History Podcasts

Battle of Kwajalein

Battle of Kwajalein

In late January 1944, a combined force of U.S. Marine and Army troops launched an amphibious assault on three islets in the Kwajalein Atoll, a ring-shaped coral formation in the Marshall Islands where the Japanese had established their outermost defensive perimeter in World War II. Kwajalein Island and the nearby islets of Roi and Namur were the first of the Marshall Islands to be captured by U.S. troops, and would allow the Pacific Fleet to advance its planned assault on the islands and its drive towards the Philippines and the Japanese home islands.

The Marshall Islands and the U.S. “Island-Hopping” Strategy

The peace settlement that ended the First World War gave Japan a mandate over the Marshall Islands in the western Pacific Ocean. Kwajalein, in the Ralik (western) chain of the Marshalls, was the world’s largest coral atoll, numbering some 90 islets (with a total land area of six square miles) surrounding a 655-square-mile lagoon. By the beginning of World War II, Japan had established the Marshalls as an integral part of its defensive perimeter, and the islands became an important target for the Allies in their wartime planning.

In 1943, after Japan had scored victory after victory during the first months of war in the Pacific, Admiral Chester Nimitz proposed an aggressive counteroffensive strategy consisting of a series of amphibious assaults on selected Japanese-held islands on the way to the Philippines and on towards Japan itself. The strategy, known as “island-hopping” or “leapfrogging,” turned on the idea that merely isolating some Japanese forces on their islands–letting them “wither on the vine”–would be as effective as destroying them through a direct attack, and far less costly to Allied forces.

From Tarawa to Kwajalein

The bloody conquest of Tarawa, a small atoll in the Gilbert Islands of the central Pacific, in November 1943 was a crucial precursor to the Allied campaign in the Marshall Islands. The 5,000 Japanese troops garrisoned on Tarawa mounted a ferocious resistance, killing more than 1,000 U.S. Marines and wounding another 2,100. Nearly all of the Japanese troops on Tarawa perished, in a striking example of the never-surrender attitude that would characterize the entire Japanese war effort.

Between Tarawa and Luzon, the main island of the Philippines, were 2,000 miles of sea, plus more than a thousand scattered atolls, many of them fortified with Japanese troops. The lessons of “Terrible Tarawa” (as the Marines dubbed it) helped the Allies prepare for the hard fighting that would characterize the central Pacific campaign. Moreover, because neither the Japanese fleet nor any land-based aircraft from other islands had interfered, Nimitz concluded it would be safe to skip other Marshall Island garrisons and proceed to the westernmost atolls in the chain: Kwajalein and Eniwetok.

Attack on Kwajalein, Roi and Namur

On January 30, 1944, after a massive air and naval bombardment lasting some two months, a U.S. Marine and Army amphibious assault force of 85,000 men and some 300 warships) approached the Marshall Islands. On February 1, the 7th Infantry (Army) Division landed on Kwajalein Island, while the 4th Marine Division landed on the twin islands of Roi and Namur, 45 miles to the north. A single Marine regiment captured Roi on that first day, while Namur fell by noon of the second day. The battle for Kwajalein would prove more difficult, as the 7th Infantry pounded the Japanese garrison there for three days until the island was declared secure on February 4.

Though greatly outnumbered from the start (by more than 40,000 on Kwajalein) the Japanese chose to fight until the bitter end. Japanese casualties on Roi and Namur numbered more than 3,500 killed and around 200 captured, with less than 200 Marines killed and some 500 more wounded. On Kwajalein, close to 5,000 Japanese defenders were killed and only a handful captured; the 7th Infantry counted 177 soldiers killed and 1,000 wounded.

Effects of U.S. Victory

While not an easy victory for the Allies, the capture of Kwajalein was accomplished ahead of Nimitz’s expectations, allowing him to advance by 60 days the planned attack on Eniwetok, 400 miles northwest of Kwajalein. An assault on Truk–a forward anchorage of the Japanese fleet–destroyed 275 Japanese aircraft and sank nearly 40 ships, and Eniwetok fell by February 21, after five days of fighting.

Their success in the Marshalls gave U.S. forces a major anchorage point and staging area from which to continue their amphibious operations in the central Pacific, as they opened the way to the Mariana Islands, including Saipan and Guam. In addition, the victories intensified the isolation of those Japanese island outposts that had been skipped in the Allied island-hopping campaign, including Wake Island, one of the first islands Japan had captured in the beginning stages of the war.


Battle of Kwajalein - HISTORY

AWARDS of the MEDAL OF HONOR 1944
including US Marine Corps, and US Army Air Corps awards related to Naval operations

Invasion of Roi & Namur Islands, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, Central Pacific

1 February 1944 - *ANDERSON, RICHARD BEATTY, Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 4th Marine Division during action against enemy Japanese forces on Roi Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, 1 February 1944. Entering a shell crater occupied by three other marines, Pfc. Anderson was preparing to throw a grenade at an enemy position when it slipped from his hands and rolled toward the men at the bottom of the hole. With insufficient time to retrieve the armed weapon and throw it, Pfc. Anderson fearlessly chose to sacrifice himself and save his companions by hurling his body upon the grenade and taking the full impact of the explosion. His personal valor and exceptional spirit of loyalty in the face of almost certain death were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

1 February 1944 - *POWER, JOHN VINCENT, First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as platoon leader, attached to the 4th Marine Division, during the landing and battle of Namur Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, 1 February 1944. Severely wounded in the stomach while setting a demolition charge on a Japanese pillbox, 1st Lt. Power was steadfast in his determination to remain in action. Protecting his wound with his left hand and firing with his right, he courageously advanced as another hostile position was taken under attack, fiercely charging the opening made by the explosion and emptying his carbine into the pillbox. While attempting to reload and continue the attack, 1st Lt. Power was shot again in the stomach and head and collapsed in the doorway. His exceptional valor, fortitude and indomitable fighting spirit in the face of withering enemy fire were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

1-2 February 1944 - SORENSON, RICHARD KEITH, Private, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with an assault battalion attached to the 4th Marine Division during the battle of Namur Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, on 1-2 February 1944. Putting up a brave defense against a particularly violent counterattack by the enemy during invasion operations, Pvt. Sorenson and five other marines occupying a shellhole were endangered by a Japanese grenade thrown into their midst. Unhesitatingly, and with complete disregard for his own safety, Pvt. Sorenson hurled himself upon the deadly weapon, heroically taking the full impact of the explosion. As a result of his gallant action, he was severely wounded, but the lives of his comrades were saved. His great personal valor and exceptional spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of almost certain death were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

1 and 2 February 1944 - *DYESS, AQUILLA JAMES, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion, 24th Marines (Rein), 4th Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces during the assault on Namur Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, 1 and 2 February 1944. Undaunted by severe fire from automatic Japanese weapons, Lt. Col. Dyess launched a powerful final attack on the second day of the assault, unhesitatingly posting himself between the opposing lines to point out objectives and avenues of approach and personally leading the advancing troops. Alert, and determined to quicken the pace of the offensive against increased enemy fire, he was constantly at the head of advance units, inspiring his men to push forward until the Japanese had been driven back to a small center of resistance and victory assured. While standing on the parapet of an antitank trench directing a group of infantry in a flanking attack against the last enemy position, Lt. Col. Dyess was killed by a burst of enemy machinegun fire. His daring and forceful leadership and his valiant fighting spirit in the face of terrific opposition were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Air-Sea Rescue Operations, Bismarck Archipelago, SW Pacific

15 February 1944 - GORDON, NATHAN GREEN, Lieutenant, U.S. Navy

Citation: For extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty as commander of a Catalina patrol plane in rescuing personnel of the U.S. Army 5th Air Force shot down in combat over Kavieng Harbor in the Bismarck Sea, 15 February 1944. On air alert in the vicinity of Vitu Islands, Lt. (then Lt. j.g.) Gordon unhesitatingly responded to a report of the crash and flew boldly into the harbor, defying close-range fire from enemy shore guns to make three separate landings in full view of the Japanese and pick up nine men, several of them injured. With his cumbersome flying boat dangerously overloaded, he made a brilliant takeoff despite heavy swells and almost total absence of wind and set a course for base, only to receive the report of another group stranded in a rubber life raft 600 yards from the enemy shore. Promptly turning back, he again risked his life to set his plane down under direct fire of the heaviest defenses of Kavieng and take aboard six more survivors, coolly making his fourth dexterous takeoff with 15 rescued officers and men. By his exceptional daring, personal valor, and incomparable airmanship under most perilous conditions, Lt. Gordon prevented certain death or capture of our airmen by the Japanese.

Invasion of Engebi Island, Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands, Central Pacific

19/20 February 1944 - *DAMATO, ANTHONY PETER, Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with an assault company in action against enemy Japanese forces on Engebi Island, Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands, on the night of 19/20 February 1944. Highly vulnerable to sudden attack by small, fanatical groups of Japanese still at large despite the efficient and determined efforts of our forces to clear the area, Cpl. Damato lay with two comrades in a large foxhole in his company's defense perimeter which had been dangerously thinned by the forced withdrawal of nearly half of the available men. When one of the enemy approached the foxhole undetected and threw in a hand grenade, Cpl. Damato desperately groped for it in the darkness. Realizing the imminent peril to all three and fully aware of the consequences of his act, he unhesitatingly flung himself on the grenade and, although instantly killed as his body absorbed the explosion, saved the lives of his two companions. Cpl. Damato's splendid initiative, fearless conduct and valiant sacrifice reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his comrades.

Battle of the Atlantic

4 June 1944 - *DAVID, ALBERT LEROY, Lieutenant, Junior Grade, U.S. Navy

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while attached to the U.S.S. Pillsbury (destroyer escort) during the capture of an enemy German submarine off French West Africa, 4 June 1944. Taking a vigorous part in the skillfully coordinated attack on the German U-505 which climaxed a prolonged search by the Task Group, Lt. (then Lt. j.g.) David boldly led a party from the Pillsbury in boarding the hostile submarine as it circled erratically at 5 or 6 knots on the surface. Fully aware that the U-boat might momentarily sink or be blown up by exploding demolition and scuttling charges, he braved the added danger of enemy gunfire to plunge through the conning tower hatch and, with his small party, exerted every effort to keep the ship afloat and to assist the succeeding and more fully equipped salvage parties in making the U-505 seaworthy for the long tow across the Atlantic to a U.S. port. By his valiant service during the first successful boarding and capture of an enemy man-o-war on the high seas by the U.S. Navy since 1815, Lt. David contributed materially to the effectiveness of our Battle of the Atlantic and upheld the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

("U-505" is now at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry).

Submarine Operations, Celebes Islands, Dutch East Indies

6 - 9 June 1944 *DEALEY, SAMUEL DAVID, Commander, U.S. Navy

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Harder during her 5th War Patrol in Japanese-controlled waters. Floodlighted by a bright moon and disclosed to an enemy destroyer escort which bore down with intent to attack, Comdr. Dealey quickly dived to periscope depth and waited for the pursuer to close range, then opened fire, sending the target and all aboard down in flames with his third torpedo. Plunging deep to avoid fierce depth charges, he again surfaced and, within nine minutes after sighting another destroyer, had sent the enemy down tail first with a hit directly amidship. Evading detection, he penetrated the confined waters off Tawi Tawi with the Japanese Fleet base six miles away and scored death blows on two patrolling destroyers in quick succession. With his ship heeled over by concussion from the first exploding target and the second vessel nose-diving in a blinding detonation, he cleared the area at high speed. Sighted by a large hostile fleet force on the following day, he swung his bow toward the lead destroyer for another "down-the-throat" shot, fired three bow tubes and promptly crash-dived to be terrifically rocked seconds later by the exploding ship as the Harder passed beneath. This remarkable record of five vital Japanese destroyers sunk in five short-range torpedo attacks attests the valiant fighting spirit of Comdr. Dealey and his indomitable command.

("Harder" had already sunk Japanese destroyer "Ikazuchi" on the 13th April 1944. In the attacks on Tawi-Tawi between the 6th and 9th June , destroyers "Minadsuki" 6th, "Hayanami" 7th and "Tanikaze" 9th were sunk and "Urakaze" damaged . On the 22nd August, it was the turn of Japanese frigates "Hiburi" and "Matsuwa". Two days later on the 24th August 1944, USS Harder and her crew were lost.)

Invasion of Saipan, Marianas Islands, Central Pacific

16 June 1944 - *McCARD, ROBERT HOWARD, Gunnery Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as platoon sergeant of Company A, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, during the battle for enemy Japanese-held Saipan, Marianas Islands, on 16 June 1944. Cut off from the other units of his platoon when his tank was put out of action by a battery of enemy 77mm. guns, G/Sgt. McCard carried on resolutely, bringing all the tank's weapons to bear on the enemy, until the severity of hostile fire caused him to order his crew out of the escape hatch while he courageously exposed himself to enemy guns by hurling hand grenades, in order to cover the evacuation of his men. Seriously wounded during this action and with his supply of grenades exhausted, G/Sgt. McCard then dismantled one of the tank's machineguns and faced the Japanese for the second time to deliver vigorous fire into their positions, destroying 16 of the enemy but sacrificing himself to insure the safety of his crew. His valiant fighting spirit and supreme loyalty in the face of almost certain death reflect the highest credit upon G/Sgt. McCard and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

25 June 1944 - *EPPERSON, HAROLD GLENN, Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, 2d Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on the Island of Saipan in the Marianas, on 25 June 1944. With his machinegun emplacement bearing the full brunt of a fanatic assault initiated by the Japanese under cover of predawn darkness, Pfc. Epperson manned his weapon with determined aggressiveness, fighting furiously in the defense of his battalion's position and maintaining a steady stream of devastating fire against rapidly infiltrating hostile troops to aid materially in annihilating several of the enemy and in breaking the abortive attack. Suddenly a Japanese soldier, assumed to be dead, sprang up and hurled a powerful hand grenade into the emplacement. Determined to save his comrades, Pfc. Epperson unhesitatingly chose to sacrifice himself and, diving upon the deadly missile, absorbed the shattering violence of the exploding charge in his own body. Stouthearted and indomitable in the face of certain death, Pfc. Epperson fearlessly yielded his own life that his able comrades might carry on the relentless battle against a ruthless enemy. His superb valor and unfaltering devotion to duty throughout reflect the highest credit upon himself and upon the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

7 July 1944 - *AGERHOLM, HAROLD CHRIST, Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 4th Battalion, 10th Marines, 2d Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Saipan, Marianas Islands, 7 July 1944. When the enemy launched a fierce, determined counterattack against our positions and overran a neighboring artillery battalion, Pfc. Agerholm immediately volunteered to assist in the efforts to check the hostile attack and evacuate our wounded. Locating and appropriating an abandoned ambulance jeep, he repeatedly made extremely perilous trips under heavy rifle and mortar fire and single-handedly loaded and evacuated approximately 45 casualties, working tirelessly and with utter disregard for his own safety during a grueling period of more than three hours. Despite intense, persistent enemy fire, he ran out to aid two men whom he believed to be wounded marines but was himself mortally wounded by a Japanese sniper while carrying out his hazardous mission. Pfc. Agerholm's brilliant initiative, great personal valor and self-sacrificing efforts in the face of almost certain death reflect the highest credit upon himself and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

8 July 1944 - *TIMMERMAN, GRANT FREDERICK, Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as tank commander serving with the 2d Battalion, 6th Marines, 2d Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces on Saipan, Marianas Islands, on 8 July 1944. Advancing with his tank a few yards ahead of the infantry in support of a vigorous attack on hostile positions, Sgt. Timmerman maintained steady fire from his antiaircraft sky mount machinegun until progress was impeded by a series of enemy trenches and pillboxes. Observing a target of opportunity, he immediately ordered the tank stopped and, mindful of the danger from the muzzle blast as he prepared to open fire with the 75mm., fearlessly stood up in the exposed turret and ordered the infantry to hit the deck. Quick to act as a grenade, hurled by the Japanese, was about to drop into the open turret hatch, Sgt. Timmerman unhesitatingly blocked the opening with his body holding the grenade against his chest and taking the brunt of the explosion. His exception valor and loyalty in saving his men at the cost of his own life reflect the highest credit upon Sgt. Timmerman and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.

