Training and Reequipment
While in Australia, the 1st Marine Division had undergone a systematic and comprehensive training program concurrently with its necessary rehabilitation program.1 This began simply with disciplinary drills and small unit exercises, intensifying and expanding as the physical condition of the troops improved. During the third period (April-June), tactical training was progressive and culminated in large scale landing team and combat team exercises, using live ammunition for all weapons.2 A period of review followed, building up to a series of field problems of as much as ten days duration, with supporting overhead fires augmenting the rifles, machine guns and mortars of the infantry.
Thus when the time came, the division returned to the tropics refreshed physically, mentally and militarily: possessing all the jungle know-how so painfully acquired at Guadalcanal, plus the good health, energy and high morale which had been so depleted on that long-contested island.
Training continued in the advance areas, becoming increasingly realistic with the use of terrain closely resembling the target, something impossible to simulate convincingly in the temperate climate around Melbourne. Emphasis was laid on shore-to-shore operations, employing the new or improved equipment now beginning to reach the Pacific in quantity. Few 1st Division Marines until then had so much as seen an LST, LCI or DUKW, and even the smaller landing craft now in use made their predecessors of the early days appear somewhat primitive by comparison.
Wide dispersion of the major elements limited these exercises to battalion or regimental scale, and the enemy attempted, rather futilely, to hamper them further. Attrition steadily reduced Japanese air power in the New Guinea-Bismarcks region, but planes displaying the Rising Sun, less politely known as the "meatball," continued in evidence. Places as far removed from enemy bases as Milne Bay sounded alerts, while the staging areas at Cape Sudest and Goodenough Island suffered a number of actual attacks during the Marines' occupancy which caused casualties and material damage, though not to the Marines.3
Reequipment of the division began in Australia shortly after its arrival. The major step in this direction, issue of the M-1 rifle to replace the familiar 03 (Springfield) used at Guadalcanal, occurred in April. Before the time for departing Australia arrived, all hands who were to carry it had gone through range qualification with this new (to them) weapon and satisfied themselves, more or less, regarding its combat capabilities.
Two other significant steps in reequipment had to do with tanks and amphibian tractors.
Heretofore the division's 1st Tank Battalion had operated only 16-ton light tanks (model M3-A1). It was decided to equip Company A with 35-ton General Sherman mediums (model M4-A1), mounting 75mm guns in place of the light tanks' 37mm. Twenty-four of these, the first to arrive in the SWPA, were received by the Army in Melbourne during May 1943 and turned over to the Marine company.4 Thus there was ample time to permit the crews to become thoroughly acquainted with the unfamiliar machines.
Virtually alone, the Marine Corps had foreseen the possibilities of the amphibian tractor (LVT) and developed it into a
CAPE GLOUCESTER AIRDROME as a Liberator saw it during pre-invasion bombing. Strip No. 1 to the left of the stream is barely discernible. (AF Photo)
military vehicle. The early model Alligator (LVT-1) had received its baptism of fire at Guadalcanal as an organic component of the 1st Division, where it proved its versatility and usefulness but had also demonstrated certain unfortunate frailties. These latter had been largely remedied in an improved model known as the Buffalo (LVT-2) now rolling off U.S. production lines. Although Sixth Army had only a few available at this time, on 5 December General Krueger donated several5 to Company A, 1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion which he planned to use in the Arawe landing 10 days later. The company performed this mission without personnel loss, the crews thereby gaining experience valuable in their subsequent operation at Cape Gloucester.6
Another innovation was the jungle hammock, designed to protect the occupant against wetness and mosquitoes at night. In New Britain, however, it displayed a proclivity for catching and holding rain water. Efforts to solve this by cutting holes in the bottom usually resulted in the canvas splitting in the night, depositing the Marine on the deck. The mosquito net, too, proved a definite obstacle whenever the air raid alarm sounded, the zipper having a tendency to stick at that particular time. The hammocks were valueless in a kunai patch and one had to have faith in the reliability of trees, but despite these shortcomings a majority of the division found them somewhat more comfortable than curling up on a poncho in the mud.
Reequipment also included employment of Army-furnished signal equipment such as the SCR 300 and SCR 610, as well as many minor considerations reaching from top to bottom. Because of certain variations in Marine Corps and Army specifications and standards, the division wound up in a somewhat polyglot condition, but it was all set and ready to go by the time the planners reached a final decision on exactly where its various components would go and what they would do when they got there.
