Before dropping the Saipan Operation and moving on to the amphibious assaults against Guam and Tinian, it is necessary to touch on Vice Admiral Turner's part in the forced detachment of Major General Ralph C. Smith from his command of the 27th Infantry Division, some of the background thereof, and the subsequent furor.
The Nut Cracker After the Fall of Saipan
The 27th Infantry Division was one of the five infantry divisions in Task Force 56, the Expeditionary Troops. Initially, the 27th had constituted the Floating Reserve for the Saipan assault. Ordered to land on 16 June, the 27th participated in the fighting, commencing 17 June 1944.
When mustered into federal service in October 1940, the 27th Infantry Division was a unit of the National Guard of the state of New York. In 1943-1944, its three infantry regiments were the 105th, 106th, and 165th. The 165th Regiment had evolved out of the old 69th Regiment, New York Infantry, the Fighting Irish of World War I fame. It, along with one battalion of the 105th, fought at Makin. Two battalions of the 106th Regiment had fought at Eniwetok. While two battalions of the 105th Regiment and one battalion of the 106th had not been battle tested during World War II, about two-thirds of the division had battle experience, since some of the organized artillery, engineers, and service units had been at Makin.1
Major General Ralph C. Smith, an officer of the regular Army since 1917, had commanded the 27th Infantry Division commencing 20 November 1942. According to a history of the 27th Division during World War II, "He . . . was considered the outstanding expert on the French Army and language."2
Major General Ralph C. Smith had been aboard the flagship Pennsylvania in November 1943, rubbing elbows with his operational senior, Commander Northern Landing Force (Turner), when General Smith was Commander Northern Landing Troops, and conducting the ground operations at Makin in the Gilbert Islands. Major General H.M. Smith, USMC, also was aboard the Pennsylvania at the same time, being the Corps Commander of the Fifth Amphibious Corps and Commander Expeditionary Troops. Not only at Makin, but during the Eniwetok phase of the Marshall Island operations, units of the 27th Infantry Division had been attached to the Fifth Amphibious Corps and under the operational control and consequent observation of Commander, Fifth Amphibious Corps (H.M. Smith).
As a result of dissatisfaction with the way that the Commanding General, 27th Division was fighting his troops on Saipan, the Commander Fifth Fleet, on 24 June 1944, upon recommendation of Commander Expeditionary Force (Turner) and of Commander Expeditionary Troops (H.M. Smith),
Authorized and directed the relief of Major General Ralph Smith as Commanding General, 27th Division in order that the offensive on Saipan may proceed in accordance with the plans and orders of the Commander Northern Troops and Landing Force.3
Major General Sanderford Jarman, USA, the prospective Island Commander, Saipan, relieved Major General Ralph C. Smith forthwith.
Smith vs Smith
When I asked Admiral Turner in 1960 if he had any documents or opinions to contribute to the controversy arising because Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith, USMC, recommended the relief of his subordinate, Major General Ralph Smith, AUS, he replied in length:
I have a Smith vs Smith file which I will give you. Besides copies of some letters and some clippings it has a half dozen despatches which I thought were important and so kept a copy of them. You may not find them readily available.
Admiral Nimitz was very much upset by the incident when it happened and a lot more upset after the war when it was dragged out in the Infantry Journal and The Saturday Evening Post and rehashed all over again. During the War, Admiral Nimitz tried to sweep the matter under the rug in order to keep the controversy from causing any lessening of the 110% cooperation between the Services which he urged at all times, and by and large got.
I supported his action then, and still support it.
There are a couple of things about the controversy that you may not now know:
First: Before we went into the Marshalls, 'Nervous Nellie' Richardson (Lieutenant General Robert C. Richardson, Jr., USA) (Commanding General, Army Forces, Central Pacific Area) gave Admiral Nimitz an 'eyes only' memorandum, [for eyes of Admiral Nimitz alone] in which he recommended that the Fifth Amphibious Corps Headquarters [Major General Holland M. Smith, USMC] be limited to administrative duties and that when a future amphibious operation arrived necessitating employment of a corps, that both the Corps Headquarters and the Corps Troops be furnished by the Army. News of that unhappy proposal was soon floating around Pearl Harbor and raising the hackles of every Marine in the Fifth Corps.
Second: After Eniwetok, Harry Hill told me that he was far from happy about the performance of the colonel commanding the 106th Regiment of the 27th Division that had fought there. I had had a few unhappy thoughts of my own about that part of the 27th Division which was at Makin. But I told Harry Hill we would just have to learn how the Army fought and support them as best we could.
You will also note, if you read the record carefully, that Colonel Ayers [Russell G.] who commanded the 106th Infantry Regiment at Eniwetok Atoll and again on landing at Saipan was relieved of his command after a couple of days by the Army General [Jarman] who stepped into Ralph Smith's shoes.
One thing I would like to have appear in the record is that when a draft of the Army's history of the Marianas Campaign was made available to me and I read carefully that part of it dealing with the 27th Infantry Division's fighting on the 22nd and 23rd of June, and the chapter on Smith versus Smith, I was very much pleased to find the former quite factual and temperate. Without saying that I agreed with every word in every sentence, I thought the account of the troubles of the 27th Division which led to Ralph Smith's relief well balanced.
However, I could not agree at all with the statement made in a later chapter in discussing the 'Smith versus Smith' controversy that Ray Spruance and I 'jumped into the fight.' To the best of my knowledge Ray Spruance never jumped into any fight during the whole Pacific War, and I think everyone who fought the war with him and knew him will agree. Only someone who
didn't know Ray Spruance and didn't know what really happened would say or write that. That's . . . a lie.
I was invited on many occasions after the war to express opinions for publication in regard to this 'Smith versus Smith' matter. I avoided them like the plague. That's still my policy.
I hope you will find somewhere a despatch which was sent out by me at Saipan saying that no correspondents' stories which compared the fighting merits of Marines and Army troops to the disadvantage of the Army would be released by me.4
A paraphrased version of that despatch reads in part:
Vice Admiral Turner has directed that no stories will be released which emphasize the merits of Marines or naval personnel against the Army personnel. . . .5
Just for the record, the punch paragraph of the "eyes only" letter of Lieutenant General Robert C. Richardson, Jr. U.S. Army, which sought to deny Major General H.M. Smith, USMC, operational command of the Fifth Corps troops is quoted:
It is recommended that:
a. The responsibilities assigned to the headquarters of the Fifth Amphibious Corps be restricted to administrative duties in connection with USMC troops in the Central Pacific Area.
b. When the time arrives for the employment of a tactical corps as such in the Central Pacific Area, both the Corps Headquarters and Corps Troops, combat and service, be furnished by the Army.6
As far as this writer could tell, the only thing about the Saipan controversy, which was still capable of raising Admiral Turner's blood pressure in 1960, was Admiral Nimitz's disregard of the letter originated by Vice Admiral Turner and titled: "Reporting unwarranted assumption of command authority by Lieutenant General R.C. Richardson, Jr., USA."7
When I asked Fleet Admiral Nimitz about this Smith vs Smith controversy, and about the "eyes only" letter he would not permit me to quote him, although he had plenty to say vigorously off the record. I can say that he
did direct my attention to a history of 27th Infantry Division and to the part which read:
On 1 June (1942) an old friend of the Division arrived on Oahu to assure command of the Hawaiian Department. He was Lt. Gen. Robert C. Richardson, Jr., who had commanded VII Corps during the Louisiana-Arkansas maneuvers. During 1942, while on an inspection tour of the Pacific for General Marshall, he had gone out of his way to pay a visit to the Division on Hawaii.8
One could infer from this that Fleet Admiral Nimitz believed that Lieutenant General Richardson was more influenced by old friendships than by the facts, when acting in this controversy.
Perhaps Admiral Turner had the Smith versus Smith controversy in the back of his mind when, after the war, he spoke as follows:
I learned a tremendous amount during World War II--about strategy and tactics and about naval doctrine. I also learned a lot about the technique of warfare, and particularly the technique of naval amphibious warfare.9
* * * * *
We found the most important technique of amphibious warfare to be the willingness and ability to cooperate in spite of differences of opinion or viewpoint between individuals, between branches in each Service and between the different Services themselves, including Allied Services. Many different types of tactical elements are involved in amphibious operations. Each type has its own particular use. If they are any good, the men of all those elements believe they are the particular group who will most contribute to success. Their opinions and efforts must always be considered and appreciated. Conflicts between the different elements (which are inevitable) must be adjusted in order to produce a smooth working team.10
Saipan or Guam First?
It should be mentioned that during the early planning period of FORAGER, the campaign for the Marianas, there was much sentimental pressure for the recapture of Guam prior to the assault on Saipan. However, the very cogent military reason that kept our planners' eyes on target was that if we attacked Saipan first, Japanese reinforcement aircraft, flying out of the homeland or Iwo Jima and down the Marianas chain, would not have the benefit of nearby air bases to land and refuel before or after
undertaking battle with our protective air cover. Knowing how temporary putting an airstrip " out of commission" had proven to be, and how fast the Japanese Soldier was with a shovel, it seemed most desirable not to permit the Japanese to use the airstrips on Saipan, even intermittently, to interfere with the large task force essential to recapture Guam.
