In the northwest corner of the Marshall Islands, 326 nautical miles from Roi-Namur, lies Eniwetok Atoll2 (coded DOWNSIDE), some 30 islands arranged in an irregular circumference of 70 miles. Many of the coral bits of land are covered with underbrush, while the larger ones grow stunted coconut trees. At the outbreak of the war less than 100 natives were to be found there, and the agricultural output consisted of a few figs and coconuts.
The lagoon measures some 21 miles in length, northwest-southeast, and about 17 miles across, northeast-southwest. Wide Passage and Deep Entrance on the south and southeast sides respectively are the only navigable breaks in the rim of coral surrounding the atoll. Ships of all types may anchor in the sheltered waters, as did major units of the Japanese Fleet shortly before the invasion.
The principal islands include:
Engebi (FRAGILE) roughly shaped in the form of an equilateral triangle,each side measuring slightly over a mile in length. The northern end of this northernmost island was cleared, while mangrove and coconut palms covered the remaining portions. Here was found the atoll's only airstrip, concrete-surfaced and extending 4,025 feet.
Japtan (LADYSLIPPER) bounds the right of Deep Entrance. Measuring 800 yards (east-west) by 750 yards (north-south), this coral-sand island's northwestern area was covered by coconut palms in even rows, while dense underbrush grew elsewhere.
Parry (HEARTSTRINGS) lies immediately south of Japtan and bounds Deep Entrance's left. Shaped like an inverted tear drop, the island is two miles long, tapering from a 600-yard width in the north to a point in the south. In early 1944 it was covered with coconut palms.
Eniwetok (PRIVILEGE), the atoll's southernmost island, is formed like a blackjack and flanks the right of Wide Passage. Its length extends 4,700 yards and its width varies between 750 yards in the south to 170 yards in the north. Except for a few clearings and some fringes of mangrove, Eniwetok was covered with evenly spaced coconut palms.
Prior to the arrival of the Japanese 1st Amphibious Brigade on 4 January 1944, the defense of Eniwetok Atoll was entrusted to the Eniwetok Detachment of the 61st Keibitai (Guard Unit), based at Kwajalein. The detachment never totaled more than 61 men, 45 of whom were stationed on Engebi where the atoll defenses were concentrated. These consisted of a battery of two 120mm guns, two twin-mount M93 13mm AA machine guns, two M96 light machine guns and a number of rifles, pistols and hand grenades. This token defense force reflected the tardy Japanese military interest in the northwestern Marshalls. In November and December 1942, some 800 construction workers of the 4th Shisetsubu (4th Fleet Construction Section) landed at Engebi and began work on an airstrip, which was completed the following July. The 61st Keibitai detachment then moved into the island in October 1943.
Engebi's airstrip began operating in November, but since it was used only for staging planes between Truk and points east, no flying personnel were stationed there. The maintenance force consisted of 38 petty officers and men under a warrant officer. As American air operations increased in the eastern Marshalls, however, and the threat of amphibious assault in that area became greater, Japanese air was evacuated from the forward areas to Eniwetok Atoll's air base. On 11 January 1944 an additional 110 aviation officers and men were billeted on Engebi "owing to present operations in the Roi, Wotje, Mille, and Taroa areas."3 With the fall of Kwajalein Atoll, steps were taken to evacuate all air personnel to Truk by flying boat, but for most of them this began too late. An estimated 150 grounded pilots and crewmen were still on Engebi and Parry when American assault forces sailed into the lagoon 17 February 1944.
The 1st Amphibious Brigade was formed from the 3d Independent Garrison Unit in Manchuria in November 1943 under Major General Yoshima Nishida. Japanese Army planners originally intended it as a mobile striking force within the Marshalls, initially designating it the 1st Mobile Shipborne Brigade and ticketing it for centrally located Kwajalein. When it arrived at Truk on 26 December, however, the increasing threat of American attack on the Marshalls made necessary the reinforcement of certain points. The brigade was therefore ordered to garrison duty on various atolls, as noted in Chapter II.
General Nishida's command arrived at Engebi on 4 January and four days later those elements earmarked for Wotje, Maloelap, and Kwajalein departed. Of the 3,940 men within the brigade, 2,586 were left to defend Eniwetok Atoll, and these were now distributed among Engebi, Parry, and Eniwetok. Although they did not know it, the defenders had about six weeks in which to transform a virtually undefended atoll into a stronghold.
Command of the Engebi garrison devolved upon Colonel Toshio Yano of the 3d Battalion. His total military force numbered 736 men, including 44 of the 61st Keibitai detachment, and was augmented by aviation personnel, civilian employees, and laborers.4 In addition to his organic small arms, Yano had available two flame throwers, two 75mm mountain guns, three 20mm guns, two 120mm naval guns, two twin-mount 13mm AA machine guns, three light tanks and a variety of machine guns, mortars, and grenade dischargers. Organization and construction of defensive positions were begun immediately, and on 10 February the island commander issued an outline of his defensive plans in which he correctly estimated the events of a week later:
The enemy will bomb this island either with carrier or land-based planes and will bombard us from all sides with battleships and heavy cruisers. Directly
following these bombardments, an amphibious force landing will be carried out.
It will be extremely difficult for the enemy to land here from the open sea because of the high waves and rugged reefs.
Whether or not they are able to carry out their plan to land on the islands to the east and west, it is expected that they will force their way through the north and south passages, or make a forced passage of either the east or west pass in order to enter the atoll and carry out landing operations from the lagoon. While making assaults on outlying islands, they will approach this island from all directions.
If any of the above happens, and if sea and air control are in the hands of the enemy, this defense garrison must put up a defense on its own.
Eniwetok (DOWNSIDE) Atoll
In view of these things, it is essential that this force make complete use of every available man and all fortified positions, carrying out each duty to the utmost. Plans must be followed to lure the enemy to the water's edge and then annihilate him with withering fire power and continuous attacks.5
In an operational order issued 13 February, Colonel Yano instructed his forces to give "particular attention" to the construction of positions facing the lagoon. He directed that Company 8 (reinforced) occupy the eastern corner of the island; the Battalion Artillery Company (reinforced) station itself in the western corner; the Battalion Mortar Company occupy the central area with main fire directed toward the lagoon; the Machine Cannon Platoon occupy positions on the shore southeast of the main positions, and all other units take positions in the "main strength area," just inland of the lagoon beaches.
The island defenses were principally trenches and dugouts, protected by coconut log barricades, usually covered with light wood or sheet metal. In addition, a series of "spider traps" were installed. These consisted of oil-drum tunnels and each hole was covered with an innocuous piece of metal, a palm frond or coral rubble. No blockhouses such as those found at Tarawa and Kwajalein Atoll were constructed. In the limited time available to him, Yano had concrete pillboxes set up, but these were not reinforced and in comparison with those on other atolls, definitely weak. Despite these limitations, Admiral Hill described Engebi as the most heavily defended of the three islands attacked in Eniwetok Atoll.
Lieutenant Colonel Masahiro Hashida, commanding the 1st Battalion, took charge of the Eniwetok Island Garrison Force. Its strength was set originally at 779 men, subsequently reinforced by an additional 129 from brigade reserve.6 Armament was essentially the same as that allocated Engebi. In his defense plan, Hashida concentrated his force on the lagoon beaches and exhorted them to destroy the enemy at the water's edge. Beginning about midway of the island and extending southward, the following forces were established:
Right flank rear guard force: Infantry platoon, mortars, observation forces.
Right water's edge force: One mountain gun, one infantry platoon (less two squads).
Middle water's edge force: One mountain gun, one rapid fire gun; one infantry platoon (less one squad).
Left water's edge force: Two infantry squads, one mountain gun, one rapid fire gun.
Support force: One infantry platoon and one squad, three engineer platoons, tanks.
Defense works resembled those on Engebi, so effectively camouflaged with natural foliage they were unidentifiable from the air. In addition, new concrete pillboxes were rushed to completion on the island's southwestern tip and some land mines laid.
General Nishida established brigade headquarters and reserve on Parry, and this, together with a garrison force of 305 men, gave the island a total of 1,115 defending troops.7 Aviation personnel and civilian surveyors added slightly more than 100 men to this force. The armament available consisted of the same types as Engebi's and Eniwetok's, but in greater quantities, with the exception of tanks and mountain guns.
The defense plan for Parry was embodied in an order issued 5 February 1944. As a general policy Nishida directed that "each unit will split up the enemy's infantry attack landing craft at the water's edge, and annihilate the enemy forces piecemeal. . . . If the enemy does land, we shall annihilate him by original creative night attacks." The battle for Parry was visualized in three stages, the "outcome of the battle and the fate of the Brigade" being decided in the second. In the third stage "the Brigade investigates and analyzes the over-all situation and decides to die gloriously."8 Approximately one-half of the total troops were assigned to three strong points on the lagoon beaches, the remainder making up the island reserve force.
Parry's defensive positions were essentially
the same as those on Eniwetok, though not as well constructed. They were so well camouflaged, however, that not only were they virtually invisible from the air, but later attacking ground troops had difficulty spotting them. On the whole, they consisted of roofed over foxholes and trenches which protected the occupants from all gunfire and bombing, short of direct hits. An extensive mine field was laid on the northern tip of the island, and smaller ones set up in other areas. Some were buried just under the ground's surface, while others were concealed by lantanna and palm fronds.
Planning for Eniwetok
The decision to seize Eniwetok was made during the planning phase for Kwajalein, Admiral Nimitz regarding it as a preliminary to a landing on Truk or other islands in the Carolines. Originally the CATCHPOLE plan called for the 2d Marine Division to seize Eniwetok Atoll on 19 March 1944, and the 27th Infantry Division to assault Kusaie ten days later.9 As far along as January this concept was in force, the only change being that of revising the target date to 1 May in order that the naval units might participate in the proposed assault on Kavieng in April.10 During January both the 2d Marine Division and the 27th Infantry Division (less 106th RCT) were undergoing intensive training for the operation.11
But there appeared to be some general reflection along the lines of seizing Eniwetok immediately after the Kwajalein operation. On 14 January 1944 Admiral Spruance expressed such a desire to Admiral Nimitz. The Fifth Fleet Commander said he would like to proceed against Eniwetok then rather than waiting until the fleet returned from the Kavieng assault.12 And during the FLINTLOCK planning at Pearl Harbor, Admiral Turner's staff considered capture of Eniwetok as a part of that operation, staff studies being prepared "should success at Kwajalein prove rapid enough to justify the extension of the operation westward."13
Nor were these thoughts limited to the Navy. En route to Kwajalein Major General Holland Smith's staff drew up a tentative study dealing with the rapid seizure of Eniwetok. Dated 26 January 1944 and embodied in a memorandum to the corps chief of staff, the paper first reviewed the existent concept of two divisions striking on or about 1 May 1944. It then pointed out what could be gained by a quick attack:
The advantage of seizing DOWNSIDE as a part of the FLINTLOCK operation are numerous and obvious. The task would be greatly facilitated if the operation could be executed before the Japanese have had an opportunity to strengthen his defenses. It would result in the savings of lives, equipment, money and effort. Furthermore, it would advance the progress of the war, and would serve to keep the enemy under continuing pressure.14
On 2 February conditions appeared propitious for pushing on to Eniwetok. It was apparent that Kwajalein Atoll could be secured without the assistance of the Expeditionary Reserve, Tactical Group-1. Moreover, carrier plane photos of Eniwetok, made on 30 January, coupled with the fortunate capture by the 7th Reconnaissance Troop of secret navigational charts of the atoll, provided enough information to make definite plans for landing attacks.15 Rear Admiral Turner thereupon recommended to Vice Admiral Spruance that the assault on Eniwetok be undertaken in the immediate future. Two days later Admiral Nimitz radioed Spruance asking his recommendations concerning the capture of Eniwetok, as well as a carrier strike on Truk. The Fifth Fleet commander promptly recommended approval.
