It rained during the night preceding Jig-Day--for the Marines only water, for the Japanese shells and water. Apparently the spirits of neither were dampened. Many Marines aboard LVT's and transports had been unable to find sleeping spaces below decks and, choosing the alternative, bedded down topside. Aside from the discomfort of this arrangement, no ill effects were noted. There was more to worry about than a mere drenching.
Wetter than either the Marines or the Japanese were the U. S. sailors of Underwater Demolition Team #5 who, during the early morning hours, departed the transport-destroyer Gilmer to perform a demolition mission on WHITE 2, where reconnaissance-aircraft had spotted a number of Japanese mines. Rough water and heavy wind, however, scattered the swimmers and their raft-borne explosives and forced an abandonment of the mission. By 0516 the team reported back aboard their ship, having lost no personnel in the unsuccessful venture.1 This failure posed a question: Would the mines cause trouble during the landings?
At 0530, 27 minutes before sunrise, control craft nosed into positions at the Line of Departure; observation planes and "call-strike" aircraft flew to their stations, the former to watch and report, the latter to wait for missions; Saipan-based artillery accelerated the tempo of fires and began pummeling scheduled areas; fire-support ships commenced pre-assault bombardment in assigned sectors. As the first streaks of daylight pierced the ashen sky, the bombardment mounted in fury.
At 0600 the tractor group, carrying assault Marines of the 4th Division, arrived in assigned areas off the WHITE Beaches. Already the giant LST bow doors had creaked open, the massive ramps dropped, and the disgorgement of LVT's begun. Farther at sea the LSD's Ashland and Belle Grove, their tank decks filled with water, opened their stern gates to allow tank-carrying LCM's to float clear under their own power. The cruiser Indianapolis, carrying Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, Commander Fifth Fleet, arrived from Guam. Immediately, the Indianapolis took under fire a pillbox on Faibus San Hilo Point and an artillery position on Mt. Lasso's western slopes. Minesweepers began a pass through mineable waters off the WHITE Beaches.2
After biding their time for nearly an hour, planes took over the principal role from 0620 to 0638, artillery and naval gunfire ceasing bombardment of the island's northern half to afford the planes safety from friendly shells. The target, though not pre-scheduled, was important: an estimated 14 mines on WHITE 2. These could not be reached by minesweepers and, since the underwater demolition mission earlier in the day had failed completely, it was imperative that the mines be exploded by one means or another. The battleship California and the cruiser Louisville had attempted to detonate these same mines earlier in the day when they fired a number of rounds there, but evaluation of results had been impossible.3
Twelve fighters and two torpedo bombers strafed and bombed the area, achieving "successful" results, according to the Northern Attack Force's summary of daily air strikes.4 This appraisal appears overly-optimistic, however, since three LVT's were subsequently blown up
SHIPS AND CRAFT, morning of Jig-Day off Tinian's WHITE Beaches. Two airfields in picture were designated left to right: No. 1 (the main Ushi Point Strip) and No. 3. The WHITE Beaches are generally along line of sight to Airstrip No. 3.
by mines on WHITE 2, and since engineers later removed 100 antiboat mines from that beach, 15 of these buried between high and low water marks.5
As planes dived at their WHITE 2 targets, the minesweepers reported that their pass had located no mines. When the last plane pulled out of its run, artillery and ships resumed the bombardment, scarcely a second being lost in the change-over. By 0700 the bombardment vehicle shifted into high gear. What had seemed a heavy rain of shells now became a deluge. Two battleships (the California and the Tennessee), one heavy cruiser (the Louisville), and four destroyers joined the 156 artillery pieces in a shattering bombardment of northern Tinian, paying particular attention to the WHITE Beach area. Near the Line of Departure, 30 LCI gunboats waited impatiently to lead the amphibian tractors toward the beach.
Initial assault waves were not forming as rapidly as had been planned, and Admiral Hill, aboard his flagship, the Cambria, announced a ten-minute delay in How-Hour. New time--0740.6
In an effort to deceive the enemy as to the real landing locality, the Demonstration Group had begun vigorous operations off Tinian Town at daybreak.7 With typical pre-landing fury, the battleship Colorado, the light cruiser Cleveland, and the destroyers Remey and Norman Scott blasted the Tinian Town beaches and surrounding areas. Behind the men-of-war lay seven transports, carrying Marines of the 2d and 8th Regiments of the 2d Division. When, at shortly after 0600, transports actually lowered landing craft and troops clambered down cargo nets into them, the Japanese probably thought that the issue would soon be contested on the Tinian Town beaches.
Landing craft moved to a randezvous area about four miles west of Tinian Town where they milled about as if attempting to gain control for the push into the beach; then, at about 0730, they headed full speed for the shore. The bait was dangled; the Japanese took it enthusiastically. Large-caliber mortars opened on the landing craft, keeping them under almost constant fire from their point of closest approach to the beach (2,000 yards) until they had countermarched and were out of range (3,500 yards). Many of the shells splashed close by, spraying shell fragments into some of the craft. Fortunately, however, neither boats nor men were hit, and all returned safely to their transports.
Ships supporting the diversion, however, were not so fortunate. The Colorado and the destroyer Norman Scott became preferred targets of a battery of three 6-inch guns emplaced in caves behind Tinian Town.8 These enemy weapons had remained silent in their well-camouflaged positions waiting for just such an opportunity as presented itself on 24 July. Only 3,200 yards off shore lay a giant U. S. battleship, and closer yet a destroyer, both unaware of the blows that were about to strike. At 0740, as the landing craft began their feint toward the beach, the Japanese battery opened fire--not on the tiny landing craft, but on the larger "sitting ducks."
The first rounds found their mark; the Colorado trembled under the impact of enemy shells. Immediately she fired back, being joined in her retaliatory efforts by the light cruiser Cleveland and the destroyers Norman Scott and Remey. But while the U. S. ships sought their target, the Japanese battery hit the Colorado 22 times within 15 minutes, by which time she had moved out of range. Ship's officers estimated that about half the rounds fired at the battleship resulted in hits.
6-INCH NAVAL GUN, one of a battery of three previously undiscovered guns that hit the Colorado and the Norman Scott on Jig-Day. Retaliatory ships' fire destroyed the Japanese battery on Jig-Day.
As the Colorado attempted to avoid the enemy fire, the Norman Scott, Remey and Cleveland bore in close to protect the larger ship. During this phase the Norman Scott received six hits, presumably from the same battery that fired on the Colorado.
While in its early minutes the duel favored the hidden enemy, the very volume of his fire soon stripped him of his only advantage--concealment. Once located by U. S. ships, the enemy position received a hammering series of salvos that (investigation later revealed) destroyed all weapons and killed all personnel.
On board the Colorado, meanwhile, a multitude of tasks was being performed: fighting fires, caring for the wounded, firing back at the enemy, directing the counterbattery efforts of other ships, and moving out of enemy range. At 0812, only 32 minutes after the first rounds had struck the Colorado, the cruiser Indianapolis reported off Tinian Town to relieve the damaged battleship of its fire mission. But the Colorado remained on her station until 1600, when she proceeded to Saipan anchorage for repairs.
The six rounds that struck the Norman Scott caused heavy casualties: 19 men killed (including her skipper, Commander Seymour D. Owens, USN) and 47 wounded. Damage to the ship was also extensive,9 and Admiral Hill ordered her to discontinue fire-support duties and proceed to Saipan for repairs.
The 22 hits on the Colorado, while causing considerable damage,10 "did not seriously affect the material fighting efficiency of the ship." But heavy personnel casualties, particularly on the antiaircraft battery, did seriously affect the fighting efficiency. The Japanese, in 15 minutes, inflicted the following: 43 killed (including 10 Marines), 198 wounded (including 32 Marines).11
Whether the demonstration was realistic enough to cause Japanese commanders to order any redeployment of troops is unknown, but the fact that defenders in the Tinian Town area remained there during the critical period seems to indicate that the ruse succeeded. Departure of the demonstration group caused at least one Japanese to indulge in some wishful thinking as he noted in his diary: "Up to 0900 artillery fire was fierce in the direction of Port Tinian, but it became quiet after the enemy warships left. Maybe the enemy is retreating."12
Off the critical northern beaches, meanwhile, there was much less excitement. The demonstration had held the center of Japanese attention, and preparations off the WHITE Beaches proceeded smoothly. At 0717 the first landing wave crossed the line of departure and began the 3,000-yard move to the beach. At about the same moment small-caliber fire--estimated variously as 50-caliber, 20mm and 40mm--began falling around the LST's. Its source could not be located because of the pall of smoke and dust that cloaked the island. Regarding this incident the logistics officer of the 2d Battalion, 23d Marines, aboard one of the LST's in the area, recalled:
The fire . . . wounded two or more Navy enlisted men of the crew of the vessel, and possibly a couple of Marines belonging to the landing team. . . . My recollection concerning the Marines who were wounded is hazy . . . the incident created a stir and speculation concerning the source of the fire, but everyone soon settled down to the business at hand.13
SUNHARON HARBOR and Tinian Town as seen from the Japanese 6-inch battery position. The U. S. Jig-Day diversion was realistic enough to draw the battery's fire.
FIRE AND MOVEMENT. Troop-carrying LVT's churn toward the shore while a cruiser blasts beach areas. All 533 of V Corps' amphibian tractors were massed to land and support the 4th Marine Division on Jig-Day.
