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 PhotosTroops 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.
photos of World War 2 : over 31500
aircraft models: 184
tank models: 95
vehicle models: 92
gun models: 5
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.
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.