Orote Peninsula To The End
The Japanese provided a strange prelude to the battle for Orote, during the night of the 25th. In response to an order for a general counterattack, over 500 Japanese troops had assembled in the mangrove swamp to the front of the 22nd Marines.
The Marines could hear them jabbering and shouting, in what seemed to be a drunken brawl. At last, fortified by sake, they boiled out of the swamp, and like a disorganized mob attacked the left flank of Company L, 22nd Marines, and the right flank of Company A, 4th Marines. Forward observers immediately called artillery fire of the Brigade, 77th Division and Corps down on the screaming enemy troops. The few that reached the marines lines were cut down by small arms and machine gun fire. It was soon over and the usual nighttime routines were resumed. The early morning light revealed the mangled remains of over 400 Japanese dead. A gruesome sight, even for the hardened veterans of the First Brigade. Their sacrifice did not hinder in any way, the assault of the Brigade ordered for the 26th.
The attack of the Brigade on the 26th was preceded by an intense bombardment by air, naval gunfire and artillery. The 4th Marines then began their advance in a column of Battalions, with the 1st Battalion in the lead supported by tanks. On the right, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 22nd Marines were subjected to a heavy shelling by the enemy as they were preparing to jump off. This caused much confusion, and it was 0815 before the assault units were ready to advance.
This delay opened a gap between the two regiments that was quickly closed by L Company, 4th Marines. Also, as the 1st Battalion advanced behind the tanks, I Company 4th Marines mopped up enemy troops that had been by-passed. The 4th Marines met light resistance initially, but as the attack progressed dense brush on the left, and increasing enemy fire on the right, slowed their progress. To maintain the momentum of the assault, and utilize the entire resources of the regiment, General Shepherd ordered a change of regimental boundaries. The change would permit all three Battalion’s of the 4th Marines to participate in the assault.
Brigade tanks played an essential role, as the 2nd and 3rd Battalions moved into position on line. The thick vegetation that was encountered was crushed down by the tanks, and scattered resistance was smothered by their machine gun fire. As the advance continued, heavy machine and mortar fire began to rake the 4th Marines lines. The enemy had cut mutually supporting fire lanes, through the thick brush and overhanging branches, that were not apparent until the Japanese opened fire. It was clear that the Brigade was uncovering a well organized, in depth enemy defense line. However, by 1730 both regiments were on their objective and organizing for defense, except on the far right flank.
The 22nd Marines, in the late afternoon, had been delayed by a 200 yard corridor of Aerial bomb mines, covered by heavy machine gun and mortar fire. For the night, they had refused their flank, and covered the gap that was created by machine gun and artillery fire. The Brigade enjoyed a quiet night all along the line, with no effort by the enemy to make a penetration.
The 4th Marines objective for the 27th was an ill defined trail 700 yards forward of their existing position’s. The ground they would cross was covered with thick tangled brush that concealed an abundance of pillbox’s, trenches and bunkers that were mutually supporting. The enemy positions were well supplied with machine guns, mortars and artillery of various sizes and bore.
The Brigades attack began on the heels of a thorough bombardment of the target area by air, naval gunfire and artillery. In the 4th Marines sector, the 3rd Battalion moved out with I and L companies in the assault supported by a platoon of tanks. Following a morning of intense and costly fighting, they broke through the enemy’s defenses organized along a low ridge. The tanks were indispensable as their 75’s ripped apart the enemy’s gun emplacements. The tank infantry teams continued to advance through a stand of coconut trees but casualties were heavy among the exposed marines. When the objective line was reached and secured, Company L had incurred 70 casualties.
The 1st Battalion, on the far left of the 4th Marines line, had encountered far less resistance and had reached it’s objective by 1100. The 2nd Battalion, had also experienced much easier going, and reached the objective line by 1200 hours.
Both units, organized for defense, and waited for the 3rd Battalion to come up on the right. As the 3rd Battalion reached the phase line, their supporting tanks ran out of ammunition. The Sherman’s, that had supported the advance in the center, moved over and covered the Battalion while defensive positions were being established. During that interval, a column of some 300 Japanese were spotted moving in the open across a ridge. Cannon and machine gun fire, delivered by the Sherman tanks, ripped apart the enemy column amid the cheers of the watching marines.
On the right flank of the Brigade, G Company 22nd Marines, supported by tanks, worked their way through the minefield that had previously delayed the advance. The Bomb Disposal Officer, covered by smoke, then cleared a path for the tanks to move through and support the assault. The 2nd Battalion, 22nd Marines, encountered heavy resistance, but drove relentlessly ahead. By 1400, there was room for the 3rd Battalion to come up on the right and join the attack. The advance was slow but steady, with the tanks ripping apart enemy bunkers. Late in the afternoon, Col. Schneider decided to make an all out effort to break through the enemy’s line. He called for a concentration of artillery fire, and a bombing and strafing run by carrier aircraft. Suddenly, after the air strike had been delivered, the Japanese abandoned their positions and fled, to the astonishment of the assaulting marines. This enabled the 22nd, to advance quickly to high ground overlooking the Marine Barracks, and organize their defense for the night. The Brigade again experienced an unusually quiet night free of enemy activity.