As LVT's carrying Marines of the 24th and 25th Regiments began the lengthy churn to the beach, fire-support ships made their finishing alterations on the beach landscape. The heavy cruiser Louisville lay between the WHITE 1 and 2 boat lanes and delivered smashing frontal fires into the beach areas. The battleship Tennessee and the destroyer Sigourney (stationed north of the WHITE 1 boat lanes) and the battleship California and the destroyer Waller (stationed south of the WHITE 2 boat lanes) levelled enfilading fires against the beaches. From their flanking positions these ships continued bombardment until the LVT's were 1,000 yards from the shore in the case of major-caliber weapons and 300 yards for 5-inch. Ships in this disposition were stationed at minimum distances from the nearest reef or shoal: 2,000 yards for heavy ships, and 1,500 yards for light ships.
To prevent the enemy from directing artillery or mortar fire from high ground in rear of the beaches upon the advancing LVT's, the light cruiser Montpelier and the heavy cruiser New Orleans joined forces to work over the northeast side of the island, the latter employing 8-inch airburst shells for this mission. At the same time, the light cruiser Birmingham and four destroyers concentrated on Mt. Lasso's slopes. This relieved Saipan-based artillery and allowed it to focus fire from 11 of its 13 battalions directly on the landing beaches.
At 0730 a new voice rent the air: the LCI gunboats with their 20mm and 40mm guns and their 4.5-inch barrage rockets. Fifteen of these vessels participated in the initial beach assault,
OBSERVATION over northern Tinian was good from the Mt. Lasso-Mt. Maga heights, but U. S. supporting arms focused such a deluge of fire into this area that the Japanese saw very little of the Jig-Day landings from here. The 25th Marines seized this high ground on 25 and 26 July.
six against WHITE 1, nine against WHITE 2. Beginning at a range of about 2,000 yards and continuing until they turned to the flanks at about 100 yards from the beach, these craft maintained a heavy shower of shells into the beaches. After their swing to the outboard flanks, they delivered a steady stream of fire into areas adjacent to the beaches. At the Line of Departure, 15 more LCI gunboats waited their cue. At How-Hour they moved shoreward, six toward the area just north of WHITE 1, nine toward the area just south of WHITE 2. There they would unleash a barrage to isolate the immediate beach area from outside reinforcement.14
As had been anticipated, the cloud of smoke and dust raised by the intense bombardment was blown seaward by the east wind. This condition made it difficult for the LVT's to maintain direction, a task already rendered extremely difficult by a strong tidal current setting northward across the boat lanes. To remedy this situation, two plainly-marked P-47's indicated the direction of approach by flying at low altitude along the proper course. These pathfinding sweeps were continued until the LVT's reached the beaches.15
The LVT phalanx, meanwhile, crept shoreward. At 300 yards the armored amphibians turned toward the flanks, continuing their fires
against beach areas that could threaten the assault Marines. Now the tightly packed LVT's pressed alone to the beach. Soon the lengthy preparatory effort of U. S. ships, planes and artillery would be put to the real efficiency test. Were the numbers of rounds fired mere statistics? Or had the bombardment investment paid full dividends? The assault Marines, protected from enemy fire only by steel helmets and cotton dungarees, would soon have the answer.
At 0750, LVT's carrying men of Company E, 24th Marines, and Companies G and I, 25th Marines, clawed into the tiny WHITE Beaches, growled to a vibrating halt, waited while troops debarked, then lurched back to sea. The restricted beaches demanded that no vehicles tarry and that traffic constantly keep moving. Other amtracs, carrying subsequent waves, were only four minutes behind.16 (See Map 8, facing page 49.)
Men of Company E, 2d Battalion, 24th Marines, scrambled from their eight LVT's on WHITE 1 and found themselves in the midst of a small beach-defense detachment.17 For a few
POINT Of THE AMPHIBIOUS SPEARHEAD; first two waves head for Tinian's shore.
Positions at Close of Jig-Day
Points of Japanese Counterattack
moments the fighting was close-in and vicious, but such a skirmish could not last long. Its very nature demanded quick results. The outnumbered Japanese, fighting from crevasses in the jagged coral, were soon exterminated.
Here, then, was the 24th Marines' spearhead--a single rifle company, about 200 men, all that could be accommodated at any one time by the small beach. The unit would not be alone for long. On a fixed schedule, time between waves ranging from four to ten minutes, 15 more waves would follow; each would carry a company or an outfit of equivalent size. Even as Captain Jack F. Ross, Jr., reported that his company was pushing inland, eight more LVT's, carrying Company A of the 1st Battalion, ground into the beach.
Company A's mission was specific: execute a sharp left turn behind Company E, move to and protect the regiment's north flank. Captain Irving Schechter's men lost no time in performing this 90-degree wheel but immediately met a blast of small-arms fire as they dodged through the jagged rocks along the coast. Meanwhile, Company E also received small-arms fire that slowed its movement. Both companies had carried out assignments; they had snatched a small beachhead into which other elements of their battalions could land and deploy. Then, when the build-up of strength permitted, the push to O-1 could be undertaken with full vigor.
By 0820 the entire 2d Battalion, 24th Marines (Major Frank E. Garretson), was ashore. There, after following through the zone already cleared by Company E, it deepened and expanded that unit's front. While carving out its sector of the Jig-Day beachhead, the battalion lost 11 men killed, four of them officers. The first 200-odd yards' advance were the hardest; thereafter, in Major Garretson's words, "It was a cake walk to the O-1 line."18
Immediately following Garretson's unit, the remainder of the 1st Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Otto Lessing) landed, swung to the left, and joined Company A on the regiment's north flank. Thus, by 0846, less than an hour after the first Marines hit the beach, two battalions had poured, company by company, onto and through WHITE 1. Congestion had been at a minimum; all participants were well-indoctrinated with the importance of clearing the beaches.19
Japanese mortars and artillery pieces, as well as antiaircraft guns depressed for ground missions, dropped shells intermittently into the WHITE 1 area. In addition, enemy small-arms fire, particularly on the regiment's left flank in the 1st Battalion's zone, slowed forward movement. This fire issued from thick brush and caves, and it was impossible--in most cases--to spot the source.20
Aside from the resistance encountered at the beach by elements of the 2d Battalion, 24th Marines, subsequent landings there progressed without special difficulty. The Japanese had failed to emplace effective obstacles to landings on WHITE 1. Of a dozen horned mines subsequently removed from that beach, all had their horns bent flat from the weight of LVT's and other vehicles, but none had exploded. One officer who inspected these mines stated that they had become impotent because of deterioration.21
Whereas WHITE 1's limited facilities accommodated only eight LVT's abreast (including those nosed up against the flanking cliffs), the somewhat greater width of WHITE 2 permitted simultaneous landing of 16 amtracs, providing that these grouped like peas in a pod and that
NOSED AGAINST THE CLIFF LINE, this LVT pauses while spray-wet Marines leap over the side and get drenched. Because the WHITE Beaches were too narrow to permit all amphibian tractors to crawl ashore, many discharged passengers along the 3- to 10-foot flanking ledges. This picture caught one rifleman in mid-air, a radio operator wading shoreward with his SCR-300, and a bazookaman awaiting his turn to jump.
about half unloaded over the coral cliffs flanking the beaches.22 Accordingly, the 25th Marines landed with two battalions abreast, 2d (Lieutenant Colonel Lewis C. Hudson, Jr.) on the right and 3d (Lieutenant Colonel Justice M. Chambers) on the left. By scheduling waves to follow one another at brief time intervals, assault battalions came ashore as rapidly as limited beach conditions allowed.
The two assault battalions of the 25th Marines used different formations for the Tinian landings; Chambers' 3/25 moved ashore in a column of companies, while Hudson's 2/25 sent in one company in the assault followed by the other two abreast. Colonel Hudson explained this unusual landing formation, as follows:
In two previous assault landings it had been noted that the companies which landed initially had undergone certain control difficulties which actually had slowed them more than had enemy opposition (which
was always light in the minutes closely following the lifting of the preliminary bombardment). Therefore it was planned that since enemy opposition would probably be light initially, one rifle company could take care of it, while the following could land in better order, receive a hasty orientation on the ground, and then push out at top speed. This plan was followed. It worked well. Control from the initiation of the landing was better at Tinian than on any other assault landing.23
The going was tougher on WHITE 2 than on WHITE 1. Here the Japanese had sprinkled a great number of horned mines, which proved troublesome to the landing. In addition to those mines designed to stop U. S. vehicles, the WHITE 2 area contained a number of antipersonnel mines and booby traps. In the latter category were cases of beer, watches, and other souvenir items that had been wired to explode when disturbed. Recognizing these for what they were, the Marines stayed clear and called the engineers to disarm them. Eventually, the engineer and pioneer companies, underwater demolition teams, and bomb disposal units collaborated to remove 100 horned mines from the WHITE 2 area. Before the mine clearance could be completed, however, two LVT's were blown up about 30 yards inland from the shore, and a third was lost as it attempted to turn around at the beach. Even as late as 1400 a jeep ran over a mine on WHITE 2 and lost all four of its tires.24
Mines were not the only difficulty: two enemy blockhouses (which the preliminary bombardment had failed to destroy), mounting antiboat-antitank weapons and protected by rifles and
DEMOLISHED LVT, one of three that ran over and detonated Japanese mines on WHITE 2. One hundred horned mines, many of them unarmed, were eventually removed from WHITE 2 and surrounding area.
machine guns, were situated to place interlocking bands of fire across the beach. The leading companies (G and I) by-passed these strong points and pressed the attack inland. The importance of clearing the immediate beach area had been justifiably stressed. Later waves undertook reduction of the two blockhouses, and both were shortly overrun, the Japanese having abandoned their supporting small-arms positions under the momentum of the U. S. assault. The two enemy strong points contained a total of approximately 50 dead Japanese. Other than these, few enemy bodies were found in the beach area.
