Advance of the 1st Marines1
As rain-washed daylight relieved the stormy dawn of 27 December (D-plus 1), planes of the Fifth Air Force came over from New Guinea to bomb and strafe to the northwest of the Marine positions, and at 07302 the two battalions of the 1st Marines resumed their drive on the airdrome.
Once more that "damp flat" to the south made a mockery of the original plan to advance on a 500-yard front. As elements on the left continued to bog down, Colonel William J. Whaling, regimental CO, called a halt after about a mile and reformed his entire command in column of companies on the road. Thereafter he relied for flank security on a succession of small patrols which probed successively as far as practicable into the swamp, then fell back in turn on the rear of the column.3
In this formation, Company I led the attack with support of a platoon of medium tanks4 the 1st Battalion following the 3d and echeloned to the left rear as far as readily traversable ground permitted. Combing dense jungle and prepared enemy positions in the continuing heavy rain remained a slow, laborious task, even though no resistance was encountered all day.5 Nevertheless, the 2-2 and 3-3 phase lines were passed, and the regiment halted on the 4-4 phase line at 1615 to dig in a perimeter for the night: an advance of more than 5,000 yards or approximately three miles.
Aerial observers had previously spotted Colonel Sumiya's main strong point: the
COLONEL WHALING (left) gets an intelligence report from Captain Hunt (center) and Lieutenant Watts as the 1st Marines move toward the airdrome.
system of prepared defensive positions on the point of land that flanked a crescent-shaped beach more than 1,000 yards east of the airdrome (see Chapter IV). They had also noted increased enemy activity along a low kunai grass-covered ridge extending inland, and the phase line designated 0-0 had been set in accordance with these terrain features. This now lay approximately 2,500 yards in advance of the 1st Marines' new perimeter, and all hands anticipated a hard fight the following day. However, patrols failed to discover any Japanese short of 0-0, and the two battalions spent a quiet night, lulled by the reassuring rumble of their own artillery's harassing fire passing overhead en route to the enemy.
Lack of resistance throughout the 27th indicated that the Japanese had withdrawn, abandoning minor prepared road-block positions in order to concentrate their strength on ground most favorable to themselves. Since intelligence estimates of this period indicated that there might be two full battalions defending the airdrome area,6 time was taken for adequate preparation. Marine artillery increased its rate of fire, and between 0900 and 1000 on D-plus 2 planes of the Fifth Air Force came over to bomb and strafe actual and suspected strong points to the front.
The infantry attack was not ordered until 1100,7 to permit two additional platoons of medium tanks to be brought laboriously forward over the now badly chewed-up road (see below).
The advance moved in column again, with Company I still in the lead, followed by Company L and Company K in that order. The "damp flat" was at last giving way to firmer ground, and Company A consequently was placed inland to protect the left flanks, with Company C following and the rest of the 1st Battalion on the road behind the 3d.
About 1200 Company I received scattered small-arms fire from the front, and a few moments later the Japanese began throwing 75mm shells along the road, wounding a few Marines but failing perceptibly to slow down the forward movement. At 1215, however, leading elements came up against the first of the enemy prepared positions. Captain Carl E. Conron, Jr., CO of Company I, began deploying his entire unit, extending to the left, and brought the tanks forward to bear directly on the enemy emplacements.
The Japanese strong point consisted of a system of mutually supporting bunkers and rifle trenches, well armed and adequately manned, supported by antitank guns and 75mm pieces of the regimental gun type, the approaches obstructed with land mines and wire. Designed originally to defend the beach against an amphibious assault, they were not ideally sited to cope with attack by land, though this shortcoming had been partially remedied by improvisation since the landing two days before had indicated the invaders' intentions. They enjoyed an added advantage in the heavy jungle lying a short distance inland which limited the tanks'
Positions of the First Marine Division
(Less Combat Team A)
27 December 1943
THE TANKS protected the infantry and the infantry protected the tanks as the 1st Marines kept the airdrome drive going.
field of maneuver to the comparatively narrow area directly to their front, facing the flank of the Japanese position which thus became, in effect, a defense in depth for the entire extent of its east-west length: approximately 300 yards.
While the fight was developing at the main Japanese strong point, Company A, advancing on the left of the 3d Battalion, debouched into a large kunai grass patch some 500 yards inland. Here the men came under fire of an enemy force estimated at reinforced company strength,8 supported by mortars and heavy machine guns, posted in the woods on the opposite side of the clearing. Although fighting from improvised positions, the enemy enjoyed excellent cover and had prepared interlocking fire lanes through the tall grass. The ensuing fire fight lasted for four hours. Although unable to advance farther themselves, the Marines easily broke up two Japanese frontal assaults and one attempt to turn their flank.
With ammunition running low, Company A commenced withdrawal toward the beach at about 1545, covered by artillery fire and one of its rifle platoons. The forward observer and his party from the 11th Marines remained on the scene and continued to call down fire on the enemy position. Next morning this was found abandoned, together with 41 Japanese dead. Marine losses in this skirmish were eight dead and 16 wounded.
How the action developed in the 3d Battalion's zone is narrated by Company K's commanding officer:
When I-3-1 encountered opposition . . . they were extended to the left away from the road. There was a gap of about fifty yards from I-3-1 to the beach. Lieutenant Colonel Jos F. Hankins ordered Captain Barry . . . to fill this gap with a platoon of K Company. While doing this Captain Barry was wounded and I again assumed command. . . . Up to this time
the battalion . . . had run up against only one bunker and one 75mm emplacement. I was given three tanks (the other two were out of action, one with engine trouble and one with a jammed breech of its 75) to accomplish this mission. I put one squad of the Second Platoon behind each tank and deployed the Third Platoon to set up a skirmish line behind the tanks. We encountered twelve huge bunkers with a minimum of twenty Japs in each. The tanks would fire point blank into the bunkers, if the Japs stayed in the bunkers they were annihilated, if they escaped out the back entrance (actually the front as they were built to defend the beach) the infantry would swarm over the bunker and kill them with rifle fire and grenades. By the time we had knocked out twelve bunkers the Second Platoon . . . were out of ammunition and had been replaced by the Third Platoon and they too were out or down to a clip of ammunition per man. I called a halt and sent for the First Platoon. By the time the First Platoon arrived and ammunition was resupplied forty-five minutes had elapsed. We continued the attack and found two more bunkers but the enemy had in the meantime escaped.9
The enemy 75's concentrated on the tanks, but as the guns were poorly emplaced they were quickly knocked out in turn, their crews either joining their friends in the bunkers or scuttling off into the jungle on their own. The singular ineffectiveness of these guns is difficult to explain. Actually they fired very few rounds. One shell exploded against a tank's nose casting without penetrating,
IT TOOK A LOT of work to get the roads in condition.
though fragmentation did some minor damage, whereupon the gun and its screaming crew were run down and crushed. The others were captured, their almost intact ammunition stacked beside them.
