed 150 yards past the initial objective, but were required to withdraw.
Having attained the initial objective, the assault elements reorganized and stood fast24 awaiting orders for a coordinated attack, which Colonel Hart subsequently set for 1630.
Warheads in the Blockhouse
At 1305 a tremendous explosion shook Namur's eastern shore and covered Company F's area with a dense pall of smoke that soon spread over most of the island.25 There were two immediate reactions. Some Marines thought a 500- or 1,000-pound bomb had been dropped in the area, and all bombing was ordered canceled immediately. Others, coughing and choking in the swirling acrid smoke, were certain that a gas storage tank had exploded and that poison gases were being released. This latter group began frantically searching for gas masks which had been discarded almost simultaneously with the landing on the beaches.
As the column of smoke shot skyward more than 1,000 feet, the Marines on Namur were subjected to a rain of concrete chunks, wood, shrapnel, and torpedo warheads which crashed down for what seemed eternity to the unprotected men. When the smoke gradually cleared, it developed that a large blockhouse crammed with torpedo warheads had blown up. On Company F's right flank such a concrete structure had been silhouetted against the skyline just before the explosion. Where it had stood there was now only a large water-filled crater, surrounded by the remains of a concrete foundation.26 The building's obliteration cost the combat team 20 dead and 100 wounded. Included in the latter classification was Lieutenant Colonel Brink, who refused evacuation. The unit hardest hit was Captain Frank E. Garretson's Company F, which suffered 14 fatalities and 43 wounded.
In the heat of battle it is impossible for
DENSE SMOKE rises over Namur from exploding blockhouse containing torpedo warheads. (Navy photo.)
assault teams27 to determine that one blockhouse is used solely for defense and that another identical building is used only for the storage of torpedo warheads, as was the structure that exploded in a disintegrating blast. Two assault teams had approached the blockhouse simultaneously. Lieutenant Joseph E. Lo Prete of Company E led one group, Lieutenant Saul Stein of Company F heading the other. As was customary at that particular time and place, the Marines placed a shaped charge against the side of the building, blowing a hole in the wall. Immediately a group of Japanese fled the fortification, apparently realizing what was about to happen. The assault teams then threw several satchel charges into the hole, and the building vanished in an unforgettable roar.28 Lieutenant Stein was among those killed in the immediate vicinity.29
Before Combat Team 24 could fully recover from the effects of the blast, two other concrete structures blew up in the area, apparently set off by the desperate Japanese. Although these explosions were not as large as that of the
torpedo warhead, they produced their share of casualties and temporary confusion.
These [lesser explosions] were of no mean proportions. The regimental CP had just landed when the second explosion took place. Chunks of concrete and other debris . . . landed among personnel of the regimental CP, causing some casualties.30
The cumulative effect of the three explosions was to account for 50 percent of Landing Team 2's total casualties for the entire operation. Further, it eliminated all landing team communications except by runner.
Colonel Hart landed his command post on Namur at 1325, and upon learning how the blockhouse explosion had damaged Landing Team 2, ordered Company A attached to it. Meanwhile, the boat teams which had reached 0-1 were receiving intensified fire from the Japanese who were recovering from the earlier bombardments. Particular trouble spots were three blockhouses located respectively at the end of NUBBIN Lane, the end of NUT lane and at a point 90 yards west of Road Junction 58. All three poured forth enfilading machine-gun and rifle fire along SYCAMORE Boulevard, making open movements along O-1 virtually impossible.
North from SYCAMORE
Whereas Roi was open and clear, an airfield with buildings, Namur was covered with dense jungle, concrete fortifications, administration buildings and barracks. These not only provided the Japanese with cover and concealment, but also effectively hampered full utilization of
BLOCKHOUSE EXPLOSION on Namur as seen from neighboring Roi.
tanks and armored amphibians which had maneuvered at will on Roi.
With a coordinated attack northward scheduled for 1630, Lieutenant Colonel Brink concentrated on neutralizing three blockhouses forward of the O-1 line which were proving particularly troublesome to the men on SYCAMORE Boulevard and might well hamper the general advance. Light tanks and armored amphibians rumbled to the front line and concentrated their fire on the concrete fortifications. Before jumpoff time those at Road Junction 58 and NUBBIN Lane had been neutralized, but the blockhouse at NUT Lane proved too formidable for the 37mm guns brought against it and continued to provide opposition until the next morning.
