At about 0400, 15 June 1944, the landing force, readying itself aboard ships for the supreme test, received an anxiously awaited report: that of the underwater demolition teams. These had accomplished their dangerous mission on D-minus 1 under cover of naval gunfire. Their report cleared up many points: the reef itself offered no obstacles, natural or artificial, to a crossing by our amphibious vehicles; the depth of the water in the lagoon1 was a little greater than had been expected; no mines had been found on the reef, or in the lagoon; tanks could be landed on the reef, although a path to the beach was undetermined; the beach was organized throughout the landing area with an occasional pillbox and many trenches; and mobile artillery was observed shifting into position.
Generally the report was not too disappointing. The presence of tetrahedron obstacles and barbed wire on the reef would have complicated the landing. From the reports received there was no cause to alter plans. One factor, not revealed in reports of underwater demolition teams, which later complicated the ship-to-shore movement; mortar and artillery registration flags on the reef and in the lagoon. These markers, which enabled the enemy to place accurate fire on assault waves, could be plainly seen on the morning of 15 June even from ships many thousands of yards off shore. It is possible, since underwater demolition teams made no mention of them, that the flags were placed after the teams' 14 June reconnaissance.2
Transport Groups A and B, with portions of General Watson's 2d Marine Division and General Schmidt's 4th Marine Division embarked3 moved into position in the transport area 18,000 yards offshore of Charan Kanoa at 0520. Aboard the Rocky Mount,4 Admiral Turner's
flagship, was General Holland M. Smith and his Expeditionary Troops staff. With Admiral Hill (Turner's second-in-command) aboard the Cambria was General Erskine and the NTLF Staff.
Silhouetted in the hazy east was Mount Tapotchau and the rocky hills which form the island's spiny backbone. As light improved, the town of Charan Kanoa and the reef channel opposite its pier could be discerned. To the north was the island capital--Garapan. Farther north at Tanapag Harbor were several beached, half-sunken, smoking ships--the results of the preparatory air and naval gunfire bombardment. Also in Tanapag Harbor was tiny, fortified Maniagassa Island.
Fire support ships were climaxing efforts of previous days to destroy enemy installations. Off Tanapag Harbor, Transport Divisions 10 and 30 proceeded to their assigned area. These two transport divisions, with the 2d and 24th Marines and the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, embarked, composed the Demonstration Group which was to conduct the diversion off beaches northeast of Tanapag Harbor.5
At 0542, Admiral Turner ordered, "Land the Landing Force." H-Hour was set for 0830. Aboard all ships, everything was ready. A substantial breakfast had been nervously devoured; guns and winches were manned, boats being lowered, hatches cleared, troops were alert and keyed to the occasion. The day was clear--there would be no serious trouble with the weather.
Shortly after 0700, the LST Flotilla was in position in its area about 1,250 yards in rear of the line of departure. After troops and LVT's were debarked, most of the LST's (except the three designated as hospital ships) were to retire to seaward until again needed. There were 34 LST's carrying the assault elements of the 2d and 4th Marine Divisions in position nearest the line of departure. Slightly behind them were eight LST's with both divisions' artillery, two LST's with the antiaircraft artillery, and two LST's with XXIV Corps Artillery embarked. Two Landing Ships Dock (LSD's),6 carrying tanks in Landing Craft Mechanized (LCM's), were in rear of each division's beach.
Control vessels with Marine and Navy representatives embarked moved to their assigned positions. All vessels flew flags to designate the beach approaches over which they would exercise control. A special control vessel was designated to handle traffic in the narrow channel that existed in the reef near Charan Kanoa (off Green 3).7
Since dawn, naval gunfire support ships had hurled salvo upon salvo at Saipan. At 0730, Admiral Hill (Commander Task Group 52.2) assumed control of Fire Support Unit One (TU 52.17.1), in order that fires on the selected beaches would be coordinated by the officer in command of the landing itself.8 In addition to the ships of the previous day, the six destroyers of Fire Support Units Two and Three delivered screening fires on the Charan Kanoa beaches as they escorted tractor groups into position. (See Map 6.) Tractor Group Able, which consisted of the LST's carrying assault elements of the 2d Marine Division, was escorted by Fire Support Unit Three (TU 52.17.3, commanded by Captain Harry B. Jarrett, USN); Tractor Group Baker, transporting assault elements of the 4th Marine Division, was escorted by Fire Support Unit Two (TU 52.17.2, Commander Phillip H. Fitzgerald, USN). On bombardment stations by 0800, these two task units delivered intense fires on the landing beaches, close to the waterline.9
Fire Support Units One and Four, commencing at dawn, continued their fires against Saipan's west coast, with particular emphasis on the points which dominated landing beaches.
Fire Support Dispositions
in Close Support of
Agingan Point felt the impact of Tennessee's 14-inch shells; Afetna Point was shattered with a variety of shells: 14-inch from California, 8-inch from Louisville and 6-inch from Birmingham; Mutcho Point and Maniagassa Island were pounded by 16-inch shells from Maryland. Affording the enemy positions from which to direct enfilade fire against our landing waves, these areas rightfully received much attention. But, even with this volume of fire, enemy troops and guns remained in action in these areas.
Fire Support Unit Five concentrated its efforts on Saipan's extreme northeastern tip, while Units Six and Seven fired counterbattery missions against Tinian.
At H-Hour minus 90 minutes, all naval gunfire lifted and air operations began; first a bombing strike, then a strafing attack. As planes retired after pounding the islands for 30 minutes, warships again picked up the preparation.10
Admiral Joy's Fire Support Unit Eight (TU 52.10.8), which had bided its time and protected Unit Six during the 14 June preparation, assumed the starring role from H-minus 60 to H-minus 30 minutes. After exchanging jobs with Unit Six, Admiral Joy's ships focused enfilading fire on the Charan Kanoa beaches and frontal fire into a spur extending southwestward from Aslito Airfield toward Cape Obiam. This spur was the site of 11 Japanese installations, ranging from a command post to dual-purpose guns. The pall of smoke and dust which cloaked the island made damage assessment impossible.11
At H-minus 30 minutes, the Red, Green, Blue and Yellow Beaches were subjected to renewed hammering by Fire Support Units One, Two and Three. (See Map 7 for fire support dispositlons in close support of D-Day landings.) Tennessee pumped 100 high-capacity 14-inch shells into the Blue and Yellow Beaches, California fired the same number into the Red and Green Beaches; Afetna Point, dangerous because it separated the two divisions' beaches and a potential thorn in the sides of both divisions, received 450 high-capacity 6- and 8-inch shells from Birmingham and Indianapolis.12
Interesting in connection with the dispositions of supporting ships for the landings is Admiral Turner's comment that "this was the first time the Close Support firing vessels had been anchored, or stopped, very close to the beaches, to shoreward of the Line of Departure. There were eleven Close Support vessels, whose average distance from the beach was 2,500 yards. . . ."13
The area near the line of departure showed greater activity as control vessels, guide boats, and 24 light gunboats (LCI(G)'s) nosed into position. These latter craft were scheduled to precede the first landing waves as far as the reef, firing their 4.5-inch rockets and 20 and 40mm guns at point-blank range onto the beach. Armored amphibians, constituting the first wave, would provide fire support for troop-carrying LVT's from the reef to the beach and thereafter would execute fire missions as required. Farther out, hundreds of landing vehicles circled dizzily as boat waves organized.14
At 0753, Admiral Turner ordered a delay of H-Hour from 0830 to 0840 to allow boat waves more time to complete formation.15
It had been estimated that the 4,000-yard run from the line of departure to the beach would take about 27 minutes. Shortly after 0800, the central control vessel hoisted its signal for the 24 LCI(G)'s to head for the beach with guns blazing. Excitement mounted at 0812, when flags were hauled down (or "executed") from yardarms. This was the signal, like a nod of confidence, for the first wave of amphibian vehicles to head full-speed for the beach. At short intervals, the remaining assault waves roared beachward.
Off Tanapag Harbor, meanwhile, the Demonstration Group, consisting of the 2d Marines,
the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, and the 24th Marines, was executing its feint. The diversion was afforded realism by supporting naval gunfire from Fire Support Unit Four (TU 52.17.4) as landing craft approached the beach to within 5,000 yards, circled for a few minutes, wheeled about, and returned to their ships. Troops were not embarked in boats for the feint, although personnel of the 2d Marines' regimental intelligence section went along as observers.16 Boats were hoisted in at about 0920, and an hour later the transports arrived in their assigned area off the Charan Kanoa beaches. Intelligence reports later indicated that the Demonstration Group, by remaining a constant threat from before H-Hour until sometime thereafter, effectively contained at least one Japanese regiment--the 135th Infantry--in the northern area. Landing craft drew no fire during the feint, and no activity was observed on the shore. There is no indication that the 135th Infantry suffered more than light casualties from the naval gunfire in support of the demonstration.17
Soon after the first wave of the real landing started for the beach, a few rounds of enemy artillery fell in the area of the line of departure. Any hope that the Japanese defenders would be reduced to the status of shell-shocked ineffectives was hastily dispelled. As leading LVT's approached shore, the volume of naval gunfire decreased--main battery fires lifted when landing vehicles were 1,000 yards off the beach, 5-inch fire at 300 yards. At Afetna Point, between the two divisions, however, 6- and 8-inch fire of Birmingham and Indianapolis continued until the last possible moment.
From the time the leading wave approached to within 800 yards from the shore and lasting until the first craft landed, beach areas
TROOP-CARRYING LVT's, here churning toward the shore. Ability of these vehicles to climb over the reef and move directly to the beach obviated the necessity of troops wading ashore from the reef.
were subjected to intense, almost constant, strafing attacks. For this mission, Carrier Support Groups One and Two each furnished 24 fighter aircraft (VF) and 12 torpedo bombers (VT), those of the former group flying against 2d Division beaches (Red and Green) and those of the latter against 4th Division beaches (Blue and Yellow). Direction of these attacks was west to east, perpendicular to the beaches, available planes being organized into divisions of eight fighters and four torpedo bombers each. The latter, each carrying a full 5-inch rocket load, followed the fighters on the first pass at the beach, firing all rockets at that time. In addition to rocket loads, torpedo bombers of Carrier Support Group One each carried ten 100-pound bombs. As landing craft approached to within 100 yards of the beaches, strafers moved their points of aim inland, so as to maintain a minimum safety interval of 100 yards at all times.18
Little difficulty was experienced by the assault waves proceeding as far as the reef. But, beginning there, the enemy commenced placing automatic weapons, antiboat, artillery and mortar fire on the approaching LVT's. These fires increased in intensity with the 2d, 3d, and 4th waves.19 Terrifying, indeed, was the sound of enemy shells bursting around the amtracs, particularly the high-angle shells which whistled ominously at the bobbing targets. And the Marines, clustered in these "sitting ducks," hoped or prayed that none of the shells would find its intended mark. Some, however, did.
Those few curious individuals who felt impelled to peer over the ramps of the LVT's on the way to the beach were greeted with the uninviting spectacle of parched sand clutching partially uprooted shrubs and small trees. Through occasional holes in the dirty blanket of smoke and dust, the battered escarpment backing the beaches could be seen. Most of the Marines were content to crouch low in the amtracs, preferring to contemplate Saipan in
8,000 TROOPS AND 700 LVT's beached in the first 20 minutes at Saipan. Resulting congestion on certain beaches provided excellent targets for those enemy mortars and artillery pieces not silenced by United States naval gun-fire and air strikes.
terms of brightly colored maps, transparent overlays, and bold blue arrows.