Recovery of American Territory
Vice Admiral Turner spent only three days at Guam during the twenty days of the assault landing operation required for the reconquest. While these were the vital first three days, it is obvious that he left the amphibious operation largely to Commander Southern Attack Force (TF 53), Rear Admiral Conolly, in whom he had great confidence. So only the planning aspects pertaining to the exact day when the assault would be launched, in which Vice Admiral Turner participated, and the general features of the assault landing will be covered.
Planning the Guam Assault
Most of the detailed planning for the landing operations of the amphibious assault on Guam was done at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands by Rear Admiral R. L. Conolly, Commander Group Three, Fifth Amphibious Force, and by Major General Roy S. Geiger, USMC, Commanding General, Third Amphibious Corps. The Marine Third Division commanded by Major General Alan Turnage, USMC, and the First Provisional Brigade commanded by Brigadier General Lemuel C. Shepherd, USMC, both assigned to the Guam operation, and making up the Third Amphibious Corps, were on Guadalcanal. The assigned attack transports and lesser amphibious craft were at Hollandia, a thousand miles to the westward where they were working for General MacArthur until the last of April, and the majority did not arrive back in the Solomons until about 10 May 1944. This was only three weeks before the sailing dates for Task Force 53 necessarily occurring between the I st and 4th of June. The Appalachian (AGC-1), the only amphibious command ship other than the Rocky Mount currently available in the Pacific, flew Rear Admiral Conolly's flag after her arrival in the area from Pearl Harbor on 27 April 1944.
The rehearsals were held 23-27 May in the Tetere-Tassafaronga-Cape
Esperance area of Guadalcanal. After its departure, the task force staged through Kwajalein and Roi in the Marshalls enroute to Guam.
Beginning about 16 June 1944, it was obvious that the Guam assault could not be launched until the Japanese Fleet was beaten off and was out of the Philippine Sea. It was ten days after the initial Saipan landings before the Japanese Fleet had exhausted itself, was in retreat, and the continuance of the FORAGER Operation seemed secure. Until about this same date, 25 June, the doughty Japanese on Saipan had put up such a dogged and, in many ways, skillful defense that both Commander Expeditionary Force and Commander Expeditionary Troops easily agreed that there was a real chance that some of the assault troops for Guam might have to be used on Saipan. So the assault troops for Guam remained afloat and within supporting distance of Saipan.
After the Commander Expeditionary Troops was willing to release part of the Guam assault troops from standby duty at Saipan, Commander Fifth Fleet and his more senior Expeditionary Force officers, conditioned by the rugged Japanese defense on Saipan, decided to wait to launch the assault on Guam until the 77th Infantry Division arrived in the Marianas so as to have a higher ratio of assault troops to Japanese defenders. This decision was reached despite an expressed desire and willingness of Rear Admiral Conolly and Major General Geiger to make the assault prior to this date.
On 25 June, the Northern Attack Group for Guam (TG 53.1) with the Marine Third Division embarked was told off to return to Eniwetok. The Southern Attack Group for Guam (TG 53.2) with the 1st Provisional Brigade embarked remained off Saipan as a Floating Reserve for another week.
On 3 July 1944, Admiral Spruance held a conference of his senior subordinates to try to determine a realistic date for the assault landing on Guam. The date chosen was 25 July.
When Admiral King saw the despatch setting forth the decision and the reasons therefore, he wrote "too late" just above the date. CINCPAC also found the date unacceptable, and the matter was argued out with Commander Fifth Fleet by despatch. In view of these high level negative reactions to 25 July as William Day, the day for the assault landing on Guam, a compromise date of 21 July was advanced by Admiral Spruance. This date stood despite considerable reluctance on the part of Admiral King and Admiral Nimitz. The reason that 21 July was acceptable was because the last two Regimental Combat Teams of the 77th Infantry Division out loaded from
Hawaii could not possibly arrive at Guam before that day. Actually, they arrived on 22 July.
On 6 July, final approval for a William Day of 21 July was received from CINCPAC. As a by-product soon thereafter, the Palau Islands operation in the Carolines, which had a lien on some of the command resources of Amphibious Group Three,--the assault landing force for Guam,--was set for 15 September 1944.11
The month-long delay in launching the assault held the possibility of creating a number of problems for the amphibians. One of the more worrisome was that July was the month when typhoons were something more than a possibility in the area of the Marianas. Another worry was how well the newly put together crews of the smaller amphibious ships and the on-edge Marines crowded aboard them, would stand up under the long continued suspense and the monotony.
Postponing the assault on Guam from the 18th of June to the 21st of July had its drawbacks, but it also had its great advantages. More troops were available for the initial assault, and much, much more time was available for the destruction of Japanese fixed defenses by both gun and air bombardment. Besides all this:
A defense plan of Guam dated 25 March was captured on Saipan. This plan contains valuable data on the defenses of that island.12
Vice Admiral Turner reported that 37,292 Marines and 19,245 Army troops participated in the assault on Guam. This was about 80 percent as large as the assault force on Saipan. With over 56,000 troops, our assault forces at Guam outnumbered the 18,500 Japanese troops by just better than a 3-to-1 ratio, while on Saipan the ratio had been only somewhat better than 21/2-to-1. Consequently, the Guam operation proceeded more rapidly although the island was three times as large as Saipan. Guam was captured in 20 days versus 24 days for Saipan.
While the records indicate that there were an adequate number of Marines assigned to the Guam assault, the War Diary of the LST-227, underway since 31 May 1944, reveals an unplanned strengthening of the assault troops on 12 June.
Three Marine stowaways voluntarily gave themselves up, having stowed away in Guadalcanal in order to be present at the invasion of Guam.13
Japanese Troop Strength on Guam
Way back on 17 May 1944, when Rear Admiral Conolly was publishing his operation plan for the assault on Guam, the Japanese troops on that island were estimated to number 6,900 to 9,300 of which from 2,000 to 2,600 were believed to be construction personnel. It was noted that:
During April and May the estimated total number of troops on Guam has increased 40%, and it is significant that the increase has been entirely in combat troops and aviation personnel.14
As indicated before, the Japanese actually had double the number of the top figure of this intelligence estimate of troops, that is, about 18,500.
Besides 18,500 troops, the Japanese on Guam had the benefit of the presence of Lieutenant General Hideyoshi Obata, Commanding General, 31st Army, as well as Lieutenant General Takeshi Takashima, who was Commanding General, 29th Division, the basic infantry unit assigned to the Guam defense. Lieutenant General Obata who, as previously mentioned, commanded all Japanese Army defense forces in the mandated islands and in the Bonins, had flown back to the Marianas from the Palau Islands after the assault on Saipan had started. Unable to alight on Saipan, he chose Guam and died there.
The Japanese defensive armament on Guam was not massive, but there were 19 Japanese 20cm (8.0"), eight 15cm (5.9") and twenty-two 12.7cm (4.9") coast defense guns and approximately 40 heavy and 96 medium anti-aircraft guns to worry the invaders.
An Old Shipmate
Ten days before the assault landings in Guam, a Saratoga shipmate of Vice Admiral Turner's, Chief Radioman George R. Tweed, was picked up from a Guam hideout by a destroyer, the McCall (DD-400),15 carrying out a shore bombardment mission. Tweed and four others had ridden away from Agana as the Japanese came into the town in December 1941 and all hid in the bush country. The others were captured and killed but Tweed had survived on Guam all during the Japanese occupation. Vice Admiral Turner sent Tweed a warm welcome message.
The Physical Facts
All of northern Guam is a high plateau, while southern Guam is rough terrain with numerous low mountain peaks. Guam's shore line has a few good-sized coral beaches and many miles of high cliffs.
In addition to the bedrock choice of adequate landing beaches, consideration also had to be given to the barrier reef from 25 yards to 700 yards wide surrounding the greater part of the island. This barrier reef existed off shore from all the good landing beaches, including those chosen.
The beaches selected--Asan to the north of Apra Harbor, and Agat across Orote Peninsula to the south from Apra Harbor--were the best. But the Japanese naturally put in their heaviest fixed defenses and grouped their troops to protect them against an assault. The main Japanese defense line ran from Point Amantes marking the north of Tumon Bay south to Point Facpi on the west coast of Guam.
For the amphibians, the worst part of the Guam assault was the waiting for it. Having staged through Kwajalein and Roi between 9 and 12 June, Task Force 53, except for the bombardment groups, just circulated in the hot sun for the next two to three weeks, while the Japanese Fleet was being defeated in the Philippine Sea and while the battle for Saipan was being won.
Any ship that did anything else but slither through the hot salt water made a record of it. For example:
On 12 June the SC-1326 hit a large fish with her sound projector, bending the shaft, destroying the dome and starting hull leaks which were finally stopped by the ship's force. The sound dome was rendered completely inoperative.16
As one LST Group Commander logged it, upon arriving in Eniwetok the day after the Fourth of July, 1944:
This trip which ended up in Eniwetok instead of Guam was probably one of the longest endurance runs of a Tractor Group (LSTs) with troops aboard and otherwise combat loaded and without replenishment of supplies and fresh water, on record.
* * * * *
During the 26-day period at sea (9 June to 5 July) material breakdowns, although numerous, for the most part, were minor and of short duration. . . .
* * * * *
The days underway were very hot and filled with uncertainty, bogies, snoopers, shadowers, one enemy torpedo plane attack on our group and one on adjacent group, Group Three. . . .17
LST-278 noted in her War Diary that she had 456 personnel on board when sailing from Eniwetok. One hundred seventeen were in the ship's company. To make her particularly unhappy when enemy planes were around, she also had 100 drums of gasoline and 70 tons of assault ammunition, mostly stowed topside.