In Landing Team 3's zone a general reorganization was underway. At 1531 Company L came ashore31 and was directed to assign an assault team to Company I, to relieve Company B as landing team reserve and to continue mopping up operations. Company B replaced Company K on the line, while the latter unit was ordered to consolidate PAULINE Point and support by fire from there the attack of Companies I and B.
At 1630 Colonel Walter W. Wensinger, 4th Division D-3, landed the advance division command post on Namur. At that same time Landing Team 3 began driving northward from O-1.
WATER-FILLED CRATER where the blockhouse filled with explosives stood before the satchel charges were tossed inside. (Navy photo.)
The attacking Marines quickly found that in the two and one-half hours since they had first reached SYCAMORE Boulevard the Japanese had shaken off some of the dazing effects of the bombardment. There was still no organized resistance in the usual sense, but pockets of defenders poured forth machine-gun and rifle fire, backed up by mortars and rifle grenades. The debris and damaged buildings, as well as the dense jungle growth, made the going all the more difficult.
But while Landing Team 3 launched its attack at the prescribed hour, Landing Team 2 at this time was still engaged in reorganization. At 1600 Company C had been attached to Lieutenant Colonel Brink's command, relieving Company E which reverted to landing team reserve and mopping up behind the forward line. It was not until 1730, however, that this change was effected, and the composite landing team then began its attack. But due to the disrupted communications not all of Company E left the front-line positions. Thus when the forward movement began, the assaulting line from right to left included Company A, which had been dispatched to the right flank at 1530, Company C with intermingled portions of Company E, Company F, and the advance half of Company G. (The rear half of Company G, under the company executive officer, did not make contact with the forward echelon until darkness.)32
The landing team's left flank, preceded by both the Headquarters Section and 1st Platoon of Company F (light tanks), pushed forward despite Japanese rifle and machine-gun fire and an almost impenetrable jungle. The dense undergrowth, shell holes, and fallen trees made progress particularly difficult for the tanks. Occasionally Japanese clambered up on the leading tanks, only to be swept away by 37mm
COMMUNICATORS test line on Namur's beach.
canister fire from the covering armor in the rear. This shotgun type of fire was also used to cut away the thick foliage impeding the advance.
Despite the deliberate progress of the tanks, 20 minutes after the attack was launched Landing Team 2's left flank had outstripped Landing Team 3's right and proceeded nearly 300 yards forward to NARCISSUS Street. Contact was virtually impossible in the overgrown tangle of trees and vines, and both tanks and infantry were separated from time to time.
Leading a column of tanks in the vicinity of NASTURTIAM Lane-NARCISSUS Street, Captain James L. Denig, commander of Company B (tanks) became separated from both the infantry and his own elements. Suddenly his vehicle hit a log and turned into a cleared area, and Denig stopped to get his bearings. Instantly a group of Japanese climbed upon his vehicle and dropped a grenade into the open visual signal port,33 killing Denig and his driver and wounding the other two crew members. At that moment a squad of infantry and another
PRIVATE RICHARD K. SORENSON spared his comrades' lives by falling on a Japanese grenade which was tossed into the shell crater they occupied. He was awarded the Medal of Honor.
tank burst upon the scene and promptly eliminated the Japanese.34
Meanwhile, infantry under Captain Garretson which had followed the tank column, knifed on past NARCISSUS Street to within 35 yards of the northern beach but not in sufficient strength to maintain the salient. Moreover, these advanced troops were without contact and in danger of friendly flanking fire. They were ordered to withdraw approximately 100 yards south of NARCISSUS Street where Landing Team 2 established physical contact with Landing Team 3's right flank.35 Garretson, however, maintained a bulge in the line throughout the night.
On Lieutenant Colonel Brink's right flank, Companies C and A encountered dense jungle and stiff Japanese resistance in the form of heavy machine-gun fire. Despite this, the latter unit inched its advance onto NADINE Point. But even as the right flank was attacking, it received a counterattack. Thereupon, Company E was ordered forward to support Companies C and A. But by the time Captain Ross' organization arrived on the scene the counterattack had been broken,36 whereupon the unit dug in for the night with C/24 and A/24.
While Combat Team 24 was pushing the attack on Namur, General Schmidt came ashore shortly after 1700. The Commanding General visited Colonel Hart's command post and then proceeded to the spot selected by Colonel Wensinger for the division command post.37 At 1800 the advance division command post became the command post itself, and as provided in the basic directives, General Schmidt assumed command of all troops on shore. He quickly ordered Landing Team 3/23 and the medium tanks (Company C) to proceed from Roi to Namur and assist Combat Team 24.38 Only the tanks were utilized, however.