The first wave, comprised of the 2d Armored Amphibian Battalion and the Army's 708th Amphibian Tank Battalion began firing their weapons about 300 yards from the beach. Some troop-carrying tractors, because of their superior speed, crossed in front of the armored amphibians between the reef and the beach, masking their fire. Of the 68 armored ainphibians which preceded the 2d Division, three were disabled before reaching the beach, and 28 more were disabled between the beach and the tractor control line,20 200-500 yards inland.21
Though some of the LVT's were hit in the water, the majority churned slowly onward. At about 0843, men of the 6th and 8th Marines of the 2d Division and the 23d and 25th Marines of the 4th Division hit the beach and immediately came under intense mortar and artillery fire. All units suffered heavily. There was no hesitation, however; the Marines were well oriented, and the attack moved forward. Within 20 minutes, 700 LVT's and 8,000 troops were ashore. Many leaders were hit, but their responsibilities were rapidly assumed by their immediate subordinates. Shells showered on the beach.22
On the left, the 2d Marine Division's landing tended north of its assigned beaches (see Map 8). This error was partially the fault of the Navy boat guide officers responsible for guiding craft to correct beaches.23 Much of the difficulty, however, occurred between reef (where guide boats were forced to stop) and beach. Extremely heavy fire, registering on the southern approaches to the Green Beaches, caused landing vehicles to veer to the north to escape it. Another reason for the shift in landing was the northern drift of the current within the lagoon, which markedly affected the course of the amphibian vehicles. Troop passengers aboard LVT's did their best to correct the situation by encouraging the drivers to bear to the right, but their efforts were unsuccessful.
The fact that this northerly current was unexpected is worthy of closer examination. At first glance it would appear that this condition should have been noted by the underwater demolition teams in their 14 June reconnaissance. That they did not is explained by the fact that their observations had been made under different tidal conditions, at a different time of day, and with a smooth sea.
Lieutenant Colonel Henry P. Crowe's 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, scheduled to land on Green 2, landed instead on Green 1. The 3d Battalion, 8th Marines (Lieutenant Colonel John C. Miller, Jr.) also landed on Green 1, with resultant dangerous and unfortunate massing of troops. The two assault battalions of the 6th Marines (the 2d, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Raymond L. Murray, and the 3d, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John W. Easley), scheduled to land on Beaches Red 2 and 3, landed about 400 yards north of their assigned beaches--more nearly on Red 1 and 2. All four assault battalion commanders of the 2d Marine Division became casualties during
the early hours of the battle. Despite loss of leaders, confusion, and mixing of units, Marines moved out on their assigned missions.24
The 4th Division, on the right, landed on its assigned beaches. From right to left, the assault battalions were: 1st Battalion, 25th Marines (Lieutenant Colonel Hollis U. Mustain), 2d Battalion, 25th Marines (Lieutenant Colonel Lewis C. Hudson), on the Yellow Beaches; 2d Battalion, 23d Marines (Lieutenant Colonel Edward J. Dillon), 3d Battalion, 23d Marines (Lieutenant Colonel John J. Cosgrove), on the Blue Beaches. (See Map 8.) It had been planned, and hoped, that Marines in the first waves might stay aboard their LVT's and continue inland to the O-1 line, where they would debark and form a beachhead perimeter. Several troop-carrying LVT's, acting independently or in small groups, carried out this assigned mission.
On the left of the 4th Division, in the 3d Battalion, 23d Marines' zone, the armored LVT's, in some cases, did not proceed inland but, rather, committed themselves to unnecessary fire fights in the streets of Charan Kanoa. This situation caused troop-carrying LVT's of the 2d and 3d waves some delay, until several detoured the engaged LVT(A)'s and moved inland.
The problem was altogether different on the division right. In the zone of the 1st Battalion, 25th Marines, troops were forced by a prohibitory fusillade of frontal and enfilade fire to debark at the water's edge.
The division's two center battalions experienced similarly-varied situations. While nearly half the 2d Battalion, 25th Marines, was carried 500 to 700 yards inland prior to debarkation, most of the 2d Battalion, 23d Marines, was stopped and forced to debark only 100 to 200 yards inland.
All along the shallow beachhead, enemy artillery fire took a heavy toll. Although impossible to locate the source of this fire or to judge accurately its caliber, it now appears that it issued from the guns of Lieutenant Colonel Nakashima's 3d Independent Artillery Regiment, firing from positions in the vicinity of Tsutsuuran (behind Hill 500 and some 5,000 yards east of Charan Kanoa). In the words of the 4th Division action report: ". . . its intensity never varied in the slightest amount."25
Even as late as arrival of the 6th wave, a persistent Japanese light machine gun emplaced on the left center of Beach Blue 2 chattered at the men of the 2d Battalion, 23d Marines, as they landed. The reason that this weapon remained in action after so many Marines were ashore is that the gunners became silent and hid when troops actually hit the beach and remained so until the next wave came into range. Lieutenant Colonel Dillon, commanding the 2d Battalion, 23d Marines, finally observed this weapon firing on one of his waves and ordered an LVT(A) of the Army's 708th Amphibian Tank Battalion to destroy it. The LVT(A) proved equal to the task, and no more difficulty was experienced from that particular source.26
RED Beach Action
On the Red Beaches, the 2d and 3d Battalions of the 6th Marines encountered stiff resistance and suffered heavy losses in personnel and equipment. Debarkation at or near the shore was necessitated by heavy resistance and unavailability, in some cases, of routes of egress from the beach. Those few LVT's successful in running the gauntlet of fire and finding a route from the beaches were soon stopped by rocks or swamps beyond. As a matter of fact, the 2d Division had never contemplated movement to O-1 aboard LVT's (as had the 4th Division), so this represented no variation between plan and execution.27
ON THE DOUBLE this Marine crosses an open, fire-swept area to join his comrades in expanding the shallow beachhead during early hours of the battle. Dud in foreground is one United States naval shell which did no good at Saipan.
After landing, the 6th Regiment could force only a shallow, 75 to 100 yard beachhead across the coastal road. Company F of the 2d Battalion already had elements on the O-1 line, however, because this unit had landed north of its assigned beach at a point that coincided with O-1. Between Company F (along the beach) and Company E existed a gap which was subsequently filled by Company I of the 3d Battalion.
The normal difficulties attendant to the establishment of a beachhead were multiplied in the 6th Marines' area by shell explosions from several burning LVT(A)'s nearby. These crippled vehicles, hit as they crawled onto the beach, were particularly troublesome to the 2d Battalion on the left flank and to the wounded men lying on the beach awaiting evacuation. Many of the latter were hit again by the exploding shells.
At 1000, Colonel James P. Riseley, commanding
15 June 1944
the 6th Marines, landed and commenced establishment of his command post near the center of Beach Red 2. Entrenching tools were no more than poised for serious digging when 15 to 25 Japanese charged down the beach from the north, striking into the congested beach area occupied by the regimental command post, rear installations of the 2d Battalion, and the wounded. This enemy force represented either a group that had been by-passed or, more likely, a group that had filtered through the gap between Companies E and F. The Marines quickly rallied to the somewhat unexpected outbreak, established a firing line, and annihilated the Japanese force.
Coincidental with this thrust, an enemy tank near the water's edge, previously considered abandoned, suddenly came to life and opened devastatingly upon the LVT's carrying the 6th Marines' reserve, Lieutenant Colonel William K. Jones' 1st Battalion. With unerring accuracy the tank gunner scored 37mm hits upon several LVT's, including one carrying members of the battalion staff. The Japanese gunner could enjoy his choice targets only briefly, however; Marines ashore quickly converged bazooka and antitank grenade fire upon the vehicle and permanently silenced it. Jones' battalion, weathering its warm reception after losing many key personnel, landed on Beach Red 2 at about 1040.28
Amid the shells and confusion at Red Beach, it was difficult for Colonel Riseley to determine the battle's progress. From reports, it appeared that his right assault battalion (the 3d) was having difficulty maintaining momentum. Staff casualties were high; the 3d Battalion commander (Lieutenant Colonel Easley), Bn-2, Bn-3, Bn-4 and Assistant 81mm Mortar Platoon Leader were all hit early. Colonel Easley, though wounded, retained command of the battalion until the following morning, when he was evacuated. These critical losses, plus many additional ones incurred from grazing machine-gun fire as the unit moved inland, caused Colonel Riseley to order the 1st Battalion to pass through Easley's lines and continue the attack toward the first high ground inland (designated as O-1).
Staff casualties were not reserved for the 3d Battalion alone. At 1400, the 2d Battalion command post received a direct hit from a Japanese mortar shell, injuring Major Howard J. Rice, who had taken over the unit when Lieutenant Colonel Murray was wounded. An observer, Lieutenant Colonel William A. Kengla, took command pending the arrival of Major Leroy P. Hunt, Jr., at 1600.
The enemy machine guns, so troublesome to the 3d Battalion, could not be located. The terrain, flat or gently rolling, was ideal for long-range grazing fire and the smoke and confusion made it difficult to discern the fire's origin. The enemy's frequent changes of position further complicated the task. Probably nothing was so frustrating as receiving fire from an "invisible" foe--yet that was the normal situation throughout the operation.
When passed through by the 1st Battalion, the 3d would become regimental reserve. No sooner had the passage been accomplished, however, than a potentially dangerous gap was reported between the 6th Marines' right and the 8th Marines' left--caused by the incorrect landing--and Companies K and L of the 3d Battalion were ordered to fill it. Even with the advent of these two companies, however, the gap was not filled, although it was possible to cover the area by fire. Fortunately, the Japanese had not located this vulnerable point. By late afternoon, all companies of all three battalions of the 6th Marines were in the lines.
The regiment's advance up the gently-rising ground towards O-1 could not proceed at a rapid pace without presenting contact difficulties with the 8th Marines, since the two regiments were necessarily diverging in their directions of attack.29 Fighting an enemy adept in infiltration tactics, emphasis constantly had to be given to the maintenance of contact. A weak spot located by the enemy might well have been a weak spot exploited.
GREEN Beach and Afetna Point
The landing of the 2d and 3d Battalions, 8th Marines, on the same beach (Green 1) demanded that the 2d Battalion spend the greater portion of D-Day fighting to secure the beach on which it should have landed. The 2d Battalion's difficult scheme of maneuver required Company G to attack south along the beach toward Afetna Point and the other two companies (E and F) to fan out to the southeast. This caused a wide dispersion as each company set out for its assigned objective from the point of landing.
Company G, moving through the sand dunes along the beach, met strong resistance in the form of a series of mutually supporting pillboxes (normally housing 37 or 47mm guns) covered by riflemen in open trenches. Individual Japanese actually charged from foxholes with bayonet or sword to contest Company G's advance. For its task of seizing Afetna Point, this company had been supplied with weapons unusual to combat: shotguns. The reason for this becomes apparent when it is realized that the unit was attacking straight towards the 4th Marine Division's left flank, making a short-range weapon (and one with a wide dispersion pattern) desirable. (See Map 9.) The entire 8th Marines' supply of shotguns was allotted to Company G, making available about one shotgun per two Marines. Men thus armed also carried their normal weapons for later use. The shotguns, generally, worked well; particularly against sword-wielding opponents, but some difficulty was experienced because most of the cartridge jackets were made of cardboard rather than metal. The cardboard-jacketed cartridges often became misshapen in the sea air, and would not enter shotgun chambers.30
Every yard of Company G's advance toward Afetna Point was hotly contested. Since it was moving with its left flank along the small Charan Kanoa airstrip, Japanese riflemen assumed positions on the eastern side of the strip and fired into that flank, making the most of the flat, open terrain. These remained in position until knocked out by the Marines' 60mm mortars or machine guns.
Attached combat engineers, with their flamethrowers, bazookas and demolitions, were invaluable in destroying enemy pillboxes. In several instances, Marines of Company G came upon Japanese in pillboxes firing to seaward at boats carrying in reserves and supporting weapons. Despite imminent danger to themselves, the Japanese often continued these fires rather than turn their weapons upon the Marines. This Japanese devotion to their assigned mission made it possible for Company G to work around to the rear or blind side of the pillbox, move in, and destroy. But progress was slow and costly. Almost every sand dune on the point turned out to be an enemy installation, with very-much-alive Japanese inside, this in spite of the tremendous tonnage of shells thrown into the area by naval supporting vessels.
