Dawn of 16 June produced mixed reactions, depending upon which camp one was in. The Japanese were sorry to see it because it would mean that observed air, naval gunfire and artillery would again spread havoc among them; the Marines were glad to see it--and for precisely the same reason.
The golden opportunity to counterattack the beachhead in sufficient strength to drive the Marines into the water had not materialized. Several efforts had been made, but in all cases they had been foiled with heavy losses to the enemy. The night of D-Day was not to see the last of the Japanese counterattacks, but certainly no more favorable opportunity normally accrues to the defender than on the first night, when the attacker is still somewhat disorganized.
Persistent enemy movements along the coast road from the north throughout the night had indicated convincingly that Garapan was being used as an assembly area for further counterattacks against our positions. The town had remained unmolested because of a desire to conserve the buildings and other facilities for our later use. Since such a policy was obviously very helpful to the Japanese, General Watson, commanding the 2d Division, requested that the town be bombed, shelled and burned by our naval forces. This, as will be seen, was later accomplished.1
The previous night had brought Admiral Spruance news of a movement of the Japanese Fleet from Philippine waters. On the morning of 16 June, after conferences and careful consideration of the problem, he reached the following decisions:
The tentative date for the Guam landing (18 June) would be cancelled, and the designation of a new date would await a clarification of the situation. Transports of the Southern Attack Force would oscillate well to the eastward of Guam.
Certain previously warned cruiser and destroyer units attached to Admiral Turner's Joint Expeditionary Force would replenish ammunition and fuel and join the Fast Carrier Forces on the 17th.
Unloading at Saipan would continue through daylight of the 17th, and at dark all transports and LST's not required for immediate unloading would withdraw to the eastward of Saipan and not return the next day.
Transports and LST's needed for immediate unloading, plus small craft and screen, would remain at Saipan. As required, other transports and LST's from the group which retired to the eastward would be returned.
The old battleships, part of the cruisers and some destroyers of the Joint Expeditionary Force would cover Saipan from about 25 miles to the westward during darkness to guard against the possibility that hostile surface
vessels might evade our fleet. In addition, ships from this covering group would provide troop gunfire support as required.
Escort carriers nearby to the eastward of Saipan would continue to provide air cover for all ships in the vicinity and to furnish troop support aircraft; but no support or cover could be expected from Fast Carrier Task Forces after 16 June.
Six patrol seaplanes (PBM-"Mariner") would be ordered to arrive at Saipan on 17 June, prepared to make night radar searches to 600 miles west of the island. This six-plane squadron (VP-16) would fly out from Eniwetok and be mothered by the seaplane tender Ballard.2
"MARINER" SEAPLANES afloat off Saipan's west coast. Searches by these planes, to provide warning of Japanese naval incursions, commenced on 17 June and continued throughout the operation.
Admiral Spruance announced these far-reaching decisions at a conference aboard Admiral Turner's flagship Rocky Mount. As Spruance prepared to leave the ship to return to his own flagship Indianapolis, General Holland Smith, who was also embarked in Rocky Mount, asked him: "Do you think the Japs will turn tail and run?" "No," Spruance replied, "not now. They are out after big game. If they had wanted an easy victory, they would have disposed of the relatively small force covering MacArthur's operation at Biak (New Guinea). But the attack on the Marianas is too great a challenge for the Japanese Navy to ignore."3
It is interesting to note that the approach of the Japanese Fleet did not seriously affect the supply situation on Saipan, since even the transports and LST's that retired eastward were close enough so that they could be sent back to Saipan as required. Some shortages did develop, however, as will be seen.4
One disappointing result of the transports' withdrawal was that few cargo vehicles came ashore during the period. This caused inland supply and evacuation to be performed primarily by LVT's, which did a good job but, in the process, chopped the existing roads into nearly impassable condition. In addition, the LVT's themselves suffered considerable deterioration, thereby reducing the combat effectiveness of LVT battalions.5
Though the amount of air support for the landing force was drastically reduced from 17 to 22 June because of the necessity for redisposing available forces, naval gunfire support was reduced very little. Nearly the full number of fire support vessels requested by the landing force were supplied day or night.6
It is not the purpose of this narrative to recount the numerous small naval actions in the waters surrounding Saipan. Suffice it to say that the surprise thrust into Marianas' waters had trapped many vulnerable Japanese cargo ships. Many of these got underway as soon as the truth was known, hoping to reach a safe port. Few were successful; U. S. submarines, aircraft and surface vessels were alert and intercepted and sank most of them. This happy state of affairs caused Rear Admiral Charles A. Pownall, USN, Commander Air Pacific, to comment: "The Marianas operation flushed more shipping than it had been our fortune to contact for a number of months."7
Even as Spruance implemented his monumental decisions, Marines of the two divisions were engaged in cementing their toehold. For the entire landing force this meant pouring more troops and weapons ashore and pressing the attack inland. The principal thrust would be made on the landing force right, in the 4th Marine Division's zone, while the left of the 2d Division would hold the pivot and wait for the outer arc to swing abreast. Further, the 2d Division left, during its wait, could gird itself for expected Japanese attacks from the north. Before the 4th Division could throw its roundhouse hook in earnest, it would have to push farther inland, toward the east coast.
Enemy artillery and mortars, emplaced on or behind the spiny ridge line which divides the island, continued destructive fires throughout the day, particularly in the congested beach areas. Even though numerous artillery and naval gunfire concentrations and air strikes were directed against their suspected positions, the Japanese clung persistently to favorable terrain which overlooked the entire beachhead. Time and time again after being "silenced," enemy shelling would begin anew.8
In both Marine divisions, shore party activities continued. On Beach Red 2, the shore party team which had landed there on D-Day had received so many casualties that it was necessary to send in another team to supplement it. Generally, however, the supply situation was quite good.9
6th Marines Consolidate;
8th Captures Afetna Point
During 16 June, the 6th Marines (on the left, pivot flank) held the same general position, consolidating and reorganizing front lines. In the afternoon, remaining elements of the regimental weapons company (75mm halftracks and 37mm guns) came ashore and were incorporated into defensive plans. Only sporadic activity (mostly mopping-up of Japanese infiltrators and by-passed groups) occurred in the 6th Marines' zone during the day and early evening.
Major LeRoy P. Hunt, Jr., now commanded the 2d Battalion, 6th Marines, having replaced Lieutenant Colonel Murray, who, along with the executive officer, Major Howard L. Rice, had been wounded. The 3d Battalion had changed commanders too: Lieutenant Colonel Easley, wounded on D-Day, was finally evacuated on the morning of 16 June and replaced by his executive officer, Major John E. Rentsch.10
Colonel Wallace's 8th Marines, meanwhile, continued its original mission of clearing Afetna Point, Beach Green 3, and the area west of Lake Susupe. This task fell principally to the 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, and, to a lesser extent, the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines (attached to the 8th Marines). The 1st and 3d Battalions held their positions of the previous day and made minor adjustments in their lines.
Afetna Point, the D-Day headache, proved much easier on 16 June; most of the point's defenders had either retired from the area during the night or had expended themselves in the unsuccessful attack against the 23d Marines' left flank. The few scattered die hards who remained were mopped up by the 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, or flushed into the flank of the 23d Marines, where they met with a quick end. By 0950, men of Company G, 8th Marines, had advanced to the Charan Kanoa pier, marking the boundary between divisions. The unit then pushed inland, caught up and established contact with the 4th Division at about 1140. By early afternoon the 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, had secured its area as far inland as Lake Susupe. (See Map 11.)
Mopping-up of rear areas continued throughout the day, mainly hampered by well-directed Japanese mortar and artillery fire. Company G, ordered into 2d Battalion reserve after completion of its Afetna Point mission, became a popular enemy target despite several moves to avoid the shelling. Since the rounds seemed to emanate from positions east of Lake Susupe and since Company G was well concealed from enemy observers located in that direction, the conclusion was drawn that the observer must be behind, and close by, the company. He could not be found, however. Many days later a Japanese, proud of his accomplishments, was dragged from one of the Charan Kanoa sugar mill smokestacks where he had remained to direct fire long after Marines had secured the area.
Suffering the same ratio of losses in battalion commanders as the 6th Marines, the 8th Marines had effected two changes: Major William C. Chamberlin now commanded the 2d Battalion, Major Stanley E. Larsen the 3d Battalion. These two former executive officers had replaced Lieutenant Colonels Crowe and Miller, both casualties early on D-Day.11
Remainder of 2d Marines Lands
On D-Day, slightly less than half the elements of the 2d Marines (the 3d Battalion, a 2d Battalion headquarters detachment, and Company F) had arrived ashore. These had been attached to the 6th Marines. The remainder of the 2d Battalion and the 2d Marines' headquarters group commenced transferring to LVT's at daylight of D-plus 1 and were completely landed by 1000. Colonel Walter J. Stuart, commanding the 2d Marines, assumed command--on General Watson's order--of a composite group including the 2d Battalion, 6th Marines, and the 3d Battalion, 2d Marines. These two units were located along the beach on the division left: the former on the front lines, the latter just behind in reserve. After taking over command at 1400, Colonel Stuart ordered the two battalions to switch positions (because of the fact that the 2d Battalion, 6th Marines, had endured the brunt of the previous night's counterattacks). This exchange was accomplished prior to dark.12
Lieutenant Colonel Wood B. Kyle's 1st Battalion, 2d Marines (still under Northern Troops and Landing Force control even though plans to land the unit at Magicienne Bay had been abandoned), was ordered about noon to land and report to the 2d Marine Division. While Kyle was en route to the control vessel, a message was sent changing his orders to the effect that he was to land his battalion in the 4th Division zone and pass to the command of that division. This change had been ordered because the 4th Division's beaches were receiving less fire and, also, because there was more room for commitment in that zone of action. Kyle, however, had no inkling of this change until he reported to the control vessel. There he learned of the change regarding beaches but not of that relative to attachment. (It is likely that the control vessel received only that
part of the message dealing with the place of landing.)
Once ashore, Colonel Kyle reported to General Schmidt, the 4th Division's commander. The general, also unaware of the NTLF change, directed Kyle to move his unit to the north and report to the 2d Division. About 1600, the battalion arrived at the 2d Division command post and was placed in division reserve. It was not until the 2d Division conveyed the report of Kyle's arrival that the NTLF staff realized that its change had not been accomplished. It was decided, however, that any further movement would be undesirable, and the battalion remained with the 2d Division.
Kyle immediately set about the task of reorganizing and reequipping the unit. The provisional organization of five companies for the Magicienne Bay landings was no longer justified, and the battalion resumed its conventional entity.13 As the unit's heavy weapons (81mm mortars and .30-caliber heavy machine guns) were still loaded aboard CVE's in accordance with the original plans, it remained for these weapons to be parachuted from carrier torpedo planes (TBF's). The drop, made on the small strip just inland from the 2d Division beaches, proved very unsatisfactory because of the low altitude from which it was made. The result: almost 100 per cent damage to the equipment.14
Kyle's unit was placed under a definite handicap by this turn of events but, in spite of the difficulties attendant to changing its organization and obtaining heavy weapons, comported itself like the well-trained battalion that it was.
Artillery Build Up
Since coming ashore on D-Day, the two pack howitzer battalions of the 10th Marines (1st and 2d Battalions) had performed excellently in support of the 6th and 8th Marines. At about noon on 16 June, Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth A. Jorgensen, commanding the 4th Battalion, 10th Marines, landed with his advance party to reconnoiter position areas. Because of heavy surf on the reef, Jorgensen decided to have the DUKW's (carrying 105mm howitzers) use the Charan Kanoa channel, even though it was under intermittent artillery and mortar fire. At about 1600, the 4th Battalion successfully made the transit of the channel, moved laterally to the north within the lagoon, and landed on Beach Green 3.
This move was followed closely by the 3d Battalion, 10th Marines (Major William L. Crouch), which used the same route at 1700.
The 4th Battalion went into position in the vicinity of the radio station, about 600 yards inland from the northern end of Green 1, while the 3d Battalion established itself about 200 yards inland from the southern end of Green 2. By 1800 all the artillery of both the Marine divisions, with the exception of the 2d 155mm Howitzer Battalion (a corps battalion attached to the 10th Marines), was ashore.15
Brigadier General Arthur M. Harper, USA, Commanding General of the XXIV Corps Artillery, landed at 1515. He had issued orders before leaving the ship to advance parties of artillery groups and battalions to meet him on shore. A tentative command post was established about 100 yards inland from the southern edge of Beach Blue 2. Advance parties of the Army's 419th and 420th Field Artillery Groups, the 225th and 531st Field Artillery Battalions, and elements of the Corps Artillery staff reported there before dark.16
The Push to O-1
In the 4th Marine Division zone, General Schmidt prepared to push the attack inland with the main effort in the center. The division reserve, Colonel Hart's 24th Marines, was ordered to detach one battalion (the 3d) to reinforce the 25th Marines, on the right, and another battalion (the 2d) to assemble in rear of the 23d Marines to protect the division left
flank. The remainder of Colonel Hart's regiment was committed in the center between the 23d and 25th Marines. This shifting about would take time, so the attack hour was set for 1230.
The 24th Marines suffered a serious loss before it could get committed to action; Lieutenant Colonel Maynard C. Schultz, commanding the 1st Battalion, was killed by a fragment from a Japanese shell while at the regimental command post receiving instructions for the day's attack. Major Robert N. Fricke, the battalion executive officer, took over.17
For the 16 June attack, the 1st, 2d and 3d Battalions, 14th Marines, were in direct support of the 25th, 23d and 24th Marines respectively; the 4th and 5th Battalions furnished general support. This assignment was altered many times throughout the compaign so that each of the five battalions of the 14th Marines, at one time or another or in one combination or another, was in direct support of each of the infantry regiments.
While no unit on the beach completely escaped the Japanese artillery and mortar shelling, it appears that in point of concentrated, sustained pounding, the 5th Battalion, 14th Marines, suffered the most. The box score, provided by the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Douglas E. Reeve, tells the story:
By 0430 [16 June] all of Baker Battery's guns had been knocked out--0500: two guns in Able Battery knocked out--0545: one gun Charlie Battery knocked out--0630: other two guns Able Battery knocked out--0730: one more gun Charlie Battery knocked out. This left us two guns operative. We fired them.
When I say "knocked out" I mean just that--trails blown off, sights blown off, recoil mechanism damaged, etc. By 1000, with the help of division ordnance and by completely replacing one or two weapons, we were back in business--full strength--12 guns.
Personnel losses to the battalion during this period included eight killed and over 50 wounded. No one in the battalion had time or inclination to count the Japanese shells bursting around him, but the battalion commander estimated "300 rounds in a 21 hour period (1200 D-day to 0930 D-plus 1)."18
When word of the 5th Battalion's heavy losses reached the regimental commander, Colonel Louis G. DeHaven, he informed Reeve that his unit would not be called upon for fires until a reorganization could be effected. As noted before, the unit was back to full weapons strength by 1000.19
Meanwhile, the 4th Battalion, 14th Marines, had had an unique experience. Shortly after dawn, personnel of this unit observed a Japanese patrol, numbering about 30 men, moving toward the beach in route column. Sitting on top of the 4th Battalion Fire Direction Center, 1st Lieutenant Russell F. Schoenbeck, the assistant operations officer, adjusted fire on the enemy group, shouting his corrections after observing the fall of each volley. The "fire for effect," delivered at a range of 1800 yards, caught the enemy patrol squarely. This incident provided one of very few examples throughout the Pacific war in which artillery personnel, except forward observers, witnessed a "fire for effect" on other than direct fire targets.
The boost to morale this incident created was short-lived; the Japanese quickly retaliated with counterbattery fire, which scored a direct hit on the fourth gun section of Battery M, killing or wounding all the crew except one man.20
The 23rd Regiment's 16 June attack would place the 1st and 2d Battalions in the assault and the 3d Battalion in reserve. Concern about the left flank was somewhat relieved by the presence of Lieutenant Colonel Rothwell's 2d Battalion, 24th Marines, which had moved in behind the 23d Marines.21
After reporting to the 25th Marines, Lieutenant Colonel Vandegrift's 3d Battalion, 24th Marines, was ordered to relieve Mustain's battalion (on the division right), which had endured tough fighting on D-Day and was in need of reorganization. The relief was accomplished at 1130, Mustain's 1st Battalion reverting to 25th Marines' reserve. Since all
GUNNERY SERGEANT ROBERT H. McCARD, 4th Tank Battalion, posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for remaining alone at his disabled tank on 16 June 1944 and firing upon the enemy in order that men of his crew might make good their withdrawal.
three companies of the 3d Battalion, 24th Marines, were needed to cover its broad sector, one company (B) of the 25th Marines was attached to Vandegrift's unit at 1600.22
It will be recalled that a large portion of the 3d Battalion, 25th Marines, (all of Companies K and I and a platoon of L) had been attached to Mustain's unit on D-Day. With the shift of Mustain's battalion into reserve, 3d Battalion units were returned to parent control. With his battalion intact once again, Lieutenant Colonel Chambers moved it to an assembly area just in rear of the O-1 line, near the 25th Marines' left flank. This area proved something less than quiet. From the left and rear, enemy riflemen and two mountain guns announced themselves with telling bursts. Further harrassment was felt from the front--just over the O-1 ridge line where four dual-purpose antiaircraft guns were located. These weapons had originally been emplaced as antiaircraft protection for Aslito Airfield, but the more personal danger occasioned by the Marines close at hand caused the Japanese gunners to shift their weapons for ground firing.
