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The Battle for Saipan put America in the Catbird Seat for America's War for the Pacific.  It forced Japan's Imperial fleet to sally forth to defend this key island in Japan defenses, and the US Fifth Fleet was ready: it left its station off Saipan and sailed into the Philippine Sea where it destroyed the enemy's air and sea power in the Central Pacific once and for all, on June 19 and 20.  Now US ground forces were free to rip the island heart out of Japan's outer ring of inner defenses at Saipan.  And from there to quickly seize nearby Tinian's critically important air bases and what was left of Japan's central headquarters for its land based naval air force in the Central Pacific at Tinian, and also its naval base at Guam.  Now America's Fleet - its blue water gunships, its seaborne air forces and amphibious armies, and it massive logistics train, had unfettered freedom of maneuver and resupply across the vast ocean spaces from Hawaii in the west eastward to the far coast of Dutch New Guinea then north from there up through the Carolines and Marianas all the way to Bonins up north on the doorstep of Japan's home islands.

One of Japan's greatest fighter pilot Saburo Sakai said it best:

"The Americans had invaded Saipan.  In more ways than one the war had come home.  Saipan was not very distant.  The maps were unrolled and our people looked for the tiny dot that lay not far from our coastline then looked at each other.  They began to question, never aloud, but in furtive conversations, the ceaseless reports of victories.  How could we have smashed enemy ships, destroyed his planes, decimated his armies, if Saipan had been invaded?

It was a question which everyone asked, but very few dared to answer.  No sooner did we receive the news of the Saipan attack than powerful units of our fleet sailed for the Marianas to engage what everyone at Yokosuka knew would be one of the decisive battles of the war.  We were no longer invading foreign islands, we were guarding the very portals of our homeland. The next morning (our) Yokosuka (air) wing received orders to transfer to the island of Iwo Jima."  Samurai! by Saburo Sakai, with Martin Caidin and Fred Saito, by Naval Institute Press 1957 

Thus the US amphibious landing on Saipan kick started a chain of events that blew open the door for America to seize from Japan overwhelming power in the Central Pacific, and from there to move east, south and north at will, going up along the inner rim of barrier islands to the Asian Mainland proper, targeting islands of choice, and combinations thereof, including Pelieu, the Philippines, Formosa, Okinawa and islands north to Southern Japan.  After Saipan fell to the Americans, their challenge was not how to win the war, but how to best end the war with victory.


But immediately after Saipan was declared secure, the choice was obvious.  To solidify and expand that power, the 4th and 2nd Marine Divisions left Saipan on on 24 July, crossed a three mile ocean channel, rounded the north end of Tinian, and seized by force the platform from which America would end the Pacific Ocean War one year later.  The 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion led the first waves of that Tinian assault, onto its narrow White Beaches.

Tinian, 5 miles wide at most, is 12.3 miles long.  Coral cliffs rim its shoreline that is otherwise impervious to amphibious assault but for three landing sites, two up north, one down south, tucked into opposite sides of the island .  Tinian's major defenses clustered around these landing sites and nearby airfields.  Ushi airfield and its nearby artillery on Tinian's north end posed the Tinian's greatest threat to US landings on Saipan's beaches only a three miles away across a narrow sea channel.  So one of America's first tasks in its seizure of Saipan was to neutralize Ushi Airfield and enemy artillery on Tinian's north end.


When America entered World War 11 on Dec. 7. 1944, Japan had already been at war since 1931 with China then also the Soviet Union during which time the Japanese Imperial Army took the lead with Japan's Navy in support.  Germany's 1940 conquest of the Netherlands and France and it's war against Britain opened up the practical possibiltiy of Japan's occupanion of French Indo China and its seizure of resource rich British Malaya and the Dutch East Indies.  Germany's summer of 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union opened up the practical possibility of Japan's reconquest of Soviet Manchuria, and seizing additional Soviet lands to the east and north of Manchuria.  That same summer America embargoed oil and rubber trade with Japan, jumpstarting Japan's invasion of territories controlled by the Western Colonial powers, French Indo-China, British Malaya (including Singapore), and the Dutch East Indies.  Japan's thrust across the Celebese Sea altered Japan's strategic war plans.  Mahan's decisive naval battle with America now most likely moved south along the line of the Marianas (Saipan and Tinian), the Western and Eastern Carolines, and Palau, a line defensively anchored by a bastion at Truk atoll, and guarded by a reconnaissance line as far east as the Marshall islands.  The advent of America's revolutionary long range heavy B-17 bomber caused Japan to reconsider Truk's southern flank defenses, extending them 1400 miles southeast to Rabaul on New Britain in the Bismark Archipelago at the northwest edges of the South Pacific.    

 Insert more here.

Tinian then was still under the command of a highly experienced air combat leader.  Vice Admiral Kakuji Kakatu earlier commanded Carrier Division 4 in the December 1941 air attacks that supported Japan's invasion of Douglas MacArthu's r's  Philippines.  He next directed Fleet air operations against the Dutch in the East Indies and British Naval forces defending India and Ceylon. In June 1942 he directed the carrier air task force (Ryūjō and Jun'yō) raid against Dutch Harbor in US Aleutian Islands, part of Battle of Midway then 2nd Carrier force air operations Solomon Islands Campaign until on July 1, 1943 he took command of the First Air Fleet headquartered on Tinian tasked with land based air defence of Japan's "unsinkable island aircraft carriers" in the Central Pacific and lines of transit through those vast ocean spaces to key strongholds within Japan's southern Empire.


(Insert Material here for editing ---  Ultimate force of 1600 planes.  Vice Admiral Kakatu the 1st Air Fleet CO was building 16 air bases throughout the Marianas on Tinian, Saipan, Guam, Pagan and Rota for 600 warplanes.  400 planes were operational when the US Navy struck Admiral Kakatu in his HQ at USHI AIRFIELD on 11 June. By 20 June the US Fifth Fleet had destroyed most of Admiral Kakatu's warplanes, nearly all 400 (incl. many of 107 planes destroyed at Ushi on 11 June) along with hundreds of carrier based aircraft and 3 fleet carriers at the Battle of the Philipinne sea)





Accordingly, Admiral Spruance's 5th Fleet Directive, issued to Task Force 58 well before the Saipan landing, stated:

 "Destroy enemy aircraft and aircraft operating facilities, and antiaircraft batteries interfering with air operations; Destroy enemy coast defense and antiaircraft batteries on SAIPAN and TINIAN; Burn cane fields in SAIPAN and TINIAN which may (conceal) enemy troops; Employ aircraft to destroy enemy defenses at SAIPAN, TINIAN... ; Employ battleships and destroyers to destroy enemy defenses at SAIPAN and TINIAN."

Thus, Tinian's conquest is best understood as a two-phase campaign beginning with hostilities that opened the campaign to seize Saipan.

The first objective here was to gain control of the skies over, and seas around, the islands of Tinian and Saipan, isolating both from outside aide and reinforcement.  And then to neutralize, degrade, and ultimately eliminate the threat that Tinian posed to US amphibious assaults and follow on US ground operations on Saipan. Thus Admiral Mitscher's Task Force 58's Fast Carrier air strikes first  hit Tinian's airfields for three days starting on 11 June.  Next its fast Battleships targeted northern Tinian's long range guns and artillery on 13 June. These combined air sea operations established close in US air and sea dominance around and over the islands before 15 June when the Marines landed on Saipan's western beaches, although intermittent and lethal, but declining, enemy air activity into and out of Northern Tinian, and Japanese shelling of Saipan from Northern Tinian, would continue thoughout the Saipan Campaign, as did US continuous US counter battery fire into Northern Tinian in an effort to neutralize and eliminate those threats.  Nevertheless Admiral Spruance judged that he could prudently leave behind the US Alligator Fleet (Task Force 52) to temporarily fill the void otherwise created when the main body of his blue water 5th Fleet left Saipan 3 days later to engage Japan's Fleet in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.  To fill that void he positioned Task Force 52 for two critical tasks, namely, a rear guard blocking action if needed to maintain local air/sea dominance around Saipan and Tinian, and otherwise solely relied on the Alligator Fleet's lesser guns and air power to support the Marines fierce fight on Saipan. The results were monumental.  During this 3 day interim period the US Navy destroyed Japanese sea and air power in the Central Pacific while the Marines firmly secured their beachhead on Saipan, Japan's key stronghold in the Central Pacfic. 

Thus The Saipan/Tinian operation, very early on, demonstrated the interactive advantages that sea/air dominance can bestow on Amphibious Assault while the resultant threat and success of Amphibious Operations on Saipan first enabled and then mutually supported US combined arms operations in a variety of ways, both nearby and at long distance for vast and cumulative advantage.  This showed how these otherwise disparate arms, if properly combined, mixed and coordinated can create a myiad of interactive capabilities that mutually reinforce and enable one another for both cumulative and exponential advantage.  So here the results were achieved at long or short range, for short or long term advantage, and whether each component acted alone or in tandem as US Commanders mixed these components, and their proportions, in a wide variety of ways to address not only problems, but to create and exploit a myriad of interrelated opportunities.  This achieved results not otherwise possible - results that worked on many different levels, and that interacted among themselves and other events, to build a chain reaction that over time generated a series of exponential benefits that radiated throughout the balance of the Pacific Ocean War to its conclusion. 

Hence, for example, US land based artillery came into play against Tinian after America secured Saipan's beachheads and nearby airfield (renamed Isely Field) on 20 June.  This allowed a US Army Long Tom 155mm artillery battery emplaced on southern Saipan to begin its systematic destruction of artillery and air base facilities on Tinian's north end that still threatened ongoing operations against Saipan. These long range guns also hit anti-aircraft and coastal naval guns as far south as Tinian Town.  This in turn also allowed US Army P-47's flying off Isley Field to join US Navy aircraft operating from carriers offshore to conduct reconnaissance missions as well as strafe and bomb Tinian at will up and down the island.  Meanwhile, at sea, US Destroyers began to circle the island daily, hitting from all quadrants targets of opportunity, including counter-battery fires and well as road, rail and even air base traffic by day then harassed Tinian Town and road junctions at night.   These combined arms operations ramped up quantitatively, and with growing complexity and sophistication, as heavier weapons came into play starting on 24 June.

For example:

On 24 June Battleship COLORADO shelled all three Tinian airfields, and two more US Army 155mm XXIV Corps Long Tom artillery batteries joined the one already shelling Tinian from Saipan.  On 27 June the Cruisers INDIANAPOLIS, BIRMINGHAM, and MONTPELIER began a series of special missions.  These cruisers used deliberate pinpoint 6/8 inch naval gunfire against fixed targets on Tinian.  Now the bombardment not only protected US ground forces fighting on Saipan and US air reconnaissance over Tinian it was also being tailored to degrade and reshape that island's defenses for Jig-Day. Heavy Naval Gunships and Artillery batteries working with US Navy and Army sea and land based strike aircraft focused ever more sharply on coastal defenses, particularly fixed heavy guns as well as logistics, administrative, port, command and control and communications facilities.  This included the island's rail and road network (and its motorized transport), what remained of its air bases and forces and AA defenses (incl. their use & resupply). Random chaos reigned. Tinian Town became uninhabitable.  But death and destruction could arrive at any spot on the island any time from any direction.  Cars, trucks or locomotives using Tinian's roads or rail during daylight hours brought down from the sky overhead their own destruction.  This US effort at combined arms, having earlier destroyed Tinian's air force, including its command and control, maintenence and AA defenses, (all Imperial Navy units) now went to work hardest at disarming the balance of the Imperial Navy's 4,110 man garrison.  Smashing Tinian's fixed heavy weapons, US Combined Arms thus reeked particular havoc on Tinian's 1400 man 56th Naval Guard Force that manned those weapons and ripped into the 1400 naval construction personnel who maintained those weapons, their revetments, and related base, port and coastal defenses.  Thus having earlier ripped up their airplanes, US Combined arms now worked 24/7 to find and rip up whatever was left of Tinian's Naval defense weapons, facilities and personnel.  Meanwhile numberous other targets of opportunity (most anything that moved into the open) brought down its own destruction, and the hunt for the origin of mobile artillery fire worked a cat and mouse game, a counter battery fire chased often illusive targets.  In doing all of this, US commanders on Saipan compared battlefield results against battlefield objectives and refined their punishments daily, continuously adjusting targets, methods, and mix of munitions and their delivery, to insure follow on destruction as their increasingly wide array of Combined Arms continued to move in tandem around the island day and night.   

All of this activity had radically altered the battlefield by 7 July.  On that date US Navy spotters reported th at all known fixed Naval Gunfire targets, including coastal and AA gun defenses, on Tinian had been destroyed or rendered inoperable.  If true, the following such targets would have been eliminated by 7 July:

1/ At  Ushi Point: 3 140mm M3 Naval coastal guns, 3 120mm M10 Naval dual purpose guns, 6 75mm M88 Naval dual purpose (AA) guns, 15 25mm M96 Naval twin dual purpose guns & perhaps 8 13mm anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns;

2/ At White Beach 1: 2 76.2mm M10 Naval Dual Purpose guns, 3/ At White Beach 2 note that 7 25mm M96 Naval dual purpose guns destroyed at Ushi Airfield covered both White Beaches, and that the 3 140mm M3 Naval coastal guns defending the White Beaches from Faibus San Hilo Point had not yet been discovered or yet implace

4/ At Yellow Beach (Asiga Bay): 3 covered 76.2mm M10 Naval Dual Purpose guns, and 4 140mm M3 Naval coastal guns, plus 23 pillboxes including weapons there damaged or distroyed;

5/ At Gurguan Point Airfield: 3 120mm dual purpose Naval guns, and 9 25mm Naval M 96 dual purpose mt guns, plus blockhouse damaged;

6/ At Tinian Town Beaches: 6 25mm M96 Naval dual mt guns.  Here note that the 3 120mm dual purpose Naval guns destroyed at Gurguan Point also covered Tinian Town area; and that the 4 120mm M10 dual purpose Naval guns destroyed 3000 yards inland at Marpo Wells threatened US naval ships that shelled Tinian Town's backside from their station off island's SE coast; and that the 3 6 inch British built Naval coast defense guns hidden behind Tinian Town on its south side evaded discovery until inflicting heavy Jig-Day damage on US Naval Forces.

(Elaborate and edit here what follows. ) This assessment relates to Japanese fixed coastal gun and onshore air defenses.  It does not include Imperial Army assets in hiding such as the 12 75mm Mt. guns that originally comprised Col. Ogata's 50th Infantry Regiment's Artillery Battalion.  Nor what remained of the 6 70mm guns within that Regiment's 3 infantry battalions.  Hence it is quite telling that Col. Ogata consolidated those Infantry weapons that did remain on 7 July into a Mobile Counterattack Force that he then initially held in camouflaged positions within Tinian's interior, many equidistant between Asiga Bay and Tinian Town.  Exactly when, where, and how, these mobile weapons were later disbursed against the American onslaught is unclear. For, unless they remained hidden and mute, this artillery, particularly if massed, got immediate and fierce US counter battery fire.  Although the dates of their destruction is unknown, at least NINE mobile weapons were later found within range of the White Beaches, namely 7 of the 12 75mm Mt. guns and 2 of the 6 70mm pieces.  Two more 75mm Mt. gun remnants were found behind Tinian Town's southernmost beach. The rest of Col. Ogata's mobile artillery pieces were not found, or identified and recorded if found.  Those that were destroyed during America's bombardment BEFORE Jig-Day help explain the paucity of artillery fire against the White Beach Marines on and after Jig-Day.  Those that got into the fight on or after Jig-Day help explain the meager but still lethal camouflaged artillery fire that the Marines encountered after landing on Jig-day.

In any case, few (if any) then known Naval Guard Force AA and coastal defense guns survived beyond 7 July.  And substantial numbers of the 950 man 56th Naval Guard Force, its anti-aircraft units comprising another 450 men, and its 600 man construction unit, likely perished or were disabled alongside their weapons (including up to 100 machine guns) by 7 July.  Tinian's 107 plane 1st Air Fleet had been shattered during the Battle of the Philippine Sea on 19-20 June if not destroyed by US carrier air strikes and Naval gunfire before Saipan's 15 June D-Day, and the combat effectiveness of its 1310 men was largely neutered long before Tinian's 24 July Jig-Day by reason of their unit's devastrating defeat, the lose of most all its flyer, planes, and support facitities, including the use of its airbase, and the mental/moral collapse of its Commander who wanted nothing more than to escape the island by submarine.  Note, however, that Tinians four infantry battalions likely were largely intact, secure in caves and other camouflaged positions within the island's interior under the fighting spirit of a tough, skilled Infantry Commander.  Note also that Tinian's Naval Guard Force had lethal punch left and used it effectively against the Battleship COLORADO and Destroyer NORMAN SCOTT off Tinian Town on Jig-Day morning, and when 600+ Naval personnel carrying weapons stripped off disabled planes at Ushi Airfield attacked the Marines (including 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion) defending the extreme left seaward flank of White Beach 1 before dawn on 25 July, only to be annihilated by those Marines before the sun rose.

((( editing material)

A ----- By now US Combined Arms, operating from land, sea, air, and underwater (submarines) had cut off Tinian's defenders from ALL resupply (save for a dwindling few desperate landings on the remnants of Ushi Air Field and occasional covert small boat mad dash across the Saipan Channel).  Now the Tinian's garrison's loss of a weapon, ammo, radio, medicine or other critical tool of combat most often neutered the combat effective of the those who manned them. Whole units collapsed. The airforce first.  Airmen took to the hills, to hide.  And, as stores of construction materials like concrete ran out, so did critical repairs to critical assets like revetments.  Networks of defenses withered away daily, irrevocably.

ALL Of THIS helps to explain why:

ON 7 July Col. Ogata, his naval defense and air forces in tatters, issued a new Plan for the Guidance of Battle that ordered 2/3s of his forces, wherever located, to be prepared to rush to the primary point of U.S. landings, whether on Yellow Beach up north or the Tinian Town Beaches down south, and Col. Ogata ordered his mobile forces to prepare to counter-attack any landing up north across White Beach 2, all upon his later direct orders when issued from his HQ atop Mt. Lasso as the US landing plan unfolded before him.  Thus Col. Ogata tried to fill the void left by his Naval coastal and air defense losses by shifting the major burden of Tinian's defense onto what was left of his four army infantry battalions.  He designated two of those Infantry Battalions mobile reserves.  These would move in tandem with (and be reinforced by) the new Mobile Weapons Battalion that he culled from the remnants of his 50th Infantry Regiment's organic artillery weapons units plus its 42 man anti-tank platoon (with 6 37mm guns) and a 65 man Tank Company with 9 light tanks.  One of these mobile infantry battalions (1st Bn. 50th) he positioned just south of his Mt Lasso HQ, ready for its defense.  The other mobile battalion (1st Bn. 135th) he placed equidistant from Tinian Town and Mt. Lasso.  He located his 3rd mobile battalion, the Mobile Weapons Battalion, equidistant from Yellow Beach and Tinian Town. These three mobile units, on his orders, were to meet any primary beach attack in support of his two fixed battalions.  These fixed battalions included his 2nd Bn. 50th Infantry stationed between Mt. Lasso and Ushi Airfield along with what was left of the Naval Guard Force there.  His last Infantry Battalion, the 3nd Bn. 50th Infantry, he put at Tinian Town alongside the remnants of Naval Guard Force there.  Col. Ogata's battle plan and later efforts to implement it against US landings on Tinian help explain the large numbers of heavy weapons and dead Japanese infantrymen found by the Marines on or near the White Beaches before the sun set on Jig-Day   And, when balanced against the 15 US troops killed ashore on Jig-Day, the nearly 1700 counted Japanese killed ashore on and around White Beaches in the first 48 hours after the sun rose on Jig-Day minus 1 is sure proof of the historic effectiveness of US Combined arms and its application before and during the Marine landings.

(Edit and move below section)

The appellation of 'genius and overwhelming effectiveness" on the American side of the Tinian operation is earned because Col. Ogata's 7 July plan for Tinian's defense was sensible and practical, well tailored to the hand he'd been dealt, and well executed during PHASE 2 of US operations against Tinian.  Particularly so given the depleted state of his Naval Guard Force and the extraordinary challenges his remaining defenders then confronted, most especially those critical hours immediately before and after the Marines landed. For example, given the grim realities of US dominance of Tinian's daytime battle-space, Col. Ogata's 7 July order was impossible to fully carry out absent knowing well beforehand where the Marines would land on Jig-Day.  This information the Americans successfully disguised to the point of workable ambiguity while other elements of their strategic plan also worked toward this end.  This kept Tinian's defenders guessing despite America's very early disclosure of its intense interest in Tinian's north end and its beaches in the days leading up to the Marines landing there.  In any case, Japanese mobility by day was limited to covert off road foot traffic under cover of high grown cane, dense thickets and woodlands. Road travel, nearly impossible in daylight, was extremely hazardous at night, and by now both were hobbled by lack of motorized transport.  But the defenders were up to the task.  Tough and determined, they knew the inland intimately, how to move around it covertly, being expert at camouflaged military maneuver, including with artillery and tracked armor.  So it's likely that a good number of Col. Ogata's forces moved into the Mt. Lasso and White Beach areas well before Jig-Day.  How else can we explain why US combined arms confronted far more enemy activity up north, including troop movements and fire from coastal guns and artillery hidden within the Mt Lasso and White Beach area than the American's had anticipated, enough to require US heavy counter battery and anti-troop ordinance well before and up to Jig Day?  Or why the Jig-Day Marines found weapons within range of the White Beaches comparable to Tarawa's?  Namely: 1/ three 140-mm. coastal defense guns, two 75-mm mountain guns, two 7.7-mm machine guns in pillboxes, 2/ a 37mm. covered antitank gun, two 13-mm AA / AT guns, two 76.2-mm. dual-purpose guns, and 3/ two 47-mm. antitank guns, a 37-mm. antitank gun, and five 75-mm guns?  Or why those weapons were reinforced by heavily mined White Beaches?  Or why 435 Japanese combatants lay dead within the Marine perimeter before nightfall on Jig-Day.  Or why another 1245 Japanese were killed and counted there over the next 12 hours?  The answers are obvious.  Unlike at Tarawa, these weapons and men had been destroyed before the Marines landed and/or were so neutralized, stunned and disoriented that they were unable to mount a creditable (indeed hardly colorable) defense, much less a main force counter-attack, throughout Jig-Day.  US Combined Forces, their plan and its execution, assured this.  Still, given their valor and pre-arranged plan put into affect early on, well over 2000 Japanese would hit the White Beach Marines ashore hard in a three pronged attack long before dawn the next morning.  But this counter-attack, however, was not only anticipated by America's plans (tactical, operational, or strategic) but generated by those plans that had been built on the US Commanders' judgement of their enemy's most likely response to the dilemma US Combined Arms forced them to confront. Thus the defenders were sucked into the pit of their destruction.  See Footnote 1 (C).

Broadly speaking, within these two actions:

FIRST - how the US Navy, Marine Corps, and Army, working together, used ground breaking techniques in the deployment of revolutionary Combined Arms to shut down the Japanese defense of Tinian from dawn through mid-night on Jig-Day, and thus blasted open the space and time needed build a secure beachhead with minimal casualties amid what otherwise would have been impossible circumstances, and;

SECOND - how Tinian's Japanese defenders' husbanded and then marshalled their meager resources throughout America's onslaught to thereafter deliver a punishing counter-attack powered mostly by indefatigable will alone;

Between these two actions, one by each adversary, lay two remarkable achievements in the annals of war.  And the profound consequences that flowed from America's seizure of Tinian, the US flights into Japan's heartland that ended the War in the Pacific, forever burnishes the legacy of those two events.    

((( editing material)

A ----- By now US Combined Arms, operating from land, sea, air, and underwater (submarines) had cut off Tinian's defenders from ALL resupply (save for a dwindling few desperate landings on the remnants of Ushi Air Field and occasional covert small boat mad dash across the Saipan Channel).  Now the Tinian's garrison's loss of a weapon, ammo, radio, medicine or other critical tool of combat most often neutered the combat effective of the those who manned them. Whole units collapsed. The airforce first.  Airmen took to the hills, to hide.  And, as stores of construction materials like concrete ran out, so did critical repairs to critical assets like revetments.  Networks of defenses withered away daily, irrevocably.    

B ---- This lethal choreography first choked off the remnants of Tinian's outside support, whether it come by sea or air, and thereafter took out the core of its defenses before the Marines landed on 24 July.  It also magnified the power of those landings and their long and short term results until, ultimately, it was the strategic flights off Tinian that would break Japan's will to wage war even in defense of its home islands.  The consequences of these collective efforts generated stupendous benefits for America. Those benefits, tallied up in all their variety and consequence, long and short term, against the price the America paid for those benefits, bestows upon the Tinian operation a unique place in the history of America's Pacific Ocean War against Japan.  


((( editing material follows -  Thus US Combined Arms in support of Amphibious Operations in the Marianas swung into action on 11 June and continued through 10 August as dictated by events throughout those islands, most particularly at Saipan, Tinian and Guam.  At Tinian these combined arms ramped up with growing complexity and skill over 43 days, inflicting punishments that varied as they ebbed and flowed across an evolving battlefield.  For example, this included periodic bursts as special missions dealt with emergent threats and opportunities until those bursts merged and flared into a long planned grand climax as the Marines landed on 24 July, only to thereafter ebb and flow again as the Marines' pushed east across then south down the island until it was secured on 31 July.  This ebb and flow was notable for its innovative use and mix of widely variant, but mutually supporting, weapon systems as their means and methods of deployment became ever more tightly focused on getting the job done in the field through constant real time observation of threats and consequences that triggered continuous reorientation and adjustment to those rapidly changing circumstances that, in turn, refined follow on coordination of multiple combat actions in the field.  This lead to cumulative and exponential results as US actions and their consequences evolved into what might be described as a series of ongoing loops and spirals of activities that, although tightly controlled, breed not only discipline and refinement, but also the rampant integration of variant weapons systems into collective action.  Here individual initiative at times became free wheeling, novel and opportunistic.  Over time this unleased creativity, new skills and novel solutions that merged for cumulative and sometimes exponential results, some whose long term consequences radiated far beyond Tinian.  Meanwhile Tinian's campaign morphed into ever changing but continuously refined applications of fire that delivered differing types and combinations of munitions onto a wide assortment of targets in wildly different places and times, all day and night on Tinian.  Some defenders, caught in a web of unrelenting surprise, dropped into a kind of suspended animation that choked and bewildered them as it also closed down their options and means to resist.  Thus America shaped the odds and risks of its battle for Tinian to its best advantage while its battle plan served a myriad of tactical US objectives wrapped within a grand strategic purpose.  Given the high quality of planning, coordination, and command, it's no accident that America gained at relatively small cost the singular platform it needed to bring an end to the Pacific Ocean War one year later. ---- more editing material -- Indeed, at Tinian, the highly effective and creative use of combined arms working within and outside of the landing maneuver itself, proved how successful amphibious landings can be achieved in otherwise impossible circumstances to great advangage.)))


On 7 July, the Japanese high command, realizing that Saipan was lost to the Americans, shifted ultimate authority over its defense to the Japanese high command in Guam.  Simultaneously, Col. Ogata, knowing that Tinian was next up on the US chopping block, re-organized his defenses on 7 July as stated, adding a more mobile roll for his infantry and artillery forces to compensate for his severely depleted fixed coastal defenses.  Even then, however, he likely didn't anticipantte that the ferocity, effectiveness, and bewildering nature of the US artillery, air and naval bombardment had only just begun, with a particular and growing focus on Tinian's north end.  Four more US Army artillery battalions, freed from missions against Saipan, were shelling the north end 24/7 by 8 July.  By 15 July thirteen Artillery battalions on Saipan were focused almost exclusively on Tinian's north end.  As US Gunfire ships along with land-based and sea-borne attack and bombardment aircraft now bombed and strafed Tinian at will, ranging up, down and across the entire island, delivering all sorts of ordnance in all sorts of places and manners, tearing at the fabric of the island's defenses. These combined arms, increasingly coordinated by Brig. General Arthur M. Harper's XXIV Corps Artillery, had begun the culmination of an intense and highly innovative climb.  One that mixed and matched highly diverse off-shore air, sea, and ground capabilities, their tactics and strategies, and that over time took on a life of its own, melding all parts into a coherent whole, and increasingly effective holistic campaign that ebbed and flowed all over the island as its parts achieved cumulative and exponential effect.  This joint endeavor reached a high watermark for the prepping of a battlefield in World War two.  Not only did it find new and far more effective ways to degrade the enemy's ability to resist an amphibious landing, but also magnified exponentially the striking power, capabilities, and mystery of what otherwise would have been a weak and fatally hobbled assault over impossible terrain, to achieve singular results.

Thus, US commanders at Tinian integrated their supporting arms and their amphibious landing plans and techniques into a revolutionary whole, they re-invented in action modern sea-borne amphibious assault, not only the cumulative effect of integrated and mutually reinforcing supporting arms, but in how to integrate combined arms into innovative landing plans and techniques so they work in tandem to vastly expand the capabilities and options available to Amphibious Forces to confront and defeat a far wider variety of otherwise contested or "impossible" landings.  A prodigy, and progenitor, the Tinian operation in 50 days evolved in the field to open up a myriad of possibilities for future elaboration and development for those willing to grasp them and thus write new futures for Warfighting generally, including amphibious operations.