As related in Chapter I, at the outbreak of war New Britain, except for the region immediately adjacent to Rabaul, remained to a great extent an island of mystery. Immediately the Australians set about remedying the situation, handicapped by a dearth of sources. The best off-shore charts dated from the German occupation, terminated in 1914, as did many of such ground surveys as existed. To supplement these, intelligence officers systematically interviewed all persons they could find who had ever lived on the island or cruised its waters: planters, missionaries, district officers, even a few native police boys. None of these individuals was familiar with more than a limited area, but by dint of exhaustive compiling and screening of information gained, a fragmentary picture began to take form.
Staff of the U.S. Sixth Army carried on the effort, and Allied Air Forces continued the current aerial photographic survey until the day of the assault. Mosaics compiled from material obtained on successive reconnaissance missions proved invaluable in many respects, especially along the shores: providing accurate views of beach and reef conditions, and some enemy activities and installations. Because of the size of the island and uncertainty regarding the nature of the forthcoming campaign, much effort was inevitably wasted on localities which subsequently proved of no tactical importance, but by mid-August, 1943, Sixth Army had obtained sufficient material to issue a
localized terrain estimate of the most critical area of Western New Britain.7
This is an extraordinary document in many respects, and represents a prodigious amount of keen intelligence work. It contains aerial photographs (vertical and oblique), mosaics and early maps, together with detailed descriptions of natural features pertinent to military operations, and enemy activities as these could be observed up to that time. Its shortcomings resulted from the inability of the camera lens to penetrate the dense jungle that cloaked most villages and trails, lesser terrain contours, and many of the easily and cleverly camouflaged Japanese installations; deficiencies which necessitated application of shrewd deduction from scanty information obtained from men who had been on the ground years before. That these deductions necessarily lacked detail and sometimes derived from inaccurate information caused a certain amount of grief to troops who operated there subsequently. But the remarkable feature of this study is that it proved as accurate as it did under the circumstances, and provided, together with additional surveys that continued to pour in,8 the basis on which the maps used in planning the campaign were compiled.
These maps occurred in three principal series, all issued in October, 1943, under supervision of Chief Engineer, SWPA, and reproduced by Base Map Plant, U.S. Army, SWPA. Largest, and for that reason most important, was Provisional Map, Western New Britain, scale 1:20,000, with 1,000-meter grid superimposed and aerial photo-map of the area printed on reverse. Despite its bulkiness (seven sheets required to show the critical area), this map was used extensively on shore during the operation because of the possibilities it offered for pinpointing positions by coordinates, and became known as the "battle map." Special Map, Mt. Talawe-Cape Bach (covering same area with two sheets) had the advantage of easier handling at the expense of some loss of detail: scale, 1:63,360 (1 inch to 1 mile), also with 1,000-meter grid. Provisional Map, New Britain, covered the entire island with three large sheets, a single sheet embracing the area from Cape Gloucester eastward beyond Talasea, on scale 1:253,440, with 10,000-meter grid.9
Division officers were better able to visualize the Cape Gloucester terrain after viewing relief maps skillfully constructed by the D-2 section's Relief Map Unit, headed by Captain Richmond I. Kelsey.10 While in Australia the unit had built a relief map of the Dromana Bay area where the 5th and 7th Marines held maneuvers. For the Cape Gloucester operation four different maps were created: A 1:15,000 scale map of the Gloucester combat area; the immediate combat area from Tauali to the Target Hill area, scaled at 1:5,000 and divided into four sections; YELLOW Beaches and three nearby kunai patches with a scale of 1:2,500 and in two sections, and a 1:1,750 scale of the GREEN Beach area. Copies of the original relief maps were easily moulded and distributed to the Army and lower echelons of the division.
The effort to observe conditions ashore at first hand gave rise to a program of
amphibious reconnaissance in which three Australian officers played parts deserving of mention.
