FLINTLOCK had some of the attributes of a three-ring circus. The Commander Expeditionary Force, of necessity, directed the greater part of his attention to the tactical operations within his range of vision and under
Roi-Namur and the Frosting on the Cake--Eniwetok
his immediate tactical command. Accordingly, the amphibious operations at Roi-Namur, Majuro, and Eniwetok are described only in modest detail, compared with Kwajalein where Rear Admiral Turner carried the ball.
While Roi-Namur and Kwajalein were only 40 miles apart, they were well out of 1944 voice radio range. So the assault operations at Roi-Namur were well beyond kibitzing range had there been any disposition on the part of the Expeditionary Force Commander, Rear Admiral Turner, to carry on such kibitzing. Vice Admiral Spruance, flying his flag in the heavy cruiser Indianapolis, was present off Roi-Namur with the flagship providing gun bombardment support. But Commander Fifth Fleet, observing everything and hearing everything, was keeping the normal tight button on his lips. Rear Admiral Conolly, Commander Group Three, Fifth Amphibious Force, and Commander Northern Attack Force during FLINTLOCK, was on his own for his first amphibious operation in the Pacific. As he remarked frequently thereafter, he had an entirely free hand.1
There was the natural competition between the Northern Attack Force (TF 53) and the Southern Attack Force (TF 52) to complete first the conquest of their assigned half of the Kwajalein Atoll. This race was won handily by Rear Admiral Conolly, the Northern Attack Force, and the Marines of the Fourth Division under Major General Harry Schmidt, USMC.
Several amphibious problems arose during the seizure of the outlying islands by the Northern Attack Force on Dog Day, and again on Dog Day plus one during the launching of the assault from within the lagoon. Since these amphibious experiences help form the stepping stones leading to later successes in the Pacific amphibious campaigns directed by Rear Admiral Turner, they will be briefly related.
It might be observed at the outset that the complicated Landing Plan of the Northern Attack Force depended upon good communications. These would not exist at the amtrac level due to the grounding out of radio sets installed in the amtracs by the salt spray from the choppy lagoon waves.
Assault on Roi-Namur
The beaches of the islands guarding the passes to the northern part of Kwajalein Lagoon and the main passes themselves were not mined by the Japanese. There were no defensive anti-submarine nets nor booms in the
passes. There were neither artillery nor emplaced machine guns on the guarding islands.
The Japanese defenses of Roi-Namur, according to our post-assault studies, were organized around four strong points on Roi Island and three strong points on Namur Island. Most importantly, these strong points were all on the ocean beaches of the islands. The Marine assault plan wisely called for the assaults to be made on the lagoon side of both islands. Here, initially, there had been some determined Japanese positioned to destroy the assaulting troops at the beaches, but their largest emplaced ordnance was only a 50-caliber machine gun.2
Phase I--Seizure of Off-lying Islands
The Initial Tractor Group of the Northern Attack Force (Captain Armand J. Robertson, Commander), containing nine LSTs, carried the essential amtracs for the assault landings on the off-lying islands south from Roi-Namur. While in Hawaii they were at Nawiliwili Bay in the northwestern island of Kauai, separated by 100 miles from their Task Force Commander. Upon arrival from San Diego late on 17 January, they had been reluctantly positioned at Nawiliwili Bay because of lack of berthing space in the Pearl Harbor area, the available Pearl Harbor berthing space being preempted by the larger amphibious ships of the Northern Attack Force and by all the ships and landing craft of the Southern Attack Force.
A real problem arose, in these LSTs of Task Group 53.7, when the final effective operation orders of Commander Northern Attack Force, as well as those of Commander Fifth Fleet and Commander Expeditionary Force, were not received by them until delivered by officer messenger upon their arrival at Nawiliwili Bay on 17 January 1944. Departure of these landing ships from Hawaiian waters for Roi-Namur was scheduled for the afternoon of 19 January, and as their reports indicated:
It was impossible to digest the huge quantity of orders received and to formulate and disseminate all of the operation orders of this command prior to sailing.3
As a result, the vital appendices and annexes to the flotilla's own operational orders for the LSTs had to be disseminated while enroute to the
USS Appalachian (AGC-1), flagship of Rear Admiral R.L. Conolly, at Roi-Namur (80-T-85045)
Marshalls. Since the LSTs departed Hawaii before the TF 53 main body, there was to be no opportunity for a discussion of the orders with CTF 53 or his Staff before implementing them.
The primary task of the Initial Tractor Group was to establish a regiment of Marine artillery on the four designated small islands within artillery range of all of Roi and Namur.
The assault plan for the initial assault on the small islands to the south and west of Roi and the south and east of Namur followed the GALVANIC pattern of transferring the Marines via LCVP's from the large transports directly to the amtracs just launched from the nine LSTs. This pattern creates problems when carried out during darkness.
The amtracs, as soon as launched in the dark of the night, were under orders to assemble close aboard the LSTs from which they were launched to receive the assault troops from the transports arriving in the nearby Transport Area about 0500.
The transports were from temporarily and newly formed Transport Division
Landing Plan for IVAN and JACOB Islands, Kwajalein Atoll.
26 (Captain A.D. Blackledge) with a combat landing team from the 25th Marines embarked. The LSTs were from the newly formed LST Flotilla 13 (Captain A.J. Robertson).
The Line of Departure was five thousand yards from IVAN and JACOB Islands. The Transport Area was five miles westward from the Line of Departure (see chart, page 805). The Phelps (DD-360), carrying of primary boat control officer, Captain E.B. McLean, was at the Line of Departure.
Captain Robertson wrote:
It is the decision of this Command to arrive at the LST Area at 0345, 31 January, to accord an interval of 5 hours and 15 minutes prior to the hour of attack. . . .
It is felt that this time margin is necessary because this operation will be the first in which LSTs have carried LVT(2)'s on their main decks. . . .4
In this connection, it should be noted that the rated capacity of the LST elevators which would lower the amtracs from the main decks to the tank deck was 22,400 pounds. The amtracs with armor protection weighed 25,400 pounds, so the elevators would be operating at better than ten percent overload. How long they would stand up under this overload, and the problems which then might arise, were anybody's guess.
The LSTs arrived in the LST Area at 0345 and the transports arrived in the Transport Area shortly after 0500. At 0345 the LSTs began launching their amtracs. How Hour for landing the leading assault waves was set for 0900. All ships and craft drifted to the westward due to the westerly set of the current and had to be on the move at regular intervals to regain position. The Flotilla War Diary had this entry:
Because of wind and current, considerable difficulty was experienced in keeping LSTs in proper position in assigned area. The necessity of keeping LVTs close aboard until arrival of assault troops from transports added to the difficulty.
The difficult boating conditions led to unallowed-for delays in transferring the Marines to the amtracs, so that it was not until:
0800 (approx.) Assault troops from TRANSDIV 26 started arriving at LVT(2)'s.5
In connection with the weather during this period, the logs of the transports and LSTs indicate that the wind was blowing 15 to 20 knots from the
northeast. (The Appalachian logged 19 knots from 056° at 0530.) The goodly swell which ran three to four feet was having its top whipped off and onto those manning or riding the landing craft. The day was overcast and there were rain squalls.
The Assault Commences
The first islands to be seized were IVAN (Mellu) and JACOB (Ennuebing) southwest of Roi Island. Since these islands had no visible life on them, they were shelled at a distance of only 2,000-3,000 yards by destroyers beginning "with the arrival of good light at about 0645" and at even closer ranges by the fire support LCI's.6 Additionally, they were bombed by carrier aircraft before the landings. Later it was learned that there was no defensive Japanese armament larger than a light machine gun on these islands although the Phelps in her Action Report "observed enemy battery in area 910 (JACOB), Ennuebing. Took it under fire, and scored direct hits."
There was no visible response to the initial gun and bomb attacks.
Considerable delay occurred during the transfer of the troops to the amtracs, since:
On our arrival at LST-43, we found their elevator had become jammed and we just stood by for about two hours.7
After the amtracs had the troops aboard, the vehicles made slow headway against the wind and swell on the run in to the Line of Departure marked by the destroyer Phelps. This was a repeat performance of the experience at Betio Island in the Gilberts and indicated how tricky time schedules for amtracs can be in a choppy sea. One Marine platoon leader noted:
Because of the high sea, it was necessary to stop frequently and let the tractors pump out; therefore progress was slow.8
At 0903, How Hour, which had been set for 0900, was retarded by Rear Admiral Conolly to 0930. But the actual delay turned out to be far more than half an hour. It was 0952 before the amtracs landed on Beach Blue One on northerly JACOB. From the author's study of the available TBS and other records, it is believed that it was 1034 before the amtracs crawled up
on southerly IVAN on the opposite side of the island from Beach Blue Two, although the Marine's history of the Marshalls' operation indicates this occurred at 0955.
In connection with the diversity of statements on this minor point of a hazardous landing, the Commanding General Northern Landing Force, Major General Harry Schmidt, USMC, reported that the landing on IVAN was not until "about 1050." Commander IVAN Landing Group (Brigadier General J.L. Underhill, USMC), the officer in immediate command, reported that the landing at IVAN took place "about 1030."9
The problem at southerly IVAN was not a minor one. One of the leading tractors headed for IVAN's Blue Beach Two capsized in the rough surf. Perhaps this was due to its grounding on a large coral head or other irregularity of the beach approach just as a roller hit the tractor. Sensibly, the amtrac movement was halted after this casualty and, in time, the lead waves diverted to Mellu Pass south of IVAN and thence on to the calmer waters of the lagoon beaches of IVAN. This all took time and makes a 0955 landing seem impracticable.
The following TBS messages originated principally by the Air Observer or Air Coordinator and logged at the time tell the interesting story of the landings on IVAN.
0932. 3 LCI approaching Beach Blue 2. 1,000 yards from Beach Blue 2.
0936. CTF 53 to COMFIRESUPPORT Unit Five (Captain McLean in Phelps) What is delaying IVAN attack?
0937. LCI's delivering very accurate results on Beach Blue Two.
0938. Fighters now strafing Beach Blue Two. We are at 100 foot altitude.
0942. Air Coordinator reports [boats] are not yet on beach of IVAN and he is waiting before strafing.
0949. LCI's still firing on Beach Blue Two at approximately 800 yards offshore. LVT and LVT(2) have made no attempt as yet to head for Beach Blue Two.
1003. Fighters are now strafing Beach Blue Two. 17 LVT(A)'s standing off beach at IVAN.
1008. There is one LVT which is upside down completely capsized approximately 100 yards Northwest off Beach Blue Two.
1010. Air Coordinator reports first wave of boats have beached on IVAN Island and some have shoved off again.
5 LVT(2)'s standing off Beach Blue Two at approximately 200 yards. Are heading toward beach. Seem to be floating around in areas of LVTs. Approximately 50-100 yards off Beach Blue Two. Crew of capsized tractor appear to be having no trouble and are wading in toward beach.
This Air Coordinator report was soon corrected by the Air Observer.
1015. No boats have landed on Beach Blue Two. Am at altitude of 30 feet 100 yards offshore. Boats are approximately 200 yards to the Northwest and 5 LVTs approximately 100 yards off the beach at the south.