Chambers assigned first priority to the enemy groups to his rear, Company L and six medium tanks from Company A, 4th Tank Battalion, assuming the task of elimination. Their efforts paid off: five machine guns, two mountain guns and approximately 60 enemy soldiers were destroyed.
After completing its mop-up task to the rear, Company L joined with the 2d Battalion, 25th Marines, which was bending every effort to dislodge the four antiaircraft guns on the eastern slopes of the O-1 ridge line. In addition to the previously-heard-from antiaircraft weapons, three machine guns in bunkers opened on the Marines as they attempted to move. Despite a series of well-coordinated tank-infantry thrusts and the commitment of another company (K) from the 3d Battalion, the lines could not advance. The Japanese held. (See Map 11.)
Principal complication in fighting these particular enemy positions was their location, just over the crest of the ridge, making deliverance of supporting fires extremely risky. During the night, however, mortars of the 2d and 3d Battalions maintained steady fires, with the result that most of the enemy positions were permanently silenced.23
Against rifle and machine-gun fire, originating principally from the Mt. Fina Susu area, the left and center regiments (23d and 24th) moved up generally abreast of the stymied 25th Marines. Some contact difficulties were experienced during the day, necessitating the commitment of a company from the reserve 2d Battalion, 24th Marines; but, by 1730, the lines were well tied-in generally along the ridge line designated O-1. It had not been an afternoon of spectacular happenings, merely a costly, tiresome struggle against a determined foe. Aslito road, the best artery to O-1, was almost a solid column of tanks, supply vehicles and ambulances. Despite the congestion, however, Japanese artillery did not interdict this
TOWARD O-1 RIDGELINE move Marines of the 23d Regiment. The 4th Division G-2 described the ridgeline area as the "one defensive line worthy of note" in the 4th Division zone of action.
route. As darkness fell, the division dug in for the night; right flank about 1,000 yards southeast of Agingan Point, anchored on the beach; left flank bent back towards Lake Susupe. The right center of the division front bulged to within a half mile of Aslito Airfield.24 (See Map 11.)
The Northern Troops and Landing Force staff was already giving thought to a command post displacement from ship to shore. The advance party and security detachment landed at 2030, 16 June, and the following day established an advance command post at the battered town of Charan Kanoa.25
27th Division Begins to Land
As noted before, the approach of the Japanese Fleet had forced Admiral Spruance to his decision to withdraw those transports not needed for immediate unloading. This demanded a decision from the landing force commander: should the 27th Division remain with the retiring transports, or should it be landed? General Holland Smith's decision to land the unit was governed by two factors. First, a long, vicious fight was in prospect, and it was already apparent that more troops
O-1 RIDGELINE (Fina Susu) looking back toward Charan Kanoa and the transport area. Until Marines seized this first dominating ground, the Japanese enjoyed this excellent view.
would be required. Second, was the general's stated policy regarding reserves: ". . . it is always better to get them on the beach rather than have them sitting out at sea on ships. That is why I put in all the Marine reserves as soon as possible and then ordered the Twenty-seventh ashore." As the first step, the 27th Division was released from Expeditionary Troops reserve to Northern Troops and Landing Force. Orders to land came soon after.26
Since ships carrying the 27th Division were cruising some distance from Saipan, it remained for these to move to the anchorage and commence debarkation. Shortly after noon, Major General Ralph C. Smith, USA, commanding the 27th Division, received a warning order from NTLF : "Be prepared to land your unit (less RCT 106) on order upon arrival. Report on board USS Cambria for conference."27
Upon reaching the anchorage (about 1630), Ralph Smith and his key staff members boarded the Cambria where they conferred with Rear Admiral Harry W. Hill and Brigadier General Graves B. Erskine (second-in-command, respectively, for Turner and Holland Smith). At the meeting, Ralph Smith was informed that 27th Division artillery battalions were to land as soon as possible to support Marine divisions already ashore. The leading regiment (the 165th) would land immediately and move to the 4th Division's right flank so that it could join the Marines in the next day's attack. Remaining 27th Division troops were to land as rapidly as possible with the exception of the 106th Infantry, which was to remain afloat in Joint Expeditionary Troops Reserve.28
The 165th Infantry (Colonel Gerard W. Kelley, USA)29 debarked at dusk and, after a greatly confused (because of the darkness) ship-to-shore movement, finally reached the beach. Here its difficulties did not end; because of the extreme dispersion of boats carrying in troops, a severe challenge to leadership and discipline was presented. Passing this test, the 165th's leading battalions (1st and 2d) assembled their separated boatloads and moved to an area in rear of the 3d Battalion, 24th Marines (on the extreme right flank), with orders to pass through that unit and extend the Marines' flank the following morning.
Brigadier General Ogden J. Ross, USA, assistant division commander, landed with the 165th Infantry and proceeded to the command post of the 4th Marine Division. In General Ross' words:
. . . I met the Chief of Staff, Colonel Rogers, and he explained that it would be necessary for the 165th Infantry to attack at 7:30 that same morning. By this time it was 3:30. Elements of the 165th Infantry were coming ashore. They were being collected on the beaches, from red to yellow a distance of three miles. After a discussion with the Chief of Staff, 4th Marine Division, as to the Line of Departure, I instructed the regimental commander of the 165th Infantry to assemble the troops as fast as possible and take them to the extreme right of the line where they were to extend the flank of the 4th Marine Division.
Due to the shortness of time, the darkness, the unfamiliarity with the ground, and the fact that the units of the regiment were being unloaded on various beaches, without regard to organizational integrity, this was an exceedingly difficult task. . . .30
Also landed during the night (in accordance with the landing force's expressed priorities) were three battalions of the 27th Division's artillery: the 105th, 106th and 249th Field Artillery Battalions. These were placed under operational control of the Corps Artillery.31 The remaining battalion, the 104th, did not land at Saipan until 19 June (D-plus 4).32
Night of 16-17 June--Tank Counterattack
The night was reasonably quiet in the 4th Marine Division zone with the exception of several unsuccessful infiltration attempts by the enemy along the 23rd Marines' front and the now-familiar Japanese artillery and mortar fire which continued unabated.33
The relative quiet enjoyed by the 4th Division was not the rule, however. In the 2d Division zone, the night produced a fight of no mean dimensions, the result of an operation order issued by Lieutenant General Saito, commanding general of the Japanese 43d Division.
This order was a masterpiece of confusion, although, admittedly, translation from Japanese to English has not enhanced its clarity. Saito based his plan on the reasonable premise that U. S. troops should be attacked before a firm beachhead could be established. It is apparent, however, that the beachhead was stronger on the 16th than it had been on the 15th; and, therefore, the attack was already one day late for maximum effectiveness. In other words, nothing had developed, from the Japanese point of view, which would make a D-plus 1 attack more successful than one on D-Day. On the contrary, Marine positions were much better organized by 16 June, more supporting weapons, supplies, and ammunition were ashore, and generally the Marine situation had improved. The Japanese, although probably aware of this fact, had been unable to mount an offensive--because of extensive damage to communications--on D-Day.
The objective of the Japanese attack was modest enough: the Saipan radio station, a short 400 yards behind the 6th Marines' lines. This objective, in itself, represented a revision in Saito's pre-D-Day policy to "destroy the enemy, during the night, at the water's edge." Seizure of the radio station area would still leave 500-600 yards distance to the water. On the other hand, the general was being completely realistic in his selection, for the
objective was easily recognizable and was possible of attainment by the troops and means available.
Principal units involved in the attack were Colonel Ogawa's 136th Infantry Regiment (which had borne the brunt of the 2d Division's assault), Lieutenant Commander Karashima's 1st Yokosuka Special Naval Landing Force, and Colonel Goto's 9th Tank Regiment. Karashima's Special Naval Landing Force would move down the coast road from the Garapan area and "cooperate with the tanks to annihilate the enemy's front line and advance towards Oreai (Charan Kanoa) Airfield." Vice Admiral Nagumo, Commander Central Pacific Fleet and 5th Base Force, was ordered to command the attack personally.34 The vagueness of the mission set forth in this order would seem to indicate that Saito had some doubts that the Navy was capable of accomplishing much and, therefore, assigned this unit a nebulous task in the hope that some good would be done--and surely no harm. The ambiguity is further emphasized by this sentence: "The attack will be made whenever possible."
To Colonel Ogawa and Colonel Goto the order was much more specific and much more confusing:
The center force [136th Infantry Regiment] will attack the enemy in the direction of Oreai with its full force. The tank unit [9th Tank Regiment] will advance SW of hill 164.635 after the attack unit . . . has commenced the attack. The Tank Unit will charge the transmitting station and throw the enemy into disorder just before the penetration of the attack unit into this sector.
If the two colonels read this order with furrowed brows, it is no wonder.
Available to Colonel Goto for the attack were the 3d, 4th, 5th, and one-half of the 6th Companies of the 9th Tank Regiment. (Goto's 1st and 2d Companies, plus the remaining half of the 6th, were on Guam.) The 4th Company had been virtually eliminated as a fighting body on D-Day in its close defense of the beaches, and only three of its 14 tanks remained operative. Fourteen tanks from the 3d Company, 14 from the 5th, seven from the 6th, six from headquarters, and three survivors from the 4th, brings the total to 44 committed to the attack.36
It is interesting to note that General Saito planned the attack to take place at 1700, possibly with the hope of catching the Marines in the process of digging in for the night. Sunset was not until 1849 and darkness at 2009, so it is obvious that a night attack was not the original scheme. Good reconnaissance, however, would have told him that men of the 6th Marines had moved but little during the day and in most cases were well dug in by 1700. Moreover, the estimate of time required to move the 9th Tank Regiment into attack position was grossly inaccurate.37
In addition to the other weaknesses of the plan, that powerful ally--surprise--was not present; Marines, alerted to the possibility of a counterattack supported by tanks, addressed much attention to the repulse of such an attack. G-2 estimates, prior to the landings, had emphasized this enemy capability.
The attack began at about 0330, and the brunt struck Lieutenant Colonel Jones' 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, (principally Company B) and to a lesser extent the 2d Battalion, 2d Marines, (principally the 1st Platoon,
JAPANESE TANK-INFANTRY COUNTERATTACK on the night of 16-17 June was stopped cold by the 6th Marines. The next morning, Marines finished off enemy survivors around the burning tanks.
Company F). The tanks advanced in groups of four or five with Japanese soldiers clinging to them. Poor and ineffective tactics reflected the inadequacy of Saito's order; some tanks cruised about in an aimless fashion, some bogged down in the swampy ground, some made an effort to break through the lines, still others stopped to let off their pugnacious passengers.
From a psychological point of view, a daylight attack would have been more frightening to the Marines. For here, in the dark (even with the supporting destroyers' 5-inch starshells, called in to light the area), it was impossible to estimate the number of tanks employed. No one had reason to suspect the presence of more than a dozen. But, one dozen or three, the Marines did not budge from their foxholes.
The task became one of systematic destruction. Several of Goto's tanks penetrated the front lines, but the Marines merely shifted around in their positions and continued their fires. Japanese of Colonel Ogawa's 136th Infantry riding on, or surrounding, the tanks were slaughtered by the Marines' machine guns, mortars, bazookas and rifles. The 75mm pack howitzer fires of the 1st Battalion, 10th Marines, were also important in stopping the thrust. The battalion's defensive preparation #1, located in the precise area of the enemy's advance, made adjustment unnecessary; it was simply a matter of pouring in volley after volley. Between 0300 and 0415, 800 rounds were fired; 140 more pounded the same area from 0430 to 0620.
Augmenting the pack howitzers were the 105mm howitzers of Battery M, 10th Marines. This was the only battery of the 4th Battalion in condition to fire; the others had been immobilized by Japanese counterbattery fire (see page 91). Battery M expended all its available ammunition in front of the 6th Marines during the enemy attack.
The Japanese attack continued until about 0700, when daylight revealed between 24
JAPANESE MEDIUM TANK of Colonel Goto's 9th Tank Regiment which participated in the night thrust against the 6th Marines. Many enemy vehicles, like this one, were slowed down by muddy terrain. All were vulnerable to infantry-carried bazookas.
and 31 smoldering or burning enemy tanks.38 Since this action represented the first major tank attack received by a Marine unit in the Pacific War, it is of particular interest to read the narrative account of Major James A. Donovan, Jr., executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines:
At 0330 on the 17th, Captain C. G. Rollen, commanding B Company, called the battalion CP to notify Colonel Jones that enemy tanks and troops could be heard approaching from the hill and valley to their direct front. Rollen requested more illumination. All hands were alerted, regiment was notified, a nearby medium tank company was told to man their guns, and Naval gunfire was directed to keep the sector constantly illuminated and to get a reserve ship on station.
All prepared concentrations were called down in front of the forward companies, including 75mm pack howitzer, 81mm mortar and the companies' own weapons. At 0345, the first wave of tanks began to enter the B Company sector. Their squeak and rattle could be distinguished above the shell fire and long bursts of machine gun fire as far back as the regimental command post. . . . The battle evolved itself into a madhouse of noise, tracers and flashing lights. As tanks were hit and set afire, they silhouetted other tanks coming out of the flickering shadows to the front or already on top of the squads.
Many of the tanks were 'unbuttoned', [turrets open] the crew chief directing from the top of his open turret. Some were being led by a crew member afoot. They seemed to come in two waves, carrying foot troops on the long engine compartment or clustered around the turret, holding on to the hand rail. Some even had machine guns or grenade throwers set up on the tank. The bulk of the infantry followed what appeared to be the second wave of tanks, but as they came under the fire of B Company's heavy machine guns, four of which were in the line of forward combat groups, the infantry tried to mount the tanks. Those following afoot were badly cut up.
The Japanese tanks . . . appeared confused. As their guides and crew chiefs were hit by Marine rifle and machine gun fire, what little control they had was lost. They ambled on in the general direction of the beach, getting hit again and again until each one burst into flame or turned in aimless circles only to stop dead, stalled in its own ruts or the marshes of the low ground. Some kept their turrets in action, doing damage until dawn when the weapons Company's 75 mm half tracks entered the fray and quickly silenced any signs of life.
Fortunately, B Company's 'bazooka' teams had been put in the main line of resistance with the forward platoons for that night. These teams, with one team that came over from A Company, did outstanding work and verified the 'bazooka' as a superior 'tank buster.' The 37mm section attached to B Company had positions on each side of the road that entered the center of the company sector. In addition to the two guns, this section had one light machine gun, two 'bazookas,' and two anti-tank grenade dischargers. The right gun jammed but the squad held its position with the 'bazooka' and other weapons.
Both I and K Companies of the Third Battalion [K Company had been attached to the 1st Battalion, 6th] had been alerted and by 0400 Captain Bruce Coburn had been ordered to take his K Company forward and pass through B Company in order that the latter might reorganize. K Company eventually came into position between B Company and F Company, Second Marines, under Captain W. Morris, whose left units were also involved in hitting several tanks. There they took part in the last stages of the battle. Men from K Company hit and helped destroy at least seven tanks. By 0600 they were actually able to effect the relief of B Company.
Regiment had alerted the Special Weapons Company's half tracks at the first warning and by 0415 they were underway from their position near the regimental CP. They had rough, slow going over soft ground and several lines of irrigation ditches. As dawn broke and the tanks that were not already burning were disclosed, the 75mm guns made short work of them.
By 0700 the field was quiet except for the small arms fire of a few Nip snipers and the answers of the Marines who mopped them up. . . . The last Jap tank was spotted as it climbed the winding road to Hill 790. Its turret could be seen among a small group of buildings on top of the hill. The Naval Gunfire officer quickly adjusted and fired twenty salvos on this target. The tank sent up an oily smoke and burned the rest of the day.39
As already indicated, the Japanese attack principally struck Company B, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, and the left flank platoon (1st, under Lieutenant Raymond Marion) of Company F, 2d Marines. One of the machine guns of the latter company fired 40 belts of .30-caliber ammunition (10,000 rounds) during the melee. Also contributing much to the eventual success were two 37mm guns and 'bazookas' of the 2d Marines' Regimental Weapons Company. In regard to their work, Major Warren Morris, commanding Company F, writes:
I have nothing but the highest praise for the two 37 crews. They went so far as to turn their guns around and fire, practically point blank, at tanks that broke through the lines.40
In numerous instances the fires of many weapons converged upon a single enemy tank, and more than one Marine, from more than one unit, often claimed its destruction. Just how many were knocked out by bazookamen and how many by 37's, 75mm half-tracks and tanks cannot be accurately determined. The important thing is that the means available were adequate for the task. The Japanese effort was a dismal failure; the enemy had lost a great number of tanks--and these losses were irreplaceable. Also, the attack had convinced the Marines that they could stop a concentrated enemy tank attack with weapons organic to the infantry battalion. While this had been emphasized in training and was no startling revelation, tangible proof in the form of smoldering, shattered Japanese tanks had considerable morale value.