Seizure of Afetna Point was important for another reason than denying the enemy excellent positions for enfilading our landing craft, possession of the point would make Beach Green 3 available for landing of the tanks of both divisions. Because of an open channel of Green 3, LCM's carrying tanks could proceed directly to the beach without crossing the troublesome reef that fenced all other beaches. Once through the channel the craft could either move straight in to Green 3 or fan out to the north or south and put the tanks ashore wherever it was desired. The same channel could also be used for logistical purposes after tanks were ashore. As will be seen, however, Afetna Point proved more of a headache than expected, and the tanks had to land by a much more difficult method.
While Company G struggled southward through the sand dunes, Companies E and F, 8th Marines, pushed inland, the latter unit roving across Susupe swamp. Upon discovering that no friendly forces were anywhere near, however, Company F pulled back to the western side of the swamp. An interesting
The Capture of Afetna Point
incident arose from this minor excursion: an enterprising Japanese soldier somehow correctly identified the Marine company and its location; but, after plotting his information on a rough but readable sketch, he robbed himself of almost-earned glory by losing the sketch (and probably his life). The sketch was picked up, or off, by an equally-enterprising Marine from Company F and turned in for intelligence processing.31
Since the 3d Battalion landed on its correct beach, no change in the unit's attack plans was necessitated, and its objective was reached on time. Colonel Clarence R. Wallace, commanding the 8th Marines, landed between Beaches Green 1 and 2 at about 0945. This placed him and his regimental command post in the front lines for a period of a few minutes as Company G struggled southward toward Afetna Point.
At 0950, the 1st Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence C. Hays, Jr.), in regimental reserve, was ordered to land. Once ashore, Company B was attached to the 2d Battalion and immediately committed on Company G's left flank, relieving that unit of further flank worries as it battled toward Afetna Point. The other two companies (A and C), committed between the 2d and 3d Battalions, attacked to the eastward into the swamp which ran from Lake Susupe to the vicinity of the radio station. Before they were halfway through the thigh-deep muck, lengthening shadows of late afternoon forced an abandonment of the swamp crossing. Colonel Hays then pulled his battalion back to better defensive (and more comfortable) terrain on the west edge of the swamp.32
Early in the afternoon, the division reserve, 1st Battalion, 29th Marines33 (Lieutenant Colonel Guy E. Tannyhill), which had participated in the Tanapag demonstration, landed and was attached to the 8th Marines. Company B of this battalion was ordered to fill a gap which had developed in the zone of the 2d Battalion, 8th Marines. Owing to lack of knowledge of the terrain and the absence of guides, however, Company B ended up in the wrong area.
It remained, then, for Company A, 29th Marines, to fill the gap. Darkness was falling by the time the unit got started, and the Marines experienced difficulty maintaining direction. About halfway to its assigned sector, Company A was immobilized by a thundering barrage of Japanese artillery fire. By this time, however, Company B had located its originally-assigned position, and it was discovered that Company A would not be needed. The latter, therefore, holed up for the night as a reserve, along with other uncommitted units of the battalion.
That units could sustain casualties without actually participating in more than "gap-filling" operations is evidenced by the fact that the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, suffered about 30--mainly from Japanese artillery fire--during the day.34
YELLOW Beach and Agingan Point
In the meanwhile, the 4th Marine Division had its own share of trouble. The situation on both flanks was causing great concern. At the end of the first hour, the 1st Battalion, 25th Marines, on the right flank, had clawed but 12 yards of beach depth in a situation differing little from Tarawa. Because many LVT's of the 773d Amphibian Tractor Battalion left the beach before the unloading of anything but personnel could be accomplished, the battalion was desperately short of communication equipment for three days. The dependable SCR 300's, however, filled the bill until replacement gear arrived. The hasty departure of the LVT's was apparently occasioned by enemy artillery and mortar fire which hammered the congested beach areas. This was no comfort to the fighting men on the beach. Not only was the shortage of communications gear felt, but some
mortars and machine guns, together with ammunition for them, were still aboard when the LVT's pulled out.
Heavy flank resistance from Agingan Point and the sparsely-wooded beach area to the south, coupled with frontal fighting, produced extremely heavy casualties on the 1st Battalion, 25th Marines. Agingan Point was a honeycomb of Japanese installations, originally constructed to fire to sea but capable of bringing flanking fire to bear against troops on shore. At 0930, the enemy attempted a counterattack from the direction of Agingan Point, and small groups of Japanese were observed moving over the ridge on the right flank of the O-1 line. Lieutenant Colonel Mustain, the 1st Battalion's commander, immediately called for an air strike on these targets. Within five minutes, a bombing and strafing attack was delivered, achieving good coverage of the area although it was impossible to judge results. Fires of the battleship Tennessee were invaluable in keeping the Japanese off balance in their efforts to push the 1st Battalion into the water. Mustain requested that tank support be provided his battalion as soon as possible, as well as an additional rifle company from the reserve battalion (the 3d).
Playing havoc with the 1st Battalion efforts to get reorganized into an effective fighting body were at least four direct fire artillery pieces (about 75mm) emplaced on the high ground 800 yards inland. For these Japanese gunners a movement by three or four Marines was a sufficient target; and they made the most of their excellent observation. It was apparent to all hands that the situation would not be relieved until the high ground had been seized, although naval gunfire and air were proving helpful.35
On Mustain's left, the 2d Battalion fared somewhat better, although mortar and artillery fire rained mercilessly upon them. The terrain in the 2d Battalion's sector afforded very little cover or concealment, and the unit sought the best solution to the problem by moving inland as rapidly as possible. About half the assault Marines of this battalion were carried to a railroad embankment (500-700 yards inland) prior to debarkation from LVT's. Until it reached there, the battalion was subjected to frontal small-arms fire from Japanese behind the embankment. There the small-arms fire ceased, but mortar and artillery fire continued. From the direction of Nafutan Point came shells which burst overhead, apparently from antiaircraft guns depressed to fire at ground targets. And, as if troubles to the front and flanks were not enough, two enemy mortars began firing on the Marines from positions 500 yards to the rear. Before a request for assistance could be made, friendly planes spotted the mortars, attacked, and silenced them.36
Much credit for the 2d Battalion's success in pushing inland goes to the LVT(A)'s of the Army's 708th Amphibian Tank Battalion, which, according to the Marine battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Hudson, took "more than their share of punishment" and "diverted enemy attention from the amphibious tractors carrying troops. . . I shall always remember the excellent support given to my battalion by the Army LVT(A)'s.37
Shortly after Lieutenant Colonel Justice M. Chambers' 3d Battalion, 25th Marines, crossed the line of departure on its way to the beach, an order from regiment directed that one company be attached to the 1st Battalion upon landing. Chambers selected Company K, his battalion reserve, for this mission. Upon arrival at the beach, however, Chambers learned that guides from the 1st Battalion had met his leading units, including two platoons from Company I, and one platoon from Company L, and had led them to the 1st Battalion's zone where they were immediately committed to action. Chief disadvantage of this rearrangement was that a complete tactical unit was not provided, but in the normal confusion of an amphibious landing, miscarriages of this type were neither unusual nor inordinately serious.
BARELY ON THE BEACH, these 4th Division Marines lie flat and try to spot the source of the fire which has them immobilized.
With the remainder of his unit, Chambers moved about 700 yards inland to the scanty protection afforded by the railroad embankment. Here the battalion halted, dug in, and awaited orders.
At 1300, Company K was detached from the 3d Battalion and attached to the 1st Battalion. Later in the afternoon, with the right flank situation still dangerous, the remainder of Company I was sent to assist Mustain's busy unit in cleaning out the Agingan Point pocket of resistance. Company I subsequently reported killing approximately 150 Japanese on Agingan Point. Locating the enemy there was a difficult job; the usual Japanese tactic was to remain concealed in their "spider holes"38 until the Marines had passed by them; then the lids of the holes would be opened and rifle or light machine-gun fire directed at the Marines' rear.
Colonel Merton J. Batchelder, commanding the 25th Marines, came ashore about noon and established his command post against the west side of the railroad fill. This choice was a fortunate one; the embankment provided a shield against flat trajectory fire and the installation functioned without excessive trouble from the Japanese. All personnel, including supporting elements of the combat team, were ashore by 1800.39
AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH of Charan Kanoa area had led 4th Division planners to believe that Mt. Fina Susu could be reached without debarking troops from LVT's. Difficult terrain, including a swamp extending south from Lake Susupe, foiled the plan.
BLUE Beach and Charan Kanoa
The 23d Marines' advanced through Charan Kanoa was hindered only by sporadic rifle fire, and the 3d Battalion, on the left flank, pushed through the town without encountering serious difficulty. Eight troop-carrying and three armored LVT's actually travelled to O-1 as called for in the plans. These LVT's, restricted by the terrain from moving abreast, were forced to proceed in column along the road south of Lake Susupe until Mt. Fina Susu (O-1) was reached. Minor opposition en route was offered by Japanese riflemen lying in drainage ditches perpendicular to the road. Fire from the LVT machine guns (manned by personnel of the 3d Battalion, 23d Marines) accounted for most of these trouble-makers.
Once the Marines reached O-1, however, the situation changed for the worse. Direct Japanese artillery fire (probably fired by the 3d Mountain Artillery Regiment), coming from positions 500 to 700 yards to the north and east, plus mortar and machine-gun fire, kept the unit constantly pinned down. The situation was further complicated by the fact that the armored amphibs refused to move to the top of Mt. Fina Susu and provide the necessary support and by the absence of any friendly forces on either flank.
A short 100 yards east of the high ground of the O-1 line, small groups (squads or smaller) of Japanese darted about a coconut palm grove. Throughout the day these made periodic attempts to infiltrate the left of the 3d Battalion's slender salient. Alert to these movements, the Marines discouraged the Japanese
with well-aimed small-arms fire.40
Lieutenant Colonel Dillon's 2d Battalion experienced some difficulty after landing owing to the fact that some tractors stopped after advancing a short distance while others continued somewhat farther. The reasons for these variations were not only the intense mortar and artillery fire hammering the beach (and finding the LVT's a favorite target), or the action of individual Japanese riflemen and machine gunners, but also the nature of the terrain. Tractors landing in the center of Blue 2, for example, found themselves confronted with an incline rising almost vertically to a height of four to five feet--sufficient obstacle to stop movement from the beach. Farther inland, near the southeastern edge of Charan Kanoa, was a swampy area, which canalized vehicles to the one good route in the area--Aslito Road.
In view of the terrain difficulties and the character of enemy resistance, the 4th Division's plan to move aboard LVT's to the high ground (O-1) some 1,200 to 1,500 yards inland was impractical from the outset. It is not surprising that planners had been too optimistic in this respect, when it is remembered that the aerial photograph coverage of Saipan had left much to be desired. From available information, it had appeared feasible; in actual practice, it was not.
Only three LVT's and five LVT(A)'s operating with the 2d Battalion reached O-1 as planned. Because of the difference in debarkation points, the battle developed into a series of actions by separated tractor groups. Confusion was at a minimum, however, as good training paid off; leaders organized whatever men were nearby, regardless of unit affiliation, and pressed the attack. By the middle of the afternoon, control had been regained.
Shortly after noon, the battalion commander requested tanks in his zone. The type of enemy resistance encountered--rifle and machine-gun fire--was well suited to the employment of tanks, even though they would have to remain on the road until the swamp was passed. Relief from the almost constant shelling would be obtained only by destruction of the Japanese weapons. Dillon requested that aircraft try to spot the enemy guns, but the pall of smoke over the island hindered the planes and helped the Japanese. The latter knew where they wanted to fire, the Americans could not be sure.