By 0820 all Marines of the 25th Regiment's two assault battalions were ashore and attacking inland against resistance described as "strong" by the regimental report.25 Intermittent artillery and mortar fire fell in the 25th Marines' area (and continued to do so for about the first 36 hours of the operation). Everyone agreed, however, that it was a mere sprinkle compared to the Saipan D-Day deluge.26 (See Map 8.)
Reserve Battalions Land
While the assault battalions funneled into assigned beaches, reserve battalions of the 24th and 25th Marines readied for landing. By 0815 both were boated behind the Line of Departure, waiting for orders to start the 3,000-yard trek to shore. For Lieutenant Colonel Alexander A. Vandegrift, Jr., orders came at 0855 to land his 3d Battalion, 24th Marines, on WHITE 1. After weathering a flurry of long-range small-arms fire en route, the unit reached the beach at 0925, whence it moved to an assembly area about 300 yards inland. There it awaited further instructions.
Lieutenant Colonel Hollis U. Mustain's 1st Battalion, 25th Marines, headed beachward shortly before 0900, and the entire unit was ashore by 0930. Here again, some small-arms
MEDIUM TANK CRAWLS ASHORE from LCM that had dropped its ramp on WHITE 1's reef. Other tanks, having followed the dozer-gouged beach path inland, have dropped their water-proofing gear and are moving on.
fire and a few rounds of Japanese mortar or artillery fire splashed menacingly around the LVT's as they neared the shore. This fire, which had caused "several casualties" in the 3d Battalion, 24th Marines, was "inaccurate and unobserved" against Mustain's unit. After its arrival ashore, the 1st Battalion, 25th Marines, moved to an assembly area and awaited orders.27
Meanwhile, regimental headquarters groups filtered ashore whenever the beach situation permitted. The 24th Marines' headquarters was particularly delayed by the landing endeavors of tanks and artillery. By 1230 both assault regiments had established advance command posts ashore, and two hours later the last elements of the 24th and 25th Marines had landed.28
Tanks and Half-Tracks
It had been anticipated that beach conditions would be poor for the landing of tanks and halftracks. They were. But, since there would be no automatic improvement merely by waiting, tank reconnaissance elements (which had accompanied leading infantry units ashore) recommended commencement of landing efforts. Two LCT's carrying bulldozers and other equipment for development of the limited beach facilities immediately headed for the shore. At about 1030 these craft arrived at the reef, one opposite each of the beaches. On WHITE 1 the bulldozers crawled ashore without difficulty, but WHITE 2 presented problems. After two bulldozers dodged through a maze of potholes and fissures (without benefit of marker buoys) and finally reached shore, a third, less fortunate, dropped beyond recovery in a pothole. After this mishap the LCT retracted and moved to WHITE 1 where the remainder of the bulldozers landed. Once ashore, the bulldozers crawled slowly over the tortuous 1,000-yard interval to WHITE 2. Work on that beach and on the routes of egress from it were delayed accordingly.
WHITE 1 proved the better beach and was developed rapidly. The 4th Tank Battalion started debarking from LCM's onto the reef there almost as soon as the first bulldozer landed. Initially, only one tank-bearing LCM could unload opposite WHITE 1 at a time, but by 1300, improvements made by bulldozers and engineers allowed either two LCM's, or one LCM and one LCT, to unload simultaneously.
Because reports indicated that WHITE 2 was now in better shape, one LCM debarked a tank for a trial run at 1100. Conditions were still not good; the tank's 100-yard trip from reef to beach consumed 45 minutes. Nevertheless, to relieve the congestion at the other beach, unloading at WHITE 2 continued, one LCM at a time, until one entire tank company (A) had moved ashore there.29
Behind the tanks landing at WHITE 1 came the 75mm half-tracks of the weapons companies of the two assault regiments. All were ashore and with their parent organizations by 1850. The tanks also moved directly to units which they had been directed to support: Company A tanks to the 25th Marines, Company B to the 24th Marines, Company C to the 23d Marines (division reserve, the landing of which will be discussed later). Company D, the light (flamethrower) tank unit of the 4th Tank Battalion, was divided into platoons, each being attached to a medium tank company.30
Despite the arduous landing process for tanks and half-tracks, none were lost. At no time during landing of these vehicles were beaches seriously blocked to personnel in LVT's or artillery in DUKW's.31
75MM PACK HOWITZER goes into action a short distance inland from the beach. Four battalions of these rugged little pieces landed at Tinian on Jig-Day. The other 13 battalions of U. S. artillery remained on Saipan, to provide support during the critical beachhead phase.
Although most of the 2d Tank Battalion arrived off Tinian in the afternoon (embarked in the same LSD's that had unloaded the 4th Tank Battalion earlier in the day), other activities on the crowded beaches prevented the unit from landing during daylight hours of Jig-Day. One platoon of four light (flame-thrower) tanks, however, came ashore during the evening of 24 July and early the next morning. Landing of these machines followed a channel crossing from Saipan in landing craft.32
The ship-to-shore movement of the four 75mm pack howitzer artillery battalions was painless. In all cases the individual pieces were carried in DUKW's (amphibian trucks) from LSD's to firing positions without manhandling. The 1st Battalion, 14th Marines (Lieutenant Colonel Harry J. Zimmer), was the first artillery unit ashore at Tinian. Landing at 1315 on WHITE 2, it went into position about 300 yards inland from the beach's southern end and by 1430 was firing in support of the 25th Marines. Next ashore was the 2d Battalion, 14th Marines (Lieutenant Colonel George B. Wilson, Jr.), forced to move single file of DUKW's over WHITE 1 because of other landing activities there. By 1515 the unit was prepared to support the 24th Marines from positions about 400 yards southeast of WHITE 1.
Lieutenant Colonel Randall M. Victory, regimental executive officer, landed the 14th Marines' headquarters group at 1535 over WHITE 2, set up a command post behind a small railroad embankment just inland and north of that beach, and established wire communication with the two artillery battalions ashore. Colonel Louis G. DeHaven, regimental commander, landed with the 4th Division command group the following day.33
The two 10th Marines' battalions attached to the 4th Division were next, 1st Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Donovan D. Sult) over WHITE 2 and 2d Battalion (Major David L. Henderson) over WHITE 1.34 The former, in position 300 yards inland from the center of WHITE 2 by 1635, reinforced the fires of the 1st Battalion, 14th Marines, while the latter, situated behind a railroad embankment about 800 yards inland from WHITE 2, was prepared by 1630 to reinforce the 2d Battalion, 14th Marines' fires.35
While the four pack howitzer battalions conducted their ship-to-shore movement, Saipan-based artillery executed a number of missions in support of Marines in the Tinian beachhead. Forward observers, spotting many lucrative targets, experienced virtually no difficulties in transmitting fire requests to Saipan artillery. Within a matter of minutes shells crashed into target areas.36
23d Marines Land37
As early as 0730, Marines of the 23d Regiment, division reserve, received orders from division to occupy their assigned LVT's, parked track-to-track in the tank decks of LST's. As these machines simultaneously warmed their motors preparatory to launching, they emitted strong carbon monoxide fumes. Previous experience had taught that, when troops were cooped up under these conditions for periods in excess of 30 minutes, many became nauseated, nearly all got headaches. Since no instructions to launch LVT's were forthcoming, Colonel Louis R. Jones, the regimental commander, ordered the Marines to move topside awaiting further orders.
At 1030 the 4th Division ordered the 23d Marines to load troops in LVT's and commence launching. While this debarkation was underway, Colonel Jones received information that his regiment would land over WHITE 2. But no definite time was specified for the move, and no instructions were given regarding what the unit would do once ashore.