Landing Team 3 had slugged its way about 175 yards north of the O-1 line when a platoon of medium tanks reported to Lieutenant Colonel Brunelli at 1830. One half-track, the armor and elements of Company I were then organized into a composite attack unit which immediately started up Namur's western beach. In the gathering dusk the advance encountered Japanese grenades and machine-gun fire, which were answered in greater measure with 75mm guns and automatic weapons. The tanks finally reached the Japanese dual 5-inch guns (previously knocked out) at NATALIE Point. But here the Marines were faced with the problem of no friendly contact and a shortage of ammunition and consequently retired to Landing Team 3's lines.39
At 1930 Colonel Hart directed Combat Team 24 to dig in for the night and hold the ground gained. Landing Team 3 was in position about 175 yards beyond SYCAMORE Boulevard.
The left flank of Lieutenant Colonel Brink's composite command was also about 175 yards forward of SYCAMORE, while the right flank was entrenched on NADINE Point. As noted earlier, there was a large bulge in the line maintained by Company F. With the fall of darkness, Company G's two echelons were finally reunited, as subsequently recalled by the company executive officer:
When darkness fell, [the rear echelon of Company] G advanced north through the undergrowth about 40 yards against considerably reduced fire and discovered the remaining portion of G under Captain Berkeley, [and] some elements of F under Captain Garretson. . . .40
Between 1930 (D-plus 1) and dawn41 (D-plus 2) Japanese resistance was marked by the same lack of organization that had characterized it since W-Hour. It consisted principally of harassing fire to the Marines' front and rear, the latter coming from by-passed enemy who emerged from their holes under cover of darkness. Portions of Landing Team 3's front were hit by small groups of Japanese led by officers, but who seemed to lack coordination with one another and who apparently had no other plan beyond the desire to strike their foes. Equally as dangerous as the Japanese, and even more confusing to the front-line units, was the amount of rifle, machine-gun, and even mortar fire received from "friendly" forces in the rear. At one point the division commander personally had to order machine gunners near the beach to stop indiscriminate firing at treetops.42
MEDIUM TANKS move forward on Namur.
CORPSMAN gives blood plasma to a wounded Marine at an impromptu aid station.
The medium tanks which General Schmidt had earlier directed to Combat Team 24's assistance were now faced with a problem which threatened to nullify the armor's usefulness. Inasmuch as they had originally been assigned to the Roi operation, plans called for their fuel and ammunition replacements to be landed on Roi's Beach Red 3. Now bivouacked just north of Beach Green 1 on Namur, the tanks were low on fuel and in some cases out of ammunition. Navy lighters were scheduled to transfer the vitally needed supplies to the tankmen in time to rearm and refuel prior to dawn but failed to appear. Consequently all 75mm shells were pooled and then redistributed to the four tanks with the most fuel, these having approximately one-quarter normal supply.43
This initiative on the part of Company C (tanks) was timely. At dawn Company I was hit by a Japanese assault of approximately company strength, and the four available tanks rushed to the infantry's support. To complicate the picture, contact between Companies I and B had been lost during the night, and the attack was spreading over this gap and spilling onto Company B's left flank. Lieutenant Colonel Brunelli ordered Company L from landing team reserve to plug the hole, while Company K was directed to proceed from PAULINE Point to Namur as landing team reserve. While these movements were in progress, the Marines backed up by their supporting tanks, were engaged in furious hand-to-hand combat with the Japanese and delivering a powerful counterpunch.
Despite the gap existing between Companies I and B, no major infiltration was effected. By the time Company L arrived on the scene, 35 minutes after the attack had begun, it was all over. So furiously had Companies I and B44 fought that not only were the Japanese repulsed, but an additional 50 yards of ground had been gained.
To finish the job on Namur, Colonel Hart set 0900 as the jumpoff hour for a coordinated combat team attack. In the area of Landing Team 3, Companies K, I, and L (left to right) supported by two platoons of medium tanks would spearhead the advance, Company B constituting landing team reserve and Company M (less detachments) supporting the advance from PAULINE Point. In the combat team's right sector Lieutenant Colonel Dyess of Landing Team 1 assumed command of the composite Landing Team 2-Landing Team 1 force from Lieutenant Colonel Brink, who had been wounded in the blockhouse explosion the preceding day. The attacking units remained essentially the same, however, with Companies G and F on the left and Companies C and A on the center and right, Company E reverting to reserve. The infantry would be stiffened with half-tracks, Company B (light tanks) and one platoon of medium tanks. All of Landing
Team 2 not in the attack was organized into a provisional unit for mopping up.