Atrocious weather conditions prevailed throughout the action, with heavy rain bogging down the infantry and greatly hampering the vision of the tank crews. However, by 1700 the 1st Marines, less 2d Battalion, began digging in on a perimeter that embraced the entire defense system and extended 200 yards beyond.
Apart from destroying the last effective defenses of the airdrome, this notable victory resulted in capture of quantities of ammunition and weapons of many types. The 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, had lost only nine killed and 36 wounded, thanks to taking ample time in order to insure maximum tank-infantry cooperation. Subsequently they counted 266 dead Japanese there in an area less than 300 yards square.10
This locality was dubbed Hell's Point at the time. Later the commanding general ordered it officially renamed Terzi Point in honor of Company K's commanding officer who was killed in action on D-Day.
Supply and Perimeter Problems
Engineers of the 17th Marines followed in the wake of the infantry, widening the Japanese coastal road and trying to maintain it in serviceable condition against the damage inflicted by incessant rain and the churning of wheeled and tracked vehicles. Seabees of the 3d Battalion11 especially performed prodigies in this work, but the long advance of the 1st Marines on D-plus 1 inevitably left
them far behind. For by now the torrential monsoon downpours had flooded the numerous streams that intersected the road, playing havoc with the bridges 3/17 was building, thereby necessitating some elaborate improvisations.12 By D-plus 2 (28 December) the problem of getting food and ammunition forward and bringing the wounded back had become very acute indeed. Fortunately, the capture of the fortified point late that afternoon opened a usable beach (designated BLUE Beach), making possible the forwarding of supplies by water in landing craft and amphibian tractors, a method which continued in use for several days.
But no such expedient was possible in reaching those sectors of the beachhead perimeter lying beyond the "damp flat." Here only amtracks sufficed, and these had to beat, bull and cut their own routes through swamp and jungle. The extraordinary capabilities of these versatile machines had certainly not entered Japanese calculations regarding the invaders' ability to maintain a beachhead in that region, and the part played by the LVT's during this crucial phase would be difficult to overestimate.
Illustrative of the difficulties encountered by both sides were the activities of a Japanese armed with a Nambu light machine gun13 who ensconced himself high in a huge tree that afforded fields of fire on both the division command post and an amtrack route that passed nearby. Conceivably, had he chosen to sell his life dearly, he might have picked off a considerable portion of the division staff, possibly the commanding general. Instead, he reserved his fire for the LVT's, peppering them liberally whenever favorable opportunities presented themselves. Yet so difficult is accurate marksmanship in such jungle that in two days shooting he succeeded
A JET OF AIR AND WATER helped the Seabees place bridge pilings in New Britain streams.
in wounding only three men, none seriously. In view of his ineffectiveness, blasting him out at the risk of hitting friendly troops in the region was not considered worth while, and he was still on his lofty perch whanging away at the amtracks when the command post displaced forward on the 28th.
This movement had as its purpose maintaining closer contact with the 1st Marines' drive on the airdrome. It entailed a calculated risk in that it carried the commanding general and his staff out beyond the main perimeter, necessitating the establishment of an exceptionally strong security guard. The bulk of this duty fell to the division band,14
JUNGLE HAMMOCKS were tied to whatever trees were available. This is the Division CP area during an early phase of the operation.
as did most of the dirty work around the command post. That versatile organization, trained under the direction of Major Leon Brusiloff, had won wide acclaim and much good will for the division in Australia. But it had put its instruments aside and was currently doubling in Tommy guns and manning stretchers, thereby winning a very different type of acclaim.
Meanwhile, Japanese pressure continued against the 7th Marines on the beachhead perimeter, still concentrated mainly on the 2d Battalion, in the center. On the morning of D-plus 1, this unit advanced its line some 300 yards in order to rectify the front, attempt to close the gaps existing on either flank, and obtain a more favorable defensive position. This movement brought it to the bank of a small stream, later to earn the dubious name of Suicide Creek, where the men dug in. There they withstood several short, sharp thrusts on the 27th, followed by two major counterattacks under cover of a tropical storm during the dark hours of the next morning. Artillery accurately registered to the front collaborated with mortar and small-arms fire in beating these off, and at dawn the enemy tide receded, having failed anywhere to penetrate the position.
The attacking force was still the 2d Battalion, 53d Infantry, which General Matsuda had moved into the area on D-Day, reinforced by a miscellany of service and supporting elements. The complete frustration of these operations seems to have enabled Major Takabe, its commanding officer, to convince his chief of the futility of destroy-at-the-water's edge tactics, and thereafter he kept to his own side of the stream.
Here his people labored mightily at the construction of defensive positions: bunkers, trenches, rifle pits, all the field fortifications
at which the Japanese are so adept,15 not bothering to conceal from their opponents what they were up to. The U.S. plans called for an eventual attack in this direction, but the division command did not want to begin this until the airdrome had been secured. So the men of 2/7 crouched immobile in their fox holes, listening to the Japanese preparing systematically for their reception but powerless to interfere, their only consolation being the harassing fire from the 11th Marines' 105's.
Also on the morning of D-plus 1, the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines was withdrawn from the western sector of the perimeter and assembled near the division command post in beachhead reserve. As on the previous day, a few Japanese attempted to infiltrate, causing the commanding general to order the unit back into the line. Again he seized on an excuse for a dispatch to Sixth Army16 citing the "imperative" need for the division reserve. To close the still existing gap of 200 yards between the 2d and 3d Battalions, he committed Battery D, 1st Special Weapons Battalion, serving as infantry. Thereafter all elements on the perimeter remained static in their positions until the opening of the next phase of the operation on 2 January 1944.
The 12th Defense Battalion contributed its share to the security of the invading troops. Advance elements of this unit had landed on D-Day and had automatic weapons emplaced and firing 30 minutes after getting ashore when Japanese planes attacked. The remainder of the battalion continued to come ashore as additional sites became available for their antiaircraft facilities and coast defense guns. Japanese naval impotency in this area limited the usefulness of the latter17 to a little long range shelling of enemy supply dumps and barges attempting to enter Borgen Bay, putting an end to that traffic once and for all. But Japanese air attacks persisted as a minor nuisance if something less than a major menace. Here the battalion's radar furnished many valuable warnings (and more false alarms) of approaching planes, and its antiaircraft batteries and searchlights put on a brave and diverting display whenever the enemy showed up, and sometimes when they did not.
Enter the 5th Marines
During the fighting at Hell's Point on 28 December, a curious misadventure befell Corporal Kashida Shigeto, 1st Machine Gun Company, 53d Infantry, Imperial Japanese Army. The trench in which he was endeavoring to give his life for his Emperor suddenly caved in, burying him helpless up to the neck.
