W-Day dawned bright and clear, and at 0535 four battleships sounded reveille with 12 and 14 inch guns. The United States Navy, Army, and Marines had returned to liberate the people of Guam.
Company K was up early of course, we gulped down our breakfast and dashed topside to watch the navy pound the beach. Present always, was the strange mixture of tension and excitement that is integral to an amphibious assault. Soon however, we boarded the LCVP’s and moved away from the transports. By this time the LCI Gunboats and LVTA’s and LVT’s of the first assault wave were circling in their rendezvous areas. On signal from the control boats, the Gunboats followed by the LVTA’s crossed the line of departure to prepare the way for the troop carrying LVT’s. We watched as minutes later they too crossed the line of departure and lumbered toward the beach.
According to the pre-determined time schedule, our LCVP’s moved up to the fringe of the coral reef, to await the returning LVT’s. As they returned, we crowded into the vehicles and began questioning the Coxswain about the assault waves. We learned that as they approached the beach they had received various levels of small arms, mortar, anti-boat and 75mm flat trajectory artillery fire. We crouched down, as the LVT’s crawled over the reef to white beach 2, taking us inland as far as terrain would permit. When the LVT came to a full stop we quickly deployed and took cover. Then began the impatient waiting for orders, as we knew how crucial it was to clear the beach and move inland. Soon Company K moved forward, and assumed positions on hill 40 and Bangi Pt., That had had just been secured by C company. Company I, then relieved Company A, enabling the First Battalion to continue the advance toward Mt. Alifan. By mid-day, the regimental objective line, 1000 yards inland had been reached by the assault Battalions. The attack was resumed at 1345 on Brigade orders, and against scattered resistance the wooded area at the foot of Mt. Alifan was reached at 1700. Since evening was approaching the advance was halted, and the Brigade dug in all along the line.
Due to the over extension of the Brigade’s line in the 3rd Battalion’s area, a gap existed between K Company near the beach and Company I farther inland. Because of approaching darkness it was not feasible to re-align the companies’ positions, so the decision was made to cover the gap with small arms and machine gun fire. A rifle platoon and machine gun section sent forward by L Company would partially cover the area.
Company K, wisely carried a number of extra machine guns, to bolster their line when needed. Late that evening, I and a tobacco chewing marine I will call M.P., were instructed to set up a gun on the left flank of one of the rifle platoons. We set up in the abandoned enemy trench being utilized by that platoon facing east. The machine gun section of L Company was about 50 yards to our left and front. We realized that we needed to stake our gun, to limit our ability to traverse in that direction. Therefore, we staked the gun, so that our zone of fire was at right angle to their zone, and traversing to the right. When we had our position in readiness, including ammo boxes, grenades and personal weapons, we settled down to await the counter attack everyone expected.
The first few hours passed quietly however, we knew the enemy was beginning to infiltrate through the thick grass to the company’s front. Suddenly, L Company’s gun opened and fired a few long bursts to their front. (In a normal defensive situation a machine gun would not be opened and give away it’s position. However, when covering ground with fire, a gun is opened whenever there is a target. Since, our gun was in a position to crossfire, we would do the same.) We were carefully searching the tall grass for signs of movement, when the air was split a long, shrill, terrifying scream that I do not have words to describe. We knew it came from the area of L Company’s machine gun section, and we feared that the gun had been silenced.
As the hours passed marines along the Brigade line remained tense but alert. Under the strange bluish light of 5 inch naval illuminating shells, and their own 60mm mortars, they looked for the infiltrating enemy.
Suddenly, behind a shower of mortar shells, over 500 Japanese rushed upon ¾ (3rd Battalion, 4th Marines) the right flank element of the Brigade line. The heaviest blow fell upon K Company, whose lines were anchored at Bangi Pt. The enemy closed on the right flank platoon with a rush. The fighting was fierce, close up and sometimes hand to hand. Six marines were bayoneted to death in their holes, before the force of the assault was broken and the enemy had to retire.
On hill 40, 300 yards distance from Bangi Pt., the Japanese made a major effort to re-take the position. The defending platoon of K Company was forced from their positions twice in the savage fighting. However, they quickly launched a sharp counter attack, and recovered the lost ground. The fighting continued spasmodically through out the night, along the company’s line, but they refused to yield. In my opinion K Company rose to greatness that night.