The 2d Division command post and the bulk of the division's artillery were only about 500 yards in rear of this action, and an enemy penetration would perhaps have been disastrous. The reader must not get the impression that the Marines got off scot-free during this critical attack; the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines (reinforced), suffered 78 casualties and Company F, 2d Marines, 19 (principally in the left flank platoon).41
On the night of 16-17 June, as on numerous occasions throughout the operation, naval illumination fires spelled the difference between success for U. S. forces and defeat for the enemy. In describing the reasons for the
failure of the counterattacks, Colonel Takuji Suzuki, chief of staff of the 43d Division, commented:
. . . as soon as the night attack units go forward, the enemy points out targets by using the large star shells which practically turn night into day. Thus the maneuvering of units is extremely difficult.42
The supply of star shells was limited, however, and after the first night it was necessary to ration their expenditure to six per hour except in cases of emergency. Certain errors in the employment of undeniably important night illumination are worthy of note. First, instead of conserving the ammunition for times of urgent need, troops used it for periodic checks. Second, there were instances of uncontrolled illumination in which, during the course of the night, ships wandered off the target and were not corrected. And third, the failure to observe safety precautions caused needless casualties among our troops. The empty star shell case weighs approximately 35 pounds and these often fell within our own lines. The ominous "whir" of these cylinders was nearly as terrifying as Japanese artillery.43
The shortage of star shells available at Saipan was largely explained by the fact that neither the Marines nor the fleet was accustomed to using them in large quantities and, accordingly, had not fully anticipated the requirements.44
Although no record exists of the Japanese sending a detailed report to higher echelons of the abortive venture of 16-17 June, Colonel Eisuke Suzuki,45 commanding the 135th Infantry Regiment, mentioned it in his field order of 17 June:
1. The main strength of the Marianas force carried out a night attack against the enemy that landed at Oreai [Red and Green Beach area] during the night of 16 June. Despite the heavy blow we dealt the enemy, he is reinforcing his rear forces in the vicinity of Oreai, although the process is not yet complete.46
Also sleepless on the night of 16-17 June were men of the 10th Marines (and anyone else located near them), who received mortar and artillery counterbattery fire throughout the night. This resulted in heavy personnel and materiel casualties, particularly in the regimental headquarters area and in the position areas of the 2d and 4th Battalions. Since Japanese observers had carefully charted the location of Marine artillery throughout the day, their fire data was unusually accurate. With less than 24 hours ashore, Lieutenant Colonel Jorgensen's 4th Battalion had five of its 105mm howitzers put out of action; the 2d Battalion (now commanded by Major Kenneth C. Houston, who replaced the wounded Lieutenant Colonel Shell) lost three of its 12 75mm pack howitzers.47
In connection with the operations of artillery units, it may be said that they faced and mastered, during the first days at Saipan, one of the most difficult problems posed by any campaign in the Pacific war. Here was a contradictory situation in which, on the one hand, artillery was urgently needed ashore and yet, on the other, one in which the shallowness of the beachhead made the employment of artillery a dangerous venture. Probably no one would question the decisions which sent the artillery into the midst of the "tooth-and-nail" struggle, even in light of the savage pounding endured and the losses suffered; support was needed, even though it forced the artillery into the center of a bull's-eye.
At the close of the first two days, U. S. forces had suffered about 3,500 casualties, or approximately 20 percent of the total for the operation.48
UNITED STATES MEDIUM TANK, closely supported by infantry (right foreground), mops up survivors of Japanese counterattack. Note destroyed enemy tank in foreground. Ridgeline in background was objective O-2, seized by the 6th Marines soon after this mop-up.
D-plus 2--17 June
Through Susupe's Marshes
The 2d Marine Division had planned to attack at 0730, 17 June, with the 2d and 6th Marines moving northeast to O-2 and the 8th Marines east to O-1. At 0715, with troops poised to launch their attack, an order came from NTLF directing that the move be delayed until 0930. General Watson recognized that there was insufficient time for this modification to be circulated to all front line units and the division attacked as originally scheduled.
It is a tribute to the excellent training of the 6th Marines (plus the 2d Battalion, 2d Marines, still attached) that an attack could be launched on schedule, less than an hour after the coup de grace had been administered the last Japanese attackers. A 90-minute preparation, fired by naval gunfire, air and artillery, preceded the jump-off.
The 8th Marines' advance was uneven. In the zones of the 1st and 3d Battalions, the advance to O-1 was quite rapid; but, on the right, the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines (attached to the 8th Marines), found the going much more difficult owing to difficult terrain. In the marshy land surrounding Lake Susupe, men carrying machine guns, mortars and ammunition found themselves sinking waist deep into the muck. The swamp--extending 1,000 yards north and south of Lake Susupe, much
larger than it had appeared on the map--was infested with snipers.
East of the swamp, directly to the Marines' front, was a hill (coincident with O-1) containing a series of enemy positions. South of the hill, directly on the Marines' right flank, was a Japanese-infested coconut grove. From both these areas, small-arms fire contested any forward movement by the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines.
By mid-afternoon, no advance had been made, and in addition, the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Tannyhill, had been wounded. By about 1600, a new commander, Lieutenant Colonel Rathvon M. Tompkins (formerly assistant division operations officer), arrived on the scene. Almost simultaneous with his arrival, Tompkins spotted four Marine tanks (of Company A, 2d Tank Battalion) moving along Laulau Road toward him. Immediately these were hailed, turned about, and employed against the enemy on the hill to the front. With this powerful base of fire, the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, regained the offensive and pushed rapidly to the hill's crest. After a quick mop-up, the unit dug in for the night. The tanks, which had so effectively turned the tide, drove upon the hill also. There, at point-blank range, they poured round after round into a large enemy-occupied cave. From the coconut grove to the south, meanwhile, Japanese fires continued. Each time the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, fired its mortars into the grove, a deluge of small-arms fire answered back.
Though the coconut grove remained to be seized the next day, an important objective had been captured which made the beachhead more secure. As insurance against Japanese night recapture, the 8th Marines emplaced three 75mm half-tracks from the regimental weapons company on the hill.
The 8th Regiment was in contact with the 6th Marines on the left, but physical contact did not exist with 4th Division on the right. It was necessary, therefore, to commit the 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, to refuse the regiment's right.49 (See Map 11.)
Colonel Riseley's 6th Marines attacked at 0730 and made satisfactory progress against light resistance. Since the direction of attack was to the northeast and up into the foothills of Mount Tipo Pale, the regiment's lines tended to become over-extended as contact with the 8th Marines became progressively more difficult. Upon reaching O-2, the unit held up its attack; lines were reorganized and consolidated in anticipation of continuing the advance when progress of the 8th Marines permitted. All units of the regiment except the Regimental Scout Sniper Platoon (reserve) had been committed to the line. To augment this meager reserve, Company 3 of the 1st Battalion, 2d Marines,50 was attached to the 6th Marines.51
Colonel Stuart's 2d Marines advanced in a column of battalions, regulating its rate on the 6th Marines, to its right. By 1800, the 3d Battalion, the leading unit, reached O-2, coincident at that point with the Force Beachhead Line and but a thousand yards from Garapan's outskirts. There, with the left flank anchored on the beach and the right in contact with the 6th Marines, the battalion dug in.52 (See Map 11.)
During the day's operations, the 1st, 2d and 4th Battalions, 10th Marines, were in direct support of the 6th, 8th and 2d Marines respectively, and the 3d Battalion was in general support.53
Lieutenant Colonel Marvin H. Floom's 2d 155mm Howitzer Battalion commenced landing at 1700 with orders to support the 4th Marine Division. Thus detached from 2d
Division control, Floom's battalion was assigned position areas about 1500 yards south of Charan Kanoa. Prior to darkness, reconnaissance was completed and communications were established with the 14th Marines. Traffic congestion at Beach Blue 1 delayed into the night the emplacement of the battalion's howitzers, but by shortly after daylight the next morning an air observer was assigned the unit, registration accomplished, and eight guns were ready to fire. By noon, the battalion as a complete, 12-gun unit was delivering concentrations on enemy targets.54
The Move to Aslito Airfield
In the 4th Marine Division's zone, the 165th Infantry Regiment, attached on the previous night, moved through the 3d Battalion, 24th Marines, and right flank elements of the 25th Marines and attacked toward Aslito Airfield. Upon passage of its lines, the 3d Battalion. 24th Marines, reverted to division reserve. Colonel Kelley, commanding the 165th Infantry, requested that the Marine battalion remain in the area until his 3d Battalion had arrived. General Schmidt concurred.55
Attacking with battalions abreast, 1st on the right, 2d on the left, the 165th advanced from 800 to 1,200 yards on 17 June against relatively light opposition. By 1400, the 2d Battalion had moved to the southwest edge of Aslito Airfield, while the 1st Battalion had become involved in a fight for a dominating ridge line extending from the airfield's southwest corner to the vicinity
SOLDIERS OF 165TH INFANTRY move along south coast on 17 June. The following day the zone along the south coast was assumed by the 105th Infantry. Tinian may be seen in background as destroyers patrol the stretch of water between the two islands.
of Cape Obiam. Infantrymen of the 1st Battalion (Major James H. Mahoney, USA) inched slowly up the steep and open slope, so that, by 1700, a toehold had been gained at the crest. At this point, however, the Japanese launched a counterattack and drove the soldiers back off the hill. Reorganizing and reforming the lines at the base of the ridge, the battalion dug in for the night.
As previously noted, the 3d Battalion, 165th Infantry (Major Dennis D. Claire, USA), had not landed during the night of 16-17 June with the other two battalions. This unit came ashore on the morning of 17 June, first elements arriving on the beach at 0805. By 0945 the entire battalion was ashore and placed in regimental reserve. In the late afternoon, after the 1st Battalion had been driven off the ridge, the 3d Battalion was ordered to move to the vicinity of the ridge and prepare to attack with the other two battalions on the following morning.56 (See Map 11.)
On 165th's left, the 25th Marines attacked in a column of battalions, Lieutenant Colonel Hudson's 2d Battalion leading. This unit advanced approximately 1,500 yards, securing the favorable, dominating terrain along the O-2 line. A gap developed between the Marines and the Army--caused by the Marines' faster movement--necessitating the employment of Companies I and L, 25th Marines, to fill the gap. Company I searched the building area just north of the airfield and Company L patrolled the airfield itself, thoroughly checking all installations and dismantling all serviceable Japanese weapons. Lieutenant Maurice W. Savage led his platoon from Company L to contact the Army's left unit, the 2d Battalion, 165th Infantry. There Savage informed Lieutenant Colonel John F. McDonough, USA, the battalion commander, that all installations in the airfield area were clear of enemy and requested that the unit move forward and seize the airfield (and, incidentally, relieve the contact problem). Savage's recommendation, made during the late afternoon, was not translated into action, however, and the 165th Infantry remained on the high ground west of the field.
When it was apparent to the 25th's commander (Colonel Batchelder) that the Army unit contemplated no further movement for the day, the 3d Battalion was ordered to shift to a position on the north side of the airfield, facing south, denying and protecting the right flank. Physical contact, did not exist between the 25th Marines and the 165th Infantry as they dug in for the night.57 (See Map 11.)
In regard to this situation, the 165th Infantry's commander, Colonel Kelley, has written:
. . . it is probable that the 2d Battalion could have taken the Air Field on the 17th. However, due to the difficulty encountered by the 1st Battalion on their right flank any advance would extend the 2d too far for good defense, plus the fact that from their present positions they had an excellent field of fire against any possible enemy counterattack. I decided it wise to maintain position . . . on the night of the 17th and to take the Air Field in daylight. This also permitted the 2d Battalion to support progress of the other two battalions from the high ground on which the Air Field was located.58
Left of the 4th Division center, the 24th Marines fought over broken terrain towards the second ridge line, designated O-2. The 1st Battalion, hampered by persistent antiaircraft guns (muzzles depressed from their usual vertical position) firing from positions east of Aslito Airfield (probably on Nafutan Point), moved rapidly toward its objective. About noon, following a 15-minute artillery preparation fired by the 1st Battalion, 14th Marines, the 1st Battalion, 24th Marines, began the ascent of the precipitous ridge line. By 1630, Major Fricke, the commanding officer, reported the battalion digging in on O-2.
Lieutenant Colonel Rothwell's 2d Battalion, moving to the left of the 1st Battalion, was destined for a difficult day. Starting off rapidly, though weathering fire from a 3-inch dual-purpose gun in position 300 yards to the left front, the battalion soon discovered that it was not in contact with the 23d Marines, and, therefore, delayed the attack until this detail could be resolved.
Additional discouragement in the form of friendly rocket fire falling within the lines slowed the advance and caused 20 casualties.
Despite these difficulties, however, the battalion had reached the approaches to the O-2 ridge line by late afternoon, when from the cliff face a short 300 yards ahead came a vicious hail of Japanese machine-gun, rifle, and knee mortar59 fire. This fire, completely stopping forward movement, caused the battalion commander to order a 400 yard withdrawal to dig in for the night. The new position had little to commend it. Enemy fire continued almost as before, and the ground, a hard shell of coral rock, was very unsatisfactory for digging. Several rounds of mortar fire (of uncertain origin--but thought to be friendly) fell in the area, making it even less desirable. To escape the bad terrain and the fire, Rothwell ordered his unit to pull back another 200 yards for the night's defense. With the 2d Battalion in its withdrawn position and the 1st Battalion on O-2, the 24th Marines dug in for the night. (See Map 11.)
The 24th Marines' executive officer, Lieutenant Colonel Austin R. Brunelli, who had been with the 1st Battalion during the day, received orders from the regimental commander to remain with the 1st Battalion for the night and to coordinate defenses in that area. The following day the orders were expanded to the extent that Brunelli would assume command of the 1st Battalion, Major Fricke reverting to battalion executive officer.60
The 23rd Marines, on the division left, made but little progress during the day. The big, partly bald hill southeast of Lake Susupe was occupied in considerable strength by the enemy and fire from there played havoc with the regiment's left flank as it tried to negotiate the swampy ground southeast of the lake. Just how many Japanese were on the hill is not known. There were enough, however, to stop the forward movement of Haas' 1st Battalion. Existing records make no mention of this particular force, but it is assumed to have been elements of Colonel Oka's 47th Mixed Brigade.
The 23d Marines had no contact with the 2d Marine Division, owing to the latter's previously described difficulties north of the lake. The 23d's right unit, the 2d Battalion, made substantial gains while the 1st Battalion could make virtually none, and a gap between the two was created. Into this went the reserve battalion (the 3d), with orders to tie in the flanks. Later, Vandegrift's 3d Battalion, 24th Marines (passed through by the 165th Infantry earlier in the day), arrived as an attachment to the 23d Marines. Under cover of darkness, Vandegrift's unit moved into position to relieve the 3d Battalion, 23d Marines.61
As the 4th Division dug in for the night, its center rested on the dominating terrain along O-2, but both flanks bent back somewhat. (See Map 11.)
More Corps Troops Ashore
As the beachhead expanded, more Corps elements landed. At 1350, 17 June, General Holland Smith debarked from the USS Rocky Mount and proceeded ashore; the Northern Troops and Landing Force (NTLF) command post opened in Charan Kanoa at 1530.62
The site was a good one, affording reasonable protection from the torrential downpours and sufficient room for posting maps and charts. Holland Smith has written of his Charan Kanoa command post:
. . . This village was laid out in rectangular blocks with small, bungalow-type houses built of plaster, wooden slats and concrete, with roofs of corrugated iron. Except for the broken windows, some of these houses were habitable. In backyard quadrangles stood large concrete cisterns for catching rainwater, fed by pipes from the roofs. Each house had its air raid
LOOKING EAST FROM MT. FINA SUSU. High ground 2,000 yards to the front is objective O-2. Picture shows zone of 23d Marines on 17 June.
Although this area was subjected to occasional ineffective Japanese bombing, enemy artillery never directly shelled the command post itself. This was peculiar; though on more than one occasion the installation was bracketed with overs and shorts, final adjustment onto the bull's-eye was never accomplished. The command post remained at this sanctuary throughout the entire operation.
Brigadier General Harper and his advance parties from Corps Artillery reconnoitered for positions and established his command post in an unfinished Japanese concrete blockhouse about 200 yards inland from Beach Yellow 2. Shortly after dawn, advance parties from the 532d Field Artillery Battalion joined General Harper and parties that had landed the previous night. Late in the afternoon, a dispatch was sent to NTLF with a request to commence landing the Corps Artillery as soon as practicable. No firing elements of the XXIV Corps Artillery were landed on the 17th, but on the following day the unit's howitzers and personnel began arriving ashore in a steady flow.64
Following the 3d Battalion, 165th Infantry, ashore on the morning of 17 June was the 105th Infantry (Colonel Leonard A. Bishop, USA) and Major General Ralph C. Smith with 27th Division headquarters. Once ashore, General Ralph Smith took command of 27th Division units, with the exception of the 165th Infantry which remained under 4th Marine Division control. By dusk, all three battalions of the 105th were ashore but very little of the regimental headquarters personnel and communication equipment. Colonel Bishop's regiment thus operated under a distinct handicap inasmuch as the Cavalier, the ship in which the
CHARAN KANOA AIRSTRIP (looking north) was captured on D-Day. Laid out perpendicular to the prevailing east-west wind, it was unsatisfactory for anything but light observation planes. LVT at left has lowered ramp to unload supplies.
absent equipment and personnel were embarked, was not completely unloaded until nearly a week later.65
Though official records do not indicate whether this unfortunate situation resulted from poor execution or from poor planning, Admiral Hill, who assumed command of ships at Saipan after Admiral Turner's departure on the late afternoon of 17 June, significantly comments:
Embarked with me on the Cambria were members of the Corps G-4, who had loading plans for all ships. Each day they told me what ships they wanted at the anchorage for unloading. . . . The Navy was merely the operating agency for bringing into port any ship which the Corps said they wanted.