Battle of the Philippine Sea, Western Pacific

19 June 1944 - McCAMPBELL, DAVID, Commander, U.S. Navy

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commander, Air Group 15, during combat against enemy Japanese aerial forces in the first and second battles of the Philippine Sea. An inspiring leader, fighting boldly in the face of terrific odds, Comdr. McCampbell led his fighter planes against a force of 80 Japanese carrier-based aircraft bearing down on our fleet on 19 June 1944. Striking fiercely in valiant defense of our surface force, he personally destroyed seven hostile planes during this single engagement in which the outnumbering attack force was utterly routed and virtually annihilated. During a major fleet engagement with the enemy on 24 October, Comdr. McCampbell, assisted by but one plane, intercepted and daringly attacked a formation of 60 hostile land-based craft approaching our forces. Fighting desperately but with superb skill against such overwhelming airpower, he shot down nine Japanese planes and, completely disorganizing the enemy group, forced the remainder to abandon the attack before a single aircraft could reach the fleet. His great personal valor and indomitable spirit of aggression under extremely perilous combat conditions reflect the highest credit upon Comdr. McCampbell and the U.S. Naval Service.

Invasion of Guam, Marianas Islands, Central Pacific

21-22 July 1944 - SKAGGS, LUTHER, JR., Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as squad leader with a mortar section of a rifle company in the 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, 3d Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces on the Asan-Adelup beachhead, Guam, Marianas Islands, 21 -22 July 1944. When the section leader became a casualty under a heavy mortar barrage shortly after landing, Pfc. Skaggs promptly assumed command and led the section through intense fire for a distance of 200 yards to a position from which to deliver effective coverage of the assault on a strategic cliff. Valiantly defending this vital position against strong enemy counterattacks during the night, Pfc. Skaggs was critically wounded when a Japanese grenade lodged in his foxhole and exploded, shattering the lower part of one leg. Quick to act, he applied an improvised tourniquet and, while propped up in his foxhole, gallantly returned the enemy's fire with his rifle and handgrenades for a period of eight hours, later crawling unassisted to the rear to continue the fight until the Japanese had been annihilated. Uncomplaining and calm throughout this critical period, Pfc. Skaggs served as a heroic example of courage and fortitude to other wounded men and, by his courageous leadership and inspiring devotion to duty, upheld the high traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

22 July 1944 - *MASON, LEONARD FOSTER, Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as an automatic rifleman serving with the 2d Battalion, 3d Marines, 3d Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on the Asan-Adelup Beachhead, Guam, Marianas Islands on 22 July 1944. Suddenly taken under fire by two enemy machineguns not more than 15 yards away while clearing out hostile positions holding up the advance of his platoon through a narrow gully, Pfc. Mason, alone and entirely on his own initiative, climbed out of the gully and moved parallel to it toward the rear of the enemy position. Although fired upon immediately by hostile riflemen from a higher position and wounded repeatedly in the arm and shoulder, Pfc. Mason grimly pressed forward and had just reached his objective when hit again by a burst of enemy machinegun fire, causing a critical wound to which he later succumbed. With valiant disregard for his own peril, he persevered, clearing out the hostile position, killing five Japanese, wounding another and then rejoining his platoon to report the results of his action before consenting to be evacuated. His exceptionally heroic act in the face of almost certain death enabled his platoon to accomplish its mission and reflects the highest credit upon Pfc. Mason and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

25-26 July 1944 - WILSON, LOUIS HUGH, JR., Captain, U.S. Marine Corps

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of a rifle company attached to the 2d Battalion, 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces at Fonte Hill, Guam, 25-26 July 1944. Ordered to take that portion of the hill within his zone of action, Capt. Wilson initiated his attack in mid-afternoon, pushed up the rugged, open terrain against terrific machinegun and rifle fire for 300 yards and successfully captured the objective. Promptly assuming command of other disorganized units and motorized equipment in addition to his own company and one reinforcing platoon, he organized his night defenses in the face of continuous hostile fire and, although wounded three times during this five-hour period, completed his disposition of men and guns before retiring to the company command post for medical attention. Shortly thereafter, when the enemy launched the first of a series of savage counterattacks lasting all night, he voluntarily rejoined his besieged units and repeatedly exposed himself to the merciless hail of shrapnel and bullets, dashing 50 yards into the open on one occasion to rescue a wounded marine Iying helpless beyond the frontlines. Fighting fiercely in hand-to-hand encounters, he led his men in furiously waged battle for approximately 10 hours, tenaciously holding his line and repelling the fanatically renewed counterthrusts until he succeeded in crushing the last efforts of the hard-pressed Japanese early the following morning. Then organizing a 17-man patrol, he immediately advanced upon a strategic slope essential to the security of his position and, boldly defying intense mortar, machinegun, and rifle fire which struck down 13 of his men, drove relentlessly forward with the remnants of his patrol to seize the vital ground. By his indomitable leadership, daring combat tactics, and valor in the face of overwhelming odds, Capt. Wilson succeeded in capturing and holding the strategic high ground in his regimental sector, thereby contributing essentially to the success of his regimental mission and to the annihilation of 350 Japanese troops. His inspiring conduct throughout the critical periods of this decisive action sustains and enhances the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

3 August 1944 - *WITEK, FRANK PETER, Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division, during the Battle of Finegayen at Guam, Marianas, on 3 August 1944. When his rifle platoon was halted by heavy surprise fire from well-camouflaged enemy positions, Pfc. Witek daringly remained standing to fire a full magazine from his automatic at point-blank range into a depression housing Japanese troops, killing eight of the enemy and enabling the greater part of his platoon to take cover. During his platoon's withdrawal for consolidation of lines, he remained to safeguard a severely wounded comrade, courageously returning the enemy's fire until the arrival of stretcher bearers, and then covering the evacuation by sustained fire as he moved backward toward his own lines. With his platoon again pinned down by a hostile machinegun, Pfc. Witek, on his own initiative, moved forward boldly to the reinforcing tanks and infantry, alternately throwing handgrenades and firing as he advanced to within 5 to 10 yards of the enemy position, and destroying the hostile machinegun emplacement and an additional eight Japanese before he himself was struck down by an enemy rifleman. His valiant and inspiring action effectively reduced the enemy's firepower, thereby enabling his platoon to attain its objective, and reflects the highest credit upon Pfc. Witek and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Invasion of Tinian, Marianas Islands, Central Pacific

30 July 1944 - *OZBOURN, JOSEPH WILLIAM, Private, U.S. Marine Corps

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a Browning Automatic Rifleman serving with the 1st Battalion, 23d Marines, 4th Marine Division, during the battle for enemy Japanese-held Tinian Island, Marianas Islands, 30 July 1944. As a member of a platoon assigned the mission of clearing the remaining Japanese troops from dugouts and pillboxes along a tree line, Pvt. Ozbourn, flanked by two men on either side, was moving forward to throw an armed handgrenade into a dugout when a terrific blast from the entrance severely wounded the four men and himself. Unable to throw the grenade into the dugout and with no place to hurl it without endangering the other men, Pvt. Ozbourn unhesitatingly grasped it close to his body and fell upon it, sacrificing his own life to absorb the full impact of the explosion, but saving his comrades. His great personal valor and unwavering loyalty reflect the highest credit upon Pvt. Ozbourn and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

4 August 1944 - *WILSON, ROBERT LEE, Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps

Citation For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 2d Battalion, 6th Marines, 2d Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces at Tinian Island, Marianas Group, on 4 August 1944. As one of a group of marines advancing through heavy underbrush to neutralize isolated points of resistance, Pfc. Wilson daringly preceded his companions toward a pile of rocks where Japanese troops were supposed to be hiding. Fully aware of the danger involved, he was moving forward while the remainder of the squad, armed with automatic rifles, closed together in the rear when an enemy grenade landed in the midst of the group. Quick to act, Pfc. Wilson cried a warning to the men and unhesitatingly threw himself on the grenade, heroically sacrificing his own life that the others might live and fulfill their mission. His exceptional valor, his courageous loyalty and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of grave peril reflect the highest credit upon Pfc. Wilson and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Submarine Operations, Pacific

31 July 1944 - RAMAGE, LAWSON PATERSON, Commander, U.S. Navy

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Parche in a predawn attack on a Japanese convoy, 31 July 1944. Boldly penetrating the screen of a heavily escorted convoy, Comdr. Ramage launched a perilous surface attack by delivering a crippling stern shot into a freighter and quickly following up with a series of bow and stern torpedoes to sink the leading tanker and damage the second one. Exposed by the light of bursting flares and bravely defiant of terrific shellfire passing close overhead, he struck again, sinking a transport by two forward reloads. In the mounting fury of fire from the damaged and sinking tanker, he calmly ordered his men below, remaining on the bridge to fight it out with an enemy now disorganized and confused. Swift to act as a fast transport closed in to ram, Comdr. Ramage daringly swung the stern of the speeding Parche as she crossed the bow of the onrushing ship, clearing by less than 50 feet but placing his submarine in a deadly crossfire from escorts on all sides and with the transport dead ahead. Undaunted, he sent three smashing "down the throat" bow shots to stop the target, then scored a killing hit as a climax to 46 minutes of violent action with the Parche and her valiant fighting company retiring victorious and unscathed.

Invasion of Peleliu Island, Palau Group, Western Pacific

15 September 1944 - *BAUSELL, LEWIS KENNETH, Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces on Peleliu Island, Palau Group, 15 September 1944. Valiantly placing himself at the head of his squad, Cpl. Bausell led the charge forward against a hostile pillbox which was covering a vital sector of the beach and, as the first to reach the emplacement, immediately started firing his automatic into the aperture while the remainder of his men closed in on the enemy. Swift to act, as a Japanese grenade was hurled into their midst, Cpl. Bausell threw himself on the deadly weapon, taking the full blast of the explosion and sacrificing his own life to save his men. His unwavering loyalty and inspiring courage reflect the highest credit upon Cpl. Bausell and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

15 September 1944 - ROUH, CARLTON ROBERT, First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while attached to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces on Peleliu Island, Palau group, 15 September 1944. Before permitting his men to use an enemy dugout as a position for an 81-mm. mortar observation post, 1st Lt. Rouh made a personal reconnaissance of the pillbox and, upon entering, was severely wounded by Japanese rifle fire from within. Emerging from the dugout, he was immediately assisted by two marines to a less exposed area but, while receiving first aid, was further endangered by an enemy grenade which was thrown into their midst. Quick to act in spite of his weakened condition, he lurched to a crouching position and thrust both men aside, placing his own body between them and the grenade and taking the full blast of the explosion himself. His exceptional spirit of loyalty and self-sacrifice in the face of almost certain death reflects the highest credit upon 1st Lt. Rouh and the U.S. Naval Service.

18 September 1944 - *ROAN, CHARLES HOWARD, Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Peleliu, Palau Islands, 18 September 1944. Shortly after his leader ordered a withdrawal upon discovering that the squad was partly cut off from their company as a result of the rapid advance along an exposed ridge during an aggressive attack on the strongly entrenched enemy, Pfc. Roan and his companions were suddenly engaged in a furious exchange of handgrenades by Japanese forces emplaced in a cave on higher ground and to the rear of the squad. Seeking protection with four other marines in a depression in the rocky, broken terrain, Pfc. Roan was wounded by an enemy grenade which fell close to their position and, immediately realizing the eminent peril to his comrades when another grenade landed in the midst of the group, unhesitatingly flung himself upon it, covering it with his body and absorbing the full impact of the explosion. By his prompt action and selfless conduct in the face of almost certain death, he saved the lives of four men. His great personal valor reflects the highest credit upon himself and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his comrades.

18 September 1944 - JACKSON, ARTHUR J., Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on the Island of Peleliu in the Palau group, 18 September 1944. Boldly taking the initiative when his platoon's left flank advance was held up by the fire of Japanese troops concealed in strongly fortified positions, Pfc. Jackson unhesitatingly proceeded forward of our lines and, courageously defying the heavy barrages, charged a large pillbox housing approximately 35 enemy soldiers. Pouring his automatic fire into the opening of the fixed installation to trap the occupying troops, he hurled white phosphorus grenades and explosive charges brought up by a fellow marine, demolishing the pillbox and killing all of the enemy. Advancing alone under the continuous fire from other hostile emplacements, he employed similar means to smash two smaller positions in the immediate vicinity. Determined to crush the entire pocket of resistance although harassed on all sides by the shattering blasts of Japanese weapons and covered only by small rifle parties, he stormed one gun position after another, dealing death and destruction to the savagely fighting enemy in his inexorable drive against the remaining defenses, and succeeded in wiping out a total of 12 pillboxes and 50 Japanese soldiers. Stouthearted and indomitable despite the terrific odds. Pfc. Jackson resolutely maintained control of the platoon's left flank movement throughout his valiant one-man assault and, by his cool decision and relentless fighting spirit during a critical situation, contributed essentially to the complete annihilation of the enemy in the southern sector of the island. His gallant initiative and heroic conduct in the face of extreme peril reflect the highest credit upon Pfc. Jackson and the U.S. Naval Service.

19-20 September 1944 - POPE, EVERETT PARKER, Captain, U.S. Marine Corps

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as commanding officer of Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces on Peleliu Island, Palau group, on 19-20 September 1944. Subjected to pointblank cannon fire which caused heavy casualties and badly disorganized his company while assaulting a steep coral hill, Capt. Pope rallied his men and gallantly led them to the summit in the face of machinegun, mortar, and sniper fire. Forced by widespread hostile attack to deploy the remnants of his company thinly in order to hold the ground won, and with his machineguns out of order and insufficient water and ammunition, he remained on the exposed hill with 12 men and one wounded officer determined to hold through the night. Attacked continuously with grenades, machineguns, and rifles from three sides, he and his valiant men fiercely beat back or destroyed the enemy, resorting to hand-to-hand combat as the supply of ammunition dwindled, and still maintaining his lines with his eight remaining riflemen when daylight brought more deadly fire and he was ordered to withdraw. His valiant leadership against devastating odds while protecting the units below from heavy Japanese attack reflects the highest credit upon Capt. Pope and the U.S. Naval Service .

