Another command post displacement was indicated for General Saito on 27 June. Mounting pressure against his site in the white cliffs on Tapotchau's east side demanded that the tired old general move farther to the north. His fifth command post was located in a small jungled depression about 2,200 yards north of the summit of Mt. Tapotchau. The cave selected, smallest of all his command posts, served him for two days.
Merger of the Central Pacific Fleet Headquarters (Nagumo's command) and the Northern Marianas Group Headquarters (Saito's command) took place on 27 June. Communications between the two had been extremely difficult--sometimes impossible--to maintain, and this move would relieve the problem. The complicated Japanese command structure, with its numerous duplications of responsibility, was difficult even for Japanese commanders to understand; and, with the consolidation of the two in one area, the chances of achieving consistency of orders were improved.
In a brief resume on the morning of 27 June, Major General Iketa summarized the situation:
The summit of Tapotchau was occupied yesterday evening.1 Front line units tried to retake it with a night attack, but did not succeed as planned. In Donnay the enemy broke through with a number of tanks, but their advance was slow. Thereafter, no great change in the situation.
The defense force, along with the firmest possible defense of its present front line and its activities toward annihilation of the enemy, is at present setting up with a line between Tanapag--Hill 2212--Tarahoho as the final line of resistance. [For location of this "final line of resistance" see Map 18.]
General Saito originated two messages during the day which indicate that he was in a retrospective mood.
The essential points of English and American land warfare differ greatly with the common sense considerations of the past. The pressing need of the moment is that the mistake be not made of allowing this important experience in the defense of Saipan to be put to no practical end, and, the soldiers here to be robbed of the fruits of victory after having fought so bravely.
The general is not specific on what he considered the departures from the "common sense" tactics of the past, so that it is impossible to pursue this interesting thought to its conclusion. Possibly it is another example of Saito attempting to outguess and anticipate U. S. intentions; and, when that guess turned out to be incorrect, he felt that the Americans were not using "common sense."
A tribute to the effectiveness of naval gunfire is contained in a second dispatch from Saito:
The practical experiences of the defense forces of Saipan . . . have to do with the power of the enemy naval bombardment. If there just were no naval gunfire, we feel with determination that we could fight it out with the enemy in a decisive battle.
At the large plateau on the extreme northern end of Saipan the Japanese continued their efforts to finish the Banadero (Marpi Point) Airfield. Though hampered by U. S. planes and naval vessels, the work progressed with feverish intensity. Toil on the field was spurred by the groundless belief that it would--by some miracle--provide the funnel through which air reinforcement would pour. General Saito's estimate as to when the work would be completed is significant:
. . . the Banadero airport has not been completed, but in case the necessity arises, it can be used, and the Saipan defense forces trust that they can hold out until the first 10 days of the month (July), awaiting its completion.
Still obsessed with the opinion that there was a paucity of U. S. planes over Saipan, General Saito repeated the familiar refrain on 27 June:
Because the enemy planes which have appeared in the air are only carrier borne bombers and reconnaissance planes, the situation is such that our large fighter formations could seize good opportunity for daylight sinking of enemy destroyers, etc.
Since there is no indication that Saito deliberately attempted to present a false picture, the conclusion is drawn that he was grossly misinformed as to the status of U. S. air at, and around, Saipan, and also as to the willingness and ability of Japanese air to help him.
This, then, was what the Japanese high command did, thought and wrote on 27 June.3
Rapid Progress on the Right
As noted before, the Northern Troops and Landing Force attack order for 27 June directed that the three divisions attack abreast (2d on the left, 27th in the center, 4th on the right) and seize objective O-6. Shuffling of some subordinate units, demanded by the tactical situation, left the divisions somewhat changed, organically, from their normal structure. These temporary alterations had developed the major infantry organizations as follows:
4th Marine Division 27th Infantry Division 23d Marines 106th Infantry 24th Marines 105th Infantry (less 1st and 2d Battalions) 165th Infantry Regiment (less 2d Battalion) 2d Battalion, 165th Infantry 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry (total: nine battalions) (total: five battalions)
2d Marine Division
2d Marines 8th Marines 6th Marines 1st Battalion, 29th Marines (total: 10 battalions)
Saipan Garrison Force
25th Marines 2d Battalion, 105th infantry (total: three battalions) (total: one battalion)4
The Japanese escape from Nafutan Point the previous night had caused considerable confusion in rear areas of the 4th Marine Division, particularly in artillery positions of the 14th Marines. Because of the disturbance, the 4th Marine Division received permission from NTLF to delay its appointed attack hour from 0630 to 0730.
Progress in the 4th Marine Division zone on 27 June was rapid. The right assault regiment, the 23d Marines, advanced against only scattered small arms fire issuing from the villages of Donnay and Hashigoru. (See Map 18.) Underwater mines, which the Japanese had used as land mines, were found along the road and railroad in the vicinity of Donnay. Tanks detoured these mined areas without difficulty, however. A Japanese supply dump, found near Hashigoru, contained new clothing, ammunition, and infantry weapons.
Lieutenant Colonel Dillon's 2d Battalion, moving through the matted vegetation and ragged cliff line along the coast, experienced difficulty keeping abreast of the faster-moving 3d Battalion. Since a detailed search of the gnarled coast line could not be instituted without sacrificing the momentum of the attack, Colonel Jones ordered the 1st Battalion to follow Dillon's unit at 400 yards, mopping up and investigating suspicious areas. By 1640 the
RUGGED CLIFFS, typical of much of Saipan's eastern coast line, provided numerous hiding places for Japanese soldiers. Clearing the enemy from these areas was costly in men and time.
23d Marines had trudged to objective O-6. Both battalions immediately dispatched security-reconnaissance patrols to their front but made no contacts with the enemy.5
Promptly at 0730 the 165th Infantry (less its 2d Battalion, attached to the 106th Infantry) moved out. Formation for the attack was: 3d Battalion on the right (in contact with the 23d Marines) and 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry, (attached to the 165th Infantry) on the left. The reserve of the 165th--the 1st Battalion--would follow the left assault battalion at 600 yards, maintaining contact with the right flank of the 27th Division. The 165th moved rapidly through the hills, particularly in the zone of the right battalion. The left assault unit, weathering occasional squalls of Japanese small-arms fire and traversing rougher terrain, moved somewhat slower.
With the great strides of the 165th Infantry on 27 June and the relative immobility of units to the left rear, problems of maintaining contact were presented. About noon the 165th's commander, Colonel Kelley, advised Colonel Walter W. Rogers, chief of staff of the 4th Marine
Division, that he feared that the 165th Infantry's reserve battalion had stretched to the breaking point in order to fill the ever-growing vertical gap. Kelley cautioned that further advances would make it physically impossible for the 165th Infantry, with the troops at its disposal, to sustain contact with the 27th Division. The obvious solution to the problem, and the one recommended by Colonel Kelley, was to move a battalion of the 4th Marine Division reserve (24th Marines) into the area to assist in manning the lengthy connection.6
At about 1730, orders came for the 3d Battalion, 24th Marines, to fill the southern portion of the tenuous link between the two divisions. With commitment of this battalion, the schematic appearance of the 4th Marine Division was peculiar (see Map 18), with a front of approximately 2,500 yards and a left flank of about the same length.
No sooner had the 3d Battalion, 24th Marines, arrived in position when two enemy medium tanks were sighted to the northwest. Although fired upon by 37mm guns and 81mm mortars, the enemy tanks fired several rounds and escaped unscathed.
As the 4th Marine Division dug in for the night after an advance of approximately 3,000 yards, there was concern in the division logistics section created by the ever-lengthening supply lines and the paucity of motor transport. This unfavorable circumstance caused the 4th Division action report to comment ". . . supply of front line units was not maintained at a desirable level." Fortunately, however, there were no serious consequences of this situation.7
Important Localities Seized
As already noted, the 27th Division moved but little on 27 June. Colonel Stebbins, the 106th Infantry's new commander, spent the greater portion of the day getting the regiment in position for advances on 28 June. While this resulted in only minor progress, the situation was much improved from the point of view of future action.
On the evening of 27 June General Jarman talked to Colonel Stebbins to get the latter's observations on the 106th Infantry. According to General Jarman, "He [Stebbins] stated that they seemed to lack the will to go forward; he had to personally get the units in hand and show them where to go and push the battalions out." To Jarman it was "apparent that upon the first firings of any kind by snipers the battalions immediately asked to be allowed to retire."8
In a narrative account written after the operation, Colonel Stebbins indicated no dissatisfaction with the fighting qualities of his regiment:
. . . difficulties of terrain and locating the Jap defenses were the causes for failure to advance. The cliffs and hillsides were pocketed with small caves and large caves. The wooded area was rough, filled with boulders, and excellent for defensive operations. Bands of fire were laid by the enemy through the underbrush and in such manner as to make it most difficult to discover their locations. . . . It was necessary to work forward taking out each gun in turn, employing tanks to draw fire so that guns could be located and destroyed. Rush and die tactics would never have succeeded.9
The most important gain in the 106th Infantry's zone on 27 June was made by the 1st Battalion, on the left. While one company (C) remained in Death Valley to contain the enemy in the cliff by directing fires into the caves from below, the other two companies (A and B) skirted to the west, climbed the southern end of the ridge, and attacked the Japanese positions from above. Since most of the enemy weapons in the cliff face were sited for enfilade fire into the valley, the two companies were able to approach the strong points from the rear. In this manner they avoided the heavy volume of fire that had immobilized movements across the lower ground for so many days.
Clearing the caves was a tedious task, requiring the coordinated activities of 1st Battalion riflemen and flame-thrower-demolition teams from the 102d Engineer Battalion. By late afternoon a solid toehold in the southern
end of the cliff line had been seized, a number of Japanese positions eliminated, and prospects for future advance through the area much improved. One strong point destroyed during the day housed about 20 Japanese soldiers, armed with rifles, machine guns, and three U. S. Browning Automatic Rifles. How they had obtained the latter three weapons was never revealed.
Movement by the remainder of the 106th Infantry was rendered difficult because of fire from Japanese located in that portion of the cliff line not yet reached by the men on top, as well as fresh opposition from a hill (designated "Hill Able") to the right front. This latter feature lay within the zone of the 2d Battalion, 165th Infantry (attached to the 106th Infantry); and, despite the best efforts of that unit to seize it on 27 June, the hill remained firmly in enemy hands at the close of the day. (See Map 18.)
Two platoons of medium tanks from the 762d Tank Battalion were attached to the 106th Infantry for the 27 June attack. These platoons were to move out before the infantry assault to neutralize Japanese positions in the cliff line. But plans, unfortunately, went awry. Soon after the tanks moved out on their mission, it began to rain. Dust on the tanks turned to mud, vision from within became blurred, and the machines lost direction. Instead of firing on the planned targets, they opened upon men of the 3d Battalion, 106th Infantry.
This miscarriage of plans postponed the attack until 1230, when the 3d Battalion, followed by the 2d Battalion, moved out. Again the enemy in the cliff line opened up, but this time the tanks found their targets and neutralized them. Despite fire from Hill Able to the right front, the 3d Battalion pushed on. By 1342 the unit had reached its objective, a small knoll west of Hill Able, and commenced digging in for the night. When the advance of the 3d Battalion permitted, the 2d Battalion, until then following in reserve, swung to the right and came abreast of the 3d. There it dug in for the night. Company F remained some distance ahead with the 8th Marines atop the cliff.
At the conclusion of the day's action, the commanding general of the 27th Division sent a message to the 2d and 3d Battalions, 106th Infantry:
Congratulations on a day's work well done. I have the utmost confidence in our continued success in a vigorous push against the remaining enemy. Keep up the good work. Jarman.10
The 106th Infantry had not been sparing in the use of supporting artillery fires. From 25 to 27 June, the following amounts of artillery ammunition had been expended in the regimental zone: 2,606 rounds of light high explosive (105mm); 117 rounds light smoke; 420 rounds medium high explosive (155mm).
The 27th Division's reserve (105th Infantry, less 1st and 2d Battalions) remained in an assembly area awaiting orders.11
Pinch, Shift, Adjust, Consolidate
Only minor advances were made by the 2d Marine Division on 27 June. In the first hour of the attack, the 1st and 3d Battalion, 8th Marines, advanced about 200 yards along Tapotchau's western slopes. Resistance was light, but the terrain again provided the deterrent to rapid movement. At Tapotchau's summit, meanwhile, the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, completed seizure of the main crest and started the northern descent. The 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, on the division right, conducted aggressive patrolling in the northeast Tapotchau area. Anxious eyes still peered to the right rear in search of elements of the 27th Division, which, as yet, had not moved up on the flank. Though the 1st Battalion, 106th Infantry, had made important gains during the day, the action had been too far to the rear for the Marines to observe. At no time could the 8th Regiment relax attention to the right flank; the enemy capability of clambering up the cliff and striking from the rear was one not to be ignored or forgotten.
At 1000 the 2d Battalion, 25th Marines (from the NTLF reserve), was again attached to the 2d Marine Division. After further attachment to the 8th Marines, the battalion
HIGHWAY, inland Saipan style. Bad as this route appears, it was excellent by comparison with some others that were used. Jeeps carried messengers and supplies forward, evacuated casualties rearward.
moved to Colonel Wallace's command post and again reported for duty with that regiment. (It had been attached to the 8th Marines on the previous day but at 1500 had been returned to NTLF control.) Colonel Wallace ordered the unit to relieve the 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, of the flank-watching mission so that the latter could give full attention to the advance. By late afternoon this relief was accomplished, the 2d Battalion, 25th Marines, being deployed in an almost north-south line along the 2d Division's right boundary. At 1700 the battalion made patrol contact with 27th Division troops in Death Valley.
Perhaps the most important result of the day's movements in the 8th Marines' zone was that the unit's normal frontage could be assumed. With the release of the 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, from flank security duties, lines were straightened with resultant reduction in frontage.12
Pinch, shift, adjust, consolidate, advance--these were the 27 June plans of the 6th Marines. The 3d Battalion (in the center), tired from days of continuous front line action, was to be pinched out of the front lines and shifted to regimental reserve. The 2d Battalion, on the right, would adjust itself to its new frontage, consolidate its contact with adjacent units, and finally advance. The 1st Battalion would move forward when units to its right had relieved the contact strain.