The assault on the 28th was preceded by a prolonged bombardment by air, naval gunfire and artillery. The 22nd Marines launched their attack at 0830 and moved forward against very little resistance. By 1000, the objective line had been reached, and by order of General Shepherd they pressed on to take full advantage of the opportunity. Without serious opposition the 22nd Marines were able to secure the old Marine Barracks, the town of Sumay and the cliffs along the harbor. A secure defensive line on favorable ground was established by 1750.
However, the enemy was alert and ready for the attack of the 4th Marines. Their defense was organized in depth, along a 300 yard ridgeline, blocking the approaches to the rifle range and the air field. Thorn bushes and other tropical growth was hiding 200 or more emplacements reinforced with coconut logs, earth and cement, also anti-tank and anti-personnel mines guarded the approaches to their positions. The ability to maneuver was limited by the terrain, and left no alternative to a frontal assault. When the 2nd and 3rd Battalions began their advance, they encountered a large volume of fire and very determined resistance. Slowly, hour by hour, the assault was pressed with tank infantry teams closing with the line of emplacements.
Eventually, the tanks were able to pour 75mm fire directly into the bunkers, while marines flushed out survivors with white phosphorous grenades. Angry marines quickly dispatched the emerging enemy troops. Reinforced, by two platoon’s of marine tanks and a platoon of army light tanks, the 4th Marines swept through the last Japanese defenders to a position near the rifle range. By nightfall, the regiment was securely dug in and in contact with the 22nd Marines on the right.
PERSONAL NOTE: [During the long day, everyone in K Company who was not directly engaged manned litters and moved forward to evacuate the seriously wounded. The ground was very rough, uneven and covered with holes that were hidden by the long grass. Because of the urgency we would run or half-run and frequently stumbled and fell. The screams, outcries or whimpering of the helpless victims was hard to endure, but increased our resolve to get them to the Aid Station. Sometimes, when we arrived we were rewarded by grateful smiles from the wounded. Frequently however, the corpsman would shake his head and we understood that we were to late. We could only turn away to return, hoping that the next time would be different.]
Late that evening, Capt. Sexton told me to report to the weapons platoon, as replacements were needed. I was assigned to a machine gun squad, and since I was new to the company and unknown to most, I told no one that I was an NCO. I remained with the squad until the Brigade returned to our base at Guadalcanal. I was quickly accepted and felt very comfortable as a functioning member of a machine gun squad.
Orders for the attack of 29 July gave the 22nd Marines the mission of mopping up the Barracks’s area, the town of Sumay and the cliffs along the coast. The 4th Marines were to assault and capture Orote air field. Preparatory fire for the assault included the following: The combined fire of eight cruisers and destroyers, six Battalions of artillery and a devastating air strike. General Bruce of the 77th Infantry was to provide another platoon of tanks and a platoon of tank destroyers for the assault.
The Brigade moved out at 0800 and swept rapidly forward. Around 1100, the 22nd Marines were ordered to stop at the 0-6 line, while the 4th Marines were to continue the assault and secure the Peninsula. During the advance, the 3rd Battalion 4th Marines easily overcame an enemy strongpoint near the airfield’s control tower. This was the only resistance of any note that was encountered during the day. Relief of the 22nd Marines was completed at 1500, then Col. Shapley called a halt about 500 Yards beyond line 0-6. While defensive positions were being established, two platoons made a combat reconnaissance patrol aboard tanks to Orote Point. When the patrol returned, General Shepherd declared the Peninsula secured.
Intelligence Officers estimated that a minimum of 1,633 Japanese troops had been killed on Orote by 30 July. The price paid by the Marine Brigade was:
115-KIA, 721- WIA and 38 MIA.
During the battle for Orote Peninsula by the 1st Marine brigade, the 3rd Marine Division had gained control of the Fonte heights, and the 77th Infantry Division had patrolled the southern area of Guam in search of the enemy. The two Divisions were now preparing to drive north to eliminate the remaining Japanese. The Brigade, in Corps reserve would continue to mop up the peninsula, guard the rear area and search for enemy survivors hiding in the southern mountains.