Elsewhere, the Admiral sheds further light:
I do not remember the exact cause of the mixup in the Cavalier. Cargo unloaded on the day of her arrival was dictated by the responsible authorities of the 27th Division. . . . I remember that when they complained that this equipment was not ashore, no one was able to find out where it was so that we could call in the necessary ship and unload it for them. . . .66
After the 105th Infantry had landed, NTLF ordered Colonel Bishop to designate one battalion as a separate reserve. This unit would assume positions behind the 4th Marine Division so as to provide greater depth in case a strong counterattack developed there. Bishop selected the 2d Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Leslie Jensen, USA) for this mission.
The 864th Antiaircraft Artillery Group. commanded by Colonel Kenneth M. Barager, USA, was ordered to commence unloading but experienced extreme difficulty in getting across the reef, and another day passed before it was completely unloaded.67
While it is doubtful that individuals lying in front line foxholes had felt the change, it is safe to say that there was a great improvement in our situation on the evening of 17 June. True, the bulk of supporting ships and planes had departed to counter the Japanese Fleet movements, but that was more than balanced by the numbers of troops and the amount of equipment now ashore. The Japanese had lost their best opportunity to throw us back into the sea. As the NTLF Periodic Report for 17 June comments: "This period showed the first signs of weakening enemy resistance."68
Until now, the enemy's retreat had been
OY OBSERVATION PLANE readies for the take-off on Charan Kanoa airstrip. The first of these planes landed on this strip on the evening of 17 June and thereafter performed invaluable reconnaissance and fire direction assistance.
orderly and had followed a definite pattern. They had carried away their dead and wounded so that our troops were unable to see how great was the damage of our fires. After 17 June, dead and wounded Japanese would often be found where they were hit, indicating a deterioration in their system of evacuation. The divisions now held better ground, although the summit of Mount Tapotchau still afforded the Japanese complete observation of the beachhead and continued to do so for several days to come. On the beaches, shore parties operated with efficiency, though still weathering occasional shellings.
Just before dark, several carrier-embarked observation planes (OY-1's) landed ashore, four at the recently repaired Charan Kanoa strip and one on the road opposite Beach Yellow 1. From then on, these planes extensively used the Charan Kanoa strip.69
Night of 17-18 June
Only the 2d Marine Division had noteworthy action on the night of 17-18 June. Intermittently throughout the rainy night, small groups of Japanese (usually not more than one or two squads) attempted to penetrate the lines, looking for a weak point through which substantial forces could be poured. At about midnight, an attack was directed at the boundary between
the 6th and 8th Marines. In the latter's zone, 15 or 20 Japanese overran two machine guns of Company K, but the attack was repulsed and the original line restored.70
The line of Lieutenant Colonel Nutting's 2d Battalion, 2d Marines, occupying the right of the 6th Marines' sector, was breached at about the same time, and contact with the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, temporarily lost. Nutting committed a portion of Company F (3d Platoon and a machine-gun section) to fill the gap; the Japanese were expelled from the area, and contact reestablished.
The diary of Misao Naito (rank and unit unknown) mentions this activity as follows "Two squads, 15 men, went out for a night attack below Regimental Headquarters at Oreai equipped with antitank grenades." The return of these two squads--or the success or failure which they experienced--is not indicated in the diary.71 It should not be assumed from this account that two squads represented the total night attack force, but rather that the Japanese were following a faulty technique (of which they were often guilty) of sending a few troops from one unit and a few from another, without any attempt to preserve tactical unity or to achieve coordination.
Having landed from the sea, the Marines were well aware that the enemy could do likewise, using the same beaches. A night thrust against the landing force rear, if successful, could create untold confusion among logistical and command installations and, if executed in strength, could jeopardize the entire Saipan venture. To protect against any such activity, beach defense was coordinated between the shore party, 2d Marines, and available amphibian vehicles.
The beach defense system almost got an early test. At about 0430, 18 June, approximately 35 barges, apparently loaded with Japanese soldiers, were spotted off Flores Point, north of Garapan. The 4th Battalion, 10th Marines, opened on the vulnerable target, as did U. S. vessels in the vicinity. The latter were in the best position and inflicted the most damage; 13 barges were destroyed, the remainder turned back. The threat was over.72
Japanese Air Strikes
Owing to Admiral Spruance's order that transports not required for immediate unloading be withdrawn from the Saipan area, Headquarters, Expeditionary Troops (TF 56), was removed from the area for several days. Shortly after the convoy got underway on the early evening of 17 June, it was subjected to an attack by a "formation"73 of enemy aircraft. LST 84 was set afire by a Japanese bomb; but, after raging furiously for a time, the blaze was brought under control and extinguished. The damage was not vital, and the ship remained operative. Gunfire from ships of the Northern Attack Force shot down three of the attacker's dive bombers.
At about the same time (1800-1830), Carrier Support Group One (TG 52.14), operating to the west of Saipan, was attacked by another enemy formation. A 250-pound bomb, which hit the escort carrier Fanshaw Bay on the after elevator, put her out of action for the remainder of the Marianas operation. The ship retired to Eniwetok for repairs. Because of the lateness of the attack, interceptor planes had to land on the carriers after dark, with resultant operational losses of 19 planes. U. S. fighters claimed they shot down eight Japanese planes and ships' gunfire accounted for "several" more.
Carrier Support Group Two (TG 52.11) was next to receive an attack. Here, however, enemy planes failed to achieve a single hit and suffered losses in the process. Ships' gunfire accounted for five planes, while U. S. fighters destroyed "considerable."
For Fire Support Unit 52.17.6 (part of Fire Support Group One), ploughing through waters 12 miles west of Saipan, the air alarm sounded at 1900. The subsequent Japanese
16 and 17 June 1944
attack, however, resulted in no hits by either side. A busy evening came to an end.74
Enemy air attacks were as consistently ineffective as they were annoyingly frequent.
In a recurrence of what happened to the California and Braine on 14 June and to the Tennessee on the 15th, the destroyers Philip and Phelps were fired upon at 0544, 18 June, by shore batteries on Saipan, one located just north of Garapan and the other southeast of that town. The Philip was not hit, but the Phelps was struck by two 8-inch shells, one exploding in the wardroom with extensive but not serious damage, the other in Number 3 fireroom, putting Number 3 boiler out of commission and causing minor damage to steam lines and Number 4 boiler. The two destroyers delivered counterbattery fire and silenced the enemy guns.75
It is doubtful that the message of inspiration received that night from the Chief of Staff (Hideki Tojo) in Japan was accorded complete circulation to the hard-pressed front line defenders of Saipan:
Because the fate of the Japanese Empire depends on the result of your operation, inspire the spirit of the officers and men and to the very end continue to destroy the enemy gallantly and persistently; thus alleviate the anxiety of our Emperor.
The reply from the chief of staff of the beleaguered 43d Division (Colonel Takuji Suzuki) showed that he, at least, had been inspired:
Have received your honorable Imperial words and we are grateful for boundless magnanimity of Imperial favor. By becoming the bulwark of the Pacific with 10,000 deaths we hope to requite the Imperial favor.76
D-plus 3--18 June
The chief of staff of the 31st Japanese Army, Major General Keiji Iketa, drafted a message on the morning of 18 June to the commanding general at Yap Island and the chief of staff in Tokyo. In it he summarized the situation as he saw it and, in the process, revealed how very little he knew of what was taking place about him. Not that the general was caught in the bog of apathy, nor was he too frightened or lazy to find out what was going on; it was simply impossible for him to penetrate the shroud of obscurity resulting from ruptured communications in the vast area over which the action was taking place. Moreover, even the meager information that he did possess proved in at least one instance (paragraph four) to be false:
The Homare Unit [43d Division] Headquarters is about 2,500 meters southeast of Oreai [Charan Kanoa]. The forces at its disposal are not over three companies.
The situation of the other units is completely unknown.
The enemy is gradually advancing under cover of fierce naval gunfire and bombing and strafing and the southern half of this island is generally under the subjugation of the enemy.
Homare Unit Headquarters underwent an enemy attack this a.m. and the division CO died along with his staff officers.
Army Field Headquarters is in the mountains 1,800 meters east of Garapan pier. The enemy in force is advancing from the south of Garapan and is closing in on the field headquarters.
In another dispatch later in the day, General Iketa corrected his error in regard to the division commander's death, reporting that General Saito was "all right," but that his "staff officers were wounded." Also, in this second message of 18 June, Iketa gave a more specific disposition of Japanese forces:
The army is consolidating its battle lines and has decided to prepare for a showdown fight. It is concentrating the Homare Group in the area east of Tapotchau. The remaining units (two infantry battalions of 135th Infantry, about one composite battalion, one naval unit), are concentrating in the area east of Garapan. This is the beginning of our showdown fight.
The high command in Tokyo received a tangible clue of the hopelessness of the Japanese situation at Saipan when General Iketa reported that "the secret documents in custody of the 31st Army Headquarters . . . were completely burned at 1830 of 18 June. . . ."77
The NTLF Operation Order for 18 June (D-plus 3) called for an attack by all three divisions; the two Marine divisions at 1000 and the Army at 1200 (to allow the 27th Division time to move the 105th Infantry into position
on the right flank along the south coast).78
Into the Coconut Grove
The 2d Marine Division's lines advanced very little on 18 June because the pivot to the north had already begun; and, since the division's left was the anchor of the pivot, its movements had to be restricted to prevent overextending lines. Colonel Wallace's 8th Marines, however, did attack on the right. The previous day had found the regiment in possession of the O-1 ridge line but receiving heavy fire from a coconut grove to the south.
Because of the proximity of 4th Division troops to this grove, it was necessary that supporting fires be delivered with a great deal of caution and finesse, lest errant shells claim Marine casualties. Well equal to this exacting task were the industrious 75mm pack howitzers of the 2d Battalion, 10th Marines. Following a diligent 15-minute preparation, Major Chamberlin's 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, attacked and carried the grove. As this move progressed, the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, kept pace by swinging its right flank abreast of Chamberlin's unit.
Here, for the first time, large numbers of dead Japanese were found (although no actual count was made), giving further indication that the enemy system of evacuation was deteriorating. With the advance to the coconut grove, contact with the 4th Division was established. As will be seen, however, 4th Division elements pulled back at dusk and a lateral gap was again created. This was not serious, however, inasmuch as Lake Susupe was within a stone's throw of the 2d Battalion, 8th Marines' right flank. The other two regiments of the 2d Division did not advance their lines but patrolled areas to their front in preparation for later moves.79
Drive to the East
The 4th Marine Division attacked toward the east coast with three regiments abreast: 25th Marines on the right, 24th Marines in the center, and 23d Marines on the left. The 3d Battalion, 24th Marines, remained attached to the 23d Regiment.
Good progress was made by the 24th and 25th Marines, although the former sustained an attack at 1615 by two Japanese tanks which surged to within 350 yards of the front lines. The situation for awhile was alarming: U. S. tanks had departed for rear areas to refuel and re-arm so that only bazookas were immediately available for antitank defense. Though the 24th Marines' Weapons Company was immediately alerted, it arrived too late to participate in the fight. The enemy tanks were finally chased by bazookas and artillery, but not before they had sprayed the area (causing 15 casualties) with machine-gun and small cannon fire.
A portion of the O-3 line (see Map 13) was reached by the 24th and 25th Marines during the day, placing the latter along the coast of Magicienne Bay. This healthy gain severed the island's southern portion, including Nafutan Point, from the remainder of the island. The NTLF Staff expected no serious trouble from the foe in the isolated southern area.
To maintain the momentum of the attack and avoid the long delay of a mopping-up process, the 24th Marines by-passed the southern extremity of a heavily defended cliff line running north and south through its zone of action. However, since the direction of attack for the division would soon swing north through the by-passed area, it was necessary to secure the cliff line. This mission was assigned to the division reserve, 1st Battalion, 25th Marines.
This, the unit's first experience with cleaning cave positions, proved a slow, unpleasant and dangerous task. There was no simple method of cleaning caves. It was a matter of working into a position from which a demolition charge or flame thrower could either destroy the caves' inhabitants or trap them inside by sealing the entrances. Getting to such a position usually demanded "mountain goat" tactics. Rather than a coordinated move, the task took the form of a series of small, separated actions, each employing groups of four or five men. The unpleasantness of crawling over rough,
PLOWED FIELD, devoid of cover and concealment, was in striking contrast to rugged terrain in many other parts of the island. Here men of the 4th Division are utilizing armored LVT's in assault gun fashion. Although lightly armored, these vehicles were effectively employed during the first days of the battle in missions normally assigned to tanks.
jagged rocks plus the peril of receiving a burst of enemy fire at point-blank range, totalled "cave-cleaning."80
Preliminary operations and reorganization were necessary in the 23d Marines' zone of action prior to the 1000 attack. At 0730, the 3d Battalion, 24th Marines (attached to the 23d), relieved Haas' 1st Battalion on the division's left wing and commenced the move on O-2, which would serve as the line of departure. As will be seen, however, events of the day prevented the regiment from reaching this line. Organizational readjustments within the 23d Marines included the attachment of the 3d Battalion's rifle companies and 81mm mortar platoon to Dillon's 2d Battalion and formation of a composite battalion from the 1st Battalion and the 3d Battalion Headquarters (under the command of the 3d Battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Cosgrove). The latter unit would support the attack of the other two battalions from positions on Mt. Fina Susu.
Machine-gun fire stopped the 23d Marines' left elements after an advance of 200 to 250 yards. Most of this fire came from a clump of trees to their front, but a definite location of enemy weapons was impossible. Frequent barrages of Japanese mortar fire hampered efforts to spot the enemy, and the attack faltered. At this juncture, Cosgrove's composite battalion was committed on the left of the 3d Battalion, 24th Marines, in an attempt to retain the impetus, and the attack again moved forward.
But the advance was slow. By 1715, the 23d Marines had moved to a line about 400 yards short of O-2.
Prior to darkness, 23d Marines' patrols were dispatched to the east. On the right, these patrols reached O-2, but on the left machine-gun fire denied movement as far as O-2. Colonel Jones, the 23d Marines' commander, requested permission from General Schmidt to withdraw to more favorable ground for the night. General Schmidt approved, and the 23d pulled back to a position about 400 yards east of Lake Susupe, breaking contact with the 2d Division.81
During the afternoon a report from the 23d Marines reached the 4th Division Headquarters, then Corps, that the enemy was using gas. The alarm was sounded. Gas; the possibility that the Japanese would at some time resort to this dread weapon had lurked in the background of every operation. But, as quickly as it began, the flurry subsided. An investigation by the 23d Marines, immediately instituted, revealed that a half-track, operating in the 2d Battalion zone, had fired into a cave which housed a picric acid plant. A rolling yellow cloud, containing pungent fumes, emitted from the cave aperture, causing two casualties (from extreme nausea) and much excitement.82
This episode illustrated a long-recognized fact: gas masks were the most useless things in the world, until (and here was the big "until") there was a gas attack or threat of gas attack, at which point they became the most valued of all items of equipment. The scramble for masks that followed the gas alarm gave convincing proof, if any were needed, that gas was indeed a frightening weapon. It appeared to many officers and men that the moment of retribution was near for all the bad care they had given their masks. And, for at least a short time after this scare, the masks were faithfully carried and cared for.
This gas scare temporarily relieved one individual of either his inhibitions or his eyesight: General Schmidt, 4th Division commander, reports that, without pausing for any formalities, "a young lieutenant came rushing into my dugout and asked me if I had a spare gas mask."83
Seizure of Aslito Airfield
For the attack of 18 June, the commanding officer of the 165th Infantry was somewhat confused as to his regiment's status. Was it still under 4th Division control? Or had it reverted to the 27th Division? Of this situation the 165th's commander, Colonel Kelley, has written:
I was unable to determine (by telephone conversation with Hq 4th Marine Division) whether I was still attached to the 4th Marine Division or had passed to the Command of CG 27th Div. I had my S-3 call D-3 4th Marine Division to inform that office of the progress of the attack and what I planned to do. This in view of the absence of formal orders from 4th Marine Division Headquarters. As I remember the report of my S-3, the D-3 (or assistant) had stated that I was to do as I had been ordered (in connection with my proposed action). He later tempered his remarks when advised that I had received no orders and indicated that we might be under the direction of CG 27th Division. Shortly after this Major General Ralph Smith visited my CP and advised me that I should receive notice of my release from the Marines and revertion [sic] to the 27th Division. I did receive notice from the 27th Division but never received such orders from 4th Marine Division Headquarters.84
Attacking ahead of schedule, the 165th Infantry captured Aslito Airfield without opposition at about 1000.85 The field, found in relatively good condition, contained the largest cache of airplane parts and damaged airplanes captured from the Japanese up to this time. Also discovered and put to good use: an oxygen plant, a power plant, a million-gallon reservoir, and a number of shelters and warehouses with steel-reinforced concrete walls. The runway had a four degree incline, compared with a
grade limit for United States fields of half a degree. The field became operational for fighters on 22 June, for Liberator bombers on 9 August, and for B-29's on 15 October.86
Apparently, Japanese troops had moved out in such haste that no demolition or destruction was accomplished. The outer defenses were in excellent condition, and a safe containing some confidential documents was found.