Landing Team 3 jumped off promptly at 0900 with the four operative medium tanks. The fight was a steady one with the enemy taking advantage of the thick and tangled foliage, damaged buildings, and debris. The medium tanks found ample targets in the concrete pillboxes which were still in operation. A favorite method of dealing with them was to fire a few rounds of APC M-61 (armor piercing) shells which would crack the concrete, followed by several rounds of high explosive (HE). The result was generally a nicely blown hole in the structure. By 1100 Companies K and I had overrun NORA Point and established contact with the foremost units of the Dyess force. Company L moved forward, "hampered only by confusion incident to poor communications, problems of contact with adjacent elements, and considerable . . . fire from all directions . . . "45 With assistance from the medium tanks, the company secured NATALIE Point on the northern shore by 1215.
Delayed by the late arrival of the tanks, the right flank of Combat Team 24 started forward at 1005. The first mission was the elimination of the obnoxious blockhouse at NUT Lane which had been an irritant since the preceding day. This was accomplished by the coordinated efforts of tanks, half-tracks and infantry, and the attack rolled on. In desperation a large group of Japanese utilized an antitank ditch on the north shore as a personnel trench and from this fired rifles and machine guns at the steadily advancing Marines. To overcome this resistance, tanks of the 1st Platoon swung around to one end of the ditch and poured deadly canister and machine-gun fire down its length, piling dead Japanese three deep.46
Among those in the forefront of the advance was Lieutenant Colonel Dyess, who had been forward all morning in an effort to keep the northward drive rolling along. Now with the clearance of the antitank ditch, his force was poised for the final objective. As he mounted a parapet to direct a flanking attack on this last
LIEUTENANT COLONEL AQUILLA J. DYESS led the 24th Marines' attack on the right of Namur the morning of the second day. While thus engaged he was killed in action. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.
enemy position, Colonel Dyess was killed by a burst of machine-gun fire. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.47
At 1215 Combat Team 24's two advancing forces joined on NATALIE Point48 and the battle was over except for the tedious business of mopping up by-passed enemy. An hour later Colonel Hart assigned defensive areas and set up a plan for beach defense. Namur was
A FEW JAPANESE decided to surrender, as did the one above.
officially declared secured at 1118, having been taken in less than a day and one-half's steady fighting.
During combat on Namur, casualties were cared for by Navy corpsmen as usual.
Due to previous Marine Corps experience of Japanese yelling "Corpsman!" and shooting anyone that trot up and moved, a code name of "Sailor" was adopted for corpsmen. With every assault platoon, a corpsman went along, and wherever and whenever a man was hit, he went unhesitatingly to his assistance. Often this necessitated coming directly into an enemy line of fire. Many large shell holes became miniature aid stations with wounded men at the bottom, dirty, bloody, and in pain. Next to them, with his medical kit spread as carefully as possible amid the filth to avoid infection and sometimes with a plasma bottle attached to an M-1 bayoneted into the sand, worked the corpsman. Lastly these men had the unpleasant chore of carrying or attending to wounded as others carried them on litters, usually under enemy fire, and there was no opportunity in cases such as this for moving by "leaps and bounds" diving into the nearest foxhole or running zigzag.49
Although Combat Team 21 had more than its share of difficulties, Namur had been secured in good time. The cards had been stacked against the unit from the time its assigned amtracs were sent out on multiple missions the day preceding the attack on Namur. Thus LVT's were not available when required and most of the combat team's difficulties stemmed from that initial situation. The problems faced by Colonel Hart's organization were compounded by:
Launching the assault from the line of departure before the combat team commander and his unit were prepared.
The failure of communications, both afloat and ashore.
The tangled and thick vegetation which impeded full utilization of armor.
The explosion of the blockhouse.
But on the credit side, the initiative demonstrated by junior officers and NCO's in forming isolated groups of men into combat units had produced eventual order, coordination, and success.