While the Guam invasion force circled for days in the hot and sultry approach area, there was an adequate ration of Japanese air attacks to make up for an absence on the smaller amphibious ships of drone targets to improve their gunnery. One LST logged its experiences:
A fourth plane circled to the rear of the formation and came in low at about fifty feet bearing about 175° relative to the [LST] 227. All the guns that could bear opened at about 4000 yards. Wisps of smoke appeared when about 2000 yards distant on its wing and engine cowling. The plane then turned, all our guns still firing with hits observed, and flew toward the starboard quarter of the LST formation and fell into the sea with an increase of smoke and flames appearing. . . . Other LSTs were firing as well, so that a dispute no doubt would develop as to who got the plane.
* * * * *
Observed the DD Stemble sink the LCI(G)-468 which was hit by an enemy plane during yesterday's attack and badly disabled.18
Daring the Japanese to Stop Us
The month-long air and gun bombardments against Guam by and large were concentrated on the primary Japanese defense zone on the western side of the island between Tumon Bay and Point Facpi. There could be no doubt by the Japanese defenders, as to the general area of our assault landing. This was particularly so because, in addition to the bombardments, the underwater demolition teams for days conducted gunfire-protected demolition operations to clear the chosen beaches of natural and artificial obstacles to our landing craft.
As Rear Admiral Ainsworth, Commander Cruiser Division Nine, wrote:
We had tipped off our hand. . . . Nothing short of an engraved diagram could have told the enemy more clearly that our photographic reconnaissance had been good, that we had pin-pointed the locations of his principal batteries and installations, and that our probable intentions were to land just about where we did.19
Captured Japanese documents indicated that this judgment was excellent,
Coral-filled log cribs found off Agana. (Turner Collection)
since immediately after the shelling the Japanese commander radically changed his defensive plan from a four sector defense designed to meet an assault on Guam initiated from any beach area to a plan to repel an invasion launched against the Agana Bay-Agat Beach area.20
Preliminary gun bombardments of Guam were carried out on 16, 27, and 30 June. Beginning 8 July 1944, Guam received daily heavy air and gun bombardments steadily increasing as additional air or gun bombardment units arrived from the Saipan area. Rear Admiral Conolly arrived at Guam on 14 July and for the week prior to the landing personally coordinated the air and gun bombardment, and supervised the clearing of the beaches.
Underwater Demolition Teams
At the time of FORAGER the Underwater Demolition Teams work was divided into two phases. Phase I was the reconnaissance of the approaches to a beach and the removal, insofar as practical, of all obstacles in the approaches. Phase II was the post-assault work of blasting channels and constructing ramps to the beaches.
Prior to Saipan, the UDTs had been reorganized, expanded and well trained for their dangerous but essential chores. They effectively explored the ever present barrier reefs guarding each landing beach in FORAGER and removed obstacles.
The following extracts from the Action Report of UDT Three detail their work during a small part of Phase I at Guam:
17 July 1944
1945: Started approach for night operations to remove antiboat obstacles on landing beaches at Asan. Orders were to remove obstacles close to shore first. Operation delayed due to grounding of LCI-348 on reef. After attempts to remove LCI, which was taken under heavy mortar fire by enemy, it was decided to abandon it and crew was removed by UDT #3's, Boat No. 4.
* * * * *
18 July 1944
0100: Delayed operations to remove obstacles started. Platoons 1 and 3 failed to locate obstacles assigned them. Platoons 2 and 4 removed 60 obstacles each from Blue, Red 2 and Green Beaches. Mortar fire from DDs. Result 120 obstacles removed; used 2400 pounds Tetrytol.
* * * * *
1400: 3 LCPRs sent to reef edge under heavy fire cover and smoke screen, and launched 5 rubber boats. 150 obstacles removed, using 3000 pounds Tetrytol.
The edge of the reef, contrary to what was indicated by aerial reconnaissance, did not break off sharply, but had a gradual slope from 18" of water at edge of reef to about 6' of water, 100 feet from edge of reef. . . . The enemy had placed obstacles in an almost continuous front along the reef. These obstacles were piles of coral rock inside a wire frame made of heavy wire net. . . . They were 3 to 5 feet in diameter, 3 to 4 feet high and 5 to 8 feet apart. . . .
* * * * *
21 July 1944. 0730: Dispatched all UDT Boats to respective beaches to guide LCM's and LCTs with tanks ashore and over reef.
* * * * *
0925: All tanks landed safely. . . . The intensity and accuracy of fire cover during the two days prior to W-Day were amazing, considering the fact that while demolition personnel were working within 50 yards of the beach, the beach itself was covered with fire from LCIs, destroyers, cruisers, and also from bombing and strafing planes. . . .21
The Assault Landings
William Day, the day for the assault landings on Guam, was 21 July 1944. How Hour, the time the first assault wave was to hit the beach, was 0830. The objectives were along an eight-mile stretch of the coast in the vicinity of Apra Harbor which included the series of four villages of Asan, Piti, Sumay and Agat.
The Third Marine Division landed at Asan north of Apra Harbor. The 1st Provisional Marine Brigade landed at the Agat beaches south of Orote Peninsula and three miles south of Apra Harbor.
All assault waves were in amtracs. The lead waves hit the beach on schedule. The initial assault waves on the southern beaches at Agat received light mortar fire. As the third and fourth waves landed at the northern Asan beaches, enemy mortar fire commenced on the reef and beach areas. As soon as the troops were out of the amtracs at both beaches, the amtracs were used to shuttle to the beaches logistic support brought to the outer edge of the fringing reef by LCVPs since ordinary landing craft could not cross the shallow reefs. LCTs soon augmented the LCVPs and LVTs.
Wire fence roll obstructions partially filled with coral
and further anchored with coconut logs off Agana. (Turner Collection)
Once ashore both assaults were met by the usual stubborn to fanatical Japanese defense.
Unloading proceeded slowly at first on the northern beaches due to the beaches being brought under intermittent fire from mortars and light artillery. But by July 24th, LSTs were discharging logistic support directly on to pontoon piers in both attack areas.22
The Essential Corps Reserve
Temporary Transport Division 38 which carried the 77th Infantry Division to Guam was a hastily assembled division, put together at Pearl Harbor when the emergency requirement arose for immediately moving the 77th Infantry Division. The experience of the Alshain (AKA-55), commissioned on 1 April 1944, was typical. As reported in her ship history:
Barbed wire entanglement at Agana. (Turner Collection)
After a short period of fitting out, she proceeded to Chesapeake Bay for shakedown and training and then to the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Va., for post-shakedown availability. She then . . . proceeded to Pearl Harbor, reporting for duty to the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, on May 19, 1944.
The ship was first assigned as an Amphibious Training Ship at San Diego, but just before she reached the West Coast, she received orders to replenish fuel and provisions and return to Pearl Harbor at best speed. Upon her arrival at Pearl Harbor, the Alshain was assigned to temporary Transport Division 38 (Captain J.B. Heffernan, USN, in USS Lamar, APA-47) and commenced loading combat cargo of the 305th Regimental Combat Team of the 77th Infantry Division for the forthcoming invasion of Guam.
The Alpine (APA-92), another ship in the division, was not even commissioned until 22 April 1944. Nine weeks later she also was loading troops for Guam.
It was a minor miracle, in addition to indicating the soundness of the basic amphibious manuals, that the ships of this division turned in such satisfactory performances.
Unloading of RCT-306 and RCT-307 of the 77th Infantry from the
Transport Group carrying the Corps Reserve took place on William Day plus two on the White Beaches at Agat. One report noted:
During this period, two regiments of infantry were landed by wading over the reef; all the 77th Division Artillery were put ashore from LSTs and transports. Headquarters and miscellaneous troops waded over the reef and approximately 12,000 long tons of vehicles and cargo were unloaded over the reef and placed ashore.23
Rubber boats and DUKWs had to be used for this unloading since no LVTs were available to the ships landing the 77th until William plus seven. Two XAKs in the hodgepodge of ships used to ferry the 77th Infantry Division to Guam did not even carry landing boats.
The reefs off the beaches of Guam created problems for all the amphibians. Thus:
Generally speaking all cargo, except wheeled vehicles, had to be manhandled, towed, floated, pushed, paddled or carried in amphibious vehicles (when available) over 500 to 700 yards of reef to the beach. . . .
* * * * *
Beach parties could more properly be called reef parties in this operation since the reef was where the beach parties were set up. They worked from life rafts, floats, in the water and generally all over the reef keeping things moving. . . . This was truly an amphibious operation, almost a submarine one in fact. Officers and men of these parties became 'water rats' and half submerged stevedores.24
The almost total lack of anchorage in the Agat area made it necessary to keep the transports and merchant ships hove to during day within the antisubmarine screen and to retire them at night by groups. At times there were from 20 to 30 large ships concentrated in this Transport Area, the tactical control of which was a daily problem, complicated by lack of adequate voice communication facilities on the increasing number of merchant ships.25
Japanese counterattacks during the first week of the Guam assault were strong. During one on the Asan beaches as late as 26 July, infiltrators reportedly reached the beach area.
Advance in the northern sector by the Third Marine Division was slow. In the southern landing area, Orote Peninsula was captured on 29 July. On the 31st, the push across to the east coast of Guam by the combined efforts of all the troops commenced. By 1 August, Port Pago on the east coast of
Guam had been reached, and by 9 August, Point Ritidian at the northern end of the island was taken.