The Seabees (personnel of the 18th and 121st Naval Construction Battalions) soon arrived at the airfield and commenced repairing it for our own use. They were joined on 2 July by the first of five aviation engineer battalions of the VII Air Service Command.
Southeast of the field the ridge that had troubled the 1st Battalion, 165th Infantry, on the previous afternoon was regained without special difficulty. At this point the formation was altered. This came as a result of an order from General Ralph Smith, narrowing the 165th Infantry's broad zone and inserting the 105th Infantry into the right of the division's front. With its zone compressed, the 165th Infantry adopted a formation of 1st and 2d Battalions abreast, 1st on the left, 3d in reserve, for the push to the east coast.
The 105th Infantry, meanwhile, had moved in on the 165th's right and launched its attack along the south coast. Available to this regiment were but two of its battalions, since the 2d was still under NTLF control. Progress was slow; the right battalion (3d, Lieutenant Colonel Edward T. Bradt, USA) found the coast line pitted with caves, all of which had to be investigated. As noted earlier, cave-cleaning is a tedious process, requiring deliberate, painstaking effort. The left battalion (1st, Lieutenant Colonel William J. O'Brien, USA) found itself confronted with vast canefields. In these, the intense heat retarded the rate of advance. Because of the 105th Infantry's slowness, the 165th could not reach the east coast without severing contact with its sister
165TH INFANTRY moving across the flat near Aslito Airfield on the morning of 18 June.
regiment.87 (See Map 13 for 18 June front lines.)
At about noon of 18 June, General Holland Smith and his chief of staff, General Erskine, arrived for a visit at the 27th Division command post, then located about 1,000 yards inland from Yellow Beach. According to Major General Ralph Smith, "both these Marine officers again expressed satisfaction over the progress of operations of the 27th Division and the capture of the airfield."88
General Harper, Corps Artillery commander, and his advance parties continued their reconnaissance, being joined at dawn of the 18th by reconnaissance details from the 145th Field Artillery Battalion. By late afternoon the 225th Field Artillery Battalion, with eight 155mm howitzers in position southeast of Charan Kanoa, began firing. Two Corps Artillery liaison planes also landed during the day on Charan Kanoa strip and were pressed into the immediate task of locating targets.89
General Holland Smith, concerned that certain supplies were running short, requested from Admiral Turner that the ships which had departed on the evening of the 17th be returned for unloading.90 Rather than returning all ships as requested, however, Turner held to the original plan of returning only those vessels needed for immediate unloading.
The evacuation picture improved greatly on 18 June with the arrival of the two hospital ships Solace and Bountiful. These ships took aboard 1,099 casualties, which, together with the gradual decrease of the casualty rate to 500 per day, helped relieve the overload on medical facilities of the transports.91
Japanese Air Activity
During the afternoon, the enemy attempted limited air interference over Saipan, and two Japanese planes were shot down. One of the
PLANES FROM ESCORT CARRIERS, like the Kalinin Bay, operated at Saipan on combat air patrol missions and in close support of ground troops.
pilots, captured by the 2d Battalion, 105th Infantry, near Aslito Airfield, stated that he had been one of the two remaining pilots on Guam.92
Against our ships, Japanese aircraft had been more active and somewhat more successful. Early in the morning (0540) of 18 June, "several" enemy aircraft attacked Task Unit 52.17.6, then steaming about 12 miles west of Saipan anchorage. The raiders achieved no hits, although the Maryland reported near misses off her starboard quarter. Ships' gunfire succeeded in downing one Japanese fighter. In the afternoon, at 1650, three tankers of Task Unit 16.7.1 were damaged in an attack by 10 enemy planes. The results of this attack were entirely favorable to the Japanese, since none of their planes were lost. Two of the damaged oilers (Neshanic and Saugatuck) were able to remain at Saipan while the third (Saranac) was more seriously hit, losing all power. After temporary repairs the latter ship returned to Eniwetok.
Carrier Support Unit Two (TU 52.11) was attacked near Saipan by a "formation" of Japanese aircraft. While achieving no hits, the Japanese lost five fighters as a result of ships' gunfire and aircraft from the carriers. The real naval tragedy of the day occurred when U. S. planes were forced to land on their carriers after dark. This difficult feat resulted in the loss of 31 planes. Following these losses, the CVE (escort carrier) Kalinin Bay was sent to Eniwetok for replacements.93
The Japanese air attacks that struck Saipan on 18 June were made by scattered remnants of a large conglomerate force of 120-130 naval planes which was to hit the landing beaches and landing ships. To assemble this force, the Japanese had been obliged to scrape the bottom of the barrel in both planes and men. The planes were of various types, ranging from medium bombers to fighters; two-thirds of the pilots were experienced, the remainder were students. En route from Yokosuka to Saipan, the force was intercepted by U. S. carrier aircraft with the result that most of the enemy force was knocked down.94
Night of 18-19 June
The night was relatively quiet. All divisions reported only sporadic sniping and minor infiltrations.
Some of the optimism which had characterized previous Japanese reports was absent from the operation order of Colonel Suzuki, commanding officer of the 135th Infantry Regiment, issued on the night of 18 June:
1. Since Red landings there are . . . about 100 tanks . . . north of the airfield [undoubtedly referring to our tanks]. Our forces will reorganize their lines and prepare for decisive battle.95
On Tinian, meanwhile, Japanese were attempting to piece together the jigsaw puzzle of vague details and to figure out what was occurring under the smoke and noise on Saipan and in the seas around them. Such radio messages as had been received were obscure in meaning and only served to heighten the curiosity. Typical of the wonderment is an entry in the diary of an unidentified noncommissioned officer stationed on Tinian: "18 June--At 0800, Admiral Toyoda, CinC Combined Fleet, reported 'We have the enemy just where we want him.' Where is the fleet? The enemy continues to land on Saipan."96
D-plus 4--19 June
The Approach to Nafutan Point
The NTLF Operation Order for 19 June instructed the three divisions to "complete missions assigned" in the previous day's order. Successful execution of this would place the landing force lines along Objective line O-3 (See Map 13.).97
The 27th Infantry Division continued its attack at 0730, 19 June, and in the zone of the 165th Infantry reached Magicienne Bay to the
north of Nafutan Point.98 Contact existed with the 4th Marine Division on the left. Slower movement by the 105th Infantry along the south coast caused a break between the flanks of the two regiments, and it was necessary for the 165th to patrol this interval.
In the southern part of the division zone the advance led straight onto Nafutan Point. Dominating the approaches to the point itself is a sheer hill mass, the jagged western face of which is almost as precipitous as a cliff. It was against this formidable obstacle that the 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry, made several unsuccessful ventures. The terrain virtually defied movement from the west. The 3d Battalion, 105th, still investigating caves along the south coast and urging cave occupants to surrender, lagged behind. Large numbers of civilians were taken from the caves by this unit. But by late afternoon, a gap had developed between it and the 1st Battalion, and it was necessary to commit the 1st Battalion, 165th Infantry, in order to tie them in.99
The 4th Division Left Progresses
In the 4th Marine Division zone, only local successes were achieved, but these all added up to an improvement of the situation and an integration of forces for the continuation of the attack. At 0700, a large assemblage of Japanese troops and tanks, apparently forming for a counterattack, was observed near Tsutsuuran. Immediately, all battalions of the 14th Marines registered on this area and poured in massed fires. The Japanese quickly dispersed, and no more was seen of them.
The 24th and 25th Marines continued mopping-up operations and readjustment of the lines throughout the day. The 3d Battalion, 25th Marines, designated as division reserve, moved to an assembly area in rear of the 23d Marines as protection for the left flank. The 23d Marines, with Vandegrift's 3d Battalion, 24th, still attached, attacked following a preparation fired on O-2 and the western slopes of troublesome Hill 500 by the 1st Provisional Rocket Detachment (4.5-inch rockets mounted on trucks) and the 2d and 4th Battalions, 14th Marines. As the attack progressed, the 3d Battalion, 24th Marines--the center battalion--was pinched out, Cosgrove's composite battalion and Dillon's 2d Battalion (reinforced with the 3d Battalion's rifle companies) taking over the assigned regimental frontage.
The day's gains were considerable, a line 400 yards west of O-3 being reached. Here again, however, concern about the area between divisions caused the 23d Marines to pull back about 400 yards where the terrain was more favorable to the protection of the left flank. Patrol contact was established with the 8th Marines (2d Marine Division) on the left. Both regiments exchanged patrols throughout the night. (See Map 13.)
The 23d Marines suffered a critical loss during the day: Lieutenant Colonel Cosgrove, one of the division's ablest officers and leader of the composite battalion, was wounded by an enemy rifle bullet.100
Aggressive patrolling was the principal activity in the 2d Marine Division zone of action. Patrols from the 2d Marines encountered three Japanese tanks near the beach road to Garapan and destroyed two of them. At noon the 2d Regiment was strengthened by arrival of its 1st Battalion, which reverted from division
reserve to parent control. Another shift took one company (F) of the attached 2d Battalion, 6th Marines, from 2d Marines' control and returned it to its own regiment.101
Attachments and detachments of companies and battalions had been demanded by the normal confusion of the amphibious assault. As units arrived at the beach, it was often necessary to feed them into the lines where they were needed, rather than adhering rigidly to principles of tactical unity. To well-trained tactical units these shifts were accomplished with very little difficulty; loyalty was extended from subordinate to senior and from senior to subordinate, regardless of the composition of the command. Patrols from the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, discovered that a dominating hill (790) to the front, strongly defended previously, was now abandoned, and the battalion moved forward to occupy it.102 Why the Japanese chose to evacuate so powerful and thoroughly prepared a position remains a mystery.
Patrols from the 8th Marines sought, in addition to enemy information, routes of supply and evacuation for projected moves to the north and northeast. The 8th Marines' zone, including the summit of Mt. Tapotchau, presented logistical problems of great magnitude. No roads ran through the area, and such trails as existed were impossible of negotiation by trucks. Along the right flank ran a valley, ending abruptly in a deep gorge. To the front, there was no apparent break in the cliffs. To the left was a tortuous nightmare of dead-end gulleys and blind-alley ravines. There was no single, simple solution to this problem.103
General Harper's Corps Artillery had by now assumed an important role in the fight. Twenty-one of its 24 155mm howitzers and 11 of its 24 155mm guns were in position and firing. Long-range destruction, night harassing, and interdiction fires were begun in general support and reinforcement of the 10th and 14th Marines and, subsequently, of the 27th Division Artillery. Observers in liaison planes made possible registration deep in enemy territory, to prevent movement and assembly of troops during daylight hours, to place destruction fires on permanent enemy installations, to seek and search for targets developed and reported by intelligence agencies, and to keep units informed of the trace of front lines.104
Cooperation between artillery units at Saipan left little to be desired throughout the campaign. Instances of faulty coordination later in the campaign were failures of organization and technique--not of cooperation. As a case in point, Lieutenant Colonel Frederick J. Karch, R-3 of the 14th Marines, described a series of conferences between General Harper and operations officers of the three divisions' artillery units. The purpose of these meetings was to insure coordination and maximum effective employment of artillery resources.
After looking over the fire plans presented by the various operations officers, the General would coordinate these, designate corps artillery units that would reinforce the fires of the divisions' artillery, and explain how and why it would be done. His manner instilled a feeling of confidence and good will and left no doubt that his only concern was to bring the greatest amount of artillery fire where it would be needed most.105
Unfortunately, these conferences were discontinued as the operation progressed; thereafter, detailed coordination of field artillery fires was lacking. Coordination of supporting arms continued to be exercised at Northern Troops and Landing Force command post.106
An artillery fire mission, delivered on 19 June under somewhat makeshift circumstances, exhibited both cooperation and ingenuity. A 1st Battalion, 14th Marines, forward observer noted a Japanese field artillery battery in position near Magicienne Bay. Sitting in an
abandoned Japanese observation post, using captured Japanese 15-power field glasses, the observer communicated his fire mission to his battalion Fire Direction Center (FDC) by means of an SCR 300 Radio. It was necessary to relay this request through another forward observer's radio, since the first set would not reach the FDC. The 1st Battalion already had a direct support assignment which precluded its firing the task, so the mission was further relayed to the regimental FDC by telephone. As none of the 14th Marines' organic battalions were unemployed, the mission was sent by radio to the XXIV Corps Artillery, whose 155mm howitzers fired the mission with very good effect.107
The ever-mounting number of captives demanded establishment, on 19 June, of a prisoner of war stockade at the southern edge of Charan Kanoa. Seriously ill or wounded prisoners of war were hospitalized under guard in a nearby unit of the hospital maintained by the Medical Battalion, V Amphibious Corps. Interpreters on duty at the enclosure facilitated the handling of prisoners, and use was made of enemy noncommissioned officers to supervise and control them. Japanese and Koreans were kept in separate enclosure because of their characteristic hate for one another. The Chamorros, while technically, not prisoners of war, required handling by civil affairs personnel and added to an already great problem. Captured materiel fulfilled the greater part of the requirements for food, clothing and shelter.108
At Aslito Airfield, construction and repair work continued. To provide some measure of protection from raids by enemy aircraft, one gun battery and one automatic weapons battery from the 864th Antiaircraft Artillery Group were installed at the field during the day.109
CHAMORRO being questioned by Spanish-speaking Marine. Since the Chamorros were able to speak Japanese in addition to their native tongue, they were helpful in relaying questions to Japanese prisoners and back to United States Spanish-speaking interrogators. Chamorros hated the Japanese soldiers.
Night of 19-20 June
The most vicious action of the night occurred in the sector occupied by the 2d Battalion, 24th Marines. Starting at about 0350 and lasting until daylight, an enemy force of approximately 75 attacked the Marines with grenades and bayonets. In the close-in fighting that ensued, 11 Marines were wounded, but, in the process, the enemy attack was broken. By daylight, many of the attackers were sprawled forward of the Marines' foxholes, the rest had taken to their heels.110
Elsewhere there was little activity, though the 6th Marines experienced a brief flurry when 15 Japanese attempted to infiltrate the lines. In most sectors, it was almost a restful night.111
It is of interest to note that the Japanese were still worried about a landing at Magicienne Bay. At 1300 on 19 June, General Saito issued an "order of the Southern Marianas Force," which said, in part, as follows:
BABY SITTERS were available at Saipan. Civilians were at first afraid of United States troops but grew to trust them as time went on. Many civilians, saturated with Japanese propaganda to the effect that the Americans would torture them, committed suicide rather than surrender.
2. The Division will hold the areas shown on this map [Map 13] and together with reorganizing its units will interrupt the plan of the enemy which has previously landed.
3. The 118th Infantry Regiment will hold the area shown on the map and particularly it will prevent the enemy's plan of landing on Magicienne Bay. [Author's italics.]
6. The main strength of the tank unit will assemble in the area of their maintenance unit [believed to have been Chacha Village]. It will cooperate with the 118th Regiment and together prevent the advance of the enemy from the beach and prepare a counterattack plan against enemy landing in Magicienne Bay area. [Author's italics.]
Why the possibility of a Magicienne Bay landing should have so captured the Japanese attention that they actually deployed their forces in anticipation of it, is one of the unanswered questions relative to the campaign. It perhaps indicates that their intelligence officer was over-emphasizing this one capability, or, perhaps, General Saito had projected himself into the attacker's position and was countering a move which he would have favored.112
By perusing the estimate of combat strength made by General Iketa, chief of staff, 31st
Army, on 19 June, we may better appreciate the effectiveness of the offensive to date:
Division--about 4½ infantry battalions (3½ already destroyed); 1 battalion artillery (2 battalions already destroyed).
Mixed Brigade--infantry unknown; no artillery (2 battalions already destroyed).
Other Infantry--about 1 composite battalion (2½ battalions destroyed).
Tanks--about 2 companies (3 companies destroyed).
Army Artillery under Army command--none (2 battalions destroyed).
Anti-Aircraft Artillery--about 1 battery (4 batteries destroyed).
Independent Engineers--none (3 companies destroyed).113
Eager to notice any diminution in the vigor of the U. S. effort, General Iketa wrote on the evening of 19 June:
The enemy bombing and shelling is relatively scattered compared to yesterday. . . . Targets were area east of Aslito Airfield and gun positions east of Garapan.
Enemy troops have apparently infiltrated into Aslito Airport. . . . It is planned to carry out a concentrated shelling of the three places where the Navy has stored 250 800-kilogram bombs at the airfield.114
Though the airfield was subjected to Japanese shelling from time to time, the cache of bombs was never hit.
Battle of the Philippine Sea
On 19 June, while conducting survey operations off Tanapag Harbor, a mine sweeper (YMS 323) received direct hits from a 4.7inch battery on Mutcho Point. The ship was holed in two places below the waterline and a fire started forward near the magazine. Fortunately, the Japanese projectiles were armor piercing and did not explode. With the assistance of salvage tugs, the fire and flooding were brought under control.