Admiral Nimitz arrived at Kwajalein on 5 February, and during his 42-hour visit on the atoll approved final plans for the Eniwetok and Truk operations.
ADMIRAL HILL AND GENERAL WATSON directed the seizure of Eniwetok Atoll.
As soon as it was evident that Eniwetok would follow Kwajalein, Rear Admiral Harry W. Hill, who had directed the successful occupation of Majuro Atoll, was instructed to report to Admiral Turner.16 He did so on 3 February, and the next day the two admirals conferred with Major General Holland Smith and Brigadier General Thomas E. Watson on plans for the project (coded CATCHPOLE). Initially the target date for D-Day was set at 12 February, but was later changed to 17 February in order to permit Task Force 58 to replenish fuel and ammunition for the Truk strike.
Admiral Hill was given over-all amphibious command, his force being designated Task Group 51.11.17 Watson's recently created Tactical Group-1 would provide the assault troops. But the problem of garrison troops was another matter, as Admiral Turner later recalled:
. . . No garrison elements for Eniwetok were carried along from Hawaii when the Expeditionary Force began departing . . . none were available, nor was there enough shipping to lift any. When the decision was made to capture Eniwetok without waiting for additional forces, we had to rob both Kwajalein Island and Roi-Namur of considerable proportions of their garrisons and carry them forward in order to start the more urgent development and defense of the new base.18
Organized under V Amphibious Corps General Order No. 55-43 on 16 November 1943, Tactical Group-1 was originally composed of Tactical Group Headquarters and the 22d Marines (Colonel John T. Walker), reinforced by 2d Separate Pack Howitzer Battalion, 2d Separate Tank Company, 2d Separate Engineer Company, 2d Separate Motor Transport Company, 2d Separate Medical Company, and Shore Party and JASCO elements.
The tactical group was not an administrative unit except where tactical matters were concerned,19 and it contained a streamlined type of staff, partly as an experiment and partly due to the lack of suitable staff personnel.20
The 22d RCT had been formed in early 1942 at Linda Vista, near San Diego, California, and had spent some 18 months on garrison duty in Samoa before receiving orders to proceed to the Hawaiian Islands. It was preceded by General Watson, who had commanded the 3d Marine Brigade in Samoa until its deactivation in early November 1943. Between its arrival in the Hawaiian Islands and its departure for Kwajalein in late January, the 22d Marines reinforced, camped at Maui and engaged in amphibious exercises, these being marred by a training accident on 6 December in which 21 men were killed and 27 wounded. On 23 December, the 106th Infantry Regiment (less 2d
Battalion), reinforced, was detached from the Army's 27th Infantry Division and placed under General Watson's group. The 106th RCT had been earmarked for Nauru during the Gilberts Operation, but upon the cancellation of that island objective the regiment had sat out the campaign.
During the amphibious training phase for Kwajalein, attention was centered on the assault units rather than on the elements of Tactical Group-1, since the latter was scheduled for corps reserve. Watson's command trained with what it had, but it had precious little, as the general caustically pointed out in a later report:
In the actual operation (Eniwetok), most of the troops were landed in amtracs for their first time. The artillery battalion landed for its first time in DUKW's. We were sent to attack a coral atoll. We rehearsed on the large island of Maui on terrain and approaches totally unlike those of the target. Troops did not land in rehearsal supported by naval gunfire, air and artillery fires to accustom them to actual attack conditions. The artillery had no practice in landing in DUKW's and firing under situations experienced at Eniwetok. The rehearsal at Maui permitted no appreciable advance inland, no combat firing, no infantry-tank team movement. . . . In the attack on Eniwetok, the infantry, amtracs, amtanks, tanks, aircraft, supporting naval ships and most of the staffs concerned had never worked together before.21
But if amphibious training was lacking, small unit ground trailing was not, as Colonel Wallace M. Greene, Jr., Tactical Group-1's operations officer, later pointed out:
Although it is only too true that both regiments [22d Marines and 106th Infantry] had received very little amphibious training prior to participation in the Eniwetok operation, it is also a fact that the 22d Marines was at its peak in small unit training--training which was anchored firmly around a basic fire team organization. This was accomplished by tough, vigorous jungle training given the unit . . . during its stay in Western Samoa. Colonel Floyd Moore [then R-3] was largely responsible for the planning and supervision of this training. And it was this excellence in the fire teams which really paid off at Eniwetok. . . . This regiment was one of the best trained and spirited units I observed. . . . It was this period of isolation in Samoa, and opportunity to train which made the 22d Marines far superior to the 106th Infantry in the close tough fighting on the beaches and in the bush of Eniwetok Atoll.22
COLONEL JOHN T. WALKER, commanding the 22d Marines, reinforced.
Tactical Group-1, constituting the reserve group for the Kwajalein operation, sailed from the Hawaiian Islands on 22 January with the other elements of the Joint Expeditionary Force. Between 31 January and 3 February, while the 4th Marine Division and the 7th Infantry Division were seizing their objectives, Tactical Group-1 cruised eastward of Kwajalein Atoll anchoring in the lagoon at the latter date.
To augment Watson's striking force for Eniwetok, he was allotted V Amphibious Corps Reconnaissance Company, Company D (Scout) of the 4th Tank Battalion, 708th Provisional Amphibian Tractor Battalion less one LVT group (102 LVT's), Company A of the 708th Amphibian Tank Battalion (17 LVTA's), and a Provisional DUKW Battery (30 DUKW's and 4 LVT's). The assault elements counted some 5,820 Marines and 4,556 soldiers, giving a total troop strength of 10,376. In addition, initial occupation forces included the Marine 10th Defense Battalion, 3d Army Defense Battalion, and 47th Army Engineer Battalion.
Admiral Hill, accompanied by General Watson, carried his flag on board an attack transport, Cambria, which had been specially fitted out as an amphibious troop command flagship.23 To lift the troops to their objective there were five other attack transports (APA), one transport (AP), two attack cargo ships (AKA), one cargo ship (AK), two destroyer transports (APD), two submarine chasers (SC), nine landing ships, tank (LST), and six landing craft, infantry (LCI). Ten destroyers made up the transport screen. Rear Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf commanded the Fire Support Group, consisting of the battleships Colorado, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania, three heavy cruisers, and seven destroyers. Three escort carriers and four destroyers composed the Escort Carrier Group, under Rear Admiral V. H. Ragsdale, while Carrier Task Group Four, under Rear Admiral Ginder, consisted of one heavy carrier, two light carriers, two heavy cruisers, one light antiaircraft cruiser, and eight destroyers. In addition, there was a Minesweeping Group with two high-speed mine sweepers, three mine sweepers, and two motor mine sweepers; a Service Group with two tugs and two oilers, and an Ocean Tug Group containing one destroyer and two tugs.
It has been previously noted that Japanese defense forces in Eniwetok Atoll at this time amounted to nearly 3,500 troops. But intelligence derived from prisoners and documents taken at Kwajalein, as well as aerial photographs of Eniwetok, led American staff planners to estimate that Eniwetok Atoll was defended by some 800 Japanese: 500 from the 61st Naval Guard Force and a detachment of 300 of the 4th Civil Engineers. It was conceded, however, that "some portion of the 1st Mobile Shipborne Force, of 2,000 to 3,000 Army troops, may be in this area." It was assumed that the majority of the defenders were stationed on Engebi, about 100 to 150 on Parry, and a small detachment on Eniwetok. There was no evidence of any enemy on any other islands within the atoll.
In considering the Japanese dispositions, General Watson decided to strike first at Engebi. His plan for the seizure of the atoll included four phases, the first involving occupation of nearby islands or islets by artillery as was done at Kwajalein Atoll.
On D-Day, Company D (Scout) of the 4th Tank Battalion secure ZINNIA Island to the west of Engebi; simultaneously, V Amphibious Corps Reconnaissance Company secure five islands to the southeast of Engebi and cover the landings of the 2d Separate Pack Howitzer Battalion and the 104th Field Artillery Battalion on CAMELLIA and CANNA respectively.
On D-plus 1, 22d Marines, reinforced by the 2d Separate Tank Company (medium) and one platoon of the 106th Infantry's Cannon Company (two 105mm self-propelled guns), seize Engebi. Support fires provided by the two artillery battallions from CAMELLIA and CANNA.
On D-plus X, 106th Infantry, reinforced by 2d Separate Tank Company (medium), seize Eniwetok and two hours later be prepared to seize Parry. One battalion, 22d Marines, would be assigned the 106th Infantry for the latter landing, inasmuch as BLT 106-2 was not present.
Complete seizure of all islands within the atoll.
An important aspect of the plan for Eniwetok, from the Marine viewpoint, was a new development in the troop command picture. Admiral Hill's plan provided that the Expeditionary Troops Commander (General Watson) be specifically placed in command of landings and garrison forces when ashore. At Roi-Namur, General Schmidt had received this command only after he stated he was ready to assume it. "In other words, [this command] formerly required positive action on the Ground Force Commander's part. Now it is established before the operation begins."24
TRUK HARBOR as it appeared to planes from the Intrepid on the first carrier strike at that Japanese stronghold. (Navy photo.)
Planning also included a massive carrier strike on Truk concurrently with the invasion of Eniwetok. Truk lies 670 nautical miles from the latter atoll and was still regarded by many Americans as "Japan's Pearl Harbor" and the "Gibraltar of the Pacific." The Japanese Combined Fleet under Admiral Mineichi Koga, IJN, had been based there since mid-1942, as was headquarters, Sixth Fleet (submarines), and Admiral Spruance hoped that by striking a blow at the base, a. major naval battle could be joined. Also, a strike on Truk was the necessary preliminary to a continuing advance westward through the Central Pacific. Thus, this planned attack (coded HAILSTONE) by Rear Admiral Marc Mitscher's Task Force 58 was closely connected with Hill and Watson's Eniwetok assault.25
Reconnaissance flights over Eniwetok had been underway irregularly since the preceding December, but the first concentrated preliminary strikes were performed by Rear Admiral Ginder's Task Group 58.4 while the amphibious assault force still lay off Kwajalein.
Planes from Saratoga, Langley, Princeton, Sangamon, Suwanee, and Chenango plastered every structure above ground that they could spot. Fourteen enemy planes were destroyed on the ground at Engebi, and aerial photographs of targets were rushed back to Cambria. Admiral Hill later reported that these strikes destroyed all buildings of consequence, rendered the airfield at Engebi temporarily useless, and demolished at least one of the two coastal defense guns on the northeast corner of that island.
On 3 February 1944 a Marine scouting plane from Bougainville flew over Truk, spotting an imposing array of vessels at anchor. This aggregation was duly reported, but Admiral Koga knew the plane had flown over and realized that an air attack would probably follow. He thereupon ordered the Yamato and Nagato plus elements of the 2d Fleet to Palau on 4 February. A week later the Combined Fleet, with Admiral Koga in Musashi, sailed for Japan, leaving two cruisers, some destroyers, and a great many cargo and transport vessels in Truk lagoon.26
Admiral Spruance in New Jersey and Admiral Mitscher in Yorktown sortied from Majuro with Task Force 58 (less TG 58.4) during the early morning hours of 12 February, bound for Truk.27 Included in the armada were Carrier Group 1 (Rear Admiral John W. Reeves), Carrier Group 2 (Rear Admiral A. E. Montgomery), Carrier Group 3 (Rear Admiral F. C. Sherman), and Task Force 17, Patrol Submarines (Vice Admiral C. A. Lockwood). The list of ships counted five heavy carriers, four light carriers, six battleships (including New Jersey), five heavy cruisers, five
JAPANESE NAVY YARD at Dublon Island, Truk Atoll, attacked by Admiral Mitscher's carrier-based planes. (Navy photo.)
light cruisers, 28 destroyers, and ten submarines.28 At dawn on 17 February a total of 70 planes took off from five of Admiral Mitscher's carriers. As they appeared over Truk they were engaged by 80 Japanese planes which rose to contest the intrusion. Some 60 of these Nipponese craft were shot down with a loss of four American planes, while another 40 enemy planes were destroyed on the ground by strafing. A fragmentation and incendiary bomb run followed. Of 365 planes on Truk when the attacking force arrived, less than 100 remained unscathed, and not one rose into the skies the next day.