An astonished Marine, observing Shigeto's apparently disembodied head blinking at him, paused to debate whether to shoot or shovel, which dilemma was resolved by the arrival of an intelligence officer who ordered the corporal disinterred and made prisoner.
Although wounded in the shoulder and in considerable pain, Shigeto was willing, even eager to talk, especially when the barbaric
CORPORAL SHIGETO literally had to be dug out of his position.
Americans, instead of torturing him in the honorable Bushido manner, handed him a K-Ration and a cigarette. He painted a gloomy picture of his battalion's situation, but he mentioned the original plan for the 2d Battalion to reinforce the 1st, something that might still be accomplished; also the presence somewhere in the vicinity of the 141st and 142d Regiments,18 possibly within striking distance.
Since Colonel Sumiya had conducted withdrawals following every action to date, it could be presumed that a good part of his force remained intact. Hence, the possibility now presented itself of the Japanese being capable of appearing in the airdrome area in greater strength than previously estimated. The final drive on 29 December (D-plus 3) was delayed, therefore, until the newly arrived 5th Marines could move into position to augment the attack and, by a circling movement from the south, cut off the enemy retreat in that direction.
Following cancellation of its proposed attack on Gasmata, Combat Team A had been tentatively earmarked for several more or less extraneous missions, such as the seizure of Rooke and Long Islands in Vitiaz Strait. Upon receipt of General Rupertus' dispatches of 26-27 December, however, these excursions were cancelled in turn and the entire 5th Marines, Reinforced, was made available to the division, as requested. The 1st and 2d Battalions, hurriedly embarked with an advance echelon of Regimental headquarters in nine APD's at Cape Sudest, arrived off the Gloucester beaches early on the morning of the 29th. The remainder of the regiment and its reinforcing elements loaded aboard six LST's to follow. One of the craft, however, had difficulty retracting from the beach and the convoy sailed without it. Eventually the tardy ship, with half of the 3d Battalion (reinforced) aboard, made its lonesome way to Gloucester.
In its repeated requests to Sixth Army for Combat Team A, division headquarters had directed that it land on YELLOW Beaches 1 and 2. By the time the APD's containing the advance echelon arrived, however, BLUE Beach had been set up as a landing area much closer to the regiment's proposed zone of action. Division, therefore, sought to change the landing orders as the troops disembarked, with the result that some elements received notice of the change while others did not. Confusion, aided and abetted by bad weather, caused portions of the 1st and 2d Battalions to land on YELLOW Beach 2, while the remainder of the two units with Colonel John T. Selden, CO of the 5th, landed on BLUE Beach.19 Those landing at YELLOW Beach 2 were directed to the BLUE Beach area where they proceeded by a combination of truck and foot.
Seizure and Defense of the Airdrome
Shortly after his arrival at BLUE Beach, Colonel Selden conferred with General Rupertus, Colonel Pollock and Colonel Whaling at the 1st Marines' command post, where it was decided that the 1st should continue its attack along the road toward the airfield while the 5th made a wide sweep on the left flank to cut off enemy withdrawal in that direction, then pressed the attack to No. 2 airstrip through an area believed to contain prepared Japanese defensive positions.
Colonel Selden established his regimental command post in what had apparently been a small Japanese bivouac area some distance short of the enemy strong point captured the previous day by the 1st Marines. Then he, personally, joined Lieutenant Colonel Lewis W. Walt, whose 2d Battalion moved to Hell's Point and thence inland along the low kunai ridge on the 0-0 phase line where Company A, 1st Marines had had its fire fight the afternoon preceding. In arriving at the line of departure, approximately 1,200 yards20 from the coastal road, 2/5 had to make its way through a rain forest and an unexpectedly deep swamp21 that seriously impeded progress.
The battalion jumped off at 1500 in column of companies, with Company F in assault, simultaneously with the attack of the 1st Marines along the coast road and ground immediately inland. It encountered no resistance, but alternating patches of jungle and
REINFORCEMENTS moved up to keep the advance going.
high kunai grass, ridges and streams, continued to make progress slow and difficult. The expected prepared positions materialized but had been abandoned, leading to the belief that the enemy had staged total evacuation of the area. After combing the broken terrain thoroughly, 2/5 reached the center of Airstrip No. 2, the larger and more important, at 1925.
At this time Major William H. Barba's 1st Battalion was just struggling out of the swamp and jungle near the line of departure. The original plan called for 1/5 to follow 2/5 in the attack, responsibility for contact resting with the former. The unexpected terrain difficulties, however, kept the plan from being carried out.22 Both battalions sent out patrols in an effort to establish contact, but a combination of darkness and unfamiliar territory prevented positive results. Major Barba, therefore, set up his own perimeter defense where his unit stood.
The First Gets There First
In the 1st Marines' zone of action, Lieutenant Colonel Walker A. Reaves' 1st Battalion passed through the 3/1 and left the line of departure simultaneously with the forward movement of the 5th Marines, preceded by a brief artillery preparation and a spectacular air strike.23 With Companies B and C in assault,24 the battalion, supported by tanks and elements of the Regimental Weapons Company, swept across a long narrowing kunai patch and the jungle that flanked it on the left, bringing up presently in front of a dense stand of rain forest. Again the artillery was called on in preparation for the advance. The Japanese offered only token resistance by small groups of riflemen.
While the infantry combed these woods, the tanks filed off along the shore road that flanked them on the right. After keeping pace for 300 or 400 yards, they debouched into a much larger kunai patch, beyond which, over slightly rising ground, lay the eastern end of Strip No. 2.
Now there developed a spectacle rare in jungle operations: the massed panoply of modern war, attacking over open ground in plain view of all observers. The ubiquitous rain had ceased for the moment; sunlight even broke briefly through the overcast.
The tanks wheeled left across the front and deployed in a widely intervaled line along the edge of the kunai, where the infantry, emerging from the cleared-out woods, formed in combat groups about them. Artillery shells rumbled overhead, to detonate with a reassuring roar on suspected enemy positions to the front. Nearer at hand sounded the coughing bark of mortars, and tracer bullets from machine guns ricocheted crazily from the rain forest trees on the left of the clearing. An Army crew drove up in a DUKW mounting a multiple rocket launcher. This was a new weapon to the Marines, who observed it with lively interest. To those unable to see the devastating pattern of the rockets' burst, the "whooshing" sound of the discharge sounded rather ridiculous, and everybody laughed, to the considerable mortification of the crew.