25 September 1944 - *NEW, JOHN DURY, Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Peleliu Island, Palau Group, 25 September 1944. When a Japanese soldier emerged from a cave in a cliff directly below an observation post and suddenly hurled a grenade into the position from which two of our men were directing mortar fire against enemy emplacements, Pfc. New instantly perceived the dire peril to the other marines and, with utter disregard for his own safety, unhesitatingly flung himself upon the grenade and absorbed the full impact of the explosion, thus saving the lives of the two observers. Pfc. New's great personal valor and selfless conduct in the face of almost certain death reflect the highest credit upon himself and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

4 October 1944 - *PHELPS, WESLEY, Private, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Peleliu Island, Palau Group, during a savage hostile counterattack on the night of 4 October 1944. Stationed with another marine in an advanced position when a Japanese handgrenade landed in his foxhole Pfc. Phelps instantly shouted a warning to his comrade and rolled over on the deadly bomb, absorbing with his own body the full, shattering Impact of the exploding charge. Courageous and indomitable, Pfc. Phelps fearlessly gave his life that another might be spared serious injury, and his great valor and heroic devotion to duty in the face of certain death reflect the highest credit upon himself and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

5 October 1944 - *KRAUS, RICHARD EDWARD, Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 8th Amphibious Tractor Battalion, Fleet Marine Force, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Peleliu, Palau Islands, on 5 October 1944. Unhesitatingly volunteering for the extremely hazardous mission of evacuating a wounded comrade from the front lines, Pfc. Kraus and three companions courageously made their way forward and successfully penetrated the lines for some distance before the enemy opened with an intense, devastating barrage of hand grenades which forced the stretcher party to take cover and subsequently abandon the mission. While returning to the rear, they observed two men approaching who appeared to be marines and immediately demanded the password. When, instead of answering, one of the two Japanese threw a hand grenade into the midst of the group, Pfc. Kraus heroically flung himself upon the grenade and, covering it with his body, absorbed the full impact of the explosion and was instantly killed. By his prompt action and great personal valor in the face of almost certain death, he saved the lives of his three companions, and his loyal spirit of self-sacrifice reflects the highest credit upon himself and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his comrades.

Air-Sea Rescue Operations, Halmahera Islands, Western Pacific

16 September 1944 - PRESTON, ARTHUR MURRAY, Lieutenant, U.S. Navy Reserve

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commander, Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 33, while effecting the rescue of a Navy pilot shot down in Wasile Bay, Halmahera Island, less than 200 yards from a strongly defended Japanese dock and supply area, 16 September 1944. Volunteering for a perilous mission unsuccessfully attempted by the pilot's squadron mates and a PBY plane, Lt. Comdr. (then Lieutenant) Preston led PT-489 and PT-363 through 60 miles of restricted, heavily mined waters. Twice turned back while running the gauntlet of fire from powerful coastal defense guns guarding the 11-mile strait at the entrance to the bay, he was again turned back by furious fire in the immediate area of the downed airman. Aided by an aircraft smokescreen, he finally succeeded in reaching his objective and, under vicious fire delivered at 150-yard range, took the pilot aboard and cleared the area, sinking a small hostile cargo vessel with 40-mm. fire during retirement. Increasingly vulnerable when covering aircraft were forced to leave because of insufficient fuel, Lt. Comdr. Preston raced PT boats 489 and 363 at high speed for 20 minutes through shell-splashed water and across minefields to safety. Under continuous fire for 2 l/2 hours, Lt. Comdr. Preston successfully achieved a mission considered suicidal in its tremendous hazards, and brought his boats through without personnel casualties and with but superficial damage from shrapnel. His exceptional daring and great personal valor enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Submarine Operations, off Northern Philippines, Western Pacific

23 and 24 October 1944 - O'KANE, RICHARD HETHERINGTON, Commander, U.S. Navy

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Tang operating against two enemy Japanese convoys on 23 and 24 October 1944, during her fifth and last war patrol. Boldly maneuvering on the surface into the midst of a heavily escorted convoy, Comdr. O'Kane stood in the fusillade of bullets and shells from all directions to launch smashing hits on three tankers, coolly swung his ship to fire at a freighter and, in a split-second decision, shot out of the path of an onrushing transport, missing it by inches. Boxed in by blazing tankers, a freighter, transport, and several destroyers, he blasted two of the targets with his remaining torpedoes and, with pyrotechnics bursting on all sides, cleared the area. Twenty-four hours later, he again made contact with a heavily escorted convoy steaming to support the Leyte campaign with reinforcements and supplies and with crated planes piled high on each unit. In defiance of the enemy's relentless fire, he closed the concentration of ship and in quick succession sent two torpedoes each into the first and second transports and an adjacent tanker, finding his mark with each torpedo in a series of violent explosions at less than l,000-yard range. With ships bearing down from all sides, he charged the enemy at high speed, exploding the tanker in a burst of flame, smashing the transport dead in the water, and blasting the destroyer with a mighty roar which rocked the Tang from stem to stern. Expending his last two torpedoes into the remnants of a once powerful convoy before his own ship went down, Comdr. O'Kane, aided by his gallant command, achieved an illustrious record of heroism in combat, enhancing the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

(USS Tang was hit by the last of her own torpedoes circling back, and sank with loss of all her crew except for nine men. The survivors included Comdr O'Kane, and all nine managed to survive imprisonment as Japanese POW's).

Battles of Leyte Gulf, Battle of Samar, Western Pacific

25 October 1944 - *EVANS, ERNEST EDWIN, Commander, U.S. Navy

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Johnston (destroyer) in action against major units of the enemy Japanese fleet during the battle off Samar on 25 October 1944. The first to lay a smokescreen and to open fire as an enemy task force, vastly superior in number, firepower and armor, rapidly approached. Comdr. Evans gallantly diverted the powerful blasts of hostile guns from the lightly armed and armored carriers under his protection, launching the first torpedo attack when the Johnston came under straddling Japanese shellfire. Undaunted by damage sustained under the terrific volume of fire, he unhesitatingly joined others of his group to provide fire support during subsequent torpedo attacks against the Japanese and, outshooting and outmaneuvering the enemy as he consistently interposed his vessel between the hostile fleet units and our carriers despite the crippling loss of engine power and communications with steering aft, shifted command to the fantail, shouted steering orders through an open hatch to men turning the rudder by hand and battled furiously until the Johnston, burning and shuddering from a mortal blow, lay dead in the water after three hours of fierce combat. Seriously wounded early in the engagement, Comdr. Evans, by his indomitable courage and brilliant professional skill, aided materially in turning back the enemy during a critical phase of the action. His valiant fighting spirit throughout this historic battle will venture as an inspiration to all who served with him.

(USS Johnston was lost in this engagement).

Anti-Shipping Air Operations, South China Sea, Western Pacific

26 October 1944 - *CARSWELL, HORACE S., JR., Major, U.S. Army Air Corps

Citation: He piloted a B-24 bomber (of the 308th Bombardment Group) in a one-plane strike against a Japanese convoy in the South China Sea on the night of 26 October 1944. Taking the enemy force of 12 ships escorted by at least two destroyers by surprise, he made one bombing run at 600 feet, scoring a near miss on one warship and escaping without drawing fire. He circled and fully realizing that the convoy was thoroughly alerted and would meet his next attack with a barrage of antiaircraft fire, began a second low-level run which culminated in two direct hits on a large tanker. A hail of steel from Japanese guns, riddled the bomber, knocking out two engines, damaging a third, crippling the hydraulic system, puncturing one gasoline tank, ripping uncounted holes in the aircraft, and wounding the copilot but by magnificent display of flying skill, Maj. Carswell controlled the plane's plunge toward the sea and carefully forced it into a halting climb in the direction of the China shore. On reaching land, where it would have been possible to abandon the staggering bomber, one of the crew discovered that his parachute had been ripped by flak and rendered useless the pilot, hoping to cross mountainous terrain and reach a base, continued onward until the third engine failed. He ordered the crew to bail out while he struggled to maintain altitude, and, refusing to save himself, chose to remain with his comrade and attempt a crash landing. He died when the airplane struck a mountainside and burned. With consummate gallantry and intrepidity, Maj. Carswell gave his life in a supreme effort to save all members of his crew. His sacrifice. far beyond that required of him, was in keeping with the traditional bravery of America's war heroes.

Submarine Operations, East Coast of China

19 December 1944 to 15 February 1945 - FLUCKEY, EUGENE BENNETT, Commander, U.S. Navy


World War Photos

Troops inspect a bunker after capturing the Kwajalein Marine patrol and Japanese aircraft wrecks at Roi Airfield 7th Infantry Division at Japanese radio and power HQ American flag Kwajalein Atoll
24th Marines assault troops pinned down on a Namur beach 4th Marine Division Machine Gun crew advancing on Namur 4th Division Marine Lt Willis amid ruins on Namur Island Marines landing on Kwajalein Atoll in LVT 31 January 1944 2
Japanese soldier surrenders to Marines on Namur Marine fires on Japanese sniper from Kwajalein shell hole Marines search thru wreckage on Namur Island Row of Shermans
Bodies of fallen Japanese soldiers in trench on Namur Island U.S .Coast Guardsmen with captured Japanese at Kwajalein 1944 7th Division troops attack Japanese pillbox on Kwajalein 7th Division M10 and machine gunners advance on Kwajalein
Japanese soldier surrendering to troops of the 4th Marine on Roi-Namur near concrete blockhouse American flag over ruins of Japanese Headquarters on Namur LVT landing 7th Division troops on Enubuj Landing crafts tanks supplies troops on Kwajalein
Marines at camp after the capture of Kwajalein Marines of V Amphibious Corps pull an injured Japanese soldier from a bunker 4th Division Marines scan the front on blasted Roi Namur Island Battle of Kwajalein 4
7th Infantry Division soldiers and 767th Tank Battalion M10 advance on Kwajalein Landing Crafts transporting troops to Kwajalein Beach Battle of Kwajalein Marines Marines unload equipment on Namur Beach
Soldier with flamethrower views fallen soldiers on Namur Kwajalein on day before bombardment LSTs bringing Seabees and supplies to Kwajalein Avengers flying over Marines advancing to the north end of Namur
Aerial view of US Invasion of Namur and Roi Islands 23rd Marines on Roi watch giant explosion on Namur Battle of Kwajalein 3 M5A1 of Co B, 4th Tank Battalion, roll ashore at 13.00 on Green 2 Namur Island
7th Infantry Division soldiers advance on Kwajalein Marines in action Troops check IDs on fallen soldiers on Kwajalein Corpsmen carry a wounded Marine on a stretcher
Unloading LCM with tractor at Roi 4th Division Marines check Japanese dead at Roi Airfield Bulldozer aids USS LST-241 Roi Island 1st Battalion 24th Marines in action on Namur
Battle of Kwajalein 2 Crane unloads landing craft from USS Leedstown on Kwajalein M5A1 light tanks stalled on Green 2 Namur Marines landing on Kwajalein Atoll in LVT 31 January 1944
4th Division Marines land under fire February 13, 1944 Aerial view of shell torn Kwajalein with U.S. ships offshore 1944 Troops and reconstruction materials on Kwajalein Beach 4th Div Marines work to coax Japanese from pillbox on Namur
LVTs come in to the beach at low tide on Enubuj in the Kwajalein Atoll, landing 7th Division troops and equipment Marines in machine gun nest on Namur Marines landing on beach at Namur 4th Marine Division search for Japanese snipers on Namur
Soldier in action with flame thrower on Namur Island Marines attacking pillbox on Kwajalein Red Cross gives cigarettes to 4th Division Marines on Kwajalein 4th Division Marines guard Japanese soldier on Roi Namur
Marines move inland after landing on Roi Island

The Battle of Kwajalein was a battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II, fought from 31 January 1944 to 3 February 1944 on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
After the capture of Makin and Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, the next step in the United States Navy’s campaign in the central Pacific was the Marshall Islands. These islands had been German colonies until World War I, then assigned to Japan in the post-war settlement as the “Eastern Mandates”. After the loss of the Solomon Islands and New Guinea in 1943, the Japanese command decided that the Gilbert and Marshall islands would be expendable: they preferred to fight a decisive battle closer to home. However, at the end of 1943 the Marshalls were reinforced to make their taking expensive for the Americans. By January 1944 the regional commander in Truk, Admiral Masashi Kobayashi, had 28,000 troops to defend the Marshalls, but he had very few planes.
Expecting the US to attack the outermost islands in the group first, most of the defenders were stationed on Wotje, Mille, Maloelap, and Jaluit atolls to the east and south. This disposition was revealed to the Americans by ULTRA decryptions of Japanese communications, and Nimitz decided instead to bypass these outposts and land directly on Kwajalein. To do this, sea and air superiority were necessary. Accordingly, on 29 January 1944 US carrier planes attacked the Japanese airfield on Roi-Namur, destroying 92 of the 110 Japanese planes in the Marshalls.
The American forces for the landings were Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner’s 5th Amphibious Force, and Major General Holland M. Smith’s V Amphibious Corps, which was comprised of the 4th Marine Division commanded by Maj. Gen. Harry Schmidt, the 7th Infantry Division commanded by Maj. Gen. Charles H. Corlett, plus the 22nd Marine, 106th Infantry, and the 111th Infantry regiments. The 4th and 7th Divisions were assigned to the initial landings at Kwajalein, while the 2nd Battalion of the 106th was assigned to the simultaneous capture of Majuro Atoll, about 490 km to the southeast. The rest of the 106th and the 22nd Marines were in reserve for Kwajalein, while awaiting the following assault on Eniwetok, scheduled for three months later.
The 7th Infantry Division began by capturing the small islands labeled Carlos, Carter, Cecil, and Carlson on 31 January, which were used as artillery bases for the next day’s assault. Kwajalein Island is 4 km long but only 800 m wide. There was therefore no possibility of defence in depth and the Japanese planned to counter-attack the landing beaches. They had not realized until the battle of Tarawa that American amphibious vehicles could cross coral reefs and so land on the lagoon side of an atoll accordingly the strongest defences on Kwajalein faced the ocean. Bombardment by battleships, B-29 bombers and artillery on Carlson was devastating. The US Army history of the battle quotes a participant as saying that “the entire island looked as if it had been picked up 20,000 feet and then dropped”. By the time the 7th Division landed on Kwajalein Island on 1 February 1944 there was little resistance: by night the Americans estimated that only 1,500 of the original 5,000 defenders were still alive.
On the north side of the atoll, the 4th Marine Division followed the same plan, first capturing islets Ivan, Jacob, Albert, Allen, and Abraham on 31 January, and landing on Roi-Namur on 1 February. The airfield on Roi (the eastern half) was captured quickly, and Namur the next day. The worst setback came when a Marine demolition team threw a satchel charge of high explosive into a Japanese bunker which turned out to be a torpedo warhead magazine. The resulting explosion killed twenty Marines and wounded dozens more. Only 51 of the original 3,500 Japanese defenders of Roi-Namur survived to be captured.
The relatively easy capture of Kwajalein demonstrated US amphibious capabilities and showed that the changes to training and tactics after the bloody battle of Tarawa had been effective. It allowed Nimitz to speed up operations in the Marshalls and invade Eniwetok Atoll on 17 February 1944.
The Japanese learned from the battle that beachline defenses were too vulnerable to bombardment by ships and planes. In the campaign for the Mariana Islands the defense in depth on Guam and Peleliu was much harder to overcome than the thin line on Kwajalein.

Site statistics:
photos of World War 2 : over 31500
aircraft models: 184
tank models: 95
vehicle models: 92
gun models: 5
units: 2
ships: 49


Battle [ edit | edit source ]

The US forces for the landings were Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner's 5th Amphibious Force, and Major General Holland M. Smith's V Amphibious Corps, which comprised the 4th Marine Division commanded by Maj. Gen. Harry Schmidt, the 7th Infantry Division commanded by Maj. Gen. Charles H. Corlett, plus the 22nd Marines, 106th Infantry, and the 111th Infantry regiments. The 4th and 7th Divisions were assigned to the initial landings at Kwajalein, while the 2nd Battalion of the 106th was assigned to the simultaneous capture of Majuro Atoll. The rest of the 106th and the 22nd Marines were in reserve for Kwajalein, while awaiting the following assault on Eniwetok, scheduled for three months later.