Prior to King-Hour (0630) a small counterattack struck between Companies F and I, 6th Marines. Supported by knee mortars, about one Japanese platoon caused a brief flurry of excitement but little else. The Marines of the two companies converged their fires upon the meager enemy force and quickly repulsed it.
By 1410 the 3d Battalion, completely relieved from the lines, assembled in reserve. Upon determining that good contact existed on both flanks, the 2d Battalion moved forward. But, after progressing only a short distance through
a cane field, the unit was struck by a fierce fusillade of small-arms fire coming, as on the previous day, from the base of the ridge line to the north. The short stubble of the cane field gave the unit little or no protection from the grazing fire of the Japanese. As darkness of 27 June fell, the ridge line north of Mt. Tipo Pale remained firmly in enemy hands. With the short advance of the 2d Battalion, however, the 1st Battalion was permitted to move forward, seizing more favorable terrain and shortening its front for future action. Like its sister regiment, the 8th Marines, the 6th had gained but little during the day.13
Eager to finish a job which they knew was theirs and realizing that the task became no easier with waiting, men of the 2d Marines bided their time along Radio Road outside of Garapan. The wait was not their choice. Nor was it anyone's. To push the regiment--alone--through Garapan would have demanded that its former frontage be assumed by another unit. Since another unit was not available for any such assignment, it remained for the 2d Marines' front to hold and wait until the outer arc of the swing had advanced abreast of it.
The time was by no means wasted; daily patrols had thoroughly scouted the town's rubble and had provided timely information of enemy activities there. Patrols on 27 June discovered and routed a small enemy outpost and found an improvised mined area, employing aerial bombs, in the streets of the town.14
During the long wait at Garapan's southern edge the 2d Marines constantly improved defense positions. The possibility of an all-out Japanese counterattack along the coastal flats was never ignored, and all hands were constantly alert to just such a development. Across the regiment's front, "concertina" wire15 had been strung, and just forward of that sheets of corrugated tin had been spread in order that any movement toward the lines would be loudly announced. More than one prowling pig met death by blundering upon this ingenious, if crude, warning device. Individual foxholes had been converted to tiny fortresses by the addition of overhead cover and, occasionally, by placement of steel armor-plate shields in front. The latter items were not issued but rather represented the fruits of a search through an enemy building. The Japanese had intended the shields as individual protection from small-arms fire, and the Marines were not ones to misuse acquired property.16
The seizure of Mt. Tapotchau provided an excellent observation post. From the mountain's towering heights, nearly the entire island could be viewed. To provide security for the 2d Marine Division observation post located there, one company of the 1st Provisional Battalion (formed from Shore Party personnel whose normal function was completed) was detached from the 2d Marines and moved to form a cordon around the installation.
Division air observers, operating from the tiny Charan Kanoa strip or from carriers since 15 June, now moved to Aslito Airfield together with their "grasshoppers."17 The vulnerable, little OY planes proved an extremely valuable means of acquiring enemy information throughout the operation.
By leaving Nafutan Point on the previous night, the enemy relieved the 2d Battalion, 105th Infantry, of the worst part of its assignment. On 27 June the soldiers, reporting scattered resistance, swept to the promontory's southernmost tip. It then remained for the myriad coast line caves and crevasses to be inspected and cleaned of Japanese. This task consumed several days of effort. The battalion subsequently reported counting 850 Japanese bodies on Nafutan Point. These were in addition to those killed in the breakout on the night of 26-27 June.18
Night of 27-28 June
At 1845 ships in the transport area were alerted to the approach of Japanese planes, and the smoke plan was immediately executed. The radar had not erred; at 2000 and again at 2235, bombs fell on the transport area: five to eight in the early attack, 15 in the latter. The number of attacking Japanese planes was described as "several"; but, aside from a near miss on the Cambria, all bombs fell without causing damage. Aslito Airfield felt the impact of enemy bombs at 2352, but, here again, the only loss was peace and quiet. Equally ineffective was the retaliatory fire of ships' and shore-installed antiaircraft guns. Nor did the Army night fighters which rose from Aslito Airfield achieve effective contact with the enemy formations.19
The fireworks displayed at Aslito Airfield and in the transport area provided the principal diversion during the night of 27-28 June. The 2d Marines, however, reported "sporadic enemy mortar fire falling" within its lines,20 and the command post of the 2d Battalion, 165th Infantry, became the special target of an enemy 40 or 47mm flat trajectory weapon. The most serious consequence of the latter shelling was the wounding of the battalion commander, Major Gregory Brousseau, USA.21
A peculiar bit of activity occurred in the 23d Marines' sector at about 0200. Lumbering confidently along a road leading into the Marine lines was a truck carrying 12 Japanese soldiers and civilians. Whether attempting a bold tactic or merely lost, the enemy never revealed; vehicle and passengers met a quick end from the point-blank fires of a 37mm gun.22
D-plus 13--28 June 1944
Not panic, but an ever-growing concern (nurtured by a steady diet of reverses) reveals itself in Iketa's situation report on the morning of 28 June:
Last night all fronts were without great change, but since dawn, enemy attacks have grown in intensity, particularly against Tapotchau area and the hill on the northwest side of Chacha, and the hill west of Donnay where the enemy has laid heavy artillery fire. On the south foot of Tapotchau, he seems to have 20 odd mortars, and in the southwest area, over 10 mountain guns and mortars.
About 50 men of the 118th Infantry are improving their positions on the east side of Hill 343,23 and one company of the 136th Infantry is improving its position on Hill 268,24 and about 50 men of the 118 Infantry are digging in on the north side of that hill. The main body of the 9th Expeditionary Force, about 200 men, and about 100 men from the 9th Tank Regiment are consolidating their positions north and east of there in the high ground (Chacha water area).25 Though surrounded by the enemy, and receiving artillery fire, we are prepared to make stiff resistance along the cliff line.
As the battle progresses numbers of bravely fighting officers and men continue to appear, engaging in hand to hand combat, taking part in raids and scouting missions, and holding back nothing in the service of their Emperor.
Parts of our forces are in the midst of preparing positions against the enemy, in order to make the area north of Donnay and around Tarahoho secure against his advances.26
The fact that Iketa made no mention of defenses west of Tapotchau, in the 2d Marine Division zone, would indicate that he had received no word from either the 135th Infantry Regiment or Navy units located in that area.
UP-AND-DOWN FIGHTING was necessary to clear Japanese from jumbled maze of coral rock characteristic of inland Saipan. Evacuating wounded from this type of terrain was a major problem.
In the 2d Marine Division zone the advance slogged slowly forward. Along the beach the 2d Marines, still unable to advance without breaking contact with units to the east, conducted monotonous patrolling activities into Garapan. In preparation for projected moves through the battered town, artillery, naval gunfire and air strikes pounded targets located there. In one air strike three misdirected rockets fell within the lines of the 1st Battalion, 2d Marines, causing 27 casualties.27 This unfortunate accident occurred when a pilot mistook a puff of white smoke in the Marines' lines for his strike-marker (the target was to be marked with a white phosphorous shell).
Major General Watson and Lieutenant General Holland Smith recommended disciplinary action because of this tragedy; but Admiral Spruance, commanding the Fifth Fleet, did not concur. While pointing out that such accidents should not be "casually condoned," Spruance felt that disciplinary action would have a "baneful effect on close air support operations." In regard to preventing a recurrence of an accident of this nature, Spruance wrote, "It can be taken for granted by all that the air force will take every possible precaution to avoid accidents of this nature in the future."28
The length of two football fields or a fairly long golf drive (200 yards) was the average forward movement by the 6th Marines on 28 June. The left assault battalion (the 1st), restricted by the movements of units to its right, could only conduct patrolling operations. In this respect, it was more nearly related to the 2d Marines than to its parent unit.
Major Hunt's 2d Battalion continued to fight across the open canefield toward its objective, a low ridge line north of Tipo Pale. Japanese riflemen and machine gunners, secure in their hillside grotto, raked the clearing with grazing fire. Light flame-thrower and medium tanks were available to the 6th Marines, but their use in this instance was limited because of difficult routes of approach to enemy positions, and support had to be delivered from long ranges. This left the task to the infantrymen. As everywhere demonstrated, reduction of cave positions proved a slow, painful job. By late afternoon the situation had improved slightly and the volume of Japanese fire had diminished somewhat, but the 2d Battalion's unceasing efforts since 0630 found it still short of the ridge line objective and very tired. A great store of energy had been burned in moving across the murderous field, yet more effort would be required. It appeared that the Japanese were rooted to the pock-marked ridge line.
The Tipo Pale strong point, at which Company K, 6th Marines, had been whittling for many days, finally was secured on 28 June, permitting the company to rejoin its battalion. The tenacious Japanese soldiers in this pocket had sold their lives but had exacted from the 6th Marines a high price in time, men and effort.29
Here today, gone tomorrow; that was the rule for the 2d Battalion, 25th Marines. At 0730, 28 June, the organization was again removed from 8th Marines' control and returned to NTLF reserve. After this change, the 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, again assumed responsibility for the division right flank.
To the north in the 8th Marines' zone of action, four small hills could be seen. These hills, rising from relatively flat ground, looked tiny from the "crow's nest" at the peak of Mt. Tapotchau and were nicknamed "the Pimples." (See Map 18.) Admirably suited for designation as battalion objectives, the blemishes were assigned by Colonel Wallace from right to left as follows: 2d Battalion, 8th Marines--Bill's Pimple; 1st Battalion, 29th Marines--Tommy's Pimple; 3d Battalion, 8th Marines--Stan's Pimple; 1st Battalion, 8th Marines--Larry's Pimple.30
It was hoped that the advance of the 3d Battalion, 8th Marines, would go forward rapidly since the terrain in this unit's zone afforded satisfactory routes for the forward movement of tanks. Jagged ground in the other battalions' areas was very unsatisfactory for tank traffic.
The 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, on the right, was ordered to move out on 28 June in spite of the fact that 27th Division elements had not come abreast. Normal precautions would be taken to prevent the Japanese from exploiting the gap between divisions, but the push to the north would no longer be delayed.
Facing the 2d Battalion in its assigned zone was an abrupt drop which virtually prohibited movement to the north. A crevice, not over two feet wide at most points, provided the only route of descent. Movement down this slot as well as the day's advance over a narrow cliffside path demanded that the battalion move in a formation of companies in column and, further, individuals in column of files. Numerous caves had to be investigated as the unit moved parallel to the cliff; but, rather than halting the entire procession while these searches were instituted, small combat patrols were dispatched to do the job while the remainder continued toward Bill's Pimple.
The formation and tactics were sound in this situation, and during the move past the cliff the battalion killed about 100 of the enemy. These 100 were no worry, but the Marines' own casualties were another matter. The rugged nature of the terrain required that a single stretcher be manned by eight bearers. Thus, a
single casualty was, in effect, nine men at least temporarily out of action. Sad but true: a man wounded imposed a greater immediate loss on the unit than a man dead. Supply and evacuation in the 2d Battalion's area was improved when a bulldozer carved a lane to the top of the cliff. Although still not satisfactory for vehicular traffic, this route was used to manhandle supplies from the top of the cliff down to the battalion.
All along the 8th Marines' front resistance stiffened. This, plus the fact that observers noted many enemy moving on and around the "Pimples," lent emphasis to the belief that the main battle positions would be encountered in that vicinity. By 1600 the 8th Marines had lost momentum and received orders to hold for the night. As the regiment halted, it was still short of the four Pimples. Defensive positions left something to be desired; a 400-yard gap existed between the right of the 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, and the left of the 106th Infantry. Also, a precipitous cliff separated the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, and the 2d Battalion, 8th Marines. So as not to imperil the regiment's right flank, the former unit anchored its flank firmly on the top lip of the cliff while the latter provided all-around circular defense for itself at the bottom.31
The result of this pressure in the north Tapotchau area is revealed in General Iketa's situation report on the evening of 28 June:
All our units are consolidating their positions and fighting hard but personnel has been sharply reduced by the enemy shelling over a period of many days and the enemy is gradually infiltrating among our positions. Especially in the vicinity of Mt. Tapotchau four or five enemy battalions, supported by several tons of mortars are attacking but our troops are checking their advance.32
General Griner Assumes Command of 27th Division
This date, 28 June, marked the end of General Jarman's command of the 27th Infantry Division. Jarman, whose primary post was Saipan Garrison Force Commander, had commanded the division on a temporary basis awaiting the arrival of Major General George W. Griner, Jr., USA. At 1000 the new commanding general arrived at the 27th Division command post and relieved General Jarman. Then followed the usual orientation to the situation, staff reports, introductions and generally getting the new leader geared to his command. General Griner instructed Brigadier General Ross to continue in his dual capacity as chief of staff and assistant division commander.33
Since moving into the lines on 23 June, the 27th Division had received mortar and machine-gun fire from the enemy in the cliffs on the left flank. No exception was to be enjoyed on 28 June. Progress, again, was slow.
The 1st Battalion, 106th Infantry, which had made some headway against these same cliffs on the previous day, found the craggy precipice dotted with caves. Flushing the Japanese from their hideouts was a lengthy process. Forward gains were short, but a number of enemy installations (housing 12 machine guns and several mortars) were destroyed.