Dividends from Lying Low
Beginning on 10 July, until after the first assault waves had beached on 21 July, the Japanese on Guam fired neither coast defense guns nor anti-aircraft guns. This permitted our air bombardment to be conducted far more accurately, but it also led to a false sense of security by the smaller amphibious ships.
Some of the LSTs recorded narrow escapes from Japanese gunfire long after the first troops had gone ashore on 21 July:
After the first two shots which bracketed the LST-227, the enemy gunfire was directed at the LST-481 on our starboard quarter. Numerous hits were observed. The LSTs 227 and 481 immediately made smoke and got underway dragging anchor. The LST-481 burning forward of the superstructure deck passed close aboard and cut in front of the bow of the LST-227. . . .
* * * * *
At 1639 retracted amid increasing enemy mortar fire and steamed out to transport area, empty of cargo and greatly relieved after unloading a cargo of gasoline and ammunition under intermittent enemy fire for three days, with no hits scored.26
This vessel designated to lay off beachhead and act as Hot Cargo Ship. . . . Laying off beachhead at 2500 yards. Ship numbers being illuminated, we drew gunfire. Hauled out 1000 yards and turned out landward lights. Shells landed from 10 to 75 yards from ship.27
The smaller amphibious craft drew considerable attention from the Japanese artillery. Three LCI(G)s, two LSTs and one SC were hit, with a total of 15 killed and 50 wounded.28
In addition to concern over enemy gunfire, there were also worries over poor holding ground off the beaches. LST-227 noted:
During the entire time at Agat, great difficulty was experienced by the anchor not holding on the hard coral bottom.29
The Guam Beaches
When it was all over, Guam's beaches (Aga and Asan) were judged to be less suited for unloading than those at Saipan, primarily because:
1. There were no natural passages through the fringing reef for use by landing boats.
2. The barrier reef was far distant from the beach (200 to 500 yards).
3. The water over the barrier reef at Agat was too deep for trucks to be launched there from landing craft and then keep moving to the beach under their own power, even at low tide.
Dadi Beach, located between Agat Beach and Orote Peninsula, was used for unloading after Orote Peninsula was well in hand (28 July 1944), and the danger from a flank assault removed.
The Battle Is Over
Organized Japanese resistance was declared ended on Guam on 10 August 1944. Vice Admiral Turner returned to Guam on 13 August, by which date Rear Admiral Conolly had been relieved by Rear Admiral Reifsnider and departed for his chores at Yap and Ulithi in the Palau operation. At noon on 15 August, two months after arriving at Saipan to initiate the assault landings of FORAGER, Vice Admiral Turner in the Rocky Mount got underway for Pearl Harbor, arriving there on 26 August 1944.
In the next month after Vice Admiral Turner's departure from Guam, nearly 5,000 Japanese were rooted out of canyons and caves. A few in scarce incidents surrendered, but mostly they fought to the bitter end. Between 15 September and 15 November 1944, the enemy still refusing to yield to fervent pleas to surrender in the face of greatly superior force, another 1,600 Japanese committed suicide or had to be killed.
As Admiral Nimitz wrote:
The enemy met the assault operations with pointless bravery, inhuman tenacity, infiltration, cave fighting and the will to lose hard.30
Throughout the assault period and during the cleanup action, the gunboat LCIs rendered yeoman service, not only shooting into caves and other hiding places, but ferrying Marines from here to there as they sought out the remainder Japanese.
The Weather Deteriorates
Before the island had been secured, there was a period of uncertain weather at Guam. Vice Admiral Turner's report included this entry:
On July 30, as a result of a disturbance forming near Guam, and developing rapidly to the west of Saipan, heavy swells from westerly directions built up, lasting through August 4. . . .31
During this period, 29 July through 4 August 1944, heavy weather made unloading very difficult and at times brought it virtually to a standstill.
Naval Gunfire Support--Guam
There were no complaints about the naval gunfire support at Guam. Major General Geiger, USMC, Commander Third Amphibious Corps, sent this fine message to the Navy's gunners:
The capture of the island of Guam has ended the naval gunfire requirements of the Landing Force. I wish to express to you, your fire support unit commanders, and the firing ships themselves my appreciation for continuous and effective support rendered. The enemy was never able to rally from the initial bombardment and the continual gunfire support kept him in a state of confusion to the end of the campaign. Naval gunfire contributed largely in keeping losses of the Landing Forces to a minimum and in bringing the Guam Campaign to an early and successful close. It is believed that this campaign has set a new mark for the employment of the fire power of our ships and it is hoped that in future operations of this force, naval gunfire may do as much for us.
The positions where we landed were heavily fortified with everything except beach and reef mines. Our naval gunfire and air bombardments were so effective that scarcely a shot was fired at our first four LVT waves until after they were on the beach. At least half of the total amount of fixed defenses were destroyed, and more than that in the vicinity of the landing. Probably 80% of the troops defending the beach either were killed or retreated to other positions.32
Two personal letters from Vice Admiral Turner during FORAGER touched on naval gunfire support. The first referred particularly to Saipan and the second to FORAGER as a whole.
The demands of the troops for support by naval gunfire after the landing had been successful, have been far greater than we expected. Fortunately, the
Japanese 20-centimeter anti-boat battery located on Bangi Point. (Turner Collection)
reserve supplies have been adequate, but we must raise our sights on this item. . . .33
We all feel that naval gunnery and air gunnery improved considerably during this operation.34
Notable Features of Guam Assault
Various aspects of the Guam operation impressed the amphibians who fought throughout the twenty-day assault. One of the more junior participants recorded an observation that was echoed by his seniors:
The outstanding feature of the operation with the exception of the assault phase, was the excellent performance of the LSTs, loaded down with troops, and the small craft in company, maintaining themselves at sea for twenty-six continuous days without suffering critically in material or morale or health of troops and crews.35
Others thought the assault landing on Guam was notable because:
Not a single piece of enemy artillery was brought to bear on the transports, or the first of the assault waves.
Fighter aircraft armed with rockets took over much of the bombing previously allocated to dive bombers. (SB2Cs).
The Underwater Demolition Teams, aided by heavy protective fire, were able to undertake three days and three nights of large scale demolition of natural and artificial obstacles. In this connection Commander Southern Attack Force reported: "Landings could not have been made on either north or south beaches nor any other suitable beaches without these elaborate but successfully prosecuted clearance operations."
The air bombardment was the heaviest of the war because all four of the fast carrier task groups as well as twenty four jeep carriers were available to conduct it in the days immediately before and after the assault landings.
The logistic support landed during the first four days of the assault averaged 10,000 tons.
All landing craft had to be unloaded at the outer edge of the reef.36
The amphibians were not pestered with Japanese air, submarine, or surface fleet attacks which was another reason all went well within Task Force 53.
As Rear Admiral Conolly, with real euphoria, wrote when the operation was all over:
The Naval Forces were filled with the conviction that nothing was to be spared to land successfully and to support effectively the fine troops that were to assault and capture the island objective.37
CINCPAC's victory message after the reconquest of Guam was completed said this:
Operation was brilliantly and valorously conducted and resulted in the recovery of important American Territory and the Liberation of a loyal people. Well Done.
The Tinian amphibious assault is principally noteworthy for the first use of the napalm flame bomb and for the long and bitter discussion which
preceded the drafting of the final plans for the assault. The professional argument concerned which beaches should be used.
Both the early and final plans called for a 'shore to shore' amphibious movement in part, rather than a simon pure 'ship to shore' amphibious movement, since the two Marine Divisions who would conduct the assault landing were those that had fought on Saipan and were on Saipan. This meant that somewhat more than one division was to be out-lifted from Saipan directly to Tinian in LCIs, in landing boats, or in amtracs and DUKWs carried aboard LSTs and LCTs.
The United States Commanders
Vice Admiral Turner set the style in utilizing the great competence of available subordinates. Rear Admiral Harry W. Hill was handed the ball for Tinian and told to run with it. This, as Commander Northern Attack Force and Commander Task Force 52, he did to the satisfaction of Vice Admiral Turner. Not to be outdone, Lieutenant General H.M. Smith, USMC, in due time, passed command of the Northern Troops and Landing Force to Major General Harry Schmidt, USMC, who had commanded the Fourth Marine Division during the capture of Saipan. Major General Clifton B. Cates was assigned to command the Fourth Division and the Second Marine Division continued under the command of Major General Thomas E. Watson.
The naval forces participating in the Tinian assault, by and large, were those that had assaulted Saipan, except for the large attack transports and attack cargo ships which had left the Marianas and returned at best speed to Pearl Harbor to embark the 77th Infantry Division and their impedimenta for the delayed Guam assault.
Rear Admiral Hill recalls that he received advance notice of his new chore on 2 July 1944, and despatch orders on 5 July.38 On 6 July, Commander Saipan Island relieved Rear Admiral Hill of the task of unloading all ships off Saipan, thus relieving him of one of his major tasks, which had kept him busy as a cat on a hot tin roof since 15 June.
As an indication of how the Tinian assault was completely in the hands of Rear Admiral Hill, it is noted here that Vice Admiral Turner was at Guam in the Rocky Mount when the Tinian assault was actually launched.
He had left Saipan in time to join Rear Admiral Conolly in the Northern Transport Area for the assault landing on Guam on 21 July 1944. He stayed at Guam until after the first assault landing had been made on Tinian on 24 July, arriving back at Saipan the next day.