At 0443, 18 February, fighters, dive bombers, and torpedo bombers began their attacks on Japanese shipping in Truk lagoon. By the end of the day two cruisers (one Naka class and the Kashima), four destroyers, nine auxiliary craft, and 24 cargo and transport vessels had been sunk.29 But the Japanese got in one blow. During the night of 17 February a group of "Kate" torpedo bombers sought out Mitscher's force and sent a torpedo into Intrepid, putting that carrier out of operation for several months. While the carriers were engaged in aerial assaults on Truk, Admiral Spruance conducted an around-the-atoll search for any fleeing enemy shipping. A cruiser and two destroyers were encountered and only one destroyer escaped. Spruance and Mitscher rendezvoused on 18 February and retired toward Kwajalein.30 The strike had not produced the hoped-for fleet action, but it had materially damaged Japanese naval forces and, most important, had torn the mask of dark mystery from Truk, revealing it as virtually an empty shell.
On 3 February General Watson issued verbal instructions to his subordinates concerning the Eniwetok operation, and his written operation order was issued one week later. V Amphibious Corps formally released Tactical Group-1 as Landing Force Reserve for the Kwajalein operation on 6 February, and assigned it duty under Admiral Hill's Task Group 51.11.
Only two weeks separated the decision to take Eniwetok and the departure for that objective, and Tactical Group-1 utilized the time to prepare feverishly for its new assignment. Perhaps no major amphibious operation in the Pacific was handled in such an impromptu manner. When General Watson's command had departed Pearl Harbor as floating reserve for the Kwajalein operation, it had no inkling that it would be assigned the Eniwetok mission. Furthermore, both regiments within the Tactical Group were as yet untried in combat.
Preparations for departure included reloading the 2d Separate Pack Howitzer Battalion on LST 246, and the 2d Separate Tank Company on LSD 1. By 15 February Admiral Hill's task group was ready to sail for Eniwetok, and at 0700 that day the Southern Group, composed of LST's, LCI's, and other slow-moving craft, departed Kwajalein lagoon. Seven hours later the Northern Group, consisting of transports, battleships, and carriers, was under way.
CANNA, CAMELLIA and ZINNIA
In the early morning hours of 17 February, Warrant Officer Shionoya, IJA, was interrupted in his labors on Parry Island's defenses by an air alarm and naval bombardment. He later recorded in his diary:
I was amazed at the severity of the bombardment. The bombardment was most severe from 0500 to 0600. . . . Everyone was looking on fully prepared for battle. We all passed the night [sic] with the idea that they were finally going to land that very night [sic]. Planes circled the sky all day, and the bombardment also lasted all day. There was one man killed and four wounded. . . . There were some who were buried by the shells from the ships. . . . How many times shall we bury ourselves in the sand . . 31
While Warrant Officer Shionoya and his comrades buried themselves in the sand, Colorado and Louisville shelled Engebi, Portland
and Trathen poured fire onto Parry and Japtan, and Indianapolis and Hoel bombarded Eniwetok. Not a return shot was fired. Between 0700 and 0900 naval gunfire was lifted only to permit the planes from Task Group 58.4 to make their bomb and strafing runs on the islands under attack. During this period mine sweepers moved into Wide Passage, where 28 moored mines were found, swept, and destroyed. This was the first Japanese mine field encountered by United States naval forces in the war.32 As soon as the mine sweepers had completed their work the shallow draft vessels of the Southern Group entered Eniwetok lagoon. At 0915 the Northern Group started into the lagoon via Deep Entrance. Moving in column, the fast mine sweepers led the way followed by destroyers, battleships, and transports.33 Flanking 40mm fire raked Japtan and Parry, but still the enemy did not reply.
A naval officer who was present subsequently described the maneuver:
In my study of naval history I do not recall any other instance where a naval force of this size and composition has steamed up to an enemy-held harbor, formed column and entered in much the same manner as it would enter its home port. . . . To see the force enter this lagoon in column through a narrow entrance and between the shores of islands on either flank, and steam something over 20 miles through the enemy lagoon was one of the most thrilling episodes which I witnessed during the entire war.34
On Parry Island Major General Nishida reacted to the invasion by radioing a futile plea to his superiors in Tokyo: "Enemy fleet entering the lagoon in large numbers. Request reinforcements."35
By 1034 Admiral Hill's task group completed entrance into Eniwetok lagoon, and 45 minutes later 14-inch shells from Tennessee and Pennsylvania exploded with destructive fury on Engebi. While the larger ships were thus engaged, the heavy cruiser Portland and the destroyers Heermann and McCord worked over CAMELLIA and Rujiyoru (CANNA) Islands36 in preparation for landings by the V Amphibious Corps Reconnaissance Company. At 1150 in the lagoon the Marines transferred from APD Kane to LST 272, clambered into six LVT-2's of the Army's 708th Provisional Amphibian Tractor Battalion and roared toward the two islands. Two LCI gunboats provided support, their rockets and 40mm guns producing geysers of sand and water. But there were no Japanese on either island. Captain James L. Jones, the company commander, reported CAMELLIA secured and uninhabited at 1355. Five minutes later Rujiyoru was reported in Marine hands. Five natives found on the latter island estimated Japanese strength at 1,000 on Engebi, Eniwetok, and Parry, respectively, with an additional 1,000 laborers on Engebi. Later on D-Day, Jones' command occupied five other islands in the chain southeast of Engebi, finding all of them devoid of enemy.
At 1344 General Watson directed his artillery to land in DUKW's according to schedule, the 2d Separate Pack Howitzer Battalion proceeding to CAMELLIA and the 104th Field Artillery Battalion (105mm) going to Rujiyoru. But progress of the former unit did not please Brigadier General Watson37 who thereupon relieved the Marine artillery commander,38 Major Alfred M. Mahoney assuming command of the howitzers.
Both artillery battalions, with five units of fire, were ashore at 1602 and ready for registration 30 minutes later. This was begun promptly, aerial artillery spotters having been on station for 45 minutes. By 1902 registration on Engebi was complete and 50 minutes
ENGEBI AS IT APPEARED three weeks before the 22d Marines stormed ashore. In the left center of the photograph is the small pier separating Beaches White 1 and Blue 3. In the background is the western end of the airstrip. (Navy photo.)
later night-long harassing fires against the next day's objective were begun by the artillerymen. During registration and under the protection of naval gunfire, underwater demolition teams moved to within 100 yards of Engebi's shore in amphibian tractors and then swam 50 yards closer, reconnoitering the beaches and their approaches. No obstacles or mines were located.
One task remained before the day's work was ended. At 1848 Company D (Scout), 4th Tank Battalion, embarked in rubber boats from APD Schley with orders to land on Bogon (ZINNIA), the island lying directly west of Engebi, and prevent any attempted Japanese exodus in that direction. The darkness, heavy sea, and wind combined to split the company, one portion returning to the Schley and the remainder
landing three islands away on Elugelab (SAGEBRUSH). Working their way across the reefs, the latter group eventually secured its original objective at 0327 without meeting opposition.
Thus Phase I was accomplished on schedule without meeting any enemy or incurring any casualties. All hands could now turn their attention to the seizure of Engebi on D-plus 1, Phase II in the over-all plan.
FRAGILE Is Shattered
The 22d Marines' plan for Engebi (FRAGILE) designated Battalion Landing Team 1 (Lieutenant Colonel Walfried H. Fromhold) and Battalion Landing Team 2 (Lieutenant Colonel Donn C. Hart) assault elements, Battalion Landing Team 3 (Major Clair W. Shisler) constituting regimental reserve. Landing beaches were located on the approximate center of the lagoon side of the island, with a short finger pier separating them and demarking the initial BLT boundaries. (See Map 12, Map Section.) Once ashore, the line between the 1st and 2d Landing Teams extended along WHOOPIE Trail to ENERVATE Trail, thence along the latter to its terminal point and from there to the island's northern tip. Fromhold's command would land on Beach White 1 and handle the regiment's right zone, while the left, Hart's unit, would land on Beach Blue 3. Reinforcing elements to be landed under 22d RCT control were the 2d Separate Tank Company and one platoon (two 105mm self-propelled guns) from the 106th Infantry's Cannon Company. During the afternoon of D-Day the troops transferred from their transports to the LST's where LVT's awaited them, and readied themselves for W-Hour, set for O845.
Engebi (FRAGILE) Island
LANDING TEAMS 1 AND 2 churn their way toward Engebi's shore. (Navy photo.)
ENGEBI as it appeared after the aerial and naval bombardment. (Coast Guard photo.)
At 0655 on D-plus 1 (18 February) the guns of Colorado and Louisville heralded the opening attack on Colonel Yano's Engebi defenses. Minutes later Pennsylvania and Tennessee--1,000 yards offshore--joined in with a fullthroated roar, and four destroyers, McCord, Heermann, Phelps, and Hall, got into the act.39 From nearby Rujiyoru and CAMELLIA the 75mm and 105mm howitzers stepped up their fire, which had been harassing the defending Nipponese all night. Shortly before 0800 planes from Sangamon and Suwanee appeared on the scene, and the bombardment was halted abruptly to permit the aviators to get in their wallop. The naval guns and artillery resumed their discordant chant at 0811 and continued without cessation until one minute before the first wave of LVT's stormed ashore.
Reveille at 0400 had roused the assault troops on board the LST's, and by 0805 the loaded amtracs were in the rendezvous area. Ten minutes later the first wave crossed the line of departure and churned its way toward the beaches.40 Preceding the LVT's were six LCI (G)'s, three on each flank, and these poured forth a torrent of rocket and 40mm fire. The gunfire hit the beach as planned, but because of an error in estimating the range, the rockets landed in the water, thereby providing no assistance whatsoever to the assault troops. The LVT(A)'s were the next in formation, five echeloned on each flank immediately behind the LCI's and seven in a V-shape between the leading elements of the assault landing teams. Thus, the amphibian tanks41 did not go before the troop-carrying tractors, but were a part of the same wave. Smoke and dust from the bombardment drifted out over the water, obscuring
LANDING TEAM 1 encountered this emplaced Japanese tank on Engebi. (Navy photo.)
vision, and the amphibian vehicles tended to separate.42 On the left, amtracs bearing elements of Company F (assault) and Company G (support) went 200-250 yards to the left of their assigned beach (Blue 3) and landed the troops at the western end of the airstrip. In the zone of Landing Team 1, the LVT's hit the correct beach, but the amtracs bearing the right platoon of Company A (assault) broke down, thus delaying this unit's arrival.43
Two minutes before W-Hour the first wave ground ashore on the sandy beach, but here the LVT's themselves contributed to a certain amount of congestion.
After the troops were landed, the first wave of LVT's remained in the vicinity of the beach, and thus added to the congestion there. According to plans and orders issued, they were to proceed inland to WHISKEY Road, and support the advance of the infantry. Their failure to proceed inland, as directed, was attributed to fallen coconut trees and debris blocking their passage. However, it is felt that with more determination the prescribed position could have been reached and the mission could have been accomplished. They would then have been in a position to render excellent support with their machine guns and facilitated the seizure of SKUNK Point44 [a strong point on the southern tip of Engebi].
Once the troops were ashore, the Japanese reacted by firing rifles, machine guns, and mortars at the Marines. But the stunned defenders did not put up an organized defense, their fire being anything but intense.