Colonel Hart voiced his opinion of the problems in his report to General Schmidt:
It is believed that had LVT(2)'s and/or LCVP's been available as had been originally planned, or had departure from the line of departure been delayed until 1200, it would have enabled the application of a maximum coordinated effort in Combat Team 24's attack, and that the final objective would have been secured [the first day].50
This view was shared by Colonel Rogers, the division chief of staff:
One of the main things we learned from this operation was the value of the DUKW, which the Army had and we did not. If we had had the DUKW's to land ammunition and thereby save the tractors, I firmly believe the Namur attack would have been over in a few hours. The attack was seriously hampered by the failure of the tractors to get to the line of departure on time. I think the 24th Marines would have overrun Namur during the first hour or two if their assault troops had all landed as originally planned.51
Nevertheless, Namur had been overrun by the early afternoon of 2 February, and with completion of this assignment went the accomplishment of the major tasks facing the 4th Marine Division. But down in the southern part of the atoll, the 7th Infantry Division was still heavily involved in its mission of capturing Kwajalein.
LOOKING TOWARD ROI from the shattered administration building on Namur.
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (4) * Next Chapter (6)
1. Unless otherwise cited, this chapter represents a synthesis of the following sources: 4th MarDiv SAR: CT 24 Report on FLINTLOCK, 10Mar44; Prelim Rpt 1st Bn, 24th Marines, 8Feb44; Prelim Rpt 2d Bn, 24th Marines, 7Feb44; Incomplete Prelim Rpt 3d Bn, 24th Marines, 7Feb44; undated and incomplete Rpt 2d Bn, 24th Marines titled Narrative Battle of Roi Namur, 1-3 February 1944, hereinafter cited as 2dBn Narrative; 10th AmphTrac SAR; LtCol Richard Rothwell, "A Study of An Amphibious Operation, The Battle of Namur," 31Jan44-2Feb44, written for Amphibious Warfare School, Quantico, Senior Course 1946-1947; hereinafter cited as Rothwell; LtCol Austin R. Brunelli, Historical Tactical Study, "The Capture of Namur Island," February 1-2, 1944, written for Amphibious Warfare School, Quantico, Senior Course 1946-1947.
2. This distance is contrasted with the 1,900 yards separating Admiral DuBose's Fire Support Unit 2 from Roi. TF 53 Rpt FLINTLOCK, Encl B, 4, points out that because of this difference in distance, Unit 1's support of CT 24 on Namur was not as effective as that received by the 23d Marines from Unit 2.
3. Since Fire Support Units 1 and 2 were firing toward each other during the D-plus 1 bombardment, pains were taken to prevent overshooting the targets. Later in the morning, however, Louisville was hit by 8-inch fragments from a ricochet fired by Indianapolis which injured five men and caused superficial damage.
4. The views of both Col Hart and Col Rogers on this matter are given at the end of this chapter when the factors affecting the operation are summarized.
5. Ltr Gen Harry Schmidt to CMC, 13Jan53, hereinafter cited as Schmidt.
6. The first wave was made up of LVT(A)'s exclusively.
7. Ltr LtCol John F. Ross, Jr., to LtCol J. A. Crown, 21Jan53, hereinafter cited as Ross.
8. LCVP's were available for the combat team reserve because they had been so allocated. On the other hand, the assault elements had expected to use LVT's, and therefore some of their units were without transportation.
9. The record that this occurred is contained in 24thMar SAR, 8; 2dBn Narrative, 2, and Rothwell, 12. As noted in Chapter IV, LVT(A)'s in the Roi landing did go ashore and materially assisted the advance there.
11. Each platoon of each assault company was divided into three units: an assault team consisting of the platoon leader and 18 men and two boat teams. The assault team was specifically designed to attack pillboxes and blockhouses and contained a demolitions group, bazooka group, light machine-gun group and support group. The boat teams contained the remainder of the platoon.
12. Litzenberg II; Ross.
13. Litzenberg II.
14. Historical Branch interview with LtCol Frank E. Garretson 12Jan53, hereinafter cited as Garretson.
15. As noted earlier, Company E landed in the center of the battalion area, and thus a sizable gap was created between the left flank of Landing Team 2 and the right flank of Landing Team 3. Obviously, Company G was moving in this gap. By the time all elements were on 0-1, Companies F and E had somehow switched assigned zones, the former being toward the left while the latter was on the right.
16. Ltr Maj Charles T. Ireland, Jr., to CMC, 3Feb53, hereinafter cited as Ireland.
17. There is some difference of opinion among participants regarding this hour. A few take the view it was much later. The weight of opinion favors 1300, however, and it apparently ties in with other events. That is why it is used in the narrative.
