Division History

Namur: Penetrating the Outer Ring

The Fourth Marine Division set three new records on its first operation: It became the first division to go directly into combat from the United State; it was the first to capture Japanese mandated territory; and it secured its objective in a shorter time than that of any other important operation since the attack on Pearle Harbor. For weeks the coming battle had been known only by its code name, “Operation Flintlock.” Not until the big convoy had passed the Hawaiian Islands was its destination revealed to all hands -- the twin islands of Roi - Namur in the Kwajalein Atoll of the Marshall Islands. Simultaneously, the U.S. Army’s Seventh Infantry Division was to invade the island of Kwajalein in the same atoll.

In many ways, Operation Flintlock would be the most important of the Pacific War to date; it would constitute the first offensive strike against the enemy to secure a base for operations. Heretofore, our strategy in the Pacific had been largely to keep the Japanese from expanding their gains, to keep them out of Australia, and to secure our own flank in the South Pacific in order that we might drive straight through the Central Pacific for the knockout blows that were eventually to bring Japan to her knees. The invasion of the Marshalls was to be the spearhead of this drive, and the Fourth Division shared the responsibility for its initial success.

Kwajalein Atoll was recognized as the pivotal point in the defense system of the Marshall Islands. The command of the whole area was exercised from here. It was also the distribution point on which reinforcements were gathered and sent out to other atolls. The atoll contained the world’s largest landlocked lagoon and a naval base with fueling and repair facilities. Roi Island also constituted the principal air field in the Marshalls. Altogether, the atoll consisted of 85 islands and extended 65 miles in length and was 18 miles across at the widest point. It was 2,439 miles west of Pearl Harbor.

During the long, 18-day voyage to the atoll, marines had plenty of time to study their objective. With Tarawa fresh in their minds, the prospect of hitting a small, heavily defended beach was not too cheerful. Operation maps showed numerous installations - - coast defense guns, heavy and medium antiaircraft guns, machine gains, blockhouses, a total of 52 pillboxes, numerous antitank trenches, and barbed wire. Added to this, the two islands of Roi-Namur were hardly more than over grown sand spits. Roi measured 1200 by 1250 yards at its widest points; Namur was 800 by 900 yards - neither island a square mile in size! An estimated 3,000 enemy troops were there to defend them. It was not a pleasant prospect!

Against this, however, was a preponderance of striking power. The Task Force which accompanied the Marine and Army divisions to the Marshall Islands was the largest assembled in the Pacific to that time. Our high command had decided that there would be no more Tarawas. The assemblage of carriers, battleships, cruisers, and destroyers which preceded and convoyed the transports was a reassuring sight to the Marines who lined the rails. Our infantry, furthermore, would out-number the defenders two to one. Perhaps the task wouldn’t be too difficult after all.

The Fourth Division was part of the Northern Landing Force, under the command of Major General Harry Schmidt. Ground operations for the campaign as a whole, including Kwajalein Island, were under the Fifth Amphibious Corps, Major general Holland M. Smith commanding. The Joint Expeditionary Forces were commanded by Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner, USN, and the Northern Attack Force, of which the Fourth Division was the landing force, was under the command of Rear Admiral Richard L. Conolly, USN. This was the overwhelming force which would be thrown against the tiny but highly defended Japanese bastion.

The two days before D-day, ships of the naval task forces and aircraft of the Fast Carrier Force in support of the Fourth Division, systematically began to bomb and shell every square yard of Roi-Namur. The three battleships, The Tennessee, Maryland and Colorado--5 cruisers, and 19 destroyers combined in a non-stop barrage which laid 2,655 tons of steel on the islands.

Gun crews did their utmost to make certain that every Jap on the islands got at least one shell with his name on it. To add to the weight of our naval explosives, it was planned to land the Fourteenth Regiment, with its 75 mm pack howitzers and 105 mm howitzers on four small islands which flanked Roi-Namur. Two of these islands flanked the entrance to the lagoon. By seizing them we could secure passage that would allow us to assault Roi-Namur from inside the lagoon. From these flanking islands the artillery was to set up its guns, get the ranges, and give close fire support to the assault troops. This was Phase One of the operation, under the command of Brigadier General James L. Underhill, and took place on January 31, 1944.