Accordingly, with Saipan declared secure on 9 July, US commanders focused with finality on a critical and foundational issue, whether the Marines should land over the Tinian Town Beaches as demanded by Vice Admiral "Terrible" Turner (Joint Expeditionary Force Commander) or across the White Beaches and/or Yellow Beach as demanded by General Holland M. 'Howlin' Mad' Smith (Commander Expeditionary Force Troops).  The controversy that had simmered for months came to a boil.  The northern beaches defied then current doctrine.  This did not deter Holland Smith.  The Marine General was unwilling to forego Saipan's massed artillery and/or its potential.  It could cover, reinforce, and enable ALL landings and follow on operations up north, breeding and thereafter radiating a myriad of opportunities and advantages throughout the entire Tinian operation, from start to finish.  Thus, like the US Navy, but for somewhat different reasons, he directed his staff to begin planning the Tinian Operation concurrently with planning the Saipan operation well before they left Hawaii and, before they arrived at Eniwetok (10 June), his staff presented for his review their recommended plan for landing over Tinian's Northern Beaches.  Surely that early plan, given earlier events on Tarawa and later events on Saipan, reinforced Holland Smith's long held belief that massed heavy artillery combined with intense and precise air strikes and naval gunfire directed by highly informed intelligence, all coordinated in tandem for cumulative advantage, could (indeed was essential to) assure his Marines a successful contested landing most anywhere, namely, one that best assured a secure beachhead with the best opportunity for MINIMAL Marine loses before the enemy could muster an effective defense and counter attack.

By now too Holland Smith's experience at Tarawa and Saipan had proven that such a result was not only required for ongoing tactical operational effectiveness, but also for strategic reasons, if only because it was a moral imperative for US Commanders.  And that these lessons, when applied to Tinian, pointed to such a landing on its north end.  There, for a variety of reasons, it presented the best opportunity to protect his Marines during their landing phase and thereafter could best help them to shatter any enemy main force counter attacks against the Marine perimeter established the first night and/or shatter any resistance to the Marines' later push across the island's north end to its far side, while it could also best enable his forces to equip and position that follow on Marine offensive maneuver to efficiently achieve its multiple objectives at the lowest cost, namely: decapitate the enemy's command and control atop Mt. Lasso, isolate Tinian's strategic north end, and destroy its key military assets and positions along the way, while it also seized Ushi Airfield to supply follow on operations.  Of key importance, these objectives, as they were achieved, mutually reinforced one another, and so produced cumulative benefits that also radiated outward.  Hence the Marines rode these cumulative benefits across the inland and then on their march south down the island to their final victory at its far end.

To accomplish these objectives, General Holland Smith judged that Marine light Infantry, supported initially only by offshore and overhead firepower, had to enjoy overwhelming fire support concentrated to destroy Tinian's defenders at the waterline and directly behind the beaches if they were to possess the best chance to gain the ground and time they needed to bring ashore sufficient personnel and the heavier weapons critical to building a defensible beachhead and to thereafter assemble all the tools and supplies they'd need to destroy all resistance to their push across the island.  Only in this way too could his Marines, by landing up north, be best positioned to quickly and efficiently break the back of the enemy's defense of the entire island with minimal Marine casualties, while also leaving the Marines in possession of the prime real estate and resources they would need to drive enemy remnants pell mell south down the island until they could be trapped and annihilated at its far end.  This, in a nutshell, was General Holland Smith's vision as it evolved for successful landings and following on ground operations within Tinian's north end.

But how did General Holland Smith and Admiral Harry Hill, working together, realize that potential in real time offshore and on the ground? Their first challenge was obvious.  How could two full divisions land prudently across the tiny White Beaches and/or Yellow Beach up north?  And, if not, what were the alternatives?  Here again, Holland Smith's and Admiral Harry Hill's experience at Tarawa and Saipan, the obvious competence and sensibilities of both men, played important rolls in their later shaping of the more detailed plans for the Marines landing on Tinian. By early July both  men saw no reasonable alternative to landings at Tinian's north end IF solutions could be found to the challenges posed by the northern beaches tiny size and exposed seaward location.  For, in stark contrast to successful operations up north, landings down south at Tinian Town could well mark only the start of an unnecessarily long, roundabout, and bloody affair.  It'd force Marines into an amphibious assault without massive artillery cover otherwise available.  It'd force their assault over 2500 yards of a heavily mined beach-front, into the teeth of an expectant enemy, one that enjoyed long fields of crosswise fire from the flanks into exposed Marines in sea-borne transit who would then have to seize those mined beaches and fight their way through Tinian Town's urban grid.  Here both men  saw a repeat of the bloody Tarawa and Saipan's northern sector landings without the cause or excuse attendant to those earlier operations.  And, from Tinian Town, Holland Smith's Marines next had to sever the island into halves at its widest part.  In so doing, they'd have to destroy the remnants of Tinian Town and Marpo Wells defenders who would have retreated and holed up to the south of the Marines, to their rear.  And simultaneously his Marines would have to wheel north to confront any enemy defenders coming south from Tinian's north end, BEFORE those same Marines could head north in earnest to engage as many as three fully intact enemy infantry battalions defending strategic assets, including their HQ within Tinian's north end.  Plus, if only in their own defense, those same Marines had to do these multible tasks down south on three fronts BEFORE they reached the cover of Saipan's massed artillery.  To Holland Smith, this woolly-headed and baggedy-assed monster of an operation traded Marine lives, critical resources and valuable time needlessly, and for little more than the logistic convenience (not necessity) of a harbor at Tinian Town while it foolishly delayed and complicated the Marines' central job of destroying the enemy's core decisively within hours after the Marines landed.  Only by landing up north, could the Marines seize a beachhead that immediately threatened the enemy's only strategic real estate and military assets, thus allowing his Marines to decisively break the enemy's back within hours, not days or weeks.  Another words, landing down south, despite its blood spilled, at best solved a naval logistic supply inconvenience, but little if anything more.  In contrast, Northern Beach landings forced the enemy to break his own back trying to stop it within hours.  Over by dawn the next morning, the rest was a mopping up operation. 

So, if successful, the White Beach landing advantage was obvious.  But so were its risks, unless addressed.  The operation was otherwise riddled with known and unknown risks, novel challenges, and hidden paradoxes that demanded innovative solutions and counter measures while the Assault Forces operated, often under great pressure, within thin margins for error.  These interactive risks and challenges lay within a single complex problem: How could two reinforced Marine Divisions gain the best chance to, by surprise, cross the tiny White Beaches intact and then seize, occupy and fortify a secure beachhead.  One that could defeat a furious counter attack and then assure the logistical support necessary for a quick two Marine division push across Tinian that could seize Ushi Airfield, Mt. Lasso, and then Yellow Beach on Tinian's far side?  Only then would the Marines have the best chance to quickly and efficiently destroy the bulk of the enemy's forces and its command and control center, whlle they also seized the island's only fully operational and strategic airfield three miles distant from Saipan, the one asset they critically needed to resupply the best knockout punch they could devise to eliminate what was left of a tenacious but defeated enemy: a Marine armored infantry charge down the island, clearing all resistance from coast to coast, including Tinian Town on its SW coast and Marpo Point on its SE coast, before the Marines annihilated enemy remnants dug into Tinian's rugged and highly defensible southern end.

Holland Smith's vision, its breathtaking ambition, was prescient and grand.  But could his Marines prudently jump start all these possible advantages with so little initial access.  Here he began by studying maps (topographic and hydrologic) plus overhead photos and intelligence earlier gathered.  This study of available material revealed obvious challenges, and latent possibilities.  As to the challenges: first, his initial assault had to cross unpredictable ocean currents then quickly mount and cross a wide and variable fringing reef.  Only if successful at these initial tasks would that assault gain enough access to the highly irregular beaches and shoreline flanking those beaches to have a reasonable chance to overcome their second challenge, namely, to find sufficient passage onto, across and around the two tiny White Beaches that were 900 yards apart so as enable a division of Marine Infantry to seize and link up enough strategic ground within the rough corrugated interior behind those two beaches to have a reasonable change to build a defensible perimeter.  Success at this third critical task, building a defensible beachhead within this perimeter, would require a difficult and complex series of follow-on maneuvers of supporting arms that could reinforce that perimeter into a secure beachhead as quickly as possible within the daylight hours of Jig-Day.  Considered cumulatively, these operations presented a monumental challenge.  One that piled a series of inherently novel, speculative, demanding, and consecutive challenges one atop another where any failure along the chain of interlocking pieces threatened to unravel the entire operation.  Plus the Marines would have to achieve all these time consuming and inherently exposed maneuvers within the plain view of Col. Ogata's HQ atop Mt. Lasso surrounded by its defenses.  Risky business, indeed.  Here, where a single failure can unravel the whole, the chances for operational success are reduced exponentially, unless remediated.  Could US commanders devise a interactive plan that broke this iron law of risk analysis?   If so, with what, when and how?  And if not, was landing at Yellow Beach a workable alternative or maneuver in support?  Stated another way, what was needed to activate the latent possibilities hidden within the the north beach landings, and dilute the risks, bringing them within acceptable parameters.

To help find answers to these fundamental questions, General Holland Smith and Rear Admiral Harry Hill (Amphibious Assault Commander ) on 5 July ordered off and onshore reconnaissance missions of the northern beaches. These orders were issued despite Admiral Turner's earlier orders to stop all planning for any landing up north across the White Beaches and/or at Asiga Bay, so were a profile in courage given that Admiral Turner was Admiral Hill's direct superior.  These night missions were done under extreme limitations.  Their highest priority was to avoid detection and avoid capture so as to preserve the opportunity for tactical surprise on Jig-Day. Thus the covert swimmers were denied firearms, carried only knifes for self defense, and instructed to avoid whatever action risked capture detection.  Such extreme stealth demanded the swimmers' silence and invisibility in the dark, and imposed conditions that hampered the swimmers ablity to fully collect and/or reaffirm the details of needed information on the fringing reef, the landing conditions along the shorelines, beaches, and ground otherwise inland from the water's edge.  This produced qualified and subjective findings, but when combined with earlier intelligence, it brought the northern beaches (their challenges, feasibility and potential) into sufficient perspective and clarity for Tinian's highly experienced US Commanders to formulate workable base solutions for landings at the White Beaches and to discard plans for landing at Yellow Beach.

The Yellow Beaches recon mission carried out during the night of 10/11 July targeted two beaches within Asiga Bay.  The mission against the northern most beach was aborted offshore when extreme enemy activity surrounding the beach threatened detection of the swimmers. The second team completed its mission and reported the southern most beach to be 125+ yards wide but tucked within high nearly impassible cliffs, save for a single narrow exit inland, bristling with guns and pillboxes behind the beach and fixed guns on both flanks.  Floating mines, boulders, man-made obstacles, and pot-holes laced the bay waters directly off the beach.  Double apron barbed wire infested the beach.  Fortified gun revetments infested the Yellow Beaches' rear amid ongoing construction and enemy patrols.  Landing there within Asiga Bay were deemed a last resort.  The same night, on Tinian's far western side, powerful offshore ocean currents swept the White Beach 1 recon team past their targeted beach and carried it another 800 yards north until depositing the team onto a offshore reef from where it was later recovered.  The same currents swept the White Beach 2 recon team past its beach and carried it another 900 yards before depositing the swimmers onto the reef fringing White Beach 1.  From there the team conducted their reconnaissance of that beach.  The next night (11/12 July) a recon team using a special radar / SCR-300 navigation finally got to White Beach 2.  The White Beach swimmers's reports, when considered against the background of earlier collected intelligence on the beaches and surrounding areas lead to the following general information and impressions:

1White Beach 1 comprised only 60 yards of open sandy beach that allowed passage ashore for amtracs.  This 60 yards of open beach-front  was flanked at the shoreline on each side by another 50 yards of coral ledges from 1 to 6 feet high over the water, but broken in places by 'fairly wide" fissures that allowed troops irregular passage inland. Also in places here the Marines might be able to scramble overtop the ledges and thrash through thickets and boulders behind them until finding paths inland. Beyond these these lower 'inner' flanks, the Marines might find passage over higher outer shoreline ledges 6 to 10 feet high over the water for another 45 yards on both flanks.

2/  White Beach 2, 900 yards south of White Beach 1, included 160 yards of sandy beach.  Only 65 yards of its sandy beach fronted directly on the water, allowing passage ashore by amtracs.  The remainder of its sand beach, 95 yards, was rimmed at the waterline by coral ledges that rose from 1 to 4 feet over the sea for 45+ yards on each flank.  Here, upright coral plinths and boulders 'studded' the sandy beach behind these ledges, thwarting access by amtracs.  On each flank of White Beach 2's 165 yards of sand, more coral ledges rose from 4 to 6 feet above the sea.  Here, along this shoreline, troops debarking their LVTs might be able to scramble overtop these outer ledges but then typically they also had to thrash inland through boulders and thickets until they found paths leading inland.  So White Beach 2 had only 65 yards of open beach at its shoreline that allowed easy access onshore to tracked amphibious vehicles.  This open center portion was flanked by some 330 yards of ledges accessible in places to troops who managed to scramble overtop those ledges then negotiate large boulders and dense thickets until finding the few paths and trails that led inland.

3/  So, COLLECTIVELY, the White Beaches totalled 125 yards of open sandy beach-front where amtracs could land and move inland, carrying Marine assault troops.  The other Marines, those who arrived along the flanks of those two 'open' beaches more than 900 yards apart, had to exit their LVTS at the waters edge and scramble between or over ledges to get ashore then find paths inland that were few, forcing many on the flanks to scramble over inland boulders and through thickets to reach trails leading inland while they'd simultaneously had to kill or evade any defenders encountered if they were to survive their journey inland and thereafter join up with their comrade units so as to form defensible fronts and ultimately seize a perimeter.  Even those Marines able to land on the 125 yards of sandy beaches accessible to amtracs at the waterline would find that their sand beach quickly evaporated into narrow paths that had to cleared and widened for tracked vehicles and heavy weapons to get inland.  Here Mines were known to exist on White Beach 2, were considered "extremely" likely on trails behind White Beach 2, and had to be assumed to infest White Beach 1 until proven otherwise.

Thus the Marines had to confront a myriad of challenges posed by the White Beaches' difficult access, whether it be getting infantry, heavy weapons and supplies up onto, across, and exiting those beaches and their flanks and beyond them, so as seize enough additional ground inland to build a defensible beachhead.  This raised a host of varied but interrelated problems.  For example, absent innovative solutions, this difficult geography thwarted a blitzkrieg landing attack.  Indeed, how could the Marine Infantry quickly land and build a unified front after landing on two tiny, irregular and mined beaches that were 900 yards apart and looked from the air to be separated by rugged boulder strewn thickets that well could be impassable in places?    Plus, much of this ground was obscured from above by thickets that could conceal enemy defenses.  Only a few paths, likely mined, appeared to lead inland.  So, once Marine Infantrymen were able to seize the boundaries of a workable perimeter behind those beaches, how could they quickly aggregate inland the tracked armor, artillery and supplies they'd critically need to expand and reinforce that perimeter into a defensible beachhead?  Here too the obstacles to success were cumulative.  This heavy equipment and gear, each with its own special needs, capabilities and limitations, had to start their journey inland from the outer edge of a broad fringing reef offshore then transit all the way across the reef, beaches and coral rimmed shoreline before they could head inland to dumps and front line defenses, all within full view of enemy HQs and artillery pieces.  These issues only highlighted problems.  Innovative solutions had to be found to many subsidiary problems, large and small, that otherwise jointly or severally posed existential threats to the landings' success.

As if these threats were not enough, they were compounded by other complexities hidden off and onshore that could suddenly arise, as if from nowhere, to threaten the Marines and their plan of attack before, during, and after their Jig-day landings.  A fringing reef beneath shallow water fronted both beaches and their flanks. Its width varied greatly, but averaged roughly 50 yards wide off White 1 and 150 yards wide at White 2, its large interior expanse was pocked with holes, and its outer (seaward) edge was deeply fissured in places, and its waters, particularly along its seaward edge, were often awash with powerful and erratic ocean currents and swells that swept in from hundreds of miles of the open ocean directly offshore, particularly in squally weather that typically arrived at Tinian's northwest coast long before approaching storms far out at sea made amphibious landings there impossible altogether.  Complicating matters, Tinian's monsoon season was in full swing during.  Unreliable weather was inevitable.  The challenge for US Commanders was how to thread the needle between squalls, getting two divisions ashore for good, before a monsoon already forecast hit in earnest.

Beyond the vagaries of weather, more uncertainly lay ashore.  Intelligence collection from US aircraft was plagued by the dense ground cover that carpeted locales critical to Tinian's defense, including corridors that spread south in several directions.  Here Col. Ogata hid like snakes in a woodpile most all of his fixed and mobile artillery, infantry, tank, and anti-tank gun units, particularly those stationed in defense of the White Beaches and key high ground behind those beaches to and including Mt Mago, Faibus San Hilo Point, Mt Lasso and its HQ, as well as off road lines of covert transit east, west, and south that linked his defenses within Tinian's north end from the White Beaches and Faibus San Hilo Point on the NW coast to Asiga Bay on the NE coast, and points south to Marpo Hill and Tinian Town and beyond.  Even in daylight, the enemy could move over these rough trails through and beneath thickets, woodlands, and seasonal high grown cane imperious to overhead surveillance.  The fact that US operations were based on Col. Ogata's outdated June 28 plan of defense earlier captured on Saipan, and were unaware of his more flexible and mobile plan issued on July 7, magnified these blind spots.   

Despite these challenges, after reviewing the recon reports on 12 July, US commanders overruled landings at Tinian Town down south and the Yellow Beaches up north in favor of landings across the White Beaches.  And did so by finding creative ways to dilute the risks expected at the White Beaches to the point where the advantages gained by landing there outweighed the risks and costs of any alternative.  In short, Holland Smith and Harry Hill forbid any landings across the White Beaches UNLESS AND UNTIL specified "strategic" solutions were put into place and/or achieved beforehand by the tactical commanders, so as to successfully override these challenges that would otherwise tip the scales against landing on the White Beaches.  These strategic mandates (and rationales that drove them) included:

1/ Starting 13 July, there would be not less than 10 days of intense naval gunfire and carrier air strikes and Saipan based artillery shelling and air strikes before the JIG-DAY landings.  As we shall see, these supporting arms in a variety of different, but mutually reinforcing ways, neutralized the major obstacles to successful landings on the  White Beaches.  For one of many examples, they degraded Col. Otaga's command and control atop Mt. Lasso, and would kill him and most of his staff on JIG-DAY.

2/ All coral obstacles and mines that would interfere with passage across both White Beaches were to be cleared before any amphibian craft mounted the beach so as to assure the quick passage of massed troops, tracked armor and supplies across and off the beaches into the fight inland.

3/ Two Armored Amphibian Tank Battalions would reinforce the 4th Marine Division. The 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion was to take the leading role.  Its Company D, 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion was to lead the 1st assault wave against the White Beaches with its cohort Company C held in reserve for later JIG-DAY action.  These amtank companies were deemed critical to defeat an enemy shoreline flank counter attack, either sea-borne or by infantry wading shallow waters just offshore.  The amtanks had proven effective against such seaward attacks south out of Tanapag Harbor and Garapan on Saipan.  Tinian's fringing reef's shallow waters that flanked the small landing beaches amplified this threat, particularly the rough area just north of White Beach I within easy reach of enemy at Ushi Airfield.  A swale emptying onto that reef 75 yards north of White Beach 1 later compounded this threat.

4/ A US Army Engineering Battalion would reinforce the 4th Marine Division's Engineering Battalion to overcome the beaches limited access and otherwise expedite the landings and push inland by tank & Pack Howitzer Battalions reinforced by sister units detached from the 2nd Marine Division, and follow on logistics, including causeways and roads inland, to asssure that supply dumps be quickly established and filled inland behind the beaches for direct access and replenishment.

5/  A three day favorable weather forecast beginning Jig-Day was required to insure the landing of two full Marine Divisions properly supported by tracked armor, artillery and logistics and, if necessary, a pre-prepared air drop resupply from Saipan onto Ushi Airfield, should bad weather thereafter close down or limit resupply access to the White Beaches from offshore, and

6/ ONLY THEN could the 4th Fourth Marine Division land with 2 days supplies over the White Beaches, and 2nd Marine Division land on Jig-Day and/or Jig-Day plus One followed by a 2 day resupply for two infantry divisions on Jig-Day plus Two.

These mandates built the foundation under Tinian's planned Jig-Day Assault.  In so doing, they magnified the access, cover, and surety for its approach and landing of light amphibious forces in small, multiple, time consuming waves. They also magnified America's ability to quickly aggregate firepower, mobility, armor and staying power in support of the amphibious troops once ashore.  US commanders enhanced these results by threatening JIG-DAY landings over ALL Tinian Beaches.  These threats diluted enemy defenses while it concentrated American power on two small points of entry and their flanks, blasting open otherwise impossible landing beaches.  Other elements built into the plan worked in tandem for cumulative affect.  The assault force was to seize an initial beachhead defined by an O-1 line that included the first high ground behind the landing beaches (including Mt. Maga some 2500 yards inland) so as to sieze command of the Landing Area.  Then, on Division order, the assault force (reinforced by tracked armor) on JIG-DAY was to push inland and seize Mt. Lasso to command the heights overlooking the beachhead and destroy Col. Ogata's HQ atop those ramparts.  This maneuver would cover the landing of the 2nd Marine Division and allow both divisions to then isolate Tinian's north end from its south by pushing east across the island to Asiga Point on its NE coast and south to Faibus San Hilo Point on its NW coast. This scheme, its elements, timing, and logistics, were designed to work synergisticly to counter the risks inherent in amphibious landings against contested beaches generally and, in particular, as they applied to the White Beaches, including the ubiquitous Murphy's Law.  See Footnote 1 for details. These "strategic" findings and mandates issued by Holland Smith and Harry Hill dictated and ignited the high water mark of pre-invasion effort, innovation, and sophistication in the Central Pacific during the entire Pacific Ocean War.  (Note: These mandates did NOT make surprise, or feign off Tinian Town, a precondition to the White Beach landings although the advantages of both were obvious from the start of Forager's planning in the spring of 1944.  Instead, being tactical in nature and obvious in doctrine and practice, these decisions were left to the tactical commanders to decide, override, and adjust as circumstances shifted from time to time in the field.)


By 15 July 13 US Army and Marine Artillery battalions with 156 guns were shelling Tinian's north end 24/7.  On 16 July US Navy Task Force 52 gunships and airpower rejoined the 156 US artillery pieces that had been hitting Tinian's north end exclusively save for the few US Army Long Tom's that did occasionally reach down the island as far south as Tinian. Now too, US Air strikes off carriers and Saipan ranged across the entire island while the Saipan based Artillery focused on Tinians north end, and US Navy Cruisers and Destroyers began to hit specific targets that had proved unsuitable for Artillery and air strikes, all as coordinated generally by General Harper's XXIV Corps Artillery on Saipan.

So, begining on 16 July, special Naval gunfire missions commenced at 10 a.m. and continued to sunset daily, and Destroyers commenced their daily harassment of Tinian Town and vicinity at night.  On 17 July, Destroyers began irregularly hitting enemy personnel  madly trying to reinforce beach defenses in and around Asiga Bay at night and  Saipan Artillery fired White Phosphorous shells into nearby Mt. Lasso's wooded slopes and caves reportedly sheltering enemy personnel.  On 18 and 19 July, after US Artillery had exhausted its supply of White Phosphorous shells, two more destroyers joined the fracas, each sending 100 White Phosphorous shells into Mt. Lasso's and Marpo Hill woodland caves.  Thereafter three destroyers fired 300 shells into caves sheltering personnel around Mt. Lasso and Marpo Hill for three consecutive days, 20, 21, 22 July, before harassing Tinian Town each night. US Army land based and Navy carrier based strike aircraft worked in tandem with this Artillery and Naval gunfire.  This forced Col. Ogata's to feverishly work to repair and hold together his defenses around his Mt. Lasso HQs (including the Yellow and White Beaches on opposite sides of the island) as well around the Tinian Town Beaches on its SW coast.  On 20 July a US Heavy Cruiser, using its secondary and main batteries, added to the mayhem.  Its three day all day special fire missions hit hardened targets, enemy activity sites and targets of opportunity, daily.  On 22 July a 2nd Heavy Cruiser joined the fray using its secondary and main batteries, and LCI (G) gunships hammered shoreline caves with 20mm and 40 mm cannon fire.

On 22 July Saipan's artillery barrage lifted briefly from the Yellow and White Beaches areas  as US capital gunships and warplanes intensified their hammering of Tinian Town and Marpo and Gurguan Points down south.  This firepower shift was to suggest that US main force landings would cross the 2500 yards of beaches at Tinian Town in lieu of a primary force landings across Tinian's northern beaches, despite the earlier artillery pummeling of Tinian's north end and the US assembly of a massive amphibious armada 3 miles distant from Yellow Beach within plain sight of Col. Ogata's HQ atop Mt. Lasso.  US commanders had hoped to accentuate this bombardment disguise on 23 July.  But at 0705 that morning a US observation plane discovered 3 heavy well concealed coastal guns at Faibus San Hilo Point, emplaced to defend the White Beaches, plus at least 14 anti-boat mines on White Beach 2. This revelation dramatically altered US bombardment plans, refocusing it on the White Beach area, particularly White 2, although the US Navy fire support fleet of 3 old battleships, 2 heavy cruisers, 3 light cruisers and 16 destroyers starting at 0600 continued to hit Tinian hard and often all day from every quadrant.  260 warplanes (fighters, bombers, torpedo planes) added to the mayhem.

So, on 23 July two battleships with destroyers off Tinian's SE coast pummeled the backside of Tinian Town.  Two light cruisers off the island's SW coast hit Tinian Town's waterfront and high ground behind it and areas north to Gurguan Point.  Destroyer Monssen, operating independently off the island's south coast, exploded an ammunition dump on Marpo Hill's north slope at 1052.  Heavy Cruiser Louisville at 0600 began hitting known targets and targets of opportunity between USHI and FAIBUS SAN HILO POINTS, including those in and around the White Beaches.  And    the battleship Colorado, when notified at 0715, left its station off Tinian Town and sailed 6 miles north where, from 1240 to 1425, the Battleship concentrated 60 pin-point 16 inch naval gunfire rounds on the 3 shore guns defending the White Beaches and then joined the heavy Cruiser LOUISVILLE that had been hitting the White Beach area since dawn between a series of low altitude morning and afternoon air strikes against the White Beaches aimed to ignite the anti-boat mines on White 2.  These airstrikes included afternoon US napalm strikes into woodlands SE of the White Beaches for 60 minutes before the heavy US gunfire ships renewed their shelling the White Beach area and Mt LASSO's western slopes that reportedly now also housed artillery emplacements and cave supply dumps, yet more disconcerting surprises for US landing forces.  At 1700 1700 Louisville was given special mission to deliver 5-inch AA fire on artillery emplacements and cave supply dumps on Mount LASSO's western slopes 2500 yards east of Faubus Point.  At 1720 the US napalm air strikes resumed against the White Beaches.  This set brush and woods and newly exposed enemy positions aflame.  At 1840 the Battleship COLORADO followed these air strikes with 40 air bursts to prevent the enemy's escape overland from the White Beach area. 

Meanwhile, 2 US Cruisers with 3 destroyers in the Saipan Channel off Tinian's NE coast had been shelling Tinian's NE side from Ushi Point to Masolog Point, including the Yellow Beach area and Mt. LASSO's east side.  All the heavy gunfire-ships retired at 1845, but the destroyers remained off Tinian, hitting road junctions leading to the White Beaches, harassing Yellow Beach and covering a UDT recon of White Beaches with counter-battery and neutralization fire before the ships harassed White Beach approaches north of MT. LASSO.  US Minesweepers also swept waters off the White and Tinian Town Beaches.

Later Admiral Hill reported that: (TINIAN) ... had been methodically and almost continuously bombarded by air, artillery, and naval gunfire since the beginning of the assault on SAIPAN.  All known dangerous enemy batteries and installations had been destroyed long before JIG Day...;


IN SUMMARY from 15 July through 23 July (Jig Day - One):  US Navy ships fired some 27,000 shells at Tinian during this 8 day period.  US artillery on Saipan fired another 36,750 shells, the vast majority hitting Tinian's north end.  (Only 24 of Saipan's 156 artillery pieces could reach beyond Tinian's north end into southern Tinian that included Tinian Town.)  Meanwhile, US planes sortied over the entire island daily, strafing and bombing.  On 23 July US forces fired some 16,700 shells at Tinian.  The Navy fired 6,700 shells that day.  US artillery on Saipan fired another 10,000 shells at Tinian's north end, the location of Tinian's primary airfield, its two landing beaches (White Beaches), its command and control center atop MT. LASSO, and its Yellow Beach three miles away from America's 156 artillery pieces across the Saipan Channel.  And where Col. Ogata, whose HQs commanded the heights between Yellow & White Beaches, had since 15 July a ringside seat atop a mount lit afire amid bedlam as he watched America arm and assemble a vast armada that would on JIG DAY breach his island fortress, kill him, and break the back of his army, all within 24 hours of its appearance off the White Beaches.

Since 15 July an naval armada for 15,800 shock troops, their weapons and critical supplies, had begun loading directly from Saipan's docks and beaches into landing ships and amphibious craft that slowly assembled at anchorage off Saipan into an amphibious task force and that would in the early morning hours of JIG DAY head in darkeness southwest in stages, each sailing around Tinian's north end, before it arrived behind a line of US Navy heavy gunships belching fire and steel from 3000 yards offshore the White Beaches.  Each stage of this Armada on arrival off White Beaches would organize itself into a growing amphibious landing force.  This would include 430 assault craft poised to pass through the gunfire ships and hit the White Beaches followed by 200 more landing craft carrying heavy tracked weapons before more amphibious craft carried critical supplies directly across beaches to dumps built inland by combat engineers in earlier assault waves.  All of this was to be supplemented later in the day by a prefabricated pontoon causeway installed off each beach on Jig-Day to offload wheeled trucks from LSTs.

