Preparations for W Day
AS THE OPERATIONS ON SAIPAN NEARED A CLOSE, air and surface forces of the Fifth Fleet began a systematic "softening" of enemy defenses on Guam. The original plan had called for only two days of preliminary naval bombardment, to take place on W-2 and W-1, but postponement of the attack on Guam made possible a much longer and heavier preparation, lasting 16 instead of 2 days.
Naval air strikes began on 5 July. From then to 21 July planes from the Fast Carrier Task Force bombed and strafed the island daily. Three days before W Day the volume of air blows increased, reaching a peak on the 20th when the carrier planes made 614 strafing runs and dropped 486 tons of bombs on the already battered island. This series of blows neutralized Guam's principal airfield, on Orote Peninsula.
The preliminary air strikes were coordinated with naval gunfire. On 8 July four cruisers of Southern Attack Force led off with a 3-day bombardment, firing five thousand five hundred 5- and 8-inch shells on the coastal defenses. From the 12th through the 16th, four battleships fired more than three thousand 14- and 16-inch shells. During the next 4 days 3 battleships were Joined by 2 others and by 6 cruisers, and they blasted the island with more than 16,000 shells. LCI(G)'s (Landing Craft, Infantry [Gunboat]), closing to within a few yards of the reef, raked trenches and pillboxes and reported the location of enemy positions to the heavier ships. Destroyers screened the larger ships and delivered harassing fires at night. Admiral Conolly, directing the bombardment from the flagship, supervised the destruction of every known gun emplacement that would seriously endanger the assault landing.
Meanwhile, during the 16 days of air and naval preparations, the III Amphibious Corps at Eniwetok waited for orders to return to
MAP NO. 7 W-Day Landing, III Amphibious Corps, 21 July 1944
the Marianas. While the troops waited, they had a chance to leave the cramped quarters of their transports for the first time in more than a month to exercise ashore on the limited atolls of the Marshalls. On 6 July General Smith attached the 77th Division to the corps. The 305th RCT left Oahu to join the force at Eniwetok as early as 1 July. The rest of the 77th Division sailed direct from Oahu to Guam. The corps, including the 305th RCT, moved from Eniwetok on 18 July aboard the transports of the Southern Attack Force to arrive off Guam the morning of W Day, 21 July.
En route the troops went through final, exhaustive briefings. They pored over tactical maps for details of the landing beaches, roads,
towns, and enemy installations. They studied the terrain models of the island, showing graphically the natural characteristics of the shore and the hilly, wooded inland. As the transports neared the objective, the men gave their weapons a last check and prepared to disembark.
The bombardment on W Day opened at 0530 when thunder of 16-inch guns of the Southern Attack Force offshore at Guam broke the early morning quiet. Between the heavy salvos from battleships, sharper reports of 5-, 6-, and 8-inch guns echoed across the island's western beaches into the mountains above. Six battleships, four heavy cruisers, five light cruisers, and seven destroyers moved slowly along, their guns trained on the dark bulk of the land mass. Bursts of flame lit up the dawn as shells exploded on the beaches and in the hills behind.
At 0803 the slow, deliberate shelling of coastal installations and bivouac areas stopped, and the ships turned their guns to intensify the fire on the beaches. At the same time, carrier planes, flying above the naval gunfire trajectories, dropped depth charges along the shore and strafed the landing areas. Under this air and naval protection, LVT's (Landing Vehicles, Tracked), packed with the first wave of marine assault units, assembled in position on a quiet sea several thousand yards from the Asan and Agat beaches and on signal crossed the line of departure for the shore.
Eight minutes before H Hour, naval guns bearing on the landing beaches speeded up their volleys. All 5-inch guns began firing at the rate of ten rounds per gun per minute, and 6- and 8-inch guns also increased their rate of fire. Forty-eight carrier-based fighters and bombers strafed and bombed the beaches. When the first wave of marines was 1,000 yards from the beach, hundreds of rockets, fired from LCI(G)'s, hit the shore with terrific impact. The LVT's crawled over the reef and waded through the two feet of high water toward the beaches.1 When the men were 300 yards offshore, the fire lifted and concentrated on the flanks and rear of the beaches. The planes shifted their attack farther inland.