The seizure of the small islands on either side of Roi-Namur fell to the Fourth Division's Scout Company and Regimental Combat Team Twenty-five. To the Scout Company and Lieutenant Colonel Clarence J. O'Donnell's First Battalion of the Twenty-fifth Marines, went the honor of being the first to land on ai enemy-defended island in the Marshalls. They went ashore at 0958, landing on the seaward side of Enneubing and Mellu Islands southwest of Roi-Namur. Operation maps had told of "submerged coral boulders.” Actually, the islands were protected by an exceedingly dangerous coral reef. This, and a high sea, caused many of the LVTs to broach and swamp. Fortunately, resistance was slight. Ennuebing was declared secure at 1055 and the larger Mellu at 1209. Artillery came ashore within an hour.

Following this, the Second and Third Battalions of the Twenty-fifth, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Lewis C. Hudson, Jr. and Justice M. Chambers, respectively, landed on three other islands to the southeast Roi-Namur---Ennubirr, Ennumennet, and Ennugarret. These were secured by nightfall and artillery landed on the following morning. On Ennubirr, the Second Battalion raised the first American flag in the Marshalls on a coconut tree. This battalion also seized an important communication center containing great quantities of American-made radio equipment.

The stage was now set for the main attack on Roi-Namur---Phase Two of the operation. This was be made from the lagoon side by RCTs Twenty-three and Twenty-four, each landing two battalions abreast, on the islands' four beaches. The First and Second Battalions of the Twenty-third, commanded by Lieutenant Colonels Hewin 0. Hammond and Edward J. Dillon, were to strike on Beaches Red 2 and 3 on Roi Island, and the Second and Third Battalions of the Twenty-fourth under Lieutenant Colonel Francis H. Brink and Lieutenant Colonel Austin R. Brunelli, respectively, were assigned Beaches Green 1 and 2 on Namur. The day was February 1, 1944. For most of the men in the Division this was their first time under fire.

Early in the morning the amphibian tractors rumbled down the ramps of the LSTS, and the LCVPs were swung over the sides of the transports. The ships were still far out in the lagoon, and the smoking island was but a streak of sand and haze in the distance. H-hour had been set for 1000, but shortly after the boats began rendezvousing word came to the wave commanders that the landing had been delayed. Men in the boats waited nervously.

Then, shortly after 1100, the assault units were waved over the line of departure, 4000 yards from the shore. Naval gunfire began to hurl its final salvos against the beach; dive-bombers plummeted down to drop 1,000-pound blockbusters on installations not yet completely demolished; fighter planes came over for strafing runs. It was the heaviest and most perfectly coordinated concentration of pre-landing bombardment yet seen in the Pacific.

And it paid dividends-big dividends. The first waves hit the beach at 1200. On Roi Island, the large, three-strip airfield was dotted with crippled Jap planes and wrecked defenses. All but a few hundred of the enemy here had fled to nearby Namur, which afforded better protection against the shelling. When assault companies of the Twenty-third landed, the situation seemed almost too good to believe. Opposition had been completely disorganized, and the beach was virtually undefended. By 1217 the Regiment had reached the Phase Line 0-1, and Colonel Jones instructed his communication officer to radio the good news to the Commanding General. The enthusiastic officer did, in these words: "This is a pip. Give us the word and we 'II take the island." The order came back to halt and reorganize, but in the meantime, the tanks and two supporting companies had pushed ahead. They were recalled to keep them from being shelled by naval guns that were bombarding the farther half of the island.

On nearby Namur the going was not so easy. Here the Japs had set up a stronger defense in the form of fire trenches and pillboxes. Thick vegetation gave them excellent concealment and served as camouflage for many of their installations. And although the naval shelling had killed and wounded many hundreds of Japanese, there was still a sizable, although dazed and disorganized, force remaining to oppose the Marines of the Twenty-fourth Regiment.

The Second Battalion, on the right, received only a little scattered small-arms fire from the beach and pushed inland some 200 yards against light opposition. The Third Battalion, on the left, however, ran into trouble immediately from several undamaged pillboxes. Many men were hit as they stepped from the landing boats. Rather than reduce the pillboxes, the assault companies were ordered to by-pass them where possible and leave them for demolition teams. The companies reached the Phase Line 0-I by 1400, paused to reorganize, and waited for tanks and halftracks to come up.