Even after Vice Admiral Turner's return to the Tinian-Saipan area, Rear Admiral Hill "retained the responsibility for offensive and defensive surface and air action in this area."39
The Japanese Commanders
On the day before the landing, Vice Admiral Turner's staff recorded:
Based on data obtained from captured documents, and upon POW interrogations, it is estimated that enemy combat strength on Tinian is about 9,000, exclusive of approximately 9,000 Home Guards.40
The Headquarters of the Japanese First Air Fleet was on Tinian and its commander, Vice Admiral Kakuji Kakuda, was among those on the island when we landed on 24 July 1944. He had tried on several successive nights to keep a rendezvous with a rescue submarine but his rubber boat never located the submarine. Colonel Kiyochi Ogato commanded the Japanese Army's 50th Regiment. Captain Goichi Oya, IJN, commanded the Japanese Navy's 56th Guard Force. These two backbone units of the 9,000-man Tinian Defense Force were about equally matched in personnel strength. Colonel Ogata was the overall commander.
The 56th Naval Guard Force manned the three 6-inch coast defense guns of British manufacture, as well as the ten 14-centimeter (5.5") coast defense guns, the ten 12-centimeter (4.6") dual-purpose guns and the four 76-millimeter (3.0") dual-purpose guns collectively protecting the island from sea or air assault.
A Few More Physical Facts
In comparison with Saipan and Guam, Tinian Island was fairly flat and fairly open. It was mainly given over to the cultivation of sugar cane. Aerial photographs of the island looked like a giant checkerboard stilted upwards by coral cliffs rising directly from the ocean, except in the area around Tinian
town. This stilting was unfortunate from an amphibious assault point of view, since the cliffs were roughly from ten to one hundred feet high. In general, the east coast of Tinian was more rugged than the west coast.
Selecting the Landing Beaches
There were only three possible landing areas on Tinian: Sunharon Bay on the southwest coast, Asiga Bay on the east central coast, and the White Beach area in northwest Tinian. White Beach One and White Beach Two in northwest Tinian were about 1000 yards apart.
In Sunharon Bay there were four landing areas which had been designated for planning purposes: Orange, Red, Green, and Blue. Red and Green each had two beaches. Blue Beach, a mile south of the piers in Tinian Town, was 600 yards long. Green Beach One, in the center of Tinian Town and between the only two piers, was 600 yards long. Green Beach Two at the southern end of Tinian Town was 400 yards long. Red Beach One and Red Beach Two north of the piers totaled 825 yards. Orange Beach was half a mile north of Red Beach One and 340 yards long.
In Asiga Bay Yellow Beach One was 355 yards long and Yellow Beach Two, 200 yards long. Cliffs flanked both the Yellow beaches and heavy surf pounded them whenever the wind was from the east.
The northeast trades were prevailing in July 1944.
All four of the beaches in Sunharon Bay had something to recommend them even though the two best ones and the closest to Tinian Town piers were something less than excellent.
Admiral Turner wrote of these beaches (Red and Green):
The actual beaches with practicable exits for vehicles were rather short and scattered; the reefs in many respects were even worse than those at Saipan, and the high flanking artillery positions at both ends were threatening indeed. This beach [area] however, had two very definite advantages; 1st, it did not have the extensive swamp and wide low land back of it that had proved so troublesome at Saipan, but the land rise from the beach was short, and 2nd, once a beachhead had been gained, there was quite a good small craft harbor with a narrow entrance, and behind a very shallow protective reef that would have permitted unloading in all but seriously heavy weather.41
The Japanese were fully aware that the beaches off Tinian Town were inviting. Our aerial reconnaissance showed they were making real last-minute
efforts to improve their defensive stance in this and the Yellow Beach area. Further:
A captured order of the Tinian Garrison force dated 1900 25 June . . . indicated that our attack was anticipated at Tinian Town and Asiga Bay areas.42
This captured order was only one of the intelligence nuggets dug out of documents extensive enough to fill 75 mail bags and 54 crates which were garnered during the Saipan operation.
That the Japanese expected our assault to touch down at Tinian Town or just possibly at Asiga Bay was a good reason for not making it at either of these locations. But the alternatives were something less than an amphibians dream beach.
White Beach One was almost directly west of the main runway of Ushi Point airfield and about six miles due north of Tinian Town. The fringing reef was of dead coral about 75 yards wide. At the seaward end of the reef the water was 31/2 feet deep at high tide. The reef bared itself at low tide.
White Beach One was only 65 to 75 yards long and 15 to 20 yards deep. But the relatively smooth off-lying reef shelf was about 300 yards long and it was believed that LVTs and LCVPs could land troops right on this reef shelf and they could wade ashore to the small smooth sand beach area.
There was a narrow, rough road leading from the southern end of White Beach One toward the Ushi point airfield. However, movement up and out the exits from the beach to the plateau on which the airfield had been built was generally difficult due to boulders, a steep rise, and heavy brush. There were some horned mines off the beach, but it was discovered that these were largely inoperative.
White Beach Two was wider than White Beach One. As Rear Admiral Hill described this beach in his attack order:
The beach is 15-17 yards in width, 200 yards long, and sandy and smooth except for a few scattered rocks. . . . On the left northern part is a ledge of dead coral about 21/2 feet high, which could be easily taken out by a bulldozer tank or tetrytol charges. It is believed that with the aid of demolition and a bulldozer tank, 200 yards of beach can be made available for a landing. . . .
However, at White Beach One:
A narrow rough road leads from the southern end of the beach toward the airfields.43
White Beach Two had two rows of mines offshore and box mines covered the exits.
The Planning for White Beach Landings
Less than seven years after the assault landing on the White Beach areas on Tinian, Vice Admiral Harry W. Hill wrote in regard to his own planning effort and that of other commands involved in the task of capturing Tinian:
If there were plans, and I presume there were some tentative ones, none of them were available to me or my staff. We started from the beginning and after our study of all possible landing places came to a completely independent conclusion that the two small northwest beaches were the best places to land from the naval point of view provided the approaches to them were not too bad.44
Admiral Hill's recollections in 1966 were:
As my staff began its study of Tinian and its beaches, all they had to go on was Turner's conclusion that we must land at Tinian Town and Holland Smith's hope that we could land on the northern beaches. The responsibility was mine alone, subject to Turner's approval.45
The two big advantages for the northwest beaches which everyone immediately recognized were that they were within range of direct artillery support from Saipan, and that they were on the lea side of Tinian.
The tremendous disadvantages, which were weighed differently by each commander, were their extremely small frontage and their narrow steep exits. Previous experience had been that a division commander with troops to land generally started looking for a beach a mile or more long with many exits. He started getting unhappy if there were only 1,000 yards of beach and two good exits, and was really jumping up and down if the beach area narrowed below 500 yards and had only one good exit.
Both Major General Schmidt and Rear Admiral Hill and their staffs were convinced that the White Beaches were usable. To obtain the essential approval of Commander Expeditionary Force that preliminary planning be
undertaken while reconnaissance by Marines and UDT 5 went forward, Rear Admiral Hill visited Vice Admiral Turners' flagship. He tells his story:
The next day I went to Turner to give him this data and to outline our views in regard to using the White beaches. To my consternation and dismay, he was adamantly opposed to even thinking of the White beaches, and gave me positive orders to stop all planning for such a landing.
It was a very explosive conference and placed me in a most embarrassing situation.
In vain I tried to convince him that, pending report of reconnaissance, we should explore the possibilities of those beaches along with the others. I returned to the Cambria in a state of perplexity. Here I was, charged with the sole responsibility of planning, but ordered to prepare a plan that neither I nor Harry Schmidt liked. I could fully appreciate Turner' s fear of trying to use these little handkerchief sized beaches, but realized that we had considered all angles of the problems much more fully than he had. Yet he was a man of such proven wisdom and Judgment that it created many doubts in my mind as to the correctness of my thinking. On the long boat ride back to the Cambria I came to the conclusion that despite his decision, we should explore further the feasibility of the White Beach plan. So I split my staff into two groups, one to work on the White Beach plan, and one to develop the Tinian Town plan--with a view to delaying the final decision.
To assist in the planning, I requested Captain [Armand] Robertson, who would be my LST Squadron Commander, to temporarily transfer to the Cambria. He was a very capable and experienced officer, and his timely recommendations and thorough planning proved to be a most valuable contribution to the success of the operation.46
One of the controlling factors to be considered in the planning was how great the logistic support build-up for the Landing Force had to be, and that depended on how quickly the island could be captured. Major General Schmidt estimated eight days would be required.
On the nights of 10-11 July and 11-12 July 1944, personnel from the Underwater Demolition Teams and from the Marine Reconnaissance Battalion took a "look-see" at the White and Yellow Beaches.
What they found in the Yellow Beach area was enough for a permanent thumbs down on using these beaches. The report stated there were moored
mines, pot holes, large boulders, barbed wire on the beaches, and the sound of construction activity just inland. The report was most unfavorable.47
Of the west coast beaches, only White Beach One was examined the first night, because the reconnaissance teams did not touch down on White Beach Two, having been swept north of it by the strong inshore current. The report on White Beach One and its approaches was favorable.
The next night (11-12 July) the reconnaissance teams returned to their chores and this night made a close examination of White Beach Two. This beach was poor but usable. The reconnaissance personnel thought that fissures along the outer edge of the underwater reef shelf might be a hazard to amtracs at low tide. A quite real shore-side hazard was a string of land mines flanking the desired landing area.