1. High tide in the morning of 21 July was at 0712. Its height at 0833 was 2.4 feet.
The first wave of the 3d Marine Division hit the Asan beach at 0828, and three minutes later the leading wave of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade landed at Agat (Map No. 7, page 30). The bombardment had knocked out virtually all the enemy positions on the beaches, but a few Japanese machine gunners fired from caves near the water's edge before being overcome. Emplaced in the hills commanding the beaches, enemy mortars and artillery put fire on the troops. Air strikes silenced some of this fire against the 3d Division. At Agat, where the enemy had mined the reefs and the beaches, the 1st Brigade's landing was more difficult. Enemy guns on Gaan and Bangi Points sank 20 LVT's; dukws bogged down in the silt on the reef. However, by 0900, 30 minutes after H Hour, tanks were ashore and in action.
As the troops of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade pushed inland, they came under more fire from mortars and artillery. They held off
two small, spirited enemy counterattacks, which indicated that the Japanese might be able to attack when the Americans had committed sufficient forces to make the effort worthwhile. Nevertheless, by evening of W Day the marines had penetrated inland 2,000 yards on a 4,500-yard front. For support in holding this beachhead against an expected counterattack that night and in expanding the area the following day, the brigade had summoned during the afternoon the 305th RCT of the 77th Division, commanded by Col. Vincent J. Tanzola.
The 2d Battalion, Lt. Col. Robert D. Adair commanding, was first on
call. It had debarked from the transport into landing craft during the
opening hour of assault; then the battalion waited, circling in the assembly
area. Since the marine brigade was meeting only moderate opposition at
the start, the 2d Battalion was not summoned to shore
until 1300. When they reached the reef, there were no LVT's to pick the troops up and carry them in. They waded ashore in water waistdeep,1 falling into occasional submerged shell craters. In order to avoid these and keep their weapons dry, the 2d Battalion men tended to bunch on the axis of a narrow channel where the footing was good. Fortunately, though the beach area was open to the fire of enemy guns, the Japanese were fully occupied by the marines, now pushing forward a half mile inland. The 2d Battalion received little fire.
1. The average rifleman carried a steel helmet and liner, gas mask, life belt, rifle, bayonet, grenade launcher, and light pack. He also had two bandoleers of ammunition slung around his chest, a bag full of rifle grenades hung from his neck, a pouch of hand grenades strapped to his thighs, a two-foot long pair of wire cutters tied to his pack, two canteens of water, first aid pack, and a machete hanging from his cartridge belt. Heavy weapons company men had to carry most of this equipment plus part of a mortar or heavy machine gun. "Have you dubbed your shoes?" they asked one another as they pushed through the deep water.
The remainder of the 305th had even greater difficulties in making shore and was even more lucky in that enemy fire did not take advantage of the situation. Colonel Tanzola received orders, at 1530, to land his other two battalions at 1530, the message having been delayed an hour in transit. He had only enough craft to land one battalion, pending return of the 2d Battalion's craft, and so informed Brigade. The 1st Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. James E. Landrum, debarked at 1615, then was held up by naval boat control officers who said they had no instructions to allow movement toward shore at that time. It was 1730 before Brigade settled this issue. Darkness was now close at hand, and Colonel Tanzola suggested that unloading be suspended. Brigade ordered the movement to proceed. Some slipup had occurred in coordination or communication between Brigade and the Navy, and naval control officers had not called for the LVT's at the reef. The men waded in, this time in higher water, and were
MAP NO. 8 Beachheads on W + 1, 111 Amphibious Corps, 22 July 1944
often forced to swim past the deeper holes. By the time they reached the beach, the units were intermingled and thoroughly lost in the darkness. Colonel Landrum found they had veered several hundred yards south of their planned touchdown and were dangerously near enemy held territory. With staff officers and guides, he found the assembly area, and managed to get most of his battalion there by 2130.
The 3d Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Edward Chalgren, Jr., was waiting for the return of craft that had taken in the 2d, and these were delayed in getting back. The transport was suddenly ordered out to sea because of a report of enemy submarine attack. It steamed out 10 or 15 miles, then came in again, arriving at 2120. Debarkation finally commenced, though some craft were still missing. As a result of the darkness and lack of craft, the whole movement was delayed,
and the 3d Battalion did not reach the reef until 0330 on W+1, some of the craft scattered far south of the rest. Fearing that they might draw fire from friendly troops if they moved inland, the disorganized units dug in on the beach for the night. Some elements did not get to dry land until 0600. The 305th had had its first lesson in the liability of all plans (and particularly in landings) to upset by reason of "changing situations" and "unforeseen developments."