A faster pace--initially--was maintained by the 2d and 3d Battalions. These units, advancing against small-arms fire, progressed about 400 yards before experiencing serious difficulties. Then an enemy field piece, located somewhere to the right front, joined the smaller weapons in a challenge to forward movement. In addition, the advance was complicated by the failure of the 2d Battalion, 165th Infantry, to seize Hill Able (see Map 18). This commanding position, located on the right flank of the 2d and 3d Battalions, 106th Infantry, was an uncomfortable thorn in the side of the two units. Dangerous exposure of this flank caused the two units to stop their forward movement.34
Among the 3d Battalion's casualties on 28 June was the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Harold I. Mizony, USA, killed in action when two Japanese tanks unexpectedly appeared just forward of his battalion observation post. By chance, the two enemy vehicles had found a lucrative target; commanders of the 2d and 3d Battalions, together with their
FIRE SUPPORT, delivered by a heavy machine gun (foreground) and a 37mm gun (background), assists the infantry advance on enemy positions. Behind the weapon, two crewmen ready additional belts of machinegun ammunition.
company commanders, were gathered to plan the next move. Tightly grouped a short distance behind them were the men of the two battalions, waiting for the orders that would send them into action. Within a matter of moments the enemy tankers reaped an awful harvest--12 killed, 61 wounded--and disappeared unscathed.35
The 3d Battalion had suffered heavy casualties in its Death Valley fight. By June 28 its effective strength of riflemen numbered approximately 100, and it was reorganized into a single rifle company.36 Plans were made to move the "company" into reserve when relieved by the 1st Battalion.37
The 2d Battalion, 165th Infantry, on the division right, meanwhile, continued its assigned task of clearing Hill Able. This was no easy job. On 26 June the battalion commander had reported that his troops occupied the hill, but morning of 27 June found him in error--the Japanese were still firmly in possession. Persistent tenants, they refused to budge despite heavy pressure applied on 27 June. Again on the 28th, repeated efforts were made, but the enemy held. One attempt which appeared to promise certain success inexplicably failed. This attempt had followed receipt of word that U. S. stretcher bearers had moved unmolested along the hill's western base. Maneuvering through the zone already cleared by the 106th, the 2d Battalion, 165th, enveloped Hill Able from the west. Again the attack was repulsed and another failure in the struggle for Hill Able recorded. At 1815 the battalion was detached from the 106th Infantry, with which it had operated for several days, and attached to the 105th Infantry, which was taking over the right of the division zone.
Company F, 106th Infantry, meanwhile, moved down from atop the cliff and rejoined its parent battalion. This company had been with the 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, since the evening of 23 June. The Marines were sorry to see the unit leave. During its week atop the cliff Company F had proved itself an aggressive, well-led organization.
As night fell and the division dug in, a short 400 yards had been gained.38
"Hold Present Positions. . . . "
Holland Smith ordered the 4th Marine Division to "hold present positions until further orders." Its long advance of 27 June made further moves impracticable until the 27th Division had come abreast. To assist the latter in catching up, the 4th Marine Division was directed to "assist advance of 27th Infantry Division by fire." During the wait, rear areas would be mopped up, and two battalions of 105mm howitzers from the 14th Marines were prepared to pass to control of the Corps Artillery.39
In compliance with that part of the order which directed that fire assistance be provided the 27th Division, General Schmidt ordered the 165th Infantry (less 2d Battalion) and the 24th Marines to establish one battalion each along the division boundary. The 1st Battalion, 165th Infantry, and the 3d Battalion, 24th Marines, found the extension too great for them to cover. Even with the commitment of another battalion from the 24th Marines (the 1st) and readjustment of the 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry's lines, physical contact still did not exist with the 27th Division. Four battalions attempted to cover the open flank, while only three faced the front.
"Hold present positions" was a fluid phrase as it pertained to a division. It permitted small changes and shifts (to improve the position held) while, at the same time, requiring that the general trace of the front lines remain substantially fixed. In keeping with this logical interpretation, the 23d Regiment patrolled forward of its lines to a distance of 500 yards, and the 165th Infantry occupied a dominating feature (Hill 700) a short distance to its front. With the shifts and minor advances, objective O-6 was completely occupied within the 4th Division zone during the day. Patrols from the 23d Marines made no contacts in the area to the front but observed indications of recent evacuation by enemy groups.40
A serious blow befell the 165th Infantry on 28 June: an exploding Japanese mortar shell wounded the regimental commander, Colonel Gerard W. Kelley. After Kelley was evacuated, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph T. Hart, the executive officer, assumed command.41
The 4th Division's success in pushing along the east coast was recognized by the Japanese chief of staff in his summary of 28 June:
The enemy is steadily increasing his troop strength opposing our front lines in hill lines west of Donnay and is closing in on our positions; a few of the enemy have infiltrated into our positions. The enemy is still not north of Donnay.
A correction could have been added by the men of the 4th Marine Division: "We are already north of Donnay."
Some of the hardships the Japanese endured during the battle were indicated by a reference in General Iketa's report: "In our front line units, the troops have been three days without drinking water but are hanging on by chewing leaves of trees and eating snails."42
On Nafutan Point the 2d Battalion, 105th Infantry, spent the day ferreting Japanese from the many caves and crevasses there. Among the weapons and equipment found were four 6-inch guns of British manufacture and three 14-centimeter guns. When discovered, only one of the 6-inch guns was in good firing condition; two were slightly damaged and one was badly damaged. None of the 14-centimeter guns was emplaced and one of the three was slightly damaged.43
Night of 28-29 June
The night of 28-29 June was similar to many other nights at Saipan. An enemy probing patrol explored too close to the muzzles of the 6th Marines' rifles and suffered a loss of ten men and two machine guns before it could extricate itself.44
Even in the grimmest surroundings and under the most uncomfortable circumstances, an occasional incident cropped forth to brighten the situation, a moment of comic relief in an otherwise somber drama. Such a moment was provided in the 23d Marines' sector. Alert Marines peering into the darkness were astounded, sometime after midnight, to observe ten enemy vehicles, with headlights burning brightly, approaching via the east coast road. Not wishing to disclose their positions, the Marines held their fire, hoping to blast the enemy at close, final range. The trucks came on and on. And then--suddenly--as if awakening from a horrible dream at the brink of doom, the leading driver realized that he was on the wrong road, that, in fact, he was on his last road if he did not immediately reverse his course. This he did with frantic haste and strident grinding of gears. The others followed suit. Within a matter of seconds the convoy had evaporated into the night and the Marines were left with throbbing pulses and itchy fingers.45
Enemy planes attacked Saipan again during the night. From 2040 to 2137 intermittent attacks were delivered on the transport area and Aslito Airfield. Of the five intruders, two were shot down by the antiaircraft weapons of the 864th AAA Battalion. One of the downed planes jettisoned its bombs in Magicienne Bay before crashing on Kagman Peninsula. The other, bursting into flames, fell north of Aslito Airfield. As it crashed, a bomb in the plane exploded, causing several casualties among U. S. personnel nearby.46
D-plus 14 and D-plus 15 (29-30 June)
With the operation two weeks old, everyone on the island felt the weight of fatigue settling down. Like a runner waiting for his "second wind" the three U. S. divisions limped sluggishly at their tasks. To prevent this weariness from turning to apathy, the need for outstanding leadership became more pressing.
Everyone is an all-embracing word. Everyone was tired. For while the U. S. troops had endured much at Saipan, the Japanese had suffered more. It was effort expended positively against effort spent negatively, and the latter was more depressing. Then, too, it was easier to fight forward than backward.
Apart from the psychological implications, however, the Japanese had suffered more from U. S. supporting arms. This was material, this produced casualties, and even the best calculated propaganda could not erase its effects.
Despite the difficulties and confusion imposed by U. S. bombardment, Major General Iketa found time to answer a message from the Tinian Defense Force (50th Infantry) on 29 June. Still hopeful of receiving reinforcements from Tinian, Iketa admitted that the waters around Saipan were strongly patrolled by U. S. vessels, but "it is probably possible for small boat operations to break through Tinian channel at night and follow along the east coast and enter at Hanachiru." The uncertainty displayed by his use of the word probably is repeated in the concluding sentence: "The objective after landing will probably be in vicinity of wireless station."47 From the volume of correspondence that had been exchanged on this subject, the impression is derived that the Tinian commander was not anxious to undertake these moves and was stalling for time. Then too, there is the possibility that those few miles of American-patrolled water separating him from his Saipan superiors had convinced the Tinian commander that he should do his own thinking. In any case, it is small wonder if he quailed at the prospect.
Japanese 'Final Line of Resistance'
and U.S. Progress Lines for
27 and 28 June 1944
Waiting and Patrolling
Since 27 June, when it had advanced 3,000 yards in a rapid sweep, the 4th Marine Division had been restricted to only consolidation and readjustment of its lines. Further advance would merely accentuate an already acute contact problem, inasmuch as the 27th Division was still a long distance behind.
The 23d Marines, in position along the east coast, spent 29 and 30 June profitably: daily patrols scouted the terrain to the front in preparation for subsequent moves. Though valuable for the detailed examination of ground forms, roads and trails, these patrols made no large contacts with the enemy. Such few, scattered groups as were located were either captured or destroyed.48
Having seized Hill 700 in the previous day's consolidation move, the 165th Infantry patrolled north and northwest of that feature and expanded its defenses. To permit the 165th greater freedom of maneuver in the latter connection, the 23d Regiment was ordered to assume some of the Army regiment's frontage. Principal complication to relaxed movement around Hill 700 was Japanese mortar and artillery fire coming from the west and northwest. In rebuttal, the 165th directed long-range machine-gun and artillery fire into suspected Japanese positions.49
The 1st and 3d Battalions, 24th Marines, remained along the 4th Division left boundary, though they had been unable to stretch far enough to contact the 27th Division. Daylight of 29 June revealed that a number of Japanese had filtered through the gap between divisions. Once behind the 4th Division's lines, these infiltrators began an energetic program of harassment. Positive action was demanded, and the 2d Battalion, 24th Marines, in division reserve, set about the elimination of the hostile groups. Company G, 24th Marines, remained at Kagman Peninsula, executing a coastal observation mission.
The 24th Marines' situation remained generally unchanged until about 1700, 30 June, when the 1st Battalion was pinched out by a shortening of the vertical connection as the 27th Division moved forward.
A shift in commanders was necessary in the 3d Battalion, 24th Marines; Lieutenant Colonel Vandergrift, wounded two days before was finally evacuated on 29 June and Lieutenant Colonel Otto Lessing, formerly executive officer of the 20th Marines, took over.50
The 25th Marines, in NTLF reserve, had had little excitement since the Japanese exodus from Nafutan Point on the night of 26-27 June. The unit's action report for the last three days in June reads as follows:
D-plus-thirteen (28 June). Regiment continued assignment in NTLF reserve.
D-plus-fourteen (29 June). Same as D-plus-thirteen.
D-plus-fifteen (30 June). Same as D-plus-thirteen.51
If the action for this period was as dull as the report, that was completely to everyone's liking. Certainly the 25th Marines had been in the thick of the fight earlier in the operation, and there was no reason to suspect that they still would not be in for more.
Vertical Gap Reduced
After days of virtual stalemate, the 27th Division's advances on the last two days of June were indeed gratifying. Lieutenant Colonel Bradt's 3d Battalion, 105th Infantry, ordered from division reserve into the lines on the right of the division front, arrived at the line of departure and attacked at 1100, 29 June. Rapid progress by this unit reduced the size of the vertical gap on the 27th Division's right flank by about 800 yards. On 30 June, after another sizeable surge, good contact was established with the 24th Marines. This advance cut the reentrant depth to about 1,200 yards.
Men of the 2d Battalion, 165th Infantry (now attached to the 105th Infantry), continued their battle of previous days to oust the persistent foe from Hill Able. This feature, erroneously reported captured on 26 June, demanded the unit's full effort and attention until 30 June, when it was finally secured.
On the left of the division's front, the 106th Infantry continued its difficult move past the cliffs. Lieutenant Colonel Cornett's 1st Battalion, which had spent the two previous days in cliff-cleaning operations, moved back into Death Valley and relieved the decimated 3d Battalion on the regiment's left. But in all other respects the situation was unchanged. On 29 June, the regiment's advances were small, being principally hampered by a stuttering machine gun on its right flank and by several stationary, camouflaged tanks to the front. Difficult to locate, these tanks made movement through the area costly. By 30 June, however, the volume of fire had diminished and the two units moved rapidly. Physical contact finally existed with the 8th Marines on the left.
In division reserve, the tired 3d Battalion, 106th Infantry, mopped up rear cliff areas so that lines of communication and supply could operate with greater freedom and safety.52
At 1600 on 29 June when it became apparent that important gains had at last been achieved, General Griner sent a field message to his subordinate units, a portion of which follows:
Contact between adjacent divisions, regiments and battalions will be maintained at all cost.
A continuation of the highest standards of personal leadership on the part of all officers is expected.
The Corps Commander, after viewing today's operation from Mt. Tapotchau, expressly complimented the performance of the officers and men of the Division.53
A Successful Ruse
The left flank regiment of the 2d Division, the 2d Marines, had had an opportunity to try a number of patrolling techniques during its long wait at Garapan's southern edge. Large patrols, small patrols, combat patrols, reconnaissance patrols; all proved invaluable both for the information they brought back and for the continuous state of unbalance their activities imposed upon the Japanese.
On 29 June the Marines successfully employed an unusual stratagem. On a knobby hill 500 yards forward of the 2d Marines' Radio Road positions, about a platoon of Japanese were well dug-in. This hill, named "Flametree Hill" for the effusive cluster of reddish-orange trees there, formed a tiny oasis in a desert of battered ruins. Once a shrine park, it still contained an austere statue of some long-forgotten Japanese statesman. During daylight hours, the bulk of the enemy on Flametree Hill remained in caves, with only a few occupying positions in the open. The latter were for the obvious purpose of watching the Marines and alerting their comrades in the caves of an impending attack. By this means, the greater part of the defenders were protected from the shower of supporting fires while at the same time they were in proximity to their defense positions should the 2d Marines begin the long-awaited attack. Even though the size of the enemy force was not great, the excellent observation afforded by the hill would allow the Japanese to play havoc with an organized attack toward Garapan.
The Marines' problem, then, was to get the sheltered Japanese into the open so that the supporting fires could impose casualties. To do this, a dummy attack was executed on the morning of 29 June. Commencing at daylight a thunder of high explosive and white phosphorous shells from artillery, 81mm and 60mm mortars enveloped the hill--the high explosive to confuse the enemy into thinking that the fires were in preparation for an attack, the white phosphorous to deny them observation. Simultaneously, six .30-caliber heavy machine guns explored the hill with searching and traversing fires.
Then, after the sudden deluge, the artillery fire stopped. Immediately, front line Marines opened with small arms to create the impression that the assault was commencing. The illusion was strengthened when mortars and heavy machine guns dropped out. Apparently, this was the signal for the Japanese to man positions, for at this point Flametree Hill suddenly came alive: a heavy volume of machine-gun and automatic rifle fire chattered an ominous challenge to the 2d Marines. The bait had been swallowed. Immediately, U. S. artillery, mortars and heavy machine guns opened up
again. Previously, the artillery had used high explosive ammunition against the hill; now, with the enemy exposed, airburst shells were employed. Flametree Hill seemed to erupt and split apart under the concentrated shelling.