The 7th Infantry Division began by capturing the small islands labeled Carlos, Carter, Cecil, and Carlson on 31 January, which were used as artillery bases for the next day's assault. Kwajalein Island is 2.5 mi (4.0 km) long but only 880 yd (800 m) wide. There was therefore no possibility of defence in depth, so the Japanese planned to counter-attack the landing beaches. They had not realized until the battle of Tarawa that American amphibious vehicles could cross coral reefs and so land on the lagoon side of an atoll accordingly the strongest defences on Kwajalein faced the ocean. The bombardment by battleships, B-24 bombers from Apamama and artillery on Carlson was devastating. The US Army history of the battle quotes a participant as saying that "the entire island looked as if it had been picked up 20,000 feet and then dropped." By the time the 7th Division landed on Kwajalein Island on 1 February, there was little resistance by night the Americans estimated that only 1,500 of the original 5,000 defenders were still alive.

On the north side of the atoll, the 4th Marine Division followed the same plan, first capturing islets Ivan, Jacob, Albert, Allen, and Abraham on 31 January, and landing on Roi-Namur on 1 February. The airfield on Roi (the eastern half), was captured quickly, and Namur (the western half), fell the next day. The worst setback came when a Marine demolition team threw a satchel charge of high explosives into a Japanese bunker which turned out to be a torpedo warhead magazine. The resulting explosion killed twenty Marines and wounded dozens more. Ώ] Only 51 of the original 3,500 Japanese defenders of Roi-Namur survived to be captured.


A 7th Infantry Division World War II Vet Shares His Message of Honor: Don Fida, US Army 184th Infantry Regiment, and the Battle of Kwajalein

It was 3:00am on February 1st, 1944. The 22,000 soldiers of the 7th infantry Division were spread across 12 Attack Transport Ships each with capacity around 1,600 troops and officers. This all occurred after a rendezvous at sea of several hundred ships in preparation for a two-day naval bombardment silenced any opposition for 300 yards inland before the battle. The assault of Kwajalein’s southern beach was to begin at daybreak.

Promptly at 9:30am, 11 LST landing crafts loaded men in a nonstop series for the official amphibious landing, but in those days, nothing was announced beforehand. The night air was probably warm by many standards, in the mid-70s, but chills ran up many men’s spines. The aim toward decisive victory on Kwajalein was patterned after Admiral Chester W. Nimitz’s Central Pacific Fleet strategy across many islands in the Pacific engaging in “island hopping” while ground forces then worked to divide and conquer. The February 1944 battle by the 7th Infantry Division was even caught on film. You might also recall that air force veteran, Louis Zamperini, whose story was featured in the 2014 movie, Unbroken. Zamperini had also been a Japanese Prisoner of War (POW) on Kwajalein for six weeks in 1942, long before the US invasion.

The turning point in the Pacific conquests had been the prevention of an overthrow on Midway island in June of 1942. Not only were the Imperial Japanese on the defensive after that, but they were weakened dramatically compared to an overwhelming American military and tactical force. As military historian, Robert Coakley put it in 1988, “Midway was the turning point, for it redressed the naval balance in the Pacific and gave the Allies the strategic initiative.”

Don Fida was the bugler and messenger from the 184th Infantry Regiment, G Company, which was part of the second battalion in the 7th Infantry. As a fellow New York state native like me, Don and I met during my college years when I was in Syracuse, New York. Also, I’ve had the honor of interviewing Don for the last 15 years.

Don’s fellow troops in the 184th, 281 in all, were led by First Sergeant Earl Watson (noncommissioned) of Chico, California. As the battle began, the 7th infantry swept northeastward. That day, there were over 5,000 Imperial Japanese soldiers, but the impressive force and firepower of the 7th infantry division toppled them in a grueling 4-day battle. Total forces assaulting the Marshall Islands, which included Kwajalein Atoll as its crown gem, were 85,000 split between army and marine forces.

Don had actually known Earl since they met in Sacramento in 1942. Don had an interesting history leading up to that meeting, and it warranted him personal attention from and friendship with his commanding officer. The story of their meeting and service together is an inspiring symbol of dedication and sacrifice spanning over 7 decades to today. It’s my honor to report this story today for Veteran’s Day, 2016.

HISTORICAL TIMELINE OF DON FIDA’S SERVICE

A short timeline of Don’s military service in the 184th Infantry Regiment, G Company of the 7th Infantry Division is as follows:

  • DON’S BIRTHDAY #18 Jan 28, 1942.
  • June 1942 Manlius Military Academy graduation (age 18).
  • SUMMER Fort Niagara, Buffalo.
  • FALL Basic Training, sabotage of troop train near Spartanburg, South Carolina, burning the right side of Don’s face (classified).
  • FALL/WINTER, Sacramento/Fort Ord Joining 184th IR, G Company.
  • DON’S BIRTHDAY #19 Jan 28, 1943.
  • EARLY SPRING, Training at For Ord and troop movement to Washington State and then Alaska.
  • LATE SPRING, Alaska, WWII begins for the 7th Infantry Division in Operation Cottage.
  • May, Attu backup.
  • August, Kiska action.
  • FALL, Four Months of training, rest, recuperation, including staying at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
  • LATE FALL, 7th Infantry Division troops leave for Pacific Campaign.
  • JANUARY 22, Rendezvous with Pacific Fleet en route to Kwajalein, with arrival on January 31st. This was timed to coincide with an intensive naval bombardment of the islands of Kwajalein, Roi, and Namur.
  • DON’S BIRTHDAY #20 Jan 28, 1944, while at sea before the Kwajalein landing.
  • Feb. 1-4, 9:30am, the Amphibious landing and assault of Kwajalein, Operation Flintlock.
  • Feb. 3, An ominous foreshadowing, a bullet grazes Sgt. Earl Watson drawing blood.
  • February 4 morning, the death of Sgt. Early Watson by a sniper’s bullet.
  • Feb 4, evening, victory.
  • SPRING/SUMMER, Return to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii for training, rest and recuperation
  • OCTOBER 11, The 5,300-mile trip to Leyte, Philippines, Philippine Campaign.
  • FALL/WINTER, Battle of Leyte, Don is captured and held as Prisoner of War until released after a successful shelling by the US forces.
  • EARLY SPRING, recuperation with help from medic and friend, Tony Pagano, of Syracuse, New York and Filipinos who also dressed and redressed POW wounds to groin and abdomen.
  • April 1, Okinawa Campaign on Easter Sunday as Japan’s last stand, The Final Great Battle.
  • August6,& 9, Historic use of nuclear warheads, Little Boy and Fat Man over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • August 14, 1945, Don and fellow troops watching Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, in The Big Sleep, on a large sheet when the last planes fly overhead firing tracers. Though fear was shortly felt, the absolute end of World War II was announced and the troops cheered.
  • FALL Seoul for recuperation. Don is chosen as one of only a few in his company to be first in being flown back to the US on a C-47.

INTRODUCTION

In this three part series for the Huffington Post, I will be interviewing two amazing individuals who ironically found themselves on different sides of the same war. Also, I will include a posthumous article in honor of an amazing veteran who served admirably to help secure our nation’s freedoms. All of these true stories told through those who have survived and their families. These stories are poised to encourage and inspire this 2016 Veteran’s Day.

Today, I have the honor of interviewing Don Fida. He is 92 years old and lives in the same house in Syracuse, New York, that he was born and grew up in nearly a century ago. He drives a jeep (one of seven he’s owned over several decades) and has a hula-girl-type doll on the dash in honor of his late wife, Paulette. And as the timeline shows, Don is a proud US Army veteran who served combat tours of duty in Kiska, Alaska, Kwajalein, of the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific, Leyte in the Philippines, and Okinawa, Japan.

Don has an amazing story about a Message of Honor that he waited over 58 years to share with a family in California -- and he is sharing that message with you today as well. I happened to intercept Don’s veteran service in a most unique way that I already wrote about in a 2006 Kwajalein Hourglass newsletter (the monthly newsletter of the 7th Infantry Regiment), but that is getting a bit ahead of the story.

Don’s Story and How I Connected with Him: The Layup

There are not that many times in life where you might play a deciding factor in the lives of many other people, but amazing acts of influence happen every day, and are all around us. I was given a simple privilege among other things to help Don with something he struggled with for over 55 years. Only one person in the world had the answer, and it was me though I didn’t even know it at the time.

How Don and I connected has two parts. The first part was what I would call the layup while the second part was the swoosh! Part 1 of this series today is the layup.

It all started in the late 1980s when I was finishing an undergraduate degree at Syracuse University and attending a newer, upbeat church in Cicero, New York. At that church, I would meet an usher from time to time, a raspy but kind, older man named Don. I had never gotten to know him, but I just knew that he was a nice guy.

In 2002, I returned to Syracuse for a friend’s wedding and visited that upbeat church one more time. By then, I had finished college and been a teacher in Alaska and in the South Pacific – and I was only visiting for a weekend that included a hefty case of jet lag. Thus, I wandered into the church at least an hour early and no one was there (More about lifetime impact: How to have Effective Conversations with US Combat Veterans…).

With a bit of courage, I waited patiently at the church and in walked Don. A little older, a little kinder, and just as nice as I remembered. Since Don was an elder American, I greeted him with warmth and a smile. I told him I used to be a member of the church years before that time and thent I had moved to Alaska as a teacher. It would be a short conversation, or so I thought.

Don smiled warmly and said, “Alaska?” with a friendly laugh. He added that he had been a soldier there, which garnered my interest.

Then I said six words that changed the lives of six people instantly! I said, “Thank you for serving your country.”

To that, Don smiled broadly and said I was welcome. He added that he had fought in the South Pacific, as well.

Now it was my turn. I smiled broadly and said I had been a teacher in the South Pacific too. Don’s grin grew, as did mine, and he aimed for the coffee pot nearby. As he offered me a cup, I noticed he was stirring his own cup with his left hand. I asked if he was a Southpaw (a lefty) too, and he said he was.

There we were: two left-handed Americans who went to the same church and had served internationally in very similar locations. As I sipped a cup of bold, fresh coffee, I marveled at Don. As I did, he shared story after story about the War. It seemed that my “Thank you” had opened an unseen floodgate in him to share these stories. And then came a story that brought us both near to tears.

Don told me about his best friend Earl Watson, that is Sergeant Earl Watson. Then with more tears forming, Don told me how on Kwajalein island in February of 1944, a sniper’s bullet killed his best friend and sergeant. Don was a bugler and personally served the needs of Sergeant Watson each and every day.

Don asked me with large tears forming why it was that God let him live and his best friend die. He couldn’t understand it and felt so upset. Don knew he had survivor’s guilt, which is a symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – something that many combat veterans deal with. Moreover, the “survivor’s guilt” that Don felt had always left him with an empty spot on the inside.

Don told me that he wished in the deepest place in his heart that he could meet the family of his best friend Earl and comfort them. Don wanted to tell them that their brother died with dignity – without prolonged pain – and had served his country honorably. What a wound Don felt for 57 years after that time in a fox hole on Kwajalein Island! And likewise, I thought about that family somewhere in the US who had never heard about how their son who had died on Kwajalein. They had never heard about what those last moments were like.

As Don talked, I felt something inside me that I had never felt before. I knew something was up. It was a feeling that never left me. One part of me was rooted in the digital generation. I thought to myself, “What, with the internet and all of its capability, how couldn’t we find the family of Sergeant Earl Watson? The other feeling I had was a sense of awe extending beyond description.

Don also told me why he wanted to meet Earl’s family. He said that Earl made Don promise that he would always be by his side. “Always stay by my side,” Earl had said. Since Don’s served as a bugler, he was often need to summon the troops or help Earl’s orders be heard, understood, and followed.

The origin of that promise came in Sacramento, California in the late Fall of 1942. At that time, Don had just finished basic training in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He also had been injured when a fuel truck was left on the train tracks of his troop’s train. Don was in the second train car, and the flames from the ensuing explosion burned and slightly disfigured his face at that time.

When Don got to California and joined the 184th Infantry Regiment, G Company, he was met by his commanding officer, Sergeant Earl Watson, who personally drove to Sacramento to get Don. As Don continued to recuperate, Sergeant Watson kept a close watch on him. Actually, the sergeant made Don keep his bunk right next to his. Moreover, it was Sergeant Earl Watson who made Don promise to “always be by my side.” It was a promise Don would keep for a lifetime.

The Sacrifices of War

“War is hell,” Don told me, and I believe him. His service was summarized as the following.

In May of 1943, the 7th Infantry Division took Attu, Alaska in the Aleutian island chain. It was theorized that the Imperial Japanese may have been trying to divert attention away from their strongholds in the Pacific that would steadily be plucked out by the strong US Pacific Fleet.

Don was in the 2nd Battalion of the 7th and his company was on backup for the battle of Attu. Companies A,B,C, and D were in the 1st Battalion while companies E,G,H, and K were in the 2nd one. While on the transport ship heading to Alaska, a friend of Don’s from Syracuse named Tony Pagano who was also on the troop ship asked Don if he could continue to wait and not become a committed Christian. Don saw the wisdom of this prayerful plea and prayed on that ship to make Jesus the leader of his life.

In August, the 2nd battalion saw its first glimpse of action with the Battle of Kiska. The Japanese were fleeing at Kiska – dinner still on tables – so the G Company was able to take a single prisoner of war. Even though a POW, the 7th took care of and treated the Japanese soldier honorably. The 7th suffered no casualties.

After the battle of Kiska, the 7th went to the Schofield Barracks of Fort Shafter on Honolulu Island, Hawaii. The purpose of this months-long time was to rest, recuperate, and prepare before the hardest fighting for the 7th would begin.

In the late Fall of 1943 began the preparations and then the 2,400-mile journey to Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific. Just as Kiska and Attu were the only times in world history that the United States defended its own land, Kwajalein was first Japanese mandated territory to be attacked (according to Don). To be fair, the “marching fire” across the Pacific was westward, but a close timing of attacks and victories might have looked different from the eyes of the soldiers who were on the ground.

When the assault on Kwajalein began, Don recalls that it was a day and night mission. There was no rest and no real sleep for the four days of battle as troops clawed and fought northeastward across the Kwajalein atoll.

General George C. Marshall remarked that the Kwajalein Atoll was one of the most efficient operations of the Pacific theater. Nearly 5,000 Imperial Japanese were killed and only about 177 US soldiers died in battle.

Don remembers well the third day of battle. He was with Sergeant Earl Watson and Earl was struck by a bullet on the left side of his face. It drew blood, and Earl looked scared as any man would look in the same situation. Don believes this event was a type of ominous foreshadowing, in a way, because on the next day Sergeant Earl Watson would be fatally shot by a sniper’s bullet. Tragically, Earl became one of the 177 brave soldiers killed on Kwajalein.

Don was sucker-punched, and held the mortally-wounded sergeant as Earl bled and died. Enemy fire was intense and Don pulled Earl’s body on top of him for protection. Then when the air cleared, Don clambered for about 200 yards on his elbows, he said, to tell a higher-up commanding officer of Earl’s death.

Then, those eternal words, “Always stay by my side,” hung in the air as Don continued the last day of the assault and all the while knew that his best friend and sergeant was gone.