The assault troops had established precarious footholds at Asan and at Agat, near both ends of the final beachline. Neither the 3d Marine Division nor the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade had reached the beachline in its zone. Both holds on the island, each about two miles wide and one mile deep, were vulnerable to counterattack from higher ground. Over the left flank of the 3d Division and both flanks of the 1st Brigade, Mt. Chachao and Mt. Alifan towered from 300 to 500 feet above the highest ground within the beachheads.
Expanding the Beachheads
On W+1, before the Japanese could strengthen their forces to the rear of the landing areas, the III Amphibious Corps was to secure both of its beachheads by reaching the high ground on the final beachline. In front of the 3d Division, Mt. Chachao was the northernmost commanding height, and it lay about 3,000 yards from the unit's forward positions. The 1st Brigade, with the 305th RCT attached, had to push inland only one-third of this distance to reach the top of Mt. Alifan, the highest point to the east of the Agat beach. The rest of the 77th Division, in corps reserve, was approaching Agat Bay aboard 12 transports and 2 LST's (Landing Ship, Tank), ready to reinforce the marines on either beachhead.
Until daylight the corps troops were harassed by small-scale but determined counterattacks. Shortly after midnight mortar and artillery fire became so heavy that the 3d Division suspended unloading activities on Asan beach. At dawn the enemy launched an attack against the division's left flank from Agana and the hills behind Chonito Cliff (Map No. 8, page 36). The marines on the main defensive line, with tank, carrier-plane, and naval fire support, turned the enemy back. Meanwhile, Japanese forces east of Agat attacked the right flank of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade. Aided by tanks and artillery the enemy soldiers fought their way through the brigade's positions, and
MAP NO. 9 77th Division Sector, 24-27 July 1944
a few infiltrated as far as the perimeters of the 305th RCT. The marines counterattacked, destroying five tanks and driving the enemy off.
During the day the corps' progress was slow. The 3d Division made very little gain toward the high ground on the final beachline. Enemy opposition on the left and center of the beachhead was so strong that the marines' advance was held at a standstill except south of Asan. There they pushed 1,000 yards toward Mt. Chachao. On its right flank the division captured Piti Navy Yard, and one battalion landing team, executing a shore-to-shore movement, seized part of Cabras Island, north of Apra Harbor, which was not strongly defended except by aerial bombs emplaced as land mines.
The 1st Brigade continued to push up the sparsely covered slopes of Mt. Alifan, climbing in the open under fire from the Japanese positions concealed by thick wood on the top. In support of this direct advance toward the summit of Mt. Alifan, the 305th RCT cut north to reach the ridge running northeast from Alifan and to secure the high ground above Road junction 370. By 1700 the brigade and the combat team were on their objectives and had control of more than 3,000 yards of the final beachline.
While the corps troops were attempting to secure their beachheads on 22 July, General Geiger issued an order for the relief of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, to enable that unit to reorganize and get into position for the attack on Orote Peninsula. The defense of the beachhead from Inalas southwest to the coast near Magpo would be taken over by two RCT's of the 77th Division, including the 305th RCT, which would revert to the division when the relief of the brigade was effected (Map No. 9, page 38). While the 77th protected the corps' southern flank, the brigade was to prepare to capture Orote Peninsula. One RCT of the 77th was to remain afloat in corps reserve until ordered to land.
The 306th RCT was designated by the division to take over the southern sector held by the marine brigade. A party headed by Col. Douglas C. McNair, Chief of Staff, and including Col. Aubrey D. Smith of the 306th Infantry and his battalion commanders with their staffs, went ashore on the 22d to reconnoiter the area and coordinate plans with the brigade. Shortly before noon next day the 306th began landing at Agat.1 The 3d Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Gordon T. Kimbrell, reached its position between Mt. Alifan and Taene, and the 1st and 2d Battalions, under Lt. Col. Joseph A. Remus and Lt. Col. Charles F. Greene, respectively, went into assembly areas near the beach.