Colonel Jones and members of his staff headed for the WHITE 2 control boat at 1035. Unfortunately, the LVT assigned to carry this group was a mechanical wreck, engine failures being more the rule than the exception. At 1130, while his LVT wallowed helplessly in the choppy seas, Colonel Jones received a message (as information addressee) from the 4th Marine Division to Transport Group 52.2: "Request 23d Marines be landed WHITE 2 as soon as ready prepared for action in zone of 25th Marines." Other than this, no instructions were received at this time.38 It appears, however, that the lack of instructions resulted from communication difficulties rather than staff failures. The 4th Division Chief of Staff later wrote: "Division tried for hours to get 23d landed. Fortunately no serious harm was done by delay."39
Finally, at 1220 (an hour and 45 minutes after leaving the LST), Jones' vehicle limped to the control craft. There the control officer gave the colonel a confusing report: the first three waves of the 2d Battalion were already ashore, and the remainder of that unit was in the process of landing. A check proved this information false; no elements of the 2d Battalion had landed. In addition, it was discovered that the control vessel was 1,200 yards out of position.40
Meanwhile, the 2d Battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Edward J. Dillon, had been faced with a confusing situation: twice one of his company commanders received from a naval boat officer an order to land; each time the company commander requested instructions from
Dillon who, in turn, requested clarification from Colonel Jones. The latter, still awaiting an order from division, told Dillon to hold up until definite word arrived.41
Another top officer of the 23d Marines also figured in the picture at this point. Lieutenant Colonel John R. Lanigan, regimental executive officer, aware of Colonel Jones' radio and LVT troubles, assumed that he and his advance command post group should take over control of the regiment until the command LVT began functioning properly again. While monitoring messages from division to the 23d Marines, Lanigan heard instructions for the regiment to commence landing and immediately attempted to pass along the order to the 2d Battalion.42 This particular message failed to reach Dillon, however, and therefore did not affect the situation in any way at this time.43
At 1300 Colonel Jones received a specific mission, written 65 minutes earlier, from the 4th Division (probably the same message received by Lanigan): "On landing take over right sector zone 25th Marines . . . Reserve battalion in division reserve. . . ."44 Jones immediately issued an order to the 2d Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Dillon) to commence moving ashore. Here, however, communication difficulties further complicated the situation. The 2d Battalion could not be reached directly, and relays and delays eventually consumed 45 minutes.45
Dillon finally received his first definite order to land when division sent a message directly to him. He passed along the information to Jones, who had also received the division order and who was attempting to direct Dillon to start ashore. Jones told Dillon to execute "Plan A," a scheme of maneuver that would commit the 23d Marines on the right of the 25th. The 2d Battalion headed for the beach.46
Finally, at 1401, the first waves landed, followed rapidly by the remaining four waves. Once ashore, the unit moved to an assembly area near the extreme right (south) flank of the beachhead for a reorganization before moving into the attack. The beach was a scene of considerable congestion, what with the 25th Marines reserve (1/25) and elements of the right assault battalion (2/25) still in the immediate area. It appeared that an earlier landing of the 23d Regiment would only have increased the beach clog, so, despite the communication difficulties that might have had serious consequences under other circumstances, the late landing of the 23d Marines had no adverse effect upon the tactical situation.
The other two battalions followed over WHITE 2, Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Haas' 1st Battalion beginning at 1415 and Major Paul S. Treitel's 3d Battalion beginning at 1500. Once ashore, Haas' unit moved up behind the 2d Battalion to support that unit and to protect the division right flank along the coast. Treitel's 3d Battalion, designated division reserve, moved to an assembly area about 500 yards in rear of the sector held by the 23d and 25th Marines.47
At 1535 Lieutenant Colonel Lanigan landed with his group, established the 23d Marines' advance command post, and undertook the task of determining the exact locations of the three battalions of the regiment.48 Colonel Jones, meanwhile, experienced still more LVT difficulties. Setting out from the control vessel at 1649, Jones' LVT again broke down. This time the colonel and his headquarters group transferred to a DUKW that carried them to an LST where they embarked in another LVT. This vehicle
was satisfactory, and the 23d Marines' staff reached shore at 1745.49
With the 23d Marines ashore, all nine infantry battalions of the 4th Division had landed; six of these deployed in the south half of the beachhead where trouble was expected.
1st Battalion, 8th Marines, Lands
At 1515 General Schmidt, the landing force commander, received a message from General Cates, 4th Division Commander: "Request [that] one battalion landing team 2d Marine Division be ordered to land Beach WHITE 1 this afternoon."50 Acting on this request, General Schmidt sent a dispatch at 1526 to the Commander Northern Attack Force (Admiral Hill) and the Commanding General, 2d Marine Division (General Watson):
Request one battalion landing team designated by Commanding General 2d Marine Division be landed WHITE 1 beginning 1600. 4th Marine Division reports landing can be effected in LCVP's or LCM's two at a time. Battalion landing team passes to control 4th Marine Division upon landing. Report battalion landing team designated and time landing completed.51
General Schmidt's dispatch, logged out at 1526, reached the 2d Marine Division at 1537. The "1600" landing hour was only 23 minutes away. General Watson passed instructions to the 8th Marines to land a battalion "immediately." Inasmuch as Colonel Clarence R. Wallace, the 8th Marines' commander, had previously designated his 1st Battalion as the leading unit in the ship-to-shore movement, no time was lost deliberating on this particular point. Again, however, time and space entered the picture. The time required to draft a message, send it, receive it, deliver it, read it, and act on it, was great and, to higher commanders waiting for results, disappointing. Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence C. Hays, Jr., commanding the 1st Battalion, did not receive the order to land until 1615. The time consumed in filtering the message from 4th Division to NTLF to 2d Division to 8th Marines to Hays' Battalion was exactly one hour.
Still other delays were forthcoming before the battalion could land: the ship (Calvert) in which the unit was embarked had to close the distance to Beach WHITE 1, a move completed at 1705. Then Hays quickly debarked his unit and the lengthy process began of sending two LCVP's at a time into WHITE 1. In the meantime, more instructions channeled through the chain of command: upon landing, the battalion would become 4th Division reserve and would report to the 24th Marines. To determine exactly what employment was contemplated for his unit, Hays landed among the early waves and reported to Colonel Hart, commanding the 24th Marines. Hart instructed Hays to occupy an assembly area in rear of the 2d Battalion, 24th Marines. At 2000 the unit entered in its log: ". . . dug in in assigned position."52
Shore Party and Beach Development
With the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, ashore, landing operations ceased for the night. The number of men and the amount of equipment, that had poured through the tiny WHITE Beach funnels were impressive. The bulk of the 4th Division was ashore; and the remainder, including the command group and headquarters and service units, would follow the next day. From his command post aboard LST 42,53 General Cates had excellent communications with
DARKNESS JIG-DAY found about 15,614 Marines of the 4th Division ashore, expecting any or all of the 9,000 Japanese defenders to counterattack. The American lodgement had been bought at a first-day cost of 77 killed, 470 wounded.
subordinate echelons and with his assistant division commander, Brigadier General Samuel C. Cumming, embarked in Patrol Craft 1080.
Priorities on use of the beaches conformed with the necessity of pouring sufficient troop strength ashore to repel any counterattack the Japanese might launch. These priorities did not permit the landing on Jig-Day of any of the 100 LCVP's carrying the division's light vehicles or the eight LCT's and five LCM's transporting heavy trucks. WHITE 1, the only beach suitable for their use, had been fully occupied.
Throughout the day, the shore and beach parties trickled ashore. Advance detachments landed with the assault companies and remaining personnel and equipment came in during short lapses in the bustling beach operations. All men of these units were ashore by 1000 and all equipment by 1400. This unloading had been almost exclusively over WHITE 1, with equipment intended for the other beach being moved from there overland. Since some soldiers and Marines of the Shore Party arrived ashore during the first minutes of the operation, beach improvement commenced early, long before enemy resistance had been quelled in the area.54
The 4th Division Shore Party Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Nelson K. Brown, and the Group Beachmaster, Lieutenant Samuel C. Boardman, USN, were provided a radio-equipped craft from which they could supervise logistical activities on both beaches. These officers made frequent visits during the day to Central and Beach Control Vessels to apprise persons there of existing beach conditions. After spending the night aboard Submarine Chaser 1012 with the Force Beachmaster (Commander C. E. Anderson), Brown and Boardman went ashore the next morning and established their headquarters between the two beaches.
The 10 special portable LVT ramps arrived during the afternoon of Jig-Day on the second
trip of LSD's. Two were launched at about 1700 and sent in with plans to place them in position just south of WHITE 1. One was lost when the LVT carrying it struck a coral head on the edge of the reef and turned over. The other ramp got ashore and was immediately installed, allowing tracked vehicles to negotiate the shore-line cliffs. The remaining eight were launched on Jig-plus 1.
Heavy beach activity emphasized the necessity for early installation of the two pontoon causeway piers, so that LST's and craft could pull alongside and discharge loaded trucks. The piers, towed from Saipan, arrived about dusk; and, under direction of the Force Beachmaster, work on their installation began. By the naval construction platoon's all-night labors, one of these (on WHITE 1) was ready for use by 0600 the next morning. Work on the other, complicated by accurate Japanese artillery and mortar fire, proceeded slowly, and it was not ready until Jig-plus 3.55
The only hospital installation ashore on Jig-Day (other than battalion and regimental aid stations) was Company D, 4th Medical Battalion. This unit, together with headquarters and service personnel of the battalion, landed on WHITE 1 at about 1630.56
By darkness of Jig-Day the Japanese on Tinian were greatly outnumbered. Of 40,000-odd U. S. troops that would eventually land to capture Tinian, about 15,614 were already ashore. The Japanese defenders, if they had not suffered a single casualty, would number only 9,162. U. S. forces, with good communications and superior mobility were under a single commander. The Japanese, on the other hand, had lost most of their communications to the U. S. bombardment, and Army and Navy forces were following the sometimes-dissimilar dictates of their respective commanders.
Tactical surprise, massive power, and hair-trigger control had made possible a completely successful landing over extremely limited beaches. The demonstration off Tinian Town confirmed the defenders' expectations during the crucial period. Japanese attention was focused on a point several miles from the spot where the landings were in fact progressing. By the time the truth became apparent to the enemy, 4th Division Marines had knifed through the narrow WHITE Beaches and firmly established themselves ashore. Even had the Japanese not been fooled, however, their dispositions, inferior strength, and relative lack of mobility (imposed by U. S. supporting arms) would have precluded much early concentration at the north.
The landing force had taken a sizeable bite of Tinian on the first day and had suffered only light casualties (15 killed, 225 wounded).57 The beachhead (see Map 8), 2,900 yards at its widest point, bulged inland nearly a mile in the center. Generally, the front lines rested upon defensible terrain. In fact, this had been the most important consideration in stopping the day's advance. Everyone expected a Japanese counterattack during the night; all felt confident that it could be stopped, providing sufficient time were available to prepare good positions. Accordingly, General Cates ordered the regiments to stop on defensible terrain at a reasonably early hour (1600-1630) so that lines could be well tied in, fires coordinated, barbed wire strung, and all hands prepared.