When, after several minutes of saturation, fires were lifted, the hill was quiet, with a heavy cloud of dust and smoke obscuring all details. Apparently, the ruse had worked; no estimate of casualties was possible, but several days later, when the 1st Battalion, 2d Marines, moved into the area, many bodies littered the hill.54
The 2d Marine Regiment had more than its share of accidents: on 28 June, a plane had misdirected three rockets into the 1st Battalion causing 27 casualties; again on 30 June, a Navy torpedo bomber, hit by a Japanese antiaircraft shell, crashed into the 1st Battalion's lines, resulting in a loss of seven more men. The pilot parachuted to safety from an unusually low altitude.55
In the center of the 2d Division zone the 6th Marines moved but little on 29 and 30 June. Lieutenant Colonel Jones' 1st Battalion, on the left, was still in the same situation as on previous days. Like the 2d Marines, Jones' unit could not move forward until the dominating terrain on the right had been seized, or more specifically, until other units had come abreast. The time was, therefore, spent in patrolling of the area to the front and such minor adjustment in the lines as could be undertaken without breaking contact.
The right of the regiment's zone was, and had been, the scene of the most trouble. The 2d Battalion had punched at the ridge north of Tipo Pale for two days, and though it had not carried the objective, it made a substantial improvement, principally in the destruction of several enemy weapons. But the unit was tired. The fight had not been cheap. Colonel Riseley decided to pass the 3d Battalion through the 2d for the continuation of the attack.
The shift was accomplished by about noon. The 3d Battalion, however, met the same determined, if slightly weaker, foe that had battled the 2d to a virtual standstill. By dint of great effort, the 3d Battalion was able, at 1630, to seize a toehold which presented a favorable forecast56 of the next day's events.
Off from its starting blocks on 30 June, the 3d Battalion soon hit a minor snag: a previously unlocated automatic weapon opened brashly against them, cancelling hope for an easy ascent. Utilizing supporting fires and close-in grenade fighting, the Marines knocked out the position. As if by a cue, a second strong point asserted itself. The process was repeated: supporting weapons and grenades, finally the assault. The treatment was effective. The enemy was eliminated. After these encounters, the Marines swept rapidly to the high ground. Slower movement by the 8th Marines on their right, however, restricted the unit in its forward moves, and late afternoon found only a shallow gain. But everyone felt that a great weight had been removed from the unit's shoulders. "The day's advance," relates the 2d Marine Division action report, "placed CT 6 on commanding ground in the most favorable position for continuation of the attack since D-day."57
The four Pimples on Tapotchau's northern face made convenient targets for the fires supporting the 8th Marines, as well as providing excellent objectives for the battalions. But a locality worth attacking is also apt to be an area worth defending. The enemy occupied the Pimples, during the last days of June, in sufficient strength to make it a fight. No one had reason to believe that the Japanese would withdraw without a fierce struggle.
During most of their battle around Tapotchau's rugged heights, men of the 8th Marines had been without active assistance of tanks. Though these were available, the terrain so restricted their movements that their use was curtailed. On 29 and 30 June, the Marines instituted a search for a route over which to
bring tanks into the fight. The possibility of moving the machines through the 27th Division's zone to the support of the 8th Marines appeared impracticable because of the time element. Then too, it was hoped that patrols would discover a more convenient route momentarily. None was found on 29 June, but the following afternoon a short advance by the 3d Battalion uncovered a route which, after improvement by bulldozers, served the purpose. Company A, 2d Tank Battalion, then proceeded to an assembly area in rear of the 8th Marines' lines in preparation for the attack of 1 July.
The two battalions occupying the right half of the regiment's front (1st Battalion, 29th Marines, and 2d Battalion, 8th Marines), fighting through similar terrain near the division's right boundary, found it imperative to coordinate their efforts carefully. Likewise, the two left battalions of the 8th Marines (3d and 1st), because of kindred terrain problems, assumed a closely-knit harmony of plan and action. Colonel Wallace, the regimental commander, quickly recognized the close integration of these groups and encouraged this attitude. Thus, Wallace was somewhat eased of the burden of coordinating the efforts of four assault battalions and was accorded a greater freedom of decision.
The most significant move by the 8th Marines during the last two days in June was the seizure of Bill's Pimple, on the division right flank. (See Map 19.) This hill, so tough to take had the Japanese chosen to make it so, was seized by the 2d Battalion on the late afternoon of 30 June without a serious fight. Immediately after the capture and as a result of an earlier request by the 8th Marines, a medium tank platoon of the Army's 762d Tank Battalion arrived on Bill's Pimple to render fire support. Since the 2d Battalion contemplated no further moves that day, the tanks were employed against Tommy's Pimple to the west. The latter feature had defied capture on 30 June, all attempts by the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, to advance against it being stopped. The 2d Battalion's advance, plus the availability of more supporting weapons (chiefly tanks), made prospects for 1 July good, however.
The 8th Marines' picture had clarified and improved in several respects by the evening of 30 June: tanks were at last in supporting positions; all battalions, except the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, now had one company in reserve; all, save the 2d Battalion, were now supplied by truck, the open right flank was no longer such a worry: a company of the Provisional Battalion had moved in behind the 2d Battalion, and patrols from the Army's 106th Infantry now operated in the gap between divisions.
A perennial headache, misdirected friendly artillery fire, made itself felt again on 30 June. Readying itself for the day's attack, the 3d Battalion was enveloped in a thundering barrage emanating from deep to the rear. After 16 days of fighting, the effect of a miscalculation of this sort was particularly depressing and demoralizing. Other battalions had endured similar shellings; but, in spite of vehement complaints to higher echelons, the accidents continued. The identity of the unit, or units, responsible was never determined.58
The 8th Marines' advance on 29 and 30 June had been slow but steady, using available supporting weapons to the maximum. In this connection, 75mm half-tracks blasted a number of positions forward of the 1st Battalion while rocket trucks released string after string of 4.5-inch projectiles at areas forward of the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines.59
Though all three of its regiments were committed to the lines, the 2d Marine Division was not without a reserve, though at times it was only a provisional or composite group. On 30 June, for example, two companies from the Provisional Battalion, as well as the 2d Battalion, 18th Marines, whose engineers had been reorganized into three rifle companies of 175 men each, performed the reserve function.60
Progress Lines for
29 and 30 June
ROCKET BARRAGE in the making. 4.2-inch rocket trucks were effectively employed by the 8th Marines north of Mt. Tapotchau and later by the 23d Marines at "4th of July Hill."
Nights of 29 and 30 June
Night activity had seemingly slackened; the night of 29 and 30 June remained reasonably quiet in all zones. Individual instances of sniping and infiltration were so commonplace by this time that they often were not even reported.
The usual Japanese air attacks failed to materialize on 29 June, but on 30 June the activities resumed with renewed vigor. Beginning just after dusk and lasting until after midnight, the air over Saipan was charged with excitement as "several" Japanese planes made nine separate raids on the island and the transport area. U. S. ships, hidden by a smoke screen, escaped damage; ashore, bombs dropped in the vicinity of Garapan failed to achieve any important hits. The most significant aspect of this particular incursion was that it marked the first kill by U. S. night fighters at Saipan.61
Since 27 June General Saito had remained in a small cave 2,200 yards north of Tapotchau, but by 30 June this seemingly inconspicuous feature became the target for a booming mortar barrage. This stripped the tiny command post of its only advantage: seclusion. Saito felt that a change was indicated. His sixth and last refuge was another cave, this one located in a canyon cutting about 1,000 yards inland from the village of Makunsha. (See Map 19). The Japanese named the canyon "Paradise Valley." It was hardly an appropriate name.62
Retreating Japanese were observed by the 4th Marine Division and the 105th Infantry during the early evening of 30 June. Generally,
BAZOOKAMAN (at left) and assistant cautiously search for targets at Garapan's outskirts. After a long wait for units on the right to come abreast, the 2d Marines finally advanced into Garapan on 2 July.
the withdrawal appeared quite orderly, the 4th Division reporting Japanese moving in column of files along a road to the north. Indications are that retrogression continued throughout the night, as moving lights were observed far to the north. The results of artillery and mortar fire against these targets could not be judged because of the long range at which it was delivered.63
The reason for the enemy's general retirement was the desire of General Saito to pull back and shorten his line, regroup his forces, and coordinate the defense. With his command scattered through the roughest terrain, at the island's widest point, he had been unable even to disseminate his orders in time for integrated action. He hoped that the withdrawal would improve the situation and that he could then conduct the type of mobile defense in which he believed.
D-plus 16 and D-plus 17 (1-2 July)
The Limestone Hill
The Northern Troops and Landing Force achieved important gains on the first two days in July. The swing to Tanapag began in earnest.
Reports of the general Japanese retreat had begun arriving at the NTLF command post on the previous night, and with the coming of daylight on 1 July, the reports continued. Along a road to the front of the 27th Division, the enemy could be observed pulling back to the north. They were on the run but still capable of turning around and making it a fight. There was plenty of venom left.
For the 2d Marine Division, 1 and 2 July marked the greatest forward surge since the
SUGARLOAF HILL dominated Garapan and surrounding coastal plain. 1st Battalion, 2d Marines, skirted these sheer south and west slopes and seized this feature from the east on 2 July.
D-Day landings. In a shift calculated to rest the 3d Battalion, 8th Marines, the latter exchanged missions and positions with the 2d Battalion, 2d Marines.64
Along the beach Colonel Stuart's 2d Marines spent 1 July in routine patrolling, but on 2 July began the long-delayed movement through Garapan. Attacking with the 1st and 3d Battalions abreast, 1st on the right and the 3d Battalion, 8th Marines, in reserve, Stuart's men made excellent progress. The days and weeks of pounding paid dividends. Supported by Company C, 2d Tank Battalion, the 3d Battalion65 swept through the rubble-strewn flatlands at a steady pace. Encountering rifle and machine-gun fire, men of the battalion took grateful advantage of the protection afforded by the torn hunks of concrete littering the area. With tanks ricocheting rounds among the shattered ruins, the Marines moved into the very heart of what had once been Saipan's largest town. (LVT(A)'s of the 2d Armored Amphibian Battalion provided close fire support against targets near the beach.
Fighting through foothills overlooking Garapan from the east was Kyle's 1st Battalion. Here the going was tougher. Movement of supporting tanks was rendered extremely difficult by the rough terrain, but, surmounting the difficulties, the machines lumbered clumsily
into positions from which to bring their shattering fire power to bear.
Within two hours after the jump-off, Company A had enveloped Flametree Hill from the west, fighting a lively skirmish with a detachment of cave-dwellers there. Then the battalion moved to the north towards the day's objective, a dominating eminence about 1,000 yards inland from Garapan's center. This feature, an expansive knob with forested slopes, had been named "Sugarloaf Hill" by the 2d Marines. Approached from north, south, or west, this feature presented steep, challenging slopes. From the east (inland) flank, however, the rise was very gradual and Kyle selected this approach. Against fairly heavy machine-gun fire, the battalion swept to the top of the hill, mopped-up the Japanese defenders and by 1700 established contact with the 6th Marines on the right.
Ever conscious of the threat of counterattack along the coastal road, Colonel Stuart ordered both assault battalions to send out security patrols to their front during the night. To provide depth to the regiment's defense, the colonel ordered his reserve (3d Battalion, 8th Marines) to establish a secondary defense line about 1,000 yards in rear of the forward elements.66
As had been the case on so many previous days, the right half of the 6th Marines front gave the most trouble on 1 and 2 July. Emplaced in a ravine 500 yards forward of the 3d Battalion's lines were three Japanese field pieces protected by a host of rifles and machine guns. As the Marines attacked toward this area on 1 July, rifles and machine guns stuttered inhospitably, while the field pieces punctuated the threat with frequent rocking blasts. The 3d Battalion achieved little toward the destruction of this enemy stronghold during 1 July; but, with the support of tanks, 37mm guns and 75mm half-tracks, the unit finally moved to commanding ground facing the ravine.
The 1st Battalion, meanwhile, restricted its advance to conform to the slower movement of the 3d Battalion. Light resistance on its front made rapid strides possible, but the difficulties of maintaining contact deterred Colonel Riseley from ordering the unit to push on. More open terrain, or an enemy less adept in infiltration, may have justified long thrusts by a single unit; but neither of these situations prevailed at Saipan. By dark of 1 July, when it was apparent that the ravine strong point would not be reduced, the 1st Battalion pulled back a short distance to achieve better contact.
The 6th Marines were old hands at dealing with troublesome cores: experience had been a stern teacher in the north Tipo Pale strong point. Without hesitation, unit commanders applied the tactics that had worked previously; Company B remained behind to contain and destroy while the rest by-passed the area and continued the attack.
Once past this "loaded" draw, both battalions swept rapidly forward. By nightfall of 2 July the Japanese had lost another 700 to 1,200 yards, the greatest gains having been made on the left and center. Just before dark the 6th Marines lost a jeep and a half-track when these vehicles ran over land mines which the Japanese had strewn haphazardly through the area.
To assist the 6th Marines in maintaining contact with adjacent units, two companies from the Provisional Battalion were attached on 1 July. The presence of these units eased contact problems, released infantry companies for the vital task of pressing the attack forward, and permitted Colonel Riseley to retain his reserve (2d Battalion) intact and in a state of absolute readiness.67
Although still broken and heavily wooded in spots, the terrain facing the 8th Marines was the most favorable that the regiment had seen for many days. Tanks, which had found Tapotchau terrain awkward, could now move with dispatch, thus speeding the infantry's advances. This factor, coupled with the enemy's withdrawal, permitted the 8th Marines to sweep ahead nearly a mile on 1 and 2 July. And the welcome sight of the water at Tanapag spurred the efforts even further.
A well-executed tank-infantry thrust on the morning of 1 July carried the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, to the top of Tommy's Pimple without a fight. Then, in conjunction with the 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, the attack continued. The two battalions now faced a series of relatively open ridges leading down to the coastal flats in the Tanapag vicinity. The exceptionally good observation facilities were used to advantage in bringing rocket and artillery fire to bear on any areas that appeared to offer positions for the enemy.