1026. Another LVT(A) has gone in on northwest side of IVAN and has picked up crew of capsized LVT. This LVT appears to be having no trouble at all with the surf.
1034. 4 LVT(2) in uniform wave landed on South Beach of IVAN.
1038. Second wave of LVT(2) landing on South Beach of IVAN.
Many of the 19 Japanese on IVAN and the 16 Japanese on JACOB chose the easy way out by committing suicide. Others fought bravely against overwhelming force. Best of all, two prisoners were taken on IVAN and three on JACOB. JACOB was reported secured by 1042 and IVAN by 1145.
As soon as JACOB Island which guarded North Pass was secured, minesweepers proceeded into the lagoon through North Pass and swept the approaches to the important lagoon beaches on Roi-Namur and the anchorage area for the large transports. This should have tipped off the Japanese as to the beaches where the assault on Roi-Namur would take place. The minesweepers warned the Phelps that there was only 15 feet of water in North Pass, so the Phelps and other destroyers used Mellu Pass. The minesweepers also alerted all the amphibians that the lagoon had numerous coral heads to plague them.
Phase II--The Assault Shifts Eastward
Able Hour, the time for amtrac touch down on ALLEN and ALBERT Islands southeast of Namur, was planned for 1130. Baker Hour, the time for the last assault landing on Dog Day was planned for 1600 at ABRAHAM Island. ABRAHAM Island was only 450 yards southeast from Namur. With these islands in our possession, Marine artillery could be emplaced to provide close gunfire support during and after the assault landing, as well as deny to the Japanese the opportunity to harass from the flank the assault waves going into Roi-Namur on Dog Day plus one.
The Weather Again
The basic plan called for the eastern island landings at Able Hour (1130) to use both (1) the amtracs which carried the Reserve for the IVAN and JACOB landings and (2) the amtracs released by the IVAN and JACOB Landing Teams after their landing task was completed. Because the initial western island landings ran up to 90 minutes behind the original schedule and because the amtracs again would have to buck the easterly trade wind sea for even longer distances (7-8 miles) to reach ALLEN and ALBERT further to the eastward, it was a certainty that it would be midafternoon before these important Dog Day landings would take place. This meant that some of the Marines participating would have been afloat in the uncomfortable long trade wind ground swells since before sunrise. Necessarily, the Reserve for IVAN and JACOB had been boated right after the initial assault waves.
Not only did stomachs have to contend with the swell, but the men and their equipment were continuously wet down by spray whipped off the crests of the swell by the healthy breeze.
Regassing of the amtracs was planned after the initial assault on IVAN (Mellu) and JACOB (Ennuebing) Islands, and prior to the assault on the eastern group of small islands southeast of Namur. This precaution was born of the experience at Tarawa, where numerous amtracs had reported themselves out of gas at a critical moment after the initial assault landing.
Phase II--The Primary Control Ship Moves into the Lagoon
Rear Admiral Conolly's Operation Order provided:
PHELPS When the minesweepers are directed to proceed into lagoon, follow with and behind LCI's of Fire Support Unit Five in close support of minesweepers.10
The lead minesweepers began sweeping the approaches to North Pass about 0950 and continued through the pass and across the lagoon. As they approached the eastern islands, they reported they were under fire from these islands. The Phelps had not followed the minesweepers through North Pass in close support because of the necessity of continuing to despatch the amtrac waves toward IVAN and JACOB. The fourth wave to IVAN was
logged as not being dispatched until a tardy 1100. The Phelps, however, by about 1107, had moved eastward promptly from the initial Line of Departure closer to North Pass and to the new LVT Transfer Areas established for assault on the eastward islands. This put her in a better position both to support the minesweepers and to control the upcoming second assembly of the amtrac waves for the assault on ALBERT and ALLEN.11
About 1156 the Phelps was directed by Rear Admiral Conolly to enter the lagoon via Mellu (IVAN) Pass, rather than via North (JACOB) Pass, because of the 15-foot depth limitation reported by the minesweepers.
However, it was 1230, and after an hour and a half of effort in assembling the amtracs for the second assault phase, before the Phelps dashed off southward to Mellu Pass, taking with her Captain E. R. McLean, Commander Destroyer Squadron One and senior officer in the boat control organization. The Phelps logged entering the lagoon at 1253, far too late to participate in any gun battle with the eastern islands in protection of the minesweepers, and far too soon to have completed the assembly of all the amtracs for the second assault phase.12
The Standby Control Ship, the 30-ton landing craft LCC-33, normally carried aboard the transport Callaway, having completed her primary duty of marking the center of the JACOB Line of Departure, also shoved off from the LVT Transfer Areas, and entered the lagoon via North Pass. Her orders were:
LCC-33 will act as primary control boat in event Phelps is not able to perform the duties. In the event Phelps is disabled as Control Boat, LCC-33 would be Senior Control Boat and take action accordingly. LCC-32 would act if Phelps and LCC-33 were both disabled.13
Since these contingencies did not arise, LCC-33 proceeded to take position in the center of the Line of Departure for ALBERT which was within the lagoon and her next assigned station.
Commander IVAN Landing Group, Brigadier General James L. Underhill, USMC, was on board the SC-997. She was designated the Inshore Headquarters Ship, so that close touch could be maintained with the landing teams. This small ship, unfortunately, did not get on the distribution list of CTG 53.9 for his attack order for the initial landing (Op Order 1-44). The SC-997 made no action report. She kept no war diary. Her ship's log for January 1944 and February 1944 cannot be located by the Bureau of
Naval Personnel. Hence her side of the unhappy story of the next several hours remains untold.
As the Phelps headed south for Mellu Pass, and as she passed by the SC-997, she announced to that ship by bull horn:
Am going to support mine sweepers. Take over.
Brigadier General Underhill's reports indicate that he was plenty unhappy about this turn of events.14 The SC-997 at best could cover only four radio circuits versus twelve in the Phelps. Several of her radio circuits developed troubles. Further, LVT Transfer Areas One and Two were not marked by buoys and there was no provision in the orders of Commander Initial Transport Group (CTG 53.9), Captain A.D. Blackledge, for this marking. So the Phase Two amtracs had no fixed marker to rally around when they finished their chores at IVAN and JACOB.
These two conditions led to a rapidly developing lack of control and concentration of the amtracs. To make matters worse, most of the amtracs in the Transfer Areas set off to follow the Phelps into the lagoon via Mellu Pass, because they knew that Phelps was to mark the Line of Departure for ALBERT and ALLEN. Other amtracs needing gas had to push on westward all the way to the LSTs to pick up this important fuel and were not always able to get it from the first LST they reached and asked for it.
Amtracs were going every which way, largely in accordance with the individual judgments of the Marines who were driving the vehicles. The SC-997 cruised here and there and gradually rounded up the majority of the amtracs. CTF 53 and the Fourth Marine Division both logged the first organized wave of amtracs as passing through North Pass en route to the Line of Departure at 1305, or just after the Phelps had moved through Mellu Pass. At 1315 CTF 53 retarded Able Hour from 1130 to 1430.
The Phelps did not settle down as Primary Control Ship at the Phase Two Line of Departure, about 3,600 yards from ALLEN and ALBERT, until 1342. She immediately recommended the further retardation of How Hour from 1430 to 1500, some three and a half hours later than the initial plan had hoped for. Even this How Hour was not met. Despite some frantic efforts, the amtracs did not take off from the Line of Departure until 1435 and did not land on ALLEN until 1515 and on ALBERT until 1517.15
As one Marine officer stated:
The principal causes of these delays were a breakdown in boat control and failure of LVT(2)'s to carry out orders.16
During all these hours, the destroyers of the Northern Support Group, and the aircraft from the support carriers had shelled and bombed, and reshelled and rebombed ALBERT and ALLEN. In addition, the fire support LCI's firing rockets and the tank-type amtracs prepared the beaches at close ranges by vigorous rocket and gunfire.
Despite all this, a small number of Japanese were still alive and fighting when the Marines moved ashore. Thirty-four Japanese had to be killed before the two islands were reported secured.
Moving smartly to the northward, the Marines seized ABRAHAM Island just before sunset against modest resistance from the six Japanese defending it. ANDREW Island, just south of ALLEN Island, had been secured earlier, and at 1915, the Dog Day assault landings were over with all objectives secured.
The major objectives--Roi and Namur--would be assaulted on the morrow. At 2015 Major General Schmidt reported that he expected to carry out the main assault on schedule.17
Four battalion landing teams, two on Roi and two on Namur, were to be landed simultaneously. One battalion landing team of each regiment was to be held in reserve.
The Main Assault--Roi-Namur: The Preparation
Roi Island received a slow and intermittent bombardment by the new battleship North Carolina from late afternoon (1832) on 29 January 1944 until dawn on 30 January. The range varied from 11,000 to 16,500 yards. This ship then joined two more new battleships and their accompanying screen, after which both Roi and Namur were taken under slow, deliberate, air-controlled fire. Ranges varied from 7,000 yards to 12,000 yards. Nine hundred ninety-two rounds of 16-inch high capacity and 54 rounds of 16-inch armor-piercing were used to destroy pinpointed targets. Some 7,843 rounds of 5-inch ammunition were also expended in area-by-area destruction. Since there were no Japanese aircraft around during this bombardment and
Roi-Namur Fire Support Areas.
no firing was observed from Japanese coast defenses, this was target shooting at its best. The Japanese made one futile attempt to wheel into place and use a medium caliber field piece.
It should be noted, however, that the big ship gun bombardment was conducted without the benefit of these ships having on board the operation orders of Commander Northern Attack Force, which through some hocus pocus had not been received by these important units of the Fire Support Group. On the plus side, the last minute photographs received by message drop from the carriers of TF 58 on the day before the bombardment were reported as most helpful.18
Roi-Namur had been subjected to a day-long bombing attack on 29 January 1944 by the planes of Task Force 58. Air strikes were again carried out by the Carrier Force commencing at dawn on 30 January. However, heavy explosions and large fires on Namur from the pinpointed gun bombardment during the next two days, indicated that large storages of fuel and ammunition had not been previously destroyed by either guns or bombs.
One observer of the gun bombardment recorded this summary:
In the execution of the plan, Fire Support Unit Two moved to within 1900 yards of the Shore Line of Roi Island and was highly effective in destroying strong points on this island. Fire Support Unit One, on the eastern side of Namur Island, closed the range only to about 3500 yards and was somewhat less effective in accomplishing the destruction of concrete structures on Namu Island, most of which were breached, however, and put out of action.19
Approximately 25,000 shells of all sizes were fired by the Shore Bombardment Units of the Northern Attack Force, during all phases of the assault operation.
The Revised Landing Plan
It had originally been planned to launch LVTs from LSTs outside the lagoon on D-plus one day and have the LVTs proceed under their own power to the Line of Departure inside the lagoon about five thousand yards from Roi and Namur Islands. Because of the difficulty the LVTs had experienced on the previous day in reaching the Line of Departure from outside the lagoon, the plan was changed and all LSTs were sent inside the lagoon near the Line of Departure for launching their LVTs. . . .20
This was an essential decision, as may be seen from the report of the LST Flotilla Commander.