Most familiar to the Marines was Major John V. Mather, AIF, a former labor contractor in the Solomons who had been attached to the 1st Division for the Guadalcanal operation and remained as an integral component of the D-2 Section,11 where his proficiency with Pidgin English and grasp of native psychology proved most useful. Another was Sub-Lieutenant Andrew Kirkwall-Smith, RANVR, one of those versatile islanders who could turn his hand to nearly anything, and who had been a coastwatcher12 in the Cape Gloucester region at the time the Japanese first moved in. Still more familiar with the ground and inhabitants was the Reverend William G. Wiedeman, who had operated the Anglican Mission at Sag Sag for several years prior to the war and, like Kirkwall-Smith, was commisisoned a Navy lieutenant to give military status to his present activities.13
This perilous mission of stealing ashore in enemy-held territory was entrusted to a group known as ALAMO Scouts. How diversified were these personnel is indicated by the composition of the first party to enter the region of the forthcoming campaign: an Australian naval officer, a Marine Corps lieutenant, an Army lieutenant, a Navy
MANY YEARS AFTER THE EVENT. Lieutenant Colonel John V. Mather, AIF, receives the Legion of Merit from Brigadier General G. C. Thomas at 1950 Reunion of 1st Marine Division Association in Washington, D. C.
ensign, an Australian enlisted radio operator, and four natives.14
First Lieutenant John D. Bradbeer, chief scout of the 1st Marine Division, commanded the group, and the redoubtable Kirkwall-Smith supplied the local know-how. With their assorted companions, they set out for New Britain's western coast by PT boat on 24 September, three months before the campaign began. Near midnight, the PT cut its motors about a mile off Grass Point, and the scouts paddled in from there in an inflated rubber boat, landing on a beach at the mouth of the second stream to the south at 0100 on the 25th. After hiding their craft with great care, they proceeded inland through dense secondary jungle growth up the western slopes of Mt. Tangi.
JAPANESE "PERSONNEL" AND "GUN" EMPLACEMENTS guard the Cape Gloucester Airdrome. This view was from a low-flying plane in October 1943. (AF Photo)
The party's first objective was to find a southern track that was supposed to circle Mt. Tangi and terminate in the saddle between that height and Mt. Talawe. This the patrol failed to do, but it did locate what it reported as three 6-inch coast defense guns in the vicinity of Aisega. These later proved to be 75mm.
Turning northward, the group made its way through heavy foliage to the upper Gima River and there interrogated the inhabitants. Natives had been excluded from the airdrome area and the coast since the previous July, the scouts learned, but they had some information to impart. A motor road connected Ongaia and the airdrome, and 12 to 14 AA guns were emplaced between these two points; radio stations were located at Aisega, the airdrome, Sakar Island and Rooke Island; barge traffic was heavy on the Itni River and along the coast. Relations between the native population and the Japanese had deteriorated to a low level, although a few quislings still operated in the area. The natives related that the enemy expected an invasion of the Cape Gloucester region.15
Concluding nine days of reconnaissance and queries on the enemy-held island, the patrol retraced its steps southward and found the rubber boat intact at the landing beach. Attempted radio communication with the PT boat failed dismally, however, and as the scouts waited restlessly on the beach a new problem presented itself.
Bradbeer had taken all possible precautions to keep his presence a secret from the Japanese, going so far as to have a native detailed to hide the patrol's footprints. But the enemy had gotten wind of it somehow and now natives brought news to the men that a large Japanese patrol was searching for them.
The party must depart New Britain at once, even if it meant paddling to a small island in Dampier Strait, Bradbeer resolved.
WHAT THE "GUARDIANS" OF THE AIRDROME really looked like. (See picture on opposite page). The two Marines add some life to the installation.
As a last gesture he attempted to make radio contact with the PT boat once more, and this time a reply crackled back.16 In the early morning hours of 6 October the ALAMO Scouts climbed on board the waiting torpedo boat and returned to Goodenough Island to make their report.17
Two other amphibious patrols to western New Britain and one to Rooke Island were completed prior to D-Day. On the night of 14 October Captain W. A. Money, AIF, two other Australians, a Marine sergeant and six natives went ashore about one mile south of Higgins Point on Rooke and remained there until the early hours of 26 October. Captain Money reported there were few Japanese on the island, which doubtless influenced the later decision to defer a landing there.
Shortly before midnight on 20 November two PT boats throttled down to a halt just south of Dorf Point on New Britain's west coast. Eleven men aboard had the general mission of reconnoitering the beach for an offensive landing, but more specifically they were to study beach approaches, beach conditions and inland terrain between Potni and Sumeru. Over-all commander was Major Mather, the stand-by officer in one PT boat. His second in command, radio operator and stand-by assistant in the other boat was Lieutenant Bradbeer.