The attack formed without haste. On the left, Company A relieved Company B in assault, the latter unit passing into battalion reserve. Then, on signal, the tanks moved out at a footpace, blazing away with their 75's and machine guns to the front and into the flanking jungle. The infantry clustered protectively about them and deployed across the intervals between, the men partially hidden by the coarse waist-to-shoulder-high grass that impeded their progress. The impressiveness of this mighty military spectacle was jarred somewhat by the sudden appearance of a German shepherd dog,
MOMENTARY PAUSE in the Airdrome drive.
evidently a Japanese deserter, who took over as "point" and led the advance, leaping and cavorting happily ahead of the line, to the amusement of the troops who, sensing victory as a fait accompli, were now in high spirits.
The 1st Battalion reached the eastern end of Strip No. 2 at 1755 and commenced setting up a defensive perimeter at once. By then the drenching rain had begun again, accelerating the approach of early dusk. The 3d Battalion had followed the 1st, extended to the left in a futile effort to maintain contact with the sweeping movement of the 5th Marines. Now it moved to the airdrome in turn, extending the perimeter to the westward some 500 yards beyond the strip's center. When the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, arrived at 1925 (see above), it was ordered still farther to the west to bend the perimeter around Strip No. 1 (running roughly north-south) all the way to the beach.
What had become of the Japanese remained a matter for speculation throughout that night. The attack had received only ineffective random fire. A patrol from Company C, scouring the jungle that fringed the beach, flushed a small group of enemy riflemen and destroyed them in a brief fire fight. These, together with two cut-off stragglers killed later trying to break their way out, were the only Japanese actually encountered in the flesh. The day's important gains had cost the assault battalion of the 1st Marines only three men wounded, one of whom subsequently died.
The one thing certain was that the airdrome, major objective of the entire operation, had been secured at amazingly low cost. As a matter of routine the men on the new perimeter were alerted for counterattacks during the night. But none occurred.
Behind the Airdrome
No information gleaned from captured documents or prisoner of war interrogations casts any clear light on what Colonel Sumiya had on his mind that day, or even whether
AN AERIAL VIEW of the airdrome area, looking southeast. Strip No. 2 is in the background and Razorback Ridge is beyond it to the right. (AF Photo.)
he was still alive at this point.25 In view of subsequent events, the best guess is that the colonel, or whoever was then in command, realized the futility of attempting to defend open ground against armor and withdrew his surviving elements to the safest spot in the area for redeployment: probably on or near Razorback Hill.26
The name is descriptive: Razorback Hill, a high, narrow ridgelike formation, its steep slopes grass-covered, constituted the most conspicuous terrain feature27 in the area short of Mt. Talawe. It rose about 1,500 yards behind the airfield some distance west of the 5th Marines main sweep. Patrols from 2d Battalion had explored the lower portion of Razorback on the afternoon of the 29th, where they found enemy positions, but no enemy.28
The morning of 30 December brought quick disillusionment, however, to those Marines who believed that the Japanese had
withdrawn altogether.29 At about 0730 scattered reports sounded from the Talawe foothills, and mortar and light artillery shells began falling in the airdrome area. Two scouts sent out in an effort to locate and guide in the missing 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, encountered 12 Japanese30 at the edge of the prepared defense area which the 2d Battalion had found abandoned the previous afternoon, and discreetly retired after an exchange of shots.
These scouts had moved out from Company F, 5th Marines which had remained in reserve near the eastern end of Strip No. 2. Thinking that they had met merely an outpost or a group of stragglers, they picked up that unit's 3d Platoon, commanded by Lieutenant Henry W. Stankus (brother of the scout lieutenant), and returned to the scene. There they were brought under fire near the top of a small grassy knoll on the edge of dense jungle that cloaked a ravine containing a small stream. Efforts to advance under this cover served only to disclose additional Japanese, while still more appeared to the front. Presently these swarmed out of their protective emplacements and came storming up the knoll, yelling and screaming in their own inimitable manner; repulsed, they crawled back into their holes and commenced shelling the position with mortars, knee mortars and a 75mm battalion field piece.
The Marines, somewhat astonished by such goings-on, called31 for mortar and artillery support of their own. They reported that, according to their best estimates, the enemy had reoccupied the defenses in at least full company strength. The 2d Platoon arrived to reinforce the 3d, and the remainder of Company F moved up within supporting distance.
Captain John B. Doyle, Jr., company CO, now assumed command. He ordered the 2d Platoon into the jungle and across the stream on the left of the position in order to prevent encirclement. Weapons of his machine gun and mortar platoon were put to good use, but the formidability of the enemy bunker system indicated clearly that any substantial advance would require tank support. This was promptly requested. It was not as promptly forthcoming, however, and the Japanese took advantage of the lull to stage another futile banzai charge before retiring underground once more to fight to the death.
By this time Lieutenant Stankus' platoon, which had borne the brunt of the fighting, had lost about half of its effective strength.32 Nevertheless, it attacked behind the first tank that finally arrived, while Lieutenant Edward S. Rust's 2d Platoon attacked from the left of the knoll. Together they swept forward for 300 yards through a prepared defense in depth, methodically knocking out 30 to 4033 bunkers, one containing as many as 13 Japanese, along with their covering foxholes and trenches, mopping up with grenades and automatic weapons.
At about 1130, the fighting ceased in this sector almost as abruptly as it had begun at 0745 in the morning. No more enemy remained to the front; the fortified area had been completely overrun, and Company F set
GREEN Beach Perimeter
up a defensive perimeter beyond it.34 Thus ended the small unit action which came to be known as Nameless Hill.35 The Marines had lost 13 killed and 19 wounded, H. W. Stankus being among the latter. Counted Japanese dead exceeded 150.36
In point of fact, Company F was not so wholly unsupported during this action as the foregoing account might imply. The "lost" 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, search for which had precipitated the fight initially, moved out in column of companies that 30 December morning after futilely attempting to communicate with the regimental command post and 2d Battalion, 5th Marines. It promptly ran into the occupied Japanese positions and just as promptly lost four men killed and six wounded. A fire fight ensued, involving Companies A and B. The entire action cost the 1st Battalion six dead and 12 wounded.
Meanwhile elements of the 3d Battalion, 1st Marines had been committed south of the airdrome as early as 1000. There the first to move out was Captain Carl E. Conron, Jr's, Company I in an effort to flank from the west those Japanese to the front of the 5th Marines. It encountered still more reoccupied enemy positions, especially in another wooded ravine. Company K went to Company I's assistance, and by 1400 Lieutenant Colonel Joseph F. Hankins, battalion CO, had three companies committed across a wide front. With the timely aid of tanks, these overwhelmed the enemy in their area, the survivors withdrawing up the ravine toward Razorback Hill. Vigorous pursuit reached that position before the badly shaken Japanese could consolidate,37 and the attackers' impetus carried them to the summit, thereby capturing a key terrain feature upon which a new and greatly extended perimeter could be oriented.38 This valuable acquisition had cost the battalion only one killed and four wounded.