1. The unloading itself was a difficult operation. As a reserve division, the 77th had no LVT's. Assault divisions normally have two battalions. There were 60 dukws but these had to be reserved for cargo and to get the light artillery ashore. Consequently, plans had to be made to carry troops to the reef in landing craft, after which they would wade ashore at low tide carrying all equipment. Vehicles were to be dragged from the reef to the beach by bulldozers. The Division G-4, operating from an SC1319 (Submarine Chaser) just off the reef, was to coordinate all landings. Although the troops got ashore without difficulty, most of the vehicles drowned out in the water between the reef and beach, and practically all vehicles' radio sets, even the waterproofed, were completely ruined. One medium tank dropped in a large pot hole and disappeared from sight.
Relief of the 1st Brigade continued during the morning of 24 July. At 0800 the 306th assumed responsibility for the sector, and at 1400 the last elements of its 2d Battalion were in position. Action during the day consisted principally of skirmishing with enemy patrols and cleaning out caves and dugouts within the sector. During the early hours of darkness the enemy attempted to infiltrate through the lines, but he was driven off without casualties to the 306th.
The 305th RCT had in the meanwhile extended its area north of the 306th sector. Within the line from Adotgan Point to Inalas on the final beachline, the 305th was holding all the ground to the east of Old Agat Road. Behind these forward regiments, the 307th, commanded by Col. Stephen S. Hamilton, and division troops were brought ashore and supplies were being built up on the beaches. The brigade, now grouped at the base of Orote, defended only enough space in which to prepare for the attack on the peninsula.
Attack on Orote Peninsula
Extension of the beachheads during 23 and 24 July gave the corps necessary room for continuing the assault phase. The 3d Marine Division, completing the occupation of Cabras Island, had gained command of the north side of the harbor and, on the left flank, had fought up the steep slopes near Chonito Cliff. Although the marines in this sector had made slow progress, they had withstood an enemy counterattack of battalion strength, and were in position to press the advance toward the high ground along the final beachline. At Agat the 77th Division controlled a sector that was being developed as a staging area for the attack on the rear of the enemy's main defenses protecting the Orote air strip and Apra Harbor.
On 24 July General Geiger ordered a corps attack for 25 July, designed to complete the assault phase. This involved linking the northern and southern beachheads on the final beachline, and capturing Orote Peninsula. The main burden in this operation would fall on the marine units. The 1st Provisional Marine Brigade received the assignment of advancing into Orote Peninsula. To the north the 3d Division was ordered to reach the final beachline and, by extending southward, to pinch off the area east of Orote. Corps Artillery was to support the coordinated effort, giving priority to requests from the brigade, and the artillery of the 3d and 77th Divisions would also be ready to assist the attack on Orote. The 77th Division had the mission of holding its present lines in the southern beachhead; the 307th RCT, ashore at Agat, remained in corps reserve.
Six hours after issuing the order, General Geiger postponed the time of jump-off for the Orote attack until 0700 on 26 July. The brigade needed an extra day in which to prepare for the assault and develop the enemy position at the base of Orote Peninsula. The supporting efforts by the rest of the corps proceeded as originally ordered. The 77th Division started to consolidate its line, while the 3d Division pressed toward the high ground on its front.
At daybreak on 26 July the 77th Division artillery, commanded by Brig. Gen. Isaac Spalding, opened the attack on the Orote defenses. Although some of the batteries were not yet in position, the 305th, 306th, and 902d Field Artillery Battalions, under Lt. Col. Edward B. Leever, Lt. Col. Jackson P. Serfas, and Lt. Col. Leo B. Burkett, respectively, joined in the opening concentrations. Altogether
MAP NO. 10 Orote Peninsula, 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, 25-29 July 1944
seven battalions of artillery, including those of the corps and the 3d Division, took part in the bombardment. Some batteries fired two rounds of preparatory fire per minute until the start of the brigade's infantry assault. Naval support units, planes, and 90-mm guns of the defense battalion established on Cabras Island were employed in an effort to break the Orote defenses.