But even with Earl tragically passing away on that island and Don left with a feeling of guilt that spanned half a century, the promise to stay by Earl’s side was not finished. There indeed was a chapter of the story yet to be penned.

After the Battle for Kwajalein, the 7th spent another several months of rest and training in Hawaii. Then, Don recalls his next 80 or so days in the Battle for Leyte in the Philippine campaign. It was there that Don was caught after conducting a patrol with another solider. Don was tied up spread eagle by the Japanese army and held as a prisoner. He was even tortured through a knife wound in the groin and an abdominal wound from a sword. Fortunately, an intense shelling by US forces routed his captors and Don was set free.

It was amazing that his good friend from Syracuse, Tony Pagano – the same one from the ship to Kiska – was a medic and not only cared for Don’s wounds, but also enlisted help from some compassionate Filipinos on Leyte as well.

After a lengthy recuperation, Don then resumed his wartime service with another 80 or so days on Okinawa. It was the last battle of the war and his company would see planes overhead on August 14, 1945 firing tracers marking the Japanese surrender.

Ironically, the end of the War occurred as the men watched the Bogart and Bacall movie, the Big Sleep, which had been pre-released to the US Military to show to soldiers who were at war. Quite likely, as the soldiers were thinking of private investigator Marlowe’s (Humphrey Bogart) attraction to the rich daughter Vivian (Lauren Bacall), romance must have been in the air rather than the winds of war. Back in the US, Bogart and Bacall had actually gotten married in May 1945 so seeing them together was a taste of family for the soldiers on Okinawa who longed for home.

Don’s last months in the War were spent in safety and recuperation in Seoul, Korea, before he boarded an early C-47 and headed home. And all the while, his mother Italian-American mother Adalina had been praying daily for his safety and return. Prayers answered.

--- The Reunion ---

The 1940s became the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Over that time, Don seldom shared about the intimate sacrifices of War and never told the full story of losing his best friend until Don and I met in the hallway of a church in December 2001.

In Part 2 of this series, I will share about the discovery of a special family in Chico, California, the Watson Family, which included five siblings of Sergeant Earl Watson. There were four sisters – Frances, Betty, Juanita, and Hazel. And there was one brother, Fred. Don said that they treated him so well when he visited Earl’s family – all of whom were living at that time and thankful that Don endured and came. “I was so grateful to them,” he said, “and appreciated all they did.”

Here is a picture of historic meeting of Don Fida and the Watson family in 2005.

Part 2 of this series will be available at this link on or around November 4, 2016.

Park 2 of this series will explain more about how Sergeant Earl Watson’s family was found and what a delivering a Message of Honor actually looked like. Part 2 is expected to be finished by Friday, November 4, 2016. You can also follow the author on Twitter or Facebook to get an announcement at publication time.

Dr. Jonathan Doll normally writes on the Huffington Post blog covering topics of school engagement and wellness. However, his connection with Don Fida across 15 years has led to hearing the story of Don’s Message of Honor, which is the topic of a three-part 2016 Veteran’s Day series.


Battle of Kwajalein - HISTORY

The Battle of Saipan was a battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II, fought on the island of Saipan in the Mariana Islands from 15 June&ndash9 July 1944. The Allied invasion fleet embarking . More the expeditionary forces left Pearl Harbor on 5 June 1944, the day before Operation Overlord in Europe was launched. The U.S. 2nd Marine Division, 4th Marine Division, and 27th Infantry Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Holland Smith, defeated the 43rd Division of the Imperial Japanese Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Yoshitsugu Saito.

Bombardment of Saipan began on 13 June 1944. Fifteen battleships were involved, and 165,000 shells were fired. Seven modern fast battleships delivered twenty-four hundred 16 in (410 mm) shells, but to avoid potential minefields, fire was from a distance of 10,000 yd (9,100 m) or more, and crews were inexperienced in shore bombardment. The following day the eight older battleships and 11 cruisers under Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf replaced the fast battleships but were lacking in time and ammunition.

The landings began at 07:00 on 15 June 1944. More than 300 LVTs landed 8,000 Marines on the west coast of Saipan by about 09:00. Eleven fire support ships covered the Marine landings. The naval force consisted of the battleships Tennessee and California. The cruisers were Birmingham and Indianapolis. The destroyers were Norman Scott, Monssen, Colahan, Halsey Powell, Bailey, Robinson and Albert W. Grant. Careful Japanese artillery preparation &mdash placing flags in the lagoon to indicate the range &mdash allowed them to destroy about 20 amphibious tanks, and the Japanese strategically placed barbed wire, artillery, machine gun emplacements, and trenches to maximize the American casualties. However, by nightfall the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions had a beachhead about 6 mi (10 km) wide and 0.5 mi (1 km) deep. The Japanese counter-attacked at night but were repulsed with heavy losses. On 16 June, units of the U.S. Army's 27th Infantry Division landed and advanced on the airfield at Ås Lito (which is now the location of Saipan International Airport). Again the Japanese counter-attacked at night. On 18 June, Saito abandoned the airfield.

The invasion surprised the Japanese high command, which had been expecting an attack further south. Admiral Soemu Toyoda, commander-in-chief of the Japanese Navy, saw an opportunity to use the A-Go force to attack the U.S. Navy forces around Saipan. On 15 June, he gave the order to attack. But the resulting battle of the Philippine Sea was a disaster for the Imperial Japanese Navy, which lost three aircraft carriers and hundreds of planes. The garrisons of the Marianas would have no hope of resupply or reinforcement.

Without resupply, the battle on Saipan was hopeless for the defenders, but the Japanese were determined to fight to the last man. Saito organized his troops into a line anchored on Mount Tapotchau in the defensible mountainous terrain of central Saipan. The nicknames given by the Americans to the features of the battle &mdash "Hell's Pocket", "Purple Heart Ridge" and "Death Valley" &mdash indicate the severity of the fighting. The Japanese used the many caves in the volcanic landscape to delay the attackers, by hiding during the day and making sorties at night. The Americans gradually developed tactics for clearing the caves by using flamethrower teams supported by artillery and machine guns.

The operation was marred by inter-service controversy when Marine General Holland Smith, unsatisfied with the performance of the 27th Division, relieved its commander, Army Major General Ralph C. Smith. However, General Holland Smith had not inspected the terrain over which the 27th was to advance. Essentially, it was a valley surrounded by hills and cliffs under Japanese control. The 27th took heavy casualties and eventually, under a plan developed by General Ralph Smith and implemented after his relief, had one battalion hold the area while two other battalions successfully flanked the Japanese.

By 7 July, the Japanese had nowhere to retreat. Saito made plans for a final suicidal banzai charge. On the fate of the remaining civilians on the island, Saito said, "There is no longer any distinction between civilians and troops. It would be better for them to join in the attack with bamboo spears than be captured." At dawn, with a group of 12 men carrying a great red flag in the lead, the remaining able-bodied troops &mdash about 3,000 men &mdash charged forward in the final attack. Amazingly, behind them came the wounded, with bandaged heads, crutches, and barely armed. The Japanese surged over the American front lines, engaging both army and Marine units. The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 105th Infantry Regiment were almost destroyed, losing 650 killed and wounded. However, the fierce resistance of these two battalions, as well as that of Headquarters Company, 105th Infantry, and supply elements of 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine Artillery Regiment resulted in over 4,300 Japanese killed. For their actions during the 15-hour Japanese attack, three men of the 105th Infantry were awarded the Medal of Honor &mdash all posthumously. Numerous others fought the Japanese until they were overwhelmed by the largest Japanese Banzai attack in the Pacific War.

By 16:15 on 9 July, Admiral Turner announced that Saipan was officially secured. Saito &mdash along with commanders Hirakushi and Igeta &mdash committed suicide in a cave. Also committing suicide at the end of the battle was Vice-Admiral Chuichi Nagumo &mdash the naval commander who led the Japanese carriers at Pearl Harbor and Midway &mdash who had been assigned to Saipan to direct the Japanese naval air forces based there.

In the end, almost the entire garrison of troops on the island &mdash at least 30,000 &mdash died. For the Americans, the victory was the most costly to date in the Pacific War. 2,949 Americans were killed and 10,464 wounded, out of 71,000 who landed. Hollywood actor Lee Marvin was among the many American wounded. He was serving with "I" Company, 24th Marine Regiment, when he was shot in the buttocks by Japanese machine gun fire during the assault on Mount Tapochau. He was awarded the Purple Heart and was given a medical discharge with the rank of Private First Class in 1945.

Battle of Tinian (1944)
The 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions landed on 24 July 1944, supported by naval bombardment and artillery firing across the strait from Saipan. A successful feint for the major settlement of Tinian Town d . More iverted defenders from the actual landing site on the north of the island. The battleship Colorado and the destroyer Norman Scott were both hit by 6-inch (150 mm) Japanese shore batteries. Colorado was hit 22 times, killing 44 men. Norman Scott was hit six times, killing the captain, Seymore Owens, and 22 of his seamen. The Japanese adopted the same stubborn resistance as on Saipan, retreating during the day and attacking at night. The gentler terrain of Tinian allowed the attackers more effective use of tanks and artillery than in the mountains of Saipan, and the island was secured in nine days of fighting. On 31 July, the surviving Japanese launched a suicide charge.

The battle saw the first use of napalm in the Pacific. Of the 120 jettisonable tanks dropped during the operation, 25 contained the napalm mixture and the remainder an oil-gasoline mixture. Of the entire number, only 14 were duds, and eight of these were set afire by subsequent strafing runs. Carried by Vought F4U Corsairs, the "fire bombs", also known as napalm bombs, burned away foliage concealing enemy installations.

Aftermath
Japanese losses were far greater than American losses. The Japanese lost 8,010. Only 313 Japanese were taken prisoner. American losses stood at 328 dead and 1,571 wounded. Several hundred Japanese troops held out in the jungles for months. The garrison on Aguijan Island off the southwest cape of Tinian, commanded by Lieutenant Kinichi Yamada, held out until the end of the war, surrendering on 4 September 1945. The last holdout on Tinian, Murata Susumu, was not captured until 1953.

After the battle, Tinian became an important base for further Allied operations in the Pacific Campaign. Camps were built for 50,000 troops. Fifteen thousand Seabees turned the island into the busiest airfield of the war, with six 7,900-foot (2,400 m) runways for attacks by B-29 Superfortress bombers on targets in the Philippines, the Ryukyu Islands and mainland Japan, including the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


USS Enterprise CV-6 The Most Decorated Ship of the Second World War

For a moment, imagine being gifted with extraordinary vision, standing in the center of Tokyo, Japan, on January 1, 1942, and being lifted well above the surface of the earth. Gazing to the southeast, towards the central Pacific, one might first pick out the smudge of Marcus Island, not quite a thousand miles distant, a Japanese possession since 1898. Peering further into the distance, still directly southeast, a string of coral atolls appears some 3000 miles away. These are the Marshall Islands, which Japan seized from Germany in 1914 (Japan aligned itself with the Allies in World War I), and which were formally mandated to Japan's control by the Treaty of Versailles, signed in June 1919.

Beyond the Marshalls are the Gilbert Islands - which Japan seized two days after Pearl Harbor - and, still further southeast, the Ellice Islands. South and east of the Ellice Islands lie Fiji and Samoa, which in turn straddle the critical shipping lanes between the United States and Australia. It was these shipping lanes, and the obvious possibility of Japan severing them, that occupied the minds of American military planners from Washington, DC to Hawaii during the first weeks of the war.

On 30 December 1941, Admiral Ernest J. King was appointed Commander In Chief, US Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz became Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, the next day. King immediately directed Nimitz to protect US shipping between the United States and Australia, as far south as Samoa. To that end, 5000 Marines had been embarked on transports at San Diego, to be escorted to Samoa by Enterprise's sistership Yorktown CV-5, recently arrived from the Atlantic.


1 February 1942: an Enterprise Dauntless dive bomber prepares for launch during the Marshall Islands raid.

On January 2, Nimitz's staff recommended strikes against the Gilberts and Marshall Islands, but Vice Admiral William S. Pye - former commander of the Battle Fleet - raised the possibility of Japan expecting Samoa to be reinforced. Pye suggested, and Nimitz concurred, that a second carrier cover the Marine's arrival in Samoa. Once the Marines were safely ashore, the two carriers would head towards the Gilberts to fend off any Japanese advance, or to strike at bases there should no opposition be met. A third carrier would strike Wake Island, while the fourth (including Yorktown, four U.S. carriers were available in the Pacific) guarded Hawaii. Though Nimitz himself approved of the plan, several members of his staff vocally opposed it: the battleships had already been lost, and they were not about to lose the carriers in a raid the Japanese could be anticipating. Nimitz needed support.

Support arrived the following day, January 7, when Enterprise - flagship of Vice Admiral William F. Halsey - returned to Pearl Harbor from an uneventful patrol. Halsey immediately approved of Pye's plan, and was first astounded and then outraged by the opposition against it. In the words of a biographer, Halsey "cleared the air", going so far as to volunteer to lead the operation. As perhaps no other man in Oahu at the time better appreciated the offensive power of the carrier, Halsey's opinion won the day, not to mention Nimitz's gratitude. On January 9, Nimitz gave Halsey his orders. Halsey, Enterprise, and Task Force 8 would escort the Yorktown group to Samoa. The sisterships would then raid Japanese bases in the Gilberts and Marshalls. Lexington CV-2, under Vice Admiral Wilson Brown, would strike Wake Island, while Saratoga CV-3 would watch over Hawaii.

Enterprise provisioned all day and into the night on January 10 - "Are loading for bear" noted one Enterprise Air Group pilot - and stood out of Pearl Harbor at noon, Sunday, January 11. As Halsey's flagship, she was screened by cruisers Northampton CA-26 (Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance's flagship), Salt Lake City CA-25, and Chester CA-27, and six destroyers, including Balch DD-363 and Blue DD-387.

The first days steaming southwest were marred by mishaps and bad news. Saratoga was torpedoed by an enemy sub the first evening Enterprise was underway, and damaged badly enough to have to return to the West Coast for repair. A pilot broke radio silence on the thirteenth, putting the whole mission at risk a man was washed overboard from destroyer Blue and lost the next day. On the sixteenth, one man was killed accidentally on Salt Lake City, a Dauntless crashed on landing, killing ACMM George F. Lawhon, and a Torpedo Six Devastator vanished altogether. (Its crew - Harold Dixon, Tony Pastula and Gene Aldrich - miraculously survived 34 days at sea, eventually washing ashore on Pukapuka island, 750 miles from where they'd ditched the plane.)

Despite the shaky start, Enterprise and Task Force 8 arrived off Samoa on schedule, and took up station 100 miles north of the islands. For five days, she steamed east to west and back again, her planes searching northwest for any sign of the Japanese, and south for Yorktown and the transports, which arrived on January 23. The 5000 Marines were all safely ashore the next day, and on January 25, the two carrier task forces set course to the northwest, toward the Marshall Islands, 1600 miles away.

In Enterprise, Halsey and his Chief of Staff, CDR Miles Browning, had developed a plan for the raid. The Yorktown force - commanded by Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher - would target Makin, in the Gilbert Islands, and Jaluit and Mili in the southern Marshalls. Halsey and Enterprise, accompanied by Spruance's cruisers, set their sights on Wotje and Taroa (in the Maloelap atoll) in the northern Marshalls. As the Marshalls were suspected of being well-defended, this seemed like a long enough list of targets. New intelligence received January 27, courtesy the submarine Dolphin SS-169, indicated they were not so heavily fortified as once thought, and reported significant enemy air and shipping activity at Kwajalein Atoll, 150 miles due west of Wotje. Browning - a brilliant and aggressive tactician at a time when the Navy desperately needed such men - convinced Halsey to add Kwajalein to his target list.