So it's no wonder that Col. Ogata, watching the nearby threat grow hourly since Mid-July, had then madly accelerated his reinforcement of Tinian's White Beaches and Yellow Beach.  For, on 15 July, the 1st of 2 huge Landing Ship Docks (LSDs) began hoisting war supplies off cargo ships lying off Saipan's landing beaches.  And the 1st 6 of 30 US Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs) also began loading for battle, hoisting cargo nets full war supplies from the pier in TANAPAG HARBOR.  For the next 5 days these 30 LSTs and 2 LSDs filled their top decks with enough rations, water and ammunition to fuel two Marine Divisions for 3.5 days of fighting on Tinian.  In addition, on 19 July, 9 pontoon barges were loaded with drums of gas from cargo vessels anchored offshore.  (Another 5 barges would be loaded on Jig-Day, all to refuel LVTs and DUKWs during battle.)

On 20 July 36 Sherman Tanks of the 4th Marine Tank Battalion boarded 36 Landing Craft Mechanized (LCMs) at the waters' edge of Saipan's Red and Green Beaches.  Each LCM with one Sherman then swam offshore before climbing into one of the two waiting LSDs. Landing Vehicles Tracked (LVTs) had been specially altered with ramps for tanks to surmount the coral walls that flanked the White Beaches.  These also left Saipan's beaches and climbed into the LSDs.  Up the beach two 2nd Marine Division infantry Regiments boarded Landing Craft Infantry (LCIs) that carried them to 6 Attack Transports (APAs) whose Higgins Boats (LCVPs) shuttled the Division's vehicles out to their 6 mother ships.  This group on Jig-Day would sail first to Tinian Town where 22 of its Higgins Boats lowered from a single APA conducted its feign landing.

The 4th Marine Division began loading 22 July.  Its 132 Amphibious Trucks (DUKWs) left Saipan's BLUE Beaches carrying 106 Pack Howitzers with ammo and crews to 7 LSTs anchored offshore.  The 4th Marine Division's 3 infantry Battalions loaded the next day, 23 July, into 435 LVTs that swam from Saipan's beaches to board another 27 LSTs waiting offshore.  Meanwhile the 4th Division's vehicles on Green Beach drove into 100 Landing Craft Vehicles and Personal (LCVPs) at the waters' edge.  More boarded at the seaplane ramp up north at TANAPAG HARBOR.  88 loaded cargo trucks with 21 trailers drove into 10 Landing Craft Tanks (LCTs) while the Division's remaining Shermans plus a company of flame thrower tanks boarded 3 LCTs and 6 LCMs.  Elements of the Shore Party engineer battalions also loaded into 2 LCTS at the seaplane ramp.  At the pier across TANAPAG HARBOR, 4 LSTs hoisted 68 LVTA4s amtanks aboard. Each LSTs embarked 17 amtanks.  The LST carrying 17 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion amtanks 1st wave of assault also took aboard the 4th Marine Division HQ group and HQ company, 14th Marines.

With loading complete at 1800 on 23 July, the assault force armada commanded by Admiral Harry Hill began to assemble at its anchorage off Saipan where it would await orders to move out for its next morning's assault onto Tinian's White Beaches.  However the 46 LCMs that remained from the orginal 92 LCMs began loading at 0600 on Jig-Day.  41 of these LCMs took aboard 2nd Marine Division tanks at Saipan's Green Beach. 5 of these LCMs transit would the next morning after daybreak transit direct to Tinian's White Beaches, while the other 36 LCMs with their 36 Shermans would board the two LSDs on their return from the White Beaches Jig-Day morning.  These Jig-Day daylight movements of heavy amphibious forces would further confuse Col. Ogata atop Mt. Lasso, suggesting a US landing on Yellow Beach on the NE coast t o envelop Col. Ogata's command post from both sides of the island.  Why not?  The American amphibious armada now in plan sight of Col. Ogata's command and control center atop Mt. Lasso included more that 700 amphibious craft.

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2 LSDs, 37 LSTs, and more that 100 smaller landing craft sailed independently to their station off the White Beaches.  All were loaded with amphibious war machines and/or amphibious shock troops, and/or artillery and/or tracked armor, and/or their critical support personnel and battle supplies.  They departed their anchorage off Saipan beginning around 0330.  Most arrived off the White Beaches before dawn on Jig Day 23 July and began to organized behind the US Navy Gunfire ships that were already on station off the White Beaches.  Indeed hostile action had already unfolded in the dark beneath Col. Ogata's Mt. Lasso HQ behind the White Beaches.  This is when the destroyer ---- deployed a US Navy Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) that attempted to explode anti-boat mines that had been detected on White Beach 2 by an observation plane the day before.  Adverse seas reported at 0516  aborted their mission.  This dramatically altered the schedule and placement of US Naval gunfire and air strikes, shifting both heavily into the WHITE BEACHES, trying to ignite suspected mines.

Also at 0530 all 96 105mm howitzers, 36 155mm howitzers and 24 155mm guns on Saipan opened fire, concentrating it on and around the White Beach.  US Capital Ships simultaneously hit the White Beach AREA.  Battleship TENNESSEE shelled the 60 yard wide White 1.  Battleship CALIFORNIA lacerated the 120 yard wide White 2.  Heavy Cruiser LOUISVILLE blasted the 900 yards of shoreline between the White BeachesAt 0545 heavy cruiser INDIANAPOLIS with 5th Fleet Commanding Admiral Raymond A. Spruance aboard arrived from Guam and took under fire the coastal gun pillbox on Faibus San Hilo Point that defended the White Beaches.  INDIANAPOLIS then shifted its fire to Mt. LASSO's western slopes, hitting troop assembly and transit areas, and Col. Otaga's HQ behind the White Beaches.  Light Cruisers BIRMINGHAM and MONTPELIER also hit Mt. LASSO.  BIRMINGHAM smashed its western slopes.  MONTPELIER lit into its eastern slopes behind Asiga Bay.  Battleship CALIFORNIA fired point blank into White 2, igniting 12 (?) secondary explosions.  Battleship TENNESSEE then Heavy Cruiser LOUISVILLE sent 40mm volleys into White 1.  Off Tinian's NE coast Heavy Cruiser NEW ORLEANS  sent anti-personnel air bursts over YELLOW BEACH in Asiga Bay.  As the sun rose at 0557 minesweepers began running their courses off both White Beaches.

Meanwhile ---


At 0600  with the Saipan based Artillery and Naval Gunfire still booming, the LCMs carrying Sherman Tanks floated clear of their mother ships, LSDs BELLE GROVE and ASHLAND, off the WHITE BEACHES.  Closer inshore, LVTs clanking down ramps between the open doors of LSTs began plunging into the sea.  US Naval Gunfire halted at 0620.  After a moment's silence US aircraft bombed and strafed the WHITE BEACHES.  This ignited 5 more of the known 14 mines on the beaches before they sent napalm flaring across their sand and brush.  Aircraft swarmed Mt LASSO, bombing and strafing it.  At 0630 a flotilla of 30 LCI gunsboats and 17 2nd armored amphibious tanks began to assemble 3000 yards offshore behind a Line of Departure.  Behind them hundreds of troop laden amtracks circled before arranging into lines that would become moving waves of amphibious assault headed for the WHITE BEACHES.

At 0638 the Air Strikes halted and the Naval Gunfire resumed.  Destroyers CONWAY, EATON, PHILLIP and PRINGLE shelled the WHITE BEACH AREA as heavier US Capital Gunfire Ships moved closer to the WHITE BEACHES.  At 0700 Heavy Cruiser LOUISVILLE now in position between WHITE 1 and WHITE 2 renewed firing.  Battleship TENNESSEE and Destroyer SIGOURNEY began firing from the NE at WHITE I.  Battleship CALIFORNIA and Destroyer WALLER began firing from the southwest at WHITE 2.  US Artillery on Saipan intensified its shelling the WHITE BEACH AREAS.  Thus at 0700 Battleships CALIFORNIA and TENNESSEE, Heavy Cruiser LOUISVILLE and Destroyers CONWAY, EATON, PHILLIP and PRINGLE along with 156 Artillery pieces rained hell down into and around the WHITE BEACHES. 

At 0703 the Amphibious Landing Commander Admiral Harry Hill, due to assembly delays behind the Line of Departure, postponed the landing by 10 minutes, to 0740.  At 0710 Destroyers PHILLIP, EATON, CONWAY, PRINGLE and Cruiser BIRMINGHAM shifted their fire up country, onto enemy mortar and artillery that overlooked the WHITE BEACHES.  US ARTILLERY on Saipan concentrated its fire onto the WHITE BEACHES, enemy approaches to the beaches, and Col. Ogata's HQ atop MT LASSO.  Cruisers MONTPELIER and NEW ORLEANS, on Tinian's east side, sent 30 minutes of air-burst fire at high ground on Mt. LASSO'S eastern slopes to neuter enemy artillery implaced there.  Hell had descended on Col. Ogata.  The Japanese Commander fought gallantly on, but would not survive the day.


2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion PREPARATIONS EARLIER ON SAIPAN:

GEORGE STEINHEIMER - COMPANY D: Short of amtanks after the Saipan fight but with Tinian coming up we hustled south to Charan-Kanoa and "borrowed" a bunch of "abandoned" 708th Amphibian Tank Battalion amtanks.  Like ours but in better shape, most of them just needed their broken grousers fixed, their engines tuned and batteries recharged. Plus, we found inside unexpected goodies that we sorely needed: food rations, empty shell castings, bullet proof vests, clean clothes and socks.  We towed some of the amtanks, getting them up to speed and then we cut loose and popped the clutch, jump starting their engines, and then we went off and running for home. There we painted fast as US Army White Stars vanished under US Marine Camouflage.  Those US Army Amtanks did good US Marine Corps work on Tinian.  I drove one. 1/

MARSHALL HARRIS - The Army radios in those amtanks were far superior to the Navy radios in our Marine tanks.  The Navy TCS radios had 6 dails that you had to adjust to build up enough antenae frequency load to switch channels.  This was awkward in battle and the Japs would jam our frequencies.  Switching to new frequencies was difficult and time consuming when bouncing around inside a moving amtank that needed a radio to coordinate with other amtanks and units.  With the Army radios, you pushed in your choice of 11 buttons.  It was quick, easy, and failsafe.  The only downside was that we couldn't get Tokyo Rose.  After Saipan other Marine units tried to get our radio operators to transfer into their own outfit since we had 70 experienced radio / machine gunners in one battalion.  I don't think any of our guys agreed to transfer out.  Everyone in 2nd Armored was dead set loyal to it.       

ORIE F. MORGAN - COMPANY B: Our maintenance people set up machine shops inside large tents on Saipan's beach where they did repairs and welded more armor on the 34 amtanks that we had resurrected or "borrowed" to fight on Tinian.  I helped out.  The added armor plate saved lives.  Our amtank's pontoon sides, only a 1/8 inch thick, otherwise couldn't stop 30 a Cal. steel jacketed bullet.

BERNARD L. BLUBACH - COMPANY B: Those pontoon sheets were thin, very vulnerable, unless we added armor. CHARLES H. ORLOSKI - COMPANY B: Diary: 19 July - Our amtanks are camouflaged now and ready for Tinian attack.  Has been raining for days.  Very muddy.

GUY TIMMONS - COMPANY B: I joined the 2nd Armored as a replacement Pvt just before Tinian.  I didn’t own a watch or a calendar.  Marine Pvts and Pfcs back then didn't need either.  A Corporal or a Sergeant who told us WHAT TO DO and WHEN TO DO IT.  The one who told me what to do,  Gunnery Sergeant A. H. Stitely, had posted me right off to the midnight to 4 A. M. watch, walking post with 4 or 5 high spots, when I found myself unexpectedly face-to-face with my Battalion Commanding Officer for the first time.  Here's how it happened.  All was quiet, walking post, until around 2 A.M when the OFFICER OF THE DAY made his rounds.  His meeting with me went satisfactorily.  But the OD did emphasize to me that NOBODY was to enter or even get near the G-2 Tent.  YES, SIR, I saluted!  (It was where all the secrets were kept).  15 minutes later the air raid siren sounded and I quickly gained my designated air raid post.  There, at rigid attention while others were scurrying to their posts, I suddenly heard ominous footsteps heading for the G-2 Tent! 

HALT - WHO GOES THERE! I sounded off.

The black figure loomed out of the darkness.  CORPORAL SO and SO identified himself.  Then he told me in no uncertain terms that his assigned air raid station was INSIDE the G-2 Tent!  I informed the CORPORAL that my orders were that NO ONE, ABSOLUTELY NO ONE, went there.  It belonged to the Intelligence Section.  Young CORPORALS back then were pretty salty troops.  They stood on the first step of the ladder of NCOs.  As such even the young CORPORALS of that era had raised the Act of Chewing Ass to an art form.  When this CORPORAL got finished with me, a Private, I was certain that I was hindering the entire war effort, and probably guilty of aiding and abetting the enemy.  During this moment of weakness, I allowed the CORPORAL to enter the G-2 Tent.

I had yet to recover from that episode when I heard more footsteps.   A very heavy tread indeed coming heavily up the path, toward the G-2 Tent!  Again I sounded off: “HALT – WHO GOES THERE!”  “Lt. Col. Fawell” came the reply.

Next I learned to my dismay that the COLONEL'S 2 A.M. destination was the G-2 Tent!  This unfortunate news gave me the feeling that I was rapidly getting in over my head.  Again I sounded off: OFFICER OF THE DAY, POST # 6!

Fortunately, the Officer of the Day arrived almost immediately.  (He’d probably anticipated more problems so had camped out near my post.)  The OD saluted the COLONEL then explained in a low voice to the COLONEL that we had received some new troops who had not been properly trained.  He promised the COLONEL that he'd rectify the discrepancy immediately, if not sooner.  Later, upon my relief from guard duty, I expected to forthwith face a firing squad.  But I never heard a word about the encounter.  I think it is all part of your Marine Corps training.

(Guy Timmons served on Iwo Jima, in Korea and Vietnam during the course of a 30 year career in the Marine Corps.)

Click to EnlargeJAMES A. (Al) SCARPO - COMPANY D: Many amtanks were too beat up for Tinian so their crews got left behind.  This included Harold Springer who also hadn't healed from a wound. Along with a few others Harold got into the trading business, selling Jap souvenirs like swords, yen, and bayonets, but also homemade (phony) stuff like Jap Flags, peddling them to army garrison troops, Engineering Corps folks, Army Air Force personnel.  Their best customers were sailors from ships laying offshore.  One day he ran out of his phony flags and his legit Jap stuff so Harold sold his Carbine to a sailor for 50 bucks, saying it was a special Jap Weapon.  Not Smart!  Not with "US Cal. 30" stamped on its barrel.  Harold could of got major Brig Time for that one but by the time we got back from Tinian, he'd somehow managed to work his way down to only extended KP duty.

Shown on left Driver LEWIS P. TAPIO pokes head out of overhead hatch.  Note the swivel mount custom welded to the upper left side of turret to mount a 30 caliber machine gun for gunner up in turret, and also the 75mm howitzer with 30" barrel plus flash hider.


2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion EMBARKATION FOR TINIAN:

At 1800 22 July the Battalion's Communications and Hospital Sections from H&S Company and its Maintenance Sections from Companies C and D embarked on LST 213 in Tanapag Harbor after loading aboard two radio jeeps, a hospital jeep, and arc welding trailer with sheet metal and tools.  C and D Company (with attached elements of A, B, and HQ Companies) and 34 Amtanks boarded LSTs 213 and 42 the next day.   The Battalion's CO boarded LST 80 to liaison with the Regimental Combat Team (RCT) 24.  All were destined for Tinian's White Beaches.  

L. H. VAN ANTWERP - COMPANY C: Many of us who left for Tinian suffered from various stages of dengue fever and dysentery.  Some had to be carried back to Saipan early, too sick to finish the Campaign.  It was awful stuff, at least two or three days with fevers, chills, dizziness and fatigue that left you wasted, hardly in fighting trim.  But many of us somehow kept going.  RICHARD G. PEDERSON - COMPANY C: Dengue fever got me the night before the landing.  I couldn't get ashore for three days.  Some never left Saipan.  Amoebic dysentery and denque fever laid out quite a few, sweating and shaking in a small bivouac up north of Tanapag harbor when our people left for Tinian.

HAROLD C. MOODY - COMPANY D: As we were getting shots for diseases we might encounter on Tinian they told us we'd have a couple of days' rest and good food before D-DAY.  It didn't work out that way.  We landed on Tinian the next morning.  In the rush someone forgot to bring our shot records aboard our LST.  Out came more needles.  Gotta take 'em here and now, they said.  Us having to take those damn shots all over again did not make us a happy bunch of Marines.

CHARLES H. ORLOSKI - COMPANY B: Diary 23 July - Sunday.  Some of us board ship for Tinian.  D Day is tomorrow.  Change in CP code name from ORLANDO BAKER to RYEBALL BAKER.  Password goes from Cities and States to Days of the Week.

ROBERT E. WOLLIN - COMPANY D: Daily Log: 23 July - Prepared for Jig Day Tinian then at 1700 boarded LST #42, the 4th Division Command Ship.  The Division General aboard says having the first the wave of attack on his ship gives him luck.

ART HOMES - COMPANY D: With all the amtanks we could make battle ready, we boarded the day before landing.  Most of us slept on our tanks down in the hole.  I was about to turn in for the night when someone tapped on an air register above us.  I pushed the grille up and a Mess Cook passed down a big platter of French Toast.  What a treat!  Our first bread since leaving Hawaii two month's earlier. 

JAMES D. MACKEY - COMPANY C: We boarded LSTs on 23 July and landed on Tinian the next morning at the extreme left flank of White Beach 1.  It fooled the Japs.  So they didn't hit us hard, trying to drive us back into the sea, until it was long after dark.



Click to Enlarge  By 23 July 3 old Battleships, two Heavy Cruisers, three light Cruisers and sixteen Destroyers plus 360 warplanes were hitting Tinian from every quadrant.            

Click to EnlargeThat night Destroyers and Cruisers tore up road junctions feeding into the White Beaches on Tinian's west coast and hit Yellow Beach defenses and road junctions on its east coast.  An armada carrying Marines bristling with weapons left Saipan to arrive before dawn off the White Beaches on 24 July.   Gunships began ripping into the White Beaches at 0530. Saipan's artillery joined at 0600.  As shelling paused US warplanes lacerated the White Beaches.  An armada arrived off Tinian Town 6 miles down the coast for feign landings there.          



As Tinian town defenders focused on this false threat down south, the 24th and 25th Marines began landing six miles north up the coast on White Beaches 1 and 2.

2nd Armored Amphibian Tanks led the assault.  One platoon led and infantry company in LVTs to White 1.  Two platoons led two infantry companies into the White 2 attack.

When naval gunfire lifted the amtanks fired on the beaches until 300 yards offshore where they turned to the flanks and fired into areas flanking the beaches as waves of Marine Infantry headed to the beaches, firing .30 caliber machine guns mounted on their LVTs. History of U.S Marine Corps Operations in World War 11, by Shaw, Nalty, Turnbladh, Historical Branch, USMC.






(Additional context and detail to be inserted here)         



Coral outcropping above a shelving reef flanked White Beach 1. The shallow water started some 100 yards offshore. Thick shrubs ashore topped the coral ramparts.  6 Company B amtanks fired at the beach then executed a left flank maneuver 300 yards offshore and shifted their fire to flanks north of the beach to suppress enemy fire into the waves of LVTS carrying Marine Infantry coming in behind them.     

CLICK WHITE BEACH 2Company B's eleven amtanks used similar tactics against White Beach 2 but they executed a right flank maneuver to fire on the beaches southern ramparts.

Thus Company B's seventeen amphibian tanks covered both beaches.



THE ASSAULT & LANDING (see FOOTNOTE 1(F) for landing details) :

US Artillery on Saipan and Gunfire Ships offshore began shelling the White Beaches at 0530 24 July.  LCI Gunboats, Amtanks and troop laden LVTs began to disembark from LSTS into the sea at 0600.  17 2nd Armored amtanks headed for Lines of Departure 3000 yards off the White Beaches at 0615.   Naval Gunfire lifted as aircraft tried to clear offshore waters and beaches of mines at 0620.  The planes left at 0638 and Battleships California and Tennessee, the Heavy Cruiser Louisville and 4 destroyers renewed firing at the White Beaches.   Six miles south Battleship Colorado, Cruiser Cleveland and 2 destroyers opened up at dawn on Tinian Town, starting the feign assault on its beaches.       

Six amtanks flanked by guide boats lead 2nd wave

B Company's 6 Amtanks headed for White 1 at 0717.  They fired at the beach from 800 to 300 yards offshore then turned left and ran north along the shore, firing into coral outcrops.  The 8 LVTs carrying a 200 man Infantry Company in the 1st wave behind them took scattered small arms fire. 

Company E, 2nd Bn, 24th Marines landed at 0742, overran the enemy and pushed inland.  Company A, 1st Bn landed next and wheeled north attacking into coral outcrops flanking White 1. Two companies of the 2nd Bn landed next in two waves that pushed inland behind its cohort Company E that had landed earlier.    

After the 1st pass the amtanks limited their fire to 300 yards north of White Beach 1 to avoid friendly fire into Marine Infantry ashore trying to secure that flank.

E. FRANK GAMBLE - COMPANY B: Our orders were to fire into White Beach 1 then once 300 yards offshore to run parallel to the shoreline, firing at it but our Amtank's Howitzer blew its tube out.



click to enlarge

BERNARD L. BLUBACH - COMPANY B: On Saipan the heat from the amtanks transmission and engine had fogged the plastic bubbles over the driver and radio man.  This had made it hard for us to see through our periscopes.  So for Tinian we torch cut slits though armor plate up front that gave the driver a far better view of where to go and the Radio Man beside him also got a far better field of fire for his 30 Cal. machine gun.



By 0805 the 2nd Battalion had landed over White Beach 1 and it quickly pushed inland doing what was described as a "Cake Walk".  The 1st Battalion had also landed behind the 2nd Battalion on White Beach 1 by 0847.  It shifted to the 2nd Battalion's left flank where it supported Company A that was stymied in its move north up the shoreline by small arms fire from shrubs, fissures, and caves amid coral outcropping just off the beach's north edge.  The reserve 3d Battalion of the 24th Marines had landed by 0946.   The landing put the entire 24th Marine Regiment ashore .

At White Beach 2 that was 900 yards south of White Beach 1 the 1st two assault waves arrived together 10 minutes late at 0750. The third arrived two minutes later as land mines blew up two LVTS and then a third LVT, rendering White 2's center impassible.  So LTVs carrying the 25th Marines congested on the fringing reef offshore and began moving to the beach flanks where Marines scrambled ashore over outcropping coral along the flanks of the closed White Beach 2See Footnote 1(f).  Saipan Artillery and naval gunfire that had earlier saturated both beaches then moved inland to allow two infantry battalions (3550 troops) to overcome or bypass brief initial resistance on the flanks of the beach and push inland.

(New expanded narrative to be inserted here)

KENNETH E. SMITH - COMPANY C: One of our tanks got hit and sank, going down into Davy Jones Locker with Richard Jones in its turret.  He was 30 feet underwater before he popped up.  His life jacket saved him.  

Company D's 11 amtanks moving to the right flank of White Beach 2 were ordered ashore, contrary to earlier instructions.       

CLICK TO ENLARGECLICK TO ENLARGECLICK TO ENLARGELeft Photo: Note amtank as troops wade ashore after initial waves landed. Center: With DUKW left, Amtank right, troops come ashore amid windblown surf. Right: Note jutting coral onshore as Marines stroll shallow water over shelving reef that enemy used trying to outflank Marine defenses to hit White Beach 1 the first night.      


At 1000 an amtank platoon shifted from White 2 to White 1 to reinforce Company A infantry trying to push north up the coast.  Company A dug in at 1630 some 425 yards short of its Jig-Day objective. The amtanks at White 2 had a different experience: 

ART HOMES - Ordered ashore, we forced our amtanks up over very difficult steep coral outcrops that flanked the beach.

CHARLES AMBROSE - We burned out several clutches trying to climb those outcrops.  It slowed our advance.  Finally the Seabees arrived with graders, leveling out a road up to the plateau. See Footnote 1(A).

CHARLES AMBROSE - Once we got ashore, a Bn infantry CO ordered an infantry mortar unit with its gear to climb atop our amtank.  We carried that unit inland. 

ART HOMES - Infantry with flamethrowers rode inland atop our amtank moving through sugar cane.  By evening, within sight of a small airfield, we ran into a lot of return fire, and were called back to set up for the night.

MARSHALL HARRIS - Those orders contradicted our earlier orders to stay offshore so as to support the landing instead of interfering with it.  There was a massive traffic jam off White Beach 2.

BENJAMIN R. LIVESEY - We landed on a very narrow area of the beach not far from the airfield at islands north end.  During the morning the Navy was shelling around the airfield when it hit an ammo and bomb depot, igniting the greatest explosion I ever saw.  It showered debris clear out to the line of departure.

ROBERT E. WOLLIN-COMPANY D: About 1300 Major Williamson called us into the beach and Gunny Liberatore fired along the left flank of White 2.  We stayed on beach that night, got shelled by a 77mm which was the same old sound.  I didn't get hardly any sleep at all.

HARLAN T. ROSVOLD - COMPANY C: Limited mortar and artillery fire came our way going toward the beach.  Sniper fire whizzed by as we neared White Beach 2.  Claude Bass got hit bad in his arm and shoulder.

VERNON LOWE- COMPANY C: I remember we landed in a line, one tank after another, one at a time going up onto the beach and gaining a position behind the Japanese south of us.  Our major action came during that first big night attack by the Japanese trying to drive us all off the island.

(More new narrative to be inserted here) (a late arrival on White Beach 2.  Another late arrival on Jig-Day, the 23th Marines, 4th Marine Division, began to land on White Beach 2 after its center had been cleared of mines at 1315.  It slipped one of its Battalions into the front lines at the beachhead's far right flank.) (Jig-Day casualties totaled Marines 15 killed, 225 wounded.  The 3 LVTs mined on White Beach 2 killed all or most.  Numbers exclude 43 killed and 198 wounded sailors and Marines aboard ships off Tinian Town.  Known Japanese dead totaled 438.  See Footnote 1(B).)

 By 1730 15,900 troops were ashore, comprising all three Infantry Regiments of 4th Marine Division and 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, as reinforced by two Artillery Battalions, a Tank Battalion and two Combat Engineer Battalions, and the 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion.

REED FAWELL - BATTALION: All D Company amtanks were out of action by the end of the first day.  Two had been sunk.  One's Howitzer was disabled.  The rest were out of ammo and fuel.  LST 213 that lay offshore was inexplicably unable to replenish these amtanks with ammo or fuel.  All Company C amtanks were operable.

So at 1730  Colonel Fawell ordered his Battalion reserve (C Company) to abandon its inland positions and relieve D Company so he shifted all C Company 16 amtanks north to cover seaward flanks of White Beach 1, including its far left seaward flank where stubborn enemy resistance had stymied Company A, 1st Bn, 24th Marines advance up the coast all day.  One amtank platoon, taking its position 75 yards on the point north of White Beach 1 encountered enemy fire and sent a patrol ashore, killing 12 as it secured the point.  The 2nd Platoon took its position immediately south along the shoreline to White Beach 1's north edge. The 3rd platoon secured the south flank of White Beach 1.

CLICK TO ENLARG JAMES D. MACKEY: That night we anchored the far left flank of the 4th Marine Division, the seaward end of their perimeter that extended inland.  Our amtank sat on the reef in shallow water with its nose up against the shorelinge's coral ledge 5 feet to 7 feet high.  In a good defilade firing position, our 75 mm howitzer and 30 machine guns up in the turret, and bow gunner too, sat high enough over the outcrops for good fields of fire.

ORIE F. MORGAN: Just north of White Beach 1, our #1 amtank was closest inshore with another three amtanks parked out in the water behind us in a line across the reef. Their job was to stop Japs using the reefs shallow water to outflank our amtanks on the point 75 yards north of White Beach 1, killing those intruders before they got into White Beach 1.  Our job to keep the Japs off a sandbagged 37 mm gun ashore. That's exactly what we all did.   

MARSHALL HARRIS: The bow gunner in Pappy Outen's Amtank 20 yards south of the point, I sat next to the driver who parked us at an 45% angle to the shore.  Brook's amtank sat parked on the same angle 10 yards north of us.  We all knew they were coming at us that night in a big way but just how big we didn't know.  I remember struggling to imagine what was going to happen, but couldn't imagine how rough it might be.  That's when fear can seep into you.  But when Lieutenant Vandervolk's amtank arrived and then passed behind us and he headed north before he slipped into that outmost exposed point just off a swale that exited into the lagoon, it settled me down and put grit in my belly.  He'd put himself between us and any Japs coming out of that swale onto the reef.  No way can you let down your Lieutenant after he does that.  I suspect we all felt that way all that night after he took the point.  And, shortly after that, our Company Commander, Major Ralph Bevans arrived on foot, walking through shallow water on the reef.  In the darkness he stood talking to our Amtank CO Pappy Outen.  Down below sitting next to our driver, I could hear Major Bevan's tell Pappy Outen that our amtank on its 45 degree angle had a clear field of fire inland.  All our Marines ashore were down south, behind us, he said, so we should fire inland at anything that moved, screamed or fired, killing all the Japs we could.  (Note: Outen's Amtank was roughly 55 yards north of the sand at White Beach 1)  Once finished with us, Major Ralph Bevan's moved north, stopping next at Brook's amtank then at Lieutenant Vandervolk's amtank on point before walking back down the line to his tank 20 yards or so to the south.

JERRY BROOKS: On the reef in a foot of water behind the coral wall, our good defilade position shielded the lower half of all our tanks, giving us a perfect spot for our amtanks to do their work.  A small stand of trees and brushes were just inland.