In Landing Team 1's area, Companies A and B moved forward on the right and left, respectively. Moments later Company C landed in support, wheeling to the right in order to overrun SKUNK Point. Company A's 3d Platoon landed somewhat later than its parent unit because of the LVT breakdown (noted earlier). Its mission was to echelon itself to the right rear of Company A and close the gap between that organization and Company C on the right.
Over on the regiment's left, Landing Team 2 was advancing with Companies E and F on the right and left respectively, the latter company covering a front slightly larger than that planned because of the shift to the left during landing. Company G, landing in support, wheeled left to assault WEASEL Point, a strong point on the island's northwestern tip.
Shortly after 0900 the medium tanks of the 2d Separate Tank Company began landing and moved in support of BLT 2/22 on the airstrip. But this was not accomplished without incident. One LCM operator inadvertently lowered his ramp prematurely, and the craft flooded and capsized. The tank on board had buttoned up before this occurred and only one of its crew escaped.45
Lieutenant Colonel Fromhold's battalion continued to advance on the right, but as it did so the flanks of Companies A and C were stretched to the breaking point in an effort to maintain physical contact. Sometime after 0900 this tenuous contact was broken and a gap created with an utterly unforeseen result. As noted earlier, Company A's 3d Platoon was to retain
contact between Companies A and C. When the break finally came this platoon remained with Company C, rather than with its parent unit.46 Thus Company A was now working its way forward with only two platoons and its right flank exposed.
As Company C began exerting its inexorable pressure on SKUNK Point, many of the defending Japanese sought to escape by running up the southeastern beach. Because of the gap existing between Companies A and C, the fleeing enemy were thus in a position to fire on the former unit's right flank and rear--and this they did. At 0955 Company A had to turn and fight off a heavy attack on the southeastern beach. At the same time Company C threw in one platoon to plug the gap between its left flank and that beach, thus bottling the remaining Nipponese in their strong point.
Faced by a maze of trenches and interconnected spider holes, the men of the 22d RCT quickly improvised an effective means of rooting out the Nipponese:
Due to the many exits from the defenses and spider-type trenches, it was found expedient to toss smoke grenades into these prior to exploding main demolition charges. Thus, the exits were exposed by escaping smoke. These exits were then covered by fire or flame thrower when the main charge was exploded.47
As soon as the Regimental Weapons Company's half-tracks were ashore, two were assigned each assault landing team. But the shell holes and debris made movement difficult for the vehicles, particularly in the forward areas. Although they executed a few fire missions, half-tracks were used principally to haul
MARINES work their way forward by fire and movement.
water and ammunition to the front and remove wounded to the rear. Experience typical of the difficulties encountered by these troops is related in a report of the 2d Heavy Platoon (half-track) which was attached to Landing Team 2 (Beach Blue 3)
The platoon landed in the 8th wave on Beach White 1, which was not the beach planned on. . . . We turned left down the beach in an effort to reach BLT 2 on Beach Blue 3. We were held up at the pier by debris. . . . Finally we decided to force our way across the debris; in doing this the radiator of No. 1 halftrack was punctured, thereby partially disabling the vehicle. While still on the beach the radios in No. 1 and No. 2 TCS jeeps went out also. . . . Eventually we reached a position on the right boundary of BLT 2, when we received orders to move out behind BLT 1. . . .48
At about 1100 Company A was reinforced by two 105mm self-propelled guns,49 but 15 minutes later these were diverted to Company C, still busily hammering away at SKUNK Point. By this time Companies A and B had entered the wooded area which stretched about halfway between the landing beaches and the final objective, NEWT Point. Dense vegetation and trees knocked down by the naval bombardment impeded progress. In addition, a great many Japanese had taken refuge in the area and were now putting up a fanatical last-ditch fight.
Landing Team 3, which was now ashore, was directed to send Company I to BLT 1/22, and that company moved in behind Company A.
Contrasted with the difficulties Landing Team 1 was meeting, Lieutenant Colonel Hart's organization on the left was pushing forward rapidly over the airstrip and open terrain. Companies E and F, working with Marine medium tanks, had encountered four Japanese tanks, dug in, which were being utilized as pillboxes. These "fortifications" were knocked out50 and the advance continued. Enemy defenses which could not be easily overrun were by-passed on the premise that mopping up details could handle them.51
Colonel Walker was ashore by 1030. An hour later he was informed that Company G was still at work on WEASEL Point, Company F was attacking NEWT Point and Company E was well forward on line with F/22. Despite the differences in distance of advance, contact between the two battalions was still intact.
Meanwhile, Company I had taken over from Company A in the assault, the latter unit reverting to landing team reserve. While Companies B and I worked their way through the woods toward the airstrip, Company A busied itself with Japanese defensive positions on the southeastern beach.
At 1310 Colonel Walker notified General Watson that WEASEL Point and that portion of NEWT Point in Landing Team 2's zone were secure. that the island was in possession of the 22d Marines except for a pocket of enemy stretching across Landing Team 1's line of advance and lying between that unit and the airstrip. At 1400 the Tactical Group commander came ashore and 50 minutes later Engebi was officially listed is secure.
At 1456 Company C announced that SKUNK Point was overrun and at 1600 Companies B and I debouched from the wooded area onto the airstrip. At this point, I/22 reverted to control of Landing Team 3 and once again Company A moved in as the right flank assault unit. At 1830 Companies A and B reported secure that portion of NEWT Point falling within their zone.
An hour earlier Landing Team 3 and the 2d Separate Tank Company had been reembarked for action with the 106th Infantry Regiment in its D-plus 2 assault on Eniwetok.
The 22d RCT's first night on Engebi was "uncomfortable," one participant recalls.52 Many Japanese had been by-passed during the rapid movement across the island, and complete mopping up was not conducted simultaneously
MARINE TANKS work their way across Engebi's airstrip and onto NEWT Point. (Navy photo.)
with the initial attack. Moreover, little attention had been paid to collecting both United States and Japanese weapons which were left lying about the battlefield. Thus individual Nipponese were able to supply themselves with sufficient arms and ammunition to make isolated attacks on the Marines throughout the night.53 Nor should it be forgotten that this was the first night in combat for these particular troops, and a certain amount of firing on their part was to be expected.
At 0800 on 19 February 1944 (D-plus 2), Colonel Walker raised the American flag on Engebi, as "To the Colors" was blown on a captured bugle. Mopping up continued throughout the day with demolition teams and flame throwers of the 2d Separate Engineer Company in the forefront.
While attention was focused on Engebi during D-plus 1, the V Amphibious Corps Reconnaissance Company and Company D (Scout) were not idle. The Reconnaissance Company surveyed two islets southeast of Engebi and found no signs of enemy or natives. But as it landed on Muzinbaarikku (ARBUTUS) Island, next to Engebi, it was met by grazing machine-gun fire. The Marines returned this fire and threw 60mm mortar shells toward the northern point of the island. Later it developed that the island contained enemy positions but no enemy, the fire coming from the vicinity of SKUNK Point on Engebi, where C/22 was heavily engaged.
As noted earlier, the Scout Company secured several islands southwest of Engebi in the early morning hours of D-plus 1. During the remainder of the day these Marines occupied five other islands in the chain, using rubber boats
and finding only one Japanese soldier, whom they took prisoner.
General Watson noted that on Engebi the enemy had conducted only a passive defense and that operations were proceeding according to plan. From captured documents it was determined that elements of the 1st Mobile Seaborne Infantry Brigade were on the atoll, and estimated enemy strength for Parry and Eniwetok was revised upwards to 400-550 and 700-800 respectively. The stage was now set for Phase III, the seizure of Eniwetok, to begin on schedule on the morning of D-plus 2.54
PRIVILEGE Is Taken
During the afternoon of D-plus 1 the 106th Regimental Combat Team (less BLT 106-255) was released from its status of floating reserve for Engebi, and at 1500 Colonel Ayers issued Field Order #4 for the seizure of Eniwetok Island (PRIVILEGE). Plans still optimistically called for Ayers' command to seize Parry (HEARTSTRINGS) as soon as Eniwetok was secured, and landing team assignments were made accordingly.
As previously described, Eniwetok is shaped like a blackjack. The selected landing beaches were situated on the lagoon side of the island on the northern portion of the blackjack's head, and designated Yellow 1 and Yellow 2, from left to right. The two assault units would land abreast, BLT 106-156 on Beach Yellow 2 and BLT 106-3 on Beach Yellow 1. (See Map 13, Map Section.) This latter unit was instructed to send a rifle company across the island, form a defensive line facing northeast and prevent the Japanese from moving southwest. The remainder of the landing team would serve in regimental reserve. BLT 106-1 would secure the southwestern end of the island, utilizing not more than one rifle company, then pass through BLT 106-3's rifle company and secure the northeastern portion of Eniwetok. The 104th Field Artillery Battalion would move into the southern end of the objective as soon as it was secured. Upon occupation of the target, RCT 106 would be prepared to move into LVT's for the planned assault on Parry Island. During the attack on Eniwetok, LT 3/22 would constitute a floating reserve.57 One platoon of the 2d Separate Tank Company (medium) was attached to BLT 106-3, while the remainder of the Marine tanks were attached to BLT 106-1.58
Eniwetok (PRIVILEGE) Island
The problem of getting the 2d Separate Tank Company refueled, rearmed, and transferred from the northern portion of Eniwetok Atoll to the southern area was one faced by the vessel which transported the tanks and LCM's from Kwajalein. Moving Ashland during darkness was considered hazardous, so at 0247 on D-plus 2 (19 February) 12 LCM's loaded with tanks and their crews, and accompanied by SC 1066 departed on a dark 25-mile voyage across the choppy waters of the lagoon. "The results were satisfactory, all boats arrived as planned, but considerable risk of breakdown was present. The commanding officer recommended this course of action, but would hesitate to do so again."59
Eniwetok was subjected to harassing naval gunfire from D-Day until the morning of the landing, D-plus 2. Because there were few above-ground defenses and naval gunfire's flat trajectory is not especially damaging to underground fortifications, the total bombardment, in both quantity and quality, did not equal that for Engebi and Parry. Some 204.6 tons of projectiles, none larger than 8-inch, were poured
on Eniwetok by Tennessee, Portland, Indianapolis, Trathen, Phelps, Hailey, Hoel, and Haggard. In contrast Engebi received 1,179.7 tons and 944.4 tons were scheduled for Parry. Further, there was no preliminary artillery bombardment as had been placed on Engebi and would be laid on Parry because there were no nearby islands on which the guns could be positioned. The concept of a light naval bombardment (in comparison with the other islands) was based on the belief that Eniwetok was lightly held and that the 106th RCT would have little trouble taking it.
With Y-Hour set for 0900, Portland, Indianapolis, and two destroyers stepped up their harassing fire to preliminary bombardment strength at 0710. An hour later this was checked to permit an air strike and then resumed at 0826. Fearing that the tank-loaded LCM's would not arrive on schedule, Admiral Hill reset Y-Hour to 0915 and later moved it to 0922. The armor arrived on time, however, and the soldiers were ordered into the beach, the first wave crossing the line of departure shortly after 0900.
The assault troops had been awakened at 0430 and departed their LST's for the rendezvous area three hours later. Now as their LVT's lurched toward the shore, they were preceded by the usual groupings of LVT(A)'s and rocket-carrying LCI's. At 0918 the first soldiers touched ground and began moving inland against light opposition, preceded by the amphibian tanks.
BLT 106-3 (Lieutenant Colonel Harold I. Mizony) landed on Beach Yellow 1 with Companies L and K abreast Company I in reserve. Company L, in the left, was to pivot on its left flank, face north and extend toward the ocean beaches. Company K was to drive straight across the island to the ocean shore and then mop up in L/106's rear. On Beach Yellow 2, BLT 106-1 (Lieutenant Colonel Winslow Cornett) scheduled a similar maneuver. Company
ASSAULT FORCES of RCT 106 on their way into Yellow Beaches 1 and 2 on Eniwetok Island. (Navy photo.)