Meanwhile the Second Battalion moved ahead rapidly. Suddenly a large enemy blockhouse, used as a storage place for aerial bombs and torpedo warheads, exploded without warning. An immense tower of smoke and rubble including many torpedo warheads shot into the sky, concussion felled men in every direction, and fragments of metal and cement caught dozens before they could jump into the safety of shell holes. An officer with the Battalion vividly described the scene that followed:

"An ink-black darkness spread over a large part of Namur such that the hand could not be seen in front of the face. Debris continued to fall for a considerable length of time which seemed unending to those in the area who were all unprotected from the huge chunks of concrete and steel thudding on the ground about them. Before the explosion, the large blockhouse was conspicuously silhouetted against the skyline. After the explosion, nothing remained but a huge water-filled crater. Men were killed and wounded in small boats a considerable distance from the beach by the flying debris. Two more violent explosions, but lesser in intensity than the first, occurred among the assault troops during the next half hour."

The Battalion suffered more than half of its total battle casualties in this swift moment, and its advance was held up temporarily.

By this time, the Japanese were recovering somewhat and beginning to offer fiercer resistance. The battle for Namur was not going to be easy. The Third Battalion, with tanks in support, pushed ahead at 1630. A platoon of men under Lieutenant John V. Power soon encountered a pillbox which was spray-ing death all along the Marine lines. They rushed it, tried to lob grenades through the gunport or to get a place-charge against it. But the fire was too hot. They decided to work around the pillbox and attack from the rear. Lieutenant Power led the way. As he approached the doorway a bullet caught him in the stomach, but he didn't stop. To the amazement of the Japs, he charged forward, emptying his carbine into the narrow slot of a door. No one knows how many of the enemy he killed, but from that moment the pillbox was doomed. Power fell, but one of his squads quickly finished off the last resistance. A Marine pulled the Lieutenant back into the safety of a bomb crater where he died a few minutes later. Lieutenant Power was post-humously awarded the Medal of Honor.

There were many other acts of heroism on Roi-Namur that day; not all of them were recorded, and even if they were, this book would not be large enough to tell of them. Typical was the action of Private First Class Richard Scheidt. A bullet hit Scheidt in the arm a few minutes after he was ashore on Namur. A corpsman bandaged the wound and Scheidt stayed with his company. At one point his platoon inadvertently pushed too far forward and was ordered to withdraw. Upon reaching the new position, Scheidt saw a Marine, Edward Mann, about a hundred yards ahead of the lines, wounded in the eyes and unable to see to make his way back. Jap bullets were spraying the field. Despite his own wound, Scheidt went forward alone. There was no way to lead the blinded comrade back, except to stand up; he unfastened the sling of his rifle, gave Mann one end of it, and holding the rifle, started back to his lines. The Marines stopped firing to avoid hitting them and although the Japs blazed away the two men made it. Scheidt was later awarded the Silver Star.

Another outstanding act of bravery that afternoon is credited to Corporal Howard E. Smith, an automatic rifleman in the Twenty-fourth Regiment. Smith was with an assault platoon covering the advance of a tank unit. The lead tank, commanded by Captain James L. Denig, son of Brigadier General Robert L. Denig, poked its nose out of a jungle thicket onto a road. Without warning, five Japs swarmed over it, one of them throwing a grenade into the turret opening. Smith, seeing the Japs jump onto the tank, emptied two magazines from his automatic rifle at them. Four of them rolled off dead and the fifth was killed by another Marine. But the grenade had set off the tank’s fuel and the four men inside were apparently doomed as the tank became a steel bound hell of blazing fuel and ammunition. Smith handed his rifle to a man near him and ran toward the tank, disregarding the fire of snipers and a machine gun across the road. He opened the hatch, pulled Captain Denig free and dragged him off the road to some undergrowth. Then he went back for Corporal Bill Taylor, the assistant tank driver, whom he brought to the concealment of the thicket, and returned for Corporal Ben Smith, the gunner. The fourth man was trapped and couldn't get to the hatch. Captain Denig died, but the other two men owed their lives to Smith's courageous action which won him the Navy Cross.