Assigned to study conditions ashore for 24 hours were Lieutenant Robert B. Firm, 5th Marines assistant R-2, a naval ensign, two men from the D-2 section and two natives. Three other men were to assist with the rubber boats and act as reserves in the event replacements were needed. With plans carefully laid the men stealthily made their way ashore, but luck under such conditions could not always hold up, and the Japanese became aware of the patrol's presence almost as soon as it reached the beach. Thirty minutes after leaving the PT boats Lieutenant Firm and his group were back on board, but in that time they had obtained enough information to declare the beach unfavorable for a landing operation.18
The last pre-D-Day amphibious patrol, accomplished on the night of 21 December, had as its mission the study of two beaches at Tauali. Once again Major Mather acted as over-all commander and stand-by officer. Once again Lieutenant Bradbeer went along, but this time he scouted ashore. Splitting the patrol into two seven-man groups, Bradbeer took the first on a reconnaissance of "South Beach" while First Lieutenant Joseph A. Fournier of the 1st Marines took the other for a look at "North Beach." The patrol recommended the latter as the more favorable of the two for a landing. It was duly labeled GREEN Beach, and 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, made its D-Day amphibious operation there.
With the exception of the GREEN Beach selection, the amphibious patrols by the ALAMO Scouts prior to D-Day were helpful mainly in a negative manner. They clearly demonstrated where not to land and therefore played an important--if reverse--part in the final selection of the beaches. That those selections were fortunate ones will be seen subsequently.
By the middle of December the Marines had some fairly definite ideas (not necessarily accurate) concerning enemy strength and dispositions in western New Britain.19
In the Gloucester area--west of Kokopo, through Borgen Bay, the airdrome area, Aisega and Cape Bushing--were thought to be 10,788 Japanese troops. This total comprised the 65th Division (later found to be a brigade), commanded by Major General Iwao Matsuda, including its component 141st and 142d (not there) Infantry Regiments. Also identified were the 53d Infantry and 24 lesser units.
On Rooke Island and the Witu group were thought to be 2,000 Japanese; 500 at Rein Bay; 2,000 at Talasea-Cape Hoskins; 200 at Cape Raoult; 500 at Arawe; 3,955 at Gasmata and between 74,530 and 87,031 at Rabaul.20
Over-all strength of the Japanese on New Britain was estimated at 91,486 after making percentage deductions for bombing casualties and sickness.
To facilitate prisoner interrogation, Sixth Army loaned the division 10 enlisted men, all Nisei (American-born Japanese). The accommodation was accepted somewhat reluctantly by the Marines who feared for the safety of any Japanese under combat conditions, regardless of citizenship or uniform. Plans called for the Nisei to handle translations while eight officer interpreters questioned prisoners. Despite the original hesitancy, relations between the Marines and the Nisei were friendly and improved with time. The soldiers proved of inestimable value in the D-2 section and won the following accolade:
" . . . the experience of the 1st Marine Division is that any combat force in the Pacific area seriously handicaps itself by not using Nisei . . . it is recommended that even if the 1st Marine Division reverts to the Navy [sic], an arrangement be made with the Army whereby a supply of Nisei translators be made to the Division."21
Naval and Air Participation
The Seventh Fleet (sometimes called "MacArthur's Navy") under Vice Admiral
EVIDENCE OF THE EFFECTIVENESS OF AIR ATTACKS on barge hideouts on Western New Britain was found by the Marines after they landed.
Kinkaid was assigned naval responsibility for the Gloucester landing, but more specifically Task Forces 74 and 76 and Task Group 70.1 participated directly in the operation.22
Formerly operating as the Southwest Pacific Force, a collection of Australian and U.S. craft, the Seventh Fleet was created 15 March 1943. It was designed to support General MacArthur's advance and operated under his strategic control within his theater, although remaining under the administrative control of Commander in Chief, United States Fleet.
Seven task forces comprised the fleet,23 each force made up of specific type craft for a specific job. There were to be found PT boats, submarines, a fleet air wing, seaplane tenders, a survey vessel, minecraft and escort vessels. Most important from the Marine viewpoint, however, were the cruisers and destroyers (Task Force 74) and the amphibious force (Task Force 76).