Only two tanks (M-4's from Company C, 4th Tank Battalion) had been landed on Blue Beach at this time, but the 23d's commander, Colonel Louis R. Jones, acting on Dillon's request, ordered them to report to the 2d Battalion.41
Since the 2d Marine Division had not planned to use Beach Green 3 in its initial landings, it was apparent that a gap between the two divisions would exist for some time. (The 2d Division's shift in landing further delayed the juncture.) This situation, which would leave the 4th Division's left flank exposed, indicated the desirability of landing the reserve battalion of the 23d Marines at an early hour. Also, the plan of moving to the O-1 line prior to debarkation from LVT's demanded that by-passed rear areas be mopped up by a reserve unit. Accordingly, the 1st Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Haas) landed at 1055 and moved to an assembly area about 300 yards inland of Beach Blue 1. This move, hampered only by the ubiquitous artillery and mortar fire and an occasional exchange with Japanese riflemen in the ruins of Charan Kanoa, placed the battalion in position to protect the left flank. Until later in the day when it was committed into the front, this unit spent its time mopping up by-passed Japanese and stopping minor infiltration thrusts.
The advance command group of the 23d Marines, under the executive officer, Lieutenant Colonel John R. Lanigan, landed about noon, followed at mid-afternoon by the regimental commander, Colonel Jones. Established in a small depression, between Beaches Blue 1 and 2 and, subsequently, between two artillery battalions, the command post received almost
constant pounding from Japanese mortars and artillery.42
A great portion of the 4th Division's difficulties on D-Day (and, subsequently, on D-plus 1) originated from a capably-prepared series of positions in the vicinity of the O-1 ridgeline. About these, Lieutenant Colonel Gooderham L. McCormick, the division intelligence officer (D-2), has written:
On the forward and reverse slopes of the edge of the saucer which followed our O-1 line the enemy had placed batteries of 75mm and 105mm field pieces. They were all well placed, with excellent field of fire and artful concealment. Crew's quarters and ammunition were all below ground. . . . Entrances were invariably well back on the reverse slope.
Wall diagrams in observation posts marked registration points on the reefs, the channels, the beach lines, roads and intersections adjacent to the beach. These points were interdicted long after the O.P.'s had been rendered inoperative.43
4th Division Tanks Land
The tank situation in the 4th Division was not good. Based on the early morning reports of the underwater demolition teams, two methods of getting tanks ashore were planned. First, and most desirable, was by means of the channel off Beach Blue 1, through which LCM's could proceed directly to the beach and debark tanks. The other was by beaching LCM's on the reef and allowing tanks to move ashore under their power.
Two complicating details which UDT personnel could not foresee, however, made the landing of tanks a serious problem. First, the channel was intermittently interdicted by heavy mortar and artillery fire, making movement through it hazardous. And second, in regard to the reef landings, heavy swells had built up by early afternoon, making it difficult to beach LCM's. Yellow Beach, with the best reef surface for tank landings, was the scene of the heaviest swells.
Difficulties notwithstanding, the 4th Tank Battalion endeavored to land throughout the afternoon. It was a costly operation.
Company A, which advanced 600 to 700 yards across the coral reef to land on Beach Blue 2, lost two medium tanks in the movement to the beach when salt water drowned out their electrical systems. A third was damaged while attempting to tow a tank from another company ashore. After landing, Company A, immediately moved out to assist the 1st Battalion, 25th Marines, in the fight around Agingan Point.
Of Company B's 14 medium tanks, only four reached the beach in working condition. While departing from the LSD upon which the company was embarked, one LCM (with its medium tank loaded on board) sank. Another tank had its fording equipment smashed in an unexpected shift of weight on board the LCM upon which it was embarked. As chance would have it, this LCM later received a direct hit from a Japanese artillery shell, setting it afire.44 Three tanks were sent through the Charan Kanoa channel, arriving ashore safely, but under so much artillery fire that the control vessel ordered the next three tanks to move across the reef to Blue 1. Of these three, one nosed into a "pot-hole" (a large depression in the reef), and another was temporarily out of commission because of the effect of water on the electrical system.
Six of the company's tanks had yet to make the trip to the beach. These received orders at the control vessel to land on Beach Green 2, a 2d Division beach some 1,100 yards away from their parent division. The cause for this radical misdirection, which was made in spite of the tanks platoon leader's protests, its not indicated: and, in view of the subsequent fate of these tanks, no one can be expected to assume the blame voluntarily. Perhaps this was ordered in the hope that a Green Beach landing would be less costly or, perhaps, it was a matter of misunderstanding. The order was issued, however, and the six tanks made the effort. Only one of the six reached the beach, the rest falling into a span of quite deep water about halfway in. The one tank that did get ashore was immediately pressed into service by the 2d
AMMUNITION, dumped on the beach by the leading waves of LVT's is readily available to Marines clustered behind a medium tank nearby. Though uneven, this method solved many early supply problems.
Tank Battalion and did not return to the 4th Division until several days later. So, for all intents and purposes, Company B had only four tanks of its original 14 available for the support of the 4th Marine Division.45
Company C fared much better. Landing on Beach Yellow 2 after an 800 yard trip across the reef, the unit moved, intact, to an assembly area just inland from Beach Blue 2. Shortly after arrival there, orders were received from the commander, 2d Battalion, 23d Marines (to which the unit was attached), to attack to the high ground designated O-1. The tanks of Company C immediately moved out. It was soon discovered, however, that those machines not actually on the road bogged down and had to be abandoned. After these experiences, the tanks stayed on the road, attacking in a column towards O-1.
Spraying their machine guns at enemy riflemen and machine gunners and directing their 75's against specific enemy strong points, the tanks lumbered to the east towards the high ground. With their advent, the men of the 2d Battalion, 23d Marines, felt some of the pressure lift, and the advance resumed. Aside from the fact that the tanks knocked out pockets of enemy resistance, their arrival had a heartening effect upon the infantrymen.
Company D, the light (flame-thrower) tank company of the 4th Tank Battalion, landed 10 of its 18 tanks safely on the Blue Beaches throughout the afternoon of D-Day. Those landed were not employed in the D-Day fight, however, but instead were ordered into an assembly area 150 yards inland from Beach Blue 2 for the night. The remaining eight light tanks of the company, unable to get sufficient LCM's for a D-Day landing, came ashore on the
afternoon of D-plus 1 and joined the fight.46
The most decisive action executed by any unit of the 4th Tank Battalion on D-Day was that of the 1st Platoon, Company A (later joined by the 3d Platoon and one tank of the 2d Platoon). Following its landing on Beach Blue 2, the 1st Platoon, Company A, moved off to the support of Mustain's 1st Battalion, 25th Marines, on the extreme right flank. The platoon arrived just as two companies of Japanese attacked from Agingan Point. This was the strongest effort of the day, following a series of smaller actions which had harrassed the battalion since the landing. The Japanese counterattack, designed to push Mustain's right flank into the water, was an ideal target for the newly-landed medium tanks. With the aid of the 1st Battalion, the tanks vigorously drove against the enemy attackers. Nearly the entire Japanese force was massacred in the short-lived melee.
After checking the hostile surge, the tanks ranged out upon the point, crushing and destroying Japanese installations. All this was accomplished without the loss of a single tank. In the withdrawal, however, one tank lost a track in a shell hole and had to be abandoned until the next day, when it was retrieved. The tank action improved the situation of the 1st Battalion, enabling it to resume the infantry advance.47
14th Marines Land
As a result of Colonel Jones' noon recommendation that artillery be landed, the 14th Marines (Colonel Louis G. DeHaven) commenced landing at 1315 and the entire regiment was ashore by dark. The 3d Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. MacFarlane), after losing one of its 105mm howitzers during the ship-to-shore movement (due to a mechanical failure and subsequent sinking of the DUKW transporting the howitzer), landed on Beach Yellow 2 and went into a firing position about 50 yards inland, on the east side of the coast road. The battalion fired its first rounds (in support of the 25th Marines) about an hour and a half after landing.
For the 5th Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Douglas E. Reeve), the ship-to-shore movement was made without loss of any of its 105mm howitzers. One "A" frame DUKW, not carrying a howitzer but moving with the 5th Battalion, was hit by a shell from a dual-purpose 5- or 6-inch Japanese gun during the trip into Blue 2. Although this did not entail a loss to the battalion, it did have the effect of slowing up the unloading: by congesting the beach area and making one less "A" frame DUKW available to lift 105's from DUKW's in which they were embarked. The 5th Battalion went into a position area about 40 yards inland from Beach Blue 2 at about 1400. After registration, the battalion undertook the destruction of the previously-mentioned 5- or 6-inch gun, which was firing from the high ground 1,500 yards inland. Although the weapon was silenced for the night--and everyone hoped permanently--it was quite intact and firing the following morning.
Lieutenant Colonel Carl A. Youngdale's 4th Battalion landed on Beach Blue 2 at approximately 1700. One 105mm howitzer was lost prior to landing when the DUKW upon which it was embarked sank. The DUKW had run out of fuel and was in the process of moving aboard an LST for refueling when it slipped off the ramp and sank. Once ashore on Blue 2, four howitzers were knocked out by Japanese artillery and mortar fire. All were subsequently returned to action, however. Youngdale's battalion moved inland about 350 yards and set up along the coast road. In spite of continuous enemy artillery fire which complicated its work, the battalion was laid and ready to fire at 1812, about one hour and 12 minutes after landing.
The 1st Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Harry J. Zimmer), scheduled to land in the returning DUKW's of the 4th Battalion, was landed instead in LVT's when the DUKW's failed to become available. This involved disassembling
the 75mm pack howitzers and transferring them from LCVP's to LVT's by hand. After landing on Yellow 1 at about 1700 (the battery commanders had been ashore on reconnaissance since 1430), the battalion moved to a position about 100 yards off the beach. This placed the unit only about 50 yards forward of the 3d Battalion, not a desirable arrangement but necessitated by the shallow beachhead and the congestion in the area.
For the 2d Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel George B. Wilson, Jr.), the difficulties of landing and getting established ashore were a magnification of those of the other battalions. During the transfer operations, in which LVT's became available singly and at irregular intervals, some sections of the battalion became separated from the others and landed on different beaches. Part of the battalion, still in LCVP's, was ordered to move through the channel and land on Blue 1, but heavy fire chased the craft back to sea. Later, in a second attempt, the channel route was successfully used. Another group landed on Blue 1 in LVT's, another on Blue 2, still another on Yellow 1. Two pack howitzers of the latter group were not unloaded, as the LVT's carrying them were ordered out to sea by the shore party commander who claimed that the vehicles were drawing fire to the beach. Later, when these LVT's attempted to negotiate the Yellow 1 reef, the two howitzers were pitched overboard by an especially vicious surf.48 Two more howitzers were hit by Japanese shelling of the beach areas, although it was
75MM PACK HOWITZER blasts away during the early hours of the battle. The 1st and 2d Battalions of the 10th and 14th Marines were armed with these versatile pieces. Tapotchau massif may be seen in background as this crew trains its weapon toward the east coast.
possible, by exchanging parts, to salvage one howitzer out of the two. Losses in personnel and equipment necessitated reducing the firing batteries from three to two. The battalion went into firing position just inland of Beach Blue 2 and was firing by about 1700.
The executive officer of the 14th Marines, Colonel Randall M. Victory, landed with the regimental command group at 1300 on Beach Blue 2. From there the command post moved about 500 yards inland into a grove of trees containing a series of abandoned Japanese trenchworks. The choice proved a wise one; the 14th Marines' command post endured only an occasional artillery round and the harrassing activities of few snipers located to the rear. During the afternoon two of these were killed within 40 yards of the command post, and a Japanese machine-gun nest in a clump of bushes only 50 yards to the left rear was destroyed.49
General Schmidt's Command Post
The 4th Marine Division advance command post was established ashore on Yellow 2 at 1630 by Colonel Walter W. Wensinger, the D-3 (operations officer of the division). General Schmidt arrived there and opened the division command post at about 1930. The location had little to commend it, but there was no alternative on the shallow beachhead. The palm grove which looked somewhat inviting on the map had been shattered into a group of skeleton trunks and stumps; the terrain was like a pool table--flat and open; there were no abandoned Japanese installations to occupy, although digging was easy in the dirty sand; a stockpile of partially buried gasoline drums was located nearby, providing a constant source of worry. In addition to the command post's other weakness, there was the matter of the 14th Marines' firing batteries nearby. These not only drew Japanese counterbattery fire into the area, but their presence greatly limited dispersal room; and the command post was congested into a small space (about 50 yards wide and 100 yards deep). A search for a better location, undertaken by the division intelligence officer (D-2), Lieutenant Colonel Gooderham L. McCormick, proved unfruitful, and it was decided that nothing would be gained by moving.
