our landing on Saipan, it had been apparent to the Japs that
Tinian would be the next objective. Our warships and planes
had bombed it daily and aerial reconnais-sance had been conducted
over all parts of the island. It was no secret that we were
getting ready to add Tinian to our list of Marianas bases.
The enemy, therefore, had more than a month to strengthen and
add to his defensive positions.
Saipan, the Division was assigned a new commanding general.
On July 12, 1944, Major General Clifton B. Cates replaced Major
General Harry Schmidt, who became the Commanding General of
the Fifth Amphibious Corps. Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith
continued as Commanding General, Expeditionary Troops, and
assumed command of Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. This command
worked out and executed the brilliant plan that made the invasion
of Tinian a model of its kind, called by many "the perfect
was set for July 24, 1944. To the Fourth Division went the
task of making the assault landing. The Second Division was
to land on J plus 1, and the U. S. Army's Twenty-seventh Division
was to be held on Saipan in reserve. Marines will remember
their surprise when the operation maps were first unfolded.
The two beaches selected for the landing were but 65 and 130
yards wide. It seemed impossible that an entire division could
be put ashore, against opposition, on these two tiny stretches
of sand. Never in the course of the Pacific war had a unit
of division strength tried to land on any beach smaller than
twice the size of these two combined.
was precisely this fact, that the landing seemed impossible
upon which the generals counted to fool the enemy. For if it
seemed impossible to us, it certainly would also seem impossible
to the Japs. Assuming this, we expected them to devote their
main effort to defending the larger and more accessible beach
at Tinian Town, on the southern half of the island. We would,
so to speak, sneak in the back door while the Japs waited at
the front. Added to this was the advantage of covering and
supporting the landing by Corps Artillery based on Saipan.
theory was substantiated by reconnaissance carried on before
the landing. Aerial reconnaissance was made by virtually the
entire General Staff, including General Cates himself, regimental,
and battalion commanders. This was another "first" for
the Division, the first time in the Pacific that a planning
phase included such complete reconnaissance of an enemy-held
base by the key officers of an assault force. Documents captured
on Saipan further supported the theory. Everything indicated
that the Japanese believed the White Beaches on the northwestern
side of the island to be too small to accommodate our heavy
equipment, tanks, artillery, bulldozers, and trucks. With an
estimated 9,000 troops to defend the island, which was approximately
25 square miles smaller than Saipan, the enemy would be forced
to commit the main body of his troops at one or the other end
of the island.
reconnaissance showed that the enemy was devoting most of his
defensive preparations to the beaches at Tinian Town, working
at night to construct numerous bunkers, pillboxes, and trenches.
There was evidence that the beach was heavily mined. The streets
of Tinian Town were fortified by an intricate system of bunkers
which commanded all streets and intersections.
a sense this was gratifying, for it indicated that our estimate
of the situation was correct. We encouraged the defenders in
their belief by concentrating most of our day to day bombardment
on the town and on its beaches. The theory was further substantiated
by the results of several reconnaissance missions performed
by the Fifth Amphibious Corps Reconnaissance Battalion. Landing
undetected from rubber boats on the nights of July 10 and 11,
the scouts found that Beaches White 1 and 2 were very lightly
defended and that the rough coral ledges on each side of the
sandy portion of the beaches could be surmounted by foot troops,
thus extending the width of the landing areas one or two hundred
these various sources we achieved a good picture of the enemy
defensive setup on Tinian. This w as more remarkable considering
that to the naked eye, Tinian was truly an island of
mystery. Lying just south of Saipan and separated from
it by only three miles of water, it was under continuous aerial
observation. Yet it might as well have been unpopulated, for
our planes flew at treetop level without observing a single
living thing. Even the thousands of civilians, joining in the
enemy's game of hide and seek," had literally moved underground.
Photographs revealed continuous work on installations, but
soldiers and civilians alike were not to be seen. The island's
broad lowlands planted in sugar cane, its single peak, 540
foot Mount Lasso, and the sweeping ridge that formed its southern
end, all lay peacefully in the summer sun. The enemy was maintaining
the strictest kind of discipline to keep us guessing to the
our own plans were destined to turn the tables and beat the
Japs at their own game, no effort was spared to destroy all
known defenses. Beginning with the strike by Task Force 58
on June 11, the destruction rained on Tinian increased steadily.