With this information at hand and digested, Rear Admiral Hill returned to the Rocky Mount, hoping to receive a "go ahead" signal from the big boss. He had no such luck.
He simply would not listen, and again ordered me in very positive terms to stop all White Beach planning and to issue my plan for the Tinian Town landing, which had already been prepared.
Instead of returning to Cambria, I went ashore and explained the situation to Holland Smith, who had always been in favor of the White beaches if we could make a workable plan. Then I went to see Spruance. To him I outlined my plan, its many advantages over any other landing point, and told him of my two discussions with Turner. Spruance liked the boldness and surprise element of the plan as outlined. He said he would call a conference--I think for the same afternoon--to settle the matter.
At the conference were Holland Smith, Harry Schmidt, Watson, Hill and Turner. There was a full and frank discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of each plan, and then Spruance called for a vote. [Starting with the junior] Four affirmative votes were cast for the White Beach plan, and then he turned to Turner. I held my breath, but Turner quietly said that he also approved it. What a great relief that was for us all.48
In this connection, the memory of a somewhat younger man is also recorded:
During the Saipan-Tinian Operation, I was Operations Officer for the Landing Force [Lieutenant General Smith] and we ran head on into Admiral Turner in planning for Tinian. Admiral Turner wanted to land on the good beaches (strongly defended) at Tinian Town. The Landing Force wished to
land on the narrow and very poor beaches (relatively undefended) near the north end of Tinian. The latter beaches could be dominated by our ready placed artillery on the south coast of Saipan, and we were convinced we could negotiate the beaches as a result of our UDT and beach reconnaissance. But Admiral Turner would not give in.
On the last possible day of decision General Holland Smith, his CIS, his G-2, and I went out from Saipan to Admiral Turner's flagship expecting a knock down fight. We were prepared to press our plan in great detail and in the strongest terms. As soon as our plan was stated in outline, Admiral Turner turned to General Smith and said: 'I can support your plan, I approve.'49
General Hogaboom added to this scribe:
I think Admiral Turner was very concerned over the logistic support phases of the operation, and as soon as the very special arrangements which we had made had been detailed to him, he became convinced of the practicability of using the White Beaches and approved.
Admiral Spruance's remembrance of this important conference is that:
He refrained from giving his decision until all had presented their views and was relieved of what would have been the disagreeable necessity of overruling trusted Kelly Turner, when the latter agreed to make the decision unanimous for the White beaches.50
Admiral Turner's remembrance of the controversy was mellow. In 1950, he wrote:
I merely insisted that full study and consideration be given, before decision, to all possible landing places . . . all of them difficult for more than one reason. And, in accordance with an invariable custom, I refused to give a decision until such studies had been made, and also until the main feature of the landing plan had been developed.51
Admiral Hill in 1967 added:
I never saw Kelly when he was so mean and cantankerous as on these two occasions. It just wasn't like him. He must have been a bit under the weather, although I didn't detect it at the time.52
In any case there were twelve days between the taking of the final decision as to beaches and the actual assault, and this allowed ten days of full speed ahead preparation.
Ten Days of Preparation
On 12 July Rear Admiral Hill was directed to assume command of the Tinian53 Attack Force (TF 52) and to capture, occupy, and defend Tinian.
The loading operation commenced on 15 July in Tanapag Harbor, Saipan, with LSTs, and continued through 23 July with LCTs, LCMs, LCVPs, and pontoon barges being loaded in the latter part of this period. Rear Admiral Hills report stated:
Physical loading was accomplished with a minimum of difficulty, the beaches and harbor facilities at Saipan proving adequate to handle the loading.
Craft involved in the movement from Saipan to Tinian were 537 amtracs, 130 DUKWs, 100 LCVPs, 92 LCMs, 37 LSTs, 31 LCIs, 20 LCTs, and 14 pontoon barges plus 6 APAs, 2 APs, and 2 LSDs.54
To permit bombardment ships to do their work close to shore, the minesweepers swept to within five hundred yards and found no mines on the west coast of Tinian. They did their sweeping off Tinian Town on the day before the assault (Jig Day) in order to foster the impression that the Marines were going to land there soon. The mineable waters off the White Beaches were limited and these were not swept until Jig Day, beginning at 0600. The only mines swept in the whole Tinian Area were 17 in Asiga Bay off the Yellow Beaches, and these were not swept until after the assault landing.
Day time UDT reconnaissance of the beaches off Tinian Town was also carried out on Jig Day minus one. And, more importantly, a logistic support plan was developed which it was hoped would move all the essentials across the narrow White beaches on wheels or tractors directly to the divisional dumps. This was to prevent any large amount of logistic support piling up on the beach during a rehandling operation. Everything that could be was pre-loaded onto the DUKWs or tractors which would carry it direct to the divisional dump.
No rehearsal for Tinian was scheduled or held. Admiral Hill wrote:
Naturally there had been no opportunity for rehearsals, but there had been
close liaison among all commands throughout the planning period, and Captain Robertson had followed through thoroughly on all the complex cargo handling procedures.55
The Day of the Assault--Tinian
Two LCI(G)s described the early stages of the assault:
At the time of the attack, it had stopped raining, but the sky was overcast and there was still a gentle easterly breeze. Visibility was fair except on the beach. There, the smoke and dust raised by preliminary bombardment made it impossible to distinguish the shoreline.56
* * * * *
. . . Because of a strong wind and current from the northeast direction, station keeping at the line of departure was practically impossible. . . . Because of the terrific barrage laid down by guns from Saipan and also our Naval gunfire, it was impossible to see the beach. We had been warned beforehand of such a possibility and, if it occurred, to fire rockets when the LCI(G)-77 fired hers, because that ship had radar and this ship hasn't. This was done. The effects were not noticeable because of visibility. . . .57
Even more than at Saipan, the gun support just prior to the assault was pretty much "by guess and by God" at least for the smaller ships which did not have radar. The report of the LCI Group Commanders indicates the problem:
This Group formed on a line of departure, five ships abreast in the first line, three ships abreast, 200 yards astern in the second line. As ships left the line of departure at 0819 and proceeded toward the beach, smoke became too thick to see rocket ranging shots. So radar was used to pick up [the] beach line. Results proved satisfactory as other ships observed time of firing on radar equipped flagship and judged their fire accordingly. LCIs in second line fired rockets after first line cleared. 40mm and 20mm guns were fired at beach area as no specific targets could be seen.58
Preliminary Air and Gun Bombardment
One hundred fifty-six Army and Marine Corps guns and howitzers were ranged along southern Saipan to carry out the systematic bombardment of
every worthwhile target that air reconnaissance could discover within their range, which was about seven and a half miles. This was roughly the northern half of Tinian since Tinian lay from three to three and a half miles south of Saipan. Air and naval gun bombardment had responsibility for the southern half plus any guns located in the cliffs of Tinian.
U.S. gunners scored an early success since:
According to information from a prisoner of war, Vice Admiral Kakuda, Commander First Air Fleet, and Colonel Ogata [Commanding Officer 50th Infantry Regiment] were both killed by artillery fire on Jig Day.59
The Japanese on Tinian were as secretive as their comrades on Guam, and reluctant to engage in shooting matches. Consequently, as late as Jig Day, well camouflaged large Japanese guns were being discovered in addition to small machine guns.
One Japanese 20-millimeter gun near the White Beach had survived all the preliminary air and gun bombardments. It came to life on 24 July as the following report indicates:
At 0735 all ships were ready to launch. At about 0745 the right flank of the formation was fired upon . . . [by] a 20mm gun. . . . The fire was too close for comfort. . . . At 0758 a hit causing 4 casualties was observed on the signal bridge of LST 272. The same burst struck the LST forward. . . . Another burst . . . resulted in a hit on LST 340 causing an additional 4 casualties and on subsequent bursts, at least one hit was observed on a line of LVTs on starboard bow of LST-225. . . . Considering the character of the main deck cargo (gasoline drums and ammunition) it was an unpleasant 15 minutes. . . .60
Besides the 20-millimeter gun shooting at LSTs, the larger ships were not immune from Japanese guns with greater weight of shell.
The Colorado (OBB-45) was hit 22 times by what is believed to have been a battery of six-inch coastal guns. 178 casualties were suffered which included two officers and 42 enlisted men killed. The Norman Scott (DD-690) was badly hit. She suffered 19 killed, including the Captain, and 47 wounded.61
As Admiral Hill told me:
It certainly was an unusual sight to see those two tiny groups of 8 LVT and 16 LVT abreast take off from the Line of Departure for beaches White One and White Two respectively. Never had such an insignificant First Wave started a major offensive operation. . . .
At 0742 the First Wave hit White One, but not until eight minutes later did the First Wave arrive at White Two. This discrepancy had been caused by an unexpectedly strong current running at the time, which in the dust cloud and despite the guide boats and Mustang runs, caused them to drift off course, and require constant redirection.62
The assault landing went remarkably well. A tactical surprise had been obtained and held for some hours, because the demonstration landing off Tinian Town by the transports and related craft and the heavy air and gun bombardment of the Tinian Town area convinced the Japanese command that the main landing would turn out to be there. Consequently, one of the three battalions of the 50th Infantry Regiment was held in defensive position at Tinian Town all through Jig Day.