It was anticipated that 110 LVT2s would return to the LSTs of this unit to transport the assault troops loaded. Only 63 actually returned
Commenting on the fact that some amtracs needed repairs, he continued:
LSTs without welding machines were unable to repair several LVTs. . . . Many assault troops lacked transportation because of the shortage of LVT2s. To meet this situation, every LCVP in the vicinity was commandeered and loaded with assault troops and dispatched to the Line of Departure. . . . At about 0800 empty LVT2s singly and in groups of 3 to 10 without [adequate] gas, started coming back from the Islands where they had spent the night. Many of these tractors, according to plan, should have returned to the LSTs the night before. . . .
Amtrac Problems--Delays Plus Delays
William Hour, the hour for the assault landings on Roi and Namur on Dog Day plus one, was planned for a conservative 1000 to allow for
adequate, pin-pointed gun and air bombardment on the assault beaches (Red 2 and Red 3 on Roi Island, and Green 1 and Green 2 on Namur). At 0822 Colander Northern Attack Force confirmed this hour, but again the Navy did not even come close to putting the Marines ashore at the chosen time. At 0853, as it became evident that amtracs for the assault waves were in short supply, CTF 53 delayed William Hour until 1100, but it was not until 1112 that the Phelps shoved off the initial wave of amtracs for Roi and Namur. This short supply occurred despite the 340 amtracs available on Dog Day to the Marines, twice the number available in the Southern Attack Force.
The Marine amtrac battalion which had landed the Marines on the outlying islands on Dog Day was scheduled to land the 24th Marines on Namur. These amtracs were in the water, but a considerable number of the amtrac drivers had for one reason or another not returned at the end of Dog Day operations to their assigned LST for refueling and preparation for the next day. Many of the reasons were quite valid, as the following quotation indicates:
In re-embarking on LSTs, six of my tractors were led out to sea by the guide boat. Three of them got aboard LST-271, three ran out of gas, and sank.
* * * * *
One of my tractors was held there [at ALBERT] and not released until the night of D plus one day.
* * * * *
One tractor was damaged while disembarking and was unable to participate in said landing. It was later sunk when the LST attempted to tow it.
* * * * *
I lost one LVT due to a faulty bilge pump. This tractor went down just 100 yards off the LST.
* * * * *
When I got back to LST-43, it had just got underway. I told the Captain that several of the LVTs had holes in them and were taking on water. He told me to follow the LST into the lagoon. Two of these LVTs went down on the way back into the lagoon.22
The other Marine amtrac battalion was still aboard the LSTs at the commencement of the Dog plus one operating day. These LSTs were late entering the lagoon to launch, since the skippers and navigators had not given
an adequate seaman's bow during the night to the strong westerly set of the current in the vicinity of Kwajalein Atoll.
These LSTs had contrived a simple but time-consuming arrangement to get their amtracs from the main deck to the tank deck in order to overcome a design stupidity in the amtracs which were longer than the elevator opening on the ship. By running these amtracs up an improvised steep wooden incline on the elevator, their horizontal length was shortened, and the overloaded elevator could be lowered to the tank deck. This canting operation required exact positioning of the amtrac, and was not always accomplished at the first or second try.
Despite the late morning return of the LSTs and their cautious choice of an anchorage well to the rear of the Line of Departure, the 23rd Marines reached that line at 1045. The 24th Marines were not so lucky, and a fair share of them had to be embarked in LCVP's instead of amtracs. It was another half hour before the 24th Marines could actually start for Namur, three minutes behind the eager beavers of the 23rd Marines headed for Roi.
Assault on Roi
In fact, although touch down on Roi at 1157 was nearly two hours later than originally planned, the movement to the Red beaches had moved along reasonably well after the tardy LSTs under Captain J. S. Lillard had put their amtracs in the water. The supporting LCI gunboats, and the tank-type amtracs did their assigned chores very well, as did the support aircraft, the offshore gun support ships and the Marines' artillery.
The last-minute air support for the landing on Roi and Namur was a carefully coordinated bombing attack occurring simultaneously with ship gunfire, rocket fire, and artillery fire from the adjacent islands. This tremendous step forward in air support provided plunging fire as an additional element of the immediate pre-landing holocaust. The gunfire was promptly lifted when the landing waves were 500 yards from the beach, at which moment the air observer dropped a parachute flare. In fact, the naval and air bombardment on the assault beaches of Roi Island had been so devastating that the Commander 23rd Marines after landing soon radioed:
This is a Pip. No opposition near the beach. . . .23
Destroyed blockhouse on Red Beach Three, Roi Island. (80-G-230809)
CTF 53 reported:
The first four waves of assault troops landed and advanced standing up.24
While this condition did not hold true for all of Roi Island, nevertheless Marine tanks reached the northeast corner of Roi about 1338 and by 1800 the island was in Marine possession. The Fifth Amphibious Corps logged Roi secured at 0800, 2 February.
At 1930 on 10 February the first successful landing on the repaired and refurbished Roi airstrip was made by a Navy PB-4Y.
Assault on Namur
The 24th Marines were not really ready to leave the Line of Departure when the signal was executed by the control ship Phelps for the first assault wave to shove off for the beach. The 23rd Marines, on the left of the 24th Marines, had been champing at the bit for a half hour. This undoubtedly influenced the decision to get the assault boat waves underway, despite the
act that the Commanding Officer 24th Marines had requested a further delay of William Hour to 1200, or, better yet, to leave the Line of Departure at 1200 for the 33-minute run to the beach. This delay was not granted but it was nearly 1200 when the landings on Green Beach One and Two actually took place.
The lack of opposition on the Green beaches of Namur was similar to the enemy's lack of resistance at the Red beaches of Roi, but the Namur assault did not carry forward with similar momentum. The primary reason in the early moments of the assault landing was that the armored amtracs continued to fire just over the heads of the assault troops, making it dangerous to advance rapidly. Lesser reasons included an anti-tank ditch which delayed the forward movement of the amtracs and a really horrendous explosion about 1305 of a torpedo store house chock full of torpedo warheads in the path of the advancing troops on the right flank. Many casualties to our advancing troops resulted from this explosion. Two lesser explosions in the same area followed.
The Japanese opposition inland on Namur was given time by these occurrences to recover their senses, if not to regroup and reorganize. They took advantage of a generous supply of natural obstacles and made the Marine task a difficult and time-consuming one, despite the fact that all senior Japanese officers had been killed either on Dog Day or early on Dog Day plus one by the ferocious air bombing and gun bombardment.
Marine waiting to advance on Green Beach Two, 2 February 1944.
However, the Commanding General, Fourth Marines came ashore shortly after 1700 and assumed command ashore at 0925 on Dog Day plus two (2 February 1944). By 1418 on that day Namur was secured and so reported by Major General Schmidt.
The problems for the Marines of the Northern Attack Force were about over at this juncture, but as Colonel D.Z. Zimmerman, Air Corps, AUS, the War Plans Officer of the Fifth Amphibious Force, observed, the logistic support work of the transports and landing craft had just reached the problem stage. He continued:
Ships of Transport Division 26 remained in the Transport Area all night with instructions to continue unloading throughout the night. Effective unloading was not accomplished. Complete ship and shore blackout, weak moonlight then no moon, reefs, unknown waters, rough water, drift, lack of boats, and receding or low tide during most of the night combined to make minimum compliance with instructions the operating rule.25
A Japanese communique issued soon after Kwajalein was captured stated that the Japanese Army and Navy garrisons there totaled 4,500 and that there were 2,000 civilians. It added that they all died defending the atoll. This latter part was not quite correct, since 130 Japanese and 167 Koreans were made prisoners.
Commander Southern Attack Force reported that he had lost 157 dead, 17 missing, and 712 wounded. Comparative figures reported for the Northern Attack Force were 129 dead, 65 missing, and 436 wounded. While final reports shifted most of the "missing" to "dead," personnel losses were much less than during the Gilbert Islands Operations, to the surprise of nearly everyone. At least part of the answer lay in the pre-landing period of heavy air and gun bombardment.26
Previous Experience Makes a Difference
An examination of the ships, units and their commanders making up the
Northern and the Southern Attack Forces indicates that, amphibiously, both the more battle-experienced transports and troops were assigned to the Southern Attack Force. The Northern Attack Force had a troop unit--the Fourth Marine Division--which had not been battle tested. The transports, the LSTs, and the smaller amphibious units of the Northern Attack Force were largely doing their first amphibious combat operation, although there were some experienced amphibians, among them Captain Pat Buchanan, Commander Transports, and Commanders J.B. McVey and L.F. Brown (USNR), Commanding Officers Alcyone and William P. Biddle respectively. However, the Northern Attack Force was blessed with a fully experienced Commander.
Some of the amtrac and LCVP boat wave problems which arose in the Northern Attack Force are traceable directly to the inexperience of boat wave commanders and of amtrac drivers. It is ever thus in war that inexperience must pay its penalties. The crux of the overall situation was limited time. It would have been desirable to move the Fourth Marine Division from Californian waters to Hawaii and then to transfer it to the experienced amphibious ships just back from the Gilbert Islands operation. But this step plus the time for a rehearsal in Hawaii would have required delaying FLINTLOCK no less than two weeks. A single extra week did not exist in the JCS operational time schedules, nor in Admiral King's thinking. So, an inexperienced amphibious group had the difficult chore of establishing ashore an inexperienced Marine division. There were problems, but there also was great success.
It was Commander Transport Group, Southern Attack Force, who summarized the situation in his FLINTLOCK Report:
It seems we must inevitably go into each new operation with an extraordinary high degree of general inexperience.27
Solutions to Amtrac Control Problems
As a result of the very real difficulties which had arisen with naval control of the amtracs in the assault waves, Commander Northern Attack Force came up with this recommendation:
It is therefore recommended that LVT2s which are to be used for landing
assault waves be considered as boats rather than vehicles, that they be manned by Navy personnel who have been trained in seamanship and boat handling as boat units at an Amphibious Training establishment such as the Landing Craft School at San Diego, and that they be assigned to the vessels in which embarked just as LCVP's and LCM's are so assigned. For LVTs to be used primarily for purposes other than that of landing assault troops, the present [Marine] organization should be retained.28
The same problems worried the Commanding General, Fourth Marines. His solution was quite different and along two paths. First, he recommended that the Marine Tractor Battalion be made a regular part of the Marine Division and not just attached to it for a particular operation. The second part of his recommendation was a drastic one. Major General Schmidt proposed that the Landing Force Commander take over control of the boat waves from the Line of Departure to the beach. Fortunately, for the peace of mind of the Navy, his Marine superior the Commanding General, Fifth Amphibious Corps, rejected the strong medicine in the second of these recommendations along with the first proposal.29
It is worth noting here that while, at the amtrac and landing craft level in the Northern Attack Force, communications had been a major Dog Day stumbling block due to grounding out of amtrac and boat radios, Commander Northern Attack Force found no fault with his 71-page communication plan or with its execution. He reported: "Communications were generally excellent."