Colonel Hart's 24th Marines, manning the left half of the landing force front, moved steadily throughout the day, its 2d Battalion reaching the western edge of Airfield No. 3 and cutting the main road from Ushi Point to the central and southern parts of the island. This push placed the regiment's right along Objective O-1.
For the 1st Battalion, 24th Marines, however, the going had been slower. This unit, attacking northward along the coast, encountered a series of stubborn enemy groups hidden in
caves near the water's edge. LVT(A)'s from the 2d Armored Amphibian Battalion, operating from off-shore, placed effective fire into these hideouts, and flame-thrower tanks burned away the matted vegetation; but the Japanese could not be routed. By 1600 when the 1st Battalion stopped for the night, it was still 400 yards short of O-1. More important than gaining O-1 was the preparation of good defenses for the night, and the Marines took entrenching tools in hand and set to work.58
Regarding the 1st Battalion's situation as it stopped for the night, Lieutenant Colonel Otto Lessing, the unit's commander, commented:
. . . the right flank of the battalion had pushed forward vigorously and had reached the west edge of the airfield. . . . This push forward of the right flank seriously extended the battalion front, which would have been even worse had the left of the battalion moved on along the beach. . . . To partially compensate for this over-extension, attached half-tracks and 37mm guns were emplaced directly in the front line . . . the gun crews fought in the dual role of gunners and riflemen.59
The attacks of the 1st and 2d Battalions had diverged somewhat during the day so that a potentially dangerous gap developed between the two. Into this at 1630 went the 3d Battalion, which tied in the two interior flanks. As already recounted, the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, reported in the 24th Regiment's area later in the day and dug in behind the 2d Battalion.60
Colonel Batchelder's 25th Marines, meanwhile, negotiated the mined exits from WHITE 2 and pushed toward Mt. Maga's lower slopes. This regiment met somewhat greater resistance than did the 24th Marines. While it encountered no prepared defense positions after assault troops overran beach strong-points, small groups of Japanese remained active in the area, sniping at individuals who appeared in exposed areas and directing mortar and artillery fire upon any cluster of Marines that offered a good target. As the day wore on and the 25th Regiment pushed farther inland, the task of manning the ever-widening front became increasingly difficult. Like other regiments of both divisions, the 25th was operating at reduced strength, its battalions averaging but 565 men each. This condition contributed to the over-extension, and General Cates ordered the 23d Marines to assume a portion of the front, relieving the 25th Regiment's right flank units. (See Map 8.) Thus, with a reduction of its frontage, the 25th established a strong defensive position for the night.61
The narrow sector along the beach assigned to the 23d Marines required it to place only its 2d Battalion in the lines. Great depth in this area was accorded by the 1st Battalion, which dug in behind the 2d and gave full attention to this flank. This disposition was adopted because "this looked like [the] most probable counterattack zone."62 The 3d Battalion, 23d Marines, as previously recounted, occupied an assembly area behind the 23d-25th Marines in division reserve.63
To bolster the 2d Battalion in its important position, the 23d Marines' commander, Colonel Jones, attached to it the 37mm platoon that had landed with the 3d Battalion.64 The order to commence moving forward came at midnight, and the platoon reached its assigned positions at about 0220. Arrival of these guns doubled the number of 37's immediately available to the 2d Battalion. While the newly arrived platoon covered a coral-surfaced road that entered the left of the battalion's front, the other sited its weapons across a broad, flat field near the center
of the sector. Events would prove this employment wise.65
An important factor in the preparation of the division's defensive positions was the arrival of preloaded amphibian tractors at the front lines. These vehicles, carrying ammunition and barbed wire (plus standard loads of rations and water), placed important items where and when they were needed most. After the tractors arrived, Marines strung barbed wire forward of the entire division front to hinder enemy foot troops who might attempt an attack. Large amounts of ammunition were stacked near weapons in anticipation of rapid expenditure during the night. With fresh memories of the banzai attack at Tanapag Plain on Saipan, men of the 4th Division addressed full attention to preparing for another such thrust.
Along the front of the entire beachhead, Marines laid machine guns to insure interlocking bands of fire and assigned the 60mm and 81mm mortars target areas that would fill "dead spots," registered 75mm pack howitzers to cover the most likely routes of enemy approach, and ranged in weapons that could fire illuminating shells when and if the need arose for a lighted battlefield.
Front line Marines, well indoctrinated by Saipan experiences, needed no encouragement to dig their foxholes deep. They placed hand grenades and extra supplies of ammunition close to their positions so that there would be no fumbling in the dark.
In position astride the main road from the south to Ushi Point Airfield, the 2d Battalion, 24th Marines, took at least one significant security precaution. Expecting enemy forces to use the road in any counterattack effort, Major Garretson, the battalion commander, stationed a 15-man combat outpost about 400 yards to the front. This detachment would engage any small enemy groups seeking information and attempt to mislead them as to the actual main battle position. In the event of a large-scale attack, this outpost would withdraw and alert front-line Marines. Extremely close contact with the enemy frequently forbade use of such combat outposts in the Pacific War.
Anyone facing the bleak prospects that the Japanese did on 24 July 1944 would naturally embrace gratefully any good news--or, indeed, even any good rumor. Evidence that the Japanese believed that help would reach them is contained in the diary of Takayoshi Yamazaki (rank unknown), a member of the 1st Battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment:
24 July--We heard the story about the shift in the Cabinet [Premier Hideki Tojo and his entire staff resigned on 18 July 1944] and an order to complete the 4th Airfield (inland from Tinian Town . . . ) by the 28th. It raised our morale to expect our planes. All the platoon rejoiced to the news.67
Colonel Ogata, commanding the Japanese defense force, had experienced a day of frustrations. From his command post atop Mt. Lasso, he got but infrequent glimpses at what was taking place. U. S. planes, artillery, mortars and naval gunfire maintained such a continuous hail of shells around his installation that to emerge from its protection was to invite death. Such information as funneled to him from subordinate echelons was sketchy and confusing; no part of the Japanese defense network was exempt from U. S. shelling. Many times, when there was important information that should have been sent or received by Ogata, communication failures prevented delivery. In other cases, messengers carried information to or from the colonel, arriving at their destination so tardily as virtually to nullify the news' value.
Captain Oya, commanding Japanese naval forces on the island, also found Jig-Day conditions difficult. His command post, located in a cave in the high ground behind Tinian Town, was the object of almost constant pounding by
U. S. planes and ships. In the morning when his coast defense guns hit a U. S. battleship (the Colorado) and a destroyer (the Norman Scott) and his mortars discouraged a U. S. landing attempt at Tinian Town (the 2d Division's feint), Ova had reason to feel at least mildly elated. After that, however, the U. S. bombardment thundered monotonously around him, hour after hour, and his weapons seemed incapable of further retaliation. More frustrating than this, Ova received word of a U. S. landing on the tiny northwestern beaches, and he knew that most of his coast defense guns were positioned only for firing to sea, that the very nature of the installations would not permit these weapons to turn 90 degrees to strike the U. S. beachhead.
Presented with this situation, the two enemy commanders bent every effort to influence the course of the battle. With shattered communications, their hands were nearly tied. Ogata's operation plan, however, directing his units ". . . to destroy the enemy at the beach . . .," amounted to a standing operating procedure for Japanese in a situation such as this.68 In the absence of further instructions, subordinate Japanese commanders would follow that dictate. There were four infantry battalions available to attempt that task.
The 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry, which had had some of its elements disposed on the landing beaches and the remainder in the Mt. Lasso area, was handiest to the U. S. beachhead. This unit had more time and better opportunity to observe U. S. defensive preparations than did other Japanese organizations. Also reasonably close at hand was the 2d Battalion, 50th Infantry Regiment, initially assigned to defend the Asiga Bay area. Most elements of this unit were disposed less than three miles from the U. S. beachhead. During daylight hours this distance would be extremely difficult to cover; after dark, with U. S. planes out of the sky, the march and deployment could be executed without excessive losses or tiring of troops.
The 3d Battalion, 50th Infantry Regiment, assigned to the Southern Defense Sector (see Map 4, page 13), remained in its area, presumably at Colonel Ogata's order. At this early time in the operation, the colonel could not abandon completely his deduction that an amphibious assault would come over the Tinian Town beaches. If he pulled the 3d Battalion from this area, no defense against U. S. landings there would be provided.
Besides, he had already issued orders69 to his Mobile Counterattack Force (1st Battalion, 135th Infantry) to ". . . advance rapidly to the place of landings, depending on the situation and attack." From its assembly position in the Marpo area the unit began its long march to the U. S. beachhead. Movement along roads or through open areas was denied by American fire power and aircraft. The battalion had to dodge and straggle its way, column of files, along the sides of roads, where foliage provided concealment from the ubiquitous U. S. aircraft. At many points along the route, unobserved fire from ships and artillery thundered down upon the rambling column; but, faithful to his mission, the battalion commander (Captain Izumi) encouraged his men on to the north. That the entire move was observed at only one time by U. S. aircraft reflects creditably upon Captain Izumi's eye for terrain.