Seven of the fourteen large transports and cargo ships still in Saipan waters, with the Second Marine Division embarked, carried out this useful demonstration off Tinian Town early on Jig Day. Following this demonstration, the Second Division was assault landed on the White beaches as soon as the Fourth Division had climbed through the narrow exits back of the beaches. The 27th Infantry Division was held on Saipan in Landing Force Reserve but prepared to embark on four hours' notice, to land on Tinian.
By almost superhuman efforts the amphibians had landed the entire Fourth Division and one battalion of the Second Division by dark, including 48 tanks, the 77-millimeter pack howitzers, their many bulldozers, cherry picker cranes, and much hot cargo. A goodly share of the 15 dead from the first day's spirited assault were personnel in the two amtracs blown up by mines on White Beach Two.
Once a counterattack led by heavy tanks about 0300 on Jig Day plus one had been broken up and turned back in full retreat (although breaching our outer lines initially), the worst of the battle for Tinian was over.
Fortunately, the quick overrunning of the airfield permitted cargo planes to provide emergency logistic support by shuttle planes.
At 1800 on Jig Day plus Four (28 July) all unloading had to be stopped because of rising surf. Our planes were already landing on Aslito airstrip, so while it could not be said that all was in hand logistic-wise, emergency logistic support by shuttle plane could be promised the Marines by the amphibians. The unloading situation at this time was described by the Amphibious Group Two War Diary:
Heavy swells and accompanying high winds have prevented all unloading except by DUKWs and LVTs. If unsatisfactory sea conditions persist, plans have been made to launch emergency supplies by air.
* * * * *
As of 2400, all ships were on 15-minute notice preparatory to getting underway in case of heavy weather--increasing wind velocity and consequent rise in height of swells.63
General Schmidt's troops made 100 percent correct his estimate of eight days to complete the capture. On 1 August 1944, Tinian was declared secure, and the napalm flame bomb a "moderate success."64
The amphibians had had a few bad moments before this happened, and these had been primarily because of weather.
The LST-340, despite the fact that the Commanding Officer "acted in a cool and seamanlike manner,"65 broached and was lost as an operating ship. Numerous LCVP were lost and larger landing craft damaged.
Commander LST Group 39 was directed by Rear Admiral Hill to make a quick collection of hydrographic data for use in the planned early beachings of LSTs in the White Beach area. Lieutenant Commander J. B. Hoyt, USNR, in his report wrote:
On arrival at the beach, it was felt that perhaps the moment had not been well chosen. A brisk engagement was being fought between a Marine tank equipped with a flame thrower and a Jap machine gun nest about so yards from the northern corner of the beach. Marines were cleaning out the caves exposed by low water, working methodically south from the right-hand corner. Some Japanese in the rear of the caves were plainly visible but fortunately did not wish to call undue attention to themselves by indulging in target practice to seaward. Soundings were taken at 30 foot intervals over a front of approximately 150 yards from 300 feet out to the beach itself. . . . [I] reported that beaching was impracticable and recommended the use of a pontoon causeway.66
Pontoon causeways were used as this report showed:
The improvement in this respect was extraordinary. In spite of narrow beachheads,
Left to right: Major General Harry Schmidt, USMC; Admiral Raymond Spruance, USN; Vice Admiral Kelly Turner, USN; Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith, USMC; Major General Clifton B. Cates, USMC; and Captain F.S. Withington, USN, gather for Tinian flag raising ceremonies, August 1944.
38 LSTs unloaded in 3 days at Tinian an amount that took over 8 days at Saipan.
* * * * *
The Medical Plan, unsatisfactory to a high degree at Saipan, was amended for Tinian, proved excellent.67
The excellence of the logistic support rendered at Tinian, despite the handkerchief beaches and the scanty exits, was the most marked characteristic of the Tinian assault.
As a Marine recipient of this excellence wrote:
This operation was in many ways a remarkable demonstration of the fact that preconceived notions and amphibious doctrine [actually he meant technique] can be altered rapidly on the spot. In effect a reenforced corps was landed over less than 200 yards of beach and over a difficult reef, and was
supplied through nine days of heavy combat, without handling so much as one pound of supplies in the usual shore party manner. Everything rolled on wheels. . . . The troops never lacked what they required at the time it was required.68
LSTs--A High Mark
The LSTs were almost uniformly praised for the manner in which they had carried out their difficult chore in FORAGER. But, that they had not quite reached perfection is indicated by the following comment:
LST Commanding Officers are still short on seamanship and punch too many holes in the sides of ships they come alongside. The approved method of stopping the ship when coming alongside seems to be by ramming rather than depending upon the screws; this does the trick all right, but is rather severe upon the recipient of the blow.69
End Result of the Marianas Campaign
On 10 August 1944, CTF 51 logged in his War Diary that:
5,544 enemy dead have been buried, interned civilians number 13,262 and 404 POWs including 150 Koreans have been taken.70
The Marines' Saipan logs 5,614 as the total Japanese military casualties on Tinian through 3 August 1944. The Army's Campaign in the Marianas gives no exact figures but states that the Japanese on Tinian lost more than 8,000. The comparative large discrepancies between "bodies buried" and "estimated Japanese military strength on Tinian" are one of the unexplained aspects of the Marianas campaign.71
On 8 August 1944, Admiral Spruance declared that the capture and occupation phase of Saipan and Tinian would be considered complete at noon on 10 August.72
Despite the unfortunate furor raised later by the relief of an Infantry Division's Commanding General on Saipan by the Commander Fifth Fleet, the Commander Expeditionary Troops (Lieutenant General H.M. Smith,
USMC) reported that one of the three factors decisive in the successful execution of the Marianas operation was:
(a). The unprecedented degree of coordination between all Services throughout. This was based on all-around cooperation and understanding, and cemented by mutual respect and confidence, which has developed through a series of operations and has welded one experienced team from many varying elements.73
Looking at FORAGER as a whole, Fleet Admiral Nimitz's Staff wrote:
In the Marianas Operation . . . any narrative would be incomplete without at least a brief description of the logistic support provided to maintain 600 ships and an estimated 300,000 naval, marine, and army personnel at over 1000 miles from our nearest base and 6000 miles from the United States.74
Some idea of the magnitude of the FORAGER logistic problem can be obtained from CINCPAC's order to Commander Service Force Pacific to have 21 Fleet oilers available to support that part of the Pacific Fleet participating in FORAGER. These oilers had to be prepared to deliver to these ships 158,800,000 gallons of fuel oil during each two-week period commencing 1 June 1944.
The logistics problem was eased by the availability for the first time of Fleet repair facilities at Majuro, Kwajalein, and Eniwetok in the Central Pacific, as well as at Seadler Harbor, Manus Island in the Southwest Pacific Area.
Six hospital ships were available in the Central Pacific to take care of the wounded and the sick, as well as mobile and base hospitals having over 10,000 beds in the South Pacific Area.
Nearly everyone agreed that the logistic support in FORAGER had been pretty remarkable. However, there were still some improvements possible. Rear Admiral Hill, who had been neck deep in logistics at Saipan and Tinian wrote:
Positive measures must be taken in future operations to provide adequate unloading on the beaches at an early date so that assault and garrison shipping may be unloaded at a maximum rate. . . . It is a matter of record that on Dog plus Twelve Day, when the unloading of the first garrison echelon was
at its height, there were 13 cranes working on the beaches of which 9 had been provided by the Navy.75
FORAGER and the Japanese
As far as is known the Japanese were both strategically and tactically surprised by the assault on Saipan, although the concentration of Task Force 58 at Majuro in the Marshalls had been "discovered by Lieutenant Takehilo Chihaya in an extraordinary aerial reconnaissance."76
According to a brief note on 4 June 1944 in Admiral Nimitz's Command Summary presumably based on Japanese radio traffic:
The enemy considers it possible that another striking force sortied from Majuro during the night of 4-5 June.77
But many in the Japanese Navy except for Commander Chikataka Nakajima, Intelligence Officer on the Staff of the Combined Fleet, thought our amphibious assault was headed for the Palau Islands or the islands between New Guinea and the Philippines.
The Importance of the Marianas Operation
Vice Admiral Turner wrote:
I consider the Marianas Campaign, in its entirety, to be perhaps the best rounded historical example of a purely amphibious operation designed for other than local ultimate military purpose. It had everything. The strategic developments both before and after that campaign are highly interesting and significant.78
The FORAGER Operation was the largest amphibious operation of the Pacific War up to June 1944. It was not the longest--since Guadalcanal had lasted from 8 August 1942 through 8 February 1943--but it had even more strategic significance than Guadalcanal. When we took Guadalcanal, we broke through the Japanese outer line of defense. When we took the Marianas, we broke through the Japanese inner line of defense.
Admiral Turner was quoted by the Army and Navy Journal in 1945 as having said that the capture of the Marianas was the turning point of war in
Vice Admiral Turner relaxes at a variety show while enroute grom Guam to Pearl after completion of the Marianas Operation, 23 August 1944. Commodore Paul Theiss, Chief of Staff, on his right and Captain Stanley F. Patten, Commanding Officer, USS Rocky Mount, on his left. (Turner Collection)
the Pacific. He was far from alone in that military judgment, although the public has been told far more frequently that Midway marked that important corner. It is believed that after Midway the United States Navy turned from defensive operations to offensive operations. After Guadalcanal, the Japanese Navy turned from offensive operations to defensive operations, but after the Marianas all of the Japanese military largely resigned themselves to eventual defeat. The Marianas was a major turning point in that important respect.