This was not a unanimously accepted conclusion, as many amphibious ships reported communication problems. Major General Smith commented on higher level communications in this way:
Communications with the Northern Landing Force were slow and inadequate during Phase I. Consequently the announcement of H-hour was not received by this Headquarters. . . .30
Lagoon Navigation Hazards
The hazards of lagoon navigation assumed the proportions of a "Worry
Bug, First Class" during the Gilbert Island operation, when several destroyers scraped coral heads. It really became a military hazard at Kwajalein Atoll, when the following ships and craft of the Northern Attack Force ran badly afoul of unsuspected and uncharted coral heads: Anderson (DD-411), Remly (DD-688), Young America (XAP), Chief (AM-315), LCI-450, YMS-320 and LCT-576. The damage to the Anderson and to LCI-450 was so severe that they had to be towed back to Pearl Harbor for repairs.
Off to the South Pacific
Before describing briefly the Eniwetok operation, it should be noted here that the obligation to send a large share of the FLINTLOCK amphibious forces to the South Pacific immediately after the operation, was a real one. Rear Admiral Conolly was directed to give up his flagship, the Amphibious Command Ship Appalachian, five days after the Northern Attack Force landings started, as the following extracts from CTF 53 FLINTLOCK Report indicate:
4 February. Lindenwald arrived from Kwajalein to load amphibious tractors for SOPAC [4th Amphibian Tractor Battalion, 1st Armored Amphibian Battalion].
5 February. CTF 53 shifted flag to Maryland.
6 February. Battleships, Cruisers and Destroyers of TF 53 . . . (Rear Admiral Oldendorf OTC) departed for Majuro for fuel, provisions and ammunition. Maryland transferred all 16" and 5" bombardment ammunition to Colorado prior latter's departure.
Task Unit 53.13.3 Captain Buchanan in Dupage with . . . screened by . . . departed for Funafuti.31
Way back on 1 September 1943, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had directed CINCPAC that:
Upon completion, or during the accomplishment of securing control of the Marshall Islands, seize or control Wake, Eniwetok, and Kusaie.32
On 26 October 1943, CINCPAC had informed COMINCH that operations for control of Eniwetok Atoll would be undertaken simultaneously with the operations to seize the other main islands in the Marshalls. But when it came right down to the difficult planning of what resources were available to do the landing, CINCPAC was constrained by the practicalities to set the day for the assault on Eniwetok as 10 May 1944. Just after GALVANIC, this date was advanced by CINCPAC to 19 March 1944. The assault actually took place on 17 February 1944.
The overall operation against Truk, Kusaie, Wake, and Eniwetok had the catchy code designation of CATCHPOLE, while DOWNSIDE was the code name for Eniwetok Atoll.33
The primary objectives in seizing Eniwetok were to provide a naval base for our further advance to the westward and to deny the use of the atoll to the enemy, who were using it primarily to stage aircraft to the central and eastern Marshalls. Once held by our forces, the Japanese would find it cumbersome and time-consuming to ferry land planes into Wake and into the bypassed atolls in the Marshalls, via the longer route through Truk and Kusaie.
The great desirability of owning Eniwetok Atoll as a springboard for an amphibious operation against the Caroline Islands or the Marianas was apparent from their locations on the charts. Eniwetok Atoll was only 670 miles from Truk, the 'Pearl of the Carolines,' and just over 1,000 miles from Guam in the Marianas.
Eniwetok Atoll was a nearly circular atoll--about 20 miles across--with more than 30 islands supporting underbrush and coconut trees, mostly along the north and southeastern side of the coral rim. The large lagoon of 388 square miles inside the relatively high coral islands was the best large anchorage in the Marshalls and had been used frequently by the Japanese Fleet. It lay about 330 miles northwest from the airfield on Kwajalein Island.
There were three fair sized islands in the atoll rim: Engebi, Parry and Eniwetok. Engebi, a mile long and shaped a bit like the old fore and aft naval full dress hat, was at the north. Parry, two miles long and looking
like an upside down teardrop, marked the southern side of the easterly Deep Entrance into the lagoon. Eniwetok, the largest island, two and a half miles long and shaped like a marlin spike, marked the eastern side of Wide Passage, the southerly entrance to the lagoon.
There was a 4,000-foot Japanese airstrip on Engebi that was completed in July 1943.
On 18 January 1944, just as the amphibians were putting together the lessons learned from their rehearsal for FLINTLOCK, CINCPAC issued his second Joint Staff Study for CATCHPOLE. Two of its basic assumptions were that FLINTLOCK had been successfully completed, and that Kwajalein Atoll and Majuro Atoll were capable of supporting heavy bombers.34
It was readily apparent that the longer the Eniwetok Atoll operation was delayed after the eastern Marshalls had been assaulted, the more troop reinforcements coming in from the Japanese homeland would be on the beaches of the islands of the Eniwetok Atoll to greet our Marines and soldiers. Only 800 Japanese troops were estimated in mid-January 1944 to be at Eniwetok.
The planning factor for troops required for an amphibious operation called for a superiority of the attacking forces of 4 or 5 to 1. If the Japanese had 1,000 defensive troops on Eniwetok Atoll, we needed 5, 000 assault troops. If they had 5,000 defensive troops, we needed 25,000 assault troops, a major amphibious operations Hence, speed was of the essence.
The big problem was whether the necessary air and big gun resources could be assembled and used successfully in the sparse days available before they had to be sent out of the area to the South Pacific.
Operations for carrier strikes against Truk (24 March) and against more remote Kavieng on New Ireland Island (1 April) in the Southwest Pacific were on the JCS check-off list following FLINTLOCK. They had the priority call on available heavy-gun combatant ships as well as carriers. The JCS directive requiring the sending of the new battleships to the Southwest Pacific for the Kavieng operation was particularly troublesome. Japanese air strength on Ponape in the Carolines, only 370 miles southwest of Eniwetok, and on Kusaie about 420 miles due south of Eniwetok Atoll, would need a lot of post-FLINTLOCK attention to reduce the air attack worry factor at Eniwetok. Ships and planes required for and in support of the CATCHPOLE Operation could not double in brass at the same time in the faraway Southwest Pacific.
CATCHPOLE Gets Off the Ground
After the first three days of the Kwajalein operation it was apparent that it could be completed successfully without having to use the nearly 10,000 Marines and troops in the Corps Reserve. These came primarily from the Marine 22nd Regiment and the Army 106th Infantry Regiment (less 2nd Battalion). Admiral King, noting that the Corps Reserve would not be required and ever determined to get on with the war, questioned CINCPOA as to whether it was a practicability to conduct CATCHPOLE immediately.35
CINCPAC replied that he was one step ahead of COMINCH and was already communicating with his subordinates in regard to doing just that. In fact seven hours before Admiral King's despatch got on the air, Rear Admiral Turner had originated a despatch to Vice-Admiral Spruance stating that he and his fighting Marine subordinate, Major General Holland M. Smith, were agreed that the Eniwetok operation should be undertaken at once and suggested a Dog Day of 10 February.36
Rear Admiral Turner must have warmed the cockles of his seniors' hearts when they read in his despatch that he was proceeding with urgent plans for the accomplishment of CATCHPOLE in advance of approval by his seniors to undertake this operation. Time was of the essence and the various time groups in the despatches being exchanged at the higher levels during this operational period indicated that it was taking four or more hours for an operational priority despatch to reach Pearl Harbor and Washington from the Marshalls.
Admiral Spruance remembers that:
The day before I sailed from Pearl Harbor for the Marshall Operation, Admiral Nimitz had received the first aerial photograph of Eniwetok. When we had examined them, I said that I wished we could proceed with the capture of Eniwetok as soon as we had taken Kwajalein. This was not possible if the Fleet had to go to the South Pacific.
The morning after both ends of Kwajalein had been taken, I received a radio message from Admiral Nimitz asking what I thought about proceeding with the capture of Eniwetok. After consulting with Kelly Turner and Holland Smith, both of whom were ready to go, I sent a message off to CINCPAC, and he ordered the capture of Eniwetok. That done, we held the Marshalls securely.37
The initial target date was set for 12 February 1944. This could not be met by the Carrier Force. Vice Admiral Spruance then set 15 February 1944, as Dog Day for CATCHPOLE. As late as 11 February, Admiral Nimitz was pressing him to anticipate that date, if practicable. The Dog Day for CATCHPOLE was not finally established as 17 February until 15 February, when it was known definitely that the Fast Carrier Task Force, TF 58, could and would hit Truk on 17-18 February. At the same time, CINCPAC decided that with Eniwetok Atoll in hand it would be practicable to undertake a further major operation in mid-June 1944, and so informed the Joint Chiefs of Staff.38
The Eniwetok Operation
The forces assigned to seize Eniwetok were organized at Kwajalein. The basic amphibious unit to which others were joined was Task Unit 51.1, the
Rear Admiral Harry W. Hill and Brigadier General Thomas E. Watson on board USS Cambria, February 1944. (Turner Collection)
FLINTLOCK Expeditionary Reserve Force under Captain D.W. Loomis. This consisted of two transport divisions; one carrying the 22nd Marine Regiment, the other, under Captain C. A. Misson, carrying the 1st and 3rd Battalions, 106th Infantry Regiment. There were 106 amtracs and 17 amphibian tanks aboard. Both Marine and Army units were reinforced, and according to Rear Admiral Turner's FLINTLOCK Report, numbered 5,760 Marines and 4,509 Army troops when they sailed off for Eniwetok Atoll. The attack transports were largely veterans of the Guadalcanal and the Gilbert Island operations.39
Rear Admiral Harry W. Hill commanded the Eniwetok Expeditionary Group, charged with the capture and occupation of Eniwetok Atoll. Brigadier General T, E. Watson, USMC, was in command of the Expeditionary Troops and the Eniwetok Landing Force. Rear Admiral Hill proceeded from Majuro Atoll to Kwajalein Atoll via plane on 3 February and commenced drafting his plans.
Admiral Hill recalled:
Some historians say that the Eniwetok move was initiated by Holland Smith and that his people had prepared a plan. If so, 'tis strange I was never informed. I had to start from scratch.40
The amphibious part of the Eniwetok Expeditionary Group consisted of five attack transports, one transport, two attack cargo ships, one cargo ship, two high speed destroyer-type transports, one dock landing ship and nine LSTs. Ten destroyers were told off as the transport screen and three minesweepers to sweep up any Japanese mines. Gunfire support was provided by three old battleships, three heavy cruisers, and seven destroyers. The latter also acted as anti-submarine screen for the larger fire support ships. To provide close air support, there were three jeep carriers screened by three destroyers. One group of the Carrier Forces containing one large carrier, two cruiser-hulled carriers with two heavy cruisers and one anti-aircraft cruiser with eight destroyers to provide generous anti-aircraft and antisubmarine protection completed the Expeditionary Group.
The operational planning period of the next six days was hectic but on 9 February, Rear Admiral Hill issued his Attack Order A106-44, and with very minor corrections, the 182-page order stood up.
Admiral Nimitz had flown out to Kwajalein on 4-5 February and during the next two days gave his approval to the general aspects of the plan which had been developed by the senior officers concerned for assaulting Eniwetok Atoll.
It is noted here that CATCHPOLE was the only major amphibious operation of the Central Pacific campaign where the operational planning period was less than a week. Further, as a result of our seizure of the heart of the Marshalls (Kwajalein), the Japanese Combined Fleet left Truk on 3 February 1944 and retreated to Palau Islands more than a thousand miles to the westward of Truk. This was a major victory for the Pacific Fleet, not immediately known to us. Therefore it was not a basis for the operational planning of CATCHPOLE and not shouted about in the public press.