ORVIS WHITAKER: On the high ground, the Japs knew exactly where we were.  We knew they'd come right at us.

JAMES D. MACKEY: At dark we saw Jap fires off in the distance.  There they worked themselves into a frenzy for a Banzai attack against us.

Lt. Col. Justin Chambers, commanding the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines in the right center of the line some 1500 yards inland, recalled: "There was a big gully in front of us that ran ... northwest ... into the western edge of our area.  Anybody in their right mind could have figured that if there were to be any counterattack, that gully would be used ... and, during the night ... my men were reporting ... a lot of Japs chattering down in the gully."3/ (See above map)  Note: Enemy troops from nearby Ushi Airfield and from as far away as Mt. Lasso could use this gully that also ran along the front lines of the 24th Marines before it exited offshore into the lagoon's shallow water.  To stop them,  Lt. Vanderkolk's Platoon Command amtank sat just seaward of the gully's exit onto the reef.  So the  three outermost amtanks of Company C sat within a space 20 yards long: Vanderkolk's on the point with Brook's 10 yards to the south and Pappy Outen's 10 yards south of   Brook's.  Eight more Company C amtanks, including four in ORIE F. MORGAN's group, defended the remaining 55 yards of shoreline to the north edge of White Beach 1.  The rest, 5 amtanks, defended the south flank of White Beach 1 

The Japanese counterattack that night hit three locations along the front lines of 4th Marine Division.  One group attacked from the perimeter's south side in two prongs with tanks hitting the 25th Marines on the Division's far right flank.  A second group hit the 24th and 25th Marines where their defenses joined at the center of the half moon shaped perimeter.  A third hit the far left flank on the beachhead's north end.

Banzai!  "... 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 decimated.  This 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."  See  Lt. Col. Justin Chambers reported: "They hit us about midnight in K Company's area.  They hauled by hand a couple of 75mm howitzers with them and, when they got them to where they could fire at us, they hit us very hard.  I think K Company did a pretty damn good job but ... about 150 - 200 Japs managed to push through (the 1,500 yards) to the beach area ...  When the Japs hit those rear areas (beaches), all the artillery and machine guns started shooting like hell.  Their fire was coming from the rear and grazing right over our heads ..."4/

The third attack slammed into the understrength Company A, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines onshore, and the 2nd Armored Battalion's Amtanks.  (See above map Here some 600 -1000 Special Naval Landing Force troops out of the Ushi Point Airfield Barracks (and perhaps from Mt. Lasso as well) tried to roll up the 4th Marine Division's left flank along the lagoon's coral seawall, going around the amtanks to hit the soft underbelly of the landing beaches.  The eleven 2nd Armored amtanks, however, were armed and loaded for bear, hitting those attacking enemy troops with eleven 75mm Howitzers firing cannister as well as eleven turret mounted 50 caliber machine guns, and twenty to thirty 30 caliber machine guns along with crew weapons (M1 rifles, carbines, Thomson submachine guns, grenades).  Major Ralph Bevans' commanded these Company C's amtanks.  (He would be awarded a Silver Star on Iwo Jima). 5/ 

All concerned had a busy night.  "Company A (1st Battalion) was hit so hard it was reduced at one point to only 30 men with weapons, after drawing reinforcements from engineers, corpsmen, communicators, and members of the shore party. 6/ (Note: some 100 -150 Marines of the understrength Company A, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines, dug in ashore faced north with rifles, mortars, BARS and a two 37mm guns with canister.)

Company C, 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion:

JAMES D. MACKEY: They'd worked themselves into a frenzy then came screaming in around 0300 back lit by the fires.  Then parachute flares overhead lit up everything.  We could see them just as clearly as they could see us.  ORVIS WHITAKER: The fire flares turned night into day.  We could see individual Japs moving on us with a lot of heavy machine guns.  (Note: these were machine guns stripped off aircraft)

JERRY BROOKS: I saw more Japs up close that night than I saw up close the entire Saipan Campaign.  Many carried heavy machine guns with tripods attached, weapons several times larger than the Nambus we saw on Saipan, but they came at us like a swarm of wasps.  Some attacked us from inland.  Others came right out of the north through the lagoon.  Out on the extreme flank we fired in both directions, and wherever they came from, they came at us with nothing between us and them.  We hit anything that moved.  Our tanks to the north fired inland to the northeast. 

ORIE F. MORGAN: They were thick as flies that night and hit us very hard.  ORVIS WHITAKER: An awful lot of machine gun and rifle bullets were hitting our tanks that night.

MARSHALL HARRIS: As bow gunner up front I sat behind my 30 Cal. machine gun with a clear field of fire over the outcroppings and the swale, toward the airport, with only Japs coming at us, into our line of fire.  My weapon had no sight.  I just moved the muzzle right to left and back again, watching them fall.

CORNELIUS J. VANDERKOLK: As they got really close, we loaded canister shells into our 75mm howitzer, and fired it at them.

ORVIS WHITAKER: Up in the turret we used our 50 Cal. machine gun so much we had to change barrels on it.  Our two 30 Cal. machine guns were put to good use too.  Coming at us they could see our tracer bullets going at them.  But they just kept walking into the tracers.  At one point things got so tight we were using our rifles.  They were dropping like flies.  Our 75 mm howitzer loader got his eye put out in one firefight.

MARSHALL HARRIS:  That was Norm Slowe who got his eye put out when shrapnel off the turret ring put a metal sliver into his eyeball.  Don't pull it out, we can't, said Pappy Outen, our tank commander.  In the middle of firefight they pumped Norm with morphine, got him below where he lay for hours, and I climbed up into the turret and took over the 30 Cal. up there awhile.   WHITAKER and I were both behind the turret firing machine guns from there.      

ORIE F. MORGAN: In my amtank up north we were firing away, keeping the Japs off the Marine 37 mm gun sandbagged on shore, and also had guys outside the turret, trying to use it as a shield, fighting off Japs in the water below.  Tossing melting gun barrels over the side, they'd hiss and steam in the water below.  JACK BOUVY: I was atop Company Commander Major Bevans' amtank, firing my M-1 rifle from down behind the turret.  Stuff was flying.  Next morning I discovered what saved me, the SCR-300 radio strapped on my back to keep the Major on the radio net.  That's what saved me, the radio pack on my back was riddled with shrapnel.    

JERRY BROOKS: We were firing everything we had full bore.  The Howitzer was booming over my head.  Firing my bow 30 Caliber machine gun, I watched Japs coming into my tracers.  Many Japs got through or under our fire, firing so much stuff at us that it sounded like hailstones hitting all around us.  Japs got right up to the very nose of our tanks.  A few got in between them, surrounding us.  CORNELIUS J. VANDERKOLK: To get at them, I had to get out of the turret to fire the 50 caliber machine gun in wide and deep enough swinging arcs to get at them.  JERRY BROOKS: I saw him do it.  T o our immediate left, 10 yards away, his amtank sat right at the hottest point, the far flank, where Japs were converging from both directions.  When things got most tense, Lt. Vanderkolk jumped up out of the protective shield of his turret and got behind it so he could swing the 50 Cal. machine gun in deeper arcs that took down Japs the rest of us were missing.  He was the bravest man I ever saw.  How he survived that hailstone of Jap bullets I'll never know.  (Note : the significance of Lt. Vandekolk's actions in defense of his platoon can only be fully appreciated if one realizes that the turret of the LVT(A)4 amtank had no hatch.  The turret remained open on top.  An enemy soldier alongside could lob a grenade up and into that open turret, or climb aboard and drop it inside, killing the amtank's crew.)     

OLIE F. MORGAN: Two of us in Amtank #1 got out on top of our tank and behind the turret to watch for Japs that might get to our tank.  Just as day was breaking, and it was getting light enough to see, I had finished standing watch and gone back down inside the tank for a little rest, when I heard someone call Corpsman.  I grabbed a carbine and climbed back out through the starboard hatch.  A Jap shot at me, once twice again.  A bullet smashed my carbine.  Hitting the front end of its end of its stock, it splintered out just above the trigger guard, leaving some of the bullet exposed in the wood.  Another bullet going between my arm and body, tore a hole through my jacket sleeve.  Two of our men got hit.  One was in the water, wounded.  I reached down and gave him a hand up and onto the tank, and he got quickly down inside.  The other, laying on the engine housing behind the gun turret, was badly hurt, shot all the way through.  Hitting his left chest the bullet exited through his right shoulder blade. Looking up, I saw the Jap.  He stood off in the shadows of the seacliff firing at us.  I lay over the wounded guy, trying to protect him and keep him from falling off the back of the tank as it began moving, swinging around.  This exposed us both to the Jap rifleman at point blank range.  Seeing the jap there in the shadows, I thought I was a dead man.  All I could do was play dead, holding on to my wounded marine crewman.  I don't know to this day how that Jap missed us.  Perhaps another tank crew distracted him until we got by him.  Both of those two wounded men survived.  So it was one of our lucky days.

MARSHALL HARRIS: The firing stopped suddenly, leaving a long heavy silence.  I was stunned, couldn't believe what had happened, and what I'd done.  I dropped my chin to my chest, saying: Dear God, I'm sorry.  Someone heard me.  He reached into the front cab and put a hand on my shoulder.  You never get used to killing people.  Or maybe those who do are the ones in trouble.  And I was only 18 years old.  I remember thinking that at the time.  

GENERAL HOLLAND SMITH later called the first night Banzai attacks on Tinian “. . . one of the fiercest nights in the Pacific War and … most decisive . . . a quarter of the Japanese garrison on the island was killed that night, thus deciding the ultimate result of the battle.” 7/

JAMES D. MACKEY: We stopped most of them in their tracks before they reached our tanks.

CORNELIUS J. VANDERKOLK: But next morning, when the main battle was over, we discovered that we hadn't gotten them all by any means.  Japanese in the natural drainage ditch off to our right gave us a tough time for about fifteen minutes.  One was shouting in english that he would get one of us first.  Finally he stuck his head up to fire another round at us, and one of our boys got him.  He was only one of several.

JACK BOUVY: Next morning we had a lot of dead Japs in front of our tanks.  We had to check them out, and some weren't so dead.  I recall watching one of our radio men, Jerry Brooks, walking inland from the rocky shore looking for live Japs as if he was protected by some Guardian Angel.  And it turned out that he was.

JERRY BROOKS: We'd stopped their night Banzai charge right in front of our tanks along the shore, leaving an awful lot of dead Japs.  We got out of our tanks to dispatch any left who wanted to dance.  Suddenly, three shots rang out machine gun fast.  I swirled around and saw a Jap drop with the right quadrant of his skull missing, leaving some of its pink stuff on my left sleeve.  After I'd walked passed him, thinking him dead, he'd lunged at me from behind with a bayonet.  Our gunner Gordon Patterson from Lubbock Texas got him.  Gordon was an expert shot and a cool character, one hell of a Marine.  And the fastest gun in the West that day.  But three decades after that night on Tinian, when my grown son asked me who was the man I admired and respected most from among all the people I had ever known, the answer was easy, Cornelius Vanderkolk. ;

HAROLD ROSVOLD - Vanderkolk  became our Platoon Leader after Lt. Hersbrunner was wounded and evacuated from Saipan.  Like his predecessor, Lt. Vanderkolk was highly respected by his peers and even more so by all who served under him.  Cool demeanor, he always seemed to have things under control. One tough nut! 

Click Enlarges Jerry Brooks

Note: Jerry Brooks was awarded the Bronze Star for heroic action in saving the life of Gordon Patterson during the Battle of Iwo Jima.  (see photo on immediate left.)


On the lower left is turret gunner Gunnery Sergeant Gordon Patterson.

Bow Gunner/radioman in center of photo is Lou Laulive.

Jerry Brooks, the howitzer loader, is on the right .

Louis P. Tapio drove the Amtank Low-Gut that night.  In 1943 he'd lied about his age and joined the Marines with his buddy Clement Crazy Thunder.  Both were Oglala Sioux Indians, 17 years old, and right off the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.  Gunnery Sergeant Louis P. Tapio retired from the U.S Marine Corps in 1960 after serving on Saipan, Tinian, Iwo Jima, and in Korea.   

Major Ralph Bevan's, commander, Company C, that night on Tinian, later received a Silver Star for valor on Iwo Jima.

 Lt. Vanderkolk who commanded the platoon that night on the far left flank of the 24th Marines at Tinian earlier walked away from written contract offers from the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants to join the U. S. Marine Corps instead.  For more on Lt. Vanderkolk, Jerry Brooks, and Louis Tapio click on this website's banner labeled IWO JIMA.  

USMC photo on left shows COMPANY C Amtank C - 34 with its Hell's Angels Crew on Iwo Jima, namely - kneeling from left to right: John Feisley, Charlie Cuilla, "Tuck" Arrington, & Bill Dean - standing from left to right: Bernard Allen, Lloyd Burton, Bill Vigneau,Tex Wilburn, Red Chapman, & CJ Vanderkolk.

click to enlarge









Note: The site as drafted below is currently under construction both above and below

This FOOTNOTE 1 is adapted from article to be published in and IS CURRENTLY UNDER CONSTRUCTION.


The Tinian garrison was small.  It's four Imperial Japanese Army Infantry Battalions totaled 2442 men.  Three of these infantry battalions comprised 576 men each.  These belonged to the 50th Infantry Regiment.  The fourth battalion, the 1st battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment, included 714 men. A Naval Defense Force also anchored Tinian's defenses.  It totaled 1400 men who manned coastal defense guns as well as anti-aircraft guns that protected airfields. This force included the 56th Naval Guard Force (Keibitai) whose 950 men operated 1/ ten 140mm coastal defense guns, 2/ ten 120mm dual purpose guns, 3/ four 76.2mm dual purpose guns, and 4/ three British 6-inch coast defense guns.  Its 83rd AA Defense Unit had a roster of 50 men who operated six 75mm dual purpose guns.  Its third component, the 82th AA Defense Unit, comprising 200 men, manned twenty-four 25mm anti-aircraft guns.

These army infantry battalions and naval defense force, that altogether totaled 3,842 men, were supported by a Mobile Weapons Battalion culled from elements of the Infantry battalions.  It included the 50th Infantry Regiment's 360 man Artillery Battalion with twelve 75mm Mountain Guns along with three weapons platoons with six 70mm guns total, a 42 man Anti-tank Platoon with six 37mm guns, and a 65 man Tank Company with nine light tanks plus two amphibious trucks.  Thus a total of 4,309 men comprised Tinian's core defenders.  Ancillary personnel within the garrison comprised: a/ Air, Boat, and Construction Units totaling 2,510 men, and b/ Headquarters Staff, and Medical, Transport, Supply, Signal and Engineer units that added another 1,220 men.

A total force of 8,039 men defended Tinian when the US began its Saipan/Tinian Campaign on 11 June 1944.

Tinian's command structure was bifurcated.  Its headquarters located on Saipan was destroyed there before US forces invaded Tinian.  This left Vice Admiral Kakuji Kakuta, head the 1st Air Fleet, as Tinian's senior officer ashore.  But, after his air force was severely degraded by US air strikes on Tinian before 15 June then shattered days later at the 19-20 June Battle of the Philippine Sea, Admiral Kakauta removed himself from active command.  This left Army Col. Takaski Ogata, commander the 50th Infantry Regiment, in charge.  Col. Ogata proved himself an able commander.  The troops that he commanded proved themselves to be tough and disciplined fighters, resilient in the face of overwhelming adversity.


Several unusual factors deeply influenced the readiness and posture of Tinian's defense garrison.  The 1st battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment, was ashore by chance.  A Saipan garrison unit on maneuvers at Tinian, the battalion was stranded there after US forces struck both islands on 11 June.  The 50th Infantry Regiment, scheduled to depart for Rota on 15 June, was similarly stranded on Tinian.  Secondly, Tinian's garrison witnessed the slow and brutal destruction of its own Headquarters on Saipan along with their 30,000 comrades defending Saipan.  The garrison's front row seat on this cataclysmic event was unsettling to Tinian's defenders, given they were next up on the chopping block, and knew full well that the Japanese Mobile Fleet tasked to come to Saipan's rescue never arrived.  Thirdly, the island's heavy naval coastal defenses was largely in place and immovable from a practical standpoint before US Task Force 58's fast carrier air strikes first hit Tinian on 11 June.  From that day forward, US air and sea power (including submarines) cut off Tinian's defenders from reinforcement or resupply, while at the same time Tinian's defenses suffered more intensely focused bombardment during the ensuing 43 days before its invasion than any island in the Central Pacific Campaign.  This long term distillation of US combined arms on Tinian's small north end, including its two tiny white beaches where the Marines landed on D-day, greatly magnified the effectiveness of blowing the door open before the Marine shock troops seized the beachhead.

Thus, Tinian's conquest is best understood as a two phase campaign.  Phase one began on 11 June when US fast carrier aircraft struck Saipan and Tinian.  Saipan's conquest officially declared on 9 July ended Phase one.  This began Phase two which initially intensified earlier preparations for Tinian's invasion on 24 July.  Accordingly, Admiral Spruance's 5th Fleet Directive to Task Force 58 issued before the Saipan landing stated:

"Destroy enemy aircraft and aircraft operating facilities, and antiaircraft batteries interfering with air operations; Destroy enemy coast defense and antiaircraft batteries on SAIPAN and TINIAN; Burn cane fields in SAIPAN and TINIAN which may (conceal) enemy troops; Employ aircraft to destroy enemy defenses at SAIPAN, TINIAN...; Employ battleships and destroyers to destroy enemy defenses at SAIPAN and TINIAN."

Click to EnlargeSaipan's conquest also profoundly influenced Tinian's invasion.  Documents captured on Saipan detailed Tinian's defenses.  Because Tinian's air force, anti-aircraft defenses, and naval assets were destroyed early in the Saipan Campaign, US commanders could gather intelligence freely from the air and sea and use it to constantly refine battle plans and prep Tinian's battlefield, severely disrupting that garrison's effort to maintain, reinforce and repair defenses.  By 15 July Saipan based US Artillery, using this intelligence, had fired 7,500 shells at Tinian's north end as naval shells and airstrikes raked the island. Thereafter US Artillery fired 36,750 shells at Tinian's north end as US warplanes and ships smashed all known targets before Tinian's D-Day.  This disabled all known fixed shore gun batteries.  It tore up air and road transport and communications facilities.  It pounded Tinian Town into rubble.  Civilians fled into caves.  Exposed defenders, bereft of resupply, reinforcement or rescue, could expect death's arrival at any time from any direction.  Daylight road traffic brought down its own quick destruction.  Napalm bombs and phosphorus shells delivered from offshore or overhead worked to devastating effect, flushing Japanese infantry out into the open where follow on air bursts annihilated them.  For weeks death and destruction reigned.  As US forces, ensconced three miles offshore, refined their punishments, they relentlessly broke apart Tinian's defenses.  Dramatic results ensued.  Admiral Kakuta and staff, their air command shattered, tried to flee the island by inflatable raft to a submarine.  Each night from 15 to 22 July, they launched into the sea only to be forced back onshore.  Airman before were locked in a closet now.  Japanese solders said that Japanese Navy airman and sailors were so dispirited they fled to the hills with stolen Japanese Army provisions after their planes and ships were destroyed. 

The US G-2 Report of HQ, Expeditionary Troops, Task Force 56, 31 August 1944 concluded that: 

"Prior to our landings the enemy on Tinian had been subjected to six weeks of constant bombardment by naval gunfire, artillery emplaced on Saipan, and ship and shore based aircraft.  His positions were destroyed; his attempts to repair them were speedily discovered and rendered futile.  There was not the slightest possibility of reinforcement or evacuation.  Although no estimate of casualties during the preparatory phase is available, the experience on other enemy held islands subjected to shorter periods of bombardment indicates that a substantial percentage of his relatively small garrison must have been killed or wounded."

Lt. Col. E. G. Van Orman, USMC, Expeditionary Troops Naval Gunfire Officer added that: "The painstaking reduction of enemy defenses on Tinian ... left the enemy with almost no heavy instruments of defense and considerable reduced quantity of personnel."

A Japanese POW said: "You couldn't drop a stick without bringing down Artillery."

These events made history.  These first large scale joint operations of US Navy Fleets, Army and Marine Divisions and their Combined Supporting Arms against a large Central Pacific island pummeled Tinian for nearly six weeks with growing complexity and sophistication as the lessons learned at Saipan played into the remarkable success that culminated in the US amphibious landings on Tinian.  This in turn offered the ideal stage on which those same US forces refined and build upon their new found skills when, after breaking the back of the enemy on the morning after D-day, they pursued him across the open country of Tinian's interior plateau before they annihilated him in his cidadel of cliffs at Tinian's south end.  The results were startling and profound.  US naval gunfire was far more effective against Tinian than against Saipan.  Unlike Saipan, main battery pin point Naval Gunfire destroyed all known fixed targets, even those hardened against capital ship gunfire and land based air attack.  Unlike Saipan, US offshore but island based massed artillery pummeled Tinian long before Tinian's Jig-day.  It saturated Tinian's north end.  Long Tom artillery also reached far south.  Combined air and gunfire support was being refined into high art.  Air strikes, artillery, and naval gunfire worked in tandem.  Air power often took out what artillery couldn't reach.  Seaborne gunfire took out most of the rest.  Combined arms destroyed what was left.  Tinian's camouflaged fixed gun positions, exposed by radically new US napalm fire bombing, were quickly disabled by offshore shelling and/or overhead US carrier and Army air strikes.  Troops hidden in caves were routed out into the open where airbursts delivered from ships at sea, planes overhead or Saipan's artillery annihilated them.  Air, sea and ground communication linked within XXIV Corps Artillery on Saipan coordinated this dance with growing sophistication. 

So with a myriad of new skills US warriors deployed a variety of ordinance and delivery systems, each with different but complimentary capabilities, and worked those weapons in tandem to magnify and concentrate already awesome firepower.  Tinian's fixed defenses were destroyed.  Its mobile defenses were degraded.  Its ripped up communications went mute.    Its defenders, however tough and determined, were stunned.  What remained of enemy defenses on Jig-Day were dissipated to the point that otherwise vulnerable, weak, and untested amphibious landing techniques could deliver Marine Infantry with armored and logistical support over otherwise impossible beaches with the surprise and force necessary to establish a defensible beachhead under the cover of massive air, artillery and naval gunfire support.  Saipan's offshore presence and its hard earned lessons powered this result.  

Tinian's topography also worked to US advantage.  It dictated the Japanese commander's one-dimensional defense.  America's Marines had to be stopped at the beaches or all was lost.  Only Tinian's coastline that was rimmed with sea-cliffs, and its rough but strategically insignificant south end, offered major defensible positions that could severely punish an invader if not defeat him.  Unlike Saipan, where in-depth defenses dug into the reverse slopes of a rough elevated interior could punish the US invaders on the beaches or inland with near impunity, Tinian's narrow width and its open gently rolling or flat interior diluted a sustainable defense.  This limited the inland defenders ability to put concentrated mortar and artillery fire onto the landing beaches, or to thereafter defend their positions from stronghold fortresses inland.  Nor could Tinian's defenders concentrate fire on attackers who were forced to push inland through ravines that funneled them into narrow spaces laced with crossfire like had happened on Saipan.  The defenders' chance for victory vanished beyond any Marine beachhead.

Beyond any beachhead, the Japanese with their light infantry weapons - machine guns, mortars, and light anti-tank guns - had difficulty holding positions on Tinian's expanse of burnt over cane fields.  This was particularly so against US tracked armor whose freedom of maneuver beneath unchallenged US Airpower overhead easily outflanked entrenched defenders.  As if all this were not enough, US commanders magnified their advantage, combining tracked armor with artillery and naval gunfire coming at the defenders from all directions and angles, pummeling the ground ahead of Marine infantry advancing in overwhelming numbers behind battalions of land and amphibious tanks.  Simply put the Japanese were out gunned, out maneuvered, out numbered, and put at tremendous disadvantage, by the vast array of combined arms skillfully deployed by American forces operating on Japanese topography.

But Murphy's Law aided by the unexpected intervened on the Jig-Day beaches and beyond.  So, for example, after Jig-day, the primary resistance to the Marine advance down Tinian island was their own lack of situational awareness when moving through fields of dense high grown cane, acerbated by an apparent lack of post Jig-Day intelligence on the enemy's strength and deposition that combined with an odd inexplicable caution.  The resultant disorientation led to an awkward two days of a muscle-bound offensive that moved south too slowly and awkwardly to follow up on its overwhelming advantage.  Fortunately by then the Japanese were too weak and disorganized to mount an effective defense, much less counter-attack, until the Marines crossed into Tinian's south end.  There, amid a jungled landscape riddled with ravines and caves, but nothing of strategic value, the defenders found a last stand place that was ideal for a cornered and defeated army still seeking honor and retribution by its fight to annihilation.  Given Japanese valor, the Marines' last fight on Tinian would be vicious.


Click to EnlargeGiven that its major air base and artillery were up north close to Saipan, the bulk of Tinian's fixed coastal defense guns and anti-craft guns had long been dug into a lopsided triangle at Tinian's north end.  These key military assets and their command and control headquarters atop Mount Lasso were vulnerable to offshore attack, including from Saipan across a narrow sea channel giving direct access via Yellow Beach on its NE coast.  Once there, distances also remained short and offered the invaders several mutually supporting offensive options.  From Yellow Beach they could slice inland across one of Tinian's narrowest points, seizing the defenders headquarters atop Mt. Lasso along the way, before they sealed off the island's north end against defenders moving up from Tinian Town.  Simultaneously, they could wheel north toward Ushi Airfield.  And/or turn south to Faibus San Hilo Point on the island's NW side.  All these maneuvers could be supported by amphibious shock troops who broke down Tinian's back door, landing on the NW coast across the White Beaches to threaten the entire triangle, including Yellow Beach's defenders from the rear.  US Artillery on Saipan plus US air strikes and naval gunfire from offshore also covered all of these maneuvers.  And, once Yellow Beach and/or Ushi Airfield had been secured, they could be used to resupply a Marine offensive that pushed south down the island's center through its flat open country to seize Tinian Town and it's harbor from the rear.

Thus, very early on, Japan's Naval Defense Force dug roughly 70% of its fixed guns into 20% of Tinian's landmass, the triangle at its north end.  Anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns also defended Ushi Airfield at the triangle's apex.  Fixed guns within range of the White Beaches also reinforced the triangle's SW flank at Faibus San Hilo Point.  Coastal guns and machine gun revetments behind Yellow Beach and its heavily mined offshore waters guarded the Triangle's SE flank. The triangle's highland headquarters in the center was anchored by guns dug into Mount Lasso.  The bulk of Col. Ogata's infantry battalions and mobile armor and artillery were also positioned to support to these critical defenses.  He put three battalions near or within the Triangle.  These included his Reserve infantry battalion and Mobile Counter Attack battalion.  Only his fourth Infantry battalion was dedicated solely to the defense of the island's primary harbor at Tinian Town down south. Here, Tinian Town lay behind the four heavily mined beaches, but relatively few fixed coastal guns were available to defend these Beaches against hostile craft offshore.  Col. Ogata's placement of his Mobile Counter Attack Battalion within the island's center, however left him the option to send all (or otherwise apportion) his mobile artillery and armor north into the Triangle and/or south to Tinian Town to reinforce whichever beaches the enemy might choose as the primary point of attack.

On paper Col. Ogata plan retained maximum flexibility to re-enforce any point of enemy attack, but his choice of a command post was telling.  He put it atop Mt Lasso.  There he'd look down on Ushi Airport as well as the White and Yellow Beaches up north, and all seaward enemy approaches from the northeast and west, including their launch pads on Saipan's southwest coast, thus commanding what he must have considered his most strategic battlefield.  From there he'd have the view to instruct this mobile forces who'd await his orders to reinforce emplaced shore defenses once he'd assessed the enemy's strength and primary landing sites from his vantage point atop Mt Lasso. 

His was an intelligent plan.  It addressed the bad hand that fate had dealt him.  But surely he knew its grim limitations.  These limitations grew ever more apparent each day after 11 June when US fast carrier airstrikes destroyed the offensive capacity of Tinian's air force on the ground, and then by 15 June had destroyed the remnants of his airforce and its defenses, while the US 5th Fleet and its amphibious landings on nearby Saipan three miles away across the Saipan channel isolated Tinian from reinforcement and resupply.  Since then, and despite all of his efforts, Tinian's open geography and its small and highly limited garrison, and its isolation from reinforcement and resupply amid constant American bombardment, had left its defenders with only meager and desiccated tools of resistance and had shattered the means necessary to effectively marshal those tools.  In short Col. Ogata commanded a severely degraded and largely static one dimensional defense that confronted a multi-dimensional offense.  No one knew this better than Col. Ogata.  A month earlier his enemy had traveled across 4000 miles of open ocean and then landed (or feigned landings of) 60,000 men to defeat Saipan's 30,000 defenders while its fleet destroyed Japan's carrier air power in the Central Pacific.  Col. Ogata witnessed these events, from a ring side seat.  He'd watched his enemy deceive Saipan's defenders multiple times.  Indeed, his cohorts and commanders on Saipan had prepared an all out defense against a US landing in Magicienne Bay on Saipan's SE coast, only to be flummoxed by America's feign landing on its NW coast, before its US Marines had landed on its SW coast across a 10,000 yard front that comprised a peninsula flanked by eleven beaches.

So, surely beginning on 15 July, watching America arm and load a vast amphibious armada to invade his island while its ships, planes, and offshore artillery pummelled his island daily, Col. Ogata suspected that they'd use offshore amphibious maneuver to threaten all three Tinian landing sites and so spread then isolate the tattered remnants of his defenses at opposite ends and sides of the island, compounding the existential threat he faced, before they struck.  This was not rocket science.  It was a fundamental doctrine of amphibious assault: using seaward off-shore mobility to spread then surprise, exploit, and overrun fixed shore defenses, while the defenders' mobile forces are locked into positions elsewhere.