LANDING TEAM 3/22 prepares to assault a coconut log emplacement on Eniwetok Island.
B, on the left, was to cross the island, while Company A pivoted on its right flank and moved southward between the lagoon beach and a north-south trail.
But these plans went awry. Before the LVT(A)'s could go the prescribed 100 yards inland, they encountered a steep bluff some nine feet high which blocked their progress. As they ground to a halt, the troop-carrying amphibians followed suit, and the end result was congestion on the beaches that kept succeeding waves afloat beyond their scheduled landing time. A network of insidious spider traps, backed up by machine-gun and mortar fire, helped keep the advance at a standstill.
General Watson reacted to this stalemate by sending a message to Colonel Ayers at 1004, "Push your attack." Six minutes later the beachmaster notified Admiral Hill that he was holding up all waves because of the congested beaches "due to slowness of movement of troops inland." At 1023 General Watson prodded the attacking troops once more. He ordered Colonel Ayers to "move troops forward and inland, clear beaches. Advance."
By 1100 the 3d Battalion had pushed inland about 100 yards, Companies L and K abreast, the former's left flank on the lagoon beach and K/106's right flank in the air about two-thirds of the way across the island. An hour later the landing team had pushed northward a short distance, the right flank resting about 70 yards from the ocean beach.60
In the 1st Battalion area the cross-island attack was somewhat more successful, but the
southward advance was slow, the soldiers fighting dense undergrowth and undulating ground as well as the ever-present spider trap defenses. Elements of Company B managed to reach the ocean shore by 1145, but this was an isolated group which had lost contact with the remainder of the unit. Company A was moving slowly, attempting to execute its pivot maneuver to the right. Scheduled to land behind Company B, Company C approached Beach Yellow 2, which was badly congested, in the fifth and sixth waves. Four LCVP's were somehow diverted some distance south of the prescribed beach and landed against stiff opposition. But Company A came to the rescue by advancing along the beach.61
By 1200 contact was established between Lieutenant Colonel Cornett's units, and his command faced south, in the shape of a huge "S". The farthest advance was made by Company A, its right flank extending to the lagoon beach. Company C was in the center, forming the bend in the line. Company B extended to the left with its left flank on the ocean beach. Although a line had been established, opposition in the rear from by-passed Japanese was far from eliminated as the 3d Battalion, 22d Marines would soon discover.
By landing on Beach Yellow 2 and advancing to the south, BLT 106-1 was in a position to take the bulk of the Japanese defenses from the rear. Enemy reaction took the form of a strong counterblow in an attempt to ward off the inevitable. No sooner had contact been effected within the battalion and the "S"-line formed, than some 400 Nipponese hit it furiously. Company B's line was broken momentarily, but quickly reformed and by 1245 the soldiers had thrown back the Japanese. Despite this blow to the enemy, however, progress did not improve, and Cornett's command inched its way forward, assisted by Marine medium tanks and 105mm self-propelled guns of the Cannon Company.
At 1230 Colonel Ayers visited the 3d Battalion's command post and directed that unit to push forward and secure the northern end of Eniwetok. Reinforcing elements included one platoon from the 2d Separate Tank Company (medium) and one platoon of self-propelled 105mm guns. Company I replaced Company K on line, the latter organization taking over the mop-up mission in the rear. Shortly thereafter the battalion stretched across the island from beach to beach and began advancing slowly.
Eniwetok was proving a much tougher nut to crack than had been originally expected, and Colonel Ayers ordered the reserve (3d Battalion, 22d Marines) to land, but refused Major Shisler's request to take his half-tracks ashore. At 1330 the Marines began debarking from LCVP's on Beach Yellow 1 and moved to an assembly area north of the pier, fighting Japanese on the way.62 Shisler was directed to take over BLT 106-1's left flank, relieving Companies B and C. Company B would revert to landing team reserve and Company C would move into Company A's area, beefing up the force there. A general attack to the south was scheduled for 1515.
The boundary between 3/22 and 106-1 lay just southeast of the trail that ran the length of Eniwetok Island. Thus the Marines assumed responsibility for approximately two-thirds of the entire southern zone. And as they began moving forward to relieve BLT 106-1's left flank, once again they were forced to fight by-passed Japanese.
The attack to the south began promptly at 1515. BLT 106-1 moved forward with Companies A and C on the right and left respectively, Company B in reserve. Landing Team 3/22 advanced with Company L on the right, Company K on the left and Company I in reserve. Some 300 yards were covered before stiff opposition was encountered in the form of mutually supporting coconut log emplacements.
Most of these positions could not be discerned until the troops were within 25 or 30 yards of them. Because of the close proximity of the troops to the positions, the dense jungle with consequent lack of proper observation, it was determined that naval gunfire was
not practicable. Mortar fire had very little effect on the positions. . . .63
Once again Major Shisler requested permission to bring his half-tracks ashore and once again Colonel Ayers refused. The Marine commander then requested tank support, but this was not forthcoming. Nor were all the assault weapons available, only one bazooka being on hand.64 Infantrymen and a platoon from the 2d Separate Engineer Company attacked the positions with flame throwers and satchel charges, and the Marines continued to advance slowly through the dense undergrowth.
As the afternoon wore on BLT 106-3 pushed slowly northward through the same sort of undergrowth which proved a serious obstacle as well as providing concealment to the enemy. Shortly after 1800 Lieutenant Colonel Mizony reported his lines about 500 yards north of the pier at Beach Yellow 1. He informed his superior that he doubted if he could reach the end of the island by dark, but was in a position to set up a defensive line for the night.
Meanwhile, at 1635 General Watson had radioed Colonel Ayers : "Absolutely necessary that you land your artillery prior to darkness today so that it may register on HEARTSTRINGS early tomorrow morning. . . ." Sixty-five minutes later Tactical Group-1 was notified that one battery of the 104th Field Artillery Battalion was on Beach Yellow 1.
At 1850 Colonel Ayers dispatched a message to the units under his command: "You will continue to advance until you reach the end of the island. Call for illumination when necessary." BLT 106-3, operating in the northern portion of Eniwetok, attempted to do this, picking up about 200 yards during the entire night. Although searchlight and star shell illumination were utilized, the battalion took a dim view of such nocturnal operations:
Movement at night proved to be both difficult and costly. It was impossible to see the camouflaged holes, contact was poor, and the troops as a whole did not seem to have the confidence in themselves that was so apparent throughout the day. . . .65
When the RCT commander's message reached the battalions in the south, they were some 600 yards short of their objective. And in contrast to BLT 106-3 in the north, they were attacking a heavily fortified area. At dusk a few tanks finally arrived at Major Shisler's command post, but when he informed the tank commander of the plan to push on during darkness, the armor's leader pronounced it "impossible" and withdrew.66 Moreover, the expected illumination did not materialize.67
Since no tank support was received and no illumination given prior to the time when the night attack was scheduled, the commanding officer of LT 3/22 informed his unit commanders no attack would be made. Orders were issued for the units of LT 3/22 to hold their present positions for the night.68
Groups of Japanese, usually numbering six to ten individuals, attacked the Marine lines during the night, but no large coordinated attack was forthcoming. Many of the enemy who did attack were armed with crude spears, knives and rifles. All their attempts to break through were frustrated.69
Dawn brought a surprise to Major Shisler's command. On the landing team's right flank, where BLT 106-1 was supposed to be, there was only one soldier from that unit.70 During the night the Army organization, with the exception of the lone infantryman, had withdrawn some 300 yards to the rear without notifying the adjoining Marines.71 Thus a sizeable gap in the lines existed through most of the night. Major Shisler quickly ordered elements of Company I forward to plug the hole, while a
coordinated attack which had been planned for dawn had to await BLT 106-1's return to its original positions.
At about 0830 on the morning of D-plus 3 (20 February) between 40 and 50 Japanese suddenly attacked the Marines' battalion command post. Surprise was on the side of the enemy and an estimated eight Marines were killed (including the battalion operations officer) and an equal number wounded72 before Master Sergeant John J. Nagazyna organized a force which eliminated the attackers.73
Meanwhile, both LT 3/22 and BLT 106-1 had begun attacking to the south, and enemy opposition as much the same as that encountered on the preceding day. At 1000 it appeared that Major Shisler's repeated requests for tank support had borne fruit. Four light tanks belonging to the 106th RCT rumbled up into the Marine area at that time, but these rumbled away before actually engaging in combat.74
Shortly after the four tanks disappeared, however, the Marines managed to persuade two Army self-propelled 105mm gun crews to assist them with their weapons. These guns "did render excellent assistance and worked in fine
MARINES advance toward the southwestern tip of Eniwetok.
cooperation with the infantry units of LT 3/22 in the reduction of numerous enemy strong points."75
At 1445 Marine and Army elements reached the tip of Eniwetok, and 15 minutes later General Watson was notified that the southern end of the island was secure. As is always the case, mopping-up operations continued.
During the morning, the remainder of the 104th Field Artillery Battalion landed with the mission of supporting the attack on Parry Island, tentatively scheduled for 21 February but later firmed for the 22d. Permission was granted for the artillerymen to support the advance of BLT 106-3 up the northeastern neck of Eniwetok, and this was initiated at 1155.
Lieutenant Colonel Mizony's command began its D-plus 3 daylight advance to the north shortly after 0800. Company L continued as the left flank unit, while Company K replaced Company I on the battalion right. Marine medium tanks continued to give close support, and engineers carrying pole charges, flame throwers and shaped charges materially assisted in the reduction of enemy strong points. By nightfall the landing team was 1,000 yards from the northern tip of Eniwetok. The attack was resumed the next morning and continued in the usual manner. At 1430 on D-plus 4 (21 February) Mizony informed Ayers that the northern end of the island was secure. With Admiral Hill and General Watson on hand, the Stars and Stripes were raised on Eniwetok Island at 1721.
Altogether, it took three days to overrun Eniwetok, and the 3d Battalion, 22d Marines bore the brunt of the operation during a sustained 24-hour advance. Its area included the most heavily defended portion of the island. But it was clear that the commanding general was not pleased with the performance of the 106th RCT:
. . . In the assault against PRIVILEGE Island by the 106th Infantry . . . the assault troops did not move forward rapidly from the beaches (thereby causing a serious congestion), did not operate in close cooperation with tanks and failed to realize the capabilities of and to use to the fullest extent naval gunfire and close support aviation.76
UNOPPOSED LANDINGS were made on a number of small islands in Eniwetok Atoll. Here a group of Marines goes ashore on one of them. (Navy photo.)
Although Eniwetok Island was secured, the battle for Eniwetok Atoll was not yet complete and movements were under way to bring this to an expeditious end.
While primary attention was focused on the assault of Eniwetok Island, other units were actively engaged in other portions of the atoll.
The chain of islands making up the eastern rim of Eniwetok Atoll had been assigned to Captain Jones' V Amphibious Corps Reconnaissance Company. On the morning of D-plus 2 this unit continued with its mission.
Operating from the APD Kane, the Marines secured ten islands and islets during the day without meeting any natives or enemy. At 1600 General Watson ordered the company to occupy Japtan (LADYSLIPPER) before dark, and two hours later the unit was ashore. A Japanese flag flying from a mast in the center of the island indicated the presence of the enemy, but it turned out that the invaders were the only human beings there.
Inasmuch as Japtan bounds Deep Entrance and lies immediately north of Parry, Watson selected it as a position for the 2d Separate Pack Howitzer Battalion to support the Parry operation.77 The Reconnaissance Company selected landing beaches for the DUKW-borne artillery, and at 1000 the next day (20 February) guided the howitzer battalion ashore.