With all of the command post's bad features, however, the 4th Division headquarters carried on all its functions. Later, when assault troops progressed farther inland and it was possible to move about more easily, the command post was spread out and the congested condition relieved. Brigadier General Samuel C. Cumming, Assistant Division Commander, remained on board ship on D-Day. He and his staff, reported ashore shortly before noon on D-plus 1.50
2d Division Tanks
Shortly after 0900 on D-Day, the 2d Marine Division commenced efforts to land tanks. A pilot tank made the trip from the reef to Beach Green 1 under extremely heavy fire, marking a route as it moved. On reaching the beach, it was disabled by direct 37mm and 47mm fire from Afetna Point, and the crew was forced to abandon it. The route had been marked, however, and beginning at 1300 tanks started crossing the reef in groups of two and three under almost continuous Japanese artillery fire. Here, again, it was impossible to determine the exact source or caliber of the enemy fire, except the antiboat-antitank fire which came from Afetna Point. It is assumed that the long-range, high-angle fire emanated from the eastern slopes of the island's spiny backbone, where the guns of Lieutenant Colonel Nakashima's 3d Independent Mountain Artillery Regiment as well as numerous heavy mortars were emplaced.
By 1530, all LSD-embarked tanks of the division had groped their tortuous way to the beach. Tank liaison teams had been furnished
each combat team headquarters; tanks were met by a guide at the beach, commanders briefed, and tanks tactically employed at once. Barging into the fight with all the confidence that a few inches of armor plate can instill, the tanks injected a fresh drive into the late afternoon attack. With these machines ashore, infantry commanders could breathe a little easier; another powerful weapon was available to meet the expected enemy counterattack. Eight tanks of the 2d Tank Battalion were damaged on D-Day, but of this number only one was permanently lost. Others were repaired and later played an important part in the operation.51
Minor Enemy Tank Thrusts
Some of the enemy tanks were also moving on the early afternoon of D-Day. These were from the 4th Company of Colonel Goto's 9th Tank Regiment. The 4th Company's 14 tanks (11 mediums, three lights) had been ordered to defend the western beaches on either side of Charan Kanoa. To do this, they had taken position on the beach itself, with plans to execute an antiboat mission during the landing phase. The sheer weight of naval shelling and the momentum of the assault drove the company inland before it could perform its planned function, however. Had this unit remained on the beaches, it might have had the satisfaction of achieving considerable destruction of U. S. landing craft. From its withdrawn positions, the enemy tank company lashed out in a series of prods against the Marines' beachhead.
About noon, two Japanese tanks moved from covered positions to the north, along the beach road, and through the lines of Company F, 6th Marines. Apparently not realizing where they were, they stopped to have a look around, the leading tank even "unbuttoning" its turret. At this point, bazookas and AT grenades from Company F converged on the surprised visitors and destroyed them.52
At 1300, in another of their uncoordinated thrusts, three tanks of the 4th Company struck Companies A and G, 6th Marines (adjacent flank companies of the 1st and 2d Battalions), and caused a flurry of excitement. The terrain in the area was open and flat enough for tank movement, but occasional low, marshy spots somewhat restricted maneuver. The bazookamen of the two Marine companies went to work: two tanks were destroyed before they could penetrate the front lines; the remaining one penetrated to within 75 yards of the 6th Marines' command post where it, too, was destroyed.53
In the zone of the 8th Marines, the situation on the left was still progressing satisfactorily, and good contact existed with the 6th Marines. On the right, however, the 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, was still encountering tough resistance in its move toward Afetna Point. By late afternoon, 14 medium tanks of Company A, 2d Tank Battalion, had added their bulk and firepower to the push toward Afetna Point. The area was a maze of pillboxes, open trenches, and antiboat-antitank installations which had to be systematically neutralized--and at a great cost in personnel. Slow as the movement was, it was all forward.54
Brigadier General Merritt A. Edson,55
assistant commander of the 2d Division, came ashore in the early afternoon and established the advance command post on the right of Beach Green 1. This site, nothing more than an abandoned Japanese trenchwork, had been occupied by the 8th Marines' headquarters, which moved farther forward after the arrival of Edson's group. General Watson followed at about 1800 with a detachment from division headquarters, landing on Beach Red 2. The command post was then established on the extreme south flank of Beach Red 2 with local security provided by the Division Reconnaissance Company.
Soon after the staff settled in this installation, however, heavy mortar and artillery fire rained down, interfering with efficient functioning. General Watson then decided to move northward and inland across the coastal road into a grove of trees behind the juncture of Beaches Red 1 and 2. In General Watson's words:
"When I had arrived at the decision to move, the sun had already set; the distant night was alive with fires, and shelling from enemy artillery and mortars was unremitting. I directed Brigadier General Edson and his small control group to remain behind until our new command post could be established. The rest of our headquarters group moved northward along the beach, then struck inland across the open beach road and, moving in the shadows of the road, finally reached the wooded area which had been selected for the new command post. My staff immediately set about establishing our command post. We were delighted to find trenches and shelters already dug in the woods by the Japanese. Our joy was soon dispelled, however, when we discovered these trenches and shelters not only contained dead Japanese who had to be moved, but dynamite and other high explosives. The dangerous materials were moved out during the night and early morning and the area served as an excellent divisional command post for several days thereafter, although, initially, it was located only a few yards behind our own front lines.56
One other minor disadvantage of the installation, initially, was the presence of the firing batteries of the 10th Marines nearby. This was a disadvantage which could not be avoided on the shallow beachhead of D-Day, but, nevertheless, one which did not lend to the comfort of the division staff.
10th Marines' 75mm Pack Howitzers Land
The 1st and 2d Battalions, 10th Marines (75mm pack howitzers), landed late in the day and assumed positions prior to darkness: Lieutenant Colonel Presley M. Rixey's 1st Battalion on the eastern edge of a small wood 50 to 150 yards inland from Beach Red 2, and Lieutenant Colonel George R. E. Shell's 2d Battalion about 400 yards inland from Green 1 near the northern end of the Charan Kanoa airstrip. After executing the ship-to-shore movement without loss of weapons and few casualties (2 killed, 5 wounded), Rixey's battalion moved on foot through a small wooded area, apparently unobserved. No Japanese artillery fire was received while going into position or immediately thereafter. The battalion had its 75's firing in support of the 6th Marines at about dark and maintained this support throughout the night.
Shell's battalion crossed the naked Charan Kanoa airstrip enroute to firing position, and, unfortunately, the movement did not go unnoticed. A Japanese observer, located on one of the heights which backed all western beaches, carefully chartered the position. After dark, soon after the unit fired its first rounds in support of the 8th Marines, Japanese counterbattery fire thundered down, Battery F bearing the brunt. Despite the excellent coverage achieved by the Japanese, however, no howitzers were destroyed.
Colonel Raphael Griffin, regimental commander of the 10th Marines, landed with the 2d Division command group at 1730 and established his command post just inland from Beach Red 2, in proximity to the 2d Division command post. No other elements of the 10th Marines were landed during D-Day.57
2d and 24th Marines Land
After participating in the Tanapag demonstration, the 2d and 24th Marines awaited the word to land. Orders came at 1104 for Colonel Franklin A. Hart's 24th Marines, and by late afternoon the regiment had completed landing and proceeded to assembly areas. The 1st and 2d Battalions beached on Blue 1 after coming through Charan Kanoa channel in LCVP's;
the 3d Battalion used LVT's to cross the reef and land on Yellow 1.
On reaching shore, Lieutenant Colonel Maynard C. Schultz' 1st Battalion moved to an assembly area about 400 yards south of Charan Kanoa. Some cover from flat trajectory fire was afforded by the railroad embankment, but otherwise the open terrain was devoid of cover or concealment. Companies A and B were committed on the right of the 2d Battalion, 23d Marines, to strengthen the tenuous connection between that unit and the 2d Battalion, 25th Marines, rapid progress of which had carried it from 600 to 800 yards ahead.
Lieutenant Colonel Richard Rothwell's 2d Battalion, 24th Marines, moved from its point of landing on Beach Blue 1 to an assembly area southwest of Charan Kanoa. During the move along the beach and after arrival in the partly-concealed assembly area, the battalion suffered 75 casualties from Japanese artillery fire. Intermittent harassing fires continued upon the unit throughout the night.
Two of the LVT's carrying the 3d Battalion overturned in the heavy surf, causing heavy casualties. Orders to the battalion had directed that it move to an assembly area in LVT's prior to debarkation. Once the unit reached the beach, however, the deluge of hostile artillery fire made the scheme unfeasible. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander A. Vandergrift, Jr., therefore, deployed his battalion and moved it on foot to an assembly area some 700 yards inland from Yellow 1, near a fork in the railroad tracks. The men had no more than taken entrenching tools in hand when a barrage of well-directed Japanese artillery fire engulfed them. After the day's casualties were totalled, it was discovered that the unit had suffered heavily, though it had yet to enter the front line fighting: 25 killed, 72 wounded, 39 missing (mostly those lost on board the overturned LVT's). Other battalions had suffered more heavily, but the real significance of these figures lies in the fact that the 3d Battalion did not arrive on the beach until 1727.58
Colonel Walter J. Stuart's 2d Marines boated and proceeded to the control vessel at about 1400; two hours later came orders to land in column of battalions on Beach Red 2. Lieutenant Colonel Arnold F. Johnston's 3d Battalion, and a portion of Lieutenant Colonel Richard C. Nutting's 2d Battalion (Company F and a headquarters echelon) were ashore by 1900, when orders were issued that no more LCVP-LVT transfers would be made and no more troops landed that night. Men of the 2d Marines ashore were attached to the 6th Marines, with Johnston's 3d Battalion taking positions on the division left flank in support of the 2d Battalion, 6th Marines, and Nutting's 2d Battalion elements digging-in just north of Charan Kanoa airstrip.59
It had been planned to land troops and supplies throughout the night, but this became impossible due to the heavy seas in the transfer area. As early as 1730, one of the LVT's carrying part of the 2d Division headquarters almost swamped in the huge waves which had commenced to run inland across the reef.60
Because of the concentrated mortar and artillery fire which had struck his troops throughout the day, the commander of the 23d Marines (Colonel Jones) estimated that the light forces on the O-1 line (consisting of about one-half of Companies K and L of the 3d Battalion and only about one composite platoon from the 2d Battalion) would be incapable of holding there for the night without being virtually annihiliated. In addition, the regimental commander felt that "pulling back would allow our artillery and air to bring fire on the Jap batteries a short distance inland, better contact could be obtained on the right, and the exposed left flank could be better protected."
Dillon's 2d Battalion and Cosgrove's 3d Battalion were therefore ordered to establish a defense line generally 800 yards west of O-1 for the night. This involved a withdrawal under cover of darkness of the meager forces on O-1.
2D MARINES, after returning from a demonstration at Tanapag, wait in LCVP's for transfer to amphibian tractors in which to move ashore. Only about one-half of the regiment got ashore on D-Day, the rest being held up by heavy seas which developed in the late afternoon.
The decision to pull back after nightfall, rather than in the daytime, was a wise one; no casualties were incurred during this phase of the operation. The 81mm mortar platoon of the 3d Battalion, 23d Marines, undergoing a particularly severe shelling at the time of withdrawal, abandoned its mortars near Mt. Fina Susu. Peculiarly enough, these mortars were found intact and undamaged when the 23d Marines returned to the area several days later.