Jap shore batteries replied on occasion several of our warships
the end of the battle of Saipan, as many as thirteen battalions
of 105mm and 155mm howitzers guns were set up on the southern
shores of the island, and massed fire was brought to bear against
targets on Tinian. Our planes, flying from Aslito Airfield,
and warships of Task Force 58 systematically demolished Tinian's
two completed airfields and left its town a mass of smoking
rubble. Napalm incendiary bombs were used for the first time
with good effect. An official statement from G-3 of the Expeditionary
Troops Report later declared: "The preparatory bombardment
delivered on Tinian prior to the landings exceeded in duration
and deliberate destructiveness any previous preparation of
the Pacific War.
plan of the landing called for Regimental Combat Team Twenty-four
to go ashore in a column of battalions on Beach White 1, the
northernmost and smallest of the two beaches, while Regimental
Combat Team Twenty-five was to land on White 2 some few hundred
yards to the south. Regimental Combat Team Twenty-three, held
in immediate reserve, was to come in on Jig-day after the assaul
troops had established the beachhead. The Fourteenth Marines
would also land on Jig-day, four battalions of 75mm howitzers
having been preloaded in DUKWs (amphibian trucks) in order
to be readily avaiable. (Two of these battalions, from the
Tenth Marines, Second Division, were attached to the Fourth
Division.) The.Second Division was to conduct a diversionary
demonstration off Tinian Town. To enable tanks and trucks to
negotiate the rocky, steep beaches, pontoon causeways and special
ramps built by Seabees during the battle of Saipan, were to
be brought over in LVTs and LCVPs.
was at 0740. Long before, waves of LVTs had assembled behind
the line of departure. The day promised to be bright and sunny
after a night of rain in which troops, sleeping on the decks
of the LSTs, had been soaked. Smoke from the bombardment completely
obscured the beaches, and when the boats were waved over the
line of departure, guide planes overhead led the way. Thirty
LCI gunboats laid down a wall of rocket and automatic weapon
perhaps, had there been more apprehension in the minds of the
men making an assault landing. They remembered the heavy mortar
and artillery fire which had greeted them on Saipan. They knew,
too, that if the Japs had not been fooled, if the enemy had
anticipated our ruse and had zeroed in artillery and mortars
on the narrow beaches, the landing would be very difficult.
Well directed artillery and smallarms fire could be disastrous
to our troops. It would be like walking into a trap, and the
landing might conceivably end in a fiasco.
however, was not to be the case. Our strategy worked even better
than we had dared hope. Opposition was officially "light"
on White I and "moderate" on White 2. Occasional rifle
and machine gun fire and desultory mortar fire was the only opposition
the two assault regiments encountered. The bulk of Colonel Ogata's
troops, excellently trained and well equipped veterans of the
Manchurian fighting, waited behind their defenses at Tinian Town
while we walked ashore on the two "impossible" beaches
far to the north. The "razzle-dazzle"
play was an unqualified success.
such light opposition, our troops moved in rapidly. Regimental
Combat Team Twenty-four advanced toward Airfield No. 1; Regimental
Combat Team Twenty-five went south along the coast and inland
toward Mount Lasso. At 1630, Regimental Combat Team Twenty-three
came ashore, and its Second Battalion took over the Division's
right flank. All three regiments then drove ahead toward the
Phase Line 0-1.
the landing went smoothly. Supplies, preloaded in amphtracs
and DUKWs, were brought directly to inland dumps. Tanks, routed
to White I because of mines on White 2, negotiated the sharp
ledge by means of the cleverly constructed ramps and were soon
supporting the infantry. Four battalions of 75mm howitzers
were ashore and were firing by 1635. The whole Division had
landed within nine hours.
1730 the order came to consolidate positions for the night
and to prepare for the counterattack which was expected. A
beachhead 4000 yards wide and 2000 yards deep had been seized.
And the cost? Fifteen were killed and 150 wounded---an unbelievably
small price to pay for the achievement.
what followed that night will probably live in the memory of
Fourth Division Marines as a tougher fight than any single
battle on Saipan. Indeed, the Japanese counterattack, for all
practical purposes, was the battle of Tinian. For when it ended,
all the heavy fighting was over. Japan's best troops had been
was no wild, unorganized attack, made in desperation, but a
well planned and carefully executed counterattack which had
for its purpose the total destruction of our beachhead. That
it failed completely was due to our well integrated and stalwart
defense. Greener troops might have given way, but Marines of
the Fourth Division were real veterans now and took in their
stride the best the Japs could offer.
attack was directed at several points of our perimeter defense
simultaneously. At 0330, moving north along the main road leading
from Tinian Town, clattered six tanks with infantry clustered
on them, and more Japs following on foot. Previously, Japanese
artillery had opened up on our beachhead. Marines had been
alerted for the attack; all along the line 37mm gun crews,
with canister and AP shells ready, lay in wait. Bazookamen
were stationed at every likely tank approach. Suddenly, listening
posts ahead of the Twenty-third's lines heard the rumble of
tanks and relayed their approximate location to our artillery.