By 1800 enemy resistance had deteriorated into random sniper fire. In the new enlarged perimeter 1/5 went into position between 3d Battalion, 1st Marines and 2d Battalion, 5th, which had now pushed well forward of Strip No. 1. Whatever doubt might have existed regarding security of the airdrome vanished now. Their prepared defenses overrun, most of their weapons and ammunition captured or destroyed, such Japanese as survived in this area could offer no more than empty gestures. And following the actions of 30 December, they did not even gesture.
As has been noted in passing, an element of the division had effected a secondary landing according to plan on GREEN Beach, between the native villages of Tauali and Sumeru, some miles to the southwest of the airdrome. There, being in a radio dead spot, the commanding officer had been unable to establish direct communication with the division CP throughout D-Day, though able to relay indirect reports by radio via Sixth Army that night.
According to terminology then in use, this force was designated Landing Team 21 (2d Battalion, 1st Marines, Reinforced), coded STONEFACE Group,39 commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James M. Masters, Sr. Its mission was a limited one: to cut the main coastal track, here skirting the western foot of Mt. Talawe, in order to prevent southward withdrawal of the airdrome garrison or its reinforcement by enemy elements known to
be to the east and south; by intensive patrolling to discover and control important subsidiary trails; to create a diversion; and, of course, to destroy any Japanese encountered in the region.
In many respects the initial phases of the GREEN Beach landing might be compared to those on the YELLOW Beaches, scaled down to miniature dimensions. LT 21 carried 20 days rations and six units of fire, embarked in five LCI's, 12 LCT's and 14 LCM's. This rather less than imposing flotilla proceeded apart from the main convoy from Finschhafen through Dampier Strait, escorted by two destroyers and two patrol craft, arriving off Tauali shortly after dawn on 26 December.40
At 0730 the escort vessels opened a prelanding bombardment that lasted 10 to 15 minutes, following which planes from Fifth Air Force strafed the area in advance of the approaching landing craft. The leading assault wave, with Companies E and F in line (left to right), hit the beach41 without encountering any opposition en route or ashore. Moving expeditiously, the landing team had a beachhead established by 0835, and by 1000 had secured all objectives on the proposed perimeter line.
As described in one official report:
The terrain along this part of the west coast of New Britain is quite rugged rising precipitously from the shore line to the peaks of Mt. Talawe, 6,600 feet in height. Steep ravines descend to the sea with frequent small streams along the coast line. The main North and South track follows the coast line but a network of native trails exists throughout the area. The beachhead line selected for defense was about 1,200 yards in length and ran generally along a ridge line covering approaches to the beach and intercepting the coastal track.42
An overlay drawn at the time shows a maximum depth of approximately 500 yards achieved by a narrow salient driven inland along a gorge near the perimeter's northern extremity. (See Map #12.) Defensive positions had been thoroughly dug in and wired and mortars emplaced well before evening.
But if the Marines encountered no Japanese in the flesh, they discovered plenty of evidence of the enemy's recent presence: unoccupied beach positions, facing seaward, contained abandoned rifles, ammunition, packs and supplies. Guessing that the supposed defenders had taken to the hills in face of the bombardment, Colonel Masters ordered patrols out in all directions in an effort to locate them. But the only contact made that day was with a small group "about 1,000 yards north of the beachhead near the village of Sumeru,"43 where a brief fire fight ensued.
Intensive patrolling during the next three days failed to locate any formidable Japanese concentrations but turned up increasing evidence that the enemy was still active in the area and evidently up to something. A patrol operating to the southward made contact on 27 December and again on the 28th, both times engaging in fire fights. On the latter date, two Japanese were surprised and killed on high ground to the east. An investigating patrol discovered both to be officers, equipped with maps and binoculars and evidently engaged in reconnoitering the position.44 Accordingly the troops were alerted for an early attack.
All three rifle companies now manned the perimeter: Company E on the left holding the northern face of the deepest inland salient, Company G in the center holding the nose and southern face of the salient, and Company F on the right. Battery H 11th Marines, unable to emplace its 75mm pack howitzers satisfactorily in the rugged, jungled terrain, had been reorganized as three platoons of infantry, one posted in mobile
reserve behind each front line rifle company.45
In an effort to establish communication with the division command post, a detail with a radio jeep boarded an LCM and moved northward by sea, but was driven off by artillery or mortar fire from Dorf Point before being able to complete its mission. Later, however, LT 21 headquarters discovered it possible to get through direct simply by posting the LCM some 200 yards offshore, and communications operated on a schedule by this method thenceforth.46
Whatever they were up to, the Japanese continued to manifest an almost incongruous lack of security consciousness. On the 28th a three-man Marine patrol operating in front of Company E's sector discovered two of the enemy fast asleep, but almost simultaneously observed the approach of a patrol estimated at about 40 men. The Marines fired into both groups and retired hurriedly toward their own lines, only to stumble a few moments later on an entire Japanese platoon peacefully sleeping beside the trail. Again they fired before resuming their withdrawal, losing one man but killing four of the enemy who were found later buried on the scene. And the following morning another patrol encountered a group of 24 Japanese south of Tauali who, though more or less awake, were advancing with rifles slung and no point or other security measures. In the ensuing rout, the Marines killed three and doubtless wounded many others with no loss to themselves.
This clash proved the last actual contact made during 29 December, the day when the remainder of the 1st Marines and two battalions of the 5th were closing on the airdrome, to the northeast. However, a growing volume of small-arms fire into the GREEN Beach perimeter indicated that the Japanese at least were beginning to overcome their drowsiness, and no one was much surprised by the attack that developed during the hours of darkness the following morning.
This engagement went down in the records as the Battle of Coffin Corner. It began at 0155 on 30 December under cover of the pitch blackness of one of the heavy tropical rainstorms characteristic of that region and season. By means of excellent reconnaissance, the Japanese had discovered the one practicable approach to the defensive positions, and one which permitted employment of their favorite tactic: concentration of force in order to exert maximum pressure against a narrow sector, in this case the nose of the salient in Company G's zone of action. As one participant describes the situation:
The perimeter defense was located on top of steep ridges, the approaches to which were almost perpendicular. But at Coffin Corner, a natural causeway connected the defended ridges with the opposing ridges and the defense line at that particular location came to a point and consequently the defense was handicapped since a rounded front could not be presented.47
The Japanese supported their assault with mortar, machine-gun and small-arms fire, and the Marines replied in kind, at one stage calling down mortar fire 15 yards in advance of the wire. The fighting, though limited in scope, developed to great intensity, the sheer impetus of the enemy's second attack carrying one machine-gun position. Lieutenant Jim G. Paulos led elements of Company G in a savage counterattack that ousted the intruders, supported by Lieutenant James R. Mallon's improvised platoon of H/11, which remained to help man the casualty-depleted line.