Doing so entailed considerable risk. In order to bring Kwajalein within range of her bombers, Enterprise would have to operate dangerously close to enemy bases on Wotje and Taroa. Now, though, it was apparent that not striking Kwajalein would be just as dangerous. No matter what, Enterprise would be in range of enemy land-based bombers from the atoll. It was imperative that enemy airfields on Kwajalein and the other islands be struck, and struck hard, before they had opportunity to launch possibly killing blows against the vulnerable carrier.

For two more days, the two task forces cruised northwest together, the most notable event being Enterprise refueling underway the night of January 28. Under the best conditions - in daylight - refueling underway is a dangerous, exacting task. On this day, the oiler Platte did not finish refueling the other ships in TF 8 until after sunset. Enterprise eased alongside Platte at 1600 that night and steamed at her side for the next five-and-half-hours, the first capital ship in history to refuel underway at night. In another two years, this capability - refined and repeated until it was a matter of course - would enable US Navy warships to operate far from friendly anchorages for a month or more at a time, but on this night minds were on more immediate concerns.

On January 29, Yorktown, Enterprise, and their respective task forces parted ways, and early the next morning swept across the International Date Line into January 31. With less than 24 hours remaining before their first offensive mission of the war, the men of Enterprise and her Air Group prepared. Fighting Six installed homemade armor - literally made of boilerplate - behind the seat of each Wildcat, a vital if weighty addition their Japanese counterparts would never consider. Halsey ordered each ship rigged for towing and for being towed, not wanting to waste a minute should any ship need help escaping after the raid. Navigators and airmen poured over aged maps, picking out reefs and targets. At 1830, Task Force 8 began its final run-in to the launching point, the ocean waves hissing past hulls at 30 knots, each of Enterprise's four 13-ton propellers revolving 275 times a minute.

The night passed uneventfully until, at 0220, the officer of the watch reported sand blowing in his face. Halsey ordered the ship's position checked: its course based on old maps of questionable accuracy, the ship could have been moments from running aground. The officer then thought to taste a few grains of the "sand". Finding they were suspiciously sweet, he soon traced their source to a sailor on watch, stirring sugar into his coffee. Forty minutes later, at 0300, the ship's crew was awakened, and the Big E - still underway - prepared to launch her first strikes of the war.


Enterprise's flight deck bustles with activity during the Marshall Islands raid.

The first missions were timed to reach their targets throughout the northern Marshall Islands simultaneously, just before 0700: the same time that Spruance's cruiser force was to commence bombardment of Wotje and Taroa. At 0430, Enterprise turned into the wind. Thirteen minutes later, six F4F Wildcats roared into the black night for Combat Air Patrol, followed immediately 36 Scouting Six and Bombing Six SBDs led by Enterprise Air Group commander CDR Howard L. Young. Just after 0500, a second strike of nine TBD Devastators from Torpedo Six, and an SBD delayed by engine trouble, rumbled down the Big E's flight deck. These 46 planes formed up in the dark - no easy task - and headed for Kwajalein Atoll, 155 miles away. At 0610, still nearly an hour before sunrise, twelve Fighting Six Wildcats were launched for Wotje and Taroa. One Wildcat pilot, ENS David W. Criswell, apparently became disoriented in the dark. His plane stalled shortly after takeoff and plunged into the sea: Criswell was never found. Considering the limited training given pilots in night operations before the war, it's remarkable there weren't further mishaps.

On this first strike, each Devastator torpedo plane was armed with three 500 lb instantaneous-fused bombs - rather than the usual torpedo - while the Dauntlesses each lugged a single 500 lb bomb as well as two 200 lb bombs. The Wildcats carried two 100 lb bombs each.

As the planes droned through the pre-dawn darkness, Spruance's cruisers closed range with Wotje and Taroa: Northampton and Salt Lake City would take Wotje, while Chester and several destroyers sidled up to Taroa.

Shortly before 0700, Gene Lindsey's torpedo planes broke off from the main body of Dauntlesses and headed for Kwajalein anchorage, some 44 miles south of Roi at the northern end of the atoll. "Brigham" Young's SBDs, meanwhile, grappled with darkness, low-lying fog, and decades-old maps, trying to identify Roi itself. At 0705, seven minutes after the strikes were scheduled to begin, and - more importantly - after the defenders on the ground had been alerted to their approach, they succeeded.

In a steep, gliding run, LCDR Halstead L. Hopping led his division of six SBDs through increasing anti-aircraft fire, releasing his bombs over the enemy's airfield, where even as the attack begin, fighters were scrambling into the air. As the lead plane, Hopping's SBD drew much of the defenders' fire and plunged into the sea after releasing its bomb: Hopping and his gunner, RM 1/c Harold Thomas, were lost. Scouting Six continued the attack, with Earl Gallaher and C. E. Dickinson each leading six SBDs into the fray. The bombers pummeled the airfield - destroying an ammunition dump, two hangars, and a radio station - and swung back around to strafe the base and parked planes on the ground. Enemy fighters and anti-aircraft fire claimed three more SBDs, but Enterprise's airmen put on a spirited defense and claimed three "Claudes" in exchange.

With Roi in a shambles, seven marauding VS-6 SBDs - their big 500 lb bombs still slung under their bellies - made off for Kwajalein anchorage, where more substantial targets had been reported by Torpedo Six commander Gene Lindsey. Discovering several merchant ships, submarines, and the cruiser Katori in the anchorage, Lindsey had immediately called for more planes. Over Roi, Young picked up and repeated Lindsey's alert - "Targets suitable for heavy bombs at Kwajalein anchorage" - before detaching Bombing Six with the seven accompanying Scouting Six planes. Young's broadcast was heard aboard Enterprise, where the remaining nine VT-6 Devastators were armed with torpedoes and readied for launch.

Lindsey's Devastators had surprised the anchorage, damaging several of the ships there while encountering only poorly-directed defensive fire. Bombing Six, led by LCDR William R. Hollingsworth, and the remaining planes of VS-6, followed up with a dive-bombing attack from 14,000 feet. On their departure, the transport Bordeaux Maru and subchaser Shonan Maru appeared to be sinking, a half dozen other ships were damaged, and 90 men including the area commander lay dead.


Invasion of Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands

The advance of Allied forces across the Central Pacific to seize Japanese held islands started with the Gilbert Islands in November of 1943, then moved northwest to the Marshall Islands (also known as the Eastern Mandates), east of the Carolines, a large archipelago of two parallel chains of islands and atolls about mid-way between Hawaii and Australia. The Marshalls were a Japanese possession since World War I, the first Japanese territory to be assaulted in World War II. Operation Flintlock called for bypassing Jaluit and Wotje, garrisoned islands in the Marshalls of little strategic value, concentrating on Kwajalein, 66 miles long and 18 miles wide, the worlds largest atoll and the primary Japanese naval base in the Marshalls, to be followed by Eniwetok, also fortified by the Japanese.


Amtrac carries U.S. forces ashore at Kwajalein, 31 January 1944.

One of lessons of Tarawa was that the deeply dug-in Japanese could not be destroyed by a few hours of preliminary bombing. Therefore, Kwajalein (and nearby Roi and Namur, the primary Japanese air base in the Marshalls) were pounded for two months, most intensely on the three days prior to landings, a total of over 15,000 tons of naval and air delivered ordnance. The island was a mass of craters and rubble when the troops and tanks came ashore.

D-Day in the Marshalls was set for 31 January 1944 with the U.S. Marine Corps 4th Division moving onto the northern half of Kwajalein Atoll and the Army's 7th Infantry Division assaulting Kwajalein Island and the other small islands in the southern half of Kwajalein Atoll.

The Marines assaulted Roi Island and Namur Island, then the remaining smaller islands of northern Kwajalein Atoll. Once ashore, the Marines advanced rapidly. Roi was secured on 1 February and Namur the next day. In the seizure of the northern portion of Kwajalein Atoll, Marine 4th Division casualties were 313 killed and 502 wounded. An estimated 3,563 Japanese garrison forces were reduced to only about 90 prisoners.

The 1 February landing on Kwajalein was one of the best of the Pacific Theater in World War II. The 7th Infantry Division, veterans of the Aleutians Campaign, trained superbly in Hawaii for the landing which was well supported by a devestating pounding of the defenders by close-in naval vessels and Army artillery. It took four days of battle with the entrenched Japanese before Kwajalein Island was declared secure on 5 February.

Army casualties on Kwajalein Island and the surrounding islets included 173 killed and 793 wounded. An estimated 4,650 Japanese garrison troops were killed or committed suicide while only approximately 174 were taken prisoner.


Battle of Roi, 1 February 1944

The battle of Roi (1 February 1944) saw the US marines captured the main Japanese airbase in Kwajalein Atoll in a single day, after the Japanese defences were almost destroyed by the pre-invasion bombardment.

Roi and Namur were to be attacked by the Northern Attack Force (Task Force 53) under Rear Admiral Richard L. Conolly and the Northern Landing Force, made up of the 4th Marine Division (Major General Harry Schmidt). Admiral Conolly commanded the invasion from the command ship USS Appalachian.

Admiral Conolly's attack force consisted of three old battleships, 2 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers 10 destroyers, 2 high speed transports (APDs), 3 escort carriers, 12 LCIs and 4 mine sweepers.

Roi Island was almost clear of ground cover, as it contained the biggest Japanese airfield in the atoll, with three runways, four turning circles, two service aprons, two hangers, thirty revetments and a control tower. The island is 1,250 yards north-south and 1,200 yards east-west. The airfield on Roi was the HQ of all Japanese air power in the Gilberts and Marshalls.

Roi and Namur were connected by a beach on the lagoon side and a causeway half way between the atoll and the ocean. The ocean side was unsuitable for landings, but at high tide the reefs on the lagoon side were under water.

The plan was to capture a number of outlying islands on D-Day, then invade Roi and Namur from the lagoon side on D+1 (1 February 1944). Roi was to be attacked by the 23rd Regimental Combat Team, which was to land two regiments side by side on Red Beaches 2 and 3. A wave of LCI(G)s and armoured LVTs would lead the way, with the troops following in amphibious tractor.

On 29 January TG 58.2 (Essex, Intrepid and Cabot) attacked Roi-Namur, where the Japanese still had 92 aircraft. The carrier attack quickly eliminated the threat, and no Japanese aircraft were in the air after 0800. The same group attacked again on 30 January.

Roi and Namur between them were the most heavily defended part of Kwajalein Atoll. There was a battery of two 12.7cm dual purpose guns at the north-western corner of Roi. There was a 37mm position at the south-western tip of the island and another of the south-eastern tip. A number of 13.2mm single mount dual purpose guns were mounted along the ocean shore and six 20mm AA guns were scattered across the island. There were three concrete blockhouses on Roi, at the north-western, south-western and north-eastern corners. These guns supported four strong points, stretched out along the ocean shore. There were probably around 3,500 Japanese personnel on Roi and Namur, but it isn&rsquot clear how many of them were effective combat troops. There were probably 345 fully effective troops, 2,150 partially effective air force personnel and around 1,000 or so ineffective personnel.

The naval bombardment began at 0651 on 31 January when the Biloxi and Maryland opened fire. The landings were also supported by the battleships Tennessee and Colorado, the heavy cruiser Louisville, the light cruiser Santa Fe, the escort carriers Sangamon, Suwanee and Chenango, seventeen destroyers, one destroyer escort and three mine sweepers. The gun fire stopped at 0715 to allow for an air strike, and resumed eight minutes later. A second air strike came in at 0825, followed by more naval gunfire.

All of this helped cover the capture of the five islands nearest to Roi and Namur - Jacob, Ivan, Albert, Allen and Abraham - all of which were used as artillery bases during the main invasions.

Roi was to be invaded by the 23rd Marine Regimental Combat Team, which was to land two battalions side by side on Red Beach 2 and Red Beach 3, on the southern, lagoon side, of the island. The first wave would be made up of LVT(A)s, followed by the troops in LVTs. The attack would be supported by LCI(G) gunships. The original plan was for the troops to transfer to LSTs on 31 January and then from the LST to the LVTs on 1 February, all outside the lagoons. This was changed after the chaos on D-Day, and the LSTs moved into the lagoon before disembarking the LVTs.

At 0645 the 3rd and 4th Battalions, 14th Marines, opened artillery fire from the nearby islands. At 0650 Santa Fe, Maryland, Indianapolis, Biloxi, Mustin and Russell opened fire on Roi. At the same time the 23rd Marines were prepared to move to the LVTs of the 4th Amphibian Tractor Battalion, which hadn't been involved on 31 January. However this didn&rsquot mean that everything went smoothly. The crews of the LSTs were inexperienced, and most of their ships were new. There were a series of mechanical problems lowering the LVTs. The landings had to be postponed and the naval bombardment extended. Eventually the signal to land was given at 1112, some two hours late!

The troops were led in by LCI(G) gunboats, followed by LVT(A)s. The infantry came next, and were followed by tanks in LCMs. The LVT(A)s of the 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines, landed at 1133 and advanced to the anti-tank ditch near the coast to provide fire support. The first two waves of infantry were ashore by 1158. The first wave of the 2nd Battalion landed on the right at 1150.

The main effort was made on the right, where the 2nd Battalion had the task of advancing up the east coast of the island to clear out the main cluster of buildings around the airfield. They were allocated a company of LVT(A)s and most of the division's medium tank company. The first attempt to land the medium tanks went wrong when their LCMs ran aground having missed the channel through the reef. However the water was shallow enough for the tanks to be able to wade ashore. They were then able to cross the anti-tank ditch, and advance across the island.

The pre-invasion bombardment had been very effective on Roi. There was very limited opposition immediately after the landings, although one pillbox in the middle of the sand spit between Roi and Namur opened fire. The advance across the airfield began ahead of schedule, after the tank commander decided not to risk sitting in an exposed position on the airfield. This caused some concern amongst the senior officers, who were worried that their disorganised men were vulnerable to attack, but the Japanese had been too badly battered by the pre-invasion bombardment to be a real threat.

The orders for a formal attack were issued at 1530. The advance went quickly, with little organised resistance. Some Japanese troops were found in the trenches facing out to the ocean, but this was soon overcome. A few pillboxes had survived, but were quickly knocked out. The north-eastern corner of the island had been cleared by 1700.

Some mopping up took place on 2 February, but the island had been secured by the end of the first day. Namur took a little longer to capture, but the entire operation was effectively over within three days.

Between them these two attacks cost the Americans 190 dead and 547 wounded, while the Japanese lost 3,500 dead and 264 captured


What happens when rocket and missile launches go wrong

Posted On September 12, 2019 02:53:07

These days, when you see a rocket or missile launch, it almost seems routine. The engines fire and the rocket starts taking off, either sending an object directly to orbit or carrying enough firepower to blow something into orbit. What looks like standard procedure from the outside masks the fact that these rockets and missiles are very complex pieces of technology — and when this routine process goes wrong, it goes wrong very quickly and very violently.

Missiles are complex pieces of technology that are surprisingly delicate (a dropped tool once destroyed a Titan missile and its silo). With so many critical details involved, there are many opportunities for things to go wrong — and occasionally, they do. For example, in the 1980s, two RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles were accidentally launched, one by the United States Navy and one by the Royal Danish Navy. Thankfully, no injuries (outside of the respective captains’ pride) occurred in either incident.