As the 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, pushed its attack across an open field on the afternoon of 2 July, a small coral limestone hill on the right flank suddenly came alive. Grazing fire swept the open field, stopping the Marines' forward movement. The 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, also exposed to some of this fire, was slowed to a virtual standstill. During the afternoon this unit suffered the loss of another battalion commander; Lieutenant Colonel Tompkins fell wounded from a shell fragment. The 8th Marines' executive officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jack P. Juhan, immediately assumed command.
The 2d Battalion, meanwhile, developed a stubborn, unseen foe of undetermined strength in the limestone hill. Hidden in the hummock's crevasses and caves the enemy brought accurate small-arms fire to bear upon the Marines. The word "accurate" is not used loosely here; few rounds were wasted. The battalion and Company G had a joint observation post located in a small island of trees in the center of the field. Each time a messenger attempted to run across the open field and enter the wooded clump, it was a dash through a gantlet of lead. Often as not, the messenger could not make the race to and from the observation post without getting hit. For this reason, this means of communication was not used except in cases of great emergency.
Major Chamberlin, commanding the 2d Battalion, tried to envelop the point of resistance, using Company F in a swing to the east. But the Japanese had not ignored this route of entry into their position and met Company F with a prohibitory fusillade. In addition, the Marines' envelopment route (the only one available) was through intertwining, snare-like underbrush, through which it was virtually impossible to move.
In the meantime, evacuation of casualties had become a problem: Marines had fallen on the open field, and all attempts to rescue them only resulted in more men being hit. The scheme finally adopted, and the one which brought success, was for a tank to position itself between the casualty and the limestone hill. By following directly behind the tanks, hospital corpsmen could then move safely to the wounded, apply hasty bandages, give them a shot of morphine, and place them on stretchers. Then, carefully coordinating their moves with the tank (by talking to the driver through the sound-powered phone on the rear sponson), the stretcher bearers would precede the tank from the site, all the while shielded from Japanese fire. White phosphorous rounds dropped on the hill by the 81mm mortar platoon plus frontal blasts from the chaperoning medium tanks also contributed to the success of this resourceful project. The fact that only small arms fire spattered against the thick hulls of the tanks indicated that the Japanese had no heavier weapons readily available in the limestone hill.68
By dark, all wounded had been rescued, but the task of seizing the hill still remained. Captain Edward L. Bale, Jr., commanding Company A, 2d Tank Battalion, came up at this juncture with a suggestion both unique and resourceful. He proposed a night tank raid against the hill using illuminating shells and medium tank spotlights to brighten the area while light flame-thrower tanks (which had just arrived for the night mission) moved in close for the roast. The bizarre plan had one routine feature: riflemen and machine gunners of the 2d Battalion would watch the hill and shoot any Japanese attempting to dash from cover to place magnetic mines against the tanks.
SURRENDER? Japanese soldier stumbles dazedly from a cave following a shattering explosion at the cave entrance. Marine at left watches, rifle ready.
About an hour after dark the raid was launched. As planned, the area was bathed in a lucid, bright light as the little tanks lumbered toward the hill on their mission. Once there, they spat at the hill with long streams of flame. Men of the 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, with weapons at the ready, watched the arson with keen delight. After completing the searing process and discharging their flamethrower fuel, the tanks returned to the lines. No one ventured upon the smoldering hill to inspect the results, but all felt that some good had been accomplished.
The two left battalions of the regiment (2/2 and 1/8), meanwhile, seized their Pimples on 1 July and pushed on to the north. Nutting's 2d Battalion, 2d Marines, which had exchanged jobs with the 3d Battalion, 8th Marines, on the morning of 1 July, quickly adjusted itself to the new surroundings and drove forward. Coral limestone cliffs, similar to those troubling Chamberlin's battalion, caused some difficulty, however. Japanese holed up in these formations invariably fought until they had either been killed or their cave positions sealed. Whether these Japanese represented that inevitable percentage that never gets the word (to withdraw in this case) or whether they were carrying out a delaying mission was never determined.
Contact difficulties were experienced at dark of 1 July between the 6th and 8th Marines. As already mentioned, the former was stopped by a strong point and not able to by-pass it until
STILL FIGHTING, although covered at point-blank range, this Japanese attempted to throw an explosive charge, but alert Marines (see picture opposite page), well familiar with such tactics, were quick to shoot him before he could pull the pin.
2 July. Progress by the 8th Marines, therefore, caused a break to develop. To fill this area the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, committed its reserve company. Just as the latter battalion prepared to halt for the night of 1-2 July, 30 Japanese, operating in the best traditions of a race that believed in death lunges, charged the Marines. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Japanese fell before the fence of bullets thrown out by the men of the 1st Battalion.
On 2 July, the two left battalions of the 8th Marines forged rapidly ahead, keeping pace with the surge around them. Misdirected artillery fire again marred the day's successes; just as the 1st Battalion poised itself to jump off in the attack, friendly artillery fire thundered down and killed or wounded 51 Marines. Though delayed about 45 minutes because of the disorganization caused by this mishap, the battalion quickly caught up with flank units and moved about 800 yards during the day.69
The 27th Division by 30 June was indeed a skeletonized unit; only five infantry battalions were under General Griner's command. Throughout the series of special missions,
attachments, and attachments within attachments, only the 106th Infantry remained intact. The other two infantry battalions under 27th Division control were the 3d Battalion, 105th Infantry, and the 2d Battalion, 165th Infantry, both operating under Colonel Bishop, the 105th's Commander.
Though General Griner's field order for 1 July gave missions to two regiments, the total assault battalions were only three: 1st and 2d Battalions, 106th Infantry, and the 3d Battalion, 105th.
Manning the left and center of the division's front, Colonel Stebbins' 106th Infantry moved 2,700 yards forward on 1 and 2 July against sporadic rifle, machine-gun and mortar fire, and occasional shelling from hostile artillery--nothing to compare with that experienced in earlier days of the Death Valley fight. Encountered and destroyed on 2 July were five Japanese tanks (emplaced as pillboxes) and numerous ammunition dumps. In connection with the capture or destruction of Japanese ammunition was the unescapably cheerful feeling that every round not in Japanese possession was a round that would never be fired at U. S. forces.
The 3d Battalion, 106th, remained in regimental reserve and continued its systematic mop-up of the left flank cliff line. Patrols reported no enemy contacts in this area, the first time such a report could be made since the 27th Division first encountered the sore spot on 23 June.70
The 105th Infantry, attacking with its 3d Battalion in the assault and the 2d Battalion, 165th, in reserve, met its principal difficulties from Japanese flanking fire which issued from hillside caves in the regiment's zone. Here the story was an old one: the enemy, hidden in the deep shadows of natural caverns, funneled fire on their attackers. The tactic was as familiar and predictable as were the caves which abound on the island. And yet, the task of eliminating these holed-up individuals became only slightly easier with practice. (This schooling had too few live graduates). Locating these cavemen was difficult since it was usually necessary that they break silence and fire at least one round. That first round was apt to come from close by and would very often claim a casualty. With luck, then, the lair might be discovered with only a single loss. The hazardous task of sealing the cave, once located, required placement of the explosive in the cave entrance. This type of fighting was the work of individuals or small groups rather than units; and, while they executed their heroic tasks, the rest could only watch and wait and provide what fire assistance was possible.
No wonder, then, that the 3d Battalion, 105th, could gain but 300 yards on 1 July. And this much yardage was possible only because one hill strong point was by-passed during the morning, the 3d Battalion leaving one company behind to contain and destroy it. Later in the afternoon, elimination of this enemy pocket became the task of the 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry, which had reverted from its attachment to the 4th Marine Division at 0900, 1 July. This unit arrived in the 105th Infantry's zone in time to take over and complete the mopping-up mission. The other battalion of the 105th (2d) was still operating in the Nafutan Point area under Saipan Garrison Force control.
The 2d Battalion, 165th Infantry, separated from its parent regiment since 26 June, was ordered into NTLF reserve on the evening of 1 July, though it would remain in 27th Division rear areas. This assignment did not relieve the present reserve (25th Marines), but, rather, augmented it.
On 2 July, against much the same type of resistance encountered the previous day, the 3d Battalion, 105th Infantry, pushed about 700 yards. Though this represented over twice the previous day's gain, the battalion was far outstripped by the rush of units on either flank. The difference in speed was caused by a stubborn Japanese strong point near Papako (see Map 20) which defied frontal movement in the 105th Infantry's zone. From the moment the 3d Battalion nosed into this area, it became apparent that the going would be slow and that
the speed of flank units could not be duplicated. By dark, therefore, both flanks were uncovered and the unit still faced the Japanese strong point.
Desiring to fill the gaps, Colonel Bishop, commanding the 105th Infantry, ordered the regimental reserve (1st Battalion) to pass to the left (west) of the hornet's nest, swing across the regiment's front, and tie in with the 165th Infantry on the right and the 106th Infantry on the left. This move, commencing about 1730, was successfully executed, although it was necessary to attach a company (I) of the 3d Battalion to help man the wide front. In effect, then, the 1st Battalion had taken over the 3d Battalion's zone, with the latter remaining behind to clean up the strong point.71
The 165th Infantry (less the 2d Battalion) had been waiting, as part of the 4th Marine Division, for the 27th Division to come abreast. This delay followed the 4th Division's rapid 27 June advance which left the 27th Division a considerable distance behind. To allow the latter time to knock out the resistance holding it up and to catch up, the 4th Division had restricted its activities to patrolling, minor adjustment of its lines, and fire assistance to the 27th Division.
With the return, on the morning of 1 July, of the 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry, to the 27th Division, only two Army battalions remained under 4th Division control. And even their period of attachment was rapidly drawing to a close. An NTLF order directed the 165th to revert to 27th Division control at 0530, 2 July. Actually, this reversion had no effect on the unit's position on the front lines; it rather marked the termination of the period in which it was more convenient to have it attached to the 4th Division than to the 27th. Advances by the latter now warranted the return of the regiment to its normal command.
Selecting the same formation as the 105th Regiment, the 165th attacked on 2 July in a column of battalions, 3d leading, followed by the 1st in reserve. To mop up a small pocket of resistance in the regiment's rear, Company C remained behind. The 165th's advance against virtually no resistance was very rapid, and by 1445 after a dash of 1,700 yards, General Griner ordered the regiment to hold its present positions to allow the 105th Infantry to catch up. A 30-minute concentration laid on the exposed left flank by the attached platoon from Company C, 88th Chemical Mortar Battalion contributed to the day's success. Good contact had existed with the 4th Marine Division throughout the day, and by nightfall the left was also tied in when the 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry, hooked on to that flank.72
The Surge to O-6A
Along the east coast the 23d Marines continued vigorous patrolling of the area to the front. Though penetrating enemy territory to a distance of 1,500 yards on 1 July, patrols made no contacts.
The 2d and 3d Battalions, 24th Marines, operating along the boundary between divisions, made minor movements to conform to the advance of the 27th Division. As the gap narrowed, the battalions kept pace. The regiment's 1st Battalion, pinched out on the previous day, assumed the coastal observation mission on Kagman Peninsula.73
For the attack of 2 July the 3d Battalion, 25th Marines, returned to the 4th Division. The rest of the 25th Marines, however, remained in NTLF reserve, an assignment first received on 23 June.
By 1345, 2 July, the division, attacking with the 23d and 24th Marines abreast, had advanced practically unopposed from O-6 to division intermediate objective O-6A. (See Map 20.) The assault unit of the 24th Marines, the 1st Battalion, suffered but one man wounded, an indication of the relative ease of the day's move. The 23d Marines reported mine fields and road blocks, covered by small detachments of riflemen and machine gunners, which temporarily impeded the 2d Battalion, but the other
assault battalion (the 1st) experienced no difficulty whatsoever.
Like the 165th Infantry, the 4th Division had pushed so far ahead of the 105th Infantry that further moves would present serious problems of contact. For this reason, the division was ordered to stop and dig in. Owing to the uncertainties of the left flank, the 3d Battalion, 24th Marines, was placed along the division boundary facing to the west, prepared to counter any Japanese threat from that direction.
As soon as the division halted, patrols were dispatched toward O-7. Although continued throughout the night, patrolling failed to locate any strong enemy installations. This news, more evidence of the general Japanese withdrawal, was as welcome as sunshine on a picnic.74
The Corps Artillery Commander, Brigadier General Harper, had found the rate of progress at Saipan "very disappointing" and was moved to write a statement which was delivered to Headquarters, NTLF, on 1 July. It concluded that the reason for the "very disappointing" progress was that the available artillery support was not being exploited by the infantry as it should be. "It is basic," says Harper's statement, "that a terrain feature and its approaches either merits softening up by the maximum employment of fire in mass or it should be assaulted and captured without delay if the enemy's resistance is weak."75
General Holland Smith agreed with Harper's opinions and immediately sent a dispatch to all units directing that massed artillery be more extensively employed. While this represented neither new doctrine nor new policy, it came as a timely reminder to those units which had become overly sparing in the use of this valuable arm.
Either an interesting coincidence or evidence of prompt, direct results is revealed in the following statement from the 2d 155mm Howitzer Battalion's action report for 2 July (the day following delivery of Harper's statement): "2 July was a memorable day. . . . This battalion fired 1573 rounds of ammunition, its daily high for this campaign. Most of the fire was coordinated by the Corps and the effect was excellent."76
The reaction of the 2d Division commander, General Watson, to the directive regarding massed artillery fire is of interest:
. . . I immediately notified Headquarters NTLF (C/S Brig. Gen. Erskine) that, while I fully appreciated the value of and wanted to use massed artillery fires, wherever practicable, the artillery ammunition levels in the division dumps had never, since D-Day, been high enough to permit extensive use of this type of fire by Division artillery. He replied that sufficient ammunition would be made available. On the morning of 2 July I directed an artillery preparation be fired along the division front. This preparation lasted only for a few minutes.
Yet by mid-morning the expenditure of ammunition occasioned by this preparation coupled with the normal fires of the day caused NTLF to notify the Division that it would be impossible to provide sufficient ammunition to maintain minimum artillery dump levels for massed fires. Massed fires would therefore have to be restricted accordingly.