They certainly were not alone. The Japanese counter attack was general all along the Brigade line. Infiltrators were very active on every front. Small groups carrying satchel charges penetrated to rear areas, including those of the 305th Infantry, the LVT Park, the Ammo. Co. and the Marine tank park. In sharp fighting, determined marines and soldiers quickly disposed of the infiltrating enemy.
Around 0230, the unmistakable sound of enemy tanks was heard in front of B Company. In response to their hurried call, a platoon of Sherman tanks moved forward from their position near 2/4’s C.P. Soon the marines of 1/4 observed Japanese light tanks and infantry advancing down Harmon Road toward their lines. A courageous marine Bazooka team, waited until the tanks were at point blank range, then fired two quick rounds before being killed by machine gun fire. Both rockets they had fired found their mark on two of the Japanese tanks. The Sherman’s disposed of the remaining tanks, while marines of 1/4 cut down the supporting infantry.
On the right of Harmon Rd., A Company was under constant attack through out the night. Although they were hard pressed and suffered many casualties they held their positions. All along the Brigade line, Japanese infiltrators were found and quickly destroyed as witnessed by sudden bursts of rifle and machine gun fire. The Japanese were able to reach some rear areas but caused little serious damage.
By morning it was clear to Marine and Japanese commanders alike, that the counter attack was a miserable failure. In the early morning hours, marines moved out in front of their lines to dispatch any surviving enemy soldiers. Then preparations were made by all hands to resume the advance to the Final Beachhead Line.
PERSONAL NOTE: [When L Company’s machine gun fell silent, my partner and I knew that only our gun would be available to cover the gap in our line. I cannot judge how successful we were, but we certainly drew the attention of a large number of the infiltrating enemy. We were subject to a constant grenade attack throughout the night. One rolled under the gun and destroyed the traversing mechanism, so we were forced to fire a free gun. Two fell in the trench near us, but resulted only in deafening our ears. During those hours we fired more than 2000 rounds, and cleared numerous ruptured cartridges due to sand in the belts. We considered ourselves very fortunate to have survived that night. I will always be proud to have been on the line with Company K that night.]
Early morning of 22 July, brought a re-alignment of Brigade lines, to facilitate expansion during the advance to each units assigned objective. The 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 305th Infantry, moved into position on the left flank of the 4th, and were to attack and take possession of Maanot Pass. The 305th was also responsible to maintain contact with the 22nd Marines on the left. The major objective of the 4th Marines, was the capture of Mt. Alifan and the ridge extending toward Mt.Taene. When these objectives on the high ground were attained, the 3rd battalion would attack to the south to secure Magpo Pt. This would anchor the south flank of the beachhead, about 1500 yards beyond Bangi Pt. The 22nd Marines were to continue their attack along the Agat-Sumay road, to seal off Orote Peninsula.
Both regiments of the Brigade jumped off at 0900, while the 305th began their movement an hour later. The army units met light resistance and the 3rd battalion on the left was on it’s objective by 1300. The other battalion was hindered by the rough terrain, but was also on line later in the afternoon.
The First battalion 4th Marines made slow but steady progress up the wooded slopes through thick underbrush and tangled vines. The lower slopes contained bunkers and caves that were being utilized by the enemy. Carefully and methodically they were eliminated by Company C assisted by Company G, attached to 1/4after the 305th Infantry had relieved the 2nd Battalion. Patrols gained the crest around 1530 and secured the area.
However, the ground was not suitable for defense, so positions were established on the reverse slope. The left flank was tied to 1/305, while the right flank that extended along the ridge toward Mt. Taene was open. Later in the day, E Company was attached to the 3rd Battalion to fill the gap.
The assault companies of the 3rd Battalion began their advance to extend the beachhead at 1100 hours. Resistance was light to moderate, as naval gunfire, artillery and mortars prepared the way. The attack of Company K over low ground near the shore, was led by a platoon of Sherman’s, that made every attempt of the enemy to resist ineffective. By late afternoon Magpo Pt. was in their possession, and defensive positions established inland to provide a secure Brigade defensive line.