The tanks were 400 yards away when the artillery opened up.
Still the tanks came on. Then our antitank guns went into action.
Jim G. Lucas, the Division's Assistant Public Relations Officer,
who was with the Twenty--third that night, vividly described
three lead tanks broke through our wall of fire. One began
to glow blood-red, turned crazily on its tracks, and careened
into a ditch. A second, mortally wounded, turned its machine
guns on its tormentors, firing into the ditches in a last desperate
effort to fight its way free. One hundred yards more and it
stopped dead in its tracks. The third tried frantically to
turn and then retreat, but our men closed in, literally blasting
it apart. Bazookas knocked out the fourth tank with a direct
hit which killed the driver. The rest of the crew piled out
the turret, screaming. The fifth tank, completely surrounded,
attempted to flee. Bazookas made short work of it. Another
hit set it afire, and its crew was cremated."
sixth tank, far to the rear, made its escape, running south
along a railroad track and was found the next day, knocked
out. Despite the shattering of their spearhead, Japanese infantry
kept coming and were soon fighting at close quarters with the
Second Battalion, Twenty-third. Thirty seven millimeter guns
sprayed canister shot point-blank at the incoming waves. Machine
guns rattled incessantly at the wild charging Japs; bodies
piled up by the dozen in every fire lane. The next morning
267 Jap dead were counted in this sector.
Marines took their share of punishment, too. A 37 mm gun crew,
commanded by Gunnery Sergeant John G. Benkovich, winner of
the Silver Star and two Purple Hearts, suffered six casualties
in the attack, including Benkovich himself. Realizing that
the position would have to be abandoned, Benkovich directed
evacuation of the wounded and then returned, alone, to dismantle
the gun and render it useless to the enemy.
the attack in this sector was broken up. However, the Twenty-fifth,
holding the center sector was having its own fight. As early
as 2230 this Regiment was experiencing pressure on its left
flank and could hear the enemy forward of its Third Battalion
front line elements. The first attack, at that time, was delivered
by 500 to 600 Japs and was repulsed by close range mortar and
small arms fire. The Japs retreated to the high ground ahead
of the Battalion and there reorganized. At 0100 they struck
again, this time at the juncture of the Twenty-fifth and the
Twenty-fourth Regiments; and although hard fighting ensued,
and many of the enemy were killed, about 200 broke through.
Reorganizing in a swamp, they speared out in two directions,
one group attacking a "breakthrough" platoon behind
the Third Battalion lines, and the other group hitting to the
northwest, deep within our lines, at our artillery positions.
The attack was effectively checked by the
"breakthrough" platoon which killed 91 of the enemy
and by howitzer crews of D Battery, Second Battalion, Fourteenth
Marines, who lowered their muzzles and let the Japs have it at
point blank range, killing 99.
breakthrough had been bitterly contested. When the first indications
of an attack were felt,two machine guns, manned by Private
First Class Orville H. Showers and Corporal Alfred J. Daigle,
were out in front and on the flank of their company. They saw
a great number of Japs moving toward them across a field. Showers
and Daigle held their fire until the enemy was 100 yards away,
then opened up wth everything they had. The Japs charged, screaming "Banzai!," firing
light machine guns, and throwing hand grenades. It seemed impossible
that the two Marines, far ahead of their own lines, could hold
on. Yet they killed most of the Japs.
second wave came in, more than 200 charging Japs. Back on the
main line of defense, Marines could hear the machine guns,
their barrels red hot, blazing away. They knew that Showers
and Daigle were taking the brunt of the attack. They could
have withdrawn to their own lines, no one would have blame
them, but they chose to stick by their guns. Then the guns
of Showers and Daigle stopped firing.
next morning Marines found the two men slumped over their weapons,
dead. No less than 251 Jap bodies were piled in front of them.
