KAWAJALEIN

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Report of Flint Lock Operation as Observed by Lt. Howell
  17 February 1944

       I embarked aboard APA 55 D-9 days for the flint lock operations. I was attached to BLT 17-3 as a Signal Observer. The following is a report of my observations as they occurred. The conclusion of this report will contain recommendations which I feel will be beneficial in future operations.

      Shortly after the convoy had sailed a conference was held of all Troop Officers and attached Officers by the Battalion Commander and a complete briefing of the ensuing operation was had. The complete operation was described and discussed. The missions of all units concerned were described and opened for discussion. The orders and maps were made available for study. The mission of BLT 17-3 was primarily that of support for BLT 17-1 and 17-2. However alternate plans were also in readiness in case of situation changes. A ship board Training Schedule and areas for training were announced by the Battalion S-3. This schedule included Orientation Periods for Troops by Battalion Staff Officers and members of the JICPOA Team aboard, Physical Training and Training in the use of explosives.

      I observed the Training of the Shore Party Communication team during the trip to the Transport rendezvous area. Other than the Periods of Physical Training time was spent in map study, S.O.I. drills and mission of the team upon landing. The training aboard ship was sufficient to enable the team to set up a beach in a minimum of time. Radio operators were very familiar with call signs and frequencies, wire men were well up on what work would be required of them and message center personnel were drilled in the use of Shackler code and the AWC.

      Prior to D-day hand carried equipment was taken from the small closet which the Shore Party Signal Officer was able to arrange for to store Team equipment in and given to the men assigned to carrying same in. This closet or locker was on the main deck and enabled the team to get to their equipment on short notice. However small pieces of equipment were kept by the troops in their compartments.

      Reveille on D-day was at 0-300 with breakfast at 0330. Small boats were lowered into the water rapidly and circled off the transport waiting for call to their nets. Some of the small boats were davit loaded and the balance net loaded. H-Hour for the assault on Carlos and Carlson Islands was set for 0-930. BLT 17-3 was to be a floating reserve waiting on call from BLT 17-1 and BLT 17-2. All Landing Teams were in the water during the Naval shelling of these two Islands. After the Assault Battalions had landed it was decided that BLT 17-3 would land on Carlos Island. No support being required on either Island.

      Upon landing on Carlos Island in the afternoon of D-day I found that the Shore Party Communication Team attached to BLT 17-1 had set up the necessary beach communication. One Radio (TBX) being operated in the Ship to Shore net. One Radio (SCR 610) operating in the Traffic Boat Control net. And one Radio (SCR 284) maintaining a listening watch in the Rgt Command net. No lateral communicaitons were in operation as there were no adjacent beaches. Communication with the Shore Party Communication team attached to BLT 17-2 on Carlson Island could be had through the Rgt Comd net if necessary. Wire communications with the SPC -Bn Headquarters and O.P. 2 was installed.

      BLT 17-3 was moved toward the southern end of the Island (Island was completely secured at this time) and bivouaced for the night. A beach on the lagoon side fo the Island was found more suitable for landing supplies. The SP Communication Team with BLT 17-3 and Co Commander of the 50th Engr Bn proceeded to set up and make this beach ready for operation. The transport Division had moved into the lagoon at this time. A green light was erected for the right flank marker and a white light was used to mark the left flank. The Naval Section of the beach party proceeded to order the small boats in to shore. First boat load of suppplies moved across this beach at approximately 2130. The SP Comm. Team had in the meantime placed a TBX Radio in the Ship to Shore net, a SCR 284 in the Rgt Comd net maintaining a listening watch only, and a SCR 610 in the Boat Control net. Wire communication was established with the beach operated by BLT 17-1 Shore Party on the Ocean side of the Island and with the SPC Comm BLT 17-3 - Bn Hq BLT 17-3 and the outposts set up for security of the Beach Party. Assault Wire (W 130) was used for this purpose. No local net (SCR 536) was necessary on this beach as the length of the beach would not exceed fifty yards. Message center was set up in the center of the beach along the dune line. However SCR 536’s were available for the purpose. The switchboard used for the purpose of wire communication was ABD 72. Security for the beach was furnished by the Co C 50th Engrs and consisted of 3 .30 Cal. water cooled machine guns. The Naval Section used Visual signalling to guide the smaller boats in. Supplies were unloaded across this beach for approximately 4 hours. And then only after several boats had become beached was it decided to suspend unloading until daylight.