Conspicuous throughout the fighting was Gunnery Sergeant Guiseppe Guilano, Jr., of Company H, who hurried about the contact area supplying mobile fire power where most needed by means of a light machine gun cradled in his arms48 and fired from the hip. This gave rise to a possibly apocryphal story which cannot be documented but which many men on the scene will swear is true. Sensing his value, Marines began calling for Guliano
COFFIN CORNER after the battle. (Army Photo.)
by name whenever the pressure became particularly heavy. The imitative Japanese, hearing this somewhat exotic name shouted above the din of battle, apparently concluded that they had discovered a new rallying cry, a sort of American equivalent of "banzai!" Perhaps in an effort to deceive their opponents, or perhaps just for the hell of it, they began prefacing each new assault by screaming at the top of their lungs, "Guilano! Guilano!" thereby bringing the sergeant on the double to the precise point most threatened at the moment without the Marines having to waste their breath.49
The volume of enemy fire commenced to slacken with the approach of dawn, and by 0700 it had ceased altogether. Patrols sent out to mop up any remnants counted 89 dead Japanese in and in front of the lines, six of them officers, and brought in five prisoners. Marine losses were six killed, including one warrant officer, and 17 wounded.
Who were these particular Japanese, and how many did they number? Probably no definite answers will ever be forthcoming.
Interrogation of the prisoners led to identification of elements of the 3d and 4th Companies, 1st Battalion, 53d Infantry. A Japanese probationary officer who surrendered voluntarily a little later estimated the total number of attackers as a mere 116 men, of
whom 50 belonged to the 3d Company, 66 to the 4th.50
Official Japanese sources tend to confirm the supposition that the attackers comprised a conglomerate unit, probably thrown together in an impromptu manner and commanded by the senior officer who had survived up to this point. According to Matsuda Detachment Staff Telegram No. 220:51 "One section of Tsurubu Sector Unit (14th Artillery and 2 Infantry companies) under 1st Lt. Takeda (provisional force formed from Infantry Gun Unit and 1 artillery battery) is attacking the enemy at Tawale [sic] from the area along the Aipati-Laut Road."
The two infantry companies referred to would be the 3d and 4th of the 53d Regiment as identified above, but neither could have been there in its entirety as another source52 definitely places portions of both as fighting in the vicinity of Razorback Hill (called by the Japanese Eboshi Yama) on the same day. Presence of elements of the 14th Field
LVT's were used for supply in all sorts of terrain.
Artillery, also part of the "Tsurubu [airdrome] Sector Unit," might be borne out by the shelling subsequently received by the GREEN Beach position.
If the Japanese attacking force did indeed form along the Aipati-Laut road, this would indicate either that the elements from the airdrome had by-passed the GREEN Beach perimeter successfully despite all precautions, or that those occupying the Tauali-Sumeru area had fled southward in the first place in face of the invasion.53 In any event, such Japanese as survived the Coffin Corner fight clearly had access to the main east-west trail, and no doubt most of them withdrew at leisure to rejoin the vestigial remnants of the "Sumiya Butai" and play their part in the ensuing operations to the eastward (see Chapter VII, footnote 64).
The rest of the GREEN Beach story can be told quite simply. The Japanese made no further major efforts against the perimeter. On 31 December they maneuvered a field piece into position two or three thousand yards away and shelled the beachhead with singular inaccuracy, most of the rounds landing several hundred yards out in the sea. This caused Colonel Masters to order Battery H, 11th Marines, to get its howitzers into action with all dispatch. By means of block and tackle and much back-breaking labor, this unit hauled its 75's up an incline of almost clifflike steepness and emplaced them on the small plateau above. Counterbattery fire silenced the enemy piece the following day, and thereafter H/11 fired support missions for patrols operating beyond the perimeter.
Patrols continued to effect minor contacts throughout the ensuing week. On one or two occasions natives were seen in company with the Japanese, leading to the suspicion that they were aiding the enemy. Thus, when a patrol encountered opposition in the village of Laut, on the main inland trail, the place was first shelled, then burned to the ground, an unfortunate incident since the suspicions later proved unfounded, at least on any considerable scale.
This affair took place on 7 January, and that night a small group of Japanese opened fire on the perimeter in Company F's sector, without important results. These proved the last contacts made by LT 21 which, its basic mission completed, began loading gear and supplies preparatory to evacuation to join the rest of the division.
First physical contact between LT 21 and the main body took place 2 January when Company E, 5th Marines, led by Major C. R. Baker, met a patrol from the STONEFACE Group at Dorf Point. The 2/5 patrol, acting under orders to communicate with Colonel Masters, proceeded to the LT 21 perimeter where it spent the night, returning to the airfield area the next day.
Patrol activity continued through the GREEN Beach occupation, but efforts to locate and explore the main inland trails proved not wholly sucessful. In such dense jungle, this was necessarily a groping, fumbling business, and LT 21 learned early what the rest of the division was to experience on a much broader scale. For the natives' custom of abandoning garden patches for new ones as the soil played out led to a plethora of trails running off in all directions, most of them coming to a dead end in weed-grown clearings, each of which had to be reconnoitered painstakingly in turn before its value could be determined. Thus the Japanese, forearmed with this knowledge, could keep ahead of their pursuers almost at will.
Heavy seas whipped up by the monsoon winds hampered evacuation by water of the wounded and heavy equipment. However, this was completed on 11 January, and the remainder of LT 21 set out on foot for the airdrome area on that date. After spending a rainy night in a kunai patch near the airdrome, the long absent battalion rejoined its parent command, going into position on the inland side of the airfield on the 13th.
The value of the GREEN Beach operation is difficult to appraise, since the Japanese never
put its mission to a test. Possibly their knowledge of the mere presence of LT 21 deterred them from attempting to reinforce the airdrome from the south, but a study of captured Japanese documents indicates that General Matsuda had no such idea in mind but instead ordered the 141st Infantry direct to the Natamo area on the very day of the U.S. landing. Nor did this road block on the coastal track greatly hamper successful withdrawal of the survivors of the airdrome garrison, because of the shorter, if more difficult, trail that skirted the east rather than west shoulder of Mt. Talawe, of which U.S. intelligence knew nothing.
In the final analysis, the men of LT 21 did precisely what was required of them, efficiently and without fuss or wasted energy. And, like so many of those multiple-pronged operations for which General MacArthur's planners seemed to have a penchant, the GREEN Beach operation looked fine on paper.