A 2016 Trident II test for the Royal Navy is the most recent launch to have gone bad — and this test led to some disagreements between the Americans (who claimed the missile had to be destroyed) and the UK (who called the test a success). Thirty years earlier, the United States Navy had egg on its face when the first at-sea Trident II launch went out of control. Thankfully, in both of these cases, nobody was injured.

Mitrofan Nedelin’s tenure as the Soviet Army’s chief marshal of the artillery ended when the test of a SS-7 ended in a horrific explosion.

Other failed launches, however, have not had such fortunate endings. For instance, a test of a Soviet SS-7 Saddler intercontinental ballistic missile in 1960 killed the then-chief marshal of the artillery for the Soviet Army, Mitrofan Nedelin, and at least 100 other people. In 1996, a Chinese Long March rocket crashed down in a village, with some estimates claiming as many as 500 people were killed.

Video stills showing a Chinese Long March rocket going out of control before it crashed into a nearby village.

Today, failures are fewer and further between. One big reason for this is that many missiles now use solid fuel as opposed to liquid fuel. Liquid fuel is far more volatile and leads to explosions more frequently.

The launches you see nowadays may look routine from the outside, but remember, that’s the result of thousands of tests.

Watch the 1965 Air Force video below to see some missile launches, both successes and failures.

More on We are the Mighty

More links we like

Popular

Battle of Kwajalein - HISTORY

By Nathan N. Prefer

“But here are men who fought in gallant actions, as gallant AS ever hero’s fought,” wrote the poet Lord Byron (1788-1824). These words apply equally well to many battles fought after the poet’s death, none more so than the conquest of Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands in 1944.

For Americans of a certain age today, the name Eniwetok may call to mind a palm tree-covered Pacific coral atoll where, on October 31, 1952, the world’s first hydrogen bomb was exploded by the United States in a test called Operation Ivy Mike. But Eniwetok’s place in history began several years earlier.

By January 1944, the Americans in the Pacific had seized the offensive from the Japanese who, barely a year previously, had conquered much of the Western and Central Pacific. Under Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the Central Pacific Theater of Operations had, in the space of less than a year, completed the conquest of the Solomons and Gilbert Islands by amphibious assaults from Guadalcanal to Tarawa. By the beginning of 1944, it was time to strike at territory held by the Japanese prior to the outbreak of the war in the Pacific.

It had long been the plan of the Americans that the Central Pacific drive would require the seizure of the Marshall Islands. This island group included at least 32 islands and 867 reefs covering more than 400,000 square miles of ocean directly between the United States and Japan.

Grouped in two sections—a northeastern group and southeastern group—there were several main islands garrisoned by the Japanese that contained both naval bases and air bases, both of which threatened any Allied advance to the west. If these islands could be captured, wide lagoons at several places within the Marshalls offered the Americans excellent anchorages for their growing naval forces.

Admiral Nimitz had concerns about seizing the Marshalls. While he had requested permission from the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C., to assault them, he was reluctant to incur unnecessary casualties. The islands had been under Japanese control since 1914, when they had been seized by the Japanese Navy from Germany during World War I. After the war they were handed to Japan as a part of a League of Nations Class C Mandate.

Since then, whatever defenses Japan had established in the islands remained a mystery. Although technically required to prevent “the establishment of fortifications or military and naval bases” in the islands, Japan had left the League in February 1933, and since then no foreigners had been permitted to visit them.

The Joint Chiefs approved Nimitz’s request and authorized the seizure of the Marshalls, after which Nimitz was tasked to continue on to Wake Island, Eniwetok Atoll, and Kusaie, the latter the easternmost island of the Caroline group. Technically, Eniwetok was the westernmost atoll of the Marshall Islands and would be a launching point for future operations to the west against the Caroline and Palau groups.

By October 1944, Nimitz and his staff were concerned about the Marshall Islands. Combined with the results of the recently completed Gilbert Islands operations, where the Japanese had fought from prepared positions at Tarawa, causing many casualties among the assault troops, it was decided to seize only critical islands within the group from which the others could be neutralized by air and naval strikes. Eventually, it was decided that Kwajalein Atoll would be seized, followed by Eniwetok.

Kwajalein was centrally located in the Marshalls, and from there Allied ships and planes could neutralize the other islands occupied by the Japanese. Eniwetok, scheduled for later attack, would provide the Allies with egress to the western island groups.

The target date for the invasion of the Marshalls—codenamed Operation Flintlock—was January 1, 1944. To take the two main objectives, Kwajalein and Eniwetok Atolls, a landing force composed of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division, which had fought in the Aleutians, the new 4th Marine Division, the independent 22nd Marine Regiment, and other units, was assigned to Nimitz.

On February 1, 1944, the 4th Marine Division, under Maj. Gen. Harry Schmidt, took the islands of Roi and Namur in the northern Kwajalein Atoll group. Within 48 hours Japanese resistance had been overcome, and the Marines were clearing small outlying islands. To the south, Maj. Gen. C.H. Corlett’s 7th Infantry Division, facing stronger opposition, took three days to seize Kwajalein Island itself. They, too, set about clearing the many outlying islands of the atoll.

As a bonus, reconnaissance had revealed that the island of Majuro, with its enormous anchorage and potential for several airfields, was undefended. An ad hoc grouping of the 2nd Battalion, 106th Infantry, the 1st Marine Defense Battalion, and the V Marine Amphibious Corps Reconnaissance Company seized the atoll on January 31, 1944. The Americans had control of Kwajalein Atoll.

The quick and relatively inexpensive capture of Kwajalein prompted Admiral Nimitz to rethink his time table. The capture of Eniwetok Atoll was originally scheduled on or about May 1, 1944. From there the Americans would move to attack the Japanese bastion at Truk or other islands in the Carolines. The 27th Infantry Division, originally drawn from the New York State National Guard, was already preparing for the Eniwetok operation. Intelligence reported that the atoll was lightly defended but that the Japanese were rushing reinforcements to it daily.

Smoke rises from Eniwetok after pre-invasion “softening-up” attacks by U.S. Navy carrier aircraft on February 3, 1944.

Concerned that delay would only increase the difficulty and cost of the Eniwetok operation, Nimitz and his chief tactical officer, Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, recommended that the Eniwetok assault be initiated immediately instead of waiting until May. Supporting this was the availability of the reserve forces that had not been needed at Kwajalein. The operation to take Eniwetok was codenamed Catchpole.

These forces were the 22nd Marine Regiment and the 106th Infantry Regiment, less its second battalion then on Majuro. The Marine infantry regiment was at this time a separate command, while the 106th Infantry Regiment was an element of the 27th Infantry Division.

Certainly no other operation in the Central Pacific had more of an impromptu character than the Eniwetok invasion. The invasion force was assembled in a week. Planning lasted less than two weeks, from February 3-15, the day the operation’s task force sailed from Kwajalein to Eniwetok. Covered by a hastily conceived American carrier strike on Japan’s major fleet base in the Pacific at Truk (Operation Hailstone), Catchpole was still believed to be a stepping stone to the invasion of the Caroline Islands.

Eniwetok Atoll is 350 miles northwest of Kwajalein. It is the typical Central Pacific coral atoll. It is 17 miles across from east to west and 21 miles long from north to south. Although there are some 30 islands within the roughly circular atoll, only three had any military value. These were Engebi in the north, Parry to the southeast, and Eniwetok in the south. Two deep-water passages into the lagoon formed by the atoll invited the American naval forces into a haven from enemy submarines.

As was the case with the other islands in the Marshall group, intelligence on the Japanese defenses was limited. Aerial photographs showed defenses but were certainly not conclusive. Initial intelligence reports placed about 700 Japanese troops on the atoll, concentrated on Engebi Island, where the only airfield lay.

By January 1944, however, reports of reinforcements began to come in that identified the 1st Amphibious Brigade as also being on the atoll. An increase in the number of defensive positions identified in new aerial photographs supported this intelligence, and estimates of the Japanese garrison were increased to between 3,000-4,000 troops.

In fact, the Americans would be facing the 1st Amphibious Brigade under Maj. Gen. Yoshimi Nishida and the 61st Guard Force under Colonel Toshio Yano. All together there were some 3,500 Japanese on Eniwetok several hundred were not trained soldiers but rather civilians, air personnel stranded there, Korean laborers, and naval stragglers. There were actually more Japanese troops on Eniwetok than there had been at Kwajalein, and a weaker American task force was about to attack them.

The Eniwetok attack force was known as the Eniwetok Expeditionary Group, under the command of Vice Admiral Harry W. Hill, an experienced amphibious force commander. Its main components were the Army’s 106th Infantry Regiment under Colonel Russell A. Ayers (less the 2nd Battalion) and the 22nd Marine Regiment commanded by Colonel John T. Walker. Both regiments were under the command of the ad hoc Tactical Group One, commanded by Brig. Gen. Thomas E. Watson, USMC.

Several supporting units were detached from the Kwajalein assault forces to assist Tactical Group One. These included the V Amphibious Corps Reconnaissance Company Company D (Scout), 4th Marine Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division Company A, 708th Amphibian Tank Battalion and a provisional DUKW (amphibious truck) company drawn from the 7th Infantry Division.

The 22nd Marine Regimental Combat Team included its tank company and the 2nd Separate Pack Howitzer Battalion (75mm guns), while the 106th Infantry was reinforced with the 104th Field Artillery Battalion (105mm howitzers) and Company C, 766th Tank Battalion. Several smaller units, including Underwater Demolition Team One and the 2nd Joint Assault Signal Company, rounded out the task force.

Operation Catchpole began at 9:15 am on February 17, 1944. The Japanese watched helplessly as Admiral Hill’s task force approached the atoll, firing its guns at the target islands, and then sailed majestically into the lagoon to establish a base of operations.

One of the defenders noted in his diary, “There were one man killed and four wounded in our unit during today’s fighting. There were some who were buried by shells from the ships, but we survived by taking care in the light of past experience. How many times must we bury ourselves in the sand?”

First into action were the Marines of V Amphibious Corps Reconnaissance Company, commanded by Captain James Jones (no relation to the novelist). They landed on two of the smaller islands and quickly reported that both were unoccupied except for natives. Other Marine units continued piling onto other small islands, covering five more without encountering Japanese troops.

Behind them, advance parties from the 2nd Separate Pack Howitzer Battalion landed and quickly set up firing positions for their guns, preparing to support the main landings. Under the cover of naval gunfire, Underwater Demolition Team 1 examined the beaches of Engebi, finding no obstacles or mines. Finally, the 4th Marine Division Scout Company seized “Zinnia,” or Bogon Island, securing one of the passages into the lagoon.

By establishing troops on these smaller islands, the Americans had prevented the Japanese from moving from island to island, reinforcing or retreating as necessary. They had also been able to establish bases for their supporting artillery that would be needed in the coming main assaults.

General Watson planned for the 1st Battalion (Lt. Col. Walfried H. Fromhold, USMC) and 2nd Battalion (Lt. Col. Donn C. Hart, USMC), 22nd Marines, to seize Engebi with Major Clair W. Shisler’s 3rd Battalion, 22nd Marines, in reserve. The 2nd Separate Tank Company and an Army platoon of two self-propelled 105mm guns were kept in reserve. Both the Army and Marine artillery battalions were in support.

The Japanese on Engebi had already been battered by the U.S. Navy as reported in the diary of one of the defenders: “One of our ammunition dumps was hit and went up with a terrifying explosion. At 1300 [1 pm] the ammunition depot of the artillery in the palm forest caught fire and exploded, and a conflagration started in the vicinity of the western positions.” Worse was still to come.

Richard Wilcox, a correspondent for Life Magazine, came ashore with a group of 22nd Marines in Boat 13 and was immediately immersed in chaos and carnage: “We sprinted low through the milky surf and dropped flat on the hard coral sand…. As the men in Boat 13 lay in the coral they looked around and saw other men lying beside them, their green battle dress soaked black and the gritty sand streaking their bodies. One of these men rose to his feet for an instant, spun and then dropped on his back the blood welled out of his chest and soaked his jacket.”

A Japanese pillbox, thought to have been knocked out, suddenly came back to life and began raking the beach with machine-gun fire. A few moments later the order was given to fall back into the water, where the only protection lay. “Not all of the men of Boat 13 reached the slight safety of the water,” Wilcox wrote. “A big, white-faced farm lad stopped crawling as a bullet went through his head.”

Eventually the pillbox was knocked out—not by artillery or tank fire, but by angry, determined Marines with nothing more than grenades in their hands.

With dead Japanese lying outside a concrete bunker, an American serviceman takes a break from battle to grab a bite, February 20, 1944.

The American landings continued as planned with the usual delays incurred by waves, wind, and mechanical failures. As Lt. Col. Fromhold’s 1st Battalion moved inland it began to encounter stiffening Japanese resistance which, supported by gunfire from the armored amphibian vehicles, slowed but did not halt the advance.

But a delayed landing by a platoon from Company A had left a gap in the Marines’ line, and retreating Japanese found it accidently while trying to escape. They soon began attacking the exposed flank of Company A, which had no resources available to stop them. Fromhold halted the battalion’s attack until a platoon of tanks could come forward and plug the gap.

Lieutenant Colonel Hart’s 2nd Battalion, meanwhile, moved inland quickly after landing despite several amphibious tractors landing in the wrong area. Tanks soon moved up behind them and the Marines swept over the airfield supported by their artillery. The Marine tanks soon encountered light Japanese tanks dug in as pillboxes, which they eliminated.

Bypassing knots of resistance, the Marines raced to the opposite shore. When regimental commander Colonel Walker came ashore at 10:30, resistance in the 2nd Battalion’s area was limited to two small areas around “Weasel” and “Newt” Points.

Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion was still engaged with the Japanese in the gap at the right of Company A resistance from the wooded area to the front also stymied the battalion. One platoon had become separated, and casualties had been taken by the Marines. Colonel Walker immediately assigned a company from Major Shisler’s 3rd Battalion to the 1st Battalion to give it enough strength to complete its mission, and Company I soon moved through the stalled Company A.

M-4 Sherman tanks (near bottom of photo) are visible moving across bomb-cratered Engebi Island during the last stages of fighting for the island. Japanese planes litter the airfield.

Company I was confronted by ground thickly covered with underbrush and fallen trees that prevented observation of the enemy trenches and spider holes. The Japanese were, as usual, well entrenched in expertly camouflaged, prepared defenses sniper positions dotted the area.

The Marines soon discovered a way to locate the enemy defenses. They found that a smoke grenade hurled into a bunker at the center of a defensive web would indicate the entire complex when the smoke escaped from the various ventilation and firing holes of the fortifications. Once the outline of the individual web was located, demolitions men and riflemen moved in and eliminated them one by one.

As they reduced the field fortifications, Fromhold’s 1st Battalion came up against “Skunk” Point, where the Japanese had built concrete pillboxes. To knock these out, two self-propelled 105mm guns from the 106th Infantry’s Cannon Company came forward. They fired an entire day’s allowance of ammunition, about 80 rounds, before knocking out the positions and killing some 30 Japanese.

With the fighting slowly subsiding, General Watson came ashore at 2 pm and soon declared the island secured. While there were many individual Japanese still hiding on the island and striking out when they could, organized resistance had ceased. Engebi Island now belonged to the Americans. Shisler’s 3rd Battalion, 22nd Marines and the 22nd Regiment Tank Company were immediately reembarked to be available for the next phase of Operation Catchpole.