      D and 1 found the beach on the lagoon side of the Carlos Island again in operation. Engineers were repairing the pier which had been damaged by shelling but could with minor repairs be used for handling supplies. Msg Center was moved down nearer the foot of the pier as this was the most convenient location when supplies were started across the pier. I checked the fox holes and camouflage of the shore party installations and found them excellent. Upon checking the wire installations I found them too low but upon talking with one of the Shore Party Wire men and found that the lines were being policed and raised at the time. A wire line had been added to Rgt Hq. This enabled the SP to communicate with any installation on the Island. Radio communication remained the same as before (TBX in ship to shore, SCR 610 in Boat Control net and SCR 284 maintaining a listening watch in the Rgt Comd net). There were sufficient Naval Signal men to maintain communication with all small boats and a PA system had been added for additional control of incoming boats. Additional wire lines were being added to the SP switchboard as requested and the SP wire team started to repair the W 130 used in the assault phase with W 110. A complete log was being kept in Message Center of all incoming and outgoing traffic. This log contained time filed, time cleared and a description of the text. Up to the late evening all traffic had been handled in the clear with the exception of one message which had be encoded in the AWC. Radios were operating on voice having handled only one message in C.W. During the night of D plus 1 all radios stood by on a listening watch and Message Center was operated all night. Incoming supplies were stopped shortly after dark.

      D plus 2 BLT 17-3 was ordered to embark aboard APA 55 for the night preparatory to supporting an assault on Burton Island by BLT 17-1. The Shore Party Comm Team was to remain behind on Carlos Island and only the SP Comm Team attached to BLT 17-1 was to accompany. I arranged to accompany a detachment of the 50th Engrs on this operation in order to observe communications on this operation. Aboard the APA 55 briefing by the Co Comdrs and Detachment Comdrs was conducted. Reveille on D plus 3 and immediately after breakfast troops and Detachments of BLT 17-3 were embarked in small boats as a floating reserve for BLT 17-1. H-Hour was at 0930 and landing was to be effected on Orange Beach 4 which was at the southernmost tip of this island. Air and Naval bombardment preceded the initial landing and the reserve was across the same beach. Troops were transferred from LCUs to gators prior to landing. I landed with the 50th Engr Detachment and we were met by M.P.s who guided us to an area selected for bivouacing. Fighting was still in progress upon landing. Machine gun fire was aimed at the gators as they crossed the beach. The machine gun was out of range and no damage was done. Only about 400 yards of the island had been completely secured, at this time. I found that visual flank markers had been set up and a SCR 610 was in the beach control net. Signalmen were in fox holes on the beach available for contact with small boats. TBX was in the ship to shore net and a SCR 284 was maintaining a listening watch in the Rgtl. Comd. net. Wire communication included BLT 17-1, BLT 17-3 - SPC Message Center, Beach Master Radio Stations and the outposts. Message Center was well dug in beach not camouflaged. The Message Center log showed time and description of the messages. All traffic had been handled by voice and in the clear. Approximately 30 messages were handled in the first day of this operation. A concise log was being maintained by the Message Center Chief. However Message Center had encountered some difficulty in having all outgoing traffic pass thru this agency, several attempts having been made by officers to give outgoing messages directly to radio operators. Immediately after dark a Japanese ack-ack gun opened fire on this end of the island causing all beach personnel to remain closely in their foxholes. This fire continued up until approximately 0300 D plus 4 days. A mortar battery set up a short distance back of the dune lines was attempting to knock out this gun. I went over to the comabat point for this battery and found the six mortars in the battery were controlled by telephone from the control point. EE8 telephones and W-130 wire was being used for this purpose. I found that their communication was being continually interrupted by the Cannon Co’s tanks moving in. Their wire lines had not been placed at sufficient height to protect them from being broken by the tanks.