"Happy New Year"
With the airdrome secured and a strong defensive perimeter established a safe distance beyond it, General Rupertus raised the U.S. flag on an improvised staff above the main strip with simple ceremonies on 31 December. Then, with justifiable pride, he radioed Commanding General, Sixth Army:
First Marine Division presents to you as an early New Year gift the complete airdome of Cape Gloucester. Situation well in hand due to fighting spirit of troops, the usual Marine luck and the help of God . . . Rupertus grinning to Krueger.54
Much had been accomplished more quickly and at smaller cost than anyone would have dared to predict in advance, and the bouquets flew thick and fast. General Krueger expressed himself as "delighted." At his advance headquarters at Port Moresby General Douglas MacArthur, in somewhat more elegant language, presented the airdrome to the people of the United States with his compliments and sent Rupertus the following dispatch:
I extend my heartiest congratulations to your officers and men. I am filled with pride and gratitude
THE FLAG was raised over the airdrome on 31 December 1943 against a backdrop of rain.
by their resourceful determination in capturing Cape Gloucester. Your gallant Division has maintained the immortal record of the Marine Corps and covered itself with glory.55
However, when the Marines took the time to evaluate what they had gained, they found less cause for exuberance. The airdrome was in wretched condition, deeply and profusely cratered from the incessant bombing and shelling, and littered with the remains of 16 wrecked Japanese planes.56 Strip No. 1., the
prewar commercial landing field, had been abandoned to all practical purposes to tall kunai grass.
Personnel of the Army's 1913th Aviation Engineer Battalion began work on the field on 3 January and on the 13th were augmented by the 864th Aviation Engineer Battalion. Using excellent heavy engineering equipment, they started scraping and filling the more promising Strip No. 2, but their early efforts succeeded only in churning up a sea of mud under the incessant torrential rains. The more they scraped, the deeper the level of the strip sank, until it began to assume the aspect of a man-made valley.
The aviation engineers worked energetically in shifts on a 24-hour schedule, but progress was discouraging.57 The Japanese did nothing to help. They still possessed planes on several operational airfields within range, and these came over almost nightly in all but the very worst weather to bomb the captured area. They never attacked in great strength, and the damage and casualties they inflicted were comparatively minor. But signal of Condition Red necessitated a complete blackout and the knocking-off of all work. And often the alert sounded as many as five or six times in a single night.58
Thus, the happy day when the field would become operational still lay in the remote future when the Japanese ushered in the critical year 1944 with still another air raid, and the AA gunners of the 12th Defense Battalion responded with an elegant display of fireworks. Meanwhile, the bombs fell and the rain fell and the shell-shattered trees fell, alike on the just and the unjust. The civilian press correspondents who had accompanied the expedition gratefully poured the water out of their typewriters and caught the first available LST for more hospitable shores.
But in the region of the old YELLOW Beach perimeter, Marines and Japanese gathered their strength for the new and most bitter phase of the fighting both knew to be coming.
1. Except as otherwise noted, the account of operations of this regiment draws mainly on 1st Mar Hist. This excellent and comprehensive document covers the period 15Dec42-30Apr44, and includes a brief over-all account of operations together with more detailed accounts by each of the three battalions plus Regimental H&S and Weapons Companies.
2. An example of discrepancy cited in previous footnote: jump-off hour given by 1st MarDiv SAR and Ruptertus is 0800, evidently derived in both cases from D-2 Journal. Time quoted above is that reported by 3/1 which, being the lead unit, ought to be in the best position to know exactly when the movement began.
3. Flank patrol system described in interview with Maj J. N. Rentz, 4Jan51.
4. 3d Plat, Co A, 1st Tank Bn, operating General Shermans.
5. Other reports describe various types of resistance, but not the units supposed to have encountered it. Several minor prepared road block-beach defense positions were found abandoned and three dual-purpose 75mm guns captured.
6. Actually there was only one full infantry battalion (1/53) in the area, but personnel of attached units brought the total Japanese strength very close to the estimated figure. See Chap IV.
7. Hour quoted by regiment and division report, evidently meaning time order was issued. 3/1, the unit actually in assault, states attack jumped off at 1130.
8. Identified in 1st Mar Hist as 1st Co, 53d Infantry. 1/1 account gives hour of contact as 1145.
9. Ltr Maj Hoyt C. Duncan, Jr., to CMC, 14Mar52.
10. Figure from 1st Mar Hist. One witness disagrees emphatically. "I counted every dead Japanese in the area and counted only 68." Wright.
11. Basically designated 19th Naval Construction Bn, but carried on the T/O then current as 3/17. On drive to the airdrome, B/17 provided close engineer support for 1st Marines while the 3d Bn followed, further improving the road and building the many bridges necessary to get heavy vehicles and tanks across the intersecting streams. (Interview, Cdr. T. A. Woods, 14Mar52, hereinafter cited as Woods; Col H. H. Crockett, comments on prelim script.)
12. As a matter of practicality, the Seabees utilized the timber most readily available. Their proclivity for appropriating telephone poles previously prepared by signal personnel caused frequent complaints. Wismer.
13. The Nambu combines features of light machine gun and automatic rifle and is frequently used as a shoulder weapon.
14. During the two nights that the CP occupied this second position, the bandsmen were supplemented by the Public Relations Section, manning what was probably one of the most expensive two-man security posts on record: two captains, a master sergeant, two technical sergeants and a civilian newspaper correspondent standing four-hour watches. The Japanese proclivity for shooting everybody in sight eliminated the noncombatant from the Pacific war; doctors, medical corpsmen, civilians, even chaplains carried weapons--and used them.
15. A LtCol Nomura, field fortification expert from 8th Area Army, was attached to Matsuda's headquarters and is believed responsible for the well-planned series of prepared positions constructed in depth during this period from Suicide Creek to Aogiri Ridge. 1st MarDiv SAR, Annex A, 57. See Chap VII.
16. The above dispatch was the fourth such request filed by the 1st MarDiv with Sixth Army and was sent only an hour and half after Sixth Army had notified division that CT A was being sent to Gloucester. General Rupertus filed his first request at 1700 D-Day. At 0710 on D-plus 1 a second request was sent and at 0745 a third via CTF-76. At 0900 on D-plus 1 division received a message from Sixth Army that CT A would arrive at 0615 December 28. (1st MarDiv D-3 Journal.) Gen Krueger kept his word, but failure of his orders to reach the combat team commander promptly delayed arrival until the 29th. (Ltr BrigGen J. T. Selden to author, 27Jan51, hereinafter cited as Selden.)
17. As this condition became common throughout the Pacific, Marine defense battalions were reorganized to omit coast defense weapons and redesignated antiaircraft artillery battalions, though retaining their original numerical designations. Thus, following the New Britain operation the unit under discussion became 12th AAA Bn, though retaining most of the same personnel.
18. POW 104. This was misinformation, of course. The 142d was not even on New Britain, and the 141st, ordered up from its positions to the south, was still far beyond striking distance.