Elsewhere, General Watson showed a disagreement with at least a part of General Harper's opinions:
Without detracting from the important role played by artillery in the battle for Saipan the rate of progress was not and could not be primarily determined by the volume and frequency of delivery of artillery fires. Rate of progress was determined by the willingness and ability of the individual front-line Marine and soldier to dig out and kill the stubborn and skillful Japanese defenders.77
Nights of 1 and 2 July
There was very little enemy activity during the nights of 1-2 July and 2-3 July. Apparently, the withdrawal had temporarily ruled out the possibility of counterattack by more than token forces. But no one slept well. There was just enough activity to maintain a state of perpetual tenseness. Relaxed slumber would have to wait.
What, exactly, did "little activity" mean on Saipan during the first two nights in July? On
the night of the 1st the 6th Marines captured 70 civilians and three Japanese military personnel through voluntary surrender. Later, a single Japanese attempting to move through the lines and return to his own unit met a quick fate. The same night, men of the 8th Marines spotted 15 prowlers along their front and killed them all. When the excitement from this diversion subsided, three Japanese soldiers carrying land mines were killed as they tried to move through the lines. The 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, intercepted and killed three would-be infiltrators. The 27th Division experienced sporadic, random firing all along its front and achieved the satisfaction of killing five Japanese by means of booby traps set by the 165th Infantry. In the 4th Marine Division it was even quieter. Only one instance of hostile mortar fire, which fell on the division command post, was reported.
The night of 2 July was similar. Japanese patrols continuously sneaked along the 2d Marines' front. Of three Japanese endeavoring to rove through the 6th Marines' lines, one was killed and the other two routed. Achieving the distinction of doing the unusual and unexpected during the evening, a Japanese soldier strode into the 6th Marines command post and signified his desire to surrender. This he was allowed to do.
The 106th Infantry reported that the enemy was firing flares intermittently from 2100 to 2400. This served to alert personnel to the possibility of a coordinated attack, but none developed. A number of violent exchanges between the soldiers of the 27th Division and lurking Japanese occurred throughout the night, but there was no indication that this enemy activity was intended as a major thrust. In the morning when a count was possible, the 105th Infantry found 27 Japanese bodies, while the 106th and 165th Infantry Regiments counted 10 and 18, respectively.
To this total for the night the 23d Marines added 25 more Japanese, caught as they moved south along the coast on the extreme eastern flank.78
When the results of these night excursions are balanced against the damage these same Japanese might have accomplished had they remained in caves, the futility of these moves is clearly revealed.
Shortly after midnight 1-2 July about five Japanese planes executed a small attack on Saipan and the transport area. The intruders, approaching at a low level to escape detection, were unsuccessful, achieving no damage to U. S. ships or units. One of the raiders flew too low and crashed into the water. Survivors (five) were captured by the destroyer Renshaw. Another plane was shot down by the Bennion, a ship of the transport screen. The rest buzzed around the island for a while, then departed.79
The meager strength of enemy air over Saipan could give the beleagured Japanese troops little comfort. The attacks were a nuisance to U. S. ships and installations, little more. Japanese planes did not raid Saipan again until 5 July.
Saito Changes His Defense
Since 15 June General Saito had been forced to stare grim reality in the face. His plans to drive the Americans into the water had been discarded in favor of a mobile defense. But most of the mobility had been backwards. Now he sought to delay the inevitable decision as long as possible. By midafternoon of 2 July mounting pressure along the entire front indicated the need for another withdrawal, and Saito issued a formal operation order which would pull the defense back from the Garapan-Tapotchau-Kagman Peninsula line to the general line: Tanapag-Hill 221-Hill 112.80 The 31st Army chief of staff, Major General Iketa, had mentioned a withdrawal to this same general area in his resume of 27 June (see page 167), but the detailed assignment awaited Saito's order. This operation order and sketch fell into U. S. hands on the night of 3-4 July when one of Saito's principal subordinates (Colonel Ogawa) was killed in the command
STREET FIGHTING, the first experienced by Marines in World War II, was hot and heavy in Garapan. A flame-thrower is used here to roast an enemy hideout in the rubble.
post of the 165th Infantry.81 (Details of this episode will be covered later in this chapter.)
D-plus 18 and D-plus 19 (3-4 July)
The crumbling Japanese defense assumed landslide proportions on 3 and 4 July as all three U. S. divisions swallowed huge hunks of terrain. It was much like pushing against a stuck door, then suddenly feeling it yield. The quick rush was apt to shake one's equilibrium. But with scarcely a stumble the three divisions spurted forward. As he encouraged the troops of the landing force to even greater speed, General Holland Smith was applying one of his favorite maxims, written by the great German military thinker and writer, Karl Von Clausewitz:
For the victor, the engagement can never be decided too quickly; for the vanquished, it can never last too long. The speedy victory is a higher degree of victory; a late decision is on the side of the defeated some compensation for the loss.
Holland Smith wanted Saito to get as little "compensation for the loss" as possible. For the 2d Marine Division the objective for 3 July was O-7, which included the town of Garapan and the seaplane base at Tanapag Harbor. With half of shattered Garapan behind it, Colonel Stuart's 2d Regiment readied itself to complete seizure of the town and Mutcho Point, jutting from Garapan's northwestern outskirts.
Duty in the town had little to commend it; battered skeletons of what had once been buildings, and humans, and animals, dotted the area; the choking smell of death hung about like a fog. And everywhere were the pieces of corrugated iron which the Japanese and natives had used as roofing for almost every structure from the hen house to the bank. To step on one of these huge rattling sheets was to inform everyone thereabouts of one's presence.82 Garapan's trash and garbage dump appearance was further enhanced by odd clothing, shoes, papers, books, and miscellaneous bric-a-brac strewn through the area. Perhaps the only bright point was the copious wells, providing adequate water for the 2d Marines to bathe away some of the filth on their bodies.
Dodging their way through the rubble, men of the 2d Marines made good progress: by noon of 3 July, despite abortive efforts of a few Japanese who determined to make a street fight of it, the 3d Battalion (on the left) had swept nearly 700 yards. In the center of the regiment's zone, several pillboxes were encountered, slowing movement there but allowing both flanks to advance. Light flame-thrower tanks and medium tanks seared and plastered the front of the pillboxes, while assault engineer teams, covered by riflemen and machine gunners, moved to the flanks or rear and placed their shattering explosives. Thus, the enemy positions were systematically reduced.
One position defied neutralization: this was located on a tiny islet in the center of a swampy pond near Garapan's northern end. Here a Japanese machine gunner had
AERIAL BOMBS were extensively employed as land mines by the Japanese. Buried with noses protruding above ground, the bombs could be set off by almost any United States vehicle. This 123-pound bomb was found in Garapan.
positioned himself and from there engaged anyone moving near the swamp's banks. Secure in the knowledge that he could be approached only by lizards, ducks, and other Japanese, he plagued the 2d Marines' efforts to clear the area. This point target seemed ideal for mortars, but it was soon discovered that the shells would not detonate in the spongy bog. Direct fire weapons could not be employed because of the danger to other Marines moving on the other bank. In his wet sanctuary the Japanese maintained his troublesome activity throughout the day. Nothing was heard from this determined individual on the following day, perbaps indicating that he evacuated his position during the night. Or maybe he is still there.83
The 1st Battalion, meanwhile, advanced through the foothills on Garapan's eastern environs. Progress until noon was not great (400 yards), but in the early afternoon the unit began to gain momentum. By 1800 it had pushed to O-7, at that point on the water's edge north of the town. This speedy thrust cut off the Japanese remaining in the Garapan vicinity.
During the rapid surge on the right, the left (3d) battalion was not idle; after clearing the Japanese from the remainder of the town's
THE BATTLE WAS INTIMATE, lonely and personal, even though thousands of troops were present. Here a single Marine advances "on the double" near Tanapag Harbor.
streets, it swung out upon Mutcho Point, a movement chiefly complicated by annoying air bursts from a Japanese heavy antiaircraft gun in position north of Tanapag. By about dusk the advance halted for the night with only 400 yards of the point unconquered. The noose was tight and the Japanese who had retreated to the tip of the point were neatly trapped.
The 4th of July was almost a holiday for the 2d Marines. The 3d Battalion quickly mopped up the unfortunates on the point and established a coast line defense of the Mutcho Point-Garapan area. Remaining to be captured by the 1st Battalion was the boat basin which appears to hang suspended into Tanapag Harbor (see Map 20). Only one dryland approach existed: over the open, concrete ramp from the shore. Since troops moving upon this would be extremely vulnerable to grazing fires from any point in the boat basin or in the breakwater that surrounded it, the battalion commander decided to execute the move in amphibian tractors, landing at the end of the basin. Fire support would be furnished by the LVT(A)'s of the 2d Armored Amphibian Battalion.
This landing was complicated by communications failures between the amphibians and the troop commander but, nonetheless, was successful. Only a few Japanese were in the basin and these were incapable of more than token resistance. Only one Marine was wounded.
With this conquest the 2d Marines were pinched out of the attack and briefly, at least, could enjoy the prospect of not facing enemy-held terrain. At 1500 came word that the regiment, less 2d Battalion, would stand detached from the 2d Division to assume the role of NTLF reserve. The unit then entrucked and moved to an assembly area in rear of the 4th Marine Division.84
In a repetition of so many previous days, the 6th Marines moved faster on the left than on the right, where the Japanese had exploited the defensible terrain. Keeping pace and acting in concert with the 2d Marines on 3 July, the 1st Battalion swung its left flank to the beach (O-7) while its right was echeloned far to the rear to contact the 3d Battalion. The latter unit moved rapidly at first; but, as the Marines approached the last high ground overlooking Tanapag Harbor, a heavy volume of Japanese rifle and machine-gun fire bid them unwelcome. By now the procedure at such times was clear: blast the area with all available supporting weapons, establish fire superiority, move in for the kill. By late afternoon the 3d Battalion seized the commanding ground; but, inasmuch as a distance of 1,000 yards still remained before the coast could be reached, Colonel Riseley ordered the unit to hold for the night.
Although contact between the two battalions of the 6th Marines was tenuous, nothing save desultory rifle fire occurred during the night.
The activities of 4 July resembled a mop-up more than an attack. By shortly after noon the 3d Battalion had completed the descent from the high ground, moved across the Tanapag flats, and joined the 1st Battalion on the beach. (See Map 20.) Then began the routine task of clearing the omnipresent snipers from the area.
At 1640 the 6th Marines were ordered detached from the 2d Marine Division and assigned
TRAPPED JAPANESE, north of Garapan, attempted to gain refuge during the first days in July by getting to their sunken ships in Tanapag Harbor. Artillery and naval gunfire made quick work of the hulks, however. Dead Japanese soldier had no opportunity to reach the ships.
as NTLF reserve. In the latter function the regiment was to "reconnoiter routes and positions within the zone of the 27th Infantry Division" and to maintain a single battalion on antisniper missions within the general area: Flores Point-Tanapag Harbor-Garapan, extending to the high ground well inland of those areas. Colonel Riseley ordered his 2d Battalion to carry out this patrolling mission. The remainder of the regiment moved to an assembly area about 1,000 yards inland from Garapan's northern edge.85
Farther out on the end of the 2d Division's swinging-gate movement was the 8th Marine Regiment. Just before launching the day's attack, the 1st Battalion again became the unfortunate recipient of friendly artillery shells. Compared to the 51 lost for the same reason on the previous day, however, the five casualties of 3 July seemed light. Although this blunder delayed the unit's attack for 45 minutes and had the effect of making the personnel more "gun-shy" of their own artillery86 than the enemy's, the battalion quickly caught up with units on its flanks and enjoyed a rapid advance against virtually no resistance.
The two center battalions of the 8th Marines (2/2 and 1/29 from left to right) moved forward rapidly, maintaining contact all the while. On the extreme right the 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, found the small limestone hill still a tough nut to crack, despite hundreds of mortar, artillery and tank shells hurled at it and the thorough roasting administered by the light flame-thrower tanks the previous night. Rather than hold up the advance of the entire
TANAPAG HARBOR on 4 July had fireworks to spare as Japanese vessels burned in the harbor. The boat basin was seized shortly before, and the seaplane base shortly after, this picture was taken.
regiment while neutralizing this strong point, the battalion commander (Major Chamberlin) ordered his unit to skirt to the left of the hill, leaving Company F to contain and destroy it.
Once past this sore spot, the battalion moved rapidly forward, maintaining contact with units on both flanks. Company F whittled and chipped at the limestone hill throughout the day and tightened the noose about it, but Japanese hidden in the nooks and crannies continued to pop up with telling bursts whenever the Marines ventured too close. At dark of 3 July the 2d Company of the Provisional Battalion arrived to relieve Company F of its task. The latter rejoined the 2d Battalion, by then over 1,000 yards ahead.
Independence Day was nothing more than a large scale mop-up, or a "rabbit hunt," as one Marine put it. Men of the 8th Marines moved rapidly, down the hills to the Tanapag flats, beating the bush as they went, and by early afternoon reached the coast line in the vicinity of the seaplane base (see Map 20). There they ranged through the buildings and bomb shelters in search of strays but found very few.
Like Garapan, the seaplane base was a weird scene of destruction and desolation. Grotesque and deformed girders stood as mute testimony of the effectiveness of U. S. naval and air bombardment. Several charred planes lay scattered in the ramp area as a reminder that this had, indeed, once been an important installation at Saipan.
After weeks of trudging through the roughest terrain that the island could offer, the 8th Marines received good news on the afternoon of the 4th; the regiment would move to a bivouac-rest area. Under different circumstances, word of setting up a camp area anywhere on the fly-infested island may not have been exciting, but the conditions and situation being what they were, the word was as welcome as a reprieve to a condemned man. The rest area was located 2,000-odd yards inland from Beach Red 3, requiring a march of several miles. But no one complained.
At this time the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, which had operated as part of the 8th Marines since D-Day, reverted to 2d Division control. Lieutenant Colonel Jack P. Juhan, who had
commanded the unit since 2 July, resumed his regular job as 8th Marines' executive officer, and Major William W. McKinley succeeded him as battalion commander. Two days later the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, passed to the Saipan Garrison Force under direction of which it conducted patrol operations for weeks to follow.87
The Thrust to Flores Point
The cross-island turn of the 27th Division on 3 and 4 July carried it to the Flores Point region on Saipan's west coast and objective O-7 (see Map 20). The point itself lay within the zone of the 105th Infantry, while the other two infantry regiments would strike the beach on either side of it--the 106th to the south, the 165th to the north.