Japanese Defenses at Eniwetok
Eniwetok is not strongly defended.
It is estimated that there are approximately 800 enemy personnel on the atoll.42
These educated guesses by Commander Central Pacific Force and the Commanding General Expeditionary Troops were the basis on which CATCHPOLE operational planning was started in early February. However, interrogation of prisoners captured at Kwajalein Atoll indicated the
possibility that some portion of the 1st Mobile Shipborne Force of 2,000 to 3,000 Army troops may be in the area.
This was the sad reality. Way back in JICPOA at Pearl, an estimate of 2,900 to 4,000 Japanese troops on Eniwetok Atoll was issued on February 10th, the day after CTG 51.11 had issued his plan. Photographic intelligence was interpreted to indicate that the major portions of these troops were on Engebi Island, and that Parry and Eniwetok were lightly held. The actuality was that there were nearly 3,000 troops, 500 other military personnel, and several hundred Koreans on the Atoll, and that each of these three islands had a fair share of the total Japanese strength.
The facts disclosed by documents captured later was that the Japanese 1st Amphibious Brigade under Major General Yoshima Nishida, IJA, arrived at Eniwetok on 4 January 1944. Part of the Brigade was soon transferred
to Kwajalein and eastern Marshall atolls. There were 2,586 troops of the Brigade remaining at Eniwetok Atoll. Some 20 to 120 of 150 grounded pilots and airmen who had been flown out of the eastern Marshalls had the bad luck to still be on Eniwetok Atoll when our amphibious forces arrived.
The senior Japanese officers in Eniwetok Atoll all had gotten the word about how United States forces conducted amphibious operations. In their defensive order, captured when we took the atoll, they correctly estimated that the landings would be made from the lagoon side and that smaller islands would be seized before Engebi, the most important, was assaulted. In the short time available to them the Japanese 1st Amphibious Brigade built trenches and dugouts protected by coconut log barricades, roofed over foxholes, and poured concrete pill boxes. Parry had the most troops, about 1,300. Engebi with its air base had the strongest constructed defenses. All troops were encouraged by Major General Nishida to "die gloriously." Even the sick and wounded were ordered to "commit suicide."43
Major General Nishida probably did the best he could with what he had during the six weeks he was on Eniwetok, but the defensive installations on Eniwetok Atoll had major deficiencies when compared with Kwajalein Atoll, even though they were better camouflaged. There were practically no strong concrete defensive structures, the defense being centered around foxholes and trenches. Luckily for us, also, there were no beach mines nor underwater obstacles in the lagoon beach approaches. The beach mines had arrived at Eniwetok Atoll but were in a dump. There were only random anti-tank land mines inland. Two 4.7-inch ex-British coastal defense guns had long been mounted in earth works at the northern extremity of Engebi Island. These were the only coast defense guns in the atoll.
Our success in the Eniwetok operation was to be facilitated by bombing and strafing attacks by carrier aircraft at frequent intervals during the ten days prior to 17 February--Dog Day for CATCHPOLE. And a large scale strike by the Task Force 58 (nine carriers) against the Japanese "Rock of Gibraltar," Truk Atoll in the Carolines, on 17 February was planned. Hopefully it would send the Japanese Combined Fleet scurrying westward and drastically reduce the Japanese aircraft available for interference with our forces assaulting Eniwetok Atoll. Unfortunately, the first of these objectives had been undertaken by the Japanese two weeks before.
The Scheme of Maneuver--Eniwetok Atoll
The planned Scheme of Maneuver at Eniwetok Atoll followed the familiar pattern of naval air and gun bombardment, minesweeping, seizure of lightly defended islands of the atoll on Dog Day (17 February) and emplacement of artillery thereon; then a main assault landing on the more strongly held islands on later days, supported by artillery and by air strikes and ship gun bombardment. Admiral Hill recalled that a request by the Commanding Officer of the 106th Infantry Regiment to land artillery on Igurin Island seven miles west of Eniwetok Island was turned down because it would require an extra day in the assault plan.44
As has been mentioned before, the three main Japanese occupied islands of Eniwetok Atoll were Engebi at the northern extremity and Parry and Eniwetok at the southeast. Deep Entrance was just north of Parry Island and Wide Passage just to the westward of Eniwetok Island. A single runway airfield was located on Engebi Island.
In carrying out this general Scheme of Maneuver, one small island to the west of Engebi and five small islands to the south of Engebi were to be seized on Dog Day. Artillery was to be emplaced on two of the islands to the south of Engebi.
On Dog Day plus one, Engebi was to be assaulted by two battalions of the Marine 22nd Regiment.
On Dog Day plus XRAY, Eniwetok was to be assaulted, and if only one battalion was judged necessary for the assault, Parry Island would be assaulted the same day. If two battalions were required, then Parry would be assaulted later. XRAY would be two, three, or more days depending on when the capture of Engebi had been attained. Eniwetok was to be assaulted by the 106th Infantry Regiment, and Parry by the troops most available, possibly one battalion of the 106th and one battalion of Marines.
In drafting this detailed plan, it was necessary to keep in mind that the Reserve Force Landing Group, while it had carried out landing exercises, had neither trained nor rehearsed for an assault landing--much less for one on Eniwetok Atoll.
Gathering the DOWNSIDE Forces
While the DOWNSIDE (Eniwetok) forces were being sorted out from
the Northern and Southern Attack Forces, organized, and moved to the scene of battle, Eniwetok was worked over by the Carrier Air Force. By the time the Marines and troops dropped in on the atoll, 1,563 air sorties had been conducted against Eniwetok Atoll and 508 tons of bombs dropped.45
After a final conference of all Flag and Commanding Officers on 14 February, in lieu of a rehearsal, Rear Admiral Hill's Task Group sortied from Kwajalein on 15 February 1944. The tail-enders of his ships had arrived there only on 13 February.
LSTs Learn the Horrors of War
Before shoving off for Eniwetok, the LST landing craft designated for the CATCHPOLE Operation had a close up look at a retaliatory Japanese bombing raid carried out against Kwajalein Atoll from Eniwetok Atoll, the night of 11-12 February 1944. The LSTs were beached at Roi-Namur at the time. Oil drums and ammunition were partly on the beach and partly aboard the craft. Their reports contained these descriptive passages:
LSTs 268, 43, and 45 were beached at Roi Island unloading cargo from transports. LST-45 had a load of 2,000 pound bombs and depth charges. Alongside the LSTs were LCTs 346 and 347 also unloading small arms ammunition.
. . . The repeated explosions of ammunition on the beach and the presence of large fires, plus the fact that the adjacent LCTs were fired and their ammunition was exploding caused the ordering of the LSTs to retract from the beach despite unfavorable tide and many surrounding coral heads. All three LSTs succeeded in retracting but grounded on coral within 75 to 200 yards from the beach. . . .45
* * * * *
. . . The supply compound was nearly destroyed, one of the ammunition dumps was blown up. . . . Eighty-five percent of all Island supplies ashore were destroyed.
* * * * *
The first bombs were incendiary, immediately starting many oil and ammunition fires. Pieces of incendiary and phosphorus shells fell on and alongside the three LSTs momentarily starting small fires on deck. . . .
Continuously from the moment the first bombs landed, the LSTs were subjected to being sprayed with shrapnel, pieces of hand grenades, fragments
of ammunition cases and projectiles and miscellaneous items resulting from burning and exploding ammunition, explosives, and drums of gasoline and oil on the beach.48
The Weather--And Charts
During CATCHPOLE the trade wind continued to blow 17 to 23 knots (according to CTG 51.11 despatch reports) and there were occasional heavy showers, but, except for a drizzle on Dog Day plus one, by and large there was good weather. As a further assist, a Japanese chart of Eniwetok lagoon showing dragged areas free of coral pinnacles was available among the loot captured at Kwajalein Atoll on Dog Day.
Dog Day DOWNSIDE--17 February 1944
The gun bombardment at Eniwetok Atoll began on schedule at 0700 on Dog Day and proceeded uninterrupted by any return fire from the outgunned Japanese. A mine swept up about 0822 by the Sage (AM-111), inside the lagoon north of Wide Passage, delayed the initial lagoon movement (by the transports) towards Engebi Island. Altogether 27 moored mines were swept in Eniwetok lagoon. Despite this, by 1034 all amphibious ships and craft were inside the lagoon.
All did not go too well, however, during the lagoon approach to northerly Rujiyoru and Aitsu Islands where reconnaissance troops were to be landed to clear the way for the Marine artillery which was to be landed and sited. The task unit guide, SC-1066, failed to identify Rujiyoru Island correctly and led the anxious ships to the wrong position. It took a bit of doing before the reconnaissance parties landed on the correct two islets. The artillery moved a bit slowly in getting ashore, but by 1530 the artillery had been landed unopposed and before sunset was firing on Engebi Island from Rujiyoru and CAMELLIA Islands (Aitsu), to the southeast of Engebi Island. The guns fired harassing fire all night.
The Beach Reconnaissance Party, closely supported by battleships, cruisers, and LCI gunboats, took a close look at the beaches of Engebi Island, buoyed shoal spots, marked boat lanes, and saw no mines.
Left: Engebi Island showing landing beaches. Right: Yellow beaches of Eniwetok Island.
Dog Day Plus One at Engebi Island
Once again, on 18 February 1944, at Engebi Island, Eniwetok Atoll, the Navy landed the Marines on time and in fact, two or three minutes ahead of William Hour which was set for 0845. During the landing operations all went well. Even the trade wind veered a bit to the east and kept the bombardment dust clear of the boat lanes. Commander Air Support Eniwetok reported that there were no calls for air support at Engebi.
A vigorous offensive by the Marines, and the landing of the Reserve Battalion, secured Engebi by 1640 on Dog Day, but mopping up operations continued throughout Dog Day plus one. Valuable Japanese code books were captured.
Eniwetok Island--19 February 1944
Eniwetok Island had been thought to be lightly held and close air reconnaissance of the island by seaplanes of the Eniwetok Expeditionary Group had not provided evidence of strong Japanese forces or defensive installations to change this belief. Admiral Hill remembered:
Signs of occupancy on Parry and Eniwetok were nil.49
Actually some 780 Japanese troops of the 1st Amphibious Brigade were on Eniwetok Island.
Eniwetok Island's elevation of ten feet and over was one of the highest in the Marshalls. The coconut trees and the jungle undergrowth were dense. Japanese foxholes were extremely deep, interconnected and covered with coconut logs. Additionally, there were concrete pill boxes, immobilized tanks, wire barricades, and determined fighting men.
It was apparent from the information elicited from the Japanese prisoners taken on Engebi Island on Dog Day, as well as from Rujiyoru natives and captured Japanese documents, that the Japanese defenses must be extremely well camouflaged, since all three sources indicated they did exist in generous quantity.