In the midst of these multiple activities, a survey of Jeroru Island (LILAC) was overlooked. This minute bit of coral lies just inside the lagoon between Japtan and Parry. On 21 February a reconnaissance patrol reported it unoccupied. The Corps Reconnaissance Company thereupon reembarked in Kane, awaiting the attack on Parry the following day.
The western chain of islands in the atoll was the responsibility of Company D (Scout), 4th Tank Battalion under Captain Edward L. Katzenbach, Jr. As noted earlier, the northern portion of these small islands was secured by the evening of D-plus 1. The next morning the Marines began their landings on the southern group, starting with Rigili (POSY). Here enemy fire was received, and a brisk five-minute fire fight followed. When it was over nine Japanese lay dead. The remaining seven islands in the chain were secured during the day without meeting any natives or Nipponese. At the close of the day the scouts reembarked on Schley and stood by for the Parry attack.
Thus, when both Eniwetok Island and the islet of Jeroru were reported secured on the afternoon of 21 February (D-plus 4), there remained only one island to be taken in the entire atoll--Parry.
The first few hours on Eniwetok Island clearly indicated the original invasion schedule could not be maintained, but for a time General Watson still hoped that the island would be secured at the end of the day. By 2100, however, he was convinced that "the capture of PRIVILEGE Island would not be completed before the evening of 20 February at the earliest." Therefore, he decided to take the victors of Engebi (Colonel Walker's 22d Marines) off their island and turn the Parry (HEARTSTRINGS) mission over to them, with a target date of 21 February.78 Walker was ordered to begin reembarkation immediately and arrive in the transport area by 1600 the following day.
At 0800 D-plus 3 (20 February) LT 1/22 was afloat in the transport area. Four hours later responsibility for Engebi was assumed by the 3d Army Defense Battalion, reinforced by Companies A and D, 111th Infantry Regiment.79 And later that afternoon Landing
PARRY ISLAND (looking south) under bombardment the day before the 22d Marines landed there. (Navy photo.)
Team 2, 22d Marines, arrived in the transport area.
Following a conference of unit commanders at 1400 on 20 February, General Watson issued Tactical Group-1 Operation Order 3-44. This postponed the attack on Parry until 0845 (later changed to 0900), 22 February. It also provided for the relief and reembarkation of the 3d Battalion, 22d Marines, and the 2d Separate Tank Company the morning of 21 February in order that these organizations might participate in the Parry assault. Further, additional forces were assigned the regimental combat team to bolster its striking power.
In the midst of this planning a shift was made in landing beach designations, which was to play an important part in the operation. As originally established, a small 20-yard-long pier on the northern lagoon shore of Parry separated Beach Green 2 and Beach Green 3, the latter being south of the marker. On Beach Green 3's southern flank was a larger 30-yard-long pier, designated VALENTINE Pier. Durlng the planning it was decided that too much territory was involved in this scheme, and the beach designations were shifted northward about 300 yards, Beach Green 3's southern flank then resting just south of the smaller of the two piers. "This information apparently was not known in time by all naval forces,"80 and the effect of this will be subsequently seen. (See Map 14, Map Section.)
Parry (HEARTSTRINGS) Island
On 21 February Colonel Walker issued his Operation Order 10-11. The landings would be executed from the lagoon on the northern portion of Parry on Beach Green 2 (north) and Beach Green 3 (south). The northern one-third of the island constituted the first objective. Separating this area from the southern two-thirds was an O-1 line running east-west. The attack south of the O-1 line would be made on order by two battalions abreast, the battalion
boundary running north-south in the center of the island.
LT 1/22 would land on Beach Green 3 at Z-Hour, drive straight across the island and secure that area falling within its zone. It would then be prepared to attack south, being responsible for the eastern sector.
LT 2/22 would land on Beach Green 2 at Z-Hour, secure the portion of island in its zone, thoroughly mop up the northern one-third of Parry and then revert to regimental reserve.
LT 3/22 would land on Beach Green 3 on order and take over the western area in the drive to the south.
The 2d Separate Tank Company (medium) would land in the 4th wave, attack enemy defenses in the northern portion of Parry and prepare to support the attack to the south.
Major James L. Rogers' 708th Provisional Amphibian Tractor Battalion would once again take the troops ashore and support the landing in the same formation as was used at both Engebi and Eniwetok Islands.
Other organizations which would be prepared to land on order included Company C, 766th Light Tank Battalion (RCT 106), V Amphibious Corps Reconnaissance Company, Company D (Scout) of the 4th Tank Battalion, and a Provisional Landing Force consisting of five provisional companies organized within the 10th Defense Battalion (Marine).81 Ticketed for Group reserve was BLT 106-3, which would be reembarked from Eniwetok the morning of 22 February.
One aspect of preparing for the Parry assault was the diligent search among the ships for hand grenades, demolition charges, and small arms.82 These were now in short supply, as were artillery shells. Some grenades and demolitions were found, but it was necessary to fly in an additional 775 grenades and 1,500 demolition caps from Kwajalein. A number of BAR's and rifles were acquired from RCT 106 to make up deficiencies in RCT 22, and artillerymen were directed to reduce planned harassing fires.
At 2100 on D-plus 4 Colonel Walker reported to General Watson that his men were transferred to the LVT-bearing LST's and "all preparations for the attack on HEARTSTRINGS Island on 22 February [are] complete."
While the Marines prepared for their landings on Parry, Warrant Officer Shionoya and his comrades on that island were impatiently awaiting the assault.83 On the morning that the 22d Marines went into Engebi, the Japanese warrant officer wrote:
We thought they would land this morning, but there was only a continuation of their bombardment and no landing. As this was contrary to our expectations, we were rather disappointed.
The next morning preparations were underway for the landing on Eniwetok. To the defenders of Parry it seemed that they would be the target that day, and once more Shionoya recorded his reactions:
When I looked out to sea there were four transports and three destroyers lined up. That surely made me angry. At 0540 the enemy was in the midst of preparations for landing. Each unit got orders to prepare for battle and fell to its respective position. . . .84
On the basis of resistance encountered on Eniwetok Island. Admiral Hill decided to intensify the naval bombardment of Parry. On D-plus 3 (20 February), Tennessee and Pennsylvania lay a mere 850 yards off the island and "conducted a close, destructive enfilade bombardment."85 The next day Pennsylvania delivered plunging main battery fire from 0740 to 1630, and both battleships repeated this from 1730 to 1900. That night the 2d Separate Pack Howitzer Battalion on Japtan Island and the 104th Field Artillery Battalion on Eniwetok
placed harassing fire on Parry, as did four destroyers.
At 0600 on D-plus 5 (22 February) the two artillery battalions stepped up their harassing fire to preparatory strength, the Marine cannoneers augmenting their howitzer fire with bullets from sixteen .50 caliber machine guns.86 At 0700 the Navy joined in with a full scale bombardment from Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Louisville, Indianapolis, and Hailey. At 0845 the first wave of Marines left the line of departure and headed for Beaches Green 2 and 3, accompanied by LVT(A)'s and preceded by LCI's. A string of buoys had been set up from the line of departure to within 500 yards of the beach to indicate the division between landing teams during the approach.87 But the smoke and dust generated by the bombardment of Parry rolled out over the choppy water, curtailing vision and making the buoys little help. Moreover, as the LVT's butted their way toward shore, they were guided toward the original landing beaches rather than toward the ones newly established 300 yards northward.88
The LCI(G)'s supporting the right flank approached shore and began firing their 40mm batteries, when suddenly all three craft were struck by 5-inch fire from Hailey, apparently because they were further south than had been expected. The acting-gunboats lost 13 men killed and 46 wounded, as well as receiving extensive damage, but nevertheless they fired their rockets before retiring from the scene.89
On the 22d RCT's right flank, the first wave of LT 1/22 hit the beach at 0900 just south of VALENTINE Pier, some 300 yards south of its scheduled landing position; the second wave followed at 0908, landing 200 yards north of the pier, and the third wave came in three minutes later, debarking in the gap between the first and second waves.90 Units were intermingled on the beach, and as at Namur junior officers and noncommissioned officers used their initiative.
During hand-to-hand encounters in the shell holes which pockmarked the beach, officers and non-coms rose splendidly to the task of reorganizing confused men who were separated from their units and leaders.91
The Marines under Lieutenant Colonel Fromhold were meeting stiff resistance from intense Japanese machine-gun and mortar fire, and casualties on the beach were described as "fairly heavy."
It is well to note here that when landing on an enemy-held island, it is often difficult, if not virtually impossible, to determine whether the landing has been made on the correct beaches. Unless something is obviously wrong, it is generally assumed that the landing has been correctly performed. This was the case of both assault landing teams at Parry. Initially they were under the impression that they had landed some 300 yards north of where they actually were.92
In the combat teams' northern zone, Landing Team 2/22 hit the beach on schedule and in contact with the unit on its right. Thus, it too was some 300 yards south of its landing beach and accordingly had a greater area of responsibility than originally planned. Initially, resistance was light, but some men on the left flank were killed by an enemy mine field.93 Lieutenant Colonel Hart's battalion began pushing across the island with Companies G, F, and E from left to right. The landing team moved roughly as a line, the left flank attempting to move along the northwestern and northern shore line, while the right flank remained in contact with Landing Team 1/22 to the south. As had been the case on Engebi, there was no organized Japanese resistance, only fanatical
defenders in isolated groups who had to be rooted from their spider traps and individual strong points.
The intensive fires placed on Landing Team 1/22 were not limited to the Marines ashore. Thirty minutes after the first wave of Marines touched the beach, Japanese mortar and machine gun fire grew so severe that both the Pennsylvania and the control vessel (SC 1066) had to shift position, the latter not regaining her original station until 1500.94
Meanwhile, assault elements of Companies B and C had knifed their way across to the ocean (eastern) beach of Parry within an hour after the landing,95 but not in sufficient force adequately to clear the intervening ground. The bulk of Landing Team 1/22 was continuing to fight its way across, ably assisted by tanks of the 2d Separate Tank Company which had landed in the fourth wave. A short distance off the beach, three Japanese tanks had been emplaced to resist invasion, and these vehicles had remained in position until the Marine medium tanks came ashore. For reasons best known to the enemy, his light armor thereupon emerged from the emplacements and attempted to give battle to the Marine tanks, with disastrous results to the Japanese and no damage to the Marine armor.96
As enemy resistance increased, particularly from what were believed to be several 75mm guns on the right flank, Lieutenant Colonel Fromhold requested naval gunfire. As noted earlier, the landing team commander was under the impression he was considerably north of his actual position, and what occurred was subsequently recalled by him:
[Naval gunfire] was requested on the basis that troops had landed where planned, as the much bombarded pier and building foundations indicated. This request was denied by higher channels who, through air spot, had knowledge that the troops had been outside the planned area and would be endangered by this fire. However, a direct request from a naval liaison team spotter did get through. Five salvos were furnished as requested. . . . The Naval gunfire struck some
TANKS AND INFANTRY worked together to secure Parry in one day.
of our medium tanks . . . [and] also partially landed among our own troops. . . . Less than 10 of our troops were lost by this fire, whereas the Japs suffered heavily both in men and field pieces. . . .97
Captain Harry Calcutt, the tank commander, made his own caustic comments regarding the naval salvos:
Five-inch guns will penetrate the two-inch armor of medium tanks and generally raise hell with them. We would appreciate it if they would call their gunfire somewhere else, especially when we are forced to hold the tanks static in the gunfire in order to cover the infantry in the same area in an attempt to silence what we thought to be enemy opposition.98
The naval gunfire apparently broke the back of enemy resistance, for after it had ended the landing team, assisted by the tanks, moved forward with relative ease and rapidity. As the Marines reached the opposite shore shortly after 1100, between 150 and 200 heavily armed Japanese were seen moving along in column. Evidently they were caught by surprise and were able to put up only token resistance before being eliminated.