The 1st Provisional Marine Brigade jumped off on schedule. Dense undergrowth and jungle at the base of the peninsula slowed its progress, and many Japanese had survived the bombardment to resist with mortars, machine guns, and small arms. The narrow
peninsula restricted deployment of the brigade's forces, especially at the base where the land was only three-quarters of a mile wide, but by evening the troops had pushed 1,500 yards from the jump-off position and were more than halfway to the eastern end of the air strip (Map No. 10, page 42).
Advances the next day, beginning at 0715, resulted in a dangerous alignment
of the 1st Brigade's forward units. While the 22d Marine Regiment, on the
right, was meeting light resistance along the approaches to the air strip,
the 4th Marines had come up against prepared enemy positions in pillboxes
and dugouts. The regiment's assault elements, suffering heavy casualties
from mortars, machine guns, and grenades, were pinned down. On the right
flank, however, the men of the 22d Marines had advanced so steadily that
by 28 July they were more than 600 yards ahead of the 4th Regiment. Their
left flank was exposed to enemy counterattack.
To give more support to the 4th Regiment, General Shepherd, commander of the brigade, called for medium tanks from the 77th Division. But only light tanks of the division's 706th Tank Battalion, under Lt. Col. Charles W. Stokes, had landed, and some of these had been damaged in coming ashore. A platoon of five light tanks was quickly organized from elements of three units of Company D and dispatched under 2d Lt. Charles J. Fuchs. After reporting to the 1st Brigade early in the afternoon of 28 July, the platoon was sent to the 4th Marine's sector. An attack was scheduled for 1600; in the meantime the marine infantry was consolidating its position. Two platoons of the brigade's medium tanks, which had been shifted
from the 22d Regiment's sector, had reinforced the flank units. Company D's platoon, joined just before the attack by two medium tanks from Headquarters Company of the 706th, was to strengthen the center of the line.
At 1600 the light tanks of Company D moved through the 4th Regiment against the defenses that had slowed the marines. The tanks advanced cautiously over shell-torn terrain, and in a part of the zone each tank covered 50 yards of the front. Fighting was so concentrated that most of the tank fire was directed at positions within 10 or 15 yards of the tanks. At that range the 37-mm gunfire, often sighted through crevices in log structures, was effective even against enemy positions reinforced with tin sheeting, rocks, and brush. Infantrymen followed the tanks closely, mopping up positions and grenading Japanese in their fox holes. They also guarded the tanks so that the enemy could not close in with grenades.
The Japanese weakened in the face of combined operations of the infantry and tanks. Within two hours after the attack started the forward elements of the 4th Regiment were abreast of the 22d Marines on the right. In restoring the brigade's front line the tank platoon of Company D had fired about 10,000 rounds of .30-caliber ammunition, 100 rounds of high explosive, and 20 rounds of canister. The light tanks alone destroyed 4 pillboxes, numerous dugouts, and approximately 250 Japanese. At the cost of a few casualties the 1st Brigade, supported by the marine and army tanks, had cleaned out the area on the left and now held a line stretching across the peninsula around the eastern end of the air strip.
At 1000 on 29 July the brigade, again supported by tanks, continued the attack on Orote and pushed across the air strip to the tip of the peninsula, about two miles to the west. The hardest fighting was for the mile-long strip, which the Japanese defended with small arms and mortars and where they chose to die in dugouts, pillboxes, and even a hangar rather than surrender. Less than five hours after the attack began, the marines had reached the western end of the air strip. Without stopping they pushed down the jungle trails to the ocean. At 1700, when the peninsula was completely taken, Company D, 706th Tank Battalion was relieved.
In 4 days the brigade had killed between 2,000 and 3,000 Japanese defenders on Orote and had gained possession of the peninsula, with its harbor and airfield, extending 4 miles westward from the mainland.
MAP NO. 11 The Gap, 77th Division and 3d Marine Division, 25-27 July 1944
Establishment of Final Beachline
In the corps attack that began on 25 July, the 3d Marine Division had been given the mission of reaching the final beachline in its sector and making a juncture to the south with the 77th Division, thus sealing off the Orote area and protecting the rear of the 1st Marine Brigade as it drove into the peninsula. A 4-mile gap separated the 3d and 77th Divisions on 25 July, and the enemy still held Mt. Chachao, the key high ground in the northern zone (Map No. 11, page 46). Japanese resistance on this front had been stub born since the opening day, and the 3d Division had been slowed both by frequent enemy counterattacks and by the necessity of taking individual positions in frontal assaults that demanded use of flamethrowers, demolitions, and tanks.