On this basis, the information having been obtained late on Dog Day by a JICPOA unit in the flagship Cambria, and reaffirmed by a CINCPAC despatch, both sources also indicating that some 800 Japanese troops were on Eniwetok Island, the plans of the Landing Force for Eniwetok Island were
changed during the right before Dog Day plus two. The landing took place on a two battalion front instead of the previously planned one battalion front. A repetition of the request by the Commanding Officer of the 106th Infantry, Colonel Russell G. Ayers, AUS, to land artillery on Igurin Island to support the landing, was again turned down in the belief that the delay required was unnecessary in view of the very adequate gunfire support available from afloat.50
The Transport Division Commander after the operation reported:
The coordinated effort of the reassembly of troops, equipment, and supplies in the FRAGILE [Engebi Island] area, and their transfer to the PRIVILEGE [Eniwetok Island] area, in the short space of time it took to accomplish the complex problem, was one of the outstanding praiseworthy features of the DOWNSIDE operation.51
YOKE Hour, the time for the assault landing on Eniwetok Island, was initially set for 0900 on 19 February and then twice retarded. The final YOKE Hour was 0922. Transport Division 30's report explained the circumstances:
LSTs, LCTs and the Control Group were on station in the prescribed area at dawn. LCM's carrying seven medium tanks, despatched from the Engebi Area during the night arrived late, and the instruction of the personnel regarding positions in the wave formation occupied a time interval which forced a delay of YOKE Hour of fifteen minutes. At 0913 Neville Boat Group Commander reported his first wave not ready, and the time of YOKE Hour was advanced [retarded] to 0922.52
The lead amtracs actually touched down at 0918. Less than 100 yards inland, their forward progress was stopped by an eight to twenty foot steep ridge which the amtracs could not climb over, and which the troops did not climb over immediately after being disembarked. Later waves of troops and vehicles crowded up on the stalled lead wave and on the beach. Then:
A series of squalls struck the area at this time. . . .
Sniper fire on boats was heavy, and many were hit, some repeatedly. Several deaths and a number of serious injuries of boat personnel resulted. Boat crews behaved splendidly under fire.52
Slow progress made by the troops through the heavy mangrove bushes, thick vines, and palms, as well as sturdy resistance by the Japanese necessitated
calling on the Reserve, the 22nd Marines, who had taken Engebi the day before. The first wave of Marines from the Reserves left the Line of Departure at 1315.
Eniwetok Island was not secured until Dog Day plus four (February 21st). Because of the nature of the island, naval gunfire and close air support played only a sporadic part in the three days of fighting.
As the Army history remarks:
However, some of the responsibility for the delay must be laid to the extreme caution that the troops of the 3rd Battalion, 106th Infantry, displayed in their movement eastward.54
Parry Island--George Washington's Birthday
The Parry Island assault was originally scheduled for the morning of 20 February. The reembarking of troops and medium tanks and the exhaustion of the tank personnel led to a postponement to 0900, 22 February.55
According to Rear Admiral Harry Hill's report, the attack was postponed to permit rehabilitation and reorganization of personnel and equipment and to allow additional time for air and surface bombardment of Parry. Newly found targets had been made visible by the blasting away of Parry Island foliage during the air and gun bombardments of the previous day.
As late as 13 February, CTG 58.4 (Commander Carrier Task Group Four), in reporting that his planes had bombed Parry Island, added that no defensive installations were noted on Parry. This was corrected the next day when concrete pillboxes and sandtraps were reported.56
Because of the difficulties encountered in taking Eniwetok Island and because Japanese documents captured on Engebi indicated there were 1,200 troops and strong defensive installations on Parry Island, a great deal more preliminary gun and air bombardment was considered necessary against Parry Island than against Eniwetok or Engebi Islands. Engebi Island had received some 6,765 shells from 5-inch to 16-inch (1,180 tons) but Eniwetok only about 5,432 shells, with none larger than 8-inch. Over the next two days 11,740 shells were dropped on Parry's 200 acres, of which 945 tons were naval bombardment and 245 tons were artillery bombardment. When this
tonnage was added to the initial gun bombardment along with the air bombardment, Parry Island was really mauled with much of its heavy foliage stripped away and damage inflicted on all above ground installations and to some of the network of underground entrenchments.
Rear Admiral Hill reported that: "During this bombardment practically all remaining ammunition in the attack force was utilized."57
A further major change of plans was made, substituting the 22nd Marine Regiment for the 106th Infantry Regiment for the assault on Parry, since the majority of the latter were still busy on Eniwetok. Two Marine Battalion Landing Teams would make the assault, with the Third Marine Battalion Landing Team, initially in the Regimental Reserve, but scheduled to land on order and participate in the fight to capture the southern part of Parry Island. One makeshift Provisional Battalion from the 10th Marine Defense Battalion, just arrived at Eniwetok Atoll on 21 February as part of the Garrison Force, and one Battalion Landing Team from the 106th Infantry Regiment, would form the Task Group Reserve.
Artillery emplaced on Japan Island to the north and on the eastern end of Eniwetok Island to the southwest provided artillery support.
A real assist had resulted when:
On Eniwetok on the 20th was found a map showing the detailed Japanese plans for the defense of Parry Island, approved 27 January 1944. . . .58
A very last minute change in Marine landing plans shortened and shifted the landing beach area.
The Marines were landed at 0900 but the initial wave was some 300 yards to the south of the designated landing beaches, marked by the remains of a pier, although on target for the beaches designated in the original Marine Landing Plan. The smoke and dust generated by the heavy bombardment which drifted westward with the easterly 21-knot wind generally has been ascribed as the cause of the error, as the landing craft were headed about directly into the wind. But a more realistic appraisal would seem to be that the change in location of the beaches did not reach the lowly Boat Wave Commanders in time, although Commander Transport Division 30 lists "New Green Two and New Green Three" in his "Addenda J" to Appendix 4 to Annex How. The available written reports indicate an on-the-button landing. One, for example, states:
All waves were despatched and reached the beach on schedule. . . . The formation and movement of the waves was excellent in all respects.59
Additionally, the destroyer Hailey mistakenly fired upon three LCI(G) supporting the landing approach, resulting in heavy personnel losses to these newly created gunboats. Commander LCI(L) Division 15 reported that the smoke from the shore bombardment, blowing down towards the boat waves reduced the visibility to 400 yards and produced a navigational problem for the assault.
But the Marines were landed on schedule, although a bit off base, and the LCI(G)'s fired their rockets as scheduled. This ability to carry through under real difficulties caused the Task Group Commander to report:
I cannot praise too highly the resolution and devotion to duty displayed by the officers and men manning these ships.60
The Marines moved steadily forward and, despite some land mines, blasted out the Japanese spiderweb defensive systems with grenades, flame throwers, and demolition charges. One troop-support close-gunfire mission was requested. This was refused by the Commander Headquarters Support Aircraft, Captain Richard F. Whitehead, believing that friendly troops were too close to the target designated. When the upper echelons of command were bypassed with a second request on another radio circuit, and the gunfire provided, Marine casualties occurred. By nightfall all but 450 yards at the southern end of Parry had been overrun.
Large-scale star shell illumination was maintained over Parry Island throughout the night of 22-23 February, the first such extended continued large-scale use in the Pacific amphibious campaigns.
Mopping up operations on Parry were completed on 23 February, Dog plus six, and the Eniwetok Operation was officially over. By 27 February 1944, Navy planes were operating from Engebi Airstrip.
The Battle Is Over
COMCENPAC sent his victory message on 23 February, and said:
The speed with which the operation was planned and carried out reflected great credit on all the amphibians.61
It has been pointed out that Engebi and Parry Island received the larger share of air bombing and gun bombardment. These two islands were secured in one day each but, in between, Eniwetok took three days of hard fighting. Part of the reason can be found in the inadequate use of close gun and close air support. There were only 28 requests for troop support missions. Of these, 24 were fulfilled. Rear Admiral Hill reported that "in spite of the ideal opportunity offered on Eniwetok Island, little use was made of call fire from destroyers assigned this mission."62
Lieutenant Clifford Pruefer in his report of air support operations noted:
The Marines made only two requests for air support (none accomplished), although they did most of the fighting. The Army troops obtained more than 20 air support missions, with good results. . . . The Marines seemed to prefer destroyer and artillery fire to the heavies dropped from the air. . . .63
Associated with the establishment of assault forces, logistic problems were many. Some ingenious logistical solutions were produced, among which the following at Engebi is noteworthy:
Demolition squads attempted to clear a channel for LSTs to beach by blasting coral heads during forenoon. . . . The survey indicated it would be possible to beach LSTs at high water. . . . LST-31 beached successfully, and at 1500 LST-484 grounded about 125 feet from beach line. . . . At 1900 an LCT(6) was moved between LST-484 and beach and unloading was begun using LCT(6) as a causeway.64
Back-up logistic support for the advancing amphibious forces was also moving forward in the Pacific. The establishment of Service Squadron Four in Funafuti in the Ellice Islands was followed by the establishment of Service Squadron Ten in Majuro. With this latter move our mobile logistical support was 2,000 miles closer to Japan than at Pearl Harbor.
Eniwetok Atoll had been secured with the loss of 348 dead and 866 wounded. The majority were Marines who fought on all three islands and on every day of the period, 17-23 February. Sixty-six prisoners were captured, 2,665 Japanese were reported buried by our forces but since some 3,400 Japanese were on the atoll, the rest must have been buried by the heavy air and gun bombardments.
An examination of the Japanese equipment and material at Eniwetok indicated that this atoll would have been a lot more difficult and costly to assault had the initial assault been long delayed. Many new and unmounted guns from 20-millimeter to 5- inch had recently been received at Eniwetok Atoll as well as large amounts of concrete, steel reinforcing rods and numerous land mines. Eniwetok Atoll was in the process of becoming a tough nut to crack and the assault against it was conducted none too soon.
Another fortunate circumstance, as noted by Admiral Spruance was:
Whatever the cause, the delay on the part of the enemy in sending submarines into the Gilberts and in reinforcing his striking air strength in the Marshalls enabled us to capture our objectives with much less interference from these arms than might have been anticipated.65
No Japanese airplane was seen at Eniwetok Atoll during the whole assault phase.
Amphibious Round Up
Rear Admiral Turner restated his convictions in regard to rehearsals in his final report on the Marshall Island operations. It is well worth repeating:
Careful and detailed rehearsals of scheduled attacks against defended positions are considered to be a most important feature of the preparation of assault forces for amphibious operations. . . . Elementary and basic amphibious training provide only for the improvement in technique of the individual, and of battalions or sometimes regiments. On the other hand, the assembly of a large amphibious attack force brings together numerous units of different arms and services which may never have operated together, or have had contact with each other. Since a very high degree of coordination is required for a successful assault, the activities of each of these elements must be carefully dovetailed with those of the numerous other previously unrelated elements. Personal cooperation between strangers is involved.
Detailed supervision is required, if a smooth working team is to be produced, and this supervision is exercised by a relatively small number of experienced personnel. Battle rehearsals provide the means for amalgamating the varied elements of assault task forces into cohesive organizations, and of testing and perfecting the numerous detailed plans that have been drawn up. The final rehearsal period in this, as in previous operations, was too short.66
Some of the lessons of Makin and Tarawa were modified by the experience at Roi-Namur, Kwajalein and Eniwetok Atoll, but others were fully confirmed. bong these were:
- The special effort made to organize, train and coordinate the beach and shore parties well in advance of the operation paid off. As Rear Admiral Turner noted: "The beach parties and Beach Masters functioned in excellent fashion."67
- The technique for determining underwater hydrography and obstacles in the beach approaches was highly successful. Close beach reconnaissance became a standard part of the pre-assault period.