Here, on Tinian, that doctrine was a no-brainer.  The Americans using it against Tinian's north end and/or Tinian town could dilute beach defenses there by launching and/or threatening amphibious assaults on both sides and ends of the island while massed US artillery on Saipan three miles offshore hit already weakened defenders clustered on eight tiny beaches.  This combination of feign, maneuver, and combined arms concentrated on such small and isolated spaces magnified the power of light amphibious shock troops vis a vis their opponents at the whichever widely disparate points of entry the invaders chose.  This dramatically shifted the odds against the defenders.  It left those defenders clustered on tiny exposed beaches under attack, or madly rushing to get to the point of attack, where they'd win or lose the entire campaign within its first few hours against invaders operating under a plan that afforded them multible advantages.  Per the US plan, this would include massed firepower focused on two tiny points of entry ahead of and covering troops attacking those points, while it disguised that fact until after the assault troops had landed, busted through all beach defenses and begun a largely unopposed advance inland toward Col. Ogata's HQ atop Mt. Lasso. 

Col. Ogata, mulling over possibilities before his enemy showed its hand, surely knew he confronted a highly complex and existential threat.  He had far fewer men and weapons than defended Saipan.  Each of the three battalions within his 50th Infantry Regiment had originally possessed a gun platoon with two 70mm guns, and one battery of four 75mm mountain guns.  Hence he transfered these six 70mm guns, and twelve 75mm mountain guns plus one anti-tank platoon with six 37mm guns and a tank Company of 9 to 12 light tanks (or what was left of these units) to a "Mobile Counterattack Force" that was tasked to reinforce his defenders at the primary point of the US landings.  In addition to his mobile infantry weapons, his 56th Naval Guard force (Keibitai) had originally included twenty-four 25mm M96 dual mt guns manned by the 82nd Air Defense Group, and six dual purpose 75mm guns manned by the 83rd Air Defense Group.  His Naval Defense Force also manned the island's ten fixed 140mm coast defense guns, ten 120mm dual purpose guns, and three 6 inch British 1905 naval guns. At the conclusion of the battle, US force found the these weapons installed around the Tinian as plotted from ground observation by JICPOA from 24 July to 5 August, 1944:

Below 5 items are Currently under constructioin

1/ Ushi Point - Three 140mm Naval coastal defense guns, three 120mm dual purpose Naval guns, six 75mm dual purpose (AA) guns, fifteen 25mm Naval twin mounted AA guns, four 20mm automatic cannons, and eight 13mm anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns,

2/ Yellow Beach / Asiga Bay - Four 140mm Naval M3 coast defense guns, three covered Naval 76.2mm dual purpose guns, one covered 37mm M94 anti-tank gun, twenty-three pillbox machine gun revetments behind beach, plus unknown number of guns of Mt. Lasso's eastern slopes,

3/ White Beaches incl. Faibus San Hilo Point - three 140mm Naval coast defense guns, three 75mm mountain guns, two 75mm M94 mountain HOWs, two 70mm HOWs, two 76.2mm Naval M 10 dual purpose guns, two 47mm anti-tank guns, two 37mm anti-tank guns, one covered 37mm M94 Anti-tank gun, two 7.7mm M 92 MGs in pillbox, plus unknown number of guns on or below Mt. Lasso's western slopes.  These guns included:

       A1/ Those guns clustered at White Beach One, namely two 76.2mm Naval M 10 dual purpose guns, and,

       A2/ Those guns within near range of White Beach One - Seven 25mm M 96 dual mountain guns implaced at west end of nearby Ushi Airfield, and

       B1/ Those guns clustered at or just behind White Beach Two - one covered 37mm M94 AT, and two 7.7mm M 92 MGs in pillbox, and

       B2/ Those guns within near range of White Beach Two - three 140mm Naval coast defense guns, two 75mm M94 mountain HOWs, Three 75mm mountain guns, two 70mm HOWs, two 47mm Anti-Tank guns, one 37mm Anti-Tank gun, and 3 empty gun implacements each 25 feet in diameter.

4/ Gurguan Point Airfield - three 120mm dual purpose Naval guns, nine 25mm Naval M 96 dual purpose mt guns, plus empty blockhouse

5/ Tinian Harbor, behind or flanking four landing beaches -

       a/ Empty 75 mm blockhouse behind Orange Beach, the northernmost beach,

       b/ two 25mm M96 dual mt behind Red Beach, the next beach south,

       c/ one 25mm M96 dual mt gun behind Green Beach, the next beach south,

       d/ three 25mm M96 dual mounted guns in Tinian Town proper,

       e/ one 75 M94 mountain HOW behind Blue Beach, the southernmost beach, and

       f/ three covered 6 inch British naval guns and one covered 75mm mountain gun directly behind southernmost beach plus four 120mm M 10 dual purpose Naval guns 7000 yards behind the southernmost beach on Tinian's west coast, and 3000 yards inland from Tinian's east coast.

Recall the Mobile Counterattack Force that comprised the 50th Infantry Regiment's six 70mm guns, twelve 75mm mountain guns, its anti-tank platoon'd six 37mm guns, plus a tank Company of 9 to 12 light tanks. Recall that all ten 140 naval coast defense guns were fixed in defense of Tinian's north end, three defended the White Beaches, three defended USHI Airfield and three defended Yellow Beach in Asiga Bay.  Recall that Japan's Naval 76.2mm fixed coastal artillery also defended Tinian's north end, two behind White Beach One; the rest at Yellow Beach within Asiga Bay.  Recall the ten naval coast defense 120mm dual purpose guns, how three defended Ushi airfield and also White Beach one, three defended Gurguan Airfield in central Tinian, and four were fixed 3000 yards inland from Tinian's SE coast some 7000 yards from Tinian Town. Recall the three 6 inch 1905 British built Naval Coast defense guns behind Tinian Town southernmost landing beach. Thus Col. Ogata may have shifted three of his ten Mobile Counter attack artillery pieces to Tinian Town before Jig-Day, given the lack of coastal beach gun defenses directly behind those four landing beaches. 


Whatever his ambitions, however, by 7 July, Col. Ogata held instead a static and far less defensible position already in tatters.  He held it against a far more seasoned, powerful and mobile force of combined arms than had conquered Saipan.  One that now need only travel across a three miles of water to attack under the cover of the greatest massed firepower ever assembled against 2000 yards of landing beaches in the history of war.  America was in the Catbird Seat.  And knew what it was doing.  America's offense had already robbed him of all his airpower and all but two still hidden heavy fixed coastal gun batteries.  And left him with a garrison already weakened by substantial casualities.  A garrison left isolated with threadbare resources incapable of replenishment, replacement, or resupply.  A garrison left with only a meager chance for a mutually supportive, mobile, coordinated, and interlocking defense, but instead spread thin among numberous exposed and distant points, all heavily compromised amid a raft of worse case scenarios, that forced him into stark choices based on little more than speculation, until it was too late.  And he knew it.

Given these grim realities Col. Ogata exhorted his men to defeat the enemy at the waters' edge.  Despite his limitations he worked feverishly toward that end, trying to rebuild and reinforcing his defenses with what little he had left at all three possible landing sites.  Most likely he expected America's primary landing sites to be at Tinian town on the SW coast and/or Yellow Beach on the NE coast  with secondary landings across the White Beaches.  For, despite the obvious advantages of the White Beach location, their narrow width would force an invaders' amphibious waves into a weak series of minor assaults that would take too long to land an overpowering primary force there as it would risk that force being chopped up in detail before sufficient assets got ashore to overpower emplaced defenses, and hold against counter attack.  (Here Col. Ogata underestimated the brilliant innovations and and bold nature of the US Marines, and their leaders)   Hence too, however, it was reasonable for Col Ogato to conclude that White Beach landings would likely support a main US landing on Yellow Beach a few miles distant on the NE coast.  For Col. Ogata likely believed that if the Marines did land there, they'd also land tertiary forces on the White Beaches to attack the rear of his Yellow Beach defenders, and/or veer them north to attack Ushi Airflield, particularly if its defenders left it to support Yellow Beach.  For, however small such landings might be, their locale was ideally suited to support the Marines' primary force landing on Yellow Beach.  Such a rear guard action would sow then spread confusion among his Yellow Beach defenders, and exploit the resultant weaknesses that it exposed in their defenses.  Thus the possibility of landings across the White Beaches could not be dismissed or ignored.  The threat demanded an adequate defense instead.

Conversely, because White Beach landings up north didn't directly support a Tinian Beach landing down south, Col. Ogata almost surely suspected that the primary US landings on Tinian would be across Yellow Beach up north supported by secondary White Beach landings, and vice versa, irrespective of happenings off Tinian Town.  This was obvious.   Any prime landings that were limited to Tinian Town would strip America of its most powerful weapon, US artillery massed on Saipan's southwest coast, while allowing Japan's defenders to concentrate on America's single point of entry.  For America to strip its massed artillery cover off its amphibious landings against the full force of Japanese defenders on island was unnecessary and negligent in the extreme, given US capabilities.  Col. Ogata, a witness to the capabilities of the forces that opposed him, also knew that if he rushed all his mobile forces to engage the Marines at Tinian Town at the battle's opening, he'd put his island's most strategic asset, its north end, in great and irrevocable peril.  Indeed, he'd already stripped Tinian Town's beach defenses to a bare minimum, and now he had even less to spare, save only mines, machine guns in open trenches, and a battery of three coastal guns that somehow had not yet been dectected by the enemy offshore.  So on 7 July he left Tinian Town in tatters for lack of any choice, given his meager resources, down to his remainding hidden coastal battery there, and the possibility of rushing the remnants of his mobile artillery there should America land at Tinian Town to the total exclusion of its north end. 

Still, despite his plan, he was also painfully aware of his limited mobility.  His daylight use of Tinian's roads to quickly reinforce any beach under attack exposed his forces in transit to their rapid destruction from US Air, Artillery and Naval Gunfire.  This destruction had been going on for weeks.  His only practical defense diluted his rapid mobility, forcing daylight reinforcements off road, where they had to move covertly, slowly, under high grown cane and jungle canopy, and then assemble in camouflaged positions near the Marine beachhead for night attacks against an enemy who'd gained lodgment ashore.

Thus every beach on Saipan, on both coasts up north, and the several beaches around Tinian Town, required a defense if only to prevent the invaders from establishing an impenetrable beachhead before Japanese reinforcements arrived on the scene.  And Col. Ogata chose to put the majority of his weapans and forces at the place he could least afford to loss, the strategic north end of Tinian.  Hence, on 7 July Col. Ogata issued his Plan for the Guidance of Battle ordering the defense of all beaches.  He ordered his forces to prepare for landings at Yellow Beach in Asiga Bay on Tinian's northeast coast, and at the Tinian Town beaches in Sunharon Bay on its southwest coast, and to prepare for counter attacks against an invasion across the White Beaches on Tinian's northwest coast.  (see A Close Encounter: The Marine Landing on Tinian, Marines in World War II Commemorative Series, published by History and Museum Section, Headquarters, US Marine Corps, 1994)  And it's why Col. Ogata placed his fixed heavy weapons flanking all landing beaches.  (See above --- ) This included the White Beaches.  And it's why, what every was left of his mobile forces on D-Day had to play an absolutely critical roll no matter where the enemy landed.

((( Edit and INSERT HERE altered Text -  initially to defend the White Beaches, To defend the White Beaches, Col. Ogata emplaced three 140-mm. coastal defense guns on its south flanks at ... (Redo --- , two 75-mm. mountain guns, two 7.7-mm. heavy machine guns in pillboxes, one 37mm. covered antitank gun, two 13-mm. antiaircraft and antitank machine guns, two 76.2-mm. dual-purpose guns, and three 120-mm. naval and dual-purpose guns, as well as two 47-mm. antitank guns, one 37-mm. antitank gun, and five 75-mm guns behind or within range of the White Beaches.  These weapons were similar to those that had ripped into Marines coming ashore at Tarawa, and they were reinforced by heavily mining the White Beaches in depth.  Mines here were an ideal component of a White Beach defense, as it saved critically limited personnel for Col. Ogatas mobile defense.  Mines also would delay the enemy's landing and lodgement ashore, giving Col. Ogata's mobile forces more time to counter a White Beach landing.)))

Accordingly, Col. Ogata's 7 July "Plan for the Guidance of Battle" ordered his troops to counter attack on White Beach 2 if necessary, and he placed ample reserves and mobile forces nearby to assure a reinforced counter-attack.  Thus he prepared as best he could for a defense of the White Beaches. But, given the many risks he confronted, and the "Robbing of Peter to Pay Paul Trade-Offs" that were required to shift his meager forces among the alternative and simultaneous threats that confronted him, it's easy to see why Col. Ogata heavily defended as best he could all of the Tinian's beaches.  And why he reacted as he did to the battlefield that unfolded before him at dawn on Tinian's D-day - when a sea of enemy amphibious forces showed up off the two White Beaches up north and off Tinian Town beaches down south. 

Click enlarges Saipan Arty hits TinianSurely Col. Ogata was dismayed, seeing these two armadas assemble at dawn, creating threats at opposite ends of the island's west coast.  This thwarted any hope that he might concentrate his mobile forces to meet the invaders when fully exposed trying to get ashore at a single point.  Likely too he had fervently hoped for a single landing at Tinian Town.  This would have deprived his attackers of their artillery massed on Saipan that could cover all northern landings, and it also would have left Col. Ogata's defenders at Tinian Town beyond the range of that American artillery when defending the beach and later when trying to block any enemy advance northward.

Likely too, seeing that amphibious force gather off the White Beaches, one far larger than the one off Tinian Town, confirmed Col. Ogatas' earlier fears but surprised him as well.  Where was the Yellow Beach landing force?  Surely it would come, given the massive presence off the White Beaches.

But, in any case, what confronted Col. Ogata that morning - the vast array of enemy weapons, the depth and power of enemy forces, and their many options of attack - was sure proof that the enemy invaders would avoid a single frontal assault against Tinian's strongest point, and would make multiple landings that spread and diluted his mobile defenses instead.  Likely this fear had long nagged Col. Ogata.  His deposition of shoreline and mobile defenses, and their constant reinforcement and repair up to the eve of D-Day, make this clear.  For weeks he had expected attacks across multiple landing sites, and knew that any singular Tinian Town defense was not only a false hope, but a Fool's Errant.  A full defense there down south at Tinian Town foreclosed his ability to defend the White and Yellow Beaches and thus invited unopposed enemy landings on the island's north end, a result tantamount to a fool's suicide.  Given his war record in Manchuria and Tinian, a self-inflicted death wound without the glory of battle was surely not in Col. Ogata's play-book.  A big surprise, however, still awaited the Colonel that morning.


Col. Ogata's dilemma also explains General Holland Smith's focus on Tinian's north end from the start of US planning on Hawaii in February.  Of course, the Marine General saw a mirror (reverse) image of the same problem.  What he saw on first impression likely were nearly impenetrable fortress walls guarding the island's benign interior.  This meant a beach fight.  But where?  Meanwhile, however, Japan's artillery and airfield on Tinian's north end posed an immediate and grave threat to General Smith's Marines landing on Saipan and all later operations there or in the vicinity. That threat had to be eliminated first. A flip side was also realized. Once southern Saipan was under US control, US artillery there could neutralize Tinian's north end indefinitely while the US prepped its battlefield for later invasion, and thereafter provide massive firepower to support the seaborne assault onto Tinian's northern beaches across three miles of open water.  So Admiral Spruance's 5th Fleet Directive to Task Force 58, setting priorities before Saipan's D-day, mandated that US naval and air forces first destroy enemy artillery, facilities and defenses on SAIPAN AND TINIAN.

As the Saipan campaign wore down, the lessons of its D-Day assault sharpened and magnified this original US strategic focus on Tinian's north end.  Saipan's D-Day flanking fire that torn into the Marines' beach assault had heightened General Holland Smith's concern over the gun infested ramparts that flanked the Yellow Beach up north and the Tinian Town beaches down south, raising the Ghosts of Tarawa.  There at Betio naval gunfire was far less than effective against that small atoll's beach front machine gun revetments.  Nor had the US naval gunfire alone (without artillery) protected his Marines landing on Saipan, against Saipan's vast corrugated expanse of reverse slope mortar and artillery fire that chopped up his Marines landing on Saipan.  Holland Smith took those unexpected casualities due over oversighs in his plans personally.  Hence the tenuous exits off all beaches waved big red flags.  Beach entrapment on Saipan had unnecessarily killed Marines, and stymied assaults.  Holland Smith did not repeat mistakes.  He learned from them, adjusted to them, and flipped them to future advantage.  So "His Marines" had to push quickly through the Tinian beaches, hitting hard inland to survive then hold then win.  So, here too, the White Beach conundrum, it's paradox of risk and opportunity, confronted the highly experienced, blooded, and nuanced amphibious eyes of Holland Smith and his staff.

For, more than any warrior afloat, Holland Smith had learned that whatever can go wrong during amphibious assault usually will, particularly the unexpected.  Untested assumptions, whether large or small, could not be tolerated. Even small problems on landing beaches can, interacting among themselves for cumulative effect, easily unravel an assault, conflating it into a debacle.  Holland Smith believed that his job was to do his absolute best to erase or otherwise limit, defuse and control, those risks, thereby protecting his Marines, while giving them the best chance to magnify and/or fllp such details or unexpected events in ways that empowered this Marines to accomplish their mission with the best result at the lowest risk and cost.  Surely thus, for example, the Marine General knew the historic lesson of Thermopylae, how the narrow confines of a small pass allowed 300 Spartans to hold off a massive Persian Army, and its relevance to the small breaks in Tinian's natural shoreline defenses, particularly at the White and Yellow Beaches.  But General Holland Smith knew that the most powerful antidote in July 1944 to error, false assumption, vulnerability, and Murphy's Law, all unbiquitous in amphibious assault, was his application of overwhelming and obliterating firepower concentrated on the smallest possible point of attack.  Holland Smith's fierce resolve to protect and empower his Marines landing on Tinian grabbed the Tinian problem and shook out its crux solution amid of a clash of realities, power politics, human foibles, and conflicting interests to force a hard but brilliant judgement amid high stakes fit only for high command.  How alluring then might the sirens song of the deadly Tinian Town Beaches have appeared, a commander's conventional, thus easy, way out, beyond reproach.  Not likely for Holland Smith.  Or his Marines.

No, surely Holland Smith discerned from the start what proved to be Saipan's greatest gift to the Marines amphibious landing on Tinian.  Saipan's 156 heavy artillery pieces emplaced less that four miles offshore Tinian, pre-registered with deadly accuracy, combined with joint US air strikes and naval gunfire, could obliterate the risk posed by those tiny White Beaches (and Col. Ogata's HQ on elevated ground behind them), hitting them from every quadrant and elevation before his Marines landed, during their landing, and thereafter throughout the campaign.  Holland Smith had preached naval gunfire and nearby land based artilltery support for amphibious landings since the 1920s, yet Betio only months earlier had jolted his long held doctrine into absolute necessity, driving solutions proven at Kwajalein Atoll.  There, both offshore artillery and naval gunfire for the first time had pummelled tightly clustered atoll defenses into junk before the Marines landed, unlike Tarawa.  Now Saipan's size and topography had just offered a new set of lessons against which Kwajalein Atoll's solutions were, unfortunately, not fully effective.  For Holland Smith, these brutal facts and painful lessons had seared gunfire support doctrine, if only theory before Tarawa, into a moral imperative now at Tinian.  Here he had massive artillery in place, offshore.  Here he had the precious time to refine and concentrate all his vast array of combined arms against small but potentially deadly targets.  Here his White Beach Marines might also gain the chance for tactical surprise.  These latest painful lessons of war, alongside his relentless quest to protect and empower Marines, kept Holland Smith and his staff working the White Beach problems until all obstacles and objections, from whatever quarter or rank, were overcome.  

So when Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner insisted on landing at Tinian Town without land based artillery support but over beaches bristling with hardened defenses, General Holland Smith's judgment hardened into an implacable resolve amplified by the Navy's earlier intransigence that had forced "his Marines" to forfeit offshore artillery at Tarawa and unduly quickened the pace of naval gunfire prep at Sapain.  So push came to shove, "Howling Mad" going toe to toe with "Terrible" Turner.  The Admiral later claimed his initial rejection of White Beaches was to insure improved plans by his subordinate.  Likely what really happened on that fateful day 12 days before the Tinian landing was that after two years of continuous, brutal combat, the Marine Corps in the person of Holland Smith came of age, big enough push back against the US Navy, protect all legitimate interests, and win.  To demand and achieve this solution absent a collateral assault on Yellow and/or the Tinian Town beaches, to put the campaign's entire assault into these two tiny baskets, was a remarkable display of decisive leadership and command.  Particularly because nothing having to do with amphibious landing is ever a sure thing.

Thus the known means by which to secure a beachhead by amphibious assault in 1944 expanded dramatically on Tinian.  There, in late July of 1944, amphibious warfare came of age.  The joint forces of the US Army, Navy and Marine Corps, using a dazzling array of complementary weapons and maneuvers, prepared the battlefield and suddenly amassed the great power and tactical surprise necessary to project landing forces with sufficient logistic support across two of Tinian's otherwise impossible beaches then thrust inland to secure a beachhead defensible against a fierce Japanese counter attack.  The irreplaceable key was flipping the two tiny beach handicap into sudden advantage, using blinding firepower distilled onto such a small space that the defenders means to resist were obliterated.  It's what Holland Smith always wanted for his Marines landing in the Central Pacific.  After Tarawa he got it for Kwajalein Atoll.  On Jig Day at Tinian he got it for Tinian, but only after painful initial gunfire support shortcomings at Saipan.  So it was never easy.  All the flyers, sailors, soldiers, marines, Seebees, engineers, logisticians, planners, whole rafts of warriors with ever expanding sets of new tools and skills, still had to do the rest, much of it never done or tried before.  The growing complexities of amphibious war as offset by elegant solutions found at Tinian boggle the imagination. 

Some footnotes to Footnote 1 (c) above EDITED 6/28:  

Despite the fierce exchanges of views that resulted in a brilliant solution, contradictory testimony remains on what US Forces knew or discovered about the deposition of Japanese defenses on Tinian, for example:

"Landings were possible in only three areas: in the vicinity of Tinian Town, on the east coast of island (at Yellow Beaches), and on west coast, near northern tip (White Beaches)In an apparent miscalculation of (our) intentions, the enemy gave his greatest attention of the development of beach defenses at Tinian Town ... Yellow Beach was also well defended ... but the enemy appears to have given relatively little attention to the possibility of our landing in the White Beach areas, and the few defenses installed there, consisting of a small number of pill boxes and underdeveloped trench systems, were entirely nullified prior to our attack ... Judging that our landings would be at Tinian Town and possibly Yellow Beach (with little likelihood that White would be used), the enemy appears to have a mobile defense of the island, making use of flat terrain in the waist of the island and large numbers of Tanks.  The possibility remains that the enemy moved his mobile defenses to the Mount Lasso line when our intentions were finally defined, because the White Beach areas remained under Artillery and mortar fire on J-Day and J-plus 1."   G-2 Report, Forager Operation, HQ, Expeditionary Troops, Task Force Fifty-Six, 31 August 1944.

Written 37 days after the extensive Japanese defenses around the White Beaches were fully known, this statement is remarkable.  Indeed Admiral Hill, who commanded Tinian's amphibious operations, stated later that all fixed enemy gun emplacements were definitively known and destroyed by D-Day save for the three 6 inch shore guns behind Tinian Town that reeked so much havoc on the Battleship Colorado and its screen destroyer.  This powered much of General Holland Smith's resolve to force the White Beach solution.   Similarly strange is the lack of reference to the heavy mining of the White Beaches, including White 1 where many mines likely were not fully armed on Jig-day, thus inadvertently neutered.  Also odd is the reference to the enemy's "large number of Tanks" which in fact amounted to 9 light Tanks going up against two full battalions of US Marine Sherman Tanks.  The next statement - The great power massed in support of (our) landings had the effect of rendering enemy defenses of any kind ineffectual - is accurate but for the mining of White 2, and fiercely effective enemy resistance magified by the swale emptying into the sea 75 yards north of White Beach 1.  Otherwise it states the single essential fact of the entire Tinian Campaign.  One borne out of General Holland Smith's fierce resolve.  Without it, the Tinian landing would today almost surely hold an altogether different place in the history of the US war against Japan in the Pacific.  

Still, given the intelligence at hand, the WHITE BEACH landings could never be a sure thing.  Admiral Turner's concern about the direct exposure of the White Beaches to the vagaries of incoming open ocean storms and currents proved very legitimate.  Squall whipped coastal currents flowing north bedeviled the invaders from the start to the finish of the campaign.  Mines hidden on the WHITE BEACHES and the camouflaged coast defenses guns" at FAIBUS POINT defending the White Beaches were discovered by chance only hours before Jig-Day.  Only the guns were successfully destroyed.  Some snakes will crawl from their woodpile only after it's lit afire.  Hence Jig-Day's surprise shelling of USS Colorado and its destroyer off Tinian Town.  The surprisingly stubborn defense of the seaward flank north of White Beach 1.  The detonating mines that halted the initial Marines landings on White Beach 2.  The bad reef access off White Beach 2 that thwarted getting vital heavy equipment such as tanks into the fight early.  Communications snafus, mechanical breakdowns, and offshore traffic confusion similarly delayed the 4th Marine Division's reserve regiment getting ashore and into the fight early.  These "Murphys' Laws of Combat" reaffirmed the limits of US intelligence, and the insidious nature of the risks inherent in amphibious assaults, including how hard it is to anticipate and counter risks before troops hit heavily defended beaches.

So the later reports that faulted the insufficient training of airborne spotters to discern the telltale signs of enemy camouflage point to the hard reality of ever present hidden risks of amphibious operations.  At Tinian for example these included not only camouflaged fixed coastal guns but the substantial possibility of hidden mobile enemy artillery pre-registered for massed fire on the tiny WHITE BEACHES.  Such "snakes" too often can't be known until battle reveals their hideous nature in all its guises, and others remain hidden absent the deep and ofttimes lucky prior experience of commanders.  The latter included the threat of the debilitating affect of Tinian's high grown cane on offensive maneuver and thrust beyond the initial beachhead.  And the innocent looking swale that lifted its ugly head as a potent offensive and defensive weapon, first in the hands of the enemy defending the north seaward flank on Jig-Day, and then before dawn on Jig-Day+1 when the enemy counter-attacked the Marine defenders of that same left seaward flank as well as the center of the Marine beachhead perimeter some some 1500 yards inland.  How does one anticipate such hidden threats?  Once unveiled, what are the antidotes?  Perhaps it's a combination of judgements from lessons earlier learned mixed with an imagination honed by such experience when assessing available intelligence and doing the same while considering possible countermeasures, that must be fed into command decisions.  Reef landing requirements for dozers and tanks, and swales, got more planning attention after the White Beach operations.

Perhaps, too, Tinian's greatest lesson is its operational plan built by design to overcome both known and unknown risks that might stand in the way of securing an initial defensible beachhead and aggregating therein the power to hold it then win the battle.  If one now tries to sort out and then put in place and analyze on a simulated battlefield the interactive array of the plan's many elements that drove its operation - its timing and sequence of actions, the multiplicity and flexibility of all of its elememts, and the kinetic interaction and shift of all their movements and options - weapons and logistics, firepower and feign - along with the capabilities thus generated and their cumulative results on the risks of the assault as they unfolded - such a study helps to reveal the true brilliance of the Tinian operation.  

For perspective, the value of Saipan's lessons are vividly illustrated by the US assessment of Tinian Defenses just before Saipan.  For example:

"b. Defensive Organization ... (1) General ... subsection (b) the precipitous nature of the shoreline of TINIAN has enabled the enemy to concentrate his defenses in the interior of the island, which is more generally covered by gun positions than the interior of Saipan ... (c) beach defenses, consisting chiefly of machine guns and pillboxes are in the vicinity of beaches near Tinian Town.  (d) Some trenches are placed along portions of the northern coastline, apparently to deny attempts to scale the low bluffs in the vicinity, but few machine gun or pillboxes are identified except at USHI point." (insert citation)

Subsection 1 (b) is false.  Subsections 1 (c) and (d) are grossly incomplete.  This is understandable before Saipan, given the distance of US reconnaissance assets from the target, the nascent state and hurried manner of US Navy photo intelligence, and its lack of interpretative experience, at the time.  In short, most US personnel, including the highest ranks, began the Saipan Campaign at the low end of a steep learning curve but gained vast experience during the battle for Saipan given its size and complexity that they applied to the lead up for and the landings across the White Beaches.  Hence the remarkable success by all relevant standards of Tinian's amphibious assault.  But the operation wasn't perfect or even close, as often claimed.  Amphibious assault doesn't work that way.  Therein lies the measure of the true achievement of the US Marine landings on Tinian.  And why the campaign deserves such study now.            



On 11 June 1944 US fast carrier TASK FORCE 58 began naval air strikes against airfields, artillery and anti-aircraft batteries on Tinian's north end.  70 of Tinian's 107 plane air force were disabled.  On 13 June TASK FORCE 52 naval gunfire ships started shelling Tinian's airfields and artillery.  From and after Saipan's 15 June D-Day, US destroyers used counter battery fire and hit targets of opportunity to suppress enemy activity on Tinian that threatened US forces conducting operations against Saipan. On 22 June a US Army 155mm "Long Tom" artillery battery on Saipan began its systematic destruction and counter battery fire against military targets on Tinian.  On 24 June the Battleship COLORADO shelled Tinian's airfields and another two Saipan 155mm artillery batteries began shelling Tinian, bringing four offshore batteries into continuous action against Tinian.  US Navy fire ships also circled the island daily.  Targeting road traffic and other targets of opportunity by day, they also harassed Tinian Town and road junctions by night.  