And altogether, on this company front, 350 Japs were killed
during the night. For heroic action against the enemy, the
Navy Cross was awarded posthumously to Corporal Daigle, and
the Silver Star was awarded posthumously to Private First Class
like this, with variations, happened all along the line. In
the Second Battalion, Twenty-fourths sector, one Jap
attack was repulsed largely because of the good judgment of
Sergeant John F. Fritts, Jr. Combat Correspondent Dick Tenelly
described how Fritts, who had taken command of his platoon
after the death of the platoon leader, deployed his men across
a road that constituted part of the perimeter defense. The
first warning of trouble came when a Jap patrol was sighted
just before midnight. One of the platoon's machine guns dispersed
the patrol but in so doing gave away its position.
did some quick thinking. He shifted his gun positions, putting
automatic rifles in place of the machine gun, temporarily giving
the impression that it was still there. The machine gun was
moved to another spot. When the major enemy attack came at
about 0200, the Japs directed their attention to the automatic
rifles, which were withdrawn in the nick of time. But by this
time the enemy had revealed his own positions. The machine
gun and a 37mm gun opened up; the surprised Japs became confused
and disorganized. They fought bitterly, but by daylight 150
had been killed. All but one of Fritts' main gun crew were
on the left flank, in the sector adjacent to the ocean, hard
fighting was taking place in the zone of action of the First
Battalion, Twenty-fourth Marines. At 0200, about 600 screaming
japs came down a road leading into the lines. The Battalion
put up flares and opened up with 37mm guns, mortars, automatic
rifles, machine guns, and rifles. Artillery registered on the
area to the rear of the Japs, preventing a retreat, and our
mortars fell in front of and among them, neatly confining the
enemy to an area about 100 yards square. Fire continued for
four hours, and when dawn broke, the enemy in this sector broke
with it and began committing suicide with grenades. Four hundred
and seventy-six bodies were counted here when the attack moved
revealed the extent of the Jap carnage along the Division front;
1,241 bodies were counted, and an estimated 700 or 800 others
had been retrieved by their comrades.
loss of at least one fifth of the Japs' effective strength
in one night broke the back of the defense of Tinian. From
then on the remaining troops were capable of only the most
dazed and weak resistance. Three airfields, a dozen prepared
strongpoints, Tinian Town itself, fell with no more than token
First Battalion, Eighth Marines, had landed in the afternoon
of Jig-day and had been attached as the Fourth Division. reserve.
On Jig plus 1, the remaining elements of the Eighth Regiment
landed, and four regimental combat teams advanced down the
island abreast. Supplies began to flow in, and the Division
CP landed. By the following day, July 26, the remainder of
the Second Division had landed and had taken over the eastern
half of the drive down the island. Airfield No. 1 and Mount
Lasso both fell. The airfield was quickly repaired and used
for landing ammunition and medical supplies from Saipan and
evacuating wounded from Tinian. Planes based on Aslito Airfield
continued to give close tactical support to the ground troops.
The weather, however, turned bad and the supply situation was
made difficult by the heavy swells on the beaches. DUKWs were
invaluable in helping to meet this and even air transport was
40mm antiaircraft guns.
value of tanks was especially evident on Tinian, where flat
fields and a good road system permitted them freedom to maneuver.
Spearheading the infantry advance, they poured murderous machine
gun and cannon fire into cane fields, thickets, and all buildings.
One partially destroyed, innocent looking farmhouse, blasted
by our tanks, replied with machine gun fire. The tanks put
round after round into the structure, and when troops finally
closed in they found more than 40 dead Japanese soldiers. The "farmhouse" proved
to be a carefully camouflaged blockhouse mounting 40mm anticraft
July 27 (Jig plus 3), an 1800 yard advance was scored; and
on the following day Airfield No. 2, on Gurguan Point, was
overrun after an advance of 6000 yards on a 5000 yard front!
Two days later Tinian Town was taken against negligible opposition.
It was evident that the enemy had retreated to the formidable
cliff south of the town for a last ditch. stand.
the early morning hours of July 31, a tank led counterattack
of company strength hit the Twenty-fourth Regiment. It was
quickly repulsed, but mortar fire continued all along the front.
In a determined effort to seize the ridge, the Marine command
decided to launch an all out attack that morning. The ridge
was submitted to "the most intense ... and the most effectively
controlled of any bombardment of amphibious operations thus
far in the Pacific," according to a Division report on
the Tinian Opera-tion. Two battleships, a heavy cruiser, 2
light cruisers, 14 destroyers, 112 planes, and 11 battalions
of artil-lery unloaded everything they had on the ridge from
dawn until 0830.
infantry jumped off against progressively stronger resistance.
Caves, antitank guns, and mine fields were encountered in greater
numbers than at any time since the landing. The cliff itself
constituted a formidable obstacle, and the terrain was the
most rugged on the island. Tanks could give little support.