- The need of a complete rehearsal and post-rehearsal critique and the advantages to be obtained therefrom were reaffirmed. Stressed was the necessity of the aircraft from the Fast Carrier Task Forces to participate in both of these events.
- The LVTs and DUKWs conclusively proved their value for landing across reefs. The DUKWs, a United States Army amphibious development, were introduced to Pacific Ocean amphibian warfare at Kwajalein.
- The LSTs and LCTs proved their great usefulness and versatility, although during secondary phases of the assault landings as was noted by one subordinate commander: "LCTs have a tendency to hole up somewhere" and enjoy life.
- A good deal of palletized cargo had to be broken down before sending it into the beaches in LVTs and DUKWs.
- The dropping of parachute flares by the air coordinator's plane from about 2,000 feet altitude, as a signal that the leading wave of amtracs was 500 yards from the beach and all naval gunfire artillery and air support should be shifted inland, worked well at all landings except at Parry Island.
- Strafing by aircraft in support of the first waves of the assault landings
was changed at Kwajalein Atoll from the parallel approach to runs perpendicular to the track of the landing waves. This permitted the strafing to be conducted safely when the lead waves were only 300-500 yards from the beach, and was more effective.
- Early waves of assault troops should be aboard LSTs carrying amtracs prior to Dog Day in order to avoid delays incidental to the rendezvous of boats with the LVTs.
New lessons learned were:
- Artillery could be successfully landed from DUKWs.
- Continuous star shells considerably reduced the number and effectiveness of Japanese night counterattacks.
- Logistic support bases in the forward areas, where LSTs could reload and carry major parts of the logistic load to the objective, were needed.
- The organization and training of island garrison forces must be undertaken before embarking them for islands taken from the Japanese.
- The new gunboats--LCI(G)'s--and their close fire support of the beach assault waves were an essential part of the landings.
One of the minor favorable results of the FLINTLOCK Operation was the opportunity to examine a Japanese submarine found broken in two in Kwajalein Atoll and some of its torpedoes.
It does not seem possible, but at this late date, January 1944, the Fleet tugs accompanying the Joint Expeditionary Force did not have voice radio installed.68
The merchant ships handling garrison troops and cargoes had had many problems in GALVANIC, but a lesser number in FLINTLOCK, due to the improvement in communication equipment and the greater experience of the officers assigned to the staffs of the Garrison Groups. A further improvement would result later in such task groups, by the change in the Transport Doctrine which would put a naval detachment commander and a cargo officer on each auxiliary transport (XAP) and auxiliary cargo ship (XAK). Additionally, CINCPOA issued comprehensive instructions covering (a) "Loading and Unloading Ships and Cargoes," (b) "Pallets," and (c) "Identification and Storage of Supplies," which spread the experience gained in
GALVANIC to all the merchant ships that participated in FLINTLOCK and later operations.69
According to the draft narrative history of the Amphibious Forces Pacific Fleet, 191 ships and landing craft took part in the initial GALVANIC Operations in November 1943, excluding the ships of the Submarine Force and Service Force which supported the operation but were not under the command of Rear Admiral Turner or Vice Admiral Spruance. Thirty five of these 191 were in Task Force 52 and 56 were in Task Force 53 which together as TF 54 were under Rear Admiral Turner's command. These 91 ships and landing craft carried 35,000 Joint Expeditionary Force troops.
The assault phase of FLINTLOCK was much larger. In the Joint Expeditionary Force there were 276 ships and landing craft carrying 53,400 assault troops and 31,000 troops in the Reserve and Garrison Forces. The gun bombardments of Kwajalein Atoll and Eniwetok Atoll expended 18,000 tons of ammunition.70
Recognition of Success: Spruance and Turner
While the Kwajalein operations were still going on, Admiral Nimitz sent a despatch for Admiral King's eyes only, which said among other things:
In view of the marked capabilities and devotion to duty of Rear Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, his proficiency in amphibious operations as demonstrated in the South Pacific, the Gilberts, and currently at Kwajalein, I recommend his immediate promotion to the grade of Vice Admiral.71
Admiral King bounced a despatch back:
How about Spruance?
Admiral Nimitz immediately replied with a loud
The Secretary of the Navy was in the Marshalls and his approval was obtained.
It took a bit of doing at the Washington level to make this recommendation in regard to Rear Admiral Turner a reality. A look at the Congressional Record for February 1944 does not indicate when the nominations from the Navy Department for the promotion of Vice Admiral Spruance and Rear Admiral Turner reached the Senate. Presumably they both reached there on the same day. Admiral Spruance's nomination to be an admiral for temporary service was reported favorably by the Committee on Naval Affairs, headed by Senator Walsh of Massachusetts, on 15 February and was confirmed by the Senate on 16 February 1944. The Senate met on Thursday, 17 February, but took a recess over 18th, 19th, and 20th, and then met on the 21st only to recess over George Washington's Birthday until Thursday, 24 February 1944, when it met for only three minutes.
On 20 February 1944, Admiral Nimitz queried Admiral King in regard to the progress being made on Rear Admiral Turner's promotion, since Vice Admiral Spruance's promotion had already been effected.73
On Friday, the 25th, Senator Walsh favorably reported the nomination of Rear Admiral Turner to the Senate. The Senate next met on the following Tuesday, and again on Thursday, 2 March, but took no action on this nomination.
The following extract from the Congressional Record tells the story of Friday, 3 March 1944, when the Senate met again.
The legislature clerk read the nomination for Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner to be Vice Admiral in the Navy, for temporary service.
Mr. Danaker. Mr. President, as I understand it, it is the purpose of the Senator from New Mexico shortly to move that the Senate take a recess until Tuesday. Mr. Hatch. That is true.
Mr. Danaker. Mr. President, in view of the fact that several senators from the committee on Naval Affairs are necessarily absent, I respectfully ask that the Senator from New Mexico not press for action on this confirmation. There is no reflection whatsoever upon the individual nominee, I have not the slightest doubt that he is entitled in every respect to the promotion which has been suggested.
Mr. Hatch. So far as I know, there is absolutely no objection to the confirmation of this nomination. However, in view of what the Senator from Connecticut has said, inasmuch as he has stated that he has no desire to object
to the nomination in making his request, I am glad to accede to the request of the Senator from Connecticut and ask that the nomination be passed over.
Mr. Danaker. I should like to have it noted that there is no objection on my part to the nomination.
The Presiding Officer. Without objection the nomination will be passed over.74
On the following Tuesday, 7 March 1944, when the Senate was next in session, Senator Hill moved that the nomination of Rear Admiral Turner to Vice Admiral be confirmed. Senator White "hoped that the request of the Senator will be concurred in." And this concurrence was given. The travail was over. The Bureau of Naval Personnel notified Rear Admiral Turner that day.
The written evidence unearthed by this researcher as to what went on behind the scenes in delaying favorable action on this nomination is near nil.
Admiral Conolly told this scribe that he was in Washington at this time on leave, and was sent up to Capitol Hill in early March 1944 to talk to Senator Brewster of Maine who was a member of the Naval Affairs Committee about the promotion, and that Senator Brewster told him that a Congressman from Massachusetts, who had had a son killed at the Battle of Savo Island, was the major objector to the promotion.
Substantiation for the presence of Rear Admiral Conolly in Washington at this critical juncture is found in a personal letter of 2 March 1944 to Rear Admiral Turner from Captain James H. Doyle, then on duty in COMINCH Headquarters, which said in part:
Rear Admiral Conolly arrived yesterday. He is scheduled to tell about Roi and Namur this morning.
When Admiral Nimitz was questioned on the delay he replied that he had been told by, he thought, Vice Admiral Randall Jacobs, Chief of Naval Personnel, that the heavy Marine Corps losses at Tarawa had been raised as a major objection, coupled with Rear Admiral Turner's involvement in the Savo Island defeat.
Admiral Turner mentioned the matter only indirectly to me, saying:
It wasn't until my nomination to vice admiral was delayed by back stairs talk in the Senate, that I realized the importance of an officer having a favorable public image as well as a high professional reputation.75
Richmond Kelly Turner's public image, if accurately reflected by Time
Magazine in early 1944, was at snake-belly level. Its 7 February 1944 issue named Turner as a mean son-of-a-bitch" and backed this description up with a dozen paragraphs of depreciating biography. When Spruance and Turner actually were promoted one grade, Time said with scorn:
This recognition of the two men who ran the Marshall show was also a sop to the admirals at sea.76
In complete contrast, Time had a glowing six column spread on Major General Holland M. Smith, USMC, in its issue of 21 February 1944.77
Major General Holland M. Smith, USMC, Promoted
In commenting on Rear Admiral Turner's promotion and that of Major General Holland M. Smith to lieutenant general, whose nomination Was reported to the Senate on 13 March 1944 and confirmed the next day, the author of Soldiers of the Sea has this to say in a footnote:
What General Smith, who had been a major general in 1941 when Admiral Turner was only a captain (and had enjoyed relative seniority of either one or two grades over Turner during much of the period prior to 1944) might have added, but did not, was that an unexplained feature of his and Turner's 1944 promotion to three stars was a Navy Department reversal of their relative rank; Turner's new date of rank was 4 February 1944 while Smith's was 28 February.78
The facts of the matter are quite different. The only time General Smith had ever been two ranks senior to Admiral Turner since the two officers were both commissioned were two days in October 1941. Major General Smith won that rank on 1 October 1941 and Captain Turner was promoted to rear admiral (lower half) on 3 October 1941.
General Smith was commissioned as a second lieutenant five years before Admiral Turner was commissioned an ensign. Despite this, in the 33 1/2 years that both had been commissioned, Turner had been senior to Smith in two ranks and for a period of nearly 15 years (7 December 1919 until 29 May 1934).
Actually Major General Smith's commission as a temporary lieutenant general (and when promoted he was the only lieutenant general in the Marine Corps other than the Commandant of the Corps), dated from the
day the recommendation was approved at the highest levels in the Navy Department, just as Rear Admiral Turner's commission as a temporary vice admiral dated from the day, 4 February 1944, when his promotion was approved at the Navy Department's highest level. On the despatch received from Admiral Nimitz recommending Major General Smith for promotion to lieutenant general, there is this personal memo by Admiral King:
Hold until Feb 26th K
Memo to ComMarCorps to make up nomination of General to Lt. Gen. K.79
The promotion went forward from COMINCH's office on 26 February and cleared the other echelons on 28 February, when it was so dated.
Evaluation of the FLINTLOCK Effort
Admiral Spruance's biographer wrote:
. . . .Spruance himself considered that, among the major operations, it [FLINTLOCK] gave the most gain for the least cost. Its success justified Spruance's insistence on assaulting the Gilberts first. Not only was the experience gained at Tarawa put to very profitable use, but the contribution of our aircraft operating from the Gilbert's was of inestimable value.80
The Meat of the Matter
In forwarding the FLINTLOCK Report of a subordinate, Rear Admiral Richard L. Conolly put on paper the major fundamental of amphibious operations:
Cooperation and team work are the basis for successful amphibious operation. These can and must be achieved, if necessary, by either of the two participants, Naval or Landing Force, at times going more than half-way to solve the Joint problems presented. COMTRANSDIV 26, by placing blame entirely on his embarked troop unit, reflects on his own responsibility to obtain the requisite teamwork.81
After Eniwetok had been captured, the Secretary of the Navy sent a congratulatory message to Rear Admiral Turner:
On behalf of the entire Navy I send sincere congratulations to you and All Hands under your command on brilliant planning and outstanding accomplishments of recent campaigns. The country is proud of you all and confident of your continued successful progress westward.