Beginning on 27 June the Cruisers INDIANAPOLIS, BIRMINGHAM, and MT. MONTPELIER struck Tinian daily.  Using deliberate special mission pinpoint fire they destroyed all known naval gunfire military targets by 7 July.  On 8 July three more US artillery battalions joined the four offshore artillery battalions that pummelled Tinian daily, and Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, Commander, TASK FORCE 51, directed Admiral Harry Hill to prepare plans for seizing Tinian.

With Saipan declared secure on 9 July, US operations entered Phase-Two that focused on seizing Tinian.  On 13 July Gen. Holland Smith's V AMPHIBIOUS FORCE ordered the 4th Marine Division to land on the WHITE BEACHES, push inland to an O-1 line that included Mt. Maga, then thrust east across the island, seizing the enemy HQ atop Mt. Lasso before it established a Force Beachhead Line anchored by Faibus San Hilo Point on its west coast and Asiga Point on its east coast.  These orders included findings by Gen. Holland Smith, CO Expeditionary Forces, and Admiral Harry Hill, CO Amphibious Landing Force, that drove these preparations and shaped the battlefield, and dealt with major challenges posed by the decision to land on the White Beaches namely:

a/ the beaches' extremely narrow length and width acerbated by offshore and onshore mines as well as coral obstacles on the beaches and their flanks, and

b/ their choppy offshore ocean currents (easily whipped up by incoming ocean storms) that could thwart the landing, turn it into a debacle, or prevent the landings' timely aggregration of troops, weapons and follow on supplies to assure victory.

So, like at Saipan (but for different and novel reasons), these challenges forced the Marine attack into a series of weak and time consuming waves of assault that would expose the invaders to destruction by enemy fire before enough Marines got ashore to overpower the beach defenders, expand the landing beaches into a defensible beachhead, defeat any counter-attack, and then push rapidly inland to clear out more distant artillery and mortar fire onto the beachhead.  To neutralize these threats, General Holland Smith and Admiral Harry Hill's findings mandated the following overarching solutions:

1/ From and after 13 July not less than 10 days of intense naval gunfire and carrier air strikes and Saipan based heavy artillery shelling and air strikes before the Landings (and thereafter during the landings) were essential to land, seize and hold the White Beaches. US bombardment had to be sufficiently powerful and concentrated before and during the landings to altogether neutralize effective enemy resistance on the beaches and their approaches as well as nearby coastal guns and more distant inland artillery and mortar fire within range of the beaches.

2/ The clearance of anti-boat mines and coral outcroppings from the 60 yard wide White Beach I and 120 yard wide White Beach 2 before landing to assure rapid beach clearance for the prompt passage of troops, tracked armor and critical supplies across the beaches so as to quickly move these combat elements and supplies off the beaches and into the fight inland.

3/ Two Armored Amphibian Tank Battalions would reinforce the 4th Marine Division.  2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion was designed to take the leading roll.  Its Company D would to lead the 1st assault wave against the White Beaches with its 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion cohort Company C in reserve for follow on Jig-day action.  These amtank Companies were deemed critical to engage and defeat an enemy 1st day and/or night shoreline flank attack, whether that attack be seaborne or by infantry across shallow waters just offshore.  The threat from the flanks and its counter tactics were deemed critical based on the experience of action south of Garapan against the 2nd Marine Division in the northern sector during the Saipan Campaign.  The small size of Tinian's White Beaches (and their consequent beachhead), as well enemy troop dispositions at Ushi Airfield, magnified this seaward threat exponentially.

4/ A US Army Engineering Battalion was to reinforce the 4th Marine Division assault elements.  Its task was to assist the Marine Engineering Battalion in the critical job of quickly widening and clearing the beaches immediately upon landing so as to expedite the landing and push inland by all elements and their resupply, most particularly the Division's Tank and pack howitzer Battalions as reinforced by their sister units from the 2nd Marine Division; the findings also attached additional DUKW and LVT landing craft battalions to the 4th Marine Division to assure seaborne lift of troops and suppies to support the assault.

5/ A three day favorable weather forecast from and after Jig-Day was required plus a contigency for pre-prepared air drop resupply of specified tonnages from Saipan onto Ushi Airfield thereafter if necessary should bad weather close down the White Beaches to traffic from offshore.

6/ Only then could the 4th Fourth Marine Division land on Jig Day with two days supplies across the White Beaches, and the 2nd Marine Division land on Jig-Day plus One followed by the resupply of another two days of water, rations, and ammunition for those two infantry divisions on Jig-Day plus Two, all delivered directly from Saipan and carried across the beaches directly to dumps established inshore as facilitated by a prefabricated pontoon causeway promptly installed off each beach to offload wheeled trucks and other vehicles from LSTs sailing directly from Saipan.

These findings built the foundation under a scheme of amphibious assault and logistics that magnified the cover for the approach and landing of otherwise light amphibious forces.  It also magnified the firepower, mobility, armor and staying power of those forces once ashore to seize then establish a defensible beachhead, repulse any counter-attack then push rapidly inland.  Thus Tinian suffered more bombardment before its invasion than any Central Pacific island with dramatic results.  The US enhanced those results by threatening Jig-Day landings over all Tinian beaches.  This diluted enemy defenses while America concentrated overwhelming power on what amounted to little more than a single small point of entry.    


By 15 July 13 US Artillery battalions comprising 156 guns (96 105mm howitzers, 36 155mm howitzers and 24 155mm guns) were shelling Tinian 24/7.  Also on 15 July the landing Ship Dock (LSD) Belle Grove anchored off Saipan loaded ammunition and water onto its top deck.  Each day from 15 to 21 July six Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs) were top loaded with rations, water and ammunitions at Tanapag Harbor.  On 16 July US air strikes against Tinian resumed and US destroyers began hitting targets unsuitable for air or artillery strikes.  Bombardment included firing white phosphorus shells to burn cane fields and foliaged hillsides and harassing enemy troops trying to reinforce Tinian's eastern beaches at night.  US naval gunfire also intensified. On 17 July the Destroyer Eaton shelled the Radio Station west of ASIGA BAY, and hit Japanese feverishly working to reinforce beach defenses at Yellow Beach in Asiga Bay.

On 18 and 19 July the Destroyers BRYANT and BENNION fired 100 phosphorous shells into Mt. Lasso and Marpo Hill.  On 19 July the LSDs Ashland and Belle Grove anchored off Saipan top loaded ammunition and water.  From 20 to 22 July the Destroyers SAUFLEY, EDWARDS, and ROBINSON shelled caves housing enemy troops on Mt. Lasso and Marpo Hill and Destoyers delivered harassing fire into Tinian Town at night.  On 20 July Heavy Cruiser LOUISVILLE began a 3 day fire mission against Tinian's hardened targets, enemy activity sites, and targets of opportunity.  On 21 July LSD's Ashland and Belle Grove loaded 18 LCMs, each carrying a medium tank, from Saipan beaches.  On 22 July Heavy Cruiser NEW ORLEANS began its 3 day fire mission and 2 LCI gunboats fired rockets and 40mm volleys into cave entrances that pocked Tinian's shoreline.  Saipan's 13 south end artillery battalions continued 24/7 shelling of Tinian's north end.    

23 July (D-Day - 1)

At dawn and all day in full view of Col. Ogata Headquarters atop Mt. Lasso on Tinian, the 4th Marine Division loaded from Saipan's beaches into 37 Landing Ship Tanks.  These LSTs were already loaded with 60 amphibious tanks and 473 assault tractors (LVTs) that would carry the Marines ashore onto the White Beaches next morning.  Cargo nets carrying critical D-Day supplies had also earlier been top loaded onto these LSTs whose cherry-picker hoists would rapidly offload these supplies into the smaller LVTs that would be afloat alongside the next morning before their assault onto the White Beaches.  41 US Marine Sherman tanks also loaded from Saipan's beaches, driven aboard Landing Craft Tanks (LCTs) and Landing Craft Mechanized (LCMs).  More vehicles were driven from the beaches into 100 LCVPs (Landing Craft Vehicles and Personel).  Dockside at Tanapag Harbor up north more heavy weapons embarked onto amphibious ships.  DUKWs carrying four battalions of pack howitzers rolled into four LSTs.  LCMs loaded with 32 4th Marine Division Sherman tanks floated aboard two LSDs.  More Sherman tanks clanked aboard LCTs and LCMs anchored in the harbor.  In sum this amphibious task force destined for Tinian's White Beaches included:

A/  31 Landing Craft Infantry (LCIs), 20 Landing Craft Tanks (LCTs), 92 Landing craft Mechanized (LCMs), and 100 Landing Craft Vehicles and Personnel (LCVPs);

B/  37 Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs) carrying 513 LVTs including 68 LVT(A)s and 132 Amphibian Trucks (DUKWs) carrying 106 Howitzers;

C/  Two mammoth LSDs carrying 30 tanks loaded into 30 Landing Craft Mechanized (LCMs), and sundry other heavy vehicles in LCTs; and

D/  One troop transport ship (ASA), 14 Pontoon Barges (9 with gas drums for refueling LVTs and DUKWs off White Beaches), and 2 floating dock causeways.

As the armada loaded for war under the eastward gaze of Col. Ogata atop Mt. Lasso on Tinian, US naval gunfire ships shifted their attention to the White Beaches directly below the west side of Col. Ogata's headquarters.  Starting dawn on 23 July (Jig-Day-1), three old battleships, two heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, and sixteen destroyers hit Tinian hard and often from every quadrant.  360 warplanes - mostly navy and army fighters, bombers, and torpedo planes - added to the mayhem, hitting the island. 

At dawn Heavy Cruiser LOUISVILLE screened by Destroyers CONWAY, EATON and SIGOURNEY began hitting targets between USHI and FAIBUS POINT, including the White Beaches.  This shelling halted from 0800 to 0832 as low altitude air strikes hit the White Beaches then the shelling resumed at 0832.  The Heavy Cruiser NEW ORLEANS joined the LOUISVILLE, hitting the White Beaches.  The Battleship COLORADO left its late morning station off TINIAN TOWN and sailed north to concentrate its fire on just discovered shore guns that threatened an amphibious assault across the White Beaches.  At 1200 the COLORADO'S 16 inch main batteries began their pinpoint shelling of the camouflaged coastal guns at FAIBUS POINT, delivering 20 rounds into the target.  The COLORADO, at the landing force commander's request, extended its shelling at 1300, firing 40 more 16 inch rounds into these enemy gun emplacements until 1425.  Then the COLORADO joined the LOUISVILLE, firing its 16 inch shells point blank into White Beaches.  

At 1500 COLORADO and LOUISVILLE ceased firing for 60 minutes as US napalm air strikes hit woodlands on and behind the White Beaches.  Then the gunfire ships renewed their shelling the WHITE BEACHES AREA.  At 1700 LOUISVILLE began a 20 minute fire mission.  Its 5-inch AA guns hit artillery and cave supply dumps on MT LASSO's west slopes 2500 yards east of FAIBUS POINT.  At 1720 LOUISVILLE and COLORADO halted fire for napalm air strikes on the White Beaches which lasted until 1840 when the COLORADO fired 40 air bursts over WHITE BEACHES AREA to prevent the enemy's escape from area. The capital fireships retired at 0845.  Destroyers WALLER and NORMAN SCOTT then shelled road junctions between FAIBUS POINT and GURGUAN POINT, harassed the YELLOW BEACHES in ASIGA BAY, and covered UDT reconnaissance of White Beaches with counter-battery and neutralization fire before they harassed White Beach approaches north of MT. LASSO.  Down south the Light Cruiser CLEVELAND with destroyer screen stood off TINIAN TOWN, shelling the beaches and high ground behind the town, as the Battleships TENNESSEE and CALIFORNIA off Tinian's east coast fired across the island, smashing TINIAN TOWN from its rear.  Up north, standing off Tinian's east coast, the Heavy Cruiser NEW ORLEANS and Light Cruiser MONTPELIER shelled the ASIGA BAY AREA, including Yellow Beach, and enemy positions on and around MT. LASSO's east side.

Thus, all day on 23 July, the Battleships COLORADO, TENNESSEE, and CALIFORNIA and Cruisers LOUISVILLE, CLEVELAND and NEW ORLEANS, plus 16 destroyers and hordes of lesser gunfire ships, plastered the island from all quadrants.  US Minesweepers worked closer in off the WHITE BEACHES as others swept the waters off Tinian Town, giving the impression that Marines might also land there.

In Summary:

From 15 through 23 July US Navy ships fired 27,000 shells at Tinian.  During this same period US artillery on Saipan fired 36,750 shells, mostly into northern Tinian.  In addition, US planes flying off Saipan and US carriers sortied over Tinian daily, strafing and bombing.  On 23 July US Navy ships fired 6,700 naval shells at Tinian as US artillery on Saipan fired some 10,000 artillery shells into its north end and 360 US carrier and land based planes dropped 97 tons of ordinance on Tinian, mostly 500 pound bombs.  Heavier bombs ranged up to 2000 pounds.  Lesser ordinance included 224 100 pound bombs plus 200 rockets, 32 incendiary clusters, and 34 fire bombs (napalm or oil).  

Admiral Harry Hill, CO, Task Force 52, commander of the amphibious landings on TINIAN, reported on 24 August 1944 that: "(TINIAN) ... had been methodically and almost continuously bombarded by air, artillery, and naval gunfire since the beginning of the assault on SAIPAN.  All known dangerous enemy batteries and installations had been destroyed long before JIG Day (D-Day)."

The US armada bristling with shock troops, war weapons, ammo and gear transited through the night of the 23rd around Tinian's north end and assembled off the tiny White Beaches tucked into its N/W coast before the sun rose on the 24th and hell broke loose.


Admiral Hill fixed the HOW HOUR for landing onto WHITE BEACHES at 0730.  To meet his schedule, hostile action unfolded in the dark beneath Col. Ogata's Mt. Lasso Headquarters behind the White Beaches when a US Navy Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) attempted to explode anti-boat mines detected on WHITE BEACH 2 by an observation plane the day before.  Adverse seas aborted their mission.  At 0516 the Team reported that wind whipped currents flowing north off WHITE BEACH 2 prevented their getting ashore.  This would alter the schedule and placement of US gunfire and air strikes, shifting both into the WHITE BEACHES, trying to ignite suspected mines on the beaches.  The US ARTILLERY on Saipan also opened up at 0530.  The ninety-six 105mm howitzers, thirty-six 155mm howitzers and twenty-four 155mm guns concentrated heavy artillery fire on the WHITE BEACHES.  US Capital Ships simultaneously hit the WHITE BEACH AREA.  The Battleship TENNESSEE shelled the 60 yard wide WHITE BEACH 1.  Battleship CALIFORNIA lacerated the 120 yard wide WHITE BEACH 2.  Heavy Cruiser LOUISVILLE blasted the 900 yards of shoreline between the WHITE BEACHES.  Light Cruisers BIRMINGHAM and MONTPELIER hit Mt. LASSO.  BIRMINGHAM hit Mt. LASSO's western slopes behind the WHITE BEACHES.  MONTPELIER smashed Mt. LASSO's eastern slopes behind Asiga Bay. Heavy Cruiser NEW ORLEANS off Tinian's east coast sent anti-personnel airbursts over YELLOW BEACH in Asiga Bay.  Also at 0530, after the Landing Force's Central and Beach Control Vessels arrival 4000 yards off the WHITE BEACHES, the assembled flotilla of LSTs began to offload hundreds of amphibious landing craft into the sea.   

At 0545 the Heavy Cruiser INDIANAPOLIS opened fire on the FAIBUS POINT pillboxes and artillery that threatened the WHITE BEACHES then shifted its fire to Mt. LASSO's western slopes behind WHITE BEACHES, hitting troop assembly and transit areas, and Col. Otaga's headquarters atop the mount. The Battleship CALIFORNIA closing on WHITE BEACH 2 fired point blank into the beach, igniting 12 secondary explosions there.  The Battleship TENNESSEE followed by the Heavy Cruiser LOUISVILLE closed on WHITE BEACH 1, sending 40mm volleys into that beach.  As the sun rose at 0557, the minesweepers began running their courses off the WHITE BEACHES.

Three minutes later, at 0600, as Artillery and Naval Gunfire boomed, LCMs carrying Sherman Tanks floated clear of their mother ships, the LSDs BELLE GROVE and ASHLAND off the WHITE BEACHES.  Closer inshore, the smaller LVTs clanking down ramps between the open doors of LSTs began plunging Into the sea.  US Naval Gunfire halted at 0620.  After a moment's silent US aircraft arrived to bomb and strafe the WHITE BEACHES, igniting 5 of the known 14 mines on the beaches before they sent napalm flaring across their sand and brush.  Aircraft swarmed Mt LASSO, bombing and strafing it.  At 0630 a flotilla of 30 LCI gunsboats and 17 2nd armored amphibious tanks began to assemble 3000 yards offshore behind a Line of Departure.  Behind them hundreds of troop laden LVTs circled before they also arranged themselves in lines that would soon become moving waves of amphibious assault headed for the WHITE BEACHES.

At 0638 the Air Strikes halted and the Naval Gunfire resumed.  The destroyers CONWAY, EATON, PHILLIP, and PRINGLE shelled the WHITE BEACH AREA as the heavier US Capital Gunfire Ships moved closer to the WHITE BEACHES.  By 0700 the Heavy Cruiser LOUISVILLE that lay on station between WHITE 1 and WHITE 2 renewed its firing.  The Battleship TENNESSEE and Destroyer SIGOURNEY stationed on the northeast flank of the gunfire line began firing at WHITE 1.  The Battleship CALIFORNIA and Destroyer WALLER stationed to the southwest began firing at the southern flanks of WHITE 2.  Saipan based US Artillery also intensified its shelling the WHITE BEACH AREAS.  Thus at 0700 the Battleships CALIFORNIA and TENNESSEE, the Heavy Cruiser LOUISVILLE and Destroyers CONWAY, EATON, PHILLIP and PRINGLE along with 156 Artillery pieces in full throated roar rained hell down into and around the WHITE BEACHES.  

At 0703 the Amphibious Landing Commander, Admiral Harry Hill, due to assembly delays behind the Line of Departure, postponed the time of landing on Tinian (HOW HOUR) by 10 minutes, to 0740.  At 0710 the Destroyers PHILLIP, EATON, CONWAY, PRINGLE and the Heavy Cruiser BIRMINGHAM shifted their fire up country, onto enemy mortar and artillery positions that overlooked the WHITE BEACHES.  The US ARTILLERY on Saipan meanwhile concentrated its fire onto the WHITE BEACHES, the enemy approaches to the beaches, and on Col. Ogata's HQ atop MT LASSO.  The Cruisers MONTPELIER and NEW ORLEANS, on the island's far side, sent 30 minutes of air-burst fire at high ground on Mt. LASSO'S eastern slopes to neuter enemy artillery implaced there.

Launch of Amphibious Assault Craft off White Beaches: 

By 0710 fourteen LCI Gunboats and seventeen 2nd Armored Amphibian Tanks had arrived at the Line of Departure 3000 yards offshore WHITE BEACHES 1 and 2.  The LCI Gunboats were arrayed in the first line.  The Amphibian Tanks were arrayed in the second line behind the gunboats.  More than a hundred troop carrying LVTs were arrayed behind the Amphibian Tanks.  These LVTs would carry the Marine infantry to the White Beaches in 16 waves, including regimental reserves.  At 0713 six of the Gunboats crossed the Line and headed for WHITE 1.  Nine more Gunboats also crossed the Line, headed for WHITE 2.  At 0717 six of the Amphibian Tanks crossed the Line and headed for WHITE 1.  Another eleven Amphibian Tanks headed for WHITE 2.  These 17 Amphibian Tanks led the first wave of sixteen troop laden LVTs that left the Line of Departure four minutes later at 0721.  Eight of these LVTs headed for WHITE 1.  Eight more LVTs headed for WHITE 2.  Later waves that carried infantry into White 2 would comprise 16 LVTs each.  All assault waves going into White 1 comprised 8 LVTs each.

As the assault waves churned toward the beaches, the Battleship TENNESSEE and Destroyer SIGOURNEY sent enfilade fire into WHITE 1 while the Battleship CALIFORNIA and Destroyer WALLER sent enfilade fire into WHITE 2.  The Light Cruiser BIRMINGHAM and four Destroyers plastered Mt Lasso's western slopes that were behind and overlooking the WHITE BEACHES.  Eleven of the Artillery Battalions on Saipan fired exclusively at the WHITE BEACHES.  Thus US Naval Gunfire and US Army and Marine XX1V Corps Artillery saturated the enemy's defenses, troop assemble areas, as well as its command and control behind and overlooking the WHITE BEACHES.  The Heavy Cruiser NEW ORLEANS and Light Cruiser MONTPELIER that were stationed on the island's far side simultaneously hit Mount Lasso's east facing slopes to suppress enemy artillery fire that otherwise might loop over the mount onto the WHITE BEACHES.    

At 0730 the BATTLESHIP and CRUISER Main Batteries lifted their fire off the WHITE BEACHES as the 14 LCI Gunboats coming within 1000 yards of shore opened fire.  Their 20mm and 40mm cannon fire and barrage rockets  raked the beaches.  At a point 300 yards offshore the gunboats t urned to the flanks and the 17 Amphibian Tanks behind them opened fired on the WHITE BEACHES.  The Gunboats ran parallel to the shoreline, firing into the flanks of both beaches.  The Amphibian Tanks reaching 300 yards offshore also turned to the flanks.  This cleared the way for the troop carrying LVTs coming in behind the amtanks to fire their 30 Ca. machine guns into the WHITE BEACHES.  The Amphibian Tanks continued to lacerate the flanks of the beaches as the Marines began to land.

At 0731 the Landing Ship Dock ASHLAND, having offloading 15 LCMs (carrying 15 Sherman Tanks) into the sea, began its return to Saipan for more Sherman Tanks, and the Pontoon barges from Saipan began to arrive off the WHITE BEACHES.  At 0740 another six LCI Gunboats headed for their station 1000 yards north of WHITE 1 and nine LCI Gunboats left for their station 1000 yards south of WHITE 2.  On arrival they began to fire barrage rockets and 40mm fire into enemy trying to re-enforce White Beaches from their flanks.

Six miles to the south off Tinian Town the feign landing maneuver was underway.  The Battleship COLORADO, the Light Cruiser CLEVELAND and Destroyers REMEY and NORMAN SCOTT had been shelling the TINIAN TOWN BEACHES since dawn when one of the seven APA troop transports lowered its 22 landing craft (LVCPs called Higgins Boats) into the sea and Marine Infantry descended cargo nets hung over the sides of the transports into those craft alongside then climbed back up those nets and reboarded the transports before the 22 Higgins Boats assembled 3500 yards off the beaches and loitered beyond gunfire range as if preparing to run for the beaches, but were empty save only for amphibian boat crews.  (Note: High powered binoculars that were later found by Marines on high ground observation posts behind Tinian Town could have detected that the US landing craft were empty but for crew.  Whether enemy spotters discovered and reported the ruse to higher authority is not known.)

At 0730 (or 17 minutes after the LCI Gunboats followed by amtanks and troop carry landing craft first headed for White Beaches up north), the empty landing craft down south headed for the TINIAN TOWN BEACHES, and once they had arrived 2000 yards offshore at 0740 the empty craft turned around and sailed back out of gunfire range as three Japanese 6 inch coastal guns slammed shells into the Battleship COLORADO and its Destroyer NORMAN SCOTT, killing 43 and wounding 198 sailors and Marines aboard those vessels, the dead including the captain of the NORMAN SCOTT.

FOOTNOTE 1(F) Jig-Day Landings on the White Beaches:   


Sixteen waves of LVTs (including assault waves and their reserves coming behind the 2nd Armored Amphibian Tanks) landed 2520 Marine Infantry on WHITE BEACH ONE in good order and on schedule with minor exceptions by 0946:

The first wave of 8 LVTs carried 160 Infantry riflemen of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 24th MarinesIt landed two minutes behind schedule at 0742.  Four of these LVTs came directly onto the 65 yard wide beach.  The other four halted at the waters' edge on the immediate flanks of the beach.  Here the LTVs butted up against the rugged shoreline studded with 4 to 10 foot high coral outcroppings where Marines going ashore scrambled overtop the bows of their LVTs, climbing onto or between the jutting coral.  Marines landing on the beach engaged the enemy in a brief skirmish, overwhelming the defenders, then pushed directly inland, clearing the way for units coming behind.  The Marines on the left flank encountered stiff enemy small arms fire hidden amid thick shrubs atop fissured coral outcroppings. 

The second wave of 8 LVTs  carrying Company A, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines landed at 0747.  These Marines wheeled north in an effort to secure the left flank where they confronted stiff resistance from small arms fire hidden amid brush and rugged coral outcroppings.

The third wave landed at 0752, and the fourth arrived at 0756.  These waves, the last two rifle Companies of 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines, pushed inland behind their cohort Company E that after landing in the first wave had subdued the defenders then pushed inland.

The fifth and sixth waves arrived with the last two rifle companies of 1st Battalion, 24th Marines at 0802 and 0805.  These Marines wheeled left to support their Company A comrades stymied on the north flank.  At 0810 the seventh wave arrived.

Thus six rifle companies and other battle critical personnel were ashore within 28 minutes.  Enemy resistance on the beach to the 2nd Battalion's push directly inland evaporated within 200 yards.  On the north seaward flank, however, fierce resistance stymied the advance of Company A, 1st Battalion.  It's two cohort companies on its landward flank pushed inland against light resistance.

The eighth wave arrived at 0824.  The ninth at 0831.  The tenth wave arrived at 0841, and the eleventh wave arrived at 0847.  These last four waves carrying 640 assault troops put a total of 1720 infantry on WHITE BEACH ONE and/or its fringing reef by 0847.

Landing of 24th Marines Battalion Reserve and other Critical Personnel on WHITE BEACH ONE:

Starting at 0858 the 24th Marines Reserve Battalion and other battle critical personnel came in five waves. The 12th wave arrived at 0858 -- the 13th at 0906 -- the 14th at 0911 -- the 15th at 0922 -- and the 16th wave arrived at 0946.

So 16 waves landed or arrived offshore of White 1 with 2560 men by 0946.  This total, including battle critical personnel, is estimated.


"It was known also that there were anti-boat mines on White Two.  For these reasons troops were instructed to disembark from LVT's at water's edge, making their way inland between boulders.  LVTs were instructed not to land until the beaches had been cleared of mines." Report of Admiral Harry Hill, Commander Group Two, Amphibious Forces, US Pacific Fleet, on Tinian Operations, Part IV, General Narrative Assault Phase, Enclosure A. 

The WHITE BEACH 2 landings encountered far more difficulty.  The first three assault waves of LVTs struggled against the same strong currents flowing north along the coast that had aborted the US Navy Underwater Demolition Team mission two hours earlier.  The first two waves arrived together 10 minutes behind schedule at 0750 and the third wave arrived two minutes later at 0752So instead of two waves totalling 24 LVTs reaching WHITE 2 within the first two minutes as planned, 40 LTVs stacked up along its fringing reef just offshore.  This congestion likely caused at least several LVTs to mount the 70 yard center of the beach contrary to instructions, given its minefields.  At 0752 two of those LVTS ashore hit mines that destroyed them.  Another LVT, trying to turn around shortly thereafter, hit a third mine that destroyed it as well.  This carnage closed the beach to traffic.  This compounded the offshore congestion then put it on steroids as four waves more arrived quickly after the first three, backing another 64 LVTs up behind the 40 vehicles already there.

Thus, Lt. Col. Chambers, CO, 3th Battalion who arrived in the fourth wave of 16 LVTs at 0759 had "no where to go."  He waited offshore for his lead elements to clear the beach as the fifth wave arrived with 16 more LVTS three minutes behind him at 0802.  The sixth came in at 0806 followed by seventh wave at 0816.  By now 104 LVTs carrying some 2008 assault troops had come to an abrupt halt offshore before the Control Craft halted the 8th wave at the Line of Departure.

Fortunately the traffic jam on the fringing reef could loiter free from the devastating enemy artillery and mortar fire that had been encountered on Saipan.  This remarkable fact was thanks to the obstinate brilliance of Gen. Holland Smith, his planning staff, and US Navy, Army and Marine Combined Arms that was pummelling the beaches defenders into stunned impotence amid their exploding landscape as Marines loitered yards away just offshore in plain view of Col. Ogata atop Mt. Lasso.  One can only imagine the Colonel's frustration.  And his surprise that waves of Marines were trying to land on the tiny White Beaches and threatening Tinian Town while the sea off his west coast Yellow Beaches lay inexplicably empty below his Headquarters atop Mt Lasso.  What were the Americans thinking?  How could hundreds of landing craft funnel across 160 yards of beach.  Soon several more surprises began to unfold beneath Col. Ogata.

His White Beach 1 mines were not exploding.  And the Marines assembling off both White Beaches somehow kept coming, despite the exploding mines on White 2.  For, as their planned blitkrieg assault stalled into what became a shallow water parking lot on the wide fringing reef off the White Beaches, Marines at the front on the line shifted their assault out along the flanks of the closed White Beach 2.  They did the same around White 1, dramatically expanding its 60 yards of beach available for landing.  Nudging their LVTs against the coral cliffs, they clambered atop the bows of their landing craft then pulled themselves over or slipped between the upthrust coral wall that rimmed the shore along the flanks before they attacked inland. Thus Lt. Col. Chambers and his 4th wave of troops under cover of a fierce artillery and naval gunfire barrage finally got ashore once his lead assault companies had pushed inland about 75 yards.