Vice Admiral Shigeyoshi Miwa, who commanded Japan's submarine fleet at the end of the war, put the situation in a nutshell when he opined:
Our war was lost with the loss of Saipan.79
General Holland M. Smith also put the matter succinctly:
I have always considered Saipan the decisive battle of the Pacific offensive.80
As Fleet Admiral King wrote:
The Japanese, like the United States Navy, realized that the Mariana Islands were the key to the Pacific War. . . .
* * * * *
The effect of our seizure of the Mariana Islands upon informed opinion in Japan was very striking, and it was recognized almost immediately that Saipan was the decisive battle of the war, and that its loss removed hope for a Japanese victory. . . .81
The First Year
While headed for the barn at Pearl Harbor from Guam, Vice Admiral Turner's Staff celebrated its first anniversary. The blurb in the ship's Press News of the flagship, the Rocky Mount, announced to all who would read:
No one who participated in the GALVANIC Operation will forget Thanksgiving night, 1943 when the Admiral outwitted and outguessed 8 Jap planes attempting to attack our formation. CINCPOA's Air Officer, Colonel Eareckson, termed it 'the most magnificent maneuvering' he had ever seen.
If the Admiral drives his help hard, it is because he does not spare himself. If he is impatient of incompetence and bungling, it is because his own mind has the edge and temper of fine steel.82
Few guessed on that day of 24 August 1944, that a year later they would be in Tokyo.
Table of Contents * Previous Chapter (21) * Next Chapter (23)
1. (a) Edmund G. Love,The 27th Infantry Division in World War II (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1949); (b) Love, "Smith versus Smith," Infantry Journal, LXIII (November 1948), pp. 3-13; (c) Robert Sherrod, "An Answer and Rebuttal to 'Smith versus Smith,' The Saipan Controversy," Infantry Journal, LXIV (January 1969), pp. 14-28; (d) Holland M. Smith and Percy Finch, "My Troubles with The Army on Saipan," Saturday Evening Post, VII (13 November 1948), pp. 32-33, 65-66, 68, 73, 74, 76, 77, 78, 80, 82.
2. Love, p. 22.
3. COMFIFTHFLT 240100 Jun. 1944.
4. Turner. See Crowl, Campaign in the Marianas (Army), Chs. IX and X generally and page 193 in particular.
5. CTF 51 080924 Jul. 1944 appears in the Endorsement to Encl. (D) Commanding General, 27th Infantry Division to Commanding General USAFPOA, letter, 12 Oct. 1944.
6. Headquarters Army Forces Central Pacific Area to Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas, Pearl Harbor, T.H. (For Eyes of Admiral Nimitz Alone) in memorandum of 27 Dec. 1943, sub: Fifth Amphibious Corps.
7. (a) CTF 51 to COMFIFTHFLT, Ser 00640, 16 Jul. 1944; (b) COMFIFTHFLT to CINCPAC, letter, Ser 00414 of 18 Jul. 1944.
8. (a) Nimitz; (b) Love, p. 22.
10. Turner, Presentation at the Navy General Line School, 5 Dec. 1949.
11. (a) COMFIFTHFLT to CINCPOA, 030601, 051425 Jul. 1944; (b) CINCPOA to COMFIFTHFLT, 032109, 060236 Jul. 1944.
12. Brigadier General O.T. Pfeiffer, USMC, Plans Division Staff, Memo for Admiral King, 23 Jun. 1944.
13. LST-227 War Diary, 12 Jun. 1944.
14. COMFIFTHPHIBFOR GRP Three (CTF 53) Op Plan A162-44, 17 May 1944, Annex A, p. 2.
15. CTF 51 to COMFIFTHFLT, 11306 Jul. 1944.
16. COMLSTGRP 38, Report of Tractor Group Four in Guam Operations, 1 Sep. 1944, p. 4.
17. Ibid., pp. 3, 4.
18. LST-227 War Diary, 15 and 18 Jun. 1944.
19. CTG 53.5 FORAGER Report, Part V, p. 12.
20. CTF 56 FORAGER Report, Encl. (D), G-2 Report, p. 17.
21. Commander UDT Three Action Report, 18 Aug. 1941.
22. (a) COMTRANSDIV Eight, Comments, Observations, and Recommendations--Guam Operation, 20 Aug. 1944; (b) COMLSTGRP 38, Report of Tractor Group Four, 1 Sep. 1944.
23. CTG 53.19, Action Report, 7 Aug. 1944, pp. 23-24.
24. Ibid., pp. 25, 27.
25. CTG 53.2 Commander Southern Attack Group, Agat, Guam, Action Report, 20 Aug. 1944, p. 7.
26. LST-227 War Diary, 24 and 26 Jul. 1944.
27. LST-267 War Diary, 25 Jul. 1944.
28. CTG 53.2 Action Report, 29 Aug. 1944.
29. LST-227 War Diary, 23 Jul. 1944.
30. CINCPAC-CINCPOA, Monthly Operations Report, July 44, p. 37.
31. COMPHIBFOR FORAGER Report, Annex 4 to Encl. (B), p. 2.
32. COMTHIRDPHIBCORPS to CTF 53, 101413 Aug. 1944.
33. RKT to CWN, letter, 5 Jul. 1944, Enclosure, p. 2.
34. RKT to Commodore W.B. Phillips, Commander Administrative Command Amphibious Forces, Pacific, letter, 1 Aug. 1944, para. 8.
35. COMLSTGRP 38, Report of Tractor Group Four, 1 Sep. 1944, p. 10.
36. Compiled from CTF 51, CTF 52, CTF 53, CTG 52.2, Reports of Guam Operations.
37. CTF 53, FORAGER Report, p. 15.
38. Hill Memo of 17 Nov. 1966. Hereafter Hill Memo.
39. COMPHIBSPAC (CTF 51) FORAGER Report, Encl. (A), p. 19.
40. COMFIFTHPHIBFOR War Diary, 23 Jul. 1944.
41. RKT to Commandant, Marine Corps, letter, 6 Nov. 1950, p. 8.
42. CTF 56 FORAGER Report, 25 Jul. 1944, Vol. 7, Encl. (G-2).
43. COMPHIBSPACGRP Two (CTF 52) Attack Order A112-44, Annex G, p. G-5, G-4.
44. Vice Admiral Hill to Commandant Marine Corps, letter, 16 Jan. 1951.
45. Hill Memo, 17 Nov. 1966.
46. Hill Memo.
47. CGFIFTHPHIBCORPS FORAGER Report, Vol. I, 12 Aug. 1944, Encl. (L), Report of Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion, 11 Jul. 1944.
48. Nill Memo. (The conference was held 12 July 1944.)
49. Hogaboom Interview, 15 May 1967.
50. Forrestel, Spruance, p. 152.
51. RKT to Commandant, Marine Corps, letter, 21 Dec. 1950.
52. Interview with Admiral Hill, March 11, 1967.
53. COMPHIBSPAC (CTF 51) Letter of Instruction A21-44, 12 Jul. 1944.
54. CTF 52 (COMPHIBSPACGRP Two), Report of Capture of Tinian, 24 Aug. 1944, p. 6.
55. Hill Memo.
56. LCI(G)-458 Action Report, 28 Oct. 1944, p. 1.
57. LCI(G)-78 Action Report, no date. Action: 15 Jun.-24 Jul. 1944. p. 3.
58. LCI Group Seven War Diary, 24 Jul. 1944.
59. COMFIFTHPHIBFOR War Diary, 3 Aug. 1944.
60. COMLSTGRP 39 Marianas Operation Report, 3 Aug. 1944, pp. 5-6.
61. COMFIFTHPHIBFOR War Diary, 24 July 1944. See also Colorado to CINCPAC 240800, 260517 July 1944. Final figures were 39 dead, 109 wounded.
63. COMPHIBSPACGRP Two War Diary, 29 Jul. 1944.
64. CTF 52 to CTF 51, 231401 Jul. 1944.
65. Endorsement of CTF 51 in LST-340 Grounding Report, 31 Jul. 1944.
66. COMLSTGRP 39 Action Report, 3 Aug. 1944, pp. 6-7.
67. Ibid., pp. 8-9.
68. COMGENFIFTHPHIBCORPS FORAGER Report, Vol. 4, 12 Aug. 1944, Encl. (F), pp. 4-5.
69. COMTRANSGRP Able, Operation Report of Saipan, p. 34.
70. CTF 51 War Diary, 10 Aug. 1944.
71. (a) Hoffman, Saipan (Marine Corps Monograph), p. 124; (b) Love, Marianas (Army), p. 303.
72. COMFIFTHFLT, 080100 Aug. 1944.
73. CTF 56 FORAGER Report, para. 6, p. 10.
74. CINCPAC-CINCPOA, Monthly Operations report, June, 1944, Annex A. p. 99.
75. CTG 52.2 Saipan Report, 23 Aug. 1944, p. 69.
76. Ito, The End of the Imperial Japanese Navy, p. 80.
77. CINCPAC Command Summary, Book Five, 4 Jun. 1944, p. 1945.
78. RKT to Commandant of the Marine Corps, letter, 21 Dec. 1950.
79. USSBS Interrogation No. 366, Vol. II, p. 293.
80. Smith, Coral and Brass, p. 181.
81. King's Record, pp. 557, 560.
82. Rocky Mount Press News Special Edition, 24 Aug. 1944.