19. Accounts differ as to actual time of the landing. The 2d Battalion Record of Events gives the time of landing at YELLOW Beach 2 as 0730, while LtCol W. H. Barba, CO of the 1st Battalion, agrees with Division SAR in setting landing time as 0800. Col Selden estimates it as between 0700 and 0800, but "closer to 0700." LtCol L. W. Walt, CO of the 2d Battalion, who landed at BLUE Beach, states that his unit landed "from 0830 to 1030." Above statements appear in correspondence with these officers early in 1951 on file at Historical Branch, G-3, HQMC.
20. Figure derives from the recorded coordinates of Col Walt's CP at the time of the jump off. 2/5 RofE, 29Dec43; 11th Mar Observers Report.
21. "The swamp which Whaling had informed me was only a few inches deep turned out to be anything but. Advancing with Walt at the head of his Bn, we soon found that it was a sizeable body of water, which slowed our advance considerably, the water varying in depth from a few inches to 4 and 5 feet, making it quite hard for some of the youngsters who were not much more than 5 feet in height." Selden.
22. "It was nightfall before the last elements of the 1st Battalion cleared the swamp and the rain forest. In other words, had the 2d Battalion waited for the 1st Battalion to . . . get into position for a coordinated attack, it would have been nightfall before such an attack could have jumped off." (Written statement Col W. H. Barba to HistDiv. HQMC, 24 Mar51.)
23. "This show of air might was a great sight to behold and added a boost to the attackers' morale, if it accomplished nothing more." Wright.
24. Co C was on right, Co B echeloned to left rear. (LtCol N. S. Stevenson, comments on prelim script.)
25. No evidence has turned up to indicate that Sumiya played any part commensurate with his rank in subsequent operations, and prisoners of war disagreed as to his survival. However, some captured documents continued to designate the surviving elements of the airdrome garrison the "Sumiya Butai."
26. ATIS 754, 7: Matsuda Det Staff Telegram No. 220.
27. This elevation was not conspicuous from the air, however, appearing in the photographs as a small kunai patch. For this reason it was not accurately plotted on the contour maps issued to the assault troops.
28. Col L. W. Walt, comments on prelim script, hereinafter cited as Walt.
29. The following version of this action derives mainly from report by CO 2/5 to R-3, 5th Mar, hereinafter cited Walt Rpt, copy appearing in 2/5 RofE. This has been supplemented and amended by comments on preliminary draft submitted to CMC by Maj H. W. Stankus, Maj J. S. Stankus and Maj J. B. Doyle, cited thus herein.
30. "Stankus and Kubash walked right into the Jap bivouac and surprised a group of Japs who were just getting up out of the grass and dusting out ponchos." J. S. Stankus.
31. PlSgt Clark Kaltenbaugh of the R-2 Section had accompanied the patrol on impulse, bringing with him an SCR 636 portable radio familiarly known as a "spam can." This proved invaluable in obtaining quick support, for the platoon's heaviest weapons, bazookas, proved ineffective against bunkers of the sort encountered owing to the failure of the shells to detonate in the soft earthen cover.
32. "The 3d Platoon was down to about 50% effectives, while the newly arrived 2d Platoon received several casualties from the last enemy onslaught." H. W. Stankus.
33. Walt Rpt. Doyle revises this downward to 10 to 15.
34. Co F was relieved in this position by 1st Mar elements about 1400 and rejoined its parent regiment west of the airdrome.
35. From a widely published press dispatch by a Marine combat correspondent, TSgt Asa Bordages, who was himself among the wounded.
36. Doyle estimates 60 to 70.
37. Company K's fight up Razorback Hill was supported by machine gun fire from 1/5's Company A, the guns firing on the retreating Japanese as they made their way up the hill. (Maj Richard Nellson, written statement to Historical Division, HQMC, 17 Apr51.)
38. "I arrived on the top of Razor Back with artillery FO Team at about 1700 and was able to bring some fire to bear on the retreating Japanese." LtCol G. E. Bowdoin, comments on prelim script, hereinafter cited as Bowdoin.
39. For details of composition of STONEFACE Group, see Appendix VII.
40. 1st MarDiv SAR, II, 1. Except as otherwise cited, the following account derives from this source, plus 1st Mar Hist.
41. This was the more northerly of the two beaches scouted by Lts Bradbeer and Fournier on 21 December as described in Chap III. (1stMarDiv Recon Patrols G-2 Reports; 1st MarDiv SAR, Annex A.)
42. 1st MarDiv SAR, II, II, 1, 2.
43. Ibid. Location given is puzzling, as overlay shows Sumeru a scant 100 yards beyond north flank of perimeter across a small stream. 1st Mar Hist makes no mention of this incident.
44. Maj T. R. Galysh, comments on preliminary script, hereinafter cited as Galysh.
45. Ibid. Maj Galysh, then captain, commanded H/11 at this time.
48. "The following morning I saw Guilano's arms taped up as a result of burns received while carrying a hot machine gun around." Ibid.
49. "[Guilano] fired for about ten minutes until I pulled him down--he was a perfect target and I needed him . . . [Japs] made four attacks. They were in our front position in the second." (Lt J. J. Paulos, comments on prelim script.)
50. POW 112. This man had been suffering a severe attack of malaria for several days and was too ill to participate in the assault, for which reason he lacked accurate on-the-scene knowledge.
51. Contained in ATIS 754, 7. Copy of document found is undated, but internal evidence indicates that it was issued on 30 December.
52. POW 110.
53. Belief prevailed among the Marines at the time that the enemy force was that assigned to man the prepared beach defenses in the first place but had been caught absent on other business by the landing; hence, was forced to attack in order to carry out its original mission. Galysh.
54. 1st MarDiv SAR, II, 13.
55. D-3 Journal, 31Dec43, 2.
56. The planes included 3 NICKS, a type of 2-place fighter which had never before been captured; 3 SONIA dive bombers; 2 BETTY medium bombers; 1 HELEN medium bomber; 1 VAL dive bomber; 1 HAMP fighter; 2 NELL medium bombers, and 3 OSCAR fighters. A 17th plane, well hidden in the jungle's edge, escaped damage and was captured in operational condition. This was a new and superior type of fighter known as a TONY, the first such to be taken and hence of great intelligence value. Owing to the unserviceable condition of the strips, it could not be flown out and was disassembled for shipment.
57. Early in January amphibian tractors were used to crush the kunai grass on Strip No. 1 sufficiently to permit operation of the commanding general's light Beechcraft and the division's little Cub observation planes.
58. Elaborate plans of the avation engineers appeared unrealistic in view of local conditions. Offer of the Seabees (3/17) to contribute their know-how to the enterprise was declined. Woods. The field did not become serviceable until the arrival of steel matting and discovery of a rich deposit of red volcanic scoria that proved excellent surfacing material. It did not become fully operational until shortly before the Japanese evacuated their air strength from Rabaul, and played no important part in the operation.
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