One of the most fabulous characters on Namur that day was Sergeant Frank A. Tucker who used "Kentucky windage" exclusively. He probably accounted for more Japs personally than any man who fought in the battle. According to Marine Combat Correspondent Gil Bailey, Tucker and eleven other men from a machine-gun unit flushed about 75 Japs out of a blockhouse. The Japs ran into a trench 50 yards to the rear of the position. It was getting dark, and since the Japs greatly outnumbered them, the Marines decided not to make a direct attack. Tucker crawled on his stomach up to the shelter of a coconut palm, from which position he could look straight down the trench. In the bright moonlight he called his shots and in a few hours accounted for 38 Japs. Tucker himself got a bullet hole through the top of his helmet, another through his canteen, and a third through his field glasses. He, too, was awarded the Navy Cross.

The Twenty-fourth's Second Battalion, which bad been held up by the three violent explosions in its midst, got under way again at 1700. The going was slow through stiffening resistance in the rubble of destroyed buildings. By 1930, when the order came to dig in for the night, the battalion had achieved a maximum advance of 300 yards. The Third Battalion's most advanced elements were within a few hun-dred yards of the island's northern shore. Its right flank, however, angled sharply back to tie in with the Second Battalion. The two battalions set up perimeter defense for the night.

Across the causeway on Roi Island the Twenty-third Regiment raced ahead after resuming the attack at 1600. The enemy, thoroughly disorganized from our shelling, put up no single, well planned defense. Instead, there were a hundred separate fights by individuals and small groups without unified command. Under such conditions the Japanese soldier is a brave and stubborn fighter. On Roi, the enemy took to the partially covered drainage ditches which surrounded the airstrips, popping up to fire into the rear of our troops. This caused some confusion and not a few casualties, but the position of the enemy was hopeless. Demolitions and flame throwers routed them out, and riflemen picked off those who did not choose to blow themselves up with their own grenades. By 1800, six hours after the landing and with less than three hours of actual offensive assault, Roi was declared secured.

When troops reached the northern shore of the island they met one of the ghastliest sights they were to see in many days of combat, a trenchful of enemy soldiers who had committed hara-kiri by placing the muzzle of their rifles under their chins and pulling the triggers with their toes. Dozens lay sprawled in this grotesque posture of suicide, a means to an end, typifying the spirit of hopelessness which surrounded the Jap soldiers.

There was little opportunity for individual heroism on Roi, but one man, Private First Class Richard Anderson, found himself in a position to save several comrades from death or injury. He was about to throw an armed grenade when it slipped from his hands. With insufficient time to retrieve the weapon and throw it, Anderson hurled his body upon the grenade, absorbing the full charge of the blast. He was killed, but his comrades were unhurt, and for this self sacrifice Anderson was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

By late afternoon men could pause for breath and look around them for the first time. The ruins through which they had fought were indescribably fascinating. There was hardly a recognizable trace of what had been the Japanese headquarters. On Roi, the gaunt skeletons of a hangar and an operations building were all that remained standing. On Namur only three buildings, all severely battered, had survived our shelling. These were a large administrative building, a concrete radio station, and an ammunition storage building.

Thousands of shells had exploded on the island, leaving the ground pitted with craters. Shattered bread-fruit and coconut palms stood at fantastic angles. Japanese dead were sprawled over the island by the hundreds in shellholes, near ammunition dumps, in the ruins of buildings; most of them were horribly mutilated by the bombardment.

Sheets of corrugated iron were strewn everywhere, twisted, ripped, full of holes. Concrete pilings on which barracks had rested stuck out of the ground in rows like tombstones.

On Roi, many Japanese planes, caught when our shelling began, lay like giant birds pinned helplessly to the ground, their wings broken.

Yet, in the midst of this carnage, a few traces of normal life remained. A dovecote on top of the con-crete radio station was untouched, and birds nested there oblivious to the noise of battle. A pig, several chickens, and a very large goose had somehow escaped death and wandered about unconcernedly.

But the battle was not over. The last few hundred Japs on Namur, pocketed against the northern shore, determined to die in traditional Japanese style. Under cover of rain and darkness made eerie by bursting star shells, they staged a Banzai attack against the Twenty-fourth Regiment's Third Battalion. Companies I and L received the brunt of the attack which lasted, on and off, for several hours. At one point it was necessary to pull back our lines to a more secure position. This led to one of the most remarkable series of incidents of the battle, an example of the spirit of comradeship between Marines and Navy corpsmen.