"We were all impressed by the fire of the artillery from Saipan," he said later.  "It laid down a hell of a lot of fire on the island, and I suspect made it impossible for the Japanese to move anywhere for quite a period of time."

Meanwhile, with the 8th wave delayed at the Line of Departure, the Control Vessels closer inshore had time to sort out the confusion stacking up offshore while demolition experts who'd arrived with the initial assault waves worked to sort out the confusion and carnage onshore.  Teams there worked first to clear paths through the minefield beach.  Only then could Corpsmen reach the destroyed LVTs, evacuate the wounded and recover the dead, and beach clearance units begin to bulldoze secure lanes of transit from water's edge to exits off the beach.  Mine removal teams laboring alongside Corpsmen caring for the wounded and dead made the beach clearance work slow, tedious, demanding and dangerous.  Some 100 anti-boat and personnel mines had to be found and removed before safe passage across the beach was assured, and beach clearance dozers were delayed by reef access problems off of White 2.  Fortunately, however, the assault waves of Marine infantry kept spreading out along the rugged shore flanking the beaches, finding new ways to get themselves ashore, clearing the way for more assault troops to come in behind, and enemy artillery and mortar fire remained extremely light, apparently stunned to the point of near impotence by an historic offshore combined arms barrage hitting just inland of the tiny beaches.

Overhead air observers watching the scene reported a few mortar rounds hitting WHITE 2 at 0810.  The Marine infantry at 0815 reported they'd advanced 400 yards inland from WHITE 1 while the Marines assaulting from the seaward flanks of White 2 had pushed inland 150 to 200 yards.  At 0820 the infantry had advanced 500 yards in from both beaches.  By 0835 Marines were taking positions in trenches 300 yards inland of both beaches and all units were said to be advancing against little or no opposition at 0840, save for those stymied on the extreme north flank of White I.  At 0845 gunfire north of WHITE 1 (where stiff resistance continued all day and night) wounded two sailors aboard an LCI Gunboat offshore.  But by 0850 the Marines ashore had passed the main enemy beach defenses, although one of two pillboxes on WHITE 2 were being mopped up, and the advance up the extreme seaward north flank of White I remained stymied.

The 8th wave was released from the Line of Departure 56 minutes late at 0851.  It arrived at the reef off WHITE 2 at 0910 and was followed by the 9th wave that came in at 0920At 0932 a 300 to 400 yard gap still remained in the line of Marine Infantry advancing inland from both beaches although all advancing units were encountering "slight enemy resistance, scattered machine gun and small arms fire." The 10th wave arrived offshore at 0939 and the last elements of the 25th Marine Regiment's Reserve Battalion arrived offshore in the 11th wave at 0946.  Many units would remain parked offshore for hours but only small arms enemy fire hidden amid the rugged shoreline north of WHITE Beach 1 was thwarting the Marine advance inland.  Enemy artillery and mortar fire remained for all practical purposes neutered along the entire Marine front as well as within and offshore from the expanding Marine beachhead.


At 1000 Col. Ogata atop Mt. Lasso confronted a remarkable scene.  The enemy was ignoring his island's prime landing beaches.  No amphibious craft had even appeared off the Yellow Beach on Tinian's northwest side.  The amphibious armada that earlier had threatened Tinian Town down south now appeared to be abandoning its offshore station there.  The land mines he'd planted on White Beach 2 had stymied the Marines landing there but, against all odds, the major elements of two Marine regiments had still somehow landed across and around a tiny 60 yard wide White Beach 1 and flanks of White Beach 2 and were advancing east en masse toward his Mt Lasso bunkered Headquarters.  Plus the choppy sea behind those advancing Marine Regiments was alive with 500 amphibian craft churning its offshore waters with what looked to be yet another Infantry Regiment along with two Tank Battalions, four Artillery Battalions, two Engineer Battalions, hosts of speciality units and equipment and vast supplies.  All these hostile men and machines were busily working to force their way ashore beneath the cover of a fleet of US Navy Capital Gunfire Ships belching fire, blowing apart Col. Ogata's meager and exhausted beach defenses and ground beyond them up to and including his hilltop Headquarters as the air overtop his head whistled with artillery shells coming in from Saipan.  When the shelling paused, enemy planes swarmed in from all directions, bombing, strafing, and lighting afire not only his defenders down below but also his own Mt Lasso Headquarters dug into the hillside.

Amid such hostility, it's little wonder that Col. Ogata ordered his Mobile Counter Attack Forces north to assemble in hiding beneath the jungle canopy with his Reserve Infantry Battalion below his Mt Lasso bunker so as to reinforce his own position there and await his orders to repel the invasion now underway across the WHITE BEACHES.  Likely, too, he also ordered nearby forces toward the WHITE BEACH areas to establish a new line of defense somewhere below Mt Lasso against the advancing US Marine infantry.

Six minutes later at 1006 the Marines reported that White 2 had been "completely mopped up" and that preparatory fire had softened enemy resistance on the high ground in front of the advancing 2nd Bn 25th Marines with the result that "no trouble" was expected in that sector.  The Reserve battalion of the 25th Marines was ashore over White 1 at 1030.  Six miles to the south off TINIAN TOWN the US Navy Troop Transports began to embark the empty LVCPs of their faux landing force at 1015.  The ships had cleared their station by 1100 and headed north carrying two Regimental Combat Teams (RCTs) of the 2nd Marine Division for landing on the White Beaches.

From this point the amphibious landing phase shifted from the landing of the regimental infantry assault troops with battalion reserves to the landing of the division's infantry reserve regiment and the critical heavy tracked weapons - medium tanks, lighter flamethrower tanks, and howitzer half-tracts - as well as 75 mm pack howitzer artillery pieces, and dozers to remove obstacles that prevented access to and across the White Beaches and clear exits off the beaches and build supply dumps behind them for critical supplies.  This work, so vital to building a defensible beachhead ashore, would consume much of Jig-Day.  More background might help put this second phase of the Tinian Jig Day amphibious landing into a broader perspective before describing what occurred during the balance of Jig-Day.  

Background to Planning and Execution of Jig-Day Amphibious Landing and Ground Assault:

The high honors earned by the Japanese defense of Tinian rests squarely on the fact that, despite the punishment it suffered for 43 days before Jig-day, Col. Ogata's garrision maintained the force, cohesion and will to marshal the bulk of three Infantry Battalions, a Keibitai Naval Guard Force, and a Mobile Weapons Battalion, to deliver a well orchestrated and violent counter attack against the Marine beachhead during the pre dawn hours of 25 July.  Pre-positioned forces acting pursuant to a plan developed weeks earlier delivered this attack.

So, as dawn broke on Jig Day, two Battalions of 50th Infantry Regiment and major Naval Guard forces were within reach of the White Beaches - a battalion stationed on Mt Lasso's southwest side, another battaltion northeast of Mount Lasso, and substantial Naval Guard Forces at Ushi Airfield.  The plan's mobile 135th Infantry Regiment stationed down south with heavy weapons including armor was also within striking distance by nightfall.  Thus Col. Ogata kept only one Battalion of the 50th Infantry Regiment and its Keibitai Naval Guard Force out of the White Beach fight, leaving both of those units at Tinian Town.  And, by 1000 on Jig-Day, the rest of the island's defenders had closed to oppose the oncoming White Beach Marine Infantry or started to move into position to counter attack the Marine beachhead before dawn the next morning.  Japanese artillery also remained on the high ground behind of the White Beaches.  In short, Col. Ogata had the lethal force at hand for a major effort to repel or severely punish the Marine invaders pursuant to a carefully considered plan.

But the Marines would not be caught by surprise.  Enemy plans that detailed the deposition of Japanese forces and fixed defenses on Tinian and their plan to marshal '3/4's of Tinian's garrison to counter-attack any primary Marine landing site, including White Beach 2, had been captured earlier on Saipan.  So, while America's massive 43 day pre-Jig day campaign aimed to destroy the enemy's means and will to carry out this defense and counter-attack before it occurred, US plans also included the means to counter a wide range of risks that the Marines might encounter on Jig-Day.  These included counters to the worst case scenario, namely that the bulk of Tinian's defenders not only survived the pre Jig-Day bombardment, but that Col. Ogata discovered the US landing plans in time to mass all his force up north to oppose the Marines initial assault on the tiny White Beaches.  Thus his two battalions and the naval defense forces already up north would be waiting at the White Beaches alongside his mobile counter attack force and Tinian Town defenders who'd rushed north the night before Jig-Day to repel the incoming waves of Marines.  Armed with such intelligence windfall, the defenders could also act in a variety of other ways, depending on their means and timing.  Each scenario carried a different risk profile.  For example, at the other end of "the worse case scenarios" (and perhaps the most likely to occur in any event) was what happened on Jig-Day morning.  After he discovered an empty sea off Yellow Beach in Asiga Bay and a diversion by the Americans off Tinian Town, while the White Beach Marine invaders marched on his Headquarters, Col. Ogata did the obvious.  He ordered all his forces, except those at Tinian Town, to defend his Mt. Lasso HQ and prepare to launch a fierce counter-attack against the Marine Beachhead before dawn the next day.  But the US had planned for this scenario as well, and for most everything else in between, covering a multitude of risks.

Hence, from the US perspective, the element of surprise, however desirable, could not be the essential ingredient to Tinian success.  Tactical surprise could fail for many reasons beyond US control so it could not be the crux between which hung victory or defeat.  The Marines instead worked to assemble the defensive offshore cover and deliver onshore the force to seize and hold the beachhead at White 1 and 2 against the worse case, a beach fight during landing against most all of Col. Ogata's forces on Tinian.  They also designed the tactics and deployed the means to thwart a range of other less than worse case scenarios, and to defeat any that should come to pass.  This explains much.  It explains the intense long term focus that US commanders placed on offshore combined arms - naval gunfire, land based artillery, and land based and carrier air power - that not only prepped the battlefield but that opened up the unprecedented opportunity to collect intelligence and incorporate it into all aspects of the campaign, to include refining their war fighting and logistics techniques to solve the 'Tinian White Beach Problem'.  It also explains the overwhelming reliance and priority placed on mobile logistics and beach clearance specifically tailored to assure the landings' success in the face of otherwise daunting obstacles.  For, unlike tactical surprise, US offshore combined arms and its mobility was not only fully within US control and largely impervious to enemy attack, it was highly susceptible to "on the spot" innovation that magnified its power while limiting all sorts of risks.  Thus it was not only highly assured, it became highly reliable, refined 'on the spot' to be highly effective.  This in turn spawned other "on the spot" innovations such as building more efficient ways to integrate communications between air, ground, and sea forces so as to quickly concentrate power on ever more defined tasks and threats.  And the innovation spread as if a spirit to other disciplines of war.  It built new systems and tools of logistics to get heavy weapons, equipment, and supplies ashore quicker and do it with less risk, complication and manpower, then move it over otherwise impossible terrain to project that power inland.

How did all this happen?  Surely the marriage of the Saipan and Tinian campaigns into single interactive event worked wonders.  It fed one learning and kinetic experience into the next.  This helped to amplify a burst of creativity, competence, and cooperation.  The results are telling.  Consider how the novelty and complexity of plan's moving parts worked to devise, stage and orchestrate the entire battle while distorting it's primary battlefield in the minds and eyes of the enemy.  How those elements deployed joint combined forces that, working for weeks within multiple interactive phases, designed and prepped the landings for Jig-Day then quickly assembled and launched the landing forces needed for success despite all obstacles, errors, and failings, while they also continued to disguise the battlefield's shape for the first 2.5 critical hours of landing, until the Marines got 16 assault waves ashore.  This set new standards of competence for amphibious assault.  The Navy / Marine / Army team that made it happen proved itself powerful enough to weld disparate units and novel weapons into a lethal whole that achieved remarkable results. And did it despite Murphy's Law playing a roll that likely would have unraveled and perhaps doomed most any other plan. The joint US forces at Saipan, Tinian, and Philippine Sea Campaign surely climbed a curve of competence and innovation second to none in WW11.  The facts speak for themselves.

So actions and results were dramatic.  After weeks of bombardment, the ground commanders insisted that massive firepower be meticulously concentrated on the White Beaches the day before Jig day in plain sight of Col. Ogata's HQ, despite the threat it posed to their hope to achieve tactical surprise by landing on those beaches the next morning.  And, at the time of its maximum vulnerability (before tracked armor got operating ashore), the campaign's most critical ingredient to success carried Jig-Day on its broad shoulders in a form of combined arms that not only neutralized the enemy's defenses on the beaches as the Marines came ashore, but covered those beaches and amphibious forces offshore from distant threats.  So it neutered far away reverse slope enemy artillery and mortars, and severely degraded the rapid transit and assemblage of large scale enemy assets behind or within range of the beaches during daylight.  It also rattled Col. Ogata's capacity to see, communicate, and think straight.  (US artillery, naval gunfire, and air attack augured all day into his bunker 8,000 yards behind the beaches.)

This multiplicity of power held the amphibious operation together.  It gave the Marines the critical time they needed to get infantry ashore and advancing towards the enemy HQs.  It gave other critical personnel (Army, Navy, and Marine) the time and cover to marshal their skills and equipment - handling logistics, onshore demolitions, earth moving dozers, or whatever - that got heavier forces onshore and maneuvered into the fight with the power to seize the most secure and multi-purpose beachhead that circumstances allowed so as to put the enemy at the greatest possible disadvantage, diluting his means of defense and counter attack, while it also allowed all battle critical personnel to leverage up the staying power and offensive punch of the Marines and the combined arms supporting them.

Here again, within this maneuver, flexibility had to be integrated into power aggregation.  Murphy's Law would likely intervene to thwart several objectives.  But that iron law of amphibious assault was not allowed to defeat the operation's success.  Multiple elements built into the plan assured that.  So failures, in the main, were the result of objective risk, not by reason of a flaw in the plan that allowed enemy action to kill Marines.  Nor were they fatal to victory.  These distinctions are of overriding importance.  Here again the overarching plan incorporated the flexibility to deal with (and limit the damage caused by) an wide array of contingencies and unknowns (including ever present human errors or failings) that only emerge as a battle unfolds.  And the plan also offered new and innovative options to achieve traditional missions better while they expanded the opportunities for new ones. These ranged up and down the scale of possibilities - from holding the beaches and their immediate flanks against heavy counter attack after a series of setbacks, to punching a mailed fist across the beaches then across the island, severing Tinian apart on Jig-Day, isolating its north from it south, should all objectives "fall into place" per the best case scenario.  And the plan helped to control the always unknown but ever present and powerful risks of chaos collapsing into disaster.  Here wise commanders know that the potential for misfortune lurks around every corner and also that good fortune might always play a roll in their success but rarely has a chance to smile unless those commanders labor hard to build a rock solid superstructure beneath their plan of amphibious assault, tailoring it to the particulars at hand in each individual problem.  Dumb luck doesn't count.

To meet the complex set of objectives and risks at Tinian, the Expeditionary Force commanders ordered an initial heavily reinforced shore movement of nearly 20,000 troops, tanks, half-tracks and artillery units plus an array of speciality units through choppy seas and speculative weather to land across 120 yards of open beaches and their flanks per a unique plan that provided the cover, means and flexibility to protect itself in transit and then punch inland to gain and hold a defensible beachhead no matter what might go wrong, and thereafter to drive across the island in a single continuous thrust if unfolding events allowed.  See 13 July findings of Gen. Holland Smith and Adm. Harry Hill described in footnote 1 E. These findings, a crux decision that underlay all subsequent plans, actions, and results achieved, comprised the third great test and achievement of the amphibious landing on Tinian.  But where did these findings and overarching plans come from?  It's a complex question, going back decades.  Answers are found in Quantico, Va., the Caribbean, New River, SC, the Chesapeake, the South Pacific, Betio, Hawaii, the Marshalls and Saipan, before we circle back to Tinian.  Here we'll paint in broad stokes and later fill in the details that support broad conclusions.

In August 1942, the amphibious tractors (LVT) made their debut in the first American offensive against Japan at Guadalcanal.  There the LVTs served as waterborne delivery trucks.  For 15 months, as US forces fought their way up the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, the LVT's reputation grew as a cargo carrier that could go where others could not, across watery bogs and swampy ground.  Necessity is the mother of invention.  Suddenly confronting novel challenges in the Central Pacific in late 1943, the Marine Corps realized that the LVT was uniquely able to deliver Marines rapidly across the coral reefs that guarded Betio and other Central Pacific atolls.  A lowly cargo carrier abruptly became essential to the success of an entire campaign.  The Marines fighting ashore on Betio saved the day. Without their LVTs, however, far fewer Marines could have gotten to Betio's beach.  And to help make that happen, the fighting amphibian Marines had to jerry rig gear, adding armor plate and machine guns up front.  Betio's desperate approach across its fringing reef and machine gun whipped shallows within its lagoon capped by the epic beach fight that ensued onshore, morphed the new tracked amphibious troop carrier for the first time into an offensive weapon.  Hours afterwards, with General Holland Smith ashore amid the carnage, the Marines grasped the altogether new possibilities.  Perhaps now, for the first time, a long sought, but illusive capacity, was within practical reach.  Up-armored troop carrying amphibious tractors led by armored up-gunned and turreted amphibian tractors acting as if amphibian tanks might be able to come out of the sea in a blitzkrieg assault across heavily defended beaches, bust open doors, and punch inland.

But the amphibious blitzkrieg idea was only one part of a momentous change.  The US Navy in the person of Admiral Earnest King had forced the opening of the Central Pacific and built the Navy and supported the Marines that could accomplish such a revolutionary seaborne campaign.  His campaign could have died many times, a victim of politics.  Only once was it fatally threatened in battle.  It happened at the very start.  At Tarawa, with the issue in doubt on Betio, America's Marines aided by the lowly amtrac truck they'd earlier forced upon the US Navy clamored over the seawall of a murderous beach to yank victory from sure defeat.  Tarawa's victory busted apart Pandora's Box.  The so called Alligator Navy bloomed.   Radically new, it was a Navy, Marine, Army Alligator Force, a near miracle that flooded the Central Pacific bent on a war odyssey of historic reach and result.

FOOTNOTE 1(G) Central Pacific Amphibious Drivers - Ernest King USN, Raymond Spruance USN, Holland Smith USMC, and 1941 Flex 7 Manuevers.   

The senior on site commanders of this Central Pacific amphibious campaign were Admirals Spruance and Turner USN, and General Holland Smith USMC. The driver behind this triumvirate was Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander-in-Chief, US Navy and Chief of Naval Operations.  King became the most powerful Admiral in US history soon after the debacle at Pearl Harbor when he assumed command of US Fleet operations worldwide along with the planning and logistics of those operations.  His command of fleet operations was subject only to the President's oversight as Commander-in-Chief of all US Forces under the US Constitution and, by early 1943, the US Marine Corps also reported directly to King.  Although the joint operations of all US forces fell within the scope of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, and joint Allied operations came within the ambit of the British American Combined Staff, King exercised a disproportionate influence there as well.  King's power rivaled that of George Marshall, and exceeded Marshall influence in Pacific Operations, from Pearl Harbor through the Marianna Operations.

Thus, King's prescient vision framed the US war in the Pacific, including its Central Pacific Campaign.  And, as we shall see, his strategic and tactical influence powered that campaign's execution through the Battle of Tinian and beyond, irrespective of all Orange Plans that had gone before.  In so doing, King powerfully influenced and enhanced the roll of the US Marine Corps in WWII.  His impact on amphibious operations began before America entered the War.  In late 1940 he took command of the newly designated US Atlantic Fleet, and oversaw the February 1941 Flex 7 amphibious maneuvers in the Caribbean.  Here three regiments of the newly formed 1st Marine Division and two from the US Army's 7th Infantry Division took part in a series of landings on the island of Culebra under the command of the newly promoted Major General Holland Smith USMC.  

Like General Smith and the Marines, King's vision and preparation for the war with Japan, however, had started long before Flex 7.  In 1932 then Captain King at the Naval War College wrote: Japan will compel us to war.  In so doing Japan will persist on a course contrary to our interests.  It will defy us to change its course before it attacks the Philippines or even Hawaii.  This will handicap our ability to respond effectively while it allows Japan to gain a strong defensive position which it will defend aggressively, forcing us to recapture Hawaii or the Philippines before we can bring pressure on Japan's home islands.

King believed that Japan's aggression starting in the late 19th century and most recently manifest with its 1931 invasion of Manchuria was facilitated by the failings of the western democratic powers.  That America's "national altruism" had bent its national policy toward pacifism.  That we didn't appreciate "the interplay of cause and effect" in our foreign and domestic affairs.  That we instead relied on our "child-like trust and faith in our destiny."  (Manifest, for example, by the failure of the US and League of Nations to impose sanctions on Japan's aggression in China beginning with the "Mukden incident" in southern Manchuria on 18 Sept. 1931)  King also believed that our style of democracy negatively colored our citizens' character.  We glorified our individual interests over our nation's interest, and assumed we can "do well anything we want" when we want. It also encouraged our federal representatives to serve parochial interests at the expense of the nation's interests, in their quest for power and re-election, hence selfishness reigned. "Everyone believes he knows it all. We glorify our victories in war yet remain ignorant of our defeats (and disgraces)."  This self indulgent behavior that riddled our society had metastasized to the point that it limited our ability to enforce those national interests that were vital to our welfare.

King's views proved prophetic.  The US Budget Bureau a decade later commenting on America in the years just before Pearl Harbor opined that: "The United States was probably in the most precarious position in its history.  Yet to many of us the peril seemed remote ... We continued with unabated zest our political feuds even though these internal cleavages affected our ability to react quickly to changes in international environment."

Thus King believed that US lack of readiness would complicate and delay victory and magnify the horror and irreparable damage of the coming war, wasting not only American lives and treasure, but its future.  King strove mightily to dilute these consequences.  He viewed this his duty to his Nation as a naval officer.  And his view that America was headed into a war for which it would be grossly unprepared magnified his sense of urgency in carrying out the task that his duty required.  King never failed to act on his convictions.  He worked tirelessly to gain the skills and competencies necessary to insure that his share of the US Navy was prepared for war.  So it was no accident that when war came, King came prepared for it.  His vast array of skills - a sure grasp of Grand Strategy, his ability to deploy forces tailored to the mission using doctrines that compounded their capabilities, his keen focus on the practical needs of getting the right things done right in the proper sequence, plus King's drive for best practice solutions and his success in deploying them through others - achieved epic results. 

Take Grand Strategy.  In early 1933, King 'commanded the US Fleet' in the Naval War College's annual game maneuvers.  Here the Japanese had seized the Philippines.  How to get them back, and defeat Japan militarily, bringing its quest for empire to heel?  That was the central question.  King the war gamer, seeing the key to the western Pacific, chose to sail his US fleet directly from Hawaii via Guam to wrest Saipan from Japan before attacking the Philippines.  This, he reasoned, would force Japan's fleet to sally forth and fight rather than abdicate its first inner ring of defenses, the Marshall Islands and Saipan and Tinian.  When the Naval War College president altered the game's rules, requiring King to fight his way back to the Philippines via the southwest Pacific, sailing up through its bottleneck of water between northwest New Guinea, Morotai, and Mindanao, King objected.  He deemed the solution worthy of a "berth-deck cook."  This route hemmed in his blue water fleet, forcing it into congested waters that lay within easy range of enemy land based airpower, and compounded the risk by exposing his fleet to flanking attacks from Japan's Mandates to the north, the Marshalls and Marianas.  This paper exercise was no game to King.  It was deadly serious business.  Stubbornly he challenged the War College president's plan that, in his view, forced his fleet to fight a ferocious enemy inefficiently and at disadvantage without good cause.  And he did so again a decade later, going up against George Marshall and MacArthur.

So this 1933 war game explains much about King.  His self-confidence, his overbearing nature, his deep seriousness and foresight, his acute intelligence, his abiding concern for practical consequences.  It also explains how King judged character, and his penetrating awareness of how character translated into mens' actions before and during war.  For King, an individual's (or group's) character was manifest in their acts of commission and omission.  In war, such acts by reason of individual choice either offered the best chance or opportunity to save time, treasure, and lives on the way to victory, or those choices unnecessarily wasted time, treasure and lives on the way to defeat or victory.  Thus he despised (yes despised) any operational plan driven by a lack of rigorous analysis grounded in hard earned competence.  Such as, for example, plans derived from faulty consensus driven by group psychology, failure to face hard descisions squarely, or from a lack of strong convictions or failure of courage among members within the group, or by the simple bloodlust by those individuals in command.  King also kept a sharp eye out for other failures of character.  His ire ratcheted higher if he detected an improper motive or hidden agenda behind a plan.  Plans or tactics driven by self-serving politics or aggrandizement, the vainglory of commanders, a grab for undeserved command, or to serve any other such unworthy ends, met King's total distain.  In all such cases, King was brutally honest with himself, and with others.  He was extremely direct in expressing his displeasure.  There was no room for excuse, prevarication, or compromise.  A war commander whose plans, actions or failures to act wasted American opportunities, resources and lives met king's vigorous opposition.  And such conduct drove him to determined action, sometimes ill advised.

On the flip side, if King saw an opportunity for action to gut or otherwise counter the enemy, his instincts typically drove him to fierce and relenting action, most always exercised in the mode of offense.  There were, however, three powerful backstops to King's instincts for the offensive.  The first resided in King.  At war, his shrewd sense of the capabilities and weaknesses of the American power under his command and how they matched up with the corresponding capabilities and weaknesses of the forces that opposed his, along with his quick grasp of the flux of both across the battlefield, typically kept King out of trouble.  Similarly, his keen insights, sensitivities, and grasp of the forces at play on and off the battlefield drove him to achieve remarkable success, often gained at relatively little cost.

King's second backstop was his highly able staff and subordinate commanders and King's astute management of them.  To an unusual degree, his subordinates discerned and corrected (or wisely dealt with) flawed elements of King's highly aggressive offense.  This occurred despite King's constant pressure on his subordinates for offensive action.  Typically this pressure was driven by what he deemed to be his broader view of the battlefield and time sensitive politics that might otherwise defeat right decisions, his confidence in the effectiveness of his overall offensive strategy given the posture of his enemy, and his corresponding confidence that his subordinates "would push back" where his views were ill advised in a particular situation.  Here King often ceded the benefit of the doubt to his commanders, reversing, adjusting, or holding his views in check, in deference to his subordinates closer view of the matter at issue.  This deference he exercised far more often than realized.  And he did so with great success.  This productive interaction and collaboration between King and those under him, however unorthodox it might appear to outsiders at times, was another product of King's genius for command.  It arose in part by reason of the standards King imposed down the chain of his command when selecting officers to fill key commands like those held by Admiral Spruance and General Holland Smith. 

King's third backstop was the American President.  America was fortunate that FDR could see, appreciate and enable king's remarkable competence.  Indeed FDR's management of King and Marshall was a marvel of presidential leadership.  Many Presidents would not have had a clue as to King's irreplaceable competence and might well have felt threatened by King.  Indeed, many would have been at sea managing the likes of King and Marshall, Churchill and Stalin, and the US Congress, simultaneously.  FDR, who was matched only by Lincoln as a war president, was likely the only American whose strategic grasp of the war, in all its aspects, exceeded that of Ernest King's.  In any case, King transformed the President's confidence into power that profoundly influenced the decisions and actions of others - whether peers, subordinates, Allies or enemies - and so altered the course of events in WW11.

Thus too King's refusal to accept 'false solutions' or ineffective action or leadership without challenge would ripple down through his command, and strongly influence those who carried out his strategic vision.  The reasons were many.  King never forgot 'the who, how, and why' behind proposed false solutions.  He dealt with or pocketed each one and built on it for future application.  For example when he selected or otherwise dealt with subordinates.  Whatever the issue, he constantly probed, looking for snakes in the woodpile.  He also questioned whatever he valued, whatever its source, looking for insights, opportunity or advantage, or pitfalls.  So he not only challenged others but listened intently then altered his earlier views or instructions should better advice be found.  Always on guard for indirection, he'd never fail to redirect whatever he perceived to be a drift in his policies, bringing up short those behind the drift.  Thus King built and maintained his plans and actions for war.  Thus too he led by example.  Those serving under him not only knew his expectations and the consequences of their failure to meet those expectations, they absorbed his ways of doing business.  To serve under King was a full body experience that he pushed far down the chain of his command.

"What will Admiral King think?"

That question seeped deep into the structure of King's command.  This sharply focused subordinates on job performance.  Importantly, King pushed individual responsibility all the way down the chain of command.  He demanded that subordinates take effective and independent action within their job description and how doing that job related to the overall effort behind the mission.  Subordinates, whether flag rank or berth-deck cook, were tasked to figure out "the how" to do their mission after superiors assigned it.  Hence, to an unusual degree, those serving under King's command avoided the paralysis, hesitancy or group think that so often infects subordinates under commanders who shut down independent action within their command and employ sycophants instead, as distinct from real leaders such as Admiral Spruance and General Holland Smith.