In the northern portion of Parry, Lieutenant Colonel Hart's Landing Team 2 had pushed to
HEARTS CIRCLE, a cleared mound in the center of the unit's zone. Here Company H99 placed all of its machine guns on line to provide overhead fire for the advancing troops. While this was in progress a hidden ammunition dump exploded under the machine gunners, wounding six men and eliminating a section of guns.100 But this did not hamper the landing team's progress.
Landing Team 3/22, regimental reserve, was originally scheduled to land on Beach Green 3, but as it was dispatched from the line of departure at 0945, its destination was changed to Beach Green 2. Because Landing Team 2 had gone ashore south of its prescribed beach, the reserve battalion now landed north of all assault units at 1000, receiving "heavy machinegun, rifle and mortar fire."101 Moreover, a portion of the unit landed in a mine field and incurred several casualties.
Company I, reinforced by a platoon from Company K, neutralized the enemy positions on the beach, and Major Shisler directed his command south to ADONIS Road, where Company I relieved Company A at 1100. The latter unit thereupon reverted to reserve for Landing Team 1/22.
The 22d Marines' command post was established just off Green Beach 2 at 1145, Colonel Walker having gone ashore an hour earlier. At noon General Watson ordered V Amphibious Corps Reconnaissance Company ashore to reinforce LT 2/22, and 45 minutes later directed Company D (Scout) to land and assist LT 1/22.
Landing Team 2/22 continued to press its attack northward and eastward, assisted by RCT 106's light tanks which had landed at 1100. Captain Jones' Reconnaissance Company was evenly divided between Companies E and F, providing about 55 additional men to each rifle company, and with this added strength the 2d Battalion pushed on across the island.102 The northern portion of Parry was reported secure at 1400, but mopping up continued to engage the unit's attention until reembarkation.
Shortly after 1300, Landing Teams 1/22 and 3/22 were poised on the O-1 line, ready to advance southward. This boundary was the line secured across the island by Lieutenant Colonel Fromhold's organization. Originally, of course, it had been drawn on the maps considerably north of its present position, but now it lay just south of VALENTINE Pier.
Landing Team 1 occupied the eastern half (left sector) of the jumpoff line, Companies B and C on the left and right, respectively. Both
MARINES FOUGHT THEIR WAY through shattered coconut groves which the Japanese had filled with spider traps and log emplacements.
front-line units were reinforced by one platoon each from Company A, the remainder of that organization acting as battalion reserve. Responsibility for the western half (right sector) of the island lay with Landing Team 3/22, which would move forward in column of companies, Company I leading the attack, Company L mopping up, and Company K in reserve.103
Following a 15-minute artillery preparation, the two landing teams began their southward movement at 1330, the 2d Separate Tank Company moving in support shortly thereafter. It was the same story as before, the enemy putting up a static defense from spider traps and other subsurface positions. Landing Team 1/22 was reinforced by Company D (Scout) of the 4th Tank Battalion at 1422, the scouts joining with Company A (less two platoons) in the mission of mopping up and landing team reserve.
We were closely supported by medium tanks which, while moving very slowly, fired their machine guns at random and occasionally let go with their 75's. When the tanks had exhausted their ammunition the advance would halt, the tanks would leave to resupply, a 60mm mortar barrage would be brought down close to the front, a 75mm pack howitzer barrage would be laid down beyond the mortar barrage, half-tracks104 and DUKW's would bring forward more supplies for the infantry.105
The advancing Marines had covered some 350 yards when Company I encountered an enemy strong point consisting of underground barracks and extensive tunnels.106 All tanks in both landing team areas were quickly dispatched to Company I's assistance, and after a short, fierce fight the enemy positions were overrun.
Artillery was active all during the afternoon, combining with naval gunfire in shelling the southern portion of the island and softening
A 1,000-FOOT BOMBER STRIP was created on Eniwetok Island. (Air Force photo.)
the way for the advancing troops.107 Additional support was provided by RCT 106's light tanks which moved southward after they were no longer needed by Landing Team 2 in the north.
After Company I's successful reduction of the Japanese strong point, the attack progressed with increasing velocity. Principal resistance came from Japanese in the heavy brush on Landing Team 1's left flank. By nightfall the two landing teams were some 450 yards from the southernmost tip of Parry (SLUMBER Point). Here the intervening ground narrowed to such an extent that there was danger of troops firing into each other if the advance were pushed, so the landing teams were directed to dig in for the night.
With a small area remaining to be covered, Colonel Walker considered Parry in his hands. Its possession meant the successful completion of the Eniwetok operation, and a general feeling of pleasure and satisfaction was reflected in the various radio messages that followed.
Colonel Walker started the ball rolling. He radioed General Watson: "I present you with Parry at 1930. Request this unit be relieved
ENGEBI'S AIRSTRIP was improved by the Seabees and taken over by the 4th Marine Air Wing.
for reembarkation in the morning." To which General Watson replied, "Well done, Johnny. My sincere congratulations to the 22d Marines and their supporting units. You have done a magnificent job."
The last congratulatory message of the night was sent to all units from General Watson at 2000: "With the capture of Parry at 1930 today, Eniwetok Atoll is now in our possession. My sincere congratulations to the officers and men of this group whose aggressive spirit and combat efficiency made the capture of this atoll possible. Well done."
The night of 22-23 February on Parry Island could hardly be described as "quiet," in the accepted sense of the word. Under the circumstances, however, it was a quiet night. There were no organized attacks against the Americans, but Japanese as individuals and in small groups emerged from camouflaged holes bypassed during the day and used rifles and grenades against the invaders. This was futile business at best. Naval vessels in the lagoon fired 5-inch star shells over the island all night, marking the first time in the Pacific that continuous illumination was provided.108
Enemy activity . . . during the night was light, and our casualties were few. The relatively peaceful night can be attributed to several things. Great care had been taken during the day to thoroughly mop up and remove ordnance and munitions from the areas covered by the assault units. Thus, any surviving enemy troops did not have loose weapons readily available to them. The star shells fired by the naval guns were invaluable. . . . The battalion night S. O. P. proved sound, and the troops followed it well--demonstrating the fact that they were seasoned troops.109
On the Morning of D-plus 6 (23 February) elements of Landing Teams 1 and 3, Company D (Scout), and tanks of the 2d Separate Tank Company jumped off from the defense line of the night before. Enemy opposition was light between the jumpoff and SLUMBER Point, the Marines declaring the area secure shortly after 0900. But mopping-up operations continued.
At 1045 the American flag was raised over Parry, indicating that the atoll, as well as the island, was in American hands.
The next few days were filled with the arrival, departure, and shifting of troops, debarkation and reembarkation, unloading and loading. The 10th Defense Battalion (Marine) had been released from its reserve status 22 February, and the next day began unloading at Eniwetok, assuming responsibility for that island on 25 February.
BLT 106-3, which had remained in floating reserve for Parry, was landed on the island 23 February and began policing and mopping up. Colonel Walker reembarked his Landing Team 2 and the 2d Separate Tank Company that day, followed by the remainder of the exhausted RCT 22 on 24 February. The next day the 22d Marines, reinforced, departed Eniwetok for Kwajalein, where it relieved the 25th Marines.110 Various attached units were ordered to Hawaii at the same time. Of the assault force that had arrived at Eniwetok on 17 February, only RCT 106 (less BLT 106-2) remained. On 2 March it left the operational control of Tactical Group-1 and became a part of the Eniwetok Atoll garrison force.
General Watson departed Eniwetok by air on 3 March, arriving at Pearl Harbor the following day. And on 22 March Tactical Group-1 was disbanded.111
The combat elements assigned to Tactical Group-1 had been floating reserve for the Kwajalein operation, and on extremely short notice had gone in to take Eniwetok Atoll. They had entered Eniwetok's lagoon as men untried in combat,112 but they performed like veterans in seizing their objectives. As added evidence for this view, the 22d Marines and virtually all the attached units were awarded the Navy Unit Commendation.
Marine and Army troops went into Eniwetok outnumbering the defenders roughly three-to-one. At the end of five days of intensive combat some 3,400 Japanese were buried and the Americans held the atoll. Statistically, the Marines lost 254 dead and 555 wounded. RCT 106 (less BLT 106-2) casualties numbered 94 dead and 311 wounded.113 The figures by themselves are not representative. RCT 22 took both Engebi and Parry. RCT 106 (less BLT 106-2) assaulted only Eniwetok, and then it was reinforced by a tank company and a landing team from RCT 22. Thus, any comparison between Marine and Army casualty figures for the over-all operation must take into account the amount of combat experienced by the respective units as well as the number of troops involved.
After training in the Samoan area for some 18 months, the 22d Marines, reinforced, had at last experienced combat and was now a blooded regiment, as it capably demonstrated later at Guam and Okinawa.
In deciding to proceed ahead of schedule with the Eniwetok operation, Navy and Marine commanders had greatly advanced the war effort. Now the 2d Marine Division and the remainder of the 27th Infantry Division were free for other operations and would not be held down by the Marshalls. Eniwetok was secure in February instead of May. Admiral Nimitz was able to move up the target date for the Marianas by at least 20 weeks.114 And Truk was revealed as being incapable of operations against U. S. forces.
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (7) * Next Chapter (9)
1. Unless otherwise indicated, this chapter is derived from the following sources: JICPOA Bulletin 3-44, 20Jan44; JICPOA Bulletin 88-44, 3Jun44; JICPOA Bulletin 89-44, 12Jun44; Task Group 51.11 Report of Eniwetok Operations, 7Mar44; Tactical Group-1, War Diary, 5Nov43-29Feb44; Tactical Group-1, Operation Order 2-44, 10Feb44; Tactical Group-1 Special Report Concerning FLINTLOCK and CATCHPOLE Operations, 1Mar44, hereinafter cited as TG-1 Spl Rpt; Tactical Group-1 Report of Attack on Eniwetok Atoll, 27Feb44; Tactical Group-1 Journal, 17Feb-22Mar44; 22d Marines, reinf, War Diary, 1Jan-29Feb44; 22d Marines, reinf, Report on DOWNSIDE Operation, 9Mar44, hereinafter cited as 22dMar SAR; Battalion Landing Team 1, 22d Marines, Report on FLINTLOCK II Operation, undated, hereinafter cited as BLT 1 Rpt.
2. When he discovered the atoll in 1794, Capt Thomas Butler named it Brown's Range, and the Japanese Navy continued calling it Brown throughout World War II. Morison, 282.
3. JICPOA Bulletin 89-44, 3.
4. Enemy strength on Engebi, estimated from the number buried, was set at 1,200.
5. JICPOA Bulletin 89-44, 12Jun44.
6. TG 51.11 Rpt estimated enemy strength on Eniwetok Island as 900, based on the number buried.
7. Enemy strength on Parry estimated at 1,300, based on the number buried.
8. JICPOA Bulletin 89-44, 31, 32.
9. CATCHPOLE Plan, CinCPac and CinCPOA, 29Nov43, serial 00272.
10. Canceled by JCS on 12Mar44.
11. VAC War Diary, Jan44, 11, and Capt Edmund G. Love, The 27th Infantry Division in World War II, Washington, Infantry Journal Press, 59.
12. Jeter A. Isely & Philip A. Crowl, The U. S. Marines and Amphibious War, Princeton University Press, 1951, 291-292, hereinafter cited as Isely & Crowl.
13. Ltr Adm R. K. Turner to CMC, 13Apr53, hereinafter cited as Turner II.
14. Memo for Chief of Staff from J. C. Anderson, Acting ACofS G-5, 26Jan44, serial 007-2.
15. Turner II.
16. "I had no forewarning of the possibilities of my being put in command of the Eniwetok operations. The first intimation was a dispatch directing me to proceed from Majuro by air to Kwajalein and report to Admiral Turner." Ltr VAdm Harry W. Hill to CMC, 24Feb53, hereinafter cited as Hill II.