Terrain for the 23d Marines' night defense was flat, open and possessing few features which would hide infiltrating Japanese. "The fields of fire were excellent," the 2d Battalion commander later pointed out, "but there was nothing to fire at."
Haas' 1st Battalion was ordered to relieve the 3d Battalion, the latter reverting to reserve with the mission of protecting the exposed left flank. The 2d Battalion patrolled Charan Kanoa throughout the night to protect against Japanese attack or infiltration from the left (north) rear. Concern about the 23d Marines' left flank was natural enough, since it was apparent that the "no man's land" between divisions could easily become a direct, nonstop chute to the beach for the Japanese.61
Colonel Batchelder's 25th Marines, after a discouraging start, inched forward. By 1400, some elements of the 2d Battalion had reached the O-1 line; but it was not until 1700 that the entire regiment was on the objective. The extreme right flank of the O-1 line, which included a portion of Agingan Point, remained in Japanese hands and was not secured until the following morning, but in the remainder of the sector the objective had been seized. At this point, units were ordered to prepare defenses
and gird themselves for whatever might come.62
D-Day had been expensive, both in personnel and in materiel. Scores of minor wounds were never reported (and, therefore, escape the statistics); however, deaths and wounds serious enough to warrant more than "on-the-spot" attention brought the total casualties to over 2,000.63 Of these, the bulk had resulted from Japanese artillery and mortar fire, the remainder from machine-gun and rifle fire or close-in bayonet and saber fighting on the beaches.
Evacuation of casualties on D-Day was by means of LVT's as far as the reef's edge, where wounded were transferred to LCVP's or LCM's; thereafter, about 60 per cent were taken directly to transports and about 40 per cent to the three hospital LVT's. This latter method proved very unsatisfactory, inasmuch as the LVT's, after receiving casualties, had to transfer them to transports. This proved a hardship on the injured.64 Considerable difficulty was experienced on D-Day and D-plus 1 owing to a moderate ground swell. Casualties could not be loaded or unloaded at the ramp of LVT's as planned but had to be hoisted over the side. On one LST, Seabees (Naval Construction Battalion personnel) rendered valuable service by hoisting stretchers with "cherry pickers"65 loaded on the deck. The first casualties were received on board the LVT's about 1040; and, in less than two hours, two LVT's had over 200 casualties on board, and the third was filled with its maximum load soon after.66
Initial supply was accomplished by LVT's and ducks moving over the reef. Requests for these deliveries came from commanders on the beach directly to their representatives on board control vessels. Helpful in solving the critical problems of early supply was the preloading of LVT's of the second, third, and fourth waves with standard loads of water, grenades, mortar and small arms ammunition. These "pre-loads" were dumped at convenient points inland. Further, two LVT's per battalion were carried on transports or cargo ships, loaded with water, food, ammunition and critical medical items to assist in solving supply problems.67
In the early afternoon of D-Day, shore party teams began to function ashore and initial supplies began flowing over the beaches. Throughout the planning and execution of the operation, close coordination was maintained between Beach and Shore Parties. This excellent spirit of cooperation paid dividends.
During D-Day and D-plus 1, very little cargo-handling equipment was landed owing to the nature of the beaches and the character of the resistance. The Shore Party was handicapped during the early stages by the heavy mortar and artillery fire on the beaches and, later, by the need for transporting supplies relatively long distances inland to Marines at the front.68
As on D-minus 1, when California and Braine were hit, fire support ships were receiving occasional answering rounds from the enemy ashore. Battleship Tennessee was hit by four 4.7-inch projectiles from a battery located on Tinian, which killed six and wounded 26 men. Tennessee, in addition to minor structural damage, had a 5-inch 38 mount disabled by the rounds.69
At dusk, while retiring to the westward of Saipan for the night, Carrier Support Group One (TG 52.14) was unsuccessfully attacked
DEBRIS ON THE BEACH. Picture shows several LVT(A)'s knocked out in the early stages of the battle, testifying to the strength of enemy defense even after naval bombardment.
by a "large formation" of Japanese aircraft. While the U. S. task group suffered no damage, carrier-based U. S. fighters accounted for three sure kills and one probable (types not known), while ships' gunfire knocked down two light bombers.70
Serving as eyes for the Northern Troops and Landing Force and both Marine divisions were air observers, operating in carrier-based planes (TBM's). On station from dawn to dusk, these planes constantly performed missions of observation and, on at least one occasion, participated in a ground strike against a critical target. Air observers assisted the Commander Support Aircraft by reporting front line positions, discovery of new targets and evaluation of air strikes.71
By darkness of D-Day, two facts were clear: first, the landing had been successful; and second, a long hard fight was in prospect.
The two divisions were establisbed ashore on a 10,000 yard front about 1,500 yards deep, with almost half of the planned beachhead secured. Everywhere the main problem was to organize scattered units, tie in flanks, and await the expected counterattacks. Since contact had not been established between divisions, it was necessary for both to give careful attention to their respective flanks.
The 2d Division anchored both flanks on the
Positions at Close of D-Day
beach itself, left near a coral excavation pit about one mile south of Garapan, right near the middle of Afetna Point. The 4th Division had tied its right into the beach just south of Agingan Point (although a portion of the point remained in Japanese hands) and disposed the 3d Battalion, 23d Marines, to protect the exposed left flank. The southern half of Afetna Point, between the two divisions, remained unconquered. (See Map 10.)
The Marines' positions were--all things considered--quite good, but the enemy's were much better. The dominating ridgeline, which ran parallel to the western beaches, allowed the Japanese to observe the Marines digging in and to place fires where they pleased. That these fires did not exact even heavier casualties than they did is directly attributable to the inability of the enemy to mass artillery fires. Further, the Marines, convinced of the need for deep foxholes, lost no time burrowing into the sandy loam or occupying empty Japanese positions and antitank ditches.72
A Noisy and Restless Night
As expected, the enemy launched a number of counterattacks at various points throughout the night. In the center of the 8th Marines' zone, several small attacks were repulsed with no great difficulty. These enemy thrusts, occurring at about hourly intervals, came from the swamp and struck the 1st and 3d Battalions, 8th Marines. These two battalions, enjoying excellent fields of fire from their positions on the west edge of the swamp, stopped each Japanese incursion with small-arms and mortar fire. Also helpful were the 75mm pack howitzer fires of the 2d Battalion, 10th Marines. At no time was there more than a platoon of Japanese infantry committed to a single counterattack, and at no time was there a question of the outcome. These Japanese swamp inhabitants, probably members of Colonel Ogawa's 136th Infantry Regiment, were not in the swamp by choice; the impetus of the Marine landings had driven them there from their beach positions. Theirs was an attempt to comply with General Saito's policy to counterattack during the night and "demolish the enemy landing units at the water's edge."73
Shortly before dusk, men of Companies F and I, along the left of the 6th Marines' lines, observed large groups of Japanese streaming down from the hills onto the coastal flats well to the north of the regiment's lines. This activity, portending a sleepless night, was an ideal target for artillery or naval gunfire. Here, however, complicating factors were presented; the 1st Battalion, 10th Marines (assigned to support the 6th Marines), was firing another mission;74 the two naval gunfire spotters who should have been situated in the area were both casualties, and no replacements were present; the unit's organic mortars, though available, were not well suited to firing on an area target of this nature. Eventually, after the Marines relayed the request through the 2d Battalion command post and after the Japanese had completed their descent to the coastal plain, the California fired several salvos along the beach in front of the left flank. The ominous significance of the movement from the hills had prompted this fire.
A precaution, taken by the 2d Battalion, 6th Marines, later proved wise: a strongpoint was established on a small hummock about 75 yards forward of the lines, covering an area masked to front line fires and, therefore, a favorable route of approach for the enemy. When the Japanese did, in fact, attempt to use this area, they met withering fire from the Marine strongpoint.
The first attack against the left flank took place at about 2200. Striking along the coast road against Companies F and I, this effort was in the nature of a probing, or "feeler," attack--designed to locate a weak spot for future exploitation. None was located, however, and the Japanese withdrew. Probably no more than a company was committed to this initial thrust. The action for the remainder of the night was almost continuous, with only occasional and
welcome lulls in the fighting; all hands were aware that Japanese lurked in the shadows, preparing for further attempts. A small wood, north of the Marine lines, became the enemy assembly area and "nerve center" for the night's activities. Unfortunately, this fact was not known by the Marines until later. It is regrettable that fires of the 1st Battalion, 10th Marines, were not directed into this point.
At 0300, after a series of reconnaissance-in-force actions by the enemy, the final sustained effort of the night began. A Japanese bugler75 sounded a loud, clear call on the tense night air, and with a waving of flags, loud screams, and a brandishing of swords, the attack was launched. Added to the din were the shouts of the 6th Marines for "flares." Illumination shells, fired by the three destroyers, Halsey Powell, Coghlan and Monssen of Task Unit 52.17.3 began to burst over the area, clearly revealing the Japanese attackers. Men of Companies F and I opened with accurate, devastating fire. California joined with a tornado of salvos in front of the Marine lines. The Japanese, stripped by the illumination of the advantage afforded by their superior knowledge of the terrain (so helpful in night fighting), dropped before the Marines' fusillade. As Japanese fell, others replaced them in the determined onslaught.
At one point in the fighting (shortly after 0300), it was feared that the enemy had effected a penetration of Company I, along the coastal road. To contain this Japanese prong, Colonel Riseley shifted one company of the 3d Battalion, 2d Marines (Company L), into the area. The light of morning, however, revealed that no penetration had been made and that Company L had, in effect, formed a secondary line.
By 0545, the Japanese pressure reached a peak; two Marine 37mm guns near the beach were knocked out and their crews forced back. Although the main positions held, a false report reached the 6th Marines' command post to the effect that Company F's lines along the beach had been forced back about 50 yards. This erroneous report, probably fostered by the withdrawal of the two 37mm crews and the infiltration of small enemy groups to the regimental command post, had no basis in fact. Five medium tanks from Company B, 2d Tank Battalion, proved decisive at this juncture. These machines announced their arrival by concentrating their cannon and machine guns against the Japanese. Under the fusillade, the enemy effort withered and died. As remnants of the battered force fell back, a blanket of fires from battleship California, destroyers Phelps and Monssen, and Lieutenant Colonel Rixey's 1st Battalion, 10th Marines, covered them.
Welcome daylight of 16 June revealed a battlefield littered with about 700 enemy dead. Total Japanese troops committed to the night's action was approximately one battalion. Although unit identification of these dead is not indicated in existing records, elements of Colonel Suzuki's 135th Infantry were located on the 6th Marines' front on the following day, and it is therefore deduced that the battalion in question was from this regiment.
The drain on the supply of ships' star shells had been considerable; yet the Marines desired even more. As long as the enemy could be seen, he could be stopped. Captain Harry B. Jarrett, USN, the commander of the task unit which supplied the night's illumination, later commented on the situation:
Definitely, destroyers were not originally supplied with enough star shells. The first counterattack below Garapan found the Marines asking for star shells rather steadily, and it was depressing to hear them begging for more stars when there were none available.
The Japanese counterattack had failed, and most of the evidence of that failure lay crumpled on the plain north of the Marines' lines. Not all, however; with the coming of daylight, it was discovered that several small harassing and infiltrating groups had penetrated to rear areas. Here the intruders set about a program of causing as much trouble as possible. Mopping-up patrols from the 6th Marines' scout-sniper platoon immediately set about the task of finding and eliminating the enemy groups.76
The pattern was similar in the 4th Marine Division zone. Local attacks were unsuccessfully launched against the 25th Marines' center at 0330 and again at 0430, the latter attack more determined than the first and preceded by an artillery and mortar preparation. Whether by coincidence or plan, the 0430 thrust followed on the heels of the last round of preparatory fires. This was the principal hint that the attack was coordinated and not merely the result of aggressive resourcefulness on the part of subordinate Japanese commanders. In addition, however, an old--yet effective--ruse was employed in the second attack: Japanese soldiers used a large body of civilians, including women and children, to shield their approach to the Marine lines. Because of this trick, Marines held their fire until an almost critically-late moment.