The only Japanese naval troops moving toward the U. S. beachhead at dusk were those assigned to various jobs around Ushi Point Airfield. Though not trained for an infantry mission, they had a fanatic will to close with the Americans, a will that compensated only in part for their shortcomings in technique. Armed with rifles, machine guns (in large part dismounted aircraft guns), and grenades, this conglomerate force avoided the bulging center of the U. S. beachhead, marched instead to a position from which it could strike the extreme left (north) U. S. flank along the coast.
At dark, Marines put aside shovels in favor of firearms. Though tired (they had never really
caught up on their rest since D-Day [15 June] on Saipan), Marines resisted the tendency for fatigue to induce carelessness. Their attitude of business-like caution reflected their Saipan slogan--"Stay alert"--a serious jest typifying the atmosphere of war.71
The Japanese commander dispatched several small reconnaissance groups at dusk to glean information regarding U. S. dispositions, information upon which he would base his counterattack plans. While most of these Japanese crept along just forward of the lines until chased by Marine fire, a two-man reconnaissance detail climbed up on a battered building forward of the 24th Marines and audaciously (or stupidly) commenced jotting notes about, or drawing sketches of, the front lines. This impudent gesture was rewarded with a thundering concentration of U. S. artillery fire.
At midnight Marines noticed a marked increase in the tempo of Japanese artillery fire falling in the beachhead area. Where previously they had endured only desultory mortar fire, midnight brought shells from Japanese field guns. This fire gradually increased in volume until the anticipated attack became reality. Between 0200 and 0530, the Japanese launched their assaults. The main spearheads came at three points: the extreme left flank, the extreme right flank, and near the center of the beachhead (see Map 8).
The Attack on the Left
The attack on the left came first and lasted longest. At 0200, men of the 1st Battalion, 24th Marines, straining their eyes through the black moonless night, suddenly saw a compact group of Japanese a short 100 yards away.72 The Marines opened fire. The compact group became a screaming mass of attackers as the first Marine bullets and shells found targets. Now the shadows were alive with about 600 leaping Japanese naval troops, loaded with aggressive spirit, requiring no instructions to make their screaming charge. Marines called flares into action; the battlefield became light. Marines needed no orders either: the 37mm guns sprayed canister; machine guns cut into the enemy area with grazing fire; rifles pounded out at sighted or suspected targets; mortars crunched into the defilade areas;73 artillery crashed steadily behind the Japanese to shatter and destroy any reinforcement group.
The tightly packed foe was a choice target for all these weapons, and hundreds of shells lashed his ranks. At no time did the enemy penetrate the 1st Battalion; but extremely heavy pressure against Company A, the unit that bore the brunt, caused the battalion commander to reinforce it with engineers, corpsmen, communicators, naval gunfire liaison and shore party personnel.74
The fight continued hot and heavy until about 0545, when dawn and the vigor of the enemy effort broke simultaneously. Medium tanks from Company B, 4th Tank Battalion, entered the fray at this time and stopped all further thrusts at the Marines' lines. Many Japanese, convinced that all was lost, committed suicide with grenades. While armored amphibians afloat fired on enemy groups hiding along the coast, Marines of the 1st Battalion, 24th Marines, mopped up the area to their front, an activity completed by 0700. They counted 476 Japanese bodies, most of them within 100 yards of Company A's lines.75 Although no figures are available for Marine casualties in this action, the battalion commander estimated that ". . . Company A was reduced to about 30 men with usable weapons before the enemy was repulsed."76
The Attack on the Center77
Enemy movement to final assault positions and preparations for an attack against the beachhead center created such a stir that Marine units involved were at a 100 percent alert when the real trouble came. Shortly after midnight the 15-man outpost from the 2d Battalion, 24th Marines, returned with a breathless report that the Japanese were coming, and in great numbers. In addition, a number of "feeler" patrols had prodded the 25th Marines' lines for several hours, indicating by their behavior that a stronger thrust would come.
The first of a series of attacks against the center--near the boundary between the 24th and 25th Marines--began at 0230. This effort faltered and broke under a fusillade of small-arms, mortar and 37mm fire. But this was not the end. After bouncing off, recoiling, and reorganizing, the Japanese--elements of the 1st and 2d Battalions, 50th Infantry, and of the 1st Battalion, 135th Infantry--struck again. This time, though many of the attackers fell forward of the lines, others penetrated a weak spot at the boundary between the two Marine regiments. About 200 Japanese poured through this spot before the flow could be stopped. After pausing in a swamp behind the lines, the enemy force speared out in two prongs: one straight into the beachhead toward U. S. artillery positions, the other turning west into the 25th Marines' rear areas. The latter group of Japanese attained first contact when they met a well-prepared support platoon from the 3d Battalion, 25th Marines. Positioned to contain just such a penetration as had occurred, the Marines quickly eliminated this Japanese threat, killing 91 in a brief, violent skirmish.78
The other prong pushed deep into the rear of the beachhead, finally reached the 75mm howitzer firing positions of the 2d Battalion, 14th Marines. Battery D, firing a mission for the 24th Marines, suddenly found itself beset from the front by many determined Japanese. Marines not actively engaged in servicing the howitzers rallied to the defense of their positions with small arms, while the remainder continued firing an artillery mission for the 24th Regiment. Later, as pressure mounted, all hands turned to the task of stopping the Japanese close at hand.79 At this juncture the .50-caliber machine guns of the other two batteries (E and F) of the battalion levelled a heavy volume of enfilading fire into the area forward of besieged Battery D. This fire, in the words of the battalion executive officer, "literally tore the Japanese . . . to pieces."80
To reinforce Battery D in its bitter fight, Company C, 8th Marines, arrived at 0445. But by then the situation was well in hand; the Japanese had faltered and stopped before the deluge of small-arms fire. Morning revealed about 100 dead Japanese in the area,81 while the artillerymen had lost but two of their number--both killed manning a .50-caliber machine gun with Battery D. The only Japanese penetration of the night had shattered itself against a prepared rear area.
Up at the front, meanwhile, Marines of the 25th Regiment and the right (2d) battalion of the 24th Regiment, fought off a series of frontal rushes upon their positions. In each case the Japanese were stopped at the barbed wire forward of the Marines' lines. The all-night firing had taken a heavy toll of the
Marines' ammunition stocks, however, and by shortly before daylight there was concern along the lines that another heavy attack might exhaust supplies.
Dawn came first. Attached tanks moved up at once to range the area forward of the lines. They blasted points of resistance with their 75mm guns, killing or chasing such few Japanese as had survived the night melee.
Nearly 500 Japanese were killed in the attacks against the center of the beachhead and in the skirmishes behind the lines following the penetration.
The Attack on the Right82
The third and last major enemy effort struck the extreme right (south) flank of the beachhead at 0330. The 2d Battalion, 23d Marines, in position along the coast, bore the brunt of this thrust, although the 2d Battalion, 25th Marines, also figured prominently in the action. Moving north along the coastal road, the enemy force consisted of five or six light tanks (about half of those available to the Japanese at Tinian) with infantrymen riding and following on foot.83
First warning of the enemy move came when Marine listening posts stationed along the road a short distance forward of the lines reported enemy tanks rumbling in from the south. With the tanks an estimated 400 yards in front of the lines, Marine artillery opened up. The tanks came on. Ready for just this situation, U. S. ships began firing illuminating shells over the area, virtually turning night into day. Bazookas, 75mm half-tracks, and 37mm guns attached to three battalions now went into action.84 One of the 37mm platoons, positioned astride the coral road, levelled point-blank fires into the enemy armor.85 Even so, one fast-moving tank weathered a 37mm hit and drove through the front lines into rear areas before a Marine bazookaman finished it off. An officer present on the scene described the action as he saw it:
The three lead tanks broke through our wall of fire. One began to glow blood-red, turned crazily on its tracks, and careened into a ditch. A second, mortally wounded, turned its machine guns on its tormentors, firing into the ditches in a last desperate effort to fight its way free. One hundred yards more and it stopped dead in its tracks. The third tried frantically to turn and then retreat, but our men closed in, literally blasting it apart. . . . Bazookas knocked out the fourth tank with a direct hit which killed the driver. The rest of the crew piled out of the turret, screaming. The fifth tank, completely surrounded, attempted to flee. Bazookas made short work of it. Another hit set it afire, and its crew was cremated.86
Thus, five tanks stood immobile on the field of battle.87 If a sixth accompanied this incursion, it escaped, since there was no trace of it the following morning when Marines moved through the area.
Despite the fact that their armor was gone, enemy foot soldiers from the 1st and 2d Battalions, 50th Infantry, and the 1st Battalion, 135th Infantry, pressed toward the Marines. The fighting that ensued was close-in and savage, but the Japanese never cracked the tight
THESE FAITHFUL JAPANESE were ordered to "destroy the enemy at the beach." By issuing this impossible order, the Japanese Island Commander lost about one-seventh of his total strength in a scattered series of aggressive but poorly coordinated counterthrusts on the first night.
defense. The few who seeped through the lines met a quick end at the hands of the 23d Marines' reserve (1st Battalion), positioned to provide depth in this precise area.
The operations officer of the 2d Battalion, 23d Marines, described the weird termination of the Japanese activities:
. . . as it began to get light, Jap bodies began to fly ten to fifteen feet in the air in the area in front of our lines. . . . We knew that hand grenades did not have the power to blow a man's body that high and could not figure out what was happening. [Later] we moved out to mop up. . . . It turned out that about fifty percent of the dead Japs carried magnetic mines and had obviously been ordered to break through our lines and destroy the tanks in the rear of us. . . . The Japs who were wounded and unable to flee were placing the tank mines under their bodies and tapping the detonators.88
Daylight revealed that the enemy had expended 267 men and five tanks (of 12 on the island) against the right flank of the beachhead with no success.