      At daylight on D plus 4 I went out to Orange Beach and checked with the SPC. I found that only supplies as were actually necessary for this operation were being brought in and that these supplies were being requested as needed. Prisoners and casualties were being evacuated across this beach also. Activity on the beach was light and the personnel on this beach were staying well under cover. Small amounts of supplies crossed the beach all morning but the work was so light that a detail from the shore party was put to work collecting and burying enemy dead. All resistance ceased and the island was declared completely secured shorty after noon hour. The balance of the day was spent in general policing and picking up of equipment. At approximately 2030 the shore party communication was ordered secured and prepared for embarkation. I embarked aboard LST 226 at 2300 and attended a briefing of the following days operation.

      D plus 5 I landed with the assault troops on Beverly Island in the second wave. No shore party troops were landed on this operation as very little resistance was met and the assault troops were only ashore approximately 2 hours. However, I did observe that a SCR 536 carried by the Naval Gunfire Liaison Officer failed to function at first but was finally got into operation. Contact could be maintained by the Liaison Officer and the front lines by the Bn Radio (SCR 300). So no confusion resulted. Upon securing this island the troops embarked for Carlos Island where we bivouaced for the night. Upon arriving back at Carlos Island I found that in the absence of Division wire personnel they had been called upon to install a wire system on the island. I found approximately 18 telephones working out of a telephone central located near the Supply Beach. SP Message Center was still in operation.

      D plus 6 the Bn were ordered to prepare for embarkation aboard the APA’s for the journey back to our base. I boarded the APA 11 approximately 1530 this day.

      D plus 8 we sailed from the Lagoon. A meeting was called of officers and a training schedule and training areas were announced. The remainder of the trip back was uneventfull.

      In view of the observations I was able to make, is respectfully submitted the following recommendations and the reasons for same:

      1. That each SPC communication team be allowed to carry a 1/4 ton truck and trailer to assist in getting its equipment ashore.

      2. Each team be required to carry at least 4 Dr 8’s with W-130 wire. This wire can be carried by two men and wire can be laid in four division echelons at once.

      3. That at least 8 lance poles be landed in the assault phase. Not all beaches will have trees available for overheading wire and it is imperative that wire be overhead immediately.

      4. That personnel be given additional training in the value of camouflage. Also training in camouflage methods.

      5. That a conference be held between the SPC, SPC Sig Officer, and B.M. prior to operation for the purpose of coordination and mutual understanding.

      6. That personnel be thoroughly instructed in the danger of Booby Traps and Duds - personnel was found to be extremely lax on this item.

      7. That a 3-day supply of batteries be carried ashore in the initial phase for all battery operated equipment. On two instances SCR 610’s were out of service due to lack of fresh batteries


 

OBSERVATIONS AT BURLESQUE AND CAMOUFLAGE (ROI ISLAND)
KWAJALEIN ATOLL, M. I., FEBRUARY1944.

        The Naval gunfire and bombing was so heavy and devastating that it was hard for this observer to believe any living thing could have survived until D-day. All machine-gun emplacements, pillboxes and block-houses were located and completely neutralized, except for one two-story block-house on camouflage which subsequently proved to be an ammunition storage depot.

        Bombers effectively neutralized all air strips on camouflage; wrecked and burned the two hangars, and destroyed approximately eighty planes of all types on the ground. Only three planes tried to take the air and these were shot down.

        The defenders evidently expected the attack to come from sea ward where their heaviest fortifications and installations
were located. However the landing was effected from inside the lagoon where most of the reef dangers were eliminated and the beaches better adapted to amphibious operations. Landings were effected under a naval barrage and our casualties were small. The Japanese resistance was not severe, though their casualties were very heavy. It is estimated that their losses were between 25 and 30 to 1 as compared to ours. It is this observers belief that most of the Japanese casualties occurred before our forces landed. in covering both islands thoroughly, I do not believe you could find a spot where a circle could be drawn with a 12 foot radius that would not contain a shell hole or bomb crater.

         Japanese small arms ammunition and aerial incendiary bombs were scattered all over both islands. From the thousands of beer bottles I saw in the pill-boxes and trenches I would say that the Japs were allowed some of the better things of life. Many were cultivating small vegetable gardens closely adjacent to their dugouts.