For the purposes of the operation Rear Admiral Daniel E. Barbey's Task Force 76 was composed of his headquarters ship, USS Conyngham, 10 APD's, 16 LCI's, 12 destroyers, three minesweepers and 24 LST's.24 In
STRIP NO. 2 OF THE CAPE GLOUCESTER AIRDROME gets the softening treatment during the preparatory stage of the New Britain campaign. (AF Photo)
addition, he alloted for Beach GREEN two destroyers, 14 LCM's, 12 LCT's and two rocket DUKW's. Cover for the convoy as well as landing security and bombardment of the enemy area was left primarily to Task Force 74, commanded by British Rear Admiral V. A. C. Crutchley, RN. With a force of four cruisers,25 eight destroyers and two rocket LCI's26 the force commander was to begin his preliminary bombardment at 0600 on D-Day (H-Hour was 0745) off New Britain's north coast. Although in the light of later amphibious operations this seems meager, it was adequate for the landing as will be seen subsequently.
Additional protection during the landing would be provided by Task Group 70.1, a group of PT boats from Task Force 70. Its mission was to cover the left flank of the amphibious force by patrolling Vitiaz and Dampier Straits.
Air preparations for the operation began in mid-November and continued on a steadily ascending scale, with the First Air Task Force (FATF), Fifth Air Force, flying missions.27 At this time General Kenney's command consisted of Advance Headquarters (ADVON) at Port Moresby and three air task forces located north of the Owen Stanley Mountains. Based at Dobadura and commanded by Brigadier General Frederic H. Smith, Jr., FATF contained about one-third of all the squadrons in the Allied Air Force. It had flown fighter and bomber missions for all ground operations except those in the Ramu Valley, and to it, as a matter of course, fell the job of air preparation and support for BACKHANDER.
In October FATF was principally concerned with Rabaul and New Guinea, but it found time occasionally to send over one to eight planes to attack airdromes, supply dumps and barge hideouts in western New Britain. By mid-November, however, with plans for DEXTERITY beginning to firm, serious air preparations for the Gloucester and Arawe operations got under way. Between 19 November and 13 December 1,241 tons of bombs fell on the Japanese occupying the Borgen Bay area.
In the 11-day interval between the Arawe and Cape Gloucester landings, FATF intensified its daylight bombardments and
Command Organization of Task Force 76
26 December 1943
NATAMO POINT IS BLASTED BY FIFTH AIR FORCE BOMBERS as aerial preparations for the landing are intensified. Target Hill and Silimati Point in background. (AF Photo.)
simultaneously introduced harassing night tactics to keep the enemy under an additional mental strain. Between 15 and 25 December FATF flew 1,207 bomber sorties, dropping more than 2,684 tons of bombs. And as the Japanese tried to sleep at night their rest was interrupted at irregular intervals by B-24's dribbling bombs, grenades and beer bottles over the bivouac areas.
During this period of air preparation, bombers and fighters attacked targets of opportunity as well as scheduled ones. The favored point of attack was Target Hill because it was so easily discerned. Gun positions at the airstrip were also given attention, 80 2,000-lb. bombs being dropped on 17 December "with fairly satisfactory results." A few direct hits were claimed on gun positions.28
Bunkers and supply dumps, protected from view by the lush jungle growth, were fairly safe from air attacks,29 but the lines of supply suffered heavily.30
Air cover for the amphibious force convoy on D-Day would be maintained by a series of fighter squadrons hovering over it for 12 hours, beginning at 0630. One attack group of five attack squadrons and nine bomber squadrons, was earmarked for air support.31
The attack group would bomb and strafe YELLOW Beaches 1 and 2 for 15 minutes before the first wave went ashore, one squadron bombing and smoking Target Hill with white phosphorous. One of the five attack squadrons would support the GREEN Beach landing by bombing and strafing for 10 minutes before troops got ashore. The remaining four squadrons would attack targets along the coast north and east of Dorf Point beginning at H-plus one hour and 45 minutes.
These missions accomplished, the attack planes would refuel and rearm. Four squadrons would then fly second missions against targets picked out by division, and four others would be on call.