General Geiger, Commander III Corps, was well schooled in utilizing all units under his command to the greatest advantage. Accordingly, on 2 August, the Brigade was alerted for a move north to an area near Tiyan as Corps reserve. In response, General Shepherd ordered the 4th Marines to assemble at Maanot Pass, and prepare to move north at 0800 the following day. The 22nd Marines less 1/22 were to continue their patrols and prepare to move out on 5 August. Responsibility for the security of the southern area would pass to a command composed of, the 1st Battalion 22nd Marines.9th Defense Battalion and the 7th AA Battalion under the command of Lt. Col. O’Neil.
By mid afternoon 5 August, the Brigade had finished the move north, as the 22nd Marines went into bivouac near Tiyan airfield. The 3rd Division and 77th Infantry, had met heavy resistance in well organized pockets as they had driven north. Consequently, the marines of the Brigade felt a sense of responsibility to bear their share of the fighting. On orders from Corps Headquarters 6th Aug., General Shepherd ordered the 4th Marines to relieve the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 3rd Marines and join the general assault the next morning.
The 4th Marines attacked on the left of the 3rd division zone in the direction of Ritidian Pt. The advance was so rapid that General Shepherd directed the 22nd Marines to move up behind the Fourth prepared to enter the lines as the zone of action expanded. During the attack L Company 3/4 was fired upon by an enemy 75mm gun as they approached a trail junction. The Company commander and two men nearby were wounded, but supporting tanks quickly demolished the gun and ripped apart the adjacent roadblock. The advance continued against light resistance until the day’s objective was reached. Then defensive positions were established and close contact maintained with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines on the left. The 22nd Marines were in position, behind 1/4 on the Brigade left, ready to join the attack on order.
The Brigade resumed the assault on the 8th, with the 22nd Marines passing through 1/4 as they joined the advance. The Battalions advanced in the approach march encountering little resistance. On orders from General Shepherd, a patrol was dispatched by 2/22 toward Ritidian Point Lighthouse where enemy activity had been reported. Company F was assigned the mission and moved rapidly ahead, while carrier aircraft prepared the way by striking all the road junctions. They reached their objective by 1500 and sent a patrol down the narrow trail leading to the beach. The rest of the 2nd Battalion followed in trace and established a defensive perimeter near Mt. Machanao. The 3rd Battalion set up along the road between junctions 460 and 530.
The Fourth Marines, also met little resistance in reaching the day’s objective, and then set up a series of defensive perimeters. Their positions extended from that of 3/22 to RJ 460 and along the Tarague trail to the location of 3/3. From those positions, patrols found few Japanese in the Brigade’s zone of responsibility. During 9 August, both regiments of the Brigade vigorously patrolled their zones of responsibility. The 2nd Battalion 22nd Marines searched for the enemy along the coastal beaches near Ritidian Point. The 4th Marines reached Mengagan Point, contacted by patrols, the 22nd along the coast, and searched the area toward Taraque with patrols. The reports from the patrols of all assault and reserve units, persuaded General Shepherd to announce at 1800, that organized resistance had ceased in the Brigade’s area.
During 10 August, the last pocket of Japanese resistance including a number of medium tanks was eliminated by 2/3 supported by artillery and a platoon of tanks. They then pushed on to the coast, where they quickly disposed of a platoon size group of the enemy. At approximately 1130, General Geiger announced that all organized resistance on Guam had ceased. At 1423 a III Corp operational order was issued, directing the two Divisions and the Brigade, to continue mopping up activities in their assigned areas.
The period of patrolling that followed was for me rather pleasant. Company K was in a perimeter defense, in a large open area, that permitted good field’s of fire. Our machine gun squad was attached to various rifle platoons when they went on patrol. The terrain provided good cover for the scattered enemy soldiers, who for the most part were trying to survive by hiding. Occasionally, a few would be flushed and dispatched, but for the most part the patrols were uneventful. Since most of us were Raiders, we were always hungry, and noticed immediately the cows that wandered around the area. We knew the Rocks and Shoals protected them, so we devised a clever scheme. One of the squad would wander off in the boondocks, locate a cow, and when the shot rang out the squad and all our supporters would shout "accidental discharge." Our theory was that once the critter was dead no one would want all that good beef to go to waste. As a part of our plot, we reserved a choice portion for those who would complain the most. Well, it worked once, and it was a big cow, so who were we to complain? When you are a Raider and the fighting is over, boiled cow tastes real good.
Wonderful times like that never last long, and on a date I do not remember we boarded a troop transport and sailed for Guadalcanal. Like another person we knew about --WE WOULD RETURN.
The cost of liberating Guam in 21 days of battle is shown below.
USMC—1,190 KIA, 377 DOW, 5308 WIA.
77th - INFANTRY---177 KIA, 662 WIA.
The Third Marine Division performed superbly, and was always held in the highest esteem throughout the Corps during WW II.
The 77th Infantry Division demonstrated on Guam that they were one of the best trained, well led, combat efficient US Army Divisions in either theater of operations.