Heavy opposition continued to meet the 3d Division's efforts on 25-26 July. On the 26th the division had to deal with a counterattack in force by units identified as the 18th Regiment and elements of the 48th Independent Mixed Brigade. Next day the marines extended their lines 1,500 yards on the right flank and 200 yards across Chonito cliff on the left. But in the center, forward marine positions showed little change from W+1, and were still 2,000 yards short of Mt. Chachao.
On 27 July the 77th Division, at General Bruce's request, was ordered to take part in the effort to link the beachheads, east of Orote, by attacking to the north. The 77th was to extend its hold two miles and a half northward, leaving the 3d Division less than two miles to cover in its advance. On the southern portion of the final beachline the 77th's sector was now to include the northern approaches to Mt. Tenjo. The division boundary established by this order followed the unsurfaced toad and trail leading east from Old Agat Road through Agafan to the junction of the road from Mt. Tenjo to Mt. Chachao.
The new assignment of the 77th involved occupying Mt. Tenjo, the highest point on the beachline in its wider sector. General Bruce ordered that the 305th Infantry, with not less than a company, reconnoiter the approaches to Tenjo to determine the enemy strength on the hill. The 2d Battalion of the 307th Infantry, commanded by Lt. Col. Charles F. Learner, would assemble in the rear of the 1st Battalion, 305th. If Mt. Tenjo were not occupied in strength, the 2d
Battalion, 307th, moving out from Inalas at 0700 on 28 July, was to
seize and hold the mountain, including the end of the ridge south of the
peak and two knobs to the north. The 1st Battalion, 305th, was to establish
contact with the 2d Battalion, 307th, and hold the high ground from Inalas
to the ridge north of Cotal. On order the 3d Battalion, 305th, was to send
patrols north as far as the division boundary through the area west of
Mt. Tenjo. When General Bruce issued his order, intelligence reported little
activity on Tenjo, although Japanese prisoners of war had declared that
a force of 3,000 was in the vicinity.
Moving out from its nearby assembly area at dawn on 28 July, Company A, 305th Infantry, met almost no opposition and reached the top of Mt. Tenjo by 0830. Because enemy resistance on the way had amounted to little more than scattered sniper fire and the summit was not occupied, Company A remained on the hill until it was relieved by the 2d Battalion, 307th, at 1500 that afternoon.
While holding the hill, Company A experienced one of the difficulties attendant upon air-ground coordination. Planes suddenly appeared and began to strafe and bomb the troops, who ran for what protection they could find on the bare slopes. When the planes were coming in for a second attack, Pfc. Benno Levi seized some signal panels and dashed into the open under fire to display them. As soon as the pilots saw the panels, the strafing ceased, and the men of Company A consolidated their position on the mountain.
This same day saw the 3d Marine Division complete its hard task on the north, conquering Mt. Chachao and Mt. Alutom and securing the road running from Adelup Point to Mt. Tenjo. The division had also reached a junction with the 77th by an attack to the south
which involved use of the 3d Battalion, 307th, under Maj. John W. Lovell, attached to the marines from corps reserve. The 3d Battalion, 307th, and the 3d Battalion, 9th Marines, attacked abreast with the division boundary as their objective. Enemy opposition was light, and by 1800 army and marine units were on the boundary in contact with the 77th Division.
By evening of 28 July, while the battle for Orote was nearing its close, the corps had pinched off the ground behind the peninsula. The capture of Mt. Tenjo by the 77th Division and of Mts. Chachao and Alutom by the 3d Marine Division secured the entire beachline and completely closed the gap that had existed between the divisions. Any enemy west of the beachline was trapped.
For two days, while the 1st Brigade completed capture and mopping up of Orote Peninsula, the 3d and 77th Divisions consolidated positions on their final beachline. Since 24 July the 77th had been maintaining its front form the seashore, two and a quarter miles south of Agat, along the Alifan ridge to Inalas by sending out platoons of scouts 2,000 yards from the beachline. On the 28th, when the northern part of the beachline was established, the 3d and 77th Divisions initiated patrolling in that area.