The bombing squadrons were assigned missions to Target Hill, the 7th Marines area and Natamo Point beginning at H-minus 45 minutes and continued for two hours. After that the bombers would refuel, rearm and attack secondary targets selected by division.
The problem of moving and supplying the division in the BACKHANDER operation was accentuated by the location of different groups at different staging points and the movement of units from one point to another. Initially Combat Team A and the ADC Group were at Milne Bay; Combat Team C was training at Cape Sudest in the Oro Bay area; Combat Team B at Goodenough Island with
LOADING ABOARD LCI's, these Marines will land on Beach YELLOW 2 on D-Day.
ELEMENTS OF COMBAT TEAM C go aboard LST's at Cape Sudest, Gloucester bound.
Division Headquarters and the remaining elements of the division.
As the original plans for DEXTERITY changed, however, there was a general shifting. In late October General Shepherd's ADC Group moved to Goodenough. Six weeks later a detachment of Combat Team B moved to Finschhafen, to be followed shortly thereafter by the ADC Group, the remainder of Combat Team B, a detachment of 16th Signal Operations Battalion, and both H&S and 2d Battalion, 11th Marines. Meanwhile, reinforcing units were joining Combat Team C at Cape Sudest, and all elements at Goodenough, with the exception of Rear Echelon, Division Headquarters, had moved there by 18 December.32
Another complication from a logistical viewpoint was the necessity of using ships no larger than an LST. New Britain coastal waters presented an interesting contrast: at Rabaul on the eastern tip of the island was one of the finest harbors in the Southwest Pacific, but the waters en route to Cape Gloucester were narrow, shallow and treacherous. Japanese air at this point was still a factor to be considered, and the Navy had an understandable reluctance to risk larger craft33 in the approach straits and the reef-filled waters off YELLOW Beaches 1 and 2. Such conditions, as a matter of course, limited the amount of cargo the division could carry and intensified the problems of transport and supply planning.
Admiral Barbey allotted five LCI's, 12 LCT's, and 14 LCM's to transport the troops, equipment and supplies of Battalion Landing Team 21 from Finschhafen to GREEN
AS THE ADC GROUP AND THE 1st MARINES loaded at Finschhafen for Cape Gloucester, General Krueger was on hand to wish General Shepherd good luck. (Army Photo)
Beach. For the H-Hour, D-Day landing on YELLOW Beaches 1 and 2 there were nine APD's, 14 LCI's, and seven LST's for Combat Team C (less detachments) and Battalion Landing Team 31. The remainder of the BACKHANDER Task Force (less Combat Team A) was expected to land on D-Day afternoon and on D-plus 1. Sixteen LST's were at the disposal of these elements for the movement.34 General Rupertus would accompany the admiral on his flagship, USS Conyngham, while General Shepherd was to make the overnight trip via LST.
Combat Team A, held in reserve, was to move from Milne Bay to Cape Sudest on D-minus 1 on board one Australian and three U.S. troop transports. From that point, if released by General Krueger, the unit (less Battalion Landing Team 35) was to proceed via APD's and LST's to Gloucester. The remaining landing team was tentatively scheduled for the seizure of Rooke and Long Islands.
Division directed all units to take into Gloucester only that equipment necessary to live and fight. There were to be no cots or camp equipment. Tentage was limited to tarpaulins and requirements for hospitals and communications. The assault forces were instructed to land with 20 days Class I-IV supplies and three units of fire, but limited shipping in some cases reduced this to 10 or 15 days. Resupply was to be accomplished principally by LST's, and in anticipation of this a month's supplies were stockpiled at Oro Bay prior to 16 December.35
All LST space would be utilized on the Gloucester trip. Tank decks were crowded with bulldozers, trucks and jeeps. The Marines were attempting the highest degree of mobile loading and had borrowed 500 two-and-one-half ton trucks from the Army. These were fully loaded, the plan being that they would roll ashore and directly to the dumps to discharge their cargo, then withdraw on board the second echelon of LST's that afternoon.