With its formation unchanged (1st and 2d Battalions abreast), the 106th Infantry swept rapidly through its zone. Here, as elsewhere along the corps' entire front, the Japanese withdrawal had allowed a swift advance. All U. S. units capitalized on the situation. A few Japanese delaying groups remained behind to slow the U. S. drive, but most of these were quickly destroyed.
The 106th Infantry's left battalion (1st) met an unusually persistent delaying detachment on the morning of 3 July. This enemy group focused heavy machine-gun fire into the soldiers as they moved into the attack. Positioned as it was, near the boundary between the 106th Infantry and the 8th Marines, the enemy pocket was ideally situated to cause real trouble. But not for long, for the tank-infantry combination immediately went to work. The pattern was simple, yet effective. Tanks, each sheltering a cluster of infantrymen, advanced on the enemy position, blasting a path en route. Once the tanks had approached as close to the installation as terrain would permit, the surrounding infantrymen assumed the starring role and rushed the position. Even if the tanks completed the mission without infantry assault being necessary, the latter's presence served to discourage individual Japanese from attempting to place magnetic mines against the tanks. The combination worked to the advantage of both.
In addition to the gain of approximately 1,000 yards on 3 July, the 106th made even greater headway on the 4th, reaching the beach just south of Flores Point by 1600. Besides sporadic outbursts from Japanese small arms and mortars, the unit experienced minor delays from two well-defended blockhouses. These ideal artillery targets were carefully pinpointed and destroyed. "Although there were considerable numbers of enemy encountered," commented the G-3 Periodic Report, "they appeared to be very much disorganized and confused."88
The 106th Infantry's reserve (3d Battalion) spent the two days in mopping up rear areas as the assault units lunged forward.
The 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry, was the connecting link between the two flank regiments. On the evening of 2 July when the 3d Battalion had found itself embroiled in a fire fight with a well-entrenched enemy in the vicinity of Papako, the 1st Battalion had bypassed the strong point and tied in with the faster moving flank units. On 3 July the latter maintained a steady advance against negligible opposition, while the 3d Battalion completed its task of eliminating the stumbling block.
An important development on 3 July was the return to the 27th Division, at long last, of the 2d Battalion, 105th Infantry. This unit, detached on 22 June, had been operating under NTLF and Saipan Garrison Force control. Upon its reversion, the battalion occupied an assembly area in division reserve. It remained in this status until the following evening, when it returned to the 105th Infantry.89
Maintaining its rapid pace, the 1st Battalion moved down from the foothills to the coastal flats and by late afternoon of 4 July secured Flores Point. By dark it was discovered that a sizeable interval existed between the left of the 105th and the right of the 106th. The recently released 2d Battalion was thrown into this hiatus and the flanks were firmly tied in. In compliance with an order from the 27th Division at 1545, the 3d Battalion went into the front lines on the 1st Battalion's right, taking over a portion of the 165th Infantry's former area in the process.90 (Considerations which dictated this change will be discussed later in this chapter.)
The 165th Infantry, ready to move out at 0800, 3 July, discovered that the 4th Marine Division was directing an air strike and that any forward movement might be dangerous. The 4th Division, meanwhile, thought that the 165th was holding up awaiting units farther to the left. At 1100, however, following this faltering start, the 165th and the 4th Division got their signals straight and launched the attack.
With its battalions in column, 3d leading, the 165th Infantry moved forward steadily on 3 July, gaining about 500 yards. Enemy mortar and machine-gun fire, issuing mainly from the left front, plagued the soldiers throughout the day but failed to accomplish more than slowing their rate of advance.
During the night of 3-4 July the 165th Infantry command post became the scene of violent activity when 27 Japanese advanced into the installation, apparently by mistake. All of the Japanese intruders were killed with no loss to personnel of the 165th. In the morning, when an identification could be made, Colonel Ogawa, commander of the Japanese 136th Infantry, was discovered among the dead. Piecing the story together, it appears that Ogawa and his headquarters group had been by-passed by U. S. advance and that he was attempting to displace to the northeast when he blundered into the 165th's command post. Many papers and documents found on the Japanese commander were sent to higher echelons for processing, translation and interpretation. One of these, a Japanese field order, contained detailed instructions relative to the establishment of new defensive areas to the north.
On the morning of the 4th, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph T. Hart, who had relieved the wounded Colonel Kelley as the 165th's commander on 28 June, ordered the 1st Battalion to pass through the 3d and continue toward the west coast. This shift was accomplished without difficulty, and at 0730 the attack was launched. Progress was favorable against virtually no opposition until the unit reached the high ground overlooking Flores Point. Here slower movement of the 105th demanded a short wait. But when the latter came abreast, the attack regained its momentum and, during the early afternoon, carried rapidly towards the coast.
Nearing the coastal flats, the regiment met the heaviest Japanese automatic weapons fire experienced during the day. While attempting to locate and neutralize the source of this resistance, the 165th received a division order changing its boundaries and swinging the direction of attack to the northeast. (Considerations which dictated the change of zones will be discussed later in this chapter.) The new zone of action included the area occupied by the two left battalions of the 4th Marine Division, so that a relief of these was indicated. As part of the same move, the 2d Battalion, 165th Infantry, in NTLF reserve since 1 July, returned to parent control. Lieutenant Colonel Hart, therefore, ordered his 2d and 3d Battalions to relieve the Marines in the new zone.
As the 27th Division accomplished the prescribed shifts, internal gaps developed, one between the 165th and the 105th, another between the 1st and 3d Battalions, 165th. The first mentioned break was filled shortly after dark, but the second remained vacant until nearly midnight, allowing the Japanese to use this area as an infiltration route. As a consequence the 3d Battalion, 165th, in the center
of the regiment's sector, spent a lively evening. A total of about 100 Japanese, in a series of thrusts, unsuccessfully attacked the unit's left during the night. With the coming of daylight the results of the skirmishes lay crumpled forward of the soldiers' lines: about 80 dead Japanese were counted.91
The Struggle for the Hills
Usually, to front line troops, one hill was like any other hill, even though one might be tall, another squatty, another wooded, another bare. It was only when a hill presented something distinctly unique in the way of appearance or--especially--enemy resistance that its name became familiar to all. In this connection witness the rash of "Bloody Nose" hills and ridges which dotted the islands of the Pacific.
Lying within the zone of the 4th Marine Division were four hills which became all too familiar during 3 and 4 July. Two of these were named for their heights in feet: 721 and 776; a third, nothing more than a nose protruding from the southeastern face of Hill 721, was appropriately designated "4th of July Hill;" the fourth, Radar Hill, was so named because of Japanese radar installations there. (See Map 20.) While every Marine in the division was not compelled to scale each of these, it is safe to say that everyone got into the act.
As noted previously the 4th Division had not jumped off promptly on the morning of 3 July because it thought that the 165th Infantry was waiting for other elements to the rear. The 25th Marines were released to parent control on 3 July with the proviso that the 2d Battalion could not be committed without approval of the landing force commander. With this extra strength the 4th Division started its advance at 1100.
The formation was unusual: three regiments abreast and each in column of battalions. The reason for this was that the division was cutting across the island so that each stride uncovered additional yardage on the right flank. It was conceivable that the right regiment would soon be entirely committed in facing the ever-widening north flank. This method, General Schmidt considered, would require less coordination and would be simpler of execution than to detail a reserve regiment for the job. The 23d Marines, already on the division right, would peel off flank protection as the lines advanced.
The three assault battalions (from right to left: 3/23, 3/25 and 1/24) moved over the rugged terrain without difficulty for the first few hours; but at 1615 when the right battalion ventured toward the lower slopes of "4th of July Hill" and Hill 721, it encountered a sudden deluge of rifle, machine-gun and mortar fire. What had appeared as a series of contours on the map and as a pair of innocuous rises on the ground suddenly attained an ominous significance. Best estimates placed the enemy strength at about one battalion, with personnel nestled into every recess, cavity, cleft and cave. Hill 721 was reasonably open, while "4th of July Hill" was heavily wooded; both were well-notched with hiding places.
The 3d Battalion, 23d Marines, made several attempts to capture the position, both by frontal assault and by envelopment. All efforts were repulsed. Neither tanks, so valuable in this type of fighting, nor 75mm half-tracks could move closer than 1,000 yards to the hills because all approaches were heavily mined.
The assault battalions of the other two regiments, meanwhile, were unable to progress past the hills without placing themselves at the mercy of Japanese located there. Progress of the entire division, then, revolved about the seizure of Hill 721 and its wooded appendage.
By 1715, after several abortive ventures, it became obvious that the area would not be carried on 3 July. For this reason, Colonel Jones, the 23d's commander, ordered the 3d Battalion to withdraw about 300 yards so that artillery fire could safely be directed against the hills. Major Paul S. Treitel, the battalion commander, then received permission from the regimental commander to maintain the 3d Battalion command post in its present position so that evacuation of casualties could be expedited. This placed the command post in a
vulnerable location approximately 150 yards forward of the front lines. Fortunately, no serious situations developed.
The other two battalions of the 23d Marines, meanwhile, were employed in protecting the north flank which now extended from the east coast about 2,500 yards inland. It was probably at this time, as plans were being made for continuation of the struggle the next day, that the apt name "4th of July Hill" was first applied.
As the 25th Marines dug in for the night, a single battalion (the 3d) occupied the front lines, while the 1st was in reserve. Contact difficulties soon demanded the services of two companies of the 1st Battalion, however; Company B went into the lines on the right and Company C on the left of the 3d Battalion. The 2d Battalion, which had been in NTLF reserve in rear of the 2d Marine Division, started the long, tiresome march to rejoin its parent unit. After its arrival (about midnight, 3 July) the battalion was designated as division reserve.
Men of Colonel Hart's 24th Marines established themselves on Radar Hill (1,000 yards southwest of Hill 721) for the night after shifting the 1st Battalion into reserve and moving the 2d and 3d Battalions into the lines.
Two command shifts were effected by the 24th Marines during the period 3-4 July. Lieutenant Colonel Vandegrift, evacuated on 29 June, returned to the 3d Battalion on 3 July and relieved Lieutenant Colonel Lessing. The following day, Lessing got a new job: command of the 1st Battalion. Lieutenant Colonel Brunelli, who had functioned as 1st Battalion commander since 18 June, then reverted to his regular assignment as regimental executive officer.
Throughout the night of 3-4 July the 14th Marines poured volley after volley into "4th of July Hill" but otherwise the night was quiet.
Preliminary to the general advance of 4 July the 4th Division ordered the 23d Marines to conduct a local attack to secure the troublesome heights. This move was to be preceded by a 30-minute artillery softening. Though good on paper, the plan was thwarted in so far as the artillery was concerned. As soon as fires began, a blizzard of "cease fire" green star clusters appeared over the 25th Marines, and telephones and radios buzzed with the word that artillery was falling on friendly troops.92 Another attempt was made and again the 4th of July sky was filled with skyrocket protestations.
Since the artillery preparation had been such a disappointment, and since it was felt that softening was still necessary, a rocket barrage was requested and effectively delivered on "4th of July Hill." Following this the 1st Battalion passed through the 3d and moved up the slopes. Against light machine-gun and some mortar fire, the unit swept to the top of the first hill and from there continued to the top of Hill 721. The contrast in opposition to that of the previous day indicated that the bulk of the defenders had withdrawn.
This substantial advance had been achieved prior to noon, so that sufficient daylight remained for the attack to continue. Hill 767, approximately 700 yards to the northeast, would be next. But here the tactics would be different: while the main force remained at Hill 721, a strong combat patrol from the 1st Battalion would move to the objective and investigate. Enjoying greater success than anyone dared to hope, the patrol (led by Captain William C. Eisenhardt) found Hill 767 unoccupied and immediately took possession.
To make certain that the enemy did not reoccupy the hill, Colonel Jones ordered the 2d Battalion to move out and set up a defense there. Getting into position was not altogether painless, however: the unit was harassed by enemy small arms firing from a palm grove to the northeast. But the retaliatory rounds of the 81mm mortar platoon apparently had good effect and enemy firing slackened. By nightfall it was necessary to bend the battalion's right flank back in order to contact units of the 1st Battalion.
The 3d Battalion, meanwhile, patrolled the area to the northeast for a distance of 1,500 yards. When patrols met no resistance in that
HILL 767 LOOMS in distance as men of the 27th Division watch United States tanks move along a ridge into firing positions. Hill 767 was seized by the 4th Division on 4 July. Japanese 20mm dual-purpose automatic cannon was apparently abandoned during enemy withdrawal.
area, the battalion moved out and occupied the dominating terrain just short of Objective O-7Z (see Map 20). By darkness the 23d Marines were solidly tied in across their front: 3d Battalion extending from the east coast inland about 1,000 yards; 2d Battalion on Hill 767; and the 1st Battalion in the center connecting the two.
While the 23d struggled for the hills, the other two regiments had kept pace. Nor had the going all been smooth.
The 1st Battalion, 25th Marines, passed through the depleted 3d Battalion93 and continued the attack. Though Hill 721 had not been seized at the time of the unit's jump off, Lieutenant Colonel Mustain, the battalion commander, received permission to move out. By 1130, when it had pushed about 600 yards west of Hill 721, the direction of attack was changed. The battalion would execute a right turn and strike Hill 767 from the southwest. (This order was issued prior to the 23d Marines' successful combat patrol).
As it turned out, the 1st Battalion's route
Progress Lines for
1, 2, 3 and 4 July 1944
was a difficult one. Between Hill 721 and 776 the ground sloped stair-step fashion toward the western coastal plain in a series of cliffs and plateaus. It was necessary, therefore, for the Marines to move along these plateaus in their attack toward Hill 776. Shortly after changing direction, the left of the unit met a fusillade of enemy rifle and machine-gun fire. In an endeavor to knock out this resistance, Mustain ordered the attached tanks to overrun the Japanese troublemakers. Here, however, there was a complete miscarriage of plans. The tanks became lost and wandered 700 yards to the unit's left front. The imbroglio became complete when two of the tanks were knocked out by "something"--the crews could not determine whether it was mines, mortar or artillery fire. One platoon from Company A moved against heavy opposition to the disabled tanks, where the crewmen were besieged by Japanese soldiers eager to toss grenades in upon them. It was necessary to abandon the tanks, but the personnel returned safely.