With regard to how King never forgot 'the who, how, and why' behind false solutions, consider the benefits he reaped from the Naval War College President's decision eleven years earlier to force 'a berth-deck cook's solution' on King.  As a result King knew to flip Japan's flanking advantage to America's benefit in 1943, forcing Marine and Army divisions through the Central Pacific to seize the Marshalls and Marianas, thus gutting the center of Japan's ring of defenses while also hitting the eastern flanks of its empire from there as MacArthur moved up the southwest Pacific via New Guinea before invading the Philippines.  It's also why King flew the Pacific, charting tiny landfalls amid its watery wastes in the mid 1930's, flying PBY scouting planes he'd done so much to develop.  Here he scoured the ocean looking for geographic advantages and pitfalls that he could put to use when war came. This allowed King, sitting in Washington DC five years later, to see how Japan's seizure of a tiny seaplane anchorage deep in the Florida Straights of the South Pacific posed a grave and novel threat to US strategic interests.  It's why he could forcefully and single-handedly drive the decision to counter that threat in 1942, launching a counter blow that halted Japan at its high water mark.  It explains his fierce conviction and courage that drove that decision to its historic consequences.  So, after war came and during its darkest hour, King could override MacArthur's vociferous objections and 'false strategies" and Marshall's inability or unwillingness to grasp the threat at hand, much less its solution, absent King's ultimatum. This was no accident.  A lifetime of disciplined work, intense study, and hard experience drove king's decision to confront Japan's massive onslaught at the point where a few seaplanes flew into a remote and hardly known backwater at the land's end of the South Pacific.  His subtle understanding of what that tiny Tugali seaplane anchorage at its "no where place" meant to America's defense of Australia and New Zealand and its later capacity to go on the offensive drastically changed America's war in the Pacific. 

Many other ingredients comprised this grand endeavor.  For one, King believed that anything left to chance or done at less than maximum effort opened the door to failure.  This was inexcusable in war. So his naval career of unsurpassed diversity, obstinate independence and unrelenting study, and his determination to apply all this experience to practical problems, not only resulted in his initiating America's success at Guadalcanal, but all that followed in its train: US forces battling up the Solomon Islands then through the Central Pacific to breach the Japan's inner defenses at Saipan and Tinian.  Another driver behind this strategic masterpiece was King's acute awareness of how strategies and tactics derived from parochial politics, power grabs, vainglory ambitions, lack of imagination or deadly seriousness, can far too easily run and ruin a War, absent vigorous challenge.  Another key ingredient was King's corresponding belief that honestly held and deeply informed differences of opinion are sure to emerge from numerous sources and often fiercely clash amid the horrendous pressure cooker of war.  King learned to ignite and thrive on such disagreements.  He did so where other men often flared into anger or fell into abject submission, that triggered obstinate stupidity or caused them to fade into silence or wilt altogether.  He also learned to exercise iron control over his turbulent emotions and acerbic tongue until changing circumstances opened the way for him to put both to best advantage.  Based on results (instead of popular belief), King was a masterful politician.

These personal qualities also helped King to master and draw great advantage from the creatively and perspective of others, and to weed out and overcome much of the fog, clutter, mendacity and folly of war that far too often engulfed others.  This allowed him to remain hyper aware that major decisions involve trade-offs, irony, and paradox, and to see how such decisions, once made, often require adjustment and change given the flux of events and circumstances, creating emergent opportunities and risks.  This also allowed King to negotiate solutions with his peers when the time was ripe, and reach accomodation with his subordinates as necessary, to get the 'Job Well Done.'  And in all such cases this allowed him to know when he should shut up and get out of the way.  Hence King, far better that most commanders, kept on top of "his war" and "got his way" with his peers and superiors (US and Allies alike), and also led his subordinates to effective action that achieved stupendous results.  This was no accident.  King's methods bred highly able subordinates, independent thinkers like Admiral Spruance and General Holland Smith at Tinian.

(With regard to King's impact on Tinian, consider King's 27 March 1944 Report to the Secretary of the Navy delivered nearly 4 months before Tinian, stating: "As to the purely military side of the war, there is one lesson which stands out above all others.  This is that modern warfare can be effectively conducted only by the close and effective integration of the three military arms, which make their primary contribution to the military power of the nation on the ground, at sea, and from the air."  King acknowledged the Navy's "full appreciation" for the "efficient, whole-hearted and gallant support of the Navy's efforts by the ground, air and service forces of the Army, on which much of the Navy's accomplishments would never have been written."  He goes on: "During the period of this report, the Navy, like the full military power of the Nation, has been a team of mutually supporting elements. The Fleet, the shore establishment, the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard, the WAVES, the Seabees, have all nobly done their parts. Each has earned an individual "well done"- but hereafter are (groups) all included in the term "The Navy.")

At base however was King's determination to control his fleet and its Marines, and drive them along with the US Army and its air force, to victory in the most efficient and effective way he could devise.  What he devised worked, and elegantly so.  First, it stopped Imperial Japan in the South Pacific at Guadalcanal.  Then, by driving US forces up the Solomon's, it sucked Japan into a conflict that bleed off its offensive power.  Then it launched a sea-borne thrust across the Central Pacific into the heart of Imperial Japan's defenses, defeating Japan's fleet in the Central Pacific, while it sliced off Japan's means of resupply and built for the US the platform that ultimately brought Japan's Empire to its knees with the B-29 bombers flying off of Tinian. But this wasn't all of it.  King's strategy also simultaneously leveraged MacArthur's strategy on the southwest flank, giving the latter an effective purpose of running the Japanese to exhaustion between two pincer movements of Amercian forces, at least until MacArthur's divergence into the Philippines.  The end result left Japan two options: unconditional surrender, or certain suicide.

So King's vision forged the path to victory over Japan.  In so doing, his fiercest battles were fought against others within the upper reaches of the US military.  In King's view, the alternatives proposed by Marshall and/or MacArthur would unnecessarily risk and waste the world's greatest fleet, its American Marines, and substantial US Army ground and air forces too, diverting US power to improper tasks while it magnified Japan's power to resist.  Nor would he allow the US Army to strip the US Navy of its rightful command of the seas and its US Marine Corps.  King considered the Corps an arm of the US Navy that was uniquely qualified and absolutely essential to accomplish the US Navy's mission in the Pacific war against Japan, because the Navy built it that way.  In King's view, these US Army proposals would grossly misallocate US forces across the Pacific battlefield and would misuse those vast armies and fleets under plans that enhanced the enemy's power while it placed American Forces at unnecessary disadvantage.  MacArthur, driven by vainglory, demanded that a maritime war be fought on land with troops under his command.  Look at the map.  His strategy was absurd on its face.  Yet, MacArthur's strategy, however ill-fitted to the geography of the battlefield, would have dominated the Pacific War, but for Ernest King.  But for King, MacArthur would have substantially delayed and hobbled a US victory while it wasted American treasure and lives as it killed, injured and maimed thousands of US soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and civilians unnecessarily.  King did not use these words.  Likely it's how he viewed the results of any war waged by false solutions.

The US Navy had been seriously planning on a continuing basis for war against Japan since 1906.  King had been more than a keen student of these plans (and their many iterations).  He'd imagined and built his carreer around their implementation, so was ready when the war came.  From the start he knew what he was doing and why he was doing it.  Equally important he knew how, and possessed the means, to get it done amid world chaos, including the massive resistance of Generals MacArthur and Marshall.  Thus his vision not only powered the Marine Corps' explosive growth and cemented the Corps central role in Pacific island assault, it also defined the US Army and Army Air Forces' role in the war against Japan.  King's vision and methods reverberated through all levels of the naval war effort in the Atlantic and Pacific: from strategy to tactics, to weapons development and deployment, to key officer selection, to command structure, to decision making, to operational performance.  In the Pacific war he drove the pace and sequence of major events.  King's achievements are monumental, yet hardly recognized today.  Their essence arose from:

A) his stragetic vision and ability to impose it not only on his command, but on the whole US and Allied military effort.  

B) his persistent challenge to group think, false solutions, excuses, lack of aggression, and anything less than high-octane performance at all levels.

C) his unrelenting quest to find best practices, and harness emerging technologies of war like naval air power, long range reconnaissance, naval air defense, massive seaborne logistics trains and amphibious capability, and Army airpower like long range bombers, for maximum advantage.

D) his ability by the force of personality and example to resurrect a Navy badly shaken by Pearl Harbor and transform it into a Navy (including assets like the Marine Corps and Seabees) that became supremely fit and able to wage war against Japan and win.

Fortunately too FDR knew what he was doing, rescuing King's stalled career from oblivion.  And fortunately too, once in command, King restrained his not insignificant faults and shortcomings to a surprising degree.  He and Marshall also worked hard to find ways to work out mutually agreeable solutions, and FDR shrewly managed the rest.  In King, FDR knew what he was getting from the start.  King's military record before the war spoke volumes.    

King's first command was a 800 ton destroyer in 1914.  A Lieutenant Commander, he'd work hard seventeen years for this moment.  His superior, a master destroyer tactician, forced King to his limits, handling the destroyer, then cut him loose.  King took off, driving his nimble and quick warship and its crew to the outer limits of their capabilities.  Next, promoted to command a 1000 ton destroyer, King also served as aide to Admiral Sims.  The Commander of the Atlantic Fleet Destroyer Flotilla, Sims was a legendary innovator, famous for his wide ranging discussions with his staff, and said to be the most influential man in the Navy.  King, however, came to consider his boss overly opinioned, an admiral without sufficient nuance, a leader who only appeared to listen to the opinions of his staff, a man who conducted his free wheeling discussions with subordinates for show, without digesting the substance of their opinions. In short, King concluded that Sims was closed minded while appearing to be otherwise.  So, after the Admiral had led yet another staff discussion on an important topic (the need for a new destroyer type), King said nothing until after the Admiral had finally weighed in, laying out his own judgement as if to conclude the meeting after considering all views.  Only then did King challenge the Admiral's conclusions.  Sims harshly replied that King's knowledge of the subject was insufficient to form a worthy opinion.  The next morning King handed the Admiral a list of candidates to replace King as the Admiral's aide, saying that Sim's characterization of King's views in front of Sim's staff was an improper response to another naval officer's opinion, and King's relief was therefore in order.  Sims granted King's request then issued a fitness report calling King one of the ablest officers in the navy for his grade before promoting King to command of a four destroyer division.

King's "insolence" wasn't an isolated event.  He confronted power with principle time and again.  Thus he demanded relief as Deputy Director of the Bureau of Aeronautics after a clash with its legendary director over what King deemed special treatment afforded aviators.  He did this despite earning own "wings" at age 49, only to be later appointed Director of the Bureau of Aeronautics whereupon he took on powerful Navy contractors before Congress to outlaw what King considered undue "profiteering" at Navy expense.  Considered a highly risky maneuver at the time by Navy brass, King nevertheless forged ahead and won.  Not surprisingly King's independent nature and potent personality over the years ruffled feathers and bred resentment throughout the Navy.  He rose through the ranks nevertheless, until finally only a war could save his career.  But war brought King little popularity or affection.  Although capable of great charm, he preferred direct straight unvarnished talk when carrying out his duties as a naval officer.  This frequently shook up established convention, and challenged the "comfortable" baliwicks of others.  As a result he was respected and feared, and often disliked, despite (or often because of) the beneficial change wrought from his aggressive mode of command.

For example, 18 months after challenging Admiral Sims, King challenged the 'overly detailed' operational plans handed down by Admiral Mayo's staff for each scouting force destroyer within the US Navy's Atlantic Fleet.  In King's view each "captain" should determine how his destroyer was to accomplish its assigned task, including its course and speed to accomplish the mission, and only then submit his plans to the Admiral in command for comment.  King's rationale was simple.  How else could a "ship captain" develop his competence for command, and the Admiral judge his competence?  King, whose job was fleet engineer, thus directly challenged the authority of the Admirals' staff over the fleet's subordinate commanders.  This ruffled the feathers of his peers on the Admiral's staff.  The Admiral (then Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet) summoned a special in camera meeting to resolve the issue with his Chief of Staff and Lieutenant Commander King.  Therein Mayo ordered that King's recommendations be adopted, and soon thereafter sent King on another feather ruffling mission, this time to shake up the Navy's somnolent bureaucracy so that Mayo's Atlantic Fleet could more quickly sail into World War I.  Going full bore, King forced solutions on others' turf, demanding more efficient ways to convert naval ship power plants from coal to oil, train the flood of raw recruits, and locate then convert commercial vessels into warship auxiliaries.  King cut out the bureaucrats, slashing red tape, to get the job well done, leaving yet more ruffled navy feathers in his wake.

While shaking things up, finding quicker ways to get naval tasks done better so as to better fight WWI, King concluded that far too few officers of all ranks were prepared for the war they now had to fight.  A long peace had ruined their readiness.  Many officers didn't know what their job was, much less how to perform it with excellence, and properly train those under their command.  This included admirals.  Too many relied on show and bravado, without the competence and character that their job demanded.  So at war's end the newly minted Captain King, likely as a result of Mayo's strong support, assumed command of the Naval Post Graduate School at the Naval academy.  By 1920 Captain King had proposed, led, and written a committee report that ultimately redesigned the post graduate education of all naval officers, and also sharpened the objectives of Naval Academy degrees.

King's revamped post graduate education worked in steps.  First a General Line school, next a Junior War college, then Senior War College.  Junior grades learned a technical specialty critical to the Navy's winning wars.  Mid-grades learned how to command a ship so as to sink enemy ships.  Captains learned matters critical to an admiral's rank: how to command many ships and win sea battles, and how national policy should inform war strategy.  All were trained for their assigned job, tested for competence in it, and trained for their next step up should they earn it by demonstrated competence and character.  Many jobs that had been outsourced to civilians before were now performed by naval officers.  King considered this common sense.  Those who fire or command weapons in battle should know how to fix, and make those weapons work better, on the job so as to win the fight they're in.  Similarly so those in command of men should know how to fix and improve the performance of those sailors under their command before any war and during it.  What could be more fundamental to winning wars than this? King argued.  Translated: easy free ride naval careerism was over. Hard challenging work "well done", including innovation, was the order of the day, no matter the rank, or past reputation, or obstacles in the way.

King next went about setting a sterling personal example, finding for himself cutting edge commands in the Navy.  He wanted to command emerging weapons, jobs that demanded innovation, whether in the weapon's development, or in the building of doctrines, tactics and training that best deployed such new weapons in war. King's major commands between 1920 and 1940 included;

1/ a submarine division, 2/ New London Submarine Base and school, 3/ two deep water submarine salvage operations,

4/ the aircraft squadrons of Scouting Fleet, 5/ the Norfolk Naval Air Station, 6/ the aircraft carrier Lexington,

7/Bureau of Aeronautics, 8/ Aircraft Base and Aircraft Scouting Force, and 9/ US Navy Aircraft Battle Force.

In the fields where King labored lay the future of the US Navy and its combat effectiveness in World War 11.

In each case of command responsibility, King pushed these emerging technologies, their uses, and operators, hard. He constantly probed, seeking new capabilities for these weapons and ways to expand their known capabilities.  He built new doctrines.  He worked to expose flaws in the existing doctrine while he tested the strengths and weaknesses of weapon systems, and best practices in their operation, maintenance, readiness and deployment.  In doing this often highly technical and creative work, he got in deep.  Often he'd micro-manage solutions and fixes, and push people hard, and threaten the need for older weapons commanded by others, ruffling more feathers.  Thus he transformed US Submarine doctrine and operation into the offensive mode.  The Bureau of Aeronautics under his command developed naval aircraft that set world speed and distance records.  It not only recognized the great value of innovative Marine Corps dive bombing tactics, it incorporated those new capabilities into naval aircraft doctrine and design.  The payoff came at Midway when a few dive bombers dramatically shifted the balance of power in the Pacific over to America's side.

In 1936 King headed into "the Field" to put an emergent naval technology and its theoretical doctrine to the severe test of its limits under near wartime conditions.  There in the Pacific he set about training his PBY aviators to fly extreme distances over water doing air reconnaissance as well as patrol bombing and gunnery, search and rescue, anti-submarine and convoy escort missions as they tested their long range aircraft, developed its doctrine, tactics and maintenance protocols, and built remote seaplane anchorages thoughout the northern and central Pacific.  It was all quite remarkable.  Most importantly it was highly pertinent to the ocean war with Japan that loomed while most of America slept.  For nearly two years King's command roamed the Pacific, flying through all kinds of weather, often to exhaustion, landing on and taking off from remote coastal locations and tiny open water landfalls, working on shoals, shallows, and reefs amid surf while sinking anchors, stringing cables, constructing a complex of inter-operative seaplane anchorages that brought vast distances of the Pacific's open water within the reach and control of US military power.  Doing this demanding and dangerous work, many men working alongside the 57 year old admiral quit, unable to sustain the pace and strain.  When his tour was done, King had written the book on the PBY - what the machine could and couldn't do in the Pacific - and built an infrastructure that dramatically expanded its reach, capabilities, and power, transforming his seaplane and tender command from static aircraft coastal bases to a multi-dimensional trans-ocean naval base and scouting command.  Along the way he mapped and parsed vast swaths of Pacific Ocean, searing its perils, pitfalls and opportunities into his psych, ready for instant recall.  So only a few years later he could run a navy, its ships and planes, around a Pacific ocean war from Washington DC.  And build the fleet he needed to fight it.

These dramatic results also came about because King incorporated all that he'd learned in the Navy (commanding destroyers, submarines, the carrier Lexington, the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics, and seaplanes) into his next post, that of Commander, US Navy Aircraft Battle Force.  In early 1938 when he pushed his aircraft carrier fleet to its limits, searching for new doctrine and capabilities, he directly challenged the Navy's powerful Gun Club and its hallowed doctrine that enshrined battleships as the Navy's dominant weapon. In a single stroke out of the blue, King unilaterally threatened to gut the US Fleet's center of gravity, its battle line of battleships and heavy cruisers, upsetting a hundred of years of naval doctrine, when he proposed to transfer his carriers Saratoga, Lexington, and Ranger (soon to include Yorktown and Enterprise) to the Fleet's Scouting Forces (its light cruisers, destroyers, and scouting planes) and put the consolidated Fleet under his command. Cut free from the 21 knot Battleships, King could then run his fully integrated and independent task force great distances at up to 33 knots, moving at will and in any direction, before he launched airborne strike forces from sea-borne platforms aimed at targets far over the horizon using fleets of naval aircraft flying at high speeds to deliver bombs, bullets and torpedoes that hit enemy fleets and bases with devastating surprise then exit the scene at high speed to escape enemy counter-attack, leaving only vast stretches of empty blue water in his task force's wake.  Thus he'd create his own innovative naval task force and the doctrine to deploy it with a flexibility, speed, reach and punch that far exceeded the sum of its parts or any other battle fleet in history.  Typical King, now all fit to win the upcoming war, and culminate his career.

There was a hitch, however.  The Bureau of Navigation Chief rejected Kings request.  Only battleships could protect "fragile" aircraft carriers from enemy surface fleet attack, Rear Admiral Adolphus Andrews insisted.  But battleships had far more important things to do than follow aircraft carriers on their narrowly focused missions, given that only battleships screened by cruisers and destroyers could do the US Navy's primary work: sink the enemy fleet while protecting their own.  Hence carriers must be tethered close to battleships not only to survive but to support and allow the rest of the fleet to accomplish its mission.  This logic was inescapable.  Fleets must be built and operate around their supreme offensive and defensive naval war machine, the irreplaceable battleship.  This was Holy Grail, an immutable war fighting doctrine since Mahan, and long before Mahan.  Andrews ordered King to keep his nose in his own business, his "specialty," namely aircraft carriers that support and work under the command of the Battle Fleet.  To nail shut the lid on King's foolishness, the Gun Club promoted Rear Admiral Andrews to Vice Admiral with orders to take command of the US Navy's Scouting Fleet, blocking all predatory schemes and maneuvers by fly boy admirals.

But King was not to be denied.  At the start of Fleet Problem XIX, Vice Admiral Kalbfus rejected King's advice to operate Sagatoga and Lexington as a independent carrier task force.  Disaster ensued.  Planes off the carrier Ranger, operating in its own task force hit Lexington before PBYs disabled her altogether and Battleships sunk Saratoga.  Kalbus changed his tune.  After accepting King's advice in the rest of FP XIX, Kalbus's forces achieved not only victory but deployed radically new tactics that waged naval war with far more speed, force, and surprise.  With King in command (and with future CNO Admiral Starke aboard) the Lexington and Saratoga broke away from the Pacific Scouting Fleet and, although the Lexington had to retire due to an epidemic onboard, the Saratoga ran southeast for a 1000 miles under the cover of squalls then launched an air attack on Hawaii with total surprise and success. Next King sailed his independent task force of carriers and cruisers east to strike the American continent.  Coming within range he launched air attacks to catch the Mare Island Navy Yard near San Francisco by surprise. 1a/  These startling results gained by placing aircraft carriers at the center of the fleet to vastly expand its power, reach and effectiveness, threatened the Gun Club.  To protect their careers and power, the club placed King on the road to retirement without considering him for NCO.  The Gun Club reigned anew, so America slept.  King called Washington's political admirals "fixers."  Ultimately he'd have to fix the mess they left behind. 2a/

So, almost four years after Admiral Andrews rejected King's 1938 request to mass carriers task forces for independent action, a Japanese six carrier task force 3a/ attacking from the northwest (following King's route) caught Pearl Harbor by total surprise.  America's long range Navy PBY patrol force, whose mission should have been to prevent such surprise attack, was destroyed on the ground.  US Commanders charged with defending Pearl Harbor had left it blind to long range enemy carrier attack instead.  King, on taking command of the entire US Navy after the debacle at Pearl Harbor, would be left with three carriers 4a/, no battleships and twelve cruisers to counter an onslaught led by ten Japanese carriers, ten battleships, and eighteen cruisers.  He'd also be left with a disfunctional US Navy, shocked into a disoriented, all thumbs defensive crouch.  On Admiral Kimmel's relief, nobody could get their act together.  Task forces felt unable to relieve Wake for "lack of oil." An enemy carrier threat off the Marshals posed by a derelict half submerged barge adrift in mid-ocean scattered another task force.  A US Navy back in Washington decided itself hobbled by a war plan named Dog that had swallowed its own poison pill - Defend.  That single word would soon threaten to force an American fleet back behind the Oahu, Alaska, Panama Canal defensive line.  A green and shaken US Navy up against a battle hardened fleet almost three times its size, suddenly lost the will to fight.   Taking command 30 December 1941, King tossed out this toxic recipe for defeat. 5a/  Within fourteen months King's offensive had flipped and forced Japan's military into the beginning of a death spiral.

The Marine Corps played a central roll in achieving these startling results within the first fourteen months of King's first Pacific war offensive.  So we'll drop back in time to consider the Marine Corps' development of amphibious landing capability, a doctrine built in the 1930s, one as revolutionary as the development of naval air power during the same period.  Then we'll consider how Ernest King and General Holland Smith USMC played critical rolls that helped put together the puzzle that created the awesome power, reach, and flexibility of a radically new Navy-Marine Corps team.  An air/sea/land task force centered around naval air power and amphibious landing capability supported by naval gunfire ships offshore and a new Alligator Navy that linked land and sea, this generated its strike force.  New and massive sea-borne logistics trains fueled that force. The result was awesome: light infantry and armor that delivered a punch from the sea broke down the doors at enemy beaches then surged inland as naval task forces thousands of miles from home launched aircraft that not only reinforced the Amphibious assault but also struck from over the horizon, devastating enemy fleets and aircraft trying to come to the rescue.  It's a remarkable story, with stupendous consequences.


1a/ For perspective see Albert A. Nofi's Aviation in the Interwar Fleet Maneuvers, 1919-1940, Chapter 7 of One Hundred Years of US Navy Airpower by author/editor Douglas V. Smith, Naval Institute Press, 2013.  Note therein that King was only one among many heroes that build Navy airpower before WWII.  Visionaries like Moffet and Sims grasped the future of carrier air in the early twenties.  Powerhouse Commanders like Joseph Mason Reeves drove that vision into growing reality starting in 1927.  By 1935 Lexington and Saratoga airpower had again and again struck Hawaii, the Panama Canal, and Naval Capital ships at sea and anchorage.  Doctrine was growing exponentially.  Theory had become base doctrine with the base tools to use it by 1935.  Long-legged naval patrol craft, the PBY, was fixed by 1938.  Long-legged naval strike planes were expected by 1941.  But America desperately needed more carriers.  And when the powerhouse Reeves retired as Commander in Chief, US Fleet in 1936, the gun club was back in the drivers seat, wiping carrier air off the Fleet Problem agenda.  By 1938 King was trying to bull his way through a swamp of naval politics so as to get his share of US Navy ready for the looming carrier war with Japanese.

2a/ That mess was the Pearl Harbor debacle and its consequences.  As John Lundstrom rightly said (as quoted in Joe Rockfort's War): "What was going on here was a failure of imagination.  The possibility that the Japanese might build a task force around as many as six carrier's was unthinkableIt was unthinkable because that wasn't the way the (US) Navy would do it."  True, but why?  It ran far deeper than lack of imagination.  King did four carrier task force exercises in 1939 at Fleet Problem XX.  He operated those four carriers in square configurations to create the capacity to multiply that task force by squares that totaled 8 and 12 carriers using the same basic tactical maneuvers.  But King's innovation proved not only "unthinkable" to the Gun Club but an intolerable threat.  It's no accident that Admiral Claude Bloch who was alleged to have interfered with the development of carrier tactics in the 1930's (see Nofi's Aviation in the Interwar Fleet Maneuvers, 1919-1940) later commanded the Naval PBY's patrol squadrons destroyed on the ground December 7 at Pearl Harbor.  The Pearl Harbor disgrace rested on that core.  (For many other unrelated details see generally also Joe Rochefort's War: The odyssey of the codebreaker who outwitted Yamamoto at Midway by Elliot Carlson, published by Naval Institute Press.)

3a/  Commander Minoru Genda, the Japanese mastermind behind the six carrier task force that hit Pearl Harbor, said he got the idea watching the preview of a movie in a London theatre in 1940 showing four US carriers doing maneuvers in tandem, and instantly realized the offensive striking power and concentrated AA battery and air defense gained by massed carrier task forces.  Likely this was a 1939 US Navy film taken at FP XX, showing King operating his four carriers (Lexington, Saratoga, Yorktown, and Ranger) as an independent task force task force for the first time in history.  Loose lips sink ships.

4a/ Saratoga was disabled by enemy torpedo in January, 1942.

5a/ Why did Admiral Stark's Dog Plan propose "... (a) stong offensive in the Atlantic as an ally of Britain and a defensive in the Pacific ...?"  Was this the Admiral's intent, or his inartful choice of words, or did he blink in hard negotiations with General Marshall?  Whatever the answer, the word defensive was wholly improper.  A blue water navy in 1941 (or most anytime before) could defend itself and fulfill its mission only by going on the offensive.  Ernest King believed this immutable naval doctrine since Mahon and Teddy Roosevelt.  Even the US Army as far back as 1900 built its Pacific Doctrine around this principle.  Yet by 1942 the US Army used this wrong word choice in the Dog Plan to try to throttle the US Navy's ability to do its job properly in the Pacific.  In response king built one of the most imaginative and effective offensives in the history of war.  He placed the US Navy and Marine Corps at its center.  Never has a naval offensive achieved so much so quickly with so little.  Fourteen months after taking command, King had the Japanese Empire running out of gas and coming apart at the Battle of the Bismarck Sea 14, in early March 1943.  Japan's military had begun its death spiral.  But let's drop back in time briefly to better grasp how all this happened, starting in the Altantic and Pacific.


America's Undeclared War in the Atlantic Turbo-Charges Preparations for Amphibious Assault:

King's next command, and his rendezvous with history, would be interrupted by a string of remarkable events that would save his naval career from oblivion.  On 1 Sept. 1939 Germany, having earlier taken the Rhineland, Czechoslovakia and Austria, launched its blitzkrieg attack that ignited World War 11, crushing Poland's freedom.  In November the Russians, who'd earlier seized the three Baltic States, invaded Finland.  That Christmas the Japanese bragged about killing 1.5 million Chinese so far in the newest war they'd recently started again China.  The next month (January 1940) Germany massed 80 of its 140 divisions on the borders of Belgium and Holland then crushed Norway and Denmark in April before its Nazi panzers thrust into Belgium, Holland, Luxemburg and France on May 10.  Western Europe imploded.  Luxemburg collapsed.  Holland survived 5 days, Belgium lasted 18, and France fell in June.  The French army shattered.  France's fleet went into hiding.  Britain's army was neutered, its gear left in shambles on the far side of the British Channel - most all its rifles, artillery, machine guns, munitions, radios, tanks, trucks lay broken on Flanders Fields of France and Belgium.  280 British warplanes and 360 pilots, flying mostly Spitfires and Hurricanes, were left to defend the British Isles against incoming fleets of thousands of German's Luftwaffe bombers and Messerschmit fighters.

Never has the nation been so naked before her foes," declared Winston Churchill.  

The civilized world was coming apart.  Democratic Europe's collapse into fascists' hands left its colonial possessions worldwide up for grabs.  Japan in September signed its Tripartite Pact with the Axis powers, Germany and Italy.  Then it seized key parts of French Indochina, gaining a springboard into Burma, the Indian subcontinent, British Malaysia, and the Dutch East Indies.  The US Navy suddenly faced the threat of a two ocean war, one against Japan in the Pacific, the other against the Axis powers in the Atlantic.  French colonies in West Africa now offered Germany a stepping stone into South America.  France's West Indies in the Caribbean could put Hitler on America's doorstep.  The Atlantic Ocean buffer had evaporated.  America's Navy couldn't defend it and the Pacific too.  The US army still couldn't field a single combat ready division.  The Western Hemisphere lay wide open.  The Axis powers in Europe and the Pacific rim were running wild, threatening the remnants of the civilized world.  Italy, having earlier invaded North Africa and Albania now invaded Greece.  With London under nightly bomber attack, the Battle for Britain raged.  U-Boats swarmed the North Atlantic, decimating Britain's merchant marine, strangling her lifeline to America and her overseas empire.  War and economic decline had reduced the Royal Navy's 450 destroyers to 65.  Britain hung by a thread.  Her fall would leave America naked. 

In December 1940 FDR told the nation:"Never before since Jamestown and Plymouth Rock has our American civilization been in such danger as now ... If Great Britain goes down, the Axis powers will control the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa, Autralasia, and the high seas ... It is no exaggeration to say that all of us, in all the America; would be living at the point of a gun - a gun loaded