Plans made by Lieutenant Colonel Robert G. Ballance, Shore Party commander, called for the dispersal of over-lapping ration, ammunition and miscellaneous supply dumps just off YELLOW Beaches 1 and 2. These were overlapping only insofar as the LST's were concerned. According to the scheme three lines should operate out of each LST simultaneously, each one travelling between the ship and a supply dump. The objective was to keep traffic flowing smoothly and rapidly between the two points without crossing other lanes. Unfortunately the dump sites had to be tentatively selected from New Britain maps, later necessitating on-the-spot changes because of unforeseen terrain conditions. The division administrative order36 allowed three hours as the time required to unload an LST, a limit that was to prove over optimistic initially. Elements of the 17th Marines, which comprised the shore party, were prepared to construct sandbag piers out to the LST's in the event the craft could
not reach the beach proper, and roller runways were to be utilized as well.37
On D-minus 5 a final rehearsal was held by the assault elements at Cape Sudest. Three days later, Christmas Eve afternoon, the ships assigned to Combat Team C and accompanying units loaded troops and rendezvoused in Buna Harbor.
At 060038 on D-minus 1 the convoy began moving northward. The weather was not that generally associated with Christmas. The heat was intense, particularly below decks, and the ships were loaded beyond normal capacity with troops, vehicles and equipment because of the comparatively short run.39 Men tried to sleep topside and climbed atop trucks and jeeps which were spread six abreast across the tank decks. Jungle hammocks were slung between vehicles. But sleep was difficult.
A submarine had been reported off Cape Ward Hunt the previous evening, but a search conducted by a "Hunter-Killer" group proved fruitless. At 1320 on Christmas Day first contact was made with the enemy when a Japanese reconnaissance plane spotted the convoy. It was shot down, but there was no way of telling whether it had reported its find.40
Meanwhile, at Cape Cretin the ADC group and Combat Team B, less BLT 21, had completed loading and prepared to join the main convoy on its way from Buna. The latter
CHRISTMAS DAY ON BOARD an LST. These Marines pass the time in accustomed manner as they head toward a landing at Cape Gloucester.
landing team, slated for the solo assault on GREEN Beach at Tauali, departed at 1600 and proceeded to its objective with its own miniature convoy via Dampier Strait.
The Buna and Cape Cretin contingents bound for the main landing joined forces slightly after 160041 and proceeded toward their mutual destination without incident.
There was one final ironic touch--ironic in light of later weather developments. General Krueger, mindful of eventualities, notified the naval and air commanders that in the event it became necessary to cancel the Gloucester operation between embarkation time and landing, the code word would be "rain" repeated four times in the clear.42
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (2) * Next Chapter (4)
1. So poor was the physical condition of the troops following Guadalcanal that at one time shortly after its arrival at Melbourne the division had about 7,500 hospital and rest camp cases caused by recurrent malaria. (Col J. E. Linch, comments on prelim script, hereinafter cited, as Linch.)
2. 1st MarDiv SAR, I, 2.
3. The Army authorized a battle star for troops in these areas during this period, but the Navy did not recognize this officially until some years after the war.
4. Ltr to the author from Capt H. R. Taylor, Jr., 6Jul51, hereinafter cited as Taylor.
5. ALAMO Force assigned to the battalion 15 of a lightly armored model then known as the LVT (A)-2. In addition, on D-minus 10 the battalion received six LVT-2's, the first of 50 of that type being shipped to the division. (1st MarDiv SAR, Annex D, 1.)
6. Because of the logistical situation after Arawe, Company A was sent to Finschhafen where all of the tractors and about one-half of the personnel sat out the Gloucester landing. Company A was normally attached to Combat Team A and therefore a composite company had to be formed from personnel in H&S and a portion of the marooned company at Finschhafen. "The combat efficiency of this detachment was consequently impaired." Ibid., 2.
7. Terrain Estimate Cape Gloucester Area, 15 August 1943, prepared by ACofS, G-2, Hq Sixth Army; hereinafter cited Terrain Est. This embraced region west of mouths of Gurissu and Itni Rivers. Copy (No. 42) in HQMC files carries annotations as of 5Sep43. Also available in ALAMO G-3.
8. Especially Objective Folder 75, issued by Directorate of Intelligence, Allied Air Forces, SWPA, 1Sep43: a comprehensive series of aerial obliques, tied in with keyed sketch maps, covering the New Britain shore from east of Borgen Bay, around the west coast, and extended along the south coast to include Arawe.
9. 1st MarDiv SAR, Annex A, 33-34. Last two maps mentioned were final revisions of earlier ones by Australian agencies and Allied Geographical Section, SWPA, beginning early in 1942. Note that the above were not the only maps and terrain studies used, but the most complete and up-to-date available during the planning phase.