Pharmacist's Mate Second Class James V. Kirby, a member of the Third Battalion's aid station on the beach, was sent up to the front during the late afternoon to assist company corpsmen. Arriving there, he worked with the wounded for some time and then collected a group of them a short distance behind the lines to await stretcher bearers. But darkness overtook them. Orders had been given to fire on anyone moving about at night, and the litter teams had to stay on the beach. Kirby settled down with his charges to sweat out the night.

He didn't know what was coming. When the Jap counterattack came, and the Third Battalion had to pull back, Kirby found himself-and the wounded-between the enemy and his own troops. He dared not go back for help without endangering the lives of the wounded. He got them into a large bomb crater, administered first aid, cheered them up, and gave them cigarettes which they smoked under the blackout of a poncho.

When the Marines charged forward to regain their old positions, Kirby found himself in the crossfire of battle. He could hear the cries and groans of newly wounded, and crawling out of his hole to find them, led them to the safety of the crater, where he dressed their wounds before returning to new cries in the darkness.

One of the cries that split the night was that of Private First Class Richard K. Sorenson. He and six comrades had been among those who went forward to stop the Jap attack. They had jumped into a shellhole and had continued firing, but in the darkness a Jap crawled close enough to pop a hand grenade into their hole. Hearing it sputter, they scrambled frantically to throw it out. Sorenson saw the grenade come to a stop at his feet and knew that it was too late to get rid of it. He hurled himself upon the deadly weapon in order to absorb the full impact of the explosion. The grenade went off and Sorenson caught the full charge of it. No one else was hurt.

Kirby reached Sorenson in time to tie a severed artery and stop the bleeding which would surely have cost him his life. He took Sorenson to the hole where the other wounded lay and treated him throughout the night. When daybreak came, and the Jap Banzai had been completely broken, a crew of corpsmen advanced to search for Kirby. They found him-and a total of 15 wounded. He had won a twelve-hour tilt with death. For his meritorious service he was later awarded the Bronze Star. And Sorenson-whose action had saved his six companions-lived to receive the Medal of Honor.

There were other heroes that night, many of whom will have to remain nameless. One young private, whose lieutenant and noncom were wounded as they ran from their boat, took charge of the group and led it through a day and night of fighting. He was wounded three times. Twice a corpsman dressed the injury; the third time he was evacuated. Captain Frank E. Garetson was wounded twice while lead-ing his company into battle. Both times he refused evacuation. A young sergeant, William G. Byfield, alone covered the withdrawal of his unit after it had been surrounded by Japanese and then remained be-hind with the wounded. "The first thing we knew we had been cut off and surrounded," Byfield recalled. "The leader of the team was killed. As senior NCO, I took charge. The uninjured slipped away in little groups and I stayed with the wounded, doing just enough firing to make the Japs think all of us were there.” A relief party got to Byfield and the wounded next morning.

Although the island was small, mortars were brought ashore. Many times they were emplaced so near to the front lines that their crews fought as infantrymen as well as mortarmen. One mortarman especially singled out for heroic action was Private First Class Leslie M. Chambers, Jr. On one occasion he picked up two live grenades which had been thrown into his gun position and tossed them back at the enemy. When the counterattack came, he stayed at his gun, firing it at perilously close range, until all those around him had withdrawn to new defensive positions. He was awarded the Silver Star.

Tragedy struck in many places that night, but no death was more tragic than that of Private First Class Jack Brown, a member of the Twenty-fourth Regiment's Third Battalion. Nineteen-year-old Jack had stowed away on the transport so he could be with his father, Corporal Earl Brown, 44. Father and son had been in the same company, but when it was time for the Division to ship out Jack was hospitalized with a minor illness and transferred to another outfit. "Pop" boarded the ship alone. Just before the Division sailed, Jack was found stowed away, and was taken off and placed under arrest.

Corporal Brown's wife, Madie, telephoned the Commandant's office in Washington and told the story of her husband's and son's efforts to be together. The charges against Jack were dropped, and he joined his old company. Father and son were together all during the trip to the Marshalls.

Jack hit the beach first and was killed during the night when the Japs counterattacked. Pop went on fighting---alone.