"Several" Japanese aircraft attacked shipping in Saipan anchorage at 1900 with negative results on both sides; no U. S. ships hit, no Japanese aircraft down.115
Farther at sea, meanwhile, Admiral Spruance's forces sought the Japanese Fleet (report of whose movement toward Saipan on 15 June had occasioned withdrawal of the bulk of the shipping from nearby waters). In point of air and surface striking power, the American naval force was the strongest armada ever assembled up to that time.116 On 19 June began the engagement later called the Battle of the Philippine Sea. (See Map 12.)
The action of the 19th consisted of a large-scale, lengthy attack by enemy aircraft on Spruance's ships and two air battles over Guam. The results of the day's action were extremely favorable to us: of 545 Japanese planes seen by U. S. pilots, 402 were destroyed,117 as against 26 American planes lost and minor damage to five U. S. ships. This massacre of enemy planes has frequently been referred to as the "Saipan Turkey Shoot." The South Dakota was the only ship to receive a direct hit (250 kg. bomb), while near misses were scored on the Minneapolis, Wasp and Bunker Hill. One Japanese plane crashed against the side of the Indiana at the water line but caused only superficial damage. Fighting efficiency was promptly restored to all ships.
With decisive air attacks against Saipan unlikely because of heavy carrier plane losses, Spruance's fleet headed to the westward at 23 knots, hoping to bring the Japanese fleet to action. Operating in a related action, U. S. submarines accounted for two 30,000-ton enemy aircraft carriers.
June 19th had, indeed, been devastating to the Japanese. The 402 planes, had they not been destroyed, might have delivered telling
blows on U. S. shipping and granted a brief reprieve to the faltering Japanese war machine. Throughout most of the following day (20 June) the U. S. fleet sought the retreating enemy. It was not until late afternoon, however, that search planes finally made contact with enemy ships; and, by the time heavy strikes (216 planes) were sent out, it was nearly sunset. The Japanese force was so far to westward that the attacks had to be made at extreme range. Despite the heavy barrage of antiaircraft fire and interception by small groups of fighters (totaling about 35 planes), the Japanese Fleet was kept under continuous attack from 1820 to 1900.
Precarious shortage of gasoline and the coming of darkness cut the attacks short. On the return our pilots had difficulty in locating their carriers, and many landed in darkness. The scene became a nightmare of feverish confusion as carriers turned on searchlights, white truck lights, and fired star shells in a desperate effort to home their planes. This part of the operation was to be slow and costly; the battle against darkness and distance was to claim many more casualties than the enemy. Of the 216 planes that had taken off on the afternoon strike, only 116 landed safely; of the 100 that failed, 20 were shot down in combat or unaccounted for, the remaining 80 lost in water landings because of fuel shortages or in deck crashes. Over 75 percent of those personnel in the planes making water landings were picked up in the dark by destroyers and cruisers. The damage inflicted on the Japanese ships and prevention of enemy interference of operations at Saipan, however, made our losses a fair, if tragic, price to pay in return. One enemy carrier and two tankers were sunk; four carriers, a battleship, a large cruiser and a tanker were severely damaged. In addition, 22 Japanese planes were shot down.
Because of the disorganization of U. S. carrier task group screens and the shortage of fuel in the destroyers, pursuit of the enemy fleet during the night could not be pressed, and a speed of 16 knots was maintained as the ships ploughed on to westward.
Following its crushing defeats on 19-20 June, the Japanese Fleet retreated full speed toward Okinawa. U. S. search planes located the enemy ships on the 21st, but planes sent out to attack failed to gain contact. Admiral Spruance's primary mission precluded getting out of range of the Marianas, and, by evening of 21 June, he abandoned the chase. The Battle of the Philippine Sea had broken Japanese efforts to reinforce the Marianas; thereafter, the capture went forward without serious outside interference.118 (See Map 12.)
The death blow had thus been dealt to Japanese carrier-based air power. In attempting again to rebuild his carrier groups, the enemy had to start from scratch. This handicap, heightened by short fuel supply, was too great. With their retirement from the Marianas, the Japanese carriers virtually retired from the war.119
The reaction of Japanese Corporal Tai Suzuki, stationed on Guam, to the activities which were exploding about him is indicated in his diary entry of 19 June:
Heard that a powerful air unit took part in a battle out here. Today, I saw the much hoped for air battle. Our planes shot down some enemy planes in a short time. I heaved a sigh of relief. Since our planes had attacked enemy ships, fuel was running low and ammunition was exhausted after eleven hours of continual flight. Just before they landed, enemy planes attacked them and they made forced landings. I wonder how they felt. I hear that there are a number of pilots who are only 17 or 18! ! ! . . . I heard that the enemy has 500 ships and 7,500 planes in the Central Pacific Area and that the climax of this battle will come in about a week. I am worried as no word has been received since the landings were made on Saipan.120
D-plus 5--20 June
The attack on 20 June was again a pivoting movement to the north. The two Marine divisions would attack toward Objective line O-4, and the 27th Division would "complete the seizure of objective O-3" (which included all of
Nafutan Point, the southernmost extremity).121
Surge to O-4
In the 2d Division, the 2d and 6th Marines confined their activities principally to patrolling, since they were the hinges of the swinging-gate movement. Combat-reconnaissance patrols from Lieutenant Colonel Johnston's 3d Battalion, 2d Marines, moved almost to the southern outskirts of Garapan. In the foothills, a short distance southeast of the town, the Marines found an abandoned Japanese tank in operating condition with full fuel tanks. They destroyed the machine with demolitions and returned to their lines.122
Patrols sent out by the 6th Marines discovered no defensive positions of consequence within 500 yards to the front. Orders to maintain contact with the 8th Marines, however, precluded any forward movement of the regiment's lines.123
The 8th Marines, meanwhile, continued the attack, making its main (and only) effort on the right, in the 2d Battalion zone. This battalion, after 4th Marine Division units came abreast, was required to swing northward along the front of the O-1 ridge line. An unusual feature of this action was that other battalions of the 8th Marines, from their positions on top of the ridge line, could watch the entire attack of the 2d Battalion (like a military school demonstration) as it passed below them.
Progress was rapid; by 1300, the 2d Battalion had pushed the 8th Marines' front to objective O-4, having met virtually no resistance. This advance and swinging movement so reduced the regiment's frontage that it was possible to withdraw two of its four battalions from the lines. As the regiment dug in for the night, the 1st and 2d Battalions were along the front, while the 3d Battalion and the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, were in reserve.124
The Capture of Hill 500
The 4th Marine Division, on the right of the swinging gate, completed its change of direction and achieved long gains. General Holland Smith had ordered the 27th Division to extend its front and take over the 25th Marines' zone along the coast of Magicienne Bay. Since the 25th Marines' combat efficiency was considered less impaired than the 23d Marines' however, General Schmidt immediately ordered it to assume the 23d's frontage on the division left and continue the attack.
The original jumping-off hour had been 0900, but a delay was necessitated in order that the 25th might move the entire width of the division's front to its newly assigned zone. At 1030, the attack was launched, 25th Marines on the left, 24th on right, and 23d in reserve.
The zone of the 25th Marines, formerly assigned to the 23d Marines, was sufficiently narrow to permit it to attack in a column of battalions, with Lieutenant Colonel Chambers' 3d Battalion leading. The day's objective was an important one: Hill 500. This dominating feature had provided the Japanese with excellent observation-post sites, caves for command posts, as well as a natural defensive position. Colonel Oka, commander of the 47th Mixed Brigade, had at one time used the hill for his command post, although he had decided prior to 20 June that other localities (farther to the rear) were more suitable to his needs.
Colonel Chambers' plan for the attack of Hill 500 was conventional in most respects. The formation was two companies forward (I and L) and one in reserve (K). Preparatory fires were to be furnished by rockets (1st Provisional Rocket Detachment), artillery (1st and 3d Battalions, 14th Marines), 37mm guns (from the 25th Marines' Regimental Weapons Company) and the 3d Battalion's own 81mm mortars. The one unusual feature of the attack plan was that the movement over the flat, open terrain just south of Hill 500 was to be screened by smoke. All too often at Saipan (as elsewhere throughout the Pacific War), this valuable weapon was neglected.
Because smoke would complicate the 3d Battalion's problems of control, coordination and
Track Chart of Opposing Forces
Battle of the Philippine Sea
maintenance of direction, a road which crossed the unit's zone of action (Laulau Road) about 500 yards south of Hill 500 was designated as a phase line. At this road, a quick reorganization was to be effected, the direction of advance reoriented (if necessary), and the assault on Hill 500 begun.
The 3d Battalion's attack was as well-executed as it was well-planned. The principal resistance (rifles and machine guns) was encountered by Company I, on the right, and this from a wood southeast of the hill. After pausing briefly at the road for a quick reorganization, the assault of Hill 500 was launched. By this time, the objective had been subjected to a severe, thundering beating administered by the 4.5-inch rockets. As the Marines charged up the hill through the thinning smoke, artillery shells walked ahead in sturdy escort. Shortly before noon the hill was seized, and mopping up of the cave network began. Compartments at different levels and angles made it possible for the Japanese occupants to retreat from one cave-room to another, and the cleaning out process was a slow one.
The price for Hill 500 was not light. Chambers' battalion suffered 49 casualties, nine of whom were killed. Counted Japanese dead numbered 44. Upon examination, it was found that Hill 500 had been well organized for defense but that the positions were not strongly manned. As darkness approached, the Marines dug in to defend their newly won possession.125 (See Map 13.)
To Chambers' right, meanwhile, the 24th Marines set the pace for the 20 June surge. Located as it was, on the end of the landing force swinging-gate, the 24th Regiment was required to move the greatest distances in order to reach the day's objective--O-4. Attacking with two battalions abreast, 1st along the east coast and 2d in contact with the 25th Marines, it made excellent progress.
The delay in attack hour, occasioned by the 25th Marines' passage of the 23rd Marines' lines, allowed time for unusually thorough planning of the day's attack. All commanders made good use of available time, and results achieved speak well for the adequacy of their preparations. This was particularly true in the 2d Battalion zone where, because of exceptionally good tank terrain, the regimental commander assigned 12 medium and three flamethrower tanks, as well as four LVT(A)'s. The battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Rothwell, spent considerable time orienting subordinate commanders and readying for the jump-off. The day's 2,700 yard advance provided a lift to the morale and, according to the battalion's action report, "proved to be the best coordinated tank and infantry attack of the operation."
By late afternoon, the 24th Marines dug in on objective O-4.126 (See Map 13.)
Securing the Cliff
Two days before, the 24th Marines, in order to maintain the momentum of its attack toward the east coast, had by-passed a cliff-like ridge line. Since it would be unwise to leave behind such a potential source of trouble. Mustain's 1st Battalion, 25th Marines, had been assigned to clear it. The assignment was not an easy one. On the 19th, Mustain's attack had struck the cliff from the west, directly into its face. This attack, involving a cross-compartment move, was unsuccessful, since Japanese riflemen, peering from the shelter of caves, could bring accurate fire to bear on anyone approaching them. Mustain's battalion made practically no gains on the 19th, and on the debit side of the ledger suffered 26 casualties.
With the coming of darkness, Mustain went to the division command post (the battalion was operating under division control at this time) to get approval of his plan for 20 June to attack the cliff line from the south. The plan approved, and subsequently executed, called for the tanks of Company A, 4th Tank Battalion, to move from the south along the lowland at the west edge of the cliff, destroying any enemy positions located. This move was to be repeated three times, with the 1st Battalion's company commanders riding along on
RUGGED COASTAL AREA, zone of the 24th Marines, frequently slowed the advance as much as did the enemy. Hill 500 was the scene of the 25th Marines' bitter 20 June action. On 23 June the Japanese contested hotly the 23d Marines' seizure of Hill 600.
the first trip to get a good view of the terrain. On the third trip, men of the 1st Battalion would move with the tanks and the cliff would be cleaned out and secured.
Generally, the scheme worked out as planned. The first two runs by the tanks, however, were unremunerative, inasmuch as the wily Japanese held their fire and did not reveal their positions. When the infantry moved out with the tanks, it was another story: plunging fire rained down upon the Marines as they made their way along the base of the cliff. But all in all, the attack from the south, which restricted Japanese observation, was infinitely more successful than another one from the west would have been. As with a person looking from a window of a tall building: it is easier to observe someone approaching from some distance off than someone moving along the sidewalk at the base of the building.
Slowly--but surely--the caves were cauterized with flame-throwers and sealed with demolitions. Some caves, because of their location on the sheer cliffside, were inaccessible to the infantrymen and became the destruction-responsibility of the tanks. Around noon the proceedings were delayed when a Japanese bomb-dump exploded in the midst of Company A. The explosion, caused either by the detonation of a Japanese mortar shell or by a creeping canefield fire set by tracer bullets, disorganized the company. Three of its four remaining officers became casualties, and the lone officer unscathed could count but 45 men left in
NAFUTAN POINT as it appeared from Hill 500. At such distance, the terrain appears more gentle than it did to the 2d Battalion, 105th Infantry, who fought on the point until 3 July.
While Company A struggled along at the base of the cliff, Company B worked from the top down, burning and blowing up caves higher on the cliff. Some Japanese, flushed by Company B's cleaning methods, were found to be armed with U. S. M-1 rifles and in possession of type "C" rations and American five-gallon water cans. How and where the Japanese had obtained these items was never revealed.
Following Company A's disastrous experience with the exploding bomb-dump, Company C took over the zone at the base of the cliff, came abreast of Company B, and the reduction of the troublesome cliff line continued. After reducing this by-passed defensive point in the division rear, the 1st Battalion was released from division control and returned to the 25th Marines. It then occupied an assembly area in regimental reserve.127
Darkness of 20 June found both Marine divisions facing north. The wheeling movement had been completed. (See Map 13.)
Punches at the Point
The 27th Division, meanwhile, continued its attack to seize Nafutan Point. Because further attacks from the west might be extremely costly, the division selected a scheme of maneuver involving attack from the north and northwest. The 165th Infantry Regiment, from its sector along Magicienne Bay, would execute the main effort, using its 2d and 3d Battalions and the 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry, attached for this maneuver. The 1st Battalion, 165th, was to remain on the shore of Magicienne Bay and maintain contact with the 4th Marine Division.
With the assistance of artillery, 4.2-inch mortars, tanks, self-propelled mounts,128 naval gunfire and air support, the attack was launched. The terrain was rugged and the advance slow, but by nightfall a foothold on the high ground at the northwestern end of the point was seized and the entire line moved
about 1,000 yards. During the advance, units were subjected to artillery fire from across Magicienne Bay. Naval gunfire and air strikes knocked out these enemy guns later in the day.
The 3d Battalion, 105th Infantry, continued its movement along the south coast, clearing caves of Japanese soldiers and civilians as it went. This type of work was extremely time-consuming and progress was slow.
In regard to its cave-cleaning task the 105th Infantry reported:
The enemy action in this area consisted of individuals and small groups, not only of service personnel, but also of civilians, taking positions in the crevices, holes and caves along the seacoast and along the cliff dividing the coastal plain from the Aslito Plateau from which they would fire at our units as they advanced. There seemed to be no coordination of the enemy positions or their fires but they did evidence the utmost stubborness in the defense of their individual positions. Because of the presence of an appreciable number of civilians, it was attempted to convince them, through the use of loudspeakers mounted on tanks, and interpreters, to come out from the caves and surrender. In a few cases this technique was successful, three hundred thirty five civilians--men, women and children--being rescued in this manner. In the majority of cases, however, because of the presence of enemy soldiers, the civilian element ignored our pleas and continued to fire at our soldiers.129
Colonel Russell G. Ayres' 106th Infantry Regiment, which had remained afloat in Joint Expeditionary Troops Reserve, landed on 20 June on Yellow Beaches and assumed the status of NTLF reserve, 1st Battalion in rear of the 2d Marine Division and the remainder of the regiment behind the 4th Marine Division. With the arrival of this unit, the 2d Battalion, 105th Infantry, was released from NTLF reserve and moved to an area near Aslito Airfield in 27th Division reserve.130
The decision to land the 106th Infantry was not made without a great deal of thought and consideration. This move had been first recommended on 16 June by the advance headquarters of the landing force. Admiral Turner, however, took no action on the request. Holding it in abeyance because it would have a delaying effect on the Guam operation, which at that time was scheduled for 18 June. The latter landing would require a reserve and it was hoped that this would be the 106th Infantry.
On the evening of 18 June, General Holland Smith formally recommended to Turner that the regiment be landed "in order to maintain the continuity of the offensive." The next morning (0810, 19 June) Turner requested that Smith give further consideration to the recommendation, since landing the 106th at Saipan would postpone the Guam attack. In the same message, Turner also requested advice as to whether the Guam landing force (Task Force 53) would any longer be required in the area as a floating reserve for Saipan.
Shortly after noon, Holland Smith sent another message to Turner stating that there was, indeed, urgent need for the 106th Infantry ashore and renewing his recommendation that it be landed. In regard to Task Force 53, Smith recommended that it return to Eniwetok, since Guam could not be attacked without sufficient reserves. He also expressed the opinion that, after the decisive terrain on Saipan had been captured, it might be possible to spare one regiment to act as the reserve for Guam.