10. Because several members of the map unit had worked as civilians for the animated cartoon industry, they became known collectively as the "Mickey Mouse boys."
11. So strongly did Mather feel his Marine ties that, when subsequently awarded the U.S. Legion of Merit, for his services, he declined to wear the medal until it should be pinned on his chest by a former member of the division. Finding himself in England on a military mission during the summer of 1950, he flew the Atlantic in order to attend a convention of 1st MarDiv Association in Washington, D. C., where BrigGen Gerald C. Thomas performed the ceremony.
12. Feldt, op. cit., 177, 181-183.
13. These officers are not to be confused with members of ANGAU: Australian, New Guinea Administrative Unit, having charge of all relations with the Melanesian natives. A number of these accompanied the division throughout the subsequent campaign and played an important part in rehabilitating the natives of western New Britain after the Japanese had been driven out.
14. Other parties of ALAMO Scouts operated in the Arawe and Gasmata regions as well, and the coastwatchers cooperated by sending parties of their own into Long Island and Rooke Island. These activities are omitted here as not bearing directly on the campaign under discussion.
15. Unless otherwise cited, accounts of the pre-D-Day patrols are drawn from 1st MarDiv Recon Patrols, G-2 Reports.
16. George McMillan. The Old Breed: A History of the First Marine Division. in World War II. (Washington, 1949), 166-167.
17. Division recommended Bradbeer for the Silver Star on the strength of this exploit. But because of his success in evading the enemy throughout his perilous mission, ALAMO Force reasoned that he had not been in combat and scaled this down to the Soldiers Medal, leading him to remark, "Now people will think I saved a WAC from drowning by diving off a pier in Atlantic City."
18. 1st MarDiv SAR, Annex A, 1-2.
19. 1st MarDiv, D-2 Weekly Reports, 13Dec43.
20. For actual Japanese strength and dispositions see Chap IV.
21. 1st MarDiv SAR, Annex A, 18, 24.
22. Task Force 76, Operation Plan 3B-43, 3, 20Dec 43. Hereinafter cited as TF 76.
23. Naval Confidential Newsletter, 20Nov43.
24. TF 76, 1.
25. HMAS Australia and Shropshire, USS Nashville and Phoenix. (Reports of Commander Seventh Amphibious Force to COMINCH, U.S. Fleet, 7, dtd 3Feb44.)
26. Only one rocket LCI fired during the landing. (Ibid., 9.)
27. This account of air preparation draws principally upon an official but unpublished manuscript: Army Air Forces Historical Studies No. 43, The Fifth Air Force in the Conquest of the Bismarck Archipelago, hereinafter cited as AAF No. 43.
28. The Fifth Air Force considered the pre-invasion bombing so intense that the term "Gloucesterizing" was used thereafter by it to describe the obliteration of a target. (AAF in WWII, 344.)
29. "Our bombs, bursting throughout the [target] area, started no fires and it seems doubtful that anything of value was destroyed. For sheer tree splitting, however, the mission was magnificent." Ibid., 334.
30. "The unspectacular strafing and bombing of barge routes from Rabaul caused such destruction that troops in western New Britain were placed on half rations." AAF No. 43.
31. This account of air cover and support plans is taken from 1st MarDiv SAR, I, Annex, G, Air Support Plan.
32. 1st MarDiv SAR, II, 1.
33. Navy was reluctant to risk even LST's. (Ltr LtCol R. M. Wismer to CMC, 7Mar52, hereinafter cited as Wismer.)
34. 1st MarDiv SAR, Annex C, 2.
35. Ibid, 1.
36. 1st MarDiv SAR, 1, Adm Or 2-43, 5, 14Nov43.
37. See Appendix IV this monograph for more complete description of Shore Party operations.
38. 1st MarDiv SAR gives the time as 0300. Admiral Barbey, however, gives the time used above and as task force commander he should know best. Report of Commander, 7th Amphibious Force, to COMINCH, U.S. Fleet, 6, 3Feb44.
39. 1st MarDiv SAR, II, 2.
40. It had. See Chap V.
41. 1st MarDiv, SAR, II, 2 and ADC War Diary, 3, 25Dec43.
42. ALAMO G-3, 22Dec43.
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