From this episode emerged an interesting story regarding the use of artillery. A forward observer, 1st Lieutenant James V. Walker, of the 1st Battalion, 14th Marines, was with Company C, 25th Marines, at the time of the action. Like other Marines in the vicinity, Walker thought that the people advancing towards the lines were only civilians who desired to surrender. When the true status of the advancing body was determined, Walker called in the 75mm fires of the 1st Battalion, 14th Marines. At the very crisis of the battle, as the enemy pressed virtually into the Marine lines, the 1st Battalion, 14th Marines, notified Walker that it was out of ammunition and that it was turning the mission over to the 3d Battalion, 14th Marines. The latter unit had tracked every shift of the 1st Battalion and, without adjustment, hesitation or lull, brought its fire crashing into the heart of the enemy force. The extra punch of the 3d Battalion's 105mm howitzers, as compared to the 1st Battalion's 75mm pack howitzers, broke the Japanese attack, and the fight was won.77
Another circumstance complicating the situation: just before the 0430 attack, an enemy artillery shell hit one of the 75mm half-tracks (in position near Company C, 25th Marines), causing the vehicle to burst into flames. The brightness of the fire silhouetted the Marines to Japanese observers who quickly directed artillery fire into the area. To escape this situation and also to dodge the burning half-track's exploding shells, Company C withdrew about 200 yards. At dawn of 16 June, the original positions were regained.
In addition to the support rendered by artillery, 37mm guns and 75mm half-tracks of the 25th Marines' Regimental Weapons Company figured prominently in the repulse. Captain Thomas E. Clarke, commander of Company C, gave the opinion that, had the half-tracks not been present, the Japanese would have penetrated the lines.78
Throughout the night, Japanese artillery fire swept and raked the beach from one end to the other. The 23d Marines, while not experiencing a concentrated counterattack until early morning, had to contend with unceasing infiltration attempts by the Japanese. Utilizing the unoccupied slot between divisions, small enemy groups prodded unsuccessfully at the left flank throughout the night. Patrols sent out by the 23d Marines failed to establish contact with the 8th Marines to the north. Scattered individual Japanese who did pierce the tight security of the left flank were mopped up by units in the rear, principally Company K, and elements of the Beach and Shore Parties.
In regard to the latter's activities, the 23d Marines' commander has written: "The left side of these [Blue] beaches was a hot bed, but these troops fought and worked and did a good job. Credit must be given here to the colored Army units forming part of the Shore Party. . . ."79
At approximately 0530, about 200 Japanese moved from Lake Susupe through the "no-man's land" between divisions and struck for the Charan Kanoa pier. Lieutenant Colonel Cosgrove's 3d Battalion, 23d Marines, charged with the mission of preventing just such a move, proved equal to its assignment by stopping
and destroying nearly the entire enemy force. Again, personnel of the Beach and Shore Parties in the vicinity of Beach Blue 1 joined in the defense of the pier and beach. Those Japanese successful in infiltrating the flank were mopped up in the morning by the same units that had dealt with them during the night.80
It was not a night of rest and relaxation.
Reports--Impending Naval Action
Throughout the day, higher echelons--including the staffs of General Holland Smith and Admiral Turner--had kept abreast of the situation ashore. Their conception of the attack's progress was necessarily drawn from reports of the divisions on the ground and the air observers overhead. From a ship thousands of yards offshore, it was impossible to get more than a remote picture of what was taking place--like attempting to judge the temperature of a wintry day from inside a heated house.
Shining through the miasma of early, incomplete reports, however, was the indisputable fact that both Marine divisions had carved out shallow beachheads which, in each case, bulged in the center and receded on either flank. A difficult ship-to-shore problem had been solved, causing Admiral Turner later to observe: "The Saipan landing . . . was much the most difficult of any I personally witnessed during the war. The men who made it, Navy or Marines, were, on the whole, better organized and better trained than for any other landing. They did magnificently."81
By the close of D-Day, all three infantry regiments of the 4th Division were ashore, as well as the artillery and a large portion of the division's tanks. The 2d Division had about two and a half infantry regiments, two of its five artillery battalions, and the majority of its tanks ashore. A disconcerting gap between the two divisions existed, but both had taken positive action to cover it. The flow of supplies ashore was somewhat less than normal owing to a moderate ground swell which arose in the afternoon and later prevented night unloading. In addition, handling of supplies on the beaches was materially hampered by enemy mortar and artillery fire. While the advance had not proceeded as rapidly as hoped, sufficient space had been seized for the efficient employment of supporting weapons. In short, there was no cause to doubt the eventual outcome.
Many important gains had been made which were not visible at the moment. For example, the Marines, as yet, could not fully appreciate how much damage had been done to the enemy's communications (principally by naval shelling) and how much difficulty Japanese commanders were experiencing in controlling their troops.
On the night of D-Day, Admiral Spruance received two submarine reports which added up to the disturbing indication that the Japanese Fleet, for the first time since Guadalcanal, was coming out to do battle. Spruance's eyes-under-the-sea had obtained two fixes on a large force of enemy carriers, battleships, cruisers and destroyers moving from their anchorage at Tawi Tawi (Southern Philippines) in the direction of the Marianas and at such speed that they could attack by D-plus 2. Startling news, pregnant with possibilities. Should the attack on Guam, which had been scheduled for 18 June (D-plus 3), be delayed on the basis of these reports? Spruance would "sleep" on the situation (loose term--he would be awake all night) and hold a conference with principal commanders the following morning.82
Actually, this development was no surprise. Since the initiation of planning, the possibility--even probability--of the Japanese Fleet coming out to do battle had been frequently discussed. So, while the situation was serious, it in no sense caught the U. S. Navy unprepared. In regard to this, Admiral Turner has written:
Before Spruance and I left Pearl Harbor, we had thoroughly canvassed the possible situations that might occur in case the Japanese Fleet should attack. It was, of course, impracticable and unwise to try to provide for all of the various situations by many separate plans. Therefore, both of us issued schematic, flexible general plans that could be implemented as
desired by a few simple dispatches. We were in full agreement as to what to do. Fortunately, when the time came, the easiest situation of all developed (early attack from one direction while we were still committed to a single landing).83
Characteristically, Japanese commanders at Saipan were sending optimistic reports to Tokyo. They had observed the activities on D-minus 1 and judged correctly that the Americans would land on the Charan Kanoa beaches. At 2030 on 14 June, an unidentified Japanese commander sent a message to "all units concerned" which said:
The units are prepared for the enemy landing; morale is high and we are in complete readiness. Although losses, etc. (from American bombardment), are being investigated, it is expected that they are very slight.
At 0430 the morning of D-Day, Major General Keiji Iketa (chief of staff, 31st Japanese Army) reported that over 100 enemy ships could be observed in the area west of Saipan, but "Morale is high. We are waiting." Later, in a document titled "Lessons derived from the situation before and after opening of enemy landings," he indicated a low regard for our H-Hour preparation:
They did not carry out a large scale shelling and bombing against the positions on the landing beach just prior to landing. When they came to the landing . . . our basic positions were completely sound.84
General Iketa's evaluation of U. S. preparatory fires is of interest principally because it was contradicted time and again by the testimony of other Japanese on Saipan (see page 248).
Even though Japanese commanders may have been peering through rose-colored glasses, the defenders' morale was high, and they were far from giving up their original plans to "demolish the enemy during the night at the waters' edge."
Prior to 12 June, wishful thinking had caused the Japanese to prophesy that the next U. S. move would be against the Palaus or an objective farther south, an area well suited to defense by the coordinated efforts of the Combined Fleet. Even Mitscher's Task Force 58 strike against the Marianas on 11 June shed little light on U. S. intentions; the move could conceivably have been nothing more than a diversion for another operation. At any rate, until the fog of mystery had lifted, there was no cause to alter dispositions. Continuing raids by Mitscher's force, plus the 14 June advent of mine sweepers and underwater demolition teams, finally convinced the Japanese of the true U. S. intentions.
News of the Saipan landing was stunning, indeed. But, then, it was thought to be only a matter of time until powerful Japanese forces would destroy the intruders by coordinated activities of the base air forces (from Iwo Jima, Guam, Palau, Yap and Woleai) and the fleet (moving from Tawi Tawi anchorage). Admiral Toyoda, commander in chief of the Combined Fleet, had no illusions about the effect that U. S. seizure of the Marianas would produce on the home islands. His was the responsibility of decisively defeating the U. S. Task Force; and, if he had doubts as to the eventual outcome, these were not revealed by the strenuous line of action which he pursued.85
Chafing at the bit on Guam was Second Lieutenant Rai Imanishi, who said in his diary of 15 June:
The Combined Fleet is about to engage the enemy in decisive combat . . . in the Marianas sector. The enemy has already begun landing on Saipan. Truly, we are on the threshold of momentous occurrences. Now is the time for me to offer my life for the great cause and be a barrier against the enemy advancing in the Pacific Ocean.86
The lieutenant would have to wait awhile, but the opportunity was not to be denied him. Elsewhere on Guam, an unidentified Japanese soldier of lesser rank, but equal perception, wrote:
15 June, 1944-- . . . the enemy landed on Saipan and a heavy battle is in progress. The situation of our forces does not look favorable.87
On Tinian, individual Japanese recognized that momentous happenings were in the offing. Disgust and disappointment at the poor showing of their aircraft is evidenced in most of the diaries. This resentment extended beyond the
fact that naval aviators were not fighting the U. S. planes to the satisfaction of the ground personnel. An unidentified Japanese noncommissioned officer wrote:
15 June--The naval aviators are robbers. . . . When they ran off to the mountains, they stole Army provisions, robbed people of their fruits and took cars.88
To a noncommissioned officer (Tokuzo Matsuya) of the 9th Tank Regiment--still in an assembly area in the Chacha-Laulau area on Saipan--things were not so grim:
15 June-- . . . one enemy division landed . . . but was surrounded by our troops. Our plan would seem to be to annihilate the enemy by morning.89
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (1) * Next Chapter (3)
1. Lagoon, as here used, refers to the expanse of water between the reef's edge and the beach.
2. Lieutenant Colonel Wendell H. Best, executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 10th Marines, at Saipan, writes: "One Japanese artillery firing chart which we captured indicated pre-fired data on the reef, lagoon, and beaches. . . . It is my opinion that the fire would have been equally devastating without the flags." Ltr from LtCol Best to CMC, 8Jan50, hereinafter cited as Best.
3. These "portions" included everyone of the two divisions not embarked in LST's.
4. The Rocky Mount, like her sister the Appalachian, is an especially designed amphibious command ship (designated "AGC") for the use of the attack force and landing force staffs. Special features include: a teletype screen upon which all incoming messages are flashed, large conference rooms to facilitate coordination and integration of staff actions, and extra communications to insure an uninterrupted flow of messages.
5. TF 56 G-3 Report, Encl B, 2-4.
6. These ships were originally designed to transport LCT's from the United States to Europe. When it was found that LSD's could perform this carrying service, the LSD's were diverted to another purpose--transporting tanks, embarked in LCM's. The peculiar design of the LSD's allowed water to enter the shell of the ship, whence LCM's (carrying tanks) could move under their own power. When debarkation was complete, water could either be expelled or the ship could stand by to repair damaged craft (up to and including LCT's).
7. NTLF G-3 Report 13-14.
8. Task Group 52.17 Report, 8.
9. Task Unit 52.17.3 Report, 1. Task Unit 52.17.2 Report, 1.
10. Task Force 52, Attack Order A 11-14, Annex C.
11. Task Unit 52.10.8 Report, 2.
12. Task Force 52, Attack Order A 11-44, Annex C.
14. 2d Mar Div Report, Section V, 1.