This time Turner concurred, and the 106th started coming ashore the following day (20 June). He directed, however, that the regiment land as little material and equipment as possible in order that it could be reembarked on short notice. Task Force 53 was retained in the area for the time being, but on 25 June the ships carrying the 3d Marine Division were ordered to Eniwetok, followed on the 30th by those transporting the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade.131
Late in the evening of 20 June the first American plane landed on Aslito Airfield. Many were to follow, and the sanctity of the Japanese home islands would soon be violated.
This date also marked the first time the island of Tinian, some six miles to the south, would feel the impact of artillery fire originating on Saipan. One battery of 155mm guns of
FIRST AMERICAN PLANE (Navy torpedo bomber) to land at Aslito Airfield brought a wounded gunner in for medical attention on 20 June.
the Corps Artillery (Battery B, 531st Field Artillery Battalion) emplaced its guns to bear on this new target. Lateral observation posts were established along Saipan's southern coast, and counterbattery and destructive fires were commenced. This single unit provided only a subtle introduction to the crescendo of fire which would later shatter the island.132
Reports of the enemy's use of mines and booby traps were being received by the NTLF G-2 (Lieutenant Colonel Thomas R. Yancey, USA). Prior to the 25th Marines' capture of Hill 500, a Japanese effort to sow a controlled mine field on the slopes of that hill had been spotted and dispersed by artillery fire. This plan thwarted, the enemy liberally sprinkled the area with booby traps, using pull-type friction igniters attached to four pounds of picric acid. Thirty of this type of booby trap were later found thereabouts. On White Beach, on the southern coast, antiboat or antitank mines were discovered, along with at least five horned mines. Numerous land mines and booby traps were found around Aslito Airfield, and one road in the southern part of the island was found to be sown with crude booby traps consisting of hand grenades with strings attached so that a disturbance of the string would pull the pin and detonate the grenade.133
In regard to the Japanese antitank mine
supply, Major General Iketa wrote on 19 June:
A quantity of usable explosive power material (usable against tanks) was not distributed because of lack of time and is now being manufactured. The effect of adhesive mines is great. Furthermore Molotov cocktails134 (liquid flame bottles) are effective.135
Night of 20-21 June
Principal activity during the night of 20-21 June took place on Hill 500, seized during the afternoon by the 3d Battalion, 25th Marines. From caves on all sides of the hill, small groups of Japanese armed with grenades and bayonets or knives lashed to the ends of bamboo poles ("idiot sticks"), crept out to cause as much trouble as possible. These Japanese, although uncoordinated in their efforts, succeeded to the extent that Marines on the hill spent a tense and anxious night. When morning came, 31 dead Japanese were found within the 3d Battalion's lines.136
Elsewhere along the fronts of all three divisions the night was quiet, with only minor enemy activity, an occasional round of Japanese artillery fire, or a star shell fired by our supporting naval vessels to disturb the silence. On a quiet night, uncertainty and tension could sometimes be as insomnia-provoking as a night full of sound and fury.
Like a broken phonograph record, individual Japanese repeated their expressions of determined patriotism with unfaltering vehemence. Tokuzo Matsuya, a member of the 9th Tank Regiment (rank unknown, presumably a junior officer), echoed the usual phrases:
20 June--The remaining tanks in our regiment now consist of six Type CHI and six Type 95, making a total of 12. . . . Even if there are no tanks, we will fight hand to hand. . . . I have resolved that, if I see the enemy, I will take out my sword and slash, slash, slash at him as long as I last, thus ending my life of twenty-four years.137
In his summary of the evening of 20 June, General Iketa showed uncanny prescience in regard to the 2d Marines at Garapan's outskirts: "The enemy is doing construction work south of Garapan and at present it does not look as if he will advance. . . ." [author's italics.]138 The general's estimate was correct. The 2d Marines did not undertake a sustained drive into Garapan until 2 July, 12 days later.
D-plus 6--21 June
The Pause before the Northern Push
With the important pivoting movement to the north accomplished, General Holland Smith ordered that 21 June be spent in reorganization, resupply, mopping up and patrolling, and that the attack should continue the following day (22 June). Patrols from the 24th and 25th Marines moved as far as 1,000-1,500 yards to their front without discovering any sizeable enemy force. In the vicinity of Chacha Village on Kagman Peninsula, however, enemy activity was noted, causing patrol leaders to predict later difficulties.
On Hill 500, men of the 3d Battalion, 25th Marines, continued their task of cleaning the caves and surrounding area. Two Japanese soldiers, taken prisoner, were questioned by an interpreter and identified as privates first class and gunners of the 25th Antiaircraft Artillery Regiment. They had been stationed at Aslito Airfield, but after the D-Day air strike had fled to Hill 500. At the suggestion of the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Chambers, the Japanese agreed to go into the caves and try to persuade their comrades to surrender. Supervised by personnel from the battalion intelligence section and some riflemen from Company I, the endeavor resulted in the capture of two badly-wounded Japanese. Four others came out of the caves but were killed when they tried to resist.139
For the first day since the landing, the 4th Marine Division had had an opportunity to catch its breath. General Schmidt displaced his command post from the beach area to the high ground along O-1. The division artillery regiment (14th Marines) busied itself firing on targets of opportunity and suspected Japanese
positions. Though levels of artillery ammunition were never critically low, some shortages developed from time to time. Colonel Louis G. DeHaven, commanding the 14th Marines, later wrote:
. . . My worst head-ache during the operation was the shortage of artillery ammunition from about the fifth day until the final arrival of a much delayed replacement, and had it not been that the Army did not seem to need their reserves, which they left near the beach, our situation may have been different.140
Patrolling to the 2d Division's front produced only one instance of positive information. A 25-man patrol from the 2d Marines discovered and thoroughly reconnoitered an enemy outpost on the rising ground which overlooks Garapan from the southeast. Since it was apparent that the Japanese position was too strongly-manned for the Marine patrol to attack, the latter returned without casualties.141
During the afternoon, the 8th Marines juggled its lines in preparation for the next day's attack. The 1st Battalion, 20th Marines, relieved the 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, on the right flank, the latter reverting to regimental reserve, along with the 3d Battalion.
Patrolling of the rugged terrain forward of the 6th and 8th Marines failed to reveal any enemy positions, but no one could feel that this promised easy going in the future. A suspicion existed that perhaps the Japanese had recognized Marine patrols as such and had withheld fire in expectation of more profitable targets.142
Searching the Swamp
Around Lake Susupe, in the swampy areas, a large number of Japanese were still in hiding. Some had been by-passed in the movement around the lake, others had infiltrated the front lines and had selected the swamp as their base of operations. The nuisance effect of these infiltrators was considerable; rear installations were harassed and the movement of supply and evacuation vehicles greatly complicated. A patrol from Headquarters and Service Battery, 4th Battalion, 10th Marines, entered the swamp on 19 June with a mission of annihilating the Japanese concealed there. After several skirmishes in which about seven Japanese were killed and two machine guns captured, the patrol withdrew with the report that more substantial mopping-up forces would be required.
On 20 June, two platoons of the 2d Division Reconnaissance Company were ordered to undertake the task of eliminating the Japanese from Susupe swamp. Later, when it became apparent that the two platoons were insufficient for the job, 20 artillerymen from the 4th Battalion, 10th Marines, were ordered to form a secondary skirmish line and follow Reconnaissance Company personnel through the swamp. Again, the forces were inadequate; and, after killing seven Japanese and losing two of their own men, the units withdrew.
From the progress and reports it was apparent that a much larger force would be needed to complete the mop-up. Accordingly, NTLF attached the 1st Battalion, 106th Infantry (Lieutenant Colonel Winslow Cornett, USA), to the 2d Marine Division for the job of sweeping the area from the old radio station to the high ground east of Lake Susupe.
Throughout the day, the 10th Marines continued furnishing fires on enemy artillery, troops, tanks and dumps with excellent results. The 2d 155mm Howitzer Battalion, which had operated with the 4th Division since coming ashore on 17 June, reverted to 2d Division control at noon of the 21st and displaced to new positions northeast of Lake Susupe.143
". . . Hold Present Front Lines . . . ."
On Nafutan Point the 27th Division made small gains, proceeding slowly because of numerous enemy positions in caves.144 One battery
WITH FIXED BAYONETS soldiers of the 105th Infantry move in a skirmish line over an open area unusual for Nafutan Point. Note bazookaman at extreme right. Picture taken on 21 June.
of 105mm howitzers (B, 104th Field Artillery Battalion) went into a position from which it could support the attack with direct fire onto these caves.
At 1215, while engaged in the Nafutan Point attack, the 27th Division received a change of mission and disposition. NTLF Operation Order 9-44 (a document that was to assume great importance later) directed the 27th Division, less one battalion and one light tank platoon, to assemble northwest of Aslito Airfield in NTLF reserve. Control of the division artillery would pass to the XXIV Corps Artillery. The designated infantry battalion was ordered in paragraph 3. e. to "operate in the Garrison Area." It would "mop up remaining enemy detachments, maintain antisniper patrols within the Garrison Area and along the coast line to protect installations within its zone of action with particular attention to Aslito Airfield."145
At 1700, after consideration of the NTLF order, Ralph Smith telephoned Holland Smith and urged that a complete regiment be used to clean up Nafutan Point, rather than one battalion. He said that he planned to use the 105th Infantry for the job and that he believed they could finish in a couple of days. Holland Smith agreed to this but specified that one battalion of the 105th must be retained in reserve for possible use elsewhere. This modification was later confirmed in a mailbrief from NTLF which arrived at the 27th Division command post at 0830, 22 June. It read as follows:
Instructions contained in Opn O #9-44 are modified as follows: (a) 1 RCT will continue mission in Garrison Area of cleaning up remaining resistance and patrolling area. (b) 106-1 will be in Corps Res in assembly area in zone of 2d Mar Div. (c) 27th Div (less 1 RCT and 1 Bn) await orders in NTLF Res in area assigned.146
At 2000, 21 June, following his telephonic conversation with Holland Smith but before
receiving the mailbrief, Ralph Smith issued an order to his division, paragraph 3. a. of which follows:
RCT 105 (Reinf) will hold present front line facing Nafutan Point, with two battalions on the line and one battalion in regimental reserve. It will relieve elements of RCT 165 now on the front line by [0630 22 June]. The battalion in reserve will not be committed to action without authority of the division commander. Reorganization of the present front line to be effected not later than [1100, 22 June] and offensive operations against the enemy continued. Reserve battalion will maintain anti-sniper patrols in the vicinity of Aslito Airfield.147
This single paragraph was to have gigantic repercussions. General Holland Smith considered it clear that the 105th Infantry had been removed from 27th Division control and that orders to it should come from NTLF only. In this connection Holland Smith has written:
NT&LF Operation Order No. 9-44 placed the 27th Infantry Division in a reserve status, and removed the 105th Infantry from tactical control of the 27th Infantry Division for independent operations directly under control of NT&LF. NT&LF order directed the 105th Infantry to conduct offensive operations to mop up enemy units in the NAFUTAN POINT area. The 27th Infantry Division Field Order No. 45 contravened the NT&LF Operation Order No. 9-44 by ordering the 105th Infantry to hold its present positions, although the 105th Infantry had been removed from the tactical control of the Division Commander.148
From this it may be seen that Holland Smith was disturbed by two considerations: he believed, first, that the 27th Division should not have issued an order to the 105th Infantry, and, second, having issued it, that the instructions to "hold present positions" countermanded the NTLF order. This counter-order was to be one of the main reasons later advanced by Holland Smith in support of his action in relieving Ralph Smith of command of the 27th Division.
Ralph Smith's stated view on this matter was that, during the telephone conversation between himself and the Corps Commander, "nothing was mentioned . . . about having the regiment operate under NTLF control. His written message confirming this change did not arrive at the CP 27th Division until 0830, 22 June, much too late to have permitted any instructions for the day's Operations."149
From Holland Smith's point of view, however, Ralph Smith overlooked the fact that Operation Order 9-44 had established the status of a "designated infantry battalion" (by giving it a mission in paragraph 3) and that merely changing the size of the unit to a regiment did not remove it from control.
Night of 21-22 June
Enemy activity on the night of 21-22 June took on varied forms. Just after dark, the Japanese succeeded in blowing up a 2d Division ammunition dump on Beach Green 1. Whether this was accomplished by an infiltrator armed with a demolition pack or by a rifleman with an incendiary bullet or by some other more devious means, no one will ever be sure.
The evidence seems to indicate that an incendiary bullet was responsible. Persons in the vicinity of the dump heard a 2d Battalion, 10th Marines, sentry shout a challenge, then a single shot, then the first of two explosions. Immediately, personnel of the artillery battalion's supply section moved close to the fire and attempted to extinguish it. The plan at this time was to isolate the fire where it was then burning (small arms ammunition) and prevent its spread to other sections containing mortar and artillery shells.
At this point, as the Marines fought the dangerous blaze, a second explosion occurred. Results were devastating. The officer-in-command of the fire-fighting detail, Captain Carl A. Nielsen, later wrote: "To the best of my knowledge, this explosion killed, or was the cause of the death of, my entire detail, with the exception of myself and one other. . . ."
The fireworks continued throughout the night, many more men being hit by fragments from mortar and artillery shells which caught fire in the second explosion. Fortunately, the 2d Division had not had all of its eggs in one basket, a large percentage of ammunition had already been parceled out to subordinate units,
so that, while the losses were serious, the ammunition supply situation could not be described as critical.150
To prevent any further Japanese infiltration of beach areas, construction units of the 18th Marines established a defense line between Lake Susupe and the 2d Division supply dump area.151
Elsewhere in the 2d Marine Division, the night was quiet. Patrols from the 8th Marines made no contacts; 6th Marines' patrols encountered a five-man Japanese patrol; the 2d Marines located an eight-man outpost and a two-man patrol. One small infiltration attempt in the 2d Marines' sector was repulsed without difficulty.152
In the anchorage off Saipan the night was disturbed by 12 Japanese bombers at about 0112. Bombs dropped by these planes failed to achieve a single hit, although the transport Clay was straddled by explosions. Only passive defense was taken against this particular attack, with ships finding refuge under a smoke screen. As part of the same attack, a few bombs were dropped on Saipan itself. No damage was caused, however, all bombs falling harmlessly west of the 4th Marine Division command post.153
On Hill 500 the 3d Battalion, 25th Marines, had occasional flurries of excitement, though nothing to compare with the previous night. Individual Japanese again emerged from caves bent on the destruction of as many Marines as possible. None of these efforts were successful, and in the process four Japanese were killed.154
The summary of the 31st Army chief of staff for 21 June admits that at least two important tactical localities had fallen to U. S. forces:
The enemy is constructing positions in the area south of Garapan to vicinity of Hill 230 and is cognizant of the barbed wire on Hill 230.155
The enemy, occupying Hill 163,156 . . . is gradually approaching the southern foot of Tapotchau.
Only fleeting mention was made of U. S. supporting arms:
One destroyer is in Laulau Bay [Magicienne Bay] and is shelling Nafutan Mountain and the north of Kagman Point. . . . Attacking planes are relatively scattered today. . . .
On 21 June, the first flurries of an eventual blizzard of Japanese messages pertaining to reinforcement from other islands of the Marianas fell. To the commanding general at Yap, the Saipan chief of staff sent the following:
I would like reports concerning the following items on Rota and Guam:
Large motor launches. Collapsible boats.
Situation regarding enemy sea and air patrols.
Exact count of small boat activity at Guam, Rota, Tinian and Saipan.
To the commanding officer at Tinian went the dispatch: "I wish to be informed of number of large motor craft in your area." A great deal more would later be heard on this subject.157
Summary of Medical Activities to Date
The medical battalions of the divisions had begun their outstanding work several days previous and were in full operation by the night of D-plus 6.
Company A of the 4th Medical Battalion had arrived ashore on 16 June. (D-plus 1), and by the next afternoon the entire battalion, except Company D, was ashore. The latter unit joined the others on D-plus 5. All companies brought in equipment to set up field hospitals.158
Progress Lines 18, 19, 20
and 21 June 1944
Company E of the 2d Medical Battalion landed in the late afternoon of D-plus 1 and together with Company C, which came ashore the following morning, was fully equipped to do definitive surgery by 1800 on D-plus 2. Initially, this was the only medical establishment on the island so equipped, and a number of operations were performed. These two companies established themselves in a captured Japanese hospital in Charan Kanoa. The remainder of the 2d Medical Battalion, on board the ships withdrawn from the anchorage, did not arrive back on the scene until the evening of 21 June, coming ashore early the next morning. Company C remained in the location for some time, but Company E was moved on D-plus 4 to the north end of the Charan Kanoa airstrip to act as a casualty clearing station.159
The Army's 102d Medical Battalion had portions of the unit ashore on D-plus 2 and the following day established a medical section headquarters at Yellow Beach. Company D (Clearing Company) set up a station on 20 June in a small village about 1,000 yards southeast of Charan Kanoa.160
At all medical installations the rule was the same: care for the individual regardless of where he came from or to what unit he belonged. Red tape in the handling of casualties was non-existent; the tape was all white.161
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (2) * Next Chapter (4)
1. 2d Mar Div Report, Section VI, 1.