Meanwhile, the V Amphibious Corps Reconnaissance Company and Company D (Scout), 4th Tank Battalion were not idle. They continued to move to the smaller outlying islands of the atoll, making a total of eight landings, capturing one Japanese soldier, and suffering three wounded from enemy fire.

As night fell, General Watson and his staff reviewed the day’s events. Intelligence from natives and captured documents indicated that there were an additional 1,000 Japanese on the islands. There was also supposed to be a 600-man garrison located somewhere. This caused General Watson to alert Colonel Ayers that his 106th Infantry might face increased opposition as they attacked Eniwetok Island the next day. As a precaution, Watson reinforced Ayers with the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Marines and the group tank company.

Back on Engebi, Lt. Cols. Fromhold and Hart were busy trying to finish off the many Japanese who had hidden underground during the battle. When night fell, the Japanese came out and began attacking the Marines on the island the attacks were unorganized but deadly. Additionally, snipers, often lashed high up in palm trees, also made any above-ground movement dangerous.

After a formal flag-raising ceremony on Engebi the next day, February 19, the two battalions set about destroying all remaining enemy positions on the island.

Once again, this was easier said than done. As Company E, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Marines was settling in for the night of February 19-20, 1944, Corporal Anthony Peter Damato and two of his men were on the front line. Nearly half of the company had been withdrawn in preparation for the next assault, but several small, fanatical groups of die-hard Japanese still roamed the island at night.

Marine Corporal Anthony Damato smothered a grenade to save buddies, earning the Medal of Honor posthumously.

Corporal Damato, a former truck driver from the small mining town of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, had already seen combat in the North African invasion where he had distinguished himself as a Marine aboard ship at Arzew, Algeria, and received a promotion to corporal. He knew his position was vital to hold the front lines for the night. When an undetected Japanese soldier crept close enough to toss a grenade into his foxhole, Corporal Damato immediately began groping for it in the pitch dark.

Knowing that death awaited all three of the Marines in the hole, he unhesitatingly flung himself on the grenade, thereby saving both the lives of his fellow Marines and their critical position in the front line. For his gallant self-sacrifice, Corporal Anthony Peter Damato received the Medal of Honor posthumously.

The invasion of Eniwetok Island came on February 19. Critical because it flanks one of the two main passages into the lagoon, Eniwetok is a long, thin spit of land. Coming ashore were the two battalions of Colonel Walker’s 106th Infantry Regiment and their supporting elements. Landings were made on the Yellow Beaches shortly after 9 am.

Amphibious vehicles filled with soldiers were supposed to carry them 100 yards inland before discharging them, but this plan soon fell awry because of a nine-foot embankment the vehicles could not cross. Worse still, the soldiers found themselves in an intricate network of spider holes like those the Marines had just encountered on Engebi. Most of Lt. Col. Harold J. Mizony’s 3rd Battalion, 106th Infantry found the going a little easier and soon reached the far shore.

Less fortunate was Lt. Col. Winslow Cornett’s 1st Battalion and a part of the 3rd. A strong enemy defense, under the command of Lt. Col. Masahiro Hashida, had been developed in the southern portion of the island—defenses that had largely been missed in the preinvasion bombardment. Hashida immediately recognized the opportunity provided by the delays in the American attack and withdrew about half his force into the prepared defenses while he sent the other half forward to harass Cornett’s 1st Battalion.

In the early afternoon some 400 Japanese troops attacked Cornett’s men. Surprise and accurate Japanese supporting fire allowed an initial penetration into the lines, but the Americans recovered quickly and pushed the Japanese survivors back into the brush.

One man, Private George Lorenz of the 102nd Engineer (Combat) Battalion, was using a pole charge to knock out an enemy pillbox when the Japanese attacked and was caught between the two opposing forces. He was forced to lie low during the battle to survive.

One of the key figures in repelling this attack was 1st Lt. Arthur Klein who, when some of the men began to retreat in the face of the Japanese attack, raced forward with his M-1 carbine held over his head and shouted, “I’ll shoot the first son of a bitch that takes another step backward! You bastards are supposed to be All-American soldiers. Now let’s see you show a little guts!”

After Lieutenant Klein stabilized Company B’s line and the machine gunners of Companies B and D who had remained in their positions cut down the remaining Japanese, the enemy resorted to mortars and long-range automatic weapons fire. Company B, now reinforced with Company K, continued pressing the enemy, wearing them down and slowly pushing them back toward their prepared defenses.

Three Marines on the lookout for snipers man a machine-gun position near a Japanese dugout on one of the islands of Eniwetok Atoll, while an SBD bomber makes a pass overhead, February 18, 1944.

The attack continued against strong enemy positions. Colonel Ayers, concerned about the slowness of the advance, called for his reserve, Major Shisler’s 3rd Battalion, 22nd Marines to land. It was to relieve the depleted 1st Battalion, 106th Infantry and continue the attack south. Shisler’s men landed by 2:42 pmand immediately moved through the 1st Battalion to take up the attack. By 6:30 pmthe Marines had reached the end of the island in their zone of action, but there remained a gap between the Marines and the neighboring 1st Battalion, 106th Infantry.

Colonel Ayers, now worried about a night attack, took the unusual step of ordering the American assault to continue during the night. But before this was necessary, Company A reached the south shore and was soon reinforced by Company B.

The following morning, February 20, the remaining Japanese on the island launched a counterattack against the Marine battalion that was soon repulsed. About 30 Japanese, emerging from an underground shelter within the Marines’ lines, managed to attack the battalion command post but were beaten off.

The Army and Marines spent the rest of the day clearing Japanese holdouts on the western side of the island. By the second night, only individual Japanese stragglers remained. The battle for Eniwetok Island was over. There remained only Parry Island to complete the campaign.

Marines from the 22nd Regiment, supported by a .30-caliber machine gun (upper left), find a bit of shelter in the coral sand of Parry Island prior to moving out to assault Japanese positions.

Originally the plan was to invade Parry Island at the same time as Eniwetok, but the need to commit the reserve forces to secure Eniwetok delayed the invasion of Parry. This was, in fact, beneficial since it allowed additional days of preinvasion bombardment by the U.S. Navy. It had been learned that the Japanese force on Parry Island was larger than on the other islands. So the longer the bombardment, the less opposition the Americans might have to face.

The bombardment, aided by captured maps showing the island’s defenses, was more effective than the usual preliminary bombardment. The Navy placed 944 tons of high explosives on Parry, the aviators dropped another 99 tons, and field artillery contributed 245 tons before the first Americans set foot on the island.

Relieved by the 10th Marine Defense Battalion’s arrival on Engebi, the 22nd Marines were reunited for the Parry Island assault. To reinforce the attack in light of the new intelligence concerning the larger than expected enemy strength on Parry, Lt. Col. Mizony’s 3rd Battalion, 106th Infantry and the two scout companies were added to the assault force. In addition, an ad hoc battalion of five improvised rifle companies consisting of 100 men each was drawn from the 10th Marine Defense Battalion as an emergency reserve force.

However, due to higher expenditure than expected, the assault troops were low on ammunition and weapons. The Navy ships were scrounged for additional weapons, supplies, and demolition charges. Additional materials were flown in from Kwajalein.

At 9 am on February 22, the 22nd Marine Regiment, Reinforced, still in their blood- and sweat-stained HBT fatigues from Eniwetok, hit the beaches of Parry Island. Lt. Col. Fromhold’s 1st Battalion landed on Green Beach 3 while Lt. Col. Hart’s 2nd Battalion hit Green Beach 2. Major Shisler’s 3rd Battalion was to land behind Fromhold and join in attacking south toward the island’s narrowing tail. From nearby islands the Marines were supported by the 2nd Separate Pack Howitzer Battalion and the 104th Field Artillery Battalion.

For the Japanese on Parry, waiting for the inevitable was hard. One defender wrote, “We thought they would land this morning, but there was only a continuation of their bombardment and no landing. As this was contrary to our expectations, we were rather disappointed.”

They would not be disappointed for long. The Marines stormed ashore as planned, although Hart’s 2nd Battalion landed slightly out of place. Opposition initially was light, but land mines soon took a toll of the advancing invaders. Inland of Green Beach 2, several Japanese fought to the death from individual foxholes, taking some Marines with them.

In response the Marines called forward several bulldozers, which buried the enemy alive in their holes and dugouts. Army light tanks arrived in support and detachments of the V Amphibious Corps Reconnaissance Company added its weight to the attack. By midafternoon Hart’s battalion was mopping up in its sector.

Not so in Fromhold’s sector, though, where Japanese resistance was stronger. Near a position known as Valentine Pier, enemy machine guns and mortars began to take a toll of the Marines’ leaders, who were exposed while organizing their troops. Hand-to-hand fighting raged along the shoreline as the Marines pushed down the island.

Japanese positions in a sand dune just inland from the beach placed interlocking machine-gun fire on any attempt to approach. Located and destroyed by mortars, artillery, and automatic weapons fire, the elimination of the sand dune defenses allowed the Marines to move inland. By 10 am two groups of Marines had crossed the island to the opposite shore. With Marine medium tanks now ashore, the advance moved forward.

General Nishida, whose headquarters was on Parry, had a surprise for the Marines. Just below the beach he had placed three light tanks. Knowing that they had no chance against the American tanks in an open fight, he had buried them in the sand up to their turrets and camouflaged them in the usual inimitable Japanese style.

However, he did not intend to use them as pillboxes, as many other Japanese commanders did. He provided ramps, so that once the Americans were close enough to prevent their naval and air support from firing, he would launch the tanks against the unprepared Americans.

Unfortunately for General Nishida, he waited just a little too long. By the time he launched his tank counterattack, the medium tanks of the 22nd Regiment Tank Company were ashore in numbers. Nevertheless, the attack did inflict casualties on Fromhold’s battalion before the American tanks could get into position to destroy the Japanese armor. By noon the Marines were on the ocean side of the island.

As the Marines were reorganizing in preparation for moving down the length of the island, they observed between 150 and 200 Japanese soldiers calmly marching single file along the shore line. It was surmised that these defenders had taken refuge on the reef off the island to avoid the bombardment and were just now trying to return to their defensive positions, unaware that the Americans had them under observation. The Marines, however, had little time to speculate. The threat was quickly eliminated by the 1st Battalion.

Taking cover behind the body of a dead Japanese defender, two Marine riflemen observe an enemy position. This image was taken by a Coast Guard photographer whose camera was later destroyed when he was blown into a foxhole by a Japanese mortar shell explosion.

Major Shisler’s 3rd Battalion came ashore despite enemy small arms, mortar concentrations, and land mines. Neutralizing previously bypassed Japanese positions as they went, they soon joined Fromhold’s battalion at the advanced line. Behind them Colonel Walker and his staff came ashore and set up regimental headquarters near the beach. General Watson sent both the scout companies ashore, attaching Company D (Scout), 4th Tank Battalion to Fromhold and the V Reconnaissance Company to Hart. There was still enemy resistance to be overcome.

That afternoon, the reinforced 1st and 3rd Battalions, 22nd Marines attacked south. Japanese resistance was as fierce as ever, with the enemy fighting from spider holes, trenches, pillboxes, and dugouts. Close cooperation between infantry, armor, artillery, and supporting weapons allowed the attack to proceed steadily.

Gradually, the use of tanks, flamethrowers, mortars, and demolition charges tore apart the Japanese defenses. Armored half-tracks evacuated the wounded. DUKWs provided ammunition and other necessary supplies. By darkness the two assault battalions were within 450 yards of the end of the island. Fearing friendly fire incidents in the dark, the Marines halted for the night. At 7:30 that evening, Colonel Walker announced that Parry Island was secured.

The next day, February 23, the rest of the island was overrun. Japanese resistance was spotty but remained determined. The bypassed Japanese were later mopped up by the 3rd Battalion, 106th Infantry. Operation Catchpole was over.

The seizure of the Marshall Islands not only provided essential bases for the American advance westward, but also accelerated the overall advance of the American forces to Japan. The Navy’s assault on Truk, covering the Marshall Islands invasion, revealed that the greatly feared Japanese “Pearl Harbor” was in fact a paper tiger by 1944. The main elements of the Imperial Japanese Navy had been withdrawn, and the Americans were now comfortable with leaving it to “wither on the vine.”

Likewise, a review of the planning for future operations determined that the seizure of the Caroline Islands was no longer necessary because Kwajalein could fill meet the requirements that had earlier been thought necessary in the Carolines. Instead of adding another campaign before hitting the Marianas, the latter island group would become the next target in the Central Pacific Theater. Months of fighting and planning had been eliminated, as well as a need to incur an untold number of casualties.

Other benefits came from the Marshall Islands campaign. Despite the recent heavy losses at Tarawa, it was now clear that the basic techniques used by the Americans in amphibious warfare were sound and effective. Eniwetok would also be the last well-defended atoll the Americans would face. From this point forward, targets would be larger land masses ranging from mid-size islands like Iwo Jima to large land masses such as Leyte and Luzon.

With the knowledge that the Imperial Japanese Navy had abandoned Truk, the U.S. Navy was emboldened to strike farther and with more power at distant targets that had heretofore been considered too risky. The American fleet was also now prepared to remain offshore in support of amphibious operations as long as it took to resolve the operation, knowing it held the upper hand against any Japanese counterstrike.

Tactical innovations, such as the use of an exclusively dedicated headquarters ship for better command and control of the operation, arming landing craft with 40mm guns and rockets for greater fire support, the use of the DUKW for carrying men and supplies directly onto the beach, and landing artillery on offshore islands in advance of the main assault to better support the assault troops, were among the tactical innovations first used in the Marshall Islands.

American casualties suffered in seizing Eniwetok Atoll were 219 Marines and 94 soldiers killed in action, 568 Marines and 311 soldiers wounded in action, plus 39 Marines and 38 soldiers missing in action and presumed dead. Japanese losses were calculated at 3,380 killed and 105 captured.

Thus, for a total of 1,269 casualties, Tactical Group One had provided airfields—which were established on Eniwetok and Engebi Islands—for the U.S. Navy to stage replacement aircraft to forward operating forces about to attack the Marianas. A seaplane base was built on Parry for reconnaissance planes.

As expected, the atoll itself became a major fleet anchorage and served as the launching point for several future invasions. These islands also served as bases for the continuing neutralization of the Marshalls and Carolines, tasks largely the responsibility of the 4th Marine Air Base Defense Wing, the Seventh Army Air Force from the Marshalls, and the Thirteenth Army Air Force from the South Pacific.

For the units that took part in Operation Catchpole, the war would continue. The 22nd Marine Regiment soon formed a basis for the new 6th Marine Division and would fight again on Guam and Okinawa. The 106th Infantry Regiment would return to its parent 27th Infantry Division and fight on Saipan and Okinawa.

The V Amphibious Reconnaissance Company would be expanded into a battalion and serve in the Marianas and on Iwo Jima. Company D (Scout), 4th Tank Battalion, returned to its parent 4th Marine Division and would fight again at Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima. The other units that had fought for the Marshalls would also fight in other critical battles.

The battle for the small islands of the Kwajalein and Eniwetok Atolls would pay huge dividends as the war in the Pacific Theater continued.

Comments

My dad was friends with the family of war photographer, John Bushemi. He was killed on the atoll in February, 1944.


Watch the video: The two sides of Kwajalein (January 2022).