15. Task Group 52.17 Report, 9.
16. The 24th Marines used its regimental intelligence section in a different manner. One lieutenant and three scouts accompanied each of the assault regiments (23d and 25th). The lieutenant remained with regiment in each case, while the scouts were portioned one per battalion. By this means, the 24th Marines received timely enemy information prior to actually landing. Interview with Maj A. B. Hanson, 16Feb49.
17. TF 56 G-3 Report, Encl B, 4. 2d Marines Report, Encl A, 1, hereinafter cited as 2d Mar Report. 24th Marines Report, Section II, 18, hereinafter cited as 24th Mar Report. In an interrogation after the operation, Major Kiyoshi Yoshida, intelligence officer of the 43d Division, stated that the Japanese did not think that our forces would actually land in the Tanapag area but that they were not sufficiently sure and, therefore, retained the 135th Infantry Regiment in that area.
18. TF 51 Operation Plan A10-44, Addenda to Annex F. Turner.
19. 2d Mar Div Report, Section V, 2. 4th Mar Div Report, Section VI, 14.
20. Not to be confused with the transfer control line which was used as a coordinating point for the transfer of troops from LCVP's to LVT's for the final movement to the beach. The tractor control line is an easily distinguishable terrain feature (in this case a railroad track) where LVT's stop to debark troops.
21. 2d Mar Div Report, Section V, 2. Armored Amphibian Battalion, Operation Order No. 2.
22. NTLF Report, 11. In an undated Japanese battle plan for the Saipan Artillery Units, standard expenditure of ammunition (expressed in percentage of total amounts on hand) was established as follows: Destruction of enemy landing craft--15%; Engagement at beach--15%; Engagements following development of situation--20%; Reserve--50%. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Item #9604.
23. Although Marine officers and men consulted on this point unanimously agree that the Navy boat guide officers were at least partially responsible, the Commander Expeditionary Force, Admiral Turner, does not agree: "The naval boat guide officers, on both flanks of each regimental assault wave, were embarked in LCV(P)'s . . . the first assault wave of each regiment was guided on each flank by an LCC [landing craft control]. All these boats were in excellent communication with Transport Group and Transport Division Control Vessels, in which staff officers of Division (troop) and Regiments were respectively embarked. The LCC's and LCV(P)'s necessarily had to turn back at the edge of the reef . . . and thereafter the LVT's, manned by troops, were on their own." Turner.
24. 2d Mar Div Report, Section V, 2-3.
25. 4th Mar Div Report, Section VI, 13-14. 3d Battalion, 23d Marines Report, 1, hereinafter cited as 3d Bn, 23d Mar Report.
26. Interviews with Col E. J. Dillon, 17Feb49 and 5Jul49, hereinafter cited as Dillon.
27. The 2d Marine Division, from the outset, had been unconvinced of the tactical soundness of the plan to move aboard LVT's to O-1. On several occasions, General Watson had expressed his opinion on this subjeet to General Holland Smith. Watson was against the plan for the following reasons: first, the terrain would not permit it; second, it would mean loss of control while troops were embarked in LVT's; and third, it would needlessly expose congested groups of men to enemy fire. General Watson finally secured General Smith's permission to change the concept within the 2d Division's zone to the extent that the armored LVT's would clear the immediate beach areas and cover the landing by fire. The first wave of troop-carrying LVT's would follow them and discharge troops beyond the beach. All succeeding waves were to debark on the beaches, and LVT's carrying them were to retract and return to their rendezvous area off the reef as rapidly as possible. The tractor control line was the maximum distance any LVT's were to move inland under any circumstances. Watson.
28. Ltr from LtCol L. E. Haffner to CMC, 9Dec49.
29. 6th Marines Report, Encl A, 1-2, hereinafter cited as 6th Mar Report. Interview with LtCol J. E. Rentsch, 12Jan49, hereinafter cited as Rentsch. Ltr from Maj T. H. Fisher to author, 31Jan49, hereinafter cited as Fisher. Ltr from Maj R. E. North to author, 17Jan49. hereinafter cited as North.
30. Of interest in this connection: the 6th Marines had been issued shotguns for the Guadalcanal campaign and had had poor results from the cardboard-jacketed shells. It had been recommended at that time that only brass-jacketed cartridges be issued and used in the future. Comment by LtCol R. M. Tompkins on rough manuscript, 6Jun49.
31. Interview with Maj W. C. Chamberlin, 17Jan50, hereinafter cited as Chamberlin.
32. Interview with Maj H. G. Gunter on 4Feb49, hereinafter cited as Gunter. 8th Marines Report, 1, hereinafter cited as 8th Mar Report. 1st Battalion, 8th Marines Report, 1, hereinafter cited as 1st Bn, 8th Mar Report. Wallace.
33. See footnote 78, page 27, Chapter 1.
34. 8th Mar Report, 1. 1st Battalion, 29th Marines Report, 1, hereinafter cited as 1st Bn, 29th Mar Report.
35. 25th Marines Report, 3, hereinafter cited as 25th Mar Report. 1st Battalion, 25th Marines Report, 2-7. hereinafter cited as 1st Bn, 25th Mar Report. Interview with Maj F. J. Mee, 15Feb49, hereinafter cited as Mee.
36. Interview (undated) with Maj V. J. Barringer, hereinafter cited as Barringer. Interview with Maj H. V. Joslin, 15Feb49, hereinafter cited as Joslin.
37. Ltr from Col L. C. Hudson to CMC, 12Jan50.
38. This type of position is a hole dug into the ground with a camouflaged lid fitting snugly over it. A carefully constructed spider hole is next to impossible to locate as long as the lid is down, since it is flush with the ground and consonant with surrounding vegetation.
39. 25th Mar Report, 3. 3d Battalion, 25th Marines Report, 3-4, hereinafter cited as 3d Bn. 25th Mar Report. Ltr from Col J. M. Chambers to CMC, 1Dec49, hereinafter cited as Chambers.
40. 23d Marines Report, 30-33, hereinafter cited as 23d Mar Report. 3d Bn, 23d Mar Report, 1. Ltrs from Maj P. S. Treitel to author, 21 Feb49 and to CMC, 30Dec49, hereinafter cited as Treitel.
41. Dillon. 23d Mar Report, 33. 2d Battalion, 23d Marines Report, 1-2, hereinafter cited as 2d Bn, 23d Mar Report.
42. 23 Mar Report, 33. 4th Mar Div Report, Annex C, 4-5. L. R. Jones.
43. Ltr from LtCol G. H. McCormick to CMC, 21Feb50, hereinafter cited as McCormick.
44. The tank, oddly enough, was retrieved on D-plus 1 and moved ashore.
45. Later, however, most of the disabled vehicles of Company B were retrieved and restored to parent control. The unit, thereafter, rendered effective support to the 4th Division's operations. It is important to note that, since Company B had not been assigned to support an assault regiment after landing, its shortage of vehicles did not have critical implications.
46. The foregoing account of the landing of the 4th Tank Battalion is a synthesis of the following sources: 4th Tank Battalion Report, 3; Company A, 4th Tk Bn Report, 1-2; Company B, 4th Tk Bn Report, 1-2; Company C, 4th Tk Bn Report, 1; Company D, 4th Tk Bn Report, 1; Dillon; Ltr from LtCol R. K. Schmidt to CMC, 5Dec49, hereinafter cited as R. K. Schmidt.
47. Mee. Company A, 4th Tk Bn Report, 1-2.
48. This did not constitute a permanent loss, however; pieces were retrieved and the howitzers were back in action by D-plus 2.
49. 14th Marines Report, 1, hereinafter cited as 14th Mar Report. Maj J. F. Ryan, Observer from 5th Marine Division, Report of Saipan Operation (Arty), 7-8, hereinafter cited as J. F. Ryan. Karch. Reeve. Ltr from Maj W. McReynolds to CMC, 14Jan50, hereinafter cited as McReynolds. Ltr from LtCol G. B. Wilson to CMC, 8Feb50, hereinafter cited as Wilson.
50. 4th Mar Div Report, Section VI, 15-16. Interview with Col 0. H. Wheeler, 21 Feb49, hereinafter cited as Wheeler. McCormick.
51. 2d Mar Div Report, Section V, 3.
52. An amusing anecdote in connection with the incident: Lieutenant James R. Ray, leader of the 1st Platoon, Company F, had carefully briefed his unit prior to the landing on the fact that the Japanese would likely throw everything--"including the kitchen sink"--at the Marines. Ray stressed the importance of establishing a good defensive position after seizure of the O-1 line so that an enemy thrust from Garapan could be stopped. When the peculiarly-designed Japanese tanks actually appeared--looking, indeed, like an overgrown piece of plumbing--PFC Nestor Sotelo of the 1st Platoon raised his head and shouted "Pass the word to Mr. Ray that the Japs have arrived from Garapan with the kitchen sink." Fisher.
53. 6th Mar Report, 2. Marine Corps Gazette, Oct44, "Saipan Tank Battle," Maj J. A. Donovan, Jr., hereinafter cited as Saipan Tank Battle. Interview with Maj Donovan on 11Jan49. Fisher.
54. 2d Mar Div Report, Section V, 4.
55. General Edson, Congressional Medal of Honor winner at Guadalcanal and one of the most eminent Marines in World War II, established a pattern on D-Day which he faithfully followed throughout the operation: get to that part of the division front where the action was most critical and offer advice, inspiration or even active leadership as required.
57. 10th Marines Report, 2-3. Interview with Col P. M. Rixey, 23Feb49, hereinafter cited as Rixey.
58. The foregoing account of the 24th Marines' landing is a synthesis of the following sources: 24th Mar Report, 18; Reports of 1st, 2d and 3d Battalions, 24th Marines (page 1 of all reports).
59. 2d Mar Report, 1-2. Interview with Maj M. P. Ryan, 3Mar49, hereinafter cited as M. P. Ryan.
61. 23d Mar Report, 34. 2d Bn, 23 Mar Report. 1-2. 3d Bn, 23d Mar Report, 1. Treitel. Dillon. L. R. Jones.
62. 25th Mar Report, 3.
63. The exact number is as elusive to the historian as it was to personnel officers at the time. Units busy fighting for their lives had no opportunity to keep accurate casualty statistics. Keeping records in the early stages of an amphibious attack was rendered even more difficult by the fact that many men, because of the confusion and excitement, found themselves fighting with organizations other than their own. Also, there was the added problem of determining how many men were wounded on D-Day but who remained in the fight for a day, or several days, before turning in for treatment or hospitalization.
64. TF 56 G-4 Report, 26.
65. The "cherry-picker," often used to lift heavy objects from the ground onto a truck, is a tractor equipped with an overhead crane.
66. COMINCH P-007, 5-19.
67. 2d Mar Div Report, Section II, 2 ; Section V, 4. NTLF G-4 Report, Part II, 1.
68. COMINCH P-007, 4-24.
69. TF 51 Report, 5. Task Unit 52.17.1 Report, 24.
70. TF 51 Report, 6 and Annex 1.
71. COMINCH P-007, 2-4.
72. NTLF Report, 14.
74. It is pertinent to note that all of the missions fired by the 1st Battalion, 10th Marines, during the first four days were classified by the calling observers as "urgent." Best.
75. The bugle, riddled with bullet holes, was found by Marines the following day.
76. Fisher. North. 2d Mar Div Report, Section VI, 1. Task Unit 52.17.3 Report, 3. 6th Mar Report, 3-4.
78. 1st Battalion, 25th Marines Report, 7, hereinafter cited as 1st Bn, 25th Mar Report. Mee.
79. L. R. Jones.
80. 23d Mar Report, 35. Treitel.
82. 5th Fleet Initial Report, 3.
84. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Item #9983-85, 1-4.
85. Campaigns, 210-213.
86. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Item #10,410.
88. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Item #11,405.
89. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Item #10,238.