Meanwhile, the battalion had broken through the resistance that had occasioned the original employment of the tanks and continued on to Hill 767. There the unit dug in for the night in contact with the 23d Marines. The 3d Battalion, 25th which had followed in reserve during the day, moved into the lines on the left, placing it along the top of the cliffs, overlooking the village of Makunsha. The 165th Infantry, after relieving most of the 24th Marines during the afternoon, moved up on the left flank and coordinated defenses with the Marines.
On the division left, the 24th Marines kept pace with the flank units as the advance swung toward the sea. Machine-gun fire which issued from the right front slowed the advance of the right battalion (3d), but with the assistance of tanks the unit forged ahead. Marines of the left battalion (2d) had an enjoyable day sniping at retreating Japanese soldiers on the coastal flats below.
Late in the afternoon when NTLF changed the direction of attack to the northeast, 27th Division units relieved the 2d Battalion and began the relief of the 3d. The latter, since it had one company (G) of the 2d Battalion attached, was four companies strong at this time. As the 3d Battalion halted awaiting relief by the 165th Infantry, the formation from left to right was: K, L and I with Company G in reserve behind Company I. By 1600, Companies I and G had been relieved, K and L had not. The latter two units remained in their positions throughout the night, right flank in contact with the 165th Infantry, left exposed. No trouble developed, however. The two Marine companies were finally relieved the following morning (5 July) and returned to their battalion.
The 4th Marine Division made substantial advances during the day, executing a change in direction of attack, and disposing itself along favorable ground just short of O-7Z. (See Map 20.)94
Change of Direction
As the 2d and 27th Divisions swept to the coast in the Tanapag Harbor-Flores Point region and the 4th Division to the very heart of the northern part of Saipan, the necessity for a change of direction became apparent. The entire northern part of the island remained to be seized, including the important Marpi Point area; and this demanded a swing of the axis of attack to the northeast. Holland Smith, therefore, split the unconquered portion in half, assigning the left segment to the 27th Division and the right to the 4th Division. To allow sufficient time for the juggling of frontages and zones, the attack hour was delayed until noon of 5 July. Generals Griner and Schmidt, of the 27th and 4th Divisions respectively, were to "conduct such adjustment of their lines or make minor attacks prior to King-hour as they [deemed] necessary to launch a coordinated attack. . . ." The 4th Division's thrust had pushed well into the newly-assigned zone of the 27th Division, so that the previously described reliefs and shifts were
necessary. Although the formal operation order outlining the change was not issued until 1800, 4 July, oral warning orders had placed the plan in motion in midafternoon.95
Mindful of the significance of the day in American history and pleased with progress at Saipan, General Holland Smith distributed the following message to the landing force on the evening of July 4th:
The Commanding General takes pride on this INDEPENDENCE DAY in sending his best wishes to the fighting men on Saipan. Your unflagging gallantry and devotion to duty have been worthy of the highest praise of our country. It is fitting that on this 4th of July you should be extremely proud of your achievements. Your fight is no less important than that waged by our forefathers who gave us the liberty and freedom we have long enjoyed. Your deeds to maintain these principles will not be forgotten. To all hands a sincere well done. My confidence in your ability is unbounded.
Naval Activities from 27 June to 4 July
Most of what the U. S. Navy did at Saipan was so closely-related to ground actions that to separate the functions would be to present a false picture. With gunfire and aircraft the Navy assisted the ground troops directly and daily. Elsewhere, the constant pressure of naval power was more apparent to the Japanese than to the Americans ashore at Saipan.
On 27 June Mine Sweeping Squadron Four swept Magicienne Bay, clearing about 25 square miles in the process. On 28 June net cargo ship (AKN) Keokuk laid 10,000 feet of antisubmarine net off the entrance to Garapan anchorage as a positive barrier to Japanese underwater venturers. On the evening of 2 July the destroyer Melvin spotted two Japanese landing craft moving from Marpo Point on Tinian. Without waiting to determine their destination, the Melvin sank one and drove the other aground. Having secured the NTLF sea flanks in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the Navy continued to protect those flanks against amphibious infiltration.
In addition, steady, daily raids were directed at those islands close enough to mount air attacks against Saipan. Among these, Rota was a favorite because it was felt that many enemy raids originated there. Tinian, although unable to launch an air attack from its battered fields, was struck with daily regularity. Here, the thought was towards softening the island for subsequent amphibious assault. Guam another convenient and important target, felt the impact of recurring blows. Both Guam and Tinian were the subjects of a number of photographic missions designed to keep higher echelons informed of latest developments.96
If the routine of these raids became monotonous to the Japanese, some variety should have been provided on 3 July when two carrier task groups (58.1 and 58.2) of Admiral Mitscher's Force hit Iwo Jima. A sweep of 63 U. S. planes over the island shot down 50 fighters and destroyed an undetermined number of planes on the ground. On 4 July the two groups carried out a heavy flight schedule against Iwo, Chichi and Haha Islands.97
The U. S. Navy's covering operations effectively isolated Saipan from outside Japanese interference.
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (4) * Next Chapter (6)
1. The general's information was a day late. The 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, reached Tapotchau's summit on 25 June.
2. Marines named this hill "Radar Hill."
3. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Item #9983-85, 24-25.
4. NTLF Operation Order 14-44.
5. 23d Mar Report, 14. 2d Bn, 23d Mar Report, 4.
6. Kelley, 8-9.
7. 4th Mar Div Report, Section VI, 27-28. 24th Mar Report, 21. Ltr from Maj A. B. Hanson to CMC, 14Feb50.
10. 106 Inf Report, 9-11.
11. 27th Inf Div Periodic Report No. 11, 27Jun44.
12. 8th Mar Report, 6-7.
13. 6th Mar Report, 9-10.
14. 2d Mar Report, 5.
15. "Concertina" is a single strand of barbed wire wound into a loose doughnut shape. When it is desired to put it to use, the two loose ends are pulled in opposite directions, stretching the barbed wire into a long cylindrical obstacle. A concertina can be laid in a fraction of the time that it takes to prepare a double apron fence.
17. 2d Mar Div Report, Section VI, 16.
18. Memo for Gen Richardson from Col G. M. O'Connell, 12Jul44. O'Connell Letter.
19. TF 51 Report, Encl A and Annex 1 to Encl A.
20. 2d Mar Report, 5.
21. Major Brousseau had taken command of the battalion on 25 June when Lieutenant Colonel John F. McDonough had been wounded. Replacing Brousseau temporarily was Captain James A. Dooley, USA, who commanded until Major Dennis D. Claire, USA, (transferred from the 3d Battalion) arrived to take over. With Major Claire's departure from the 3d Battalion, Major Martin H. Floery, USA, assumed command of that unit.
22. 23d Mar Report, 44.
23. The "east side of hill 343" was the cliff line which had troubled the 106th Infantry for so many days. The hill itself was about 1,200 yards south of Mt. Tapotchau.
24. Hill 268, about one mile southeast of Tapotchau's peak, lay within the zone of the 165th Infantry. This hill constituted the southern end of Purple Heart Ridge.
25. The "Chacha water area," not identified on U. S. maps, was a large fresh water spring on the high ground (part of Purple Heart Ridge) west of Chacha Village. The "water area" was near the 27th Division's right boundary.
26. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Item #9983-85, 25.
27. 2d Mar Div Report, Section VI, 17.
28. Ltr from Commander Fifth Fleet to Commander Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet, 29Jul44.
29. 6th Mar Report, 10. Fisher Interview.
30. These nicknames were for Major William C. Chamberlin (Bill), Lieutenant Colonel Rathvon M. Tompkins (Tommy), Major Stanley B. Larson (Stan), and Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence C. Hays, Jr. (Larry).
31. 8th Mar Report, 7.
32. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Item #9983-85, 26.
33. It will be recalled that Colonel Stebbins, the regularly assigned chief of staff, had taken over command of the 106th Infantry on 26 June. Certificate of MajGen G. W. Griner, 12Jul44.
34. 106th Inf Report, 12-13.
35. Love, 324-325.
36. The unit was still referred to as the 3d Battalion, however.
37. 106th Inf Report, 12-13. 27th Inf Div Field Order #52.
38. 27th Inf Div Periodic Report No. 12, 28Jun44.
39. NTLF Operation Order 15-44.
40. 4th Mar Div Report, Section VI, 28. 23d Mar Report, 44.
41. 165th Inf Report, 6.
42. Both Japanese quotes from CINCPAC-CINCPOA Item #9983-85, 26.
43. O'Connell Letter.
44. 2d Mar Div Report, Section VI, 18.
45. NTLF G-2 Report, 39.
46. TF 51 Report, Encl A, 10-11. NTLF G-2 Report, 39.
47. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Item #9983-85, 27.
48. 23d Mar Report, 44-45.
49. 165th Inf Report, 6.
50. 24th Mar Report, 22.
51. 25th Mar Report, 7.
52. 106th Inf Report, 14-16. 27th Div Periodic Reports 13 and 14.
53. 27th Div Periodic Reports No. 13 and 14. Field Message 2 from MajGen Griner 29Jun44.
54. 2d Mar Report, Encl C. Throneson.
55. 2d Mar Div Report, Section VI, 19. Ltr from Capt C. Schultz, Jr., to CMC, 16Jan50.
56. The forecast: Cloudy; probable showers of grenades; scattered Japanese.
57. 2d Mar Div Report, Section VI, 18-19. 6th Mar Report, 11.
58. Some conclusions on the reasons for these accidents will be found on page 250, Chapter VII.
59. 8th Mar Report, 7-8. Tompkins. Chamberlin.
60. 2d Mar Div Report, Section VI, 19-20.
61. TF 51 Report, Encl A, Annex 1.
62. Men of the 165th Infantry later called it "Valley of Hell."
63. NTLF G-2 Report, 42.
64. The 2d Battalion, 2d Marines, had done little fighting with its parent regiment. Attached to the 6th Marines on 15 June, it returned to the 2d Marines on 23 June and remained until attachment to the 8th Marines on 1 July.
65. Now commanded by Major Harold K. Throneson who took over the 3d Battalion after Lieutenant Colonel Johnston had been wounded for the second time on 21 June. Throneson achieved the distinction of occupying the most unusual observation post during the operation when he bridged with a plank the top corner of a shell-battered, roofless building in Garapan, climbed into his crow's nest with his radio operator, and carried on business as usual.
66. 2d Mar Report, 5-6. Throneson. Brooks. Kyle.
67. 2d Mar Div Report, Section VI, 20-22. 6th Mar Report, 11-12.
68. Credit for suggesting and supervising this scheme of evacuation goes to Pharmacists Mate 1st Class Frank M. Campbell, USN. On this and many other occasions, Campbell established himself as one of the bravest men to wear a uniform.
69. 8th Mar Report, 8-9. 1st Bn, 8th Mar Report, 9. Gunter. Chamberlin.
70. 27th Div G-3 Periodic Reports Nos. 15 and 16. 106th Inf Report, 16-18. 27th Div Field Message 3, 30Jun44. 27th Div Field Order 53.
71. 105th Inf Report, 8.
72. 165th Inf Report, 6-7.
73. This disposition represented an exchange of jobs by the 1st and 2d Battalions 24th Marines.
74. 4th Mar Div Report, Section VI, 30-31. 32d Mar Report, [sic: 23d Mar?] 45. 24th Mar Report, 22-23. 1st Bn, 24th Mar Report, 9.
75. Utilization Of The Artillery In The Attack, 1Jul44, BrigGen A. M. Harper, USA.
76. 2d 155mm Howitzer Battalion, V Amphibious Corps Report, 3.
78. NTLF G-2 Report, 45-48.
79. TF 51 Report, Encl A and Annex 1 to Encl A.
80. As noted previously, Hill 221 was named "Radar Hill" by Marines; Hill 112 appeared as "Tarohoho" on U. S. maps.
81. NTLF G-2 Report, 50-51.
82. These corrugated sheets served another purpose, not only at Garapan, but all over the island: U. S. soldiers and Marines placed them over their foxholes in an attempt to stay dry during the torrential rains. Such improvisation was usually frustrated because the sheets, almost without exception, were riddled with shell holes.
84. 2d Mar Report, 6. Throneson. Brooks.
85. 6th Mar Report, 13.
86. The term "own artillery" is here used to refer to all U. S. artillery at Saipan, since the unit, or units, responsible for these miscalculations was never definitely identified.
87. 8th Mar Report, 9. Wallace.
88. 27th Div Periodic Reports 18 and 19. 106th Inf Report, 18-20.
89. There was apparently some confusion as to the exact status of the battalion on 3 and 4 July. The 105th Infantry believed it to be under regimental control at 1300, 3 July and at 0940, 4 July ordered the unit to "comb area in Regtl zone. . . ." This is contradicted by 27th Division Field Message 5 issued at 1800, 3 July: "2d Bn, 105th Infantry, Division Reserve, will remain in present position." And in 27th Division G-3 Periodic Report for 1600, 3 July to 1600, 4 July, mention is made that the battalion had remained "in Div Res at TA 213." Later, 27th Division Field Order 54, issued at 2200, 4 July, formally returned the 2d Battalion to the 105th Infantry.
90. 27th Div Periodic Reports 18 and 19. 105th Inf Report, 8-9.
91. 165th Inf Report, 7-8. 27th Div G-3 Reports 17, 18 and 19.
92. The 23d Marines Action Report blamed this situation on the fact that the 25th Marines had "erroneously reported its position."
93. The 3d Battalion was reorganized on a two company basis at this time. Company L, which had no officers left, was dissolved and its personnel assigned to the other two rifle companies. This move placed three officers and 151 men in Company I and three officers and 164 men in Company K.
94. The foregoing is a synthesis of the following sources: 4th Mar Div Report, Section VI, 31-32; 23d Mar Report, 45-47; 24th Mar Report, 23; 25th Mar Report, 7-8; 2d Bn, 23d Mar Report, 5; 3d Bn, 23d Mar Report, 7; 2d Bn, 24th Mar Report, 9-10; 3d Bn, 24th Mar Report, 9-10; 1st Bn, 25th Mar Report, 16-19; 3d Bn, 25th Mar Report, 12; Treitel; L. R. Jones.
95. NTLF Operation Order 22-44.
96. TF 51 Report, 10-13.
97. Navy's Air War, 214.