The 22nd Marines also encountered light to moderate resistance during their advance. Supported by naval gunfire, artillery and tanks they worked their way through a line of enemy pillboxes, the ruins of Agat and other difficult ground. By 1800, strong defensive positions had been established, and contact made with all flanking marine and army units.
The night of 22 July, was relatively uneventful along the Brigade line, and no serious threats developed. On the morning of the 23rd the 22nd Marines and the 305th Infantry resumed their advance. Their objective was a line running across the neck of the peninsula to Apra Harbor, then to the ridge extending to Mt.Tenjo, and continuing south along the high ground to Maanot Pass. Both Battalions of the 305th encountered negligible resistance, and gained their positions on the FBHL without any significant delay. By evening, they were dug in on the heights that overlooked Orote Peninsula.
Initially, the 22nd Marines met light resistance, but soon encountered thick brush, small hills and rice paddies, which were well organized for defense by the enemy. As the advance continued, resistance became very heavy and units were pinned down by small arms and mortar fire, as well as enfilading fire from heavier guns on Orote Peninsula. By late afternoon, having suffered over 100 casualties they went into night defensive positions short of their objective. This caused a gap between flanking units of the 22nd Marines and 305th Infantry, which the Japanese failed to exploit.
Late in the afternoon, 3/306 that had just came ashore, relieved 3/4 in their existing positions. When the relief had been effected, 3/4 proceeded to a location near Agat, where they were attached to the 22nd Marines for the night.
The night of 23-24 was again uneventful, except for infiltration attempts by small enemy units and scattered mortar fire. This activity was quickly smothered by naval gunfire and Brigade artillery. During the evening of the 23rd, General Shepherd and his staff, developed a tactical plan to outflank and envelop the Japanese strongpoints that were delaying the advance.
An extended bombardment of the area, by air, naval gunfire and Corps 155mm howitzers, was delivered before the 22nd Marines began their assault, according to General Shepherd’s plan. The coordinated attack, utilizing marine tanks, LCI gunboats and all supporting weapons was executed brilliantly, and was a complete success. By late afternoon, all objectives had been reached and 2/4 had moved up to fill the gap between the 2nd and 3rd Battalions 22nd Marines. By day’s end, all units of the 4th Marines had been relieved by the 77th Division, and were available for operations on the Peninsula. Both north and south beachhead lines were securely held, and supply operations were functioning normally.
To secure the Beach Head Line the following casualties were incurred by the forces involved.
- 3RD MARINE DIVISION-282 KIA, 1,626 WIA, 122 MIA
- 1ST MARINE BRIGADE-137 KIA, 700 WIA, 87 MIA
- 77TH INFANTRY DIVISION-12 KIA, 20 WIA
The operational plans of General Geiger, for 25 July, called for the Brigade to initiate its assault on Orote Peninsula. Conditions existing at the close of 24 July, prompted General Shepherd to request a one day delay. The request was quickly granted, and the Brigade prepared to use the 25th to seal access to the Peninsula from all avenues of approach.
The attack of the 22nd Marines continued at 0830 on the 25th. Both Battalions drew heavy resistance and enfilading fire from various quarters. Air strikes were delivered on Neye Island, one source of such fire, while naval gunfire, artillery and the 40mm guns of the Defense Battalion blasted the island’s shore. The advance continued but fighting was fierce at times. When the Japanese attempted to counter attack with light tanks, Sherman’s and Bazooka teams quickly destroyed them. It was very apparent, that the Brigade had encountered the in depth defense’s of Orote.
To prepare for the attack of the 26th, the 4th Marines began taking over the left of the Brigade’s line, in the early afternoon. The 1ST Battalion as ordered, mopped up sporadic enemy resistance, as they moved up to relieve 1/22.
By early morning, all marine units were in good positions on their objectives, and ready to renew the assault in the morning. On the left, was the First Battalion 4TH Marines with three companies on line. A platoon of Sherman tanks guarded the Agat-Sumay road, where it intersected the Brigade’s line. The Third Battalion 4TH Marines, assumed positions behind the First, ready to extend the line to the left as the Peninsula widened. On the right, 3/22 was on a low rise overlooking a mangrove swamp adjacent to Apra Harbor. In support behind 3/22 was the First Battalion 22nd Marines.