Reconnaissance platoons, threatening large-scale attacks, kept the enemy off balance and at the same time gathered information on his movements. They burned shacks and high grass to smoke out well-camouflaged pockets, and occasionally directed mortar and artillery fire. The patrols were so effective that the enemy did not launch a single attack in force during the daytime.
The Japanese were quick, however, to detect this method of defense, and on several occasions they tried to ambush the patrols. On 29 July one of these ambushes put up a strong enough fight to force a patrol of the 77th Division to call for help. While searching out the ambush, one squad of scouts was pinned against the steep side of a ravine in which the enemy was hidden. Within a few seconds two men were killed and three others were wounded. A distress flare, shot up by the scouts, brought reinforcements from the 305th Regiment. The additional firepower of the regimental platoon freed the trapped squad, and the patrol worked its way back to the final beachline, leaving its dead behind. The next day 14 dead and 1 wounded Japanese were found in the center of the ravine. They had been amply supplied and well dug in.
Division patrols were active during the day, but they stayed within their lines at night, when the Japanese assumed the initiative. After dark infantry companies on the final beachline organized battalion perimeters on high points, arranging automatic fires to cover lower areas between the perimeters. Although fields of fire were cleared wherever possible and commanding ground was occupied, nearly every night small groups of the enemy employed skillful infiltration tactics to penetrate the line.
The Japanese seemed to follow no standard plan for infiltration. They used a variety of weapons—mortars, small arms, sabers, and even hatchets. Sometimes the first evidence of the enemy was a grenade thrown into the perimeters; sometimes an enemy soldier in plain sight slowly walked toward the division's lines; occasionally, heavy fire and grenades landed in the positions along the perimeter, and small enemy groups tried to move in where confusion had been
created; in other cases enemy mortar fire preceded an infantry attack. But mortars were used less frequently at night than other weapons to pave the way for small groups attempting to harass the men or pass through the perimeters.
During the first two nights the green 77th troops caused most of the confusion by their own- movements and firing, but they soon grew battle-wise. The soldiers learned to stay immobile in their slit trenches, never venturing outside even if they had diarrhea. In order to reduce the enemy's chances of discovering their positions, they learned also to hold their fire until they had a definite target. Trip flares that illuminated the whole area when set off by an infiltrating group were employed successfully and trapped a few Japanese.
Patrolling during the day and organizing perimeters at night, the 3d and 77th Division held the corps' final beachline until the completion of the attack on Orote. With that accomplished, operations
of the assault phase ended. The corps, during this 10-day phase, had gained Apra Harbor, which was found to be in excellent condition, and Orote airfield, which was already being used for emergency landings. The assault operations had cost the III Amphibious Corps 5,987 casualties, mostly in the marine units. Of this number 958 were killed, 4,739 wounded, and 290 missing. The 77th Division, engaged in holding its sector of the final beachline, lost 217 men.
Battle of Supply
The reef that had kept the landing craft of the assault troops from getting to the shore was also a barrier to the supply boats, no matter how high the tide. However, III Amphibious Corps had planned on transferring supplies at the reef's edge to smaller vehicles and had carried equipment for mooring ponton barges and causeways off the reef. Twenty-five light cranes, mounted on the barges, were to be used to transfer cargo from the LCVP's (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) and LCM's to dukws and LVT's, which in turn would carry the cargo across the reef to the beach. LST's were to beach against the reef, drop their ramps, and be unloaded by dukws and LVT's.
At first supplies were loaded into LVT's and dukws in the transport area. During the first few days, the dukws moved cargo from the ships directly to dumps inland. After the beaches were secure, the plans for direct transfer of supplies from LST's to dukws and LVT's at the reef's edge were put into effect. Numerous other expedients were used to get the 77th's supplies ashore. The division borrowed cranes, ponton barges, and LVT's from marine and navy units. Supplies were even floated ashore on life rafts from transports and on 10-man rubber boats which had been brought along for the use of the Reconnaissance Troop. The 60 dukws of the division were pooled and operated under G-4 control. An officer on each of the six crane barges used by the division supervised operations with walkie-talkie radio communication ashore. The 77th Division command or regimental commands ordered certain supplies or equipment from supply officers; shore personnel informed the officers on the crane barges of the desired cargo, and these officers in turn directed that cargo ashore to the requested area.