During Japanese attacks against the left, center and right, naval supporting ships assisted the Marines by illuminating the battle area. The destroyer Monssen, for example, fired a solid hour of starshells forward of the 2d Battalion, 24th Marines, during the critical period of the counterattacks. In addition to the illumination fires, ships executed several important neutralization missions. At 0450, the cruiser Cleveland placed ten minutes' fire on Mt. Lasso's eastern slopes where enemy muzzle flashes had been observed. At 0500 (when the 4th Division was most vulnerable because of depleted ammunition stocks) two destroyers and a cruiser delivered supporting fires without benefit of shore spot on areas requested by Headquarters, 4th Division.89
A night action involving several hundred attackers supported by tanks cannot, by its very nature, be described with chess-like clarity. No two pairs of eyes saw the battle in exactly the same way; and, though the vital features of the engagement fit neatly together, the various marginal details present a jig-saw puzzle with too many pieces. For example, a bazookaman who hit an enemy tank, which shortly afterward burst into flame, would naturally claim the kill, never realizing that another bazookaman and two other 37mm guns had scored on the same tank at the same time. So here, in this constructed instance, destruction of one tank could have been reported four times--with four slightly different versions of how it was done. Unit commanders are often modest about their own exploits but seldom about those of their subordinates. A total of the various units' claims exceeds by many times the actual number of tanks committed to the attack. This fact comes as no disparagement of the Marines' excellent efforts. They were trained, equipped and prepared to stop the Japanese. They did.
The counterattacks were over. Strewn along the 4th Marine Division front were the bodies of 1,241 Japanese, of which about 700 belonged to organized infantry units. Thus in one frantic
JAPANESE TANK, one of five knocked out during the first night's battle. All Japanese tanks on Tinian were light models mounting 37mm guns and 7.7cm machine guns.
night, Colonel Ogata lost over one-seventh of his total defense force and over one-fifth of his organized infantry strength.90 In addition to those killed in the night counterattacks, it must be presumed that some Japanese were wounded but managed to get away.91
Marine identification of enemy dead on the morning following the counterattacks revealed that a large portion of the known organized infantry strength had participated in the night thrusts and had suffered a costly defeat. In particular, the tremendous number of bodies identified as belonging to the 1st Battalion, 135th Infantry (the Mobile Counterattack Force), indicated that this unit had sustained especially heavy losses,92 an evaluation confirmed on 26 July by a Japanese prisoner who stated that the battalion had been "practically annihilated."93 The 4th Division intelligence officer attached importance to the appearance of the 1st Battalion, 135th Infantry:
Captured documents and interrogation of POW's indicate that [the unit] was scheduled for defense in the Tinian Town area. Commitment of this unit to this morning's counterattack is an indication that the enemy's reserves are being depleted.94
The 4th Marine Division's post-operation evaluation--"It was there and then that [we] broke the Jap's back in the battle for Tinian"95--appears accurate. It is pertinent to note, however, that this fact was not realized on the morning after the counterattack. Over six years later the division intelligence officer wrote: "We still believed the enemy capable of a harder fight . . . and from day to day during our advance expected a bitter fight that never materialized.96
Marines had fought and won an important, decisive fight. The Japanese commander had spent a large, irreplaceable portion of his garrison, while Marine losses were extremely light.97 Considerable time and effort had been invested profitably in preparations for the Japanese counterattack. The disposition and strength of the Marine defense foredoomed Colonel Ogata's plan to failure. The Marines hoped for more such night attacks, since previous experience had taught that this type of fighting was altogether easier than digging the Japanese from their final retreats. With all the excitement, screaming and local crises, the banzai attacks were invariably cheaper and more decisive than the so-called "mopping-up" operations.
1. TF 52 Report, 16 and 30.
2. Ibid., 11 and 31.
3. Ltr from Adm J. B. Oldendorf to CMC, 14Jan51. TF 52 Report, 64.
4. TF 52 Report, Part VII, 106. Elsewhere in the same report (page 31) this strike was considered "partially successful."
5. 20th Mar Report, 4.
6. TF 52 Report, 31.
7. This account of the Tinian Town demonstration, unless otherwise indicated, is synthesized from the following sources: TF 52 Report, 32; Colorado Report, 2, 49-51, 69, 73, 85, 97-100, 124-144; TF 51 Report, Encl A, 19; 5th Fleet Report, 6; Cleveland Report, Encl A, 7; Calvert Report, 2-3; Richard W. Johnston, Follow Me (New York: Random House, 1948), 241; Fletcher Pratt, The Marines' War (New York: William Sloane Associates, 1948), 293-294; W. Karig, Battle Report, End of an Empire (New York: Rinehart & Co., Inc., 1948), 273; All Hands, Jan45, 57.
8. TF 52 Report, page 66, identified the weapons as 6-inch guns made by Sir W. A. Armstrong and Whitworth Ltd, 1905.
9. 5-inch gun, a 40mm gun and a 35-inch searchlight out of action; the No. 1 stack demolished; gyro, radar, sound gear, and electrical circuits damaged; the superstructure riddled with several hundred holes.
10. One 5-inch gun knocked out, two others damaged; the catapult (for launching spotting planes) destroyed; two blister fuel oil tanks flooded; one 40mm quadruple mount out of commission, one quadruple and one twin 40mm mount damaged; two 20mm guns knocked out; one director (Mark 51) out of action; and numerous shell holes at many points.
11. These totals from detailed compilation in the USS Colorado's Action Report, 124-144. Of the 198 wounded, 97 required hospitalization aboard the USS Tryon, a transport fitted as a hospital ship, while the others remained aboard the Colorado.
12. 4th Mar Div Representative Translations Made on Tinian, Takayoshi Yamazaki.
13. Ltr from Capt D. P. Libera to CMC, 23Dec50.
14. While on this mission LCI 460 became the only fire support vessel hit in the WHITE Reach area. The result was two men seriously wounded and minor structural damage to the gunboat. The location and caliber of the enemy weapon causing the trouble was undetermined.
15. TF 52 Report, 17, 31, 65.
16. 4th Mar Div Report, Section III, 16.
17. Actually, WHITE 1 was only wide enough to accommodate four of the eight LVT's on the beach proper; the other four nosed up against the three- to ten-foot cliffs flanking the beach, where troops scrambled over LVT bows onto the shore.
18. Ltr from Maj F. E. Garretson to author, 17Aug50, hereinafter cited as Garretson.
19. Marines of the 4th Division did not land with packs at Tinian. In their pockets they carried emergency rations, a spoon, a pair of socks, and a bottle of insect repellent. Ponchos were carried folded over cartridge belts.
20. 4th Mar Div Report, Section III, 16; 24th Mar Report, 4-7. 2d Bn, 24th Mar Report, 1; Interview with Maj J. F. Ross, Jr., 28Jun50, hereinafter cited as Ross. Interview with Maj I. Schechter, 2Jan51, hereinafter cited as Schechter.
21. Ltr from Maj F. A. Durand to CMC, 28Nov50.
22. The executive officer of the 3d Battalion, 25th Marines, commented on the over-the-cliff landing; "Usually two Marines stood at the bow of each LVT and assisted their comrades up to where they could secure a handhold on the jagged coral rim. Although this method was slow, it did relieve the congestion on the beach proper and permitted the assault units to advance rapidly inland, thus taking full advantage of the surprise gained." Ltr from LtCol J. Taul to CMC, 9Jan51.
23. Ltr from Col L. C. Hudson to CMC, 29Dec50.
24. One officer who witnessed the explosion said that the tires puffed into the air like "smoke rings." Fortunately, sandbags on the jeep's floor boards saved the driver. Ltr from Maj J. W. Sperry to author, 27Nov 50, hereinafter cited as Sperry.
25. The 4th Division's basic report classified the resistance on WHITE 2 as "moderate" and that on WHITE 1 as "light."
26. 25th Mar Report, 2, 6-7, 9; 20th Mar Report, 4; 4th Mar Div Report, Section III, 16-17; 3d Bn, 25th Mar Report, 1-2; NTLF G-2 Report, Periodic Report 40.
27. 3d Bn, 24th Mar Report, 1. 1st Bn, 25th Mar Report, 20.
28. 4th Mar Div Report, Section III, 17.
29. The 4th Tank Battalion Report, page 3, noted that "considerable delay" on WHITE 2 was caused by "blocking of the beach exits by engineer equipment and apparent confusion on the WHITE 2 Control Boat." Colonel Nelson K. Brown, 4th Division Shore Party Commander, described the other side of this situation "When the construction equipment arrived, the normal conflict between constructor and user ensued over right of way. . . . " Ltr from Col N. K. Brown to CMC, 27Dec50, hereinafter cited as Brown.
30. 1st Platoon to Company A, 2d Platoon to Company B, and 3d Platoon to Company C. The flame-thrower tanks used at Tinian were M3A1 light tanks that had their turret-mounted 37mm guns and ammunition racks removed and Ronson (Canadian) Flame-Throwers installed in lieu thereof.
31. 4th Mar Div Report, Section III, 17-18. 4th Tank Bn Report, 3.
32. 2d Tank Bn Report, 1.