But sunshine really broke out of the clouds when Major General Holland M. Smith expressed his feelings in the following letter:
HEADQUARTERS, FIFTH AMPHIBIOUS CORPS
Fleet Post Office, San Francisco
S E C R E T 8 February 1944 From: The Commanding General. To: The Commander, Fifth Amphibious Force. Subject: Letter of Appreciation.
1. Upon the eve of his return to PEARL, the Commanding General, V Amphibious Corps, wishes to express his deep appreciation to the Commander, Fifth Amphibious Force, for the whole hearted and complete support given to the V Amphibious Corps in its capture of the KWAJALEIN Atoll. The successful termination of this operation was made possible by the full support of all units of the Force.
2. May it suffice to say that this Corps takes pride in serving under the Force, and with it behind us we would storm the very gates of Hell.
/s/ H. M. SMITH
Copy to: ComCentPac
Original given to Admiral Turner
Table of Contents * Previous Chapter (19) * Next Chapter (21)
1. Interview with Admiral Richard L. Conolly, USN (Ret.), 11 May 1961, together with letters of 13 Jan. 1961 and 4 May 1961. Hereafter Conolly.
2. Engineer V Amphibious Corps Study and Report of Japanese Defenses of Kwajalein Atoll, 4-10 Feb. 1944, 15 Feb. 1944.
3. COMLSTFLOT 13, War Diary, 19 Jan. 1944.
4. Ibid., 16 Jan. 1944.
5. (a) Ibid., 31 Jan. 1944; (b) COMTRANSDIV 26 FLINTLOCK Report.
6. Phelps (DD-360) and Johnston (DD-557) Action Reports, 7 Feb. 1944 and 3 Feb. 1944, respectively.
7. COMGENFIFTHPHIBCORPS, Report of 10th Amphibian Tractor Battalion, 12 Apr. 1944, Encl. (A), p. 1 to CO's report.
8. Ibid., Encl. (B), p. 1 of CO's report.
9. (a) CTF 53 FLINTLOCK Report, 23 Feb. 1944, Encls. (A) and (B), TBS Log; (b) COMDESRON One FLINTLOCK Report, 9 Feb. 1944; (c) Marine Monograph, The Marshalls, p. 44; (d) COMGENFOURTHMARDIV, Commander Northern Landing Force, FLINTLOCK Report, 17 Mar. 1944, Encl (c), IVAN Landing Group Report, p. 1.
10. CTF 53 Amphibious Attack Order A158-44 (Initial Landing), 8 Jan. 1944, Appendix 3, para. 3(e).
11. (a) COMINERON Two, FLINTLOCK Report, 12 Feb. 1944; (b) COMDESRON One Action Report, 23 Feb. 1944; (c) YMS-262 War Diary, Jan. 1944.
12. USS Phelps Ship's Log.
13. CTG 53.9 Amphibious Attack Order 1-44, 11 Jan. 1944, Annex B, paras 2, 5(b).
14. CGFOURTHMARDIV FLINTLOCK Report, Encl. (C), para. 9.
15. (a) Ibid., Encl. (C), and endorsements thereon; (b) Commanding Officer, 10th Amphibian Tractor Battalion FLINTLOCK Report, and endorsements thereon; (c) CTG 53.9 Attack Order 1-44 and Acton Report; (d) COMDESRON One, Action Report and War Diary; (e) Phelps Acton Report; (f) LCC-33 kept on log, and made no action report; (g) COMTRANSDIV 26 FLINTLOCK Report, 18 Feb. 1944.
16. CGFOURTHMARDIV FLINTLOCK Report, Encl. (C), para. 7.
17. CTF 53 FLINTLOCK Report, 23 Feb. 1944, p. 14.
18. CTU 58.2.2 Action Report, 9 Feb. 1944, Encl. (C).
19. CTF 53 FLINTLOCK Report, 23 Feb. 1944, Encl. (B), Subsecton 2.
20. CTF 53 FLINTLOCK Report, 23 Feb. 1944, para. 19.
21. COMLSTFLOT 13 War Diary, 1 Feb. 1944.
22. CO Report of 10th Amphibian Tractor Battalion, 12 Apr. 1944, Encl. (B), p. 2, Encl. (A), p. 1, and Encl. (C), pp. 1-2.
23. TBS Log quoted in Heinl and Crown, The Marshalls (Marine Corps Monograph), p. 71.
24. CTF 53 Roi-Namur Action Report, Encl. (C), p. 5.
25. COMFIFTHPHIBFOR, Observer Comments on FLINTLOCK, Colonel D.Z. Zimmerman, Air Corps, AUS, War Plans Officer, 12 Apr. 1944.
26. (a) COMINCH Operational Analysis of FLINTLOCK, 12 Feb. 1944, COMINCH Chart Room, FLINTLOCK Subject File; (b) CGFIFTHPHIBCORPS FLINTLOCK Report, Vol. III, Encl. (D), G-2 Report and Vol. IV, Encl. (E), G-1 Report; (c) CGFOURTHMARDIV FLINTLOCK Report, Encl. (I); (d) CGSEVENTHDIV FLINTLOCK Report, Vol. III, G-1 Report.
27. CTG 52.5 FLINTLOCK Report, 15 Feb. 1944, Part III, para. 1(b).
28. CTF 53 FLINTLOCK Report, para. 39.
29. CGFOURTHMARDIV FLINTLOCK Report and endorsements thereon.
30. CGFIFTHPHIBCORPS FLINTLOCK Report, Encl. (C), G-2 Report, Encl. (B) Report of Northern Landing Force, para. 3(b).
31. CTF 53 FLINTLOCK Report, Encl. (A), pp. 18-19.
32. COMINCH to CINCPAC, 012115 Sep. 1943. See also CINCPAC to COMINCH 260519 Oct. 1943.
33. (a) CINCPAC-CINCPOA, Joint Staff Study--Marshalls, Ser 00272 of 29 Nov. 1943; (b) Ibid. (Alternate), Ser 00273 of 30 Nov. 1943.
34. Ibid., Ser 0009 of 18 Jan. 1944.
35. (a) COMINCH to CINCPOA 021926 Feb. 1944; (b) COMCENPAC to CTF 58, 031311 Feb. 1944; (c) CTF 51 to CTF 50 021204 Feb. 1944.
36. CTF 51 to CTF 50, 021204 Feb. 1944.
37. Spruance to Director of Naval History, letter, 26 Apr. 1966.
38. CINCPAC to COMINCH, 110106 Feb. 1944; CINCPOA 120441 Feb. 1944; CINCPAC 150749 Feb. 1944; CINCPOA to COMINCH, 142253 Feb. 1944.
39. (a) COMFIFTHFLT (COMCENPACFOR) Op Plan 4-44, 9 Feb. 1944; (b) CTF 51 Op Plan A9-44, 7 Feb. 1944; (c) CTG 51.11 Attack Order A106-44, 9 Feb. 1944, including Annex H; (d) CTG 51.11 Report of Eniwetok Operation, 7 Mar. 1944.
40. Interview with Admiral Harry W. Hill, 29 Nov. 1966. Hereafter Hill.
41. CINCPAC Command Summary, Book Five, 4-8 Feb. 1944, pp., 1849-1852.
42. (a) COMFIFTHFLT Op Plan 4-44, p. 5; (b) VAC Operation Order 2-44 of Tactical Group One, 10 Feb. 1944.
43. (a) JICPOA Bulletin No. 89-44, Colonel Toshio Yano, Commander Engebi Garrison Order of 10 Feb. 1944; (b) CTG 51.11, 242328 Feb. 1944; (c) JICPOA Translation of Japanese Documents No. 7603 and No. 7811; (d) JICPOA Interrogation Report No. 47.
44. (a) CTF 51 130716 Feb. 1944; (b) Hill.
45. COMINCH Operational Analysis, FLINTLOCK Operation, 12 Feb. 1944.
46. COMLSTFLOT 13 War Diary, 12 Feb. 1944.
47. Commander Roi-Namur Action Report, 12 Feb. 1944
48. COMLSTGRP 38 Action Report, 21 Feb. 1944, p. 2.
51. COMTRANSDIV 30 Action Report, 6 Mar. 1944, p. 3.
52. Ibid., p. 1.
53. Ibid., p. 2.
54. Crowl and Love, Gilberts and Marshalls, p. 360.
55. CTG 51.11 Action Report, 7 Mar. 1944, Encl. (A), p. 9.
56. (a) CTG 58.4 132130 Feb. 1944; (b) CINCPAC 152240 Feb. 1944; (c) CINCPAC 092217 Feb. 1944.
57. CTG 51.11 Action Report, p. 9.
58. Ibid., p. 58.
59. COMTRANSDIV 30 (CTU 51.14.3) Action Report, p. 4.
60. CTG 51.11 Action Report.
61. COMCENPACFOR 232153 Feb. 1944.
62. CTG 51.11 Action Report, p. 79.
63. Lieutenant Clifford Pruefer, USNR, Report on Support Aircraft Operations, 23 Mar. 1944, p. 5. Filed under Support Aircraft FIFTH PHIBFOR.
64. COMLSTGRP 8 War Diary, 20 Feb. 1944.
65. COMCENPACFLT Report on GALVANIC Operations, Ser 00156 of 10 Dec. 1943, p. 1.
66. COMFIFTHPHIBFOR FLINTLOCK Report, pp. 17-18.
67. CTF 53 FLINTLOCK Report, p. 10.
68. Tawasa (ATF-92) War Diary, 29 Jan. and 15 Feb. 1944.
69. (a) CTG 51.6 FLINTLOCK Report, Ser 0011 of 18 Feb. 1944; (b) CINCPOA, Ser 01228 of 2 Apr. 1944.
70. COMINCH Operational Analysis, FLINTLOCK Operation, 12 Feb. 1944.
71. CINCPAC to COMINCH, 030323 Feb. 1944.
72. (a) COMINCH to SECNAV, 041259 Feb. 1944; (b) SECNAV to COMINCH, 04120 Feb. 1944; (c) COMINCH to CINCPOA, 121451 Feb. 1944.
73. CINCPAC to COMINCH, 202903 Feb. 1944.
74. Congressional Record (78th Congress, 2nd sess), Vol. 90, 13 Mar. 1944.
76. Time Magazine, 7 February 1944, p. 19.
77. Ibid., 21 February 1944, pp. 25-27, 29.
78. Robert S. Heinl, Soldiers of the Sea (Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute, 1962), note 38, p. 637.
79. COMINCH to CINCPOA, 142139 Feb. 1944.
80. Forrestel, Spruance, p. 103.
81. COMFIFTHPHIBFORGRP Three to COMPHIBFORPAC, letter, A16-3/6639/15 Mar. 1944.