Added to this difficulty was the fact that nearly all of Tinian's
several thousand civilians had fled to this section.
the opposition, troops succeeded, with flame throwers, demolitions,
and a liberal use of automatic rifles, in wiping out all pockets
of resistance and by August 1, had reached the plateau on the
other side of the ridge. At 1855 on that same day, Tinian was
declared secured. Officially, the battle had lasted nine days.
the last and most dramatic battle was yet to be fought-without
the firing of a shot. It was fought against Japanese military
fanaticism, to save civilians from a ghastly suicide "ceremony" planned
by their own troops. Our weapon was a public-address system
mounted on a Jeep. From the plateau directed toward the 200-foot
cliff, where scores of caves held thousands of civilians. Lieutenant
Ralph Haas, Commanding Officer of the First Battalion, Twenty-third
Marines, ordered the Jeep, a protective screen of tanks, halftracks,
and infantry to advance to the edge of the plain. An interpreter
told the unseen thousands that the battle was over, that American
troops would give them food, water, and medical care.
handful of civilians straggled out of the caves. They came
out cautiously, saw our tanks and I wondered if it were a ruse.
Most of them remained huddled together on the plain a few hundred
away. A few broke off and wandered toward us. When they came
in, we fed them and gave them water.
of them, who had been superintendent of the sugar refinery
on Tinian, volunteered to address his fellow citizens. After
he had spoken, his wife also made an appeal, telling them they
would not be harmed. At this, many more streamed out of the
caves and over to us.
it was noticed that several soldiers had joined the civilian
group, attempting to dissuade it from surrendering. As Marines
watched in awestruck amazement, one of the soldiers leaped
off the into the sea, a sheer drop of more than 100 feet. In
a few minutes another jumped. For half an hour the suicide
leaps of the soldiers continued. In the caves overhead, the
intermittent "poff " and gray smoke of hand grenades
told of other Japs who preferred that form of suicide.
drama was coming to its bizarre conclusion. Seven soldiers
had succeeded in gathering a group 35 to 40 civilians about
them. Marines looked on in helplessness as two of the soldiers
tied the group together with a long rope. Suddenly, a puff
of smoke from a grenade went up from among the tightly packed
group. But this was only the beginning; the grenade had been
used to detonate a larger charge of high explosives. A terrific
blast shook the ground. The bodies of the victims were blown
25 feet in the air. Arms, legs, and hands were scattered across
the plain. The remaining soldiers committed suicide with grenades.
This, seemingly, broke the spell. Hundreds of civilians now
made for our lines.
battle was ended. Japanese fanaticism had lured a few score
to their deaths, but American persuasiveness had saved thousands
of others. By August 12, 13,262 civilians were safely in the
stockades. We had literally saved these people from their own
August 14, the last units of the Division boarded ship and
began the long trip back to Maui. The blitzkrieg on Tinian
had cost the Division 290 men killed, 1,515 wounded, and 24
missing. About 9,000 Japanese Army and Navy personnel were
dead, and another 250 were prisoners. The daring strategy of
capturing the island through the back door had paid handsome
dividends. Guam had been secure on August 10 by the Third Marine
Division, the First Provisional Marine Brigade and the U. S.
Army's Seventy-seventh Division. The most important Marianas
bases were now in our hands.
recognition of its work on Saipan and Tinian, the Fourth Division
was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. The Division was
Division, Reinforced, was cited "for service as set forth
in the following"
outstanding performance in combat during the seizure of
the Japanese-held islands of Saipan and Tinian in the Marianas
from June 15 to August 1, 1944. Valiantly storming the mighty
fortifications of Saipan on June 15, the Fourth Division,
Reinforced, blasted the stubborn defenses of the enemy in
an undeviating advance over the perilously rugged terrain.
Unflinching despite heavy casualties, this gallant group
pursued the Japanese relentlessly across the entire length
of the island, pressing on against bitter opposition for
twenty-five days to crush all resistance in their zone of
action. With but a brief rest period in which to reorganize
and re-equip, the Division hurled its full fighting power
against the dangerously narrow beaches of Tinian on July
24 and rapidly expanded the beachheads for the continued
landing of troops, supplies and artillery. Unchecked by either
natural obstacles or hostile fire, these indomitable men
spearheaded a merciless attack which swept Japanese forces
before it and ravaged all opposition within eight days to
add Tinian to our record of conquests in these strategically
Secretary of the Navy
of the Division, Reinforced - TINIAN