        The pill-boxes and block-houses were built of reinforced steel and concrete and all interior partitions wore of the same construction. The entire shore line was studded with pill-boxes at intervals of 1 to 200 feet. Their large gun positions were all knocked out as were their radar and radio stations. Their radar equipment seemed crude.

FEBRUARY 4

        AS I left the Island this afternoon there were still an undetermined few of the enemy scattered about Camouflage. They hide in tunnels and underbrush during the day and forage for food at night. They have accounted for 20-odd Marine casualties during the past two days. Prisoners, as usual, were few and included among them were some women who had no visible means of support other than their native attractiveness.

        The "dead disposal squads" , who are all volunteers, have had a busy four days. I saw three trenches each approximately 50 yards long, 15 feet wide, and 8 feet deep half filled with dead Japs, and two others that had been covered over with a sign "279 JAPS BURIED HERE." I saw one water filled bomb crater and counted 15 Japs and 1 pig floating in the bloody water. I saw small fragments of dead bodies being swept from the floor of 1 block-house which the Navy was making ready for headquarters site. The stench of death pervades both islands.

        The communications men were busy stringing wire everywhere along the beaches and the bulldozers and trucks were tearing the hell out of it. The beaches were lined with LCT'S, V'S, M'S, LST'S, Alligators and Ducks. The ensign who manned the control boat seemed completely bewildered and hoped somebody would come along-side who knew which beach he was supposed to land on. But in spite of the control boat and the lack of lifting gear ashore, the cargo boats are plying from ship to shore all day and all night and the strategic materials and supplies are hitting the beach in tremendous volume. The large C-2 type ships are being completely discharged in 4 days. The assault troops are beginning to move out and the garrison forces and operating units are moving in.

FEBRUARY 5

        The electric lights are burning brightly over Burlesque and Camouflage tonight. One air strip is already fit for service and both islands are well secured with numerous AA batteries.

I further observed that there were enough K rations scattered around to have fed me well for months. The Marines tell me they are short on cigarettes and I think lots of the K ration boxes are opened Just to obtain the cigarettes and the food then cast aside. It is definitely recommended that a bountiful supply of cigarettes be sent in as soon after the first wave lands as possible.

The assault troops hit the beaches travelling light, carrying only their rifles, knives, spare ammunition and canteens.  Their packs were sent in later.

FEBRUARY 7

        Last night three unidentified planes were located twelve miles away. We stood G.Q. for 1 hour and 15 minutes. No raid, but during the alert all ships sent out their small boats with smoke pots. The smoke screen set up was very effective.

FROM USS MARYLAND -- NEWS BULLETIN, FEB 9

        Vice-Admiral Terou Akiyma killed at Camouflage.

         Japanese losses outnumbered those of the attacking Americans by approximately 30 to 1.

        Admiral Nimitz announced that the Japanese suffered losses of 8122 killed, 264 captured for a total of 8386. Losses of American soldiers, sailors, and marines were 286 killed, 82 missing, 1148 wounded for a total of 1516.

        The conquest of the KwaJalein Atoll was accomplished at a cost far less than the Gilbert Islands battle in November, in which Americans lost 1092 killed and 2680 wounded in a far smaller operation. This was due in large part because the Yanks were able to put to good use the lessons learned in the Gilberts and the surface ship and plane bombardments that preceded the landings on Kwajalein were probably the greatest in the history of warfare.

        There was no evidence of mines either outside or inside the lagoon. Marine assault troops report that they found no land or personnel mines or booby traps.

        A Jap transport, sunk in the initial bombardment, lies about 1200 yards due south of Camouflage in the lagoon.

 

FEBRUARY 8

        No alerts for the past two nights. More cargo ships have moved into the lagoon. The islands are brilliantly lighted tonight as work goes on 24 hours per day. All cargo ships are using sufficient lights to discharge.

        Three battleships and two cruisers left the lagoon this morning. The SARATOGA and two AA Cruisers departed this afternoon. We have seen various task groups leave and return in from 48 to 72 hours, indicating that they are carrying out other bombardment missions close by.