Another who was killed that night was Private First Class Stephen Hopkins, son of the late Harry Hopkins, Special Assistant to President Roosevelt. Three times he went back through heavy enemy fire to get ammunition. He was on the front with his platoon when killed by a Jap rifleman.

Only a few isolated bands of desperate Japs were left to oppose the last phase of the battle for Namur. When morning came, tanks and halftracks moved up to support the final push, blasting pillboxes, block-houses, and other fortifications. Corporal Michael Giba told how his tank ran up to the edge of a bomb crater, stopped, and was soon swarming with Japs.

"I looked out the periscope," Giba said. "A Jap lay down on the turret and looked me right in the eye. He seemed kind of puzzled about just what to do. Then he rose to a squatting position, removed a grenade from his pocket, held it against the periscope, pulled the pin, and lay down on top of it. The periscope was broken but none of us was hurt. The Jap was killed. Then another tank opened up with its machine gun and cleared the turret of the remaining Japs."

Thus the battle drew to an end. The Third Battalion had jumped off at 0900; the Second and First moved up at 1000. The island was declared secured at 1215 just 24 hours and 15 minutes after the first waves had landed.

But there was to be one last minute tragedy before the flag went up officially on Namur. Lieutenant Colonel Aquilla J. Dyess, commander of the First Battalion, Twenty-fourth Marines, was leading his men against the last pocket of Japs when he was caught in a burst of enemy machine-gun fire. He was killed instantly, the highest ranking officer to lose his life in the operation. Lieutenant Colonel Dyess was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the fourth for the Division during the engagement and probably an all time record for 24 hours of fighting.

Phase Two of the operation was now over, and Phase Three-the first step in mopping up all the islets in the northern two thirds of the atoll began. The battle for Kwajalein Island, which lasted four days, was still in progress when the Twenty-fifth Regiment began its sweep down the atoll. The Second Battalion followed the arm which extended southeast from Roi-Namur, while the First moved to the southwest. During the next seven days they reconnoitered the string of islets, finding an occasional stray band of Japs, a few friendly natives, or nothing at all. At a point where the reef curves to run almost due west, the Third Battalion relieved the First and continued to drive toward Ebadon, extreme westernmost isle of the atoll, rounded this and followed the reef in a general southeasterly direction to complete the circuit. All together, the Twenty-fifth Regiment secured 53 islands, with names like Boggerlapp, Marsugalt, Gegibu, Oniotto, and Eru. Most of them were harder to pronounce than to capture.

It was on this junket that the men of the Twenty-fifth got to know the Marshall Island natives, for it was these Marines who freed them from Japanese domination. On many islets, bivouacking overnight, the natives and Marines got together and sang hymns; the Marshall Islanders had been Christianized many years before, and missionaries had taught them such songs as "Onward, Christian Soldiers." K rations and cigarettes also made a big hit with them. And more than one Marine sentry, walking post in front of a native camp, took up the islander's dress and wore only a loin cloth, usually a towel from a Los Angeles hotel.

Meanwhile, the Fifteenth Defense Battalion came ashore to garrison Roi-Namur. Natives who had lived on the islands were helped back to their homes and paid in U. S. currency to help clear the wreckage and bury the Japanese dead. On Roi, tractors, bulldozers, trucks, and jeeps ground endlessly across the shambles of the airfield, bringing in supplies, ammunition, material for installations, and clearing away the debris of Jap planes. Men of the Twenty-third called Roi a "three quarter mile square junk pile." In the 50 or more craters left by our bombs, antiaircraft guns were set up. Over the blasted Jap operations building flew a huge American flag.

On both Roi and Namur, much of the reconstruction of the islands was done by Seabees. For the first time in the Pacific, they had been trained and equipped as part of a regular Marine Corps landing force. With the Twentieth (Engineer) Regiment, they unloaded ammunition, brought in supplies, laid a portable plank road on the beach, recovered unexploded shells, cleared the airfield, and set up a water-distillation plant.

On February 12, the Japs hit the jackpot. A small group of planes, flying high, dropped a few incendi-ary bombs on Roi Island. One of them struck our ammunition dump and a moment later the whole island was an exploding inferno. To elements of the Twentieth Engineers and Seabees, who were still on Roi, the holocaust was more terrible than anything they had gone through in capturing the island. Combat Corre-spondent Bernard Redmond, attached to the Engineers, described "solid sheets of flame" that resulted from the explosions of our own ammunition and TNT. The raid lasted only five minutes, but the bombardment from the ammunition dump continued for four hours.