18. Ltr LtCol Albert Arsenault to CMC, 10Feb53, hereinafter cited as Arsenault.
19. Ltr Col Austin R. Brunelli to CMC, 5Feb53.
20. 4th MarDiv IntRpt.
21. CinCPac serial 2543, 26Jun44.
22. The tankers had been emphatically ordered to avoid equipment left lying on the beach.
23. Action Report, Company B, 4th Tank Battalion, FLINTLOCK, 27Mar44, hereinafter cited as B/4thTkBn SAR, 2-3.
24. "It is my belief that if I Company could have been allowed to continue the attack at 1400, it would have cleared its zone to NORA Point long before dark and facilitated the advance of the entire RCT that day." Arsenault.
25. "Col Hart and I were perhaps 300 yards offshore when the explosion took place at 1305. From our position the whole of Namur Island disappeared from sight in a tremendous brown cloud of dust and sand raised by the explosion." Litzenberg II.
26. ". . . Whole trunks of palm trees and chunks of concrete as large as packing crates were flying through the air. . . . The hole left where the blockhouse stood was as large as a fair sized swimming pool." Ltr Mr Samuel H. Zutty to CMC, 28Jan53, hereinafter cited as Zutty.
27. Theories have been advanced that the explosion was touched off by either the Japanese or a shell from one of the fire-support ships. The weight of evidence indicates, however, that the Marines themselves unknowingly set it off.
28. Historical Branch interview with Maj Joseph E. Lo Prete, 8Jan53.
29. One man in Lt Stein's platoon was blown 35-50 yards out to the sea by the force of the explosion. He was rescued from the water and apparently suffered no aftereffects. Garretson.
30. Litzenberg II.
31. "We were late solely because we had no means of getting ashore earlier other than swimming. Swimming was considered but rejected because of the probable damage to company weapons from the effects of the salt water." Ltr LtCol Houston Stiff to CMC, 26Jan53, hereinafter cited as Stiff.
32. ". . . Contact never was established during the day because of a damaged radio and the apparent inability of runners to locate [the advance echelon of Company] G. . . . .No orders for a concerted attack during the afternoon ever reached me. The situation for my portion of G during the rest of the daylight hours was one of no contact with 2/24, no visible elements of LT 3 on my left, visual contact with a unit of LT 1 on my right, and heavy fire from the front. . . . " Ireland.
33. A visual signal port is a hole about three inches in diameter, located on top of the tank turret directly over the tank commander's lap. It is used to signal other tanks with flags when the tank radio is not functioning. In this case it was opened to permit engine fumes to escape.
34. B/4thTkBn SAR, 4-5.
35. Visual contact was maintained between Landing Teams 2 and 3 throughout the advance on Namur. Garretson.
36. Ross; Ltr Col Francis H. Brink to CMC, 3Jan53, hereinafter cited as Brink.
38. Combat Team 25 was in division reserve at the time and was also available, but not used.
39. C/4thTkBn SAR, 2-3.
41. "The shore fire control of naval gunfire star shells was used frequently during the first night on Namur. The eerie noise of the star shell as it flew through the air caused some apprehension [among] the troops [who did not know] what was causing the noise." Zutty.
42. Ltr Gen Harry Schmidt to CMC. 10Nov52.
43. C/4thTkBn SAR, 3. Fuel was not pooled because this would entail the use of pumps which were not available.
44. ". . . the 3d Platoon, Company B, which was practically wiped out on D-plus 1 night . . . had hundreds of dead Japanese piled in front of its positions on D-plus 2." Ltr LtCol Milton G. Cokin to CMC, 22Jan53.
46. B/4thTkBn SAR, 6.
47. CinCPac Serial 2543, 26Jun44.
48. ". . . 1/24 merely rounded the [NATALIE] Point, observed 3/24 advancing and firing; and in order to avoid 3/24's fire, backed up 15 yards under cover of the [NATALIE] point and waited for 3/24. As 3/24 neared the point, men of 1/24 walked out 30 or 40 yards to meet them. Hence both units were on the [NATALIE] Point at the same time." Ltr LtCol George D. Webster to CMC, 2Mar53. " . . . Some elements of 1/24 (actually 2/24) may have arrived on NATALIE Point at about the same time as, the leading platoon of Company L. . . . In any case, I joined the commander of Company F near the Point at about the time it was occupied." Stiff.
49. Memo from 1stLt John C. Chapin to Capt William G. Wendell, 8Jun45.
50. 24thMar SAR, 8.