2. Later, this number of seaplanes was gradually increased until five squadrons, based on six seaplane tenders, were present. The night of 17 June marked the beginning of such searches from Saipan. TF 51 Report, Encl A, 6.
3. Coral and Brass, 165.
4. TF 51 Report, 6. Interview with Adm H. W. Hill, 20Sep49.
5. Ltr from Col R. J. Straub to CMC, 13Jan50.
7. ComAirPac Ser 00888, 27Jul44, Analysis of Pacific Air Operations, Jun44, 12.
8. 2d Mar Div Report, Section VI, 1-2.
9. Ibid. 4th Mar Div Report, Section VI, 16.
10. 6th Mar Report, 4. Rentsch.
11. 8th Mar Report, 1-2.
12. 2d Mar Report, Encl A, 2.
13. Three rifle companies and a headquarters company.
14. Kyle. MajGen T. E. Watson's endorsement on ltr from LtCol W. B. Kyle to DirPubInfo, 20Nov48. Interview with Col R. E. Hogaboom, LtCol J. L. Stewart and LtCol E. W. Durant, Jr., 3Dec48.
15. TF 56 G-3 Report, 6. 10th Mar Report, 3.
16. NTLF XXIV Corps Artillery, S-3 Report, 5, hereinafter cited as Corps Arty S-3 Report.
17. 24th Mar Report.
19. 14th Mar Report, Encl A, 2.
20. Ltr from LtCol C. A. Youngdale to CMC, 12Jan50.
21. 23d Mar Report, 36.
22. 1st Bn, 25th Mar Report, 7. 3d Bn, 24th Mar Report, 1-2.
24. 4th Mar Div Report, Section VI, 18. NTLF G-3 Report, Periodic Report No. 2. Dillon.
25. NTLF G-1 Report, 7.
26. Coral and Brass, 164. TF 56 G-3 Report, 6.
27. 27th Infantry Division G-3 Journal, 16Jun44.
28. Notes on Operations of the 27th Infantry Division at Saipan, 15-24 June 1944, MajGen R. C. Smith, hereinafter cited as R. C. Smith.
29. Throughout this monograph, all Army officers are designated "USA."
30. Summary of Operations by 27th Infantry Division from 16 June to 10 July 1944, BrigGen O. J. Ross, 13Jul44, hereinafter cited as Ross. 165th Infantry Operation Report, 2, hereinafter cited as 165th Inf Report.
31. 27th Infantry Division, G-3 Reports, 16-17 June, hereinafter cited as 27th Div G-3 Reports.
32. 27th Infantry Division Field Order 43, 19 June.
33. 23d Mar Report, 36.
34. There is no indication that he did, however. In view of the animosity between the Japanese Army and Navy, Nagumo might very well have ignored Saito's order. Little is known of this officer's activities after D-Day; he is conspicuous by his absence. It is safe to say, however, that the Admiral, still basking in the warmth of his Pearl Harbor fame, was not pleased with Saito's order.
35. Hill 164.6 (meters) is a small peak that rises above the north-south ridgeline. A road cuts across the island to the east coast at this point.
36. This figure, however, does not count the possibility that at least a few of the tanks were not operative or broke down while en route to attack position. It is likely, also, that some tanks were retained to the rear, out of the fight, as mobile command posts. In a table of organization for the 9th Tank Regiment, dated 15 May 1944, the 3d, 4th and 5th Companies were organized into 11 medium and three light tanks per company; Headquarters into three medium and three light tanks. The 6th Company was not shown in this table, and is assumed to have been organized after 15 May and before 15 June; the exact date is not indicated in documents consulted. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Item #9304.
37. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Item #10,531.
38. Reports on the number of Japanese tanks destroyed in this action vary from a low of 24 in the 6th Marines report to a high of 31 in the TF 56 report. Since some tanks were hit by several weapons, it is diflicult to establish an exact number. The Marine attack continued shortly after the enemy effort was repulsed, and it was not possible for any of the participants to make a detailed count. Observers from higher echelons naturally counted all tanks destroyed in the area (including those destroyed on D-Day) and arrived at the figure 31. The account of the tank battle is derived from a synthesis of: 6th Mar Report, 4. Ltrs from LtCol W. K. Jones (the first undated, the second 24Jan49). Ltrs from Maj Warren Morris (5Jan49 and 17Jan49); Saipan Tank Battle; Interview with Maj J. A. Donovan, Jr., 31Dec48.
39. Saipan Tank Battle.
40. Ltr from Maj W. Morris to author, 5Jan49, hereinafter cited as Morris.
41. Ltr from LtCol W. K. Jones (undated) to DivPub Info. Marine Corps Gazette, Oct. 44, "Battalion on Saipan," Robert Sherrod. Morris.
42. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Item #9983-85, 7.
43. NTLF, Naval Gunfire Officer's Report, 8-10, hereinafter cited as NTLF NGF Report. FORAGER NGF Report, 13-14.
45. Not to be confused with Colonel Takuji Suzuki, the 43d Division chief of staff.
46. NTLF G-2 Report, 13.
47. 2d Mar Div Report, Section VI, 3. 10th Mar Report, 3. Ltr from M/Sgt F. A. Hancock to author, 15Jan50. By exchanging parts, four of the 4th Battalion's five damaged pieces were back in action by afternoon of 17 June.
48. NTLF Report, 11.
49. 8th Mar Report, 2. 1st Battalion, 29th Marines Report, 2-3, hereinafter cited as 1st Bn, 29th Mar Report. "1st Battalion, 29th Marines, at Saipan," narrative account by LtCol R. M. Tompkins, 2-4, hereinafter cited as Tompkins.
50. The 1st Battalion, 2d Marines, originally used a numerical system of designating its companies at Saipan. See Appendix V.
51. 6th Mar Report, 5.
52. 2d Mar Report, 2. The 2d Regiment was composed of two battalions at this time: its own 3d Battalion and the 2d Battalion, 6th Marines. Its 2d Battalion was still attached to the 6th Marines and the 1st Battalion was still under 2d Division control. One company of the 1st Battalion was returned to 2d Marines' control at 1620.
53. 10th Mar Report, 3.
54. 2d 155mm Arty Bn, V Amphibious Corps Report, 2, hereinafter cited as 2d 155mm Bn Report. Ltr from LtCol M. H. Floom to CMC, 16Jan49, hereinafter cited as Floom. Though personnel of this battalion had been in combat previously, their 155mm howitzers had not. Prior to March 1944, the unit had been the 3d Battalion, 10th Marines (armed with 75mm pack howitzers), and had participated in the Guadalcanal and Tarawa operations. The unit's decimation was changed to 2d 155mm Artillery Battalion, V Amphibious Corps, in March 1944 when the old 75's were exchanged for new 155mm Howitzers. Interview with Maj E. J. Rowse, 6Jan49.
55. 4th Mar Div Report, Section VI, 17. Report of action Saipan Island, 16-27 June, Col Gerard W. Kelley, hereinafter cited as Kelley.
56. 165 Inf Report, 3. Infantry Journal, Sep46, "The 27th's Battle For Saipan," Capt E. G. Love, hereinafter cited as The 27th's Battle For Saipan.
57. 25th Mar Report, 4. 3d Bn, 25th Mar Report, 5.
59. The knee mortar, in reality a grenade discharger, is not actually fired from the knee as its small size and curved base plate would suggest. But since U. S. soldiers and Marines habitually referred to it by that name, knee mortar will be used throughout this narrative.
60. 24th Mar Report, 19. 1st Battalion, 24th Marines Report, 1, hereinafter cited as 1st Bn, 24 Mar Report. 2d Battalion, 24th Marines Report, 2, hereinafter cited as 2d Bn, 24 Mar Report. Ltr. from Col A. R. Brunelli to CMC, 12Jan50, hereinafter cited as Brunelli. Interview with Maj J. F. Ross, Jr., 28Mar50, hereinafter cited as Ross.
61. 23d Mar Report, 36-37.
62. NTLF Report, 12.
63. Coral and Brass, 133.
64. Corps Arty, S-3 Report, 5-6.
65. Lemp, 10-11.. R. C. Smith. 105th Infantry Regiment Report, 4-5, hereinafter cited as 105th Inf Report.
67. NTLF G-3 Report, Periodic Reports 3 and 4.
68. Ibid., No. 3, 2.
69. 4th Mar Div Report, Section VI, 18. 2d Mar Report, Section VI, 5.
70. 1st Bn, 8th Mar Report, 3.
71. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Item #10,053.
72. NTLF G-2 Report, 14. TF 56 G-2 Report, 14.
73. In some instances it was impossible to make an accurate count of participating enemy aircraft. On these occasions, reports mention "several," "considerable," or a "formation," instead of a definite total.
74. TF 51 Report, 6, Annex 1, and Encl L. TF 56 G-3 Report, Periodic Report No. 4.
75. TF 51 Report, Encl L, 2.
76. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Item #9983-85, 8 and 30.
77. Ibid., 8-9.
78. NTLF Operation Order 6-44.
79. 2d Mar Div Report, Section VI, 5. 8th Mar Report, 3.
80. 4th Mar Div Report, Section VI, 18-19. 25th Mar Report, 5. Ltr from LtCol R. Rothwell to CMC, 14Jan50, hereinafter cited as Rothwell. Ross.
81. 4th Mar Div Report, Section VI, 18-19. 23d Mar Report, 37-38.
82. Ibid. Marine Corps Gazette, "Observations on Saipan," Jan45, LtCol B. A. Hochmuth. Interview with LtCol Hochmuth, 4Jan49. L. R. Jones.
83. Ltr from Gen H. Schmidt to CMC, 8Jan50.
85. The 27th Division renamed Aslito Airfield Gardiner Conroy Field. Later, NTLF changed the name to Isely Airfield, in honor of Commander Robert H. Isely, a naval aviator, who lost his life while attacking the field prior to its capture.
86. The AAF Against Japan, 189-191.
87. Lemp, 11. R. C. Smith, 3. 165th Inf Report, 3. 27th Inf Div, G-3 Periodic Report 1800, 17 June to 1800, 18 June 1944.
88. R. C. Smith, 4.
89. Corps Arty S-3 Report, 6.
90. TF 56 G-3 Report, Periodic Reports, 18-19 June.
91. COMINCH P-007, 5-19.
92. TF 56 G-2 Report, 14. NTLF G-2 Report, 14.
93. TF 51 Report, Encl L, 2 and Annex I to Encl A.
94. USSBS No. 434, Interrogation of Captain Akira Sasaki, IJN, a member of the Yokosuka Air Corps from March to July 1944.
95. NTLF G-2 Report, 15.
96. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Item #11,405.
97. NTLF Operation Order 7-44.
98. It is interesting to note that while 27th Division-Marine controversies were agitated following the operation, none were brewing on 19 June when Major General Ralph Smith, the 27th Division commander, said in a radio recording at Aslito Airfield: ". . . this is an appropriate point to emphasize the perfect teamwork that has existed between the Navy, Marines, and the Army. It irritates me a little to read these stories back home because a soldier and a Marine get in a fight in a saloon that the relations between services are at cross purposes. Nothing could be farther from the truth out here in the field. . . . I want to stress the very cordial feeling that exists between the outfits. One of the 165th's officers remarked to me this morning that Saipan has sealed the blood brotherhood between the services." Recording made by Radio Recording Unit, Amphibious Corps, Public Relations Section on 19 June 1944.
99. Lemp, 12. R. C. Smith, 4-5. 105th Inf Report, 5. 165th Inf Report, 4.
100. 4th Mar Div Report, Section VI, 20. 23d Mar Report, 38.
101. 2d Mar Report, 3.
102. 6th Mar Report, 6.
103. 8th Mar Report, 3.
104. Corps Arty S-3 Report, 6-7.
105. In his book, Holland Smith is loud in praise of General Harper. Coral and Brass, 167.
107. J. F. Ryan, 10.
108. NTLF G-1 Report, 9.
109. TF 56 G-3 Report, Periodic Reports. 19-20 June.
111. 2d Mar Div Reports, Section VI, 7.
112. NTLF G-2 Report, 16.
113. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Item #9983-85, 10. A later report corrected this estimate in one respect: "Our previous message that there is no more artillery is a mistake. We have nine type 95 field pieces." It should also be noted that this estimate does not include navy troops on the island.
114. Ibid., 11-12.
115. TF 51 Report, Annex 1 to Encl A and Panel 1, 2.
116. Task Force 58 had been reinforced with units from TF 51 (Joint Expeditionary Force) to counter the Japanese threat. On 19 June, the force contained seven large carriers (Hornet, Yorktown, Bunker Hill, Wasp, Enterprise, Lexington and Essex), eight light carriers (Bataan, Belleau Wood, Monterey, Cabot, San Jacinto, Princeton, Cowpens and Langley), seven fast battleships (Alabama, South Dakota, Indiana, New Jersey, Iowa, Washington and North Carolina), 21 cruisers and 67 destroyers.
117. Numbers of planes seen and destroyed probably includes some duplication.
118. Campaigns, 214-215. 5th Fleet Initial Report. 8-13. JANAC. The Navy's Air War, 208-213. King. 110.
119. The United States Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific), Naval Analysis Division, The Air Effort Against Japan, 50-51.
120. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Item #10,802.
121. NTLF Operation Order 5-44.
122. 2d Mar Report, 3.
123. 2d Mar Div Report, Section VI, 5-6. 6th Mar Report, 6.
124. 8th Mar Report, 3.
125. 3d Bn, 25th Mar Report, 6-7.
126. 1st Bn, 24th Mar Report, 3. 2d Bn, 24 Mar Report, 4. Rothwell.
127. 1st Bn, 25th Mar Report, 8-12.
128. Designated M16, the self-propelled mount has a turret enclosing four .50-caliber machine guns mounted on a half-track chassis.
129. 105th Inf Report, 6.
130. R. C. Smith, 5-6. 106th Infantry Report, 2, hereinafter cited as 106th, Inf Report. 165th Inf Report, 4.
131. Enclosure (A) to Commander Amphibious Forces Top Secret Letter Serial 000156 of 4Sep44.
132. Corps Arty S-3 Report, 7.
133. NTLF G-2 Report, 17.
134. Molotov cocktails, only distantly related to Martinis, are bottles of combustible liquid, which when thrown against a tank burst into flame.
135. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Item #9983-85, 11.
136. 3d Bn, 25th Mar Report, 7.
137. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Item #10,238.
138. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Item #9983-85, 13. The "construction work" here referred to was the preparation of defenses by the 2d Marines.
139. 3d Bn, 25th Mar Report, 7-8.
140. Ltr from Col L. G. DeHaven to CMC. 9Jan50.
141. 2d Mar Report, 1.
142. 8th Mar Report. 4. 6th Mar Report, 6.
143. 2d Mar Div Report, Section VI, 8. 4th Bn, 10th Mar Report, 3. Floom. An indication of the relative inactivity of the Marine divisions on 21 June is the fact that action reports of the six infantry regiments for this date averaged but four and a half sentences per report.
144. Lieutenant Colonel John Lemp, USA, an Army observer, writing of the actions of 21 June, felt that a "certain amount of inertia" was manifested by the 105th Infantry. "In this particular instance the division might be censured for its lack of offensive spirit in moving forward particularly in view of the fact that this was a continuation of the attack started by the 165th on the preceding day." Lemp, 14.
145. Since the "designated infantry battalion" had been assigned a specific mission in a separate, lettered subparagraph of paragraph 3 (the subordinate units paragraph), the NTLF Staff considered it clear that the unit would execute its mop-up task as an immediate subordinate of NTLF. Unfortunately, as will be seen, this same interpretation was not made by the 27th Division Staff.
146. 27th Infantry Division G-3 Journal, 22Jun44.
147. R. C. Smith, 8. 27th Division Field Order No. 45A.
148. Ltr from CTF 56 to CTF 51, 24Jun44.
149. R. C. Smith, 7.
150. Ltr from Maj C. A. Nielsen to CMC, 13Jan50.
151. Ltr from LtCol A. L. Vogt to CMC, 13Jan50.
152. 2d Mar Div Report. 8.
153. TF 51 Report, Annex 1 to Encl A. 4th Mar Div Report, 22.
154. 4th Mar Div Report, 22. 3d Bn, 25th Mar Report, 8.
155. This reference is to Hill 790, occupied without opposition by the 1st battalion, 6th Marines, on 19 June. Heights of hills from Japanese sources are in meters, whereas U. S. forces figured them in feet. Thus, hill 230 in the Japanese report is Hill 790 in U. S. reports. This apparent variation (230 meters equals 754 feet) is explained by the fact that the Japanese determined heights on the ground, while the U. S. had to rely upon estimates from aerial photographs. In most instances these estimates were remarkably close.
156. Here the reference is to Hill 500, seized after a vigorous assault on 20 June by the 3d Battalion, 25th Marines.
157. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Item #9983-85. 14.
158. 4th Marine Division Medical Report, 2.
159. Second Marine Division Medical Report, 7.
160. Report of 27th Division Medical Inspector, Saipan Operation, 1-2.
161. Division Surgeons of the 2d, 4th and 27th Divisions, respectively, were: Commander F. R. Hering. (MC) USN; Commander W. C. Baty, Jr., (MC). USN; Lieutenant Colonel Abraham Norman, (MC), USA.