33. Ltr from Col R. M. Victory to CMC, 22Jan51.
34. The DUKWs involved in this move used a single-file, bumper-to-bumper formation to conserve the limited landing space available. Ltr from Capt S. J. Burich, Jr., to CMC, 26Dec50.
35. 4th Mar Div Report, Section III, 18; 14th Mar Report, 1.
37. General details regarding the 23d Marines' landing were derived from the 4th Mar Div Report, 18-19 and L. R. Jones. Specific details as cited.
38. 23d Mar Report, 19.
39. Ltr from Brig Gen W. W. Rogers to CMC, 20Dec50, hereinafter cited as Rogers.
40. 23d Mar Report, 19.
41. Interviews with Col E. J. Dillon, 29Sep50 and 22Jan51, hereinafter cited as Dillon.
42. Ltr from Col J. R. Lanigan to CMC, 6Nov50, hereinafter cited as Lanigan.
44. 23d Mar Report, 19.
45. Ltr from CO, 23d Mar to CG, 4th Mar Div, 7Sep44. The short lapse between the end of the Saipan operation and Tinian's Jig-Day allowed insufficient time for proper servicing, repair and waterproofing of radio equipment. This, in the words of the regimental operations officer, was "a contributing factor to the break down of communications. . . . " Ltr from Maj W. E. Buron to CMC, 11Dec50, hereinafter cited as Buron.
47. 23d Mar Report, 21.
49. 23d Mar Report, 21.
50. This request was prompted by the situation on the left half of the beachhead. where the 24th Marines' assault battalions were spread thinly and where the reserve battalion would soon be committed. The battalion from the 2d Division would provide reinforcement there. Rogers.
51. NTLF G-3 Operational Dispatches 23-25Jul44.
52. 2d Mar Div D-3 Journal 17-24Jul44; G-3 Operational Dispatches 23-25Jul44; 4th Mar Div Report, Section III, 19; 24th Mar Report, 8; 1st Bn, 8th Mar Report, 1-2; 8th Mar Report, 1; 2d Mar Div Report, 2.
53. This marked the first and only time in World War II that Marines used an LST as the location for a division command post. The principal advantage of this arrangement was the immediate availability of preloaded LVT's to expedite displacement of the CP ashore. Satisfactory communication resulted from use of a radio jeep on the LST deck. Rogers.
54. Shore Parties on the two beaches were provided as follows: WHITE 1--1341st Engineer Battalion (Army), commanded by Lieutenant Colonel H. A. Gould, USA; WHITE 2--2d Battalion, 20th Marines, commanded by Major J. H. Partridge.
55. The naval construction platoon working on the WHITE 2 causeway suffered so many casualties from enemy fire that the Force Beachmaster replaced it with a fresh unit from Saipan. Brown.
56. 4th Mar Div Report, Section III, 20-22.
57. Figures from 4th Mar Div Report, Section IV, 24. The NTLF Report, 12, lists the same number killed but only 150 wounded.
58. 24th Mar report, 7-8.
59. Ltr from Col O. Lessing to CMC, 11Dec50, hereinafter cited as Lessing.
60. 24th Mar Report, 7-8; 2d Bn, 24th Mar Report, 1; 3d Bn, 24th Mar Report, 1.
61. 25th Mar Report, 2; 3d Bn, 25th Mar Report, 2.
63. 23d Mar Report, 21.
64. The 37mm platoons' parent unit was the regimental weapons company, which, in addition to three 37mm platoons, had a platoon of 75mm half-tracks. Normal assignment of 37mm platoons and the one generally used by all regiments at Tinian was: 1st, 2d and 3d Platoons attached to the 1st, 2d and 3d Battalions, respectively.
65. Ltr from Maj J. W. Sperry (with encl by Lt J. G. Tillis) to author, 16Oct50, hereinafter cited as Sperry-Tillis. Ltr from Maj D. S. Callaham to CMC, 27Dec50, hereinafter cited as Callaham.
66. 4th Mar Div Representative Translations Made on Tinian, IX, Reconstruction of Enemy Movements from interrogation of six prisoners of war; NTLF G-2 Report, 9-10 and Periodic Report 40. Reactions of enemy commanders described in this subsection are the author's surmise based upon the above listed sources.
67. 4th Mar Div Representative Translations Made on Tinian, VII, Diary of Takayoshi Yamazaki.
68. Just as much S. 0. P. was the Marine determination to defeat such enemy efforts--as they had on so many previous occasions.
69. See Colonel Ogata's plan, page 14.
70. General details on "The Counterattacks" were derived from the following sources: 4th Mar Div Report, Section IV, 25, and Annex B, 18-20; Carl W. Proehl, The Fourth Marine Division in World War II (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1946), 101-105; Capt John W. Thomason, III, "The Fourth Marine Division at Tinian," Marine Corps Gazette, Jan. 45, 7-8. Sources for specific details are cited at appropriate points.
71. Never ones to allow a war to destroy their sense of humor, Marines amused themselves at odd moments following the Saipan battle by tossing half or whole bricks at one another, shouting an oft-repeated caution at the moment they let fly: "Stay alert." Most of the bricks were dodged or caught.
72. The officer who commanded Company A in this action gave the opinion that the enemy troops were marching along the beach road, unaware that they were so close to U. S. lines. Schechter.
73. "During the height of the action, over 1,500 rounds were fired [from two 81mm mortars], most of these during a 2 hour period." Lessing.
75. 24th Mar Report, 8. Schechter.
77. Unless otherwise indicated, this section was derived from the following sources: 24th Mar Report, 8; 25th Mar Report, 2; 14th Mar Report, 2; 1st Bn, 8th Mar Report, 2; Garretson; Ross.
78. One group of Japanese occupied a small wood near the lines of Company K, 25th Marines, causing the unit commander, Captain Thomas S. Witherspoon, to order his 60mm mortars to plaster the area. The mortar section leader, however, pointed out that the wood contained a Japanese torpedo dump, detonation of which might prove dangerous to the Marines. Witherspoon answered in the best naval tradition: "Damn the torpedoes, fire away." Unpublished narrative of activities of the 3d Battalion, 25th Marines, at Saipan and Tinian, entitled "Saipan Saga" and "Tinian--An Encore," author not shown, 2. (Copy available in Marine Corps Historical Division.)
79. Ltr from Lt Col G. B. Wilson, Jr., to CMC, 12Dec50. Ltr from Lt Col K. C. Houston to CMC, 15Nov50.
80. Ltr from Maj W McReynolds to CMC, 8Jan51. Source indicates that Batteries E and F continued firing normal artillery missions throughout this fight.
81. 14th Mar Report, 2 gives 99; Major McReynolds, 2/14's executive officer, says 110.
82. Except as otherwise indicated, this section derives from the following sources: 23d Mar Report, 21; L. R. Jones; Dillon; Sperry-Tillis; Callaham; Memo from Maj W. L. Dick to author, 25Sep50, hereinafter cited as Dick.
83. Although most sources (including the 4th Division's Intelligence Report) gave six as the number of attacking Japanese tanks, the battalion commander of 2/23, who had reason to know, had stated that only five tanks participated. Dillon.
84. Though the principal thrust was against 1/23, and 2/25, several of the tanks could be seen from the right flank of 1/25, and the attached 37mm platoon opened up and scored hits on three of the tanks. Ltr from Maj H. D. Strunk to CMC, 21Dec50.
85. The commander of this platoon, Lieutenant James G. Tillis, noted that "our armor piercing shells penetrated the tanks from side to side in the upper body and turret."
86. Lt Jim G. Lucas, Assistant Division Public Relations Officer, quoted in Proehl, op. cit., 101.
87. One Marine bazookaman, Corporal Bascom J. Jordan, achieved hits on two Japanese tanks. After missing with his first round, Jordan drew the fire of two tanks in his direction. His second shell found its mark, striking and disabling one of the machines. The other tank then turned and maneuvered away. Afraid that the kill might be denied him, Jordan jumped from his foxhole, pursued the tank halfway across an open field and achieved a hit. Three rounds, two tanks. Dillon. Sperry. Ltr from Maj H. V. Joslin to author, 17Dec50. Bronze Star citation for Corporal B. J. Jordan for service at Tinian, 25Jul44.
88. Sperry. Two minor mishaps accompanied the mop-up in the 23d Marines' sector. One medium tank of Company C, 4th Tank Battalion, ran over a dead enemy soldier who still clutched a bangalore torpedo. The resulting explosion blew six blocks off the tank's left track but did not harm the crew. Another tank incurred minor damage when a Japanese rose from the dead around him and attached a magnetic mine. A hail of Marine fire dropped him almost where he had lain before. Co C, 4th Tk Bn Report, 3.
89. TF 52 Report, 68-69.
90. Both of these fractions are based upon the original known strength of Japanese units on Tinian and do not take into account the number of casualties they suffered during the U. S. bombardment phase or during the 4th Division's landing and initial advance inland.
91. The 4th Division's Unit History estimated the total of wounded Japanese as 700 to 800. In this battle the Japanese used sheets of corrugated tin as stretchers upon which to evacuate their casualties. Handling of these improvised litters made a racket audible to everyone thereabouts.
92. 4th Mar Div Periodic Report (1800, 24 July, to 1800, 25 July).
93. 4th Mar Div Periodic Report 73 (1800, 25 July, to 1800, 26 July).
94. 4th Mar Div Periodic Report 72 (1800, 24 July, to 1800, 25 July).
95. 4th Mar Div Report, 25.
97. Although no figures are available for this phase alone, the number of killed and wounded in the entire division is estimated at less than 100.