17. "Owing to the fact that Task Forces 52 and 53 were not dissolved until 11 Feb, and because some departing groups still retained designations in those forces, no force numbers were available for assigning to Hill's command. Consequently, he was assigned a group number as a part of TF 51, which remained in existence and under my command until sunset 24 Feb. . . ." Turner II.
19. Ltr LtGen Thomas E. Watson to CMC, 1Mar53, hereinafter cited as Watson.
20. "Events proved that this type of staff was inadequate to handle anything but a quick 'Flash' type of operation of a few days duration. . . . The streamlined staff idea died a rapid and just death. . . ." Ltr Col W. M. Greene, Jr., to CMC, 4Mar53, hereinafter cited as Greene II.
21. TG-1 Spl Rpt, 7.
22. Greene II.
23. "Although it did not have the extensive facilities of the AGC, it served the purpose adequately, not only in the Majuro and Eniwetok operations, but also in the Saipan and Tinian operations which followed." Hill II.
24. Memo from BrigGen O. T. Pfieffer to BrigGen G. C. Thomas, 23Feb44.
25. Morison, 315-317.
27. Although TF 58 began operations against Truk the same day that the assault was made on Eniwetok Atoll, the Truk strike is narrated as a preliminary operation here because, among other things, it covered the Eniwetok operation.
28. Morison, 352-353.
30. "I returned to Kwajalein in the New Jersey. . . . Adm Mitscher took Task Force 58 for a carrier strike on the Marianas. This strike included our first photographs of Saipan and Tinian, which islands were later taken in June and July, respectively." Ltr Adm Raymond A. Spruance to CMC, 11Mar53.
31. Diary of Warrant Officer Shionoya, JICPOA Item 7005, hereinafter cited as Shionoya.
32. Hill II.
33. ". . . Deep Entrance had been chosen for use by the larger ships because due to the high currents through this passage it was not expected that it would be practicable to plant mines there, which assumption proved to be correct." Ibid.
34. Ltr Capt Claude V. Rickets, USN, to CMC, 9Mar53.
36. As has been done previously, the native name for an island is followed by the code name in parentheses. Where a code name is used alone, no record can be found of a native name.
38. Col. Walker quickly installed the relieved officer as artillery officer on the regimental staff, although no such billet was authorized. He was subsequently wounded in action on Engebi, awarded the Silver Star for his actions there, and resumed command of his battalion as soon as that unit reverted to control of the 22d Marines at the end of the operation.
39. Action Report of Bombardment of Eniwetok Atoll by Task Unit 51.17.2, 4, hereinafter cited as TU 51.17.2 AR.
40. Gen Watson ordered his aide and a radio team into an LCVP which was dispatched to the flank of one assault battalion. This group's mission was to locate enemy guns by drawing fire. Later it was directed to report the progress of fighting ashore. In the attacks on Eniwetok and Parry Islands, Watson sent ashore OP teams under the command of various staff officers. The OP team leaders were instructed to report directly to the general on the progress of the respective operations. Greene II.
41. The term, "amphibian tank," is used here because that is the Army designation and the LVT's were a part of an Army unit.
42. "This situation was investigated and the fault was determined to exist in the fact that the wave guides (Navy) had not led their waves close enough to their beaches before turning them loose on their own." Comments LtCol John P. Lanigan on prelim script, hereinafter cited as Lanigan.
43. Notes of LtCol W. F. Fromhold, undated, hereinafter cited as Fromhold.
44. Ltr MajGen John T. Walker to LtCol Harry W. Edwards. 9Apr53. The LVT unit, on the other hand, reported that it "initially supported the advance of the infantry inland." Special Action Report, Eniwetok Operation, 708th Amphibian Tank Bn, 19Mar44.
45. USS Ashland, Action Report for Eniwetok Atoll, 3May44, 6. hereinafter cited as Ashland Rpt.
46. Memo LtCol Glen F. Martin to LtCol Harry W. Edwards, 12Mar53, hereinafter cited as Martin.
48. Combat Report of 2d Heavy Platoon for Engebi and Parry Islands, 15Mar44.
49. "From personal experience, the 105mm self-propelled guns proved to be more of a hazard than a help. They made a very inviting target for Japanese mortar and small-arms fire, and consequently were not a very comforting thing to have around. After experiencing one of these barrages directed at the 105's, most of the Marines in my particular sector didn't like to see a 105 approach." Comments Maj Thomas D. Scott on prelim script, hereinafter cited as Scott.
50. Ltr Maj Robert S. Reinhardt, Jr., to CMC 18Mar53, hereinafter cited as Reinhardt.
54. TG-1 Unit Report 2, 18Feb44, 1-3.
55. It is well to recall that BLT 106-2 was involved in the Majuro occupation and did not participate in the Eniwetok operation in any way. The basic infantry organization of RCT 106 was the 1st and 3d Battalion Landing Teams.
56. As noted previously in this monograph, when taken from Army reports, Army terms and designations will be used in referring to Army actions.
57. "Effective combat units are achieved by effective unit training, and can never be replaced by asserted combinations of component units, however highly trained. The make-up of the landing force on Eniwetok Island illustrates my point. A two battalion regiment is difficult to fight, and when the reserve normal to a regiment is made up of a totally strange battalion from a different service . . . unit integrity is being sorely violated." Ltr Col Joseph C. Anderson, USA, to CMC, 27Feb53, hereinafter cited as Anderson, II.
58. RCT 106, reinf, (less BLT 106-2) Unit Operations Report (DOWNSIDE), 15Apr44, hereinafter cited as RCT 106 Rpt.
59. Ashland Rpt, 3, 6.
60. RCT 106 Rpt.
61. Crowl and Love, XIX-42.
62. Historical Branch interview with Col. Clair W. Shisler, 24Apr53, hereinafter cited as Shisler.
63. Document dated 10Apr44, submitted by Capt Buenos A. W. Young, believed to be Eniwetok Action Rpt of 3d Bn, 22d Marines, hereinafter cited as BLT 3/22 SAR.
64. Some Army troops from Kwajalein had come on board 3/22's troop ship while it lay off that island and passed the word that bazookas were ineffective. The men of the 3d Bn had not experienced combat and they accepted this statement from men whom they regarded as combat veterans. Thus when 3/22 was engaged in Eniwetok Island it suddenly found itself lacking these important weapons. Shisler.
65. RCT 106 Rpt. BLT 106-3 S-3 Summary.
67. Illumination was provided BLT 106-3 in the north, but available information indicates that this was not the case in the south.
68. Maj William E. Sperling, III, an undated paper titled "BLT 3/22 on Eniwetok Island," hereinafter cited as Sperling.
69. Ltr LtCol Earl J. Cook to CMC, 23Feb 53.
71. Ltr LtCol Robert A. McCabe to CMC, 12Mar53. hereinafter cited as McCabe.
72. Accounts vary as to the exact number of casualties suffered by 3/22 in this action. The number given here is an estimate based on available information.
73. Ltr Capt Buenos A. W. Young to CMC, 9Mar53.
74. BLT 3/22's SAR cites numerous instances where tank support was promised by RCT 106 but was not delivered. Moreover, Shisler relates that it was particularly "disheartening" to him that he was not allowed his half-tracks, nor was he given tank support. 22dMar SAR, 3, states: "During the attack on PRIVILEGE, BLT #3 was unassisted by tanks though two full tank companies were ashore and being used by the regiment. This left a feeling of desire on the part of the higher echelon of command to save their other troops at the expense of BLT #3." Inasmuch as one of the tank companies was a Marine unit, disappointment was intensified.
76. TG-1 Spt Rpt 7 ; "It would be wrong and even unfair to ignore the brave and competent performance of many fine and highly trained individuals and small units who collectively made up the 106th Infantry . . . ." Anderson II.
77. As has already been noted, the 104th Field Artillery Battalion would support the Parry assault from the island of Eniwetok.
78. "When it became apparent that this operation [Eniwetok Island] would require two or three days, it became necessary to revise the entire operations for the assault on Parry Island . . . . The change in plans was effected very expeditiously and efficiently by Gen Watson and Col Walker, together with members of my staff." Hill II.
79. These were forward elements of the 111th Infantry Regiment. That organization later relieved RCT 106 in its duties as garrison for Eniwetok Atoll.
80. Fromhold; Historical Branch interview with Col Floyd R. Moore, 1Mar53, hereinafter cited as Moore.
81. 10th Defense Battalion (Marine) Operation Order 4-44, 21Feb44. This provisional group was not landed. The battalion operations officer later recalled, "enthusiasm ran high among the troops and there was much grumbling when, on the morning of the scheduled landing, the men were ordered to secure." Ltr Col Paul A. Fitzgerald to CMC, 12Mar53.
82. "One of the basic reasons for shortage of grenades, equipment and workable weapons was because of the fact that casualties [on Engebi and Eniwetok] were not stripped of their equipment, weapons and ammunition prior to evacuation. A great proportion of this equipment, etc., was later found to be in the hands of ships' companies and was recovered. . . ." Lanigan.
83. Whether Shionoya survived until the day Parry was assaulted is a moot question. The final entry in his diary is dated 19Feb44.
85. TU 51.17.2 AR, 4.
86. The artillerymen had 20 units of fire for these weapons. Ltr LtCol Alfred M. Mahoney to CMC, 25Mar53, hereinafter cited as Mahoney.
87. Whether these buoys marked the old or new beach designations is not known.
88. A possible factor in the confusion regarding the landing beaches was that the smaller, or northern pier, was destroyed by naval gunfire. Thus the only pier visible was VALENTINE Pier. Martin.
89. At about the same time a spotter plane carrying the Marine artillery aerial observer flew too low and into the artillery barrage. It burst into flames and crashed.
90. The components of each wave are unknown to the author. Inasmuch as the landing units were intermingled and based on available records, it is assumed for the purpose of this narrative that LT 1/22's line included Companies A, C, and B, from right to left.
94. Transport Division 30, Action Report--Amphibious Phase of Eniwetok and Parry Islands, Eniwetok Atoll, 6Mar44, 5.
95. Ltr LtCol Charles F. Widdecke to CMC, 10Mar53.
98. 2d Separate Tank Company, Report on DOWNSIDE Operation, 26Feb44.
101. BLT 3/22 SAR, 4.
102. "We needed some extra zip to complete the job." Lanigan.
104. "The battalion commanders' lack of mobile logistic support prompted them to use the attached half-track platoons to haul supplies and wounded. Also, as I recall, the tank company commander made repeated recommendations against the use of half-tracks in any zone which he was to work." Ltr LtCol Cecil D. Ferguson to CMC, 9Mar53.
106. Moore; McCabe.
107. ". . . [Army] artillery was firing directly at the troops who were advancing southward on Parry. This firing was handled most capably by a young Army captain who was liaison officer with the 22d Marines. . . ." Ltr BrigGen M. F. Schneider to CMC, 9Mar53.
108. "Based on our experience at Tarawa and the known tactics of the Japs in regard to night infiltration and counterattack, we decided . . . that we would utilize 5-inch star shells from our Force to keep the island . . . under continuous illumination. . . . This was the first time that such a procedure had been developed, and as I watched the demand for them grow during succeeding operations . . . I always looked back on this with a great deal of satisfaction. . . ." Hill II.
109. BLT 1 Rpt.
110. As noted in Chapter VII. Activities of RCT 22 after effecting this relief will be treated in Chapter IX.
111. V Amphibious Corps General Order 51-44, 22Mar44.
112. With the exception of the 708th Provisional Amphibian Tractor Company, VAC Reconnaissance Company, and Company D (Scout), 4th Tank Battalion.
113. Marine casualty figures from Personnel Accounting Section, Records Branch, Personnel Department, HQMC, 1Aug52. RCT 106 casualty figures from RCT 106 Rpt, 15Apr44.
114. Isely and Crowl, 303.