"Tracer ammunition lit up the sky as far as we could see," Redmond wrote, "and for a full half hour red-hot fragments rained from the sky like so many hailstones, burning and piercing the flesh when they hit.... A jeep exploded in our faces a few yards away. Yet half an hour after the first bomb hit, several hospitals and first aid stations were functioning with all the efficiency of urban medical centers."

Casualties were numerous, and it was later estimated that damage to our supplies and equipment amounted to one million dollars. Many of the troops had previously embarked on the transports that were to take them back to the Fourth's base on Maui. Some of the ships were still in the lagoon, and the men came topside to watch the grim spectacle.

On February 13, the Division, less the Twenty-fifth Regiment and the Division Scout Company, left Kwajalein for Maui. The Twenty-fifth remained in the atoll until March 1, as garrison troops. The Scout Company moved on to Eniwetok Atoll, also in the Marshalls, to join the Twenty-second Marines (an inde-pendent regiment) and the U. S. Army's 106th Infantry. The assault against Eniwetok began on February 17, with the Scout Company landing from rubber boats on the unoccupied island of Bogon, just west of Engebi Island, and island-hopping down the western side of the atoll. The Fifth Amphibious Corps Reconnaissance Company moved down the eastern side. With the completion of this mission, both units reverted to control of the Twenty-second Marines and acted as line troops in the invasion of Parry Island.

Fourteen islands were secured by the Scout Company, under Captain Edward L. Katzenbach, Jr., in 48 hours. One of the Division's most notable Marines, Gunnery Sergeant Victor "Transport" Maghakian was a member of the Scout Company. Transport had been with Carlson's Raiders before joining the Fourth and later, when he returned to the States after the Marianas operation, he had earned twelve decorations, including the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart with cluster.

It was during the long voyage back to Maui that the apocryphal stories began to find their way into cir-culation. There was one, for instance, about the wounded Marine who had captured a new Jap rifle. When stretcher bearers refused to carry both him and the weapon, the Marine got off the litter, placed the rifle on it, and walked. The corpsmen carried it back.

On one of the smaller islets a mopping-up party from the Twenty-fifth was clearing a few dugouts. As the demolition charge was set and the fuze lighted, a Jap came running out with his hands held high.

"Don't shoot," he said. "I have a brother in Brooklyn." He had, too!

Another tall tale which became a legend of the battle was reported by Combat Correspondent Ed Ruder, concerning Private Harold "Dusty" Crowder, a member of the Twenty-fourth Regiment. Dusty stuck his neck out of a shellhole to see if the enemy were in sight. All was quiet-until a lonely shot rang out from a Jap sniper's rifle. The bullet went through the front of Dusty's helmet, parted his hair at dead center, glanced off the back of his helmet, ricocheted down his neck, and neatly clipped off his dog tags. To prove it all, Dusty exhibited a set of new dog tags as shiny as a silver dollar. There was a hole through his helmet, too.

"There's more to the story, though," confessed Dusty. "But then if I told that I'd be accused of building the whole thing up. It's that part where the bullet bounces back and kills the sniper!"

With the capture of Kwajalein Atoll, the United States now had strategic control of all the Marshall Islands. Japanese garrisons on Mille, Wotje, Maloelap, and Jaluit were by-passed and isolated. The Japanese line of communication south from Wake Island had been severed. We had acquired another stepping stone on our march across the Pacific. The 60-mile-long lagoon would furnish an excellent staging base for future operations. The airfields brought our air power within range of Truk and other islands in the Carolines. For a small price we had won a great victory.

The Division reached Maui during the period from February 21 to 25, but there were some who would not come back. One hundred ninety Marines had been killed and 547 wounded during the brief engagement. Overnight the "green" Fourth had become veterans; the Japanese could testify to that. We had captured 264 prisoners, while another 3,472 enemy troops lay buried on tiny Roi-Namur.

Operation Flintlock was now history!

Casualties of the Division, Reinforced - ROI-NAMUR
 
Officers
Enlisted
Total
Killed in Action
12
160
172
Died of Wounds
1
17
18
Wounded
19
528
547
Totals
32
705
737

 

Division History of the Fighting Fourth