        We received 100 marines from the assault forces this afternoon. They report that 15 more Japs were killed last night. It seems that Camouflage was literally covered with underground tunnels.

        We expect about 1500 marines aboard tomorrow. They present a miserable spectacle, with a week's growth of beard, and fatigue uniforms torn and dirty.

FEBRUARY 9

        Last night at 2030 we were alerted for unidentified planes. All ships set up a smoke screen. Planes approached within 15 miles and then disappeared.

        Today we completed discharging and took 1400 marine assault troops aboard. These marines are a part of the 4th Marine Division, and came assault loaded direct from San Diego. Some came all the way in LST’S.

        We are ready to get under way now, but must await the reloading of the other ships in our task Group. The Commodore has made me Officer Guard Mail messenger. Each morning I make a trip to the MARYLAND to pick up Guard Mail for task Group 51.6 and take messages to the Chief of Staff, Task Force 53 for the Commodore.

FEBRUARY 11

        At 1300 today the Navy took over the islands from the Marines. The Island Base Commander is Captain Gwen, USN. The Garrison Group is composed of Acorn 21, the 109th CB Battalion, the Marine Guard, and the Harbor Control Group. There are about 4500 men in this Garrison Group.

        Among the group we are transporting back to the Maui Base is Lt. Col. Carlson of the Carlson's Raiders fame.

        So many marines complain that their carbines were not effective after getting wet and clogged with sand. There was some complaint of the .45's, but no complaint of the M-1 and Browning. Bazookas were used in this operation also.

FEBRUARY 12

        Well, Tojo reaped his revenge upon us this morning. Quoted below is the Navy Intelligence Officer's report of the air raid:"0200--By radio from Island Base Commander of Roi Island. TG alerted for approaching enemy aircraft bearing 245 degrees, distance 51 miles; succeeding bearings and distances 295 degrees--45 miles; 285 degrees--45 miles; 325 degrees--45 miles. Number and types undetermined

         0209--Condition Red assumed--all hands called to G.Q.
         0215--Smoke pots on ships and small boats set off
.        0220-- four search lights on Roi Island searching skies
.        0229--AA firing on Roi Island and from 3 ships in the lagoon.
         0240-_Several large bombs were dropped on Roi Island and direct hits made on the fuel and munitions stores piled on the southern beach, setting off tremendous fires and explosions from the munitions and rolling flames and smoke from the fuel. Immediately after the first bomb struck a stick of about 8 small bombs were observed bursting in succession north of the southern beach of Roi. All AA fire ceased and searchlights went out when first bombs hit.
          0420--smoke pots secured by order of Island Base Commander.
          0440--All clear.
          0600--Ships of TG sent boats and medical officers and corpsmen and medical supplies to Roi and to SS TYPHOON--that ship having been designated to receive all casualties from Roi.
          0900--Fires on Roi Island still burning.

_ _ _ _ _ _

        At about 0240 a bomb struck the water about 1000 yards off our starboard quarter. We were well Covered by our smoke screen at this time, as were most of the ships in the lagoon; however, some ship abeam of us in the vicinity of the MARYLAND and the BALTIMORE opened up with AA fire. Fires started on the beach simultaneously, with direct hits made in our oil and ammunition dumps. As the oil drums exploded it sounded like heavy gunfire, and the tracers from the ammunition dumps looked like a mammoth 4th of July celebration. I counted 8 different fires at one time.

        At 0600 the Commodore ordered me to Yokohama Pier on Camouflage to dispatch the casualties in LCV'S to the SS TYPHOON. I dispatched 23 boats with a total number of 252 wounded to the TYPHOON BY 0930. Better than 65 percent of these men had head injuries, and 5 died enroute to the TYPHOON. After combing both islands and seeing that the stream of wounded was reduced to a mere trickle of walking cases I moved back out to the TYPHOON. We were not able to get all the wounded aboard until 1400. At about 1700 we saw the last fire extinguished on Burlesque. When I left the TYPHOON there were only 11 known dead, although we hadn't had any recent intelligence from the beach.

        At 1800 we departed along with the SS ROBIN WENTLEY bound for Maui with about 3100 marines aboard the two ships.

    C. W. HUSSEY

 

 

 

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