Unloading was not accomplished without difficulties. Jeeps and other vehicles driven ashore drowned out even at low tide. The dumps, selected before the landing from maps and photographs, were limited in area, and many were located on marshy lowland where little satisfactory storage space existed. Tropical rains and constant grinding traffic produced a sea of mud on the roads to the dumps. Tracked movers sometimes took 3 hours to make a round trip from the beach to the dumps-a distance in most cases of only 600 yards. Wheeled vehicles repeatedly bogged down and had to be towed out by tractors. To keep beach roads and dump areas in operating condition, some of the shore party had to be diverted from unloading and storing supplies.
Because of these conditions it became clear fairly early that the ships of the 77th Division could not be unloaded on a dawn-to-dark basis
only. Fortunately, since the enemy seemed unable to produce air support or to lay artillery fire on the beaches, it was possible to illuminate the beaches at night. Floodlights powered by generator units of the shore parties enabled work to proceed on a 24-hour basis. This expedient enabled the APA's (Transport, Attack) to be 80 percent unloaded by the end of the fifth day.
Landing supplies on this 24-hour basis imposed a tremendous strain on
men and equipment. Of one group of 20 dukws working on Agat beach, 6 were
out of commission at the end of the first day of unloading operations (chiefly
from bent screws, damaged rudders, bent propeller shafts, and burned-out
propeller shaft bearings), 2 more the following day, and 6 more on the
next. The men worked with little rest or sleep; their food consisted of
the regular combat rations.
RCT's operated the dumps until 24 July. On Agat beach the Corps Service Group, which had landed on 23 July, relieved the brigade of supply responsibilities. The brigade had maintained the 77th Division on marine stock for three days. On W+7, after a week of clear weather and calm, the 3d Marine Division and the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade had all their supplies ashore. The 77th Division completed its unloading on W+10, except for two commercially packed ships.
By the time the assault phase was over, the units had ashore an adequate store of matériel.1 Food, clothing and equipment, fuels and lubricants (Classes I, II, and III) were available in amounts sufficient for 20-days' supply. Only hard work and numerous field expedients had kept supply on schedule for the battles ahead. A naval officer, veteran of Guadalcanal, Attu, Tarawa, Kwajalein, and Saipan wrote to General Bruce, "Your people landed and supplied themselves over the toughest reef yet worked by any outfit in this war."
1. Of the five classes of supplies for the 77th Division,
Class I was initially of most importance. The "10-in-l" ration pack, seven
days' type "C," three days' type "K," twenty days' supply of ration accessories,
and other special types were landed. Water was carried on transports at
the level of two gallons per man per day, making a total of 190,000 gallons
for the division carried in 5-gallon and 55-gallon drums. Most of this
supply was brought ashore, but the early establishment of distillation
units on the beach enabled the 77th to keep some of its water in reserve.
Clothing and equipment made up Class II matériel. Clothing alone amounted to tremendous bulk because the division was required to carry impregnated protective clothing for all its men. The division developed a standard roll in an attempt to supply the troops without having to segregate rolls by companies and individuals. However, owing to transportation difficulties these were never delivered to the troops. This roll consisted of a shelter half, one blanket, mosquito bar, one "K" ration, cake of salt water soap, pack carrier, tent pole, five pins, a pair of mosquito gloves, and a waterproof clothing bag.
Class III supplies were packed in 5-gallon and 55-gallon containers, and in 55-pound pails for heavy gear lubricants. It was necessary to carry aviation gasoline for the liaison planes; leaded gasoline and diesel oil for trucks, tractors, and tanks; white gasoline for kitchens; and a variety of weights of engine oils and gear lubricants.
Class IV supplies consisted mainly of engineer and chemical warfare equipment. Approximately 225 tons of engineer items were carried, including fortification materials such as barbed wire, pickets, and sandbags.
Heaviest of all were Class V supplies, loaded at the level of ten units of fire for antiaircraft weapons and seven units of fire for all others. The magnitude of this class of supplies can be seen from the fact that the 77th used 46,000 hand grenades alone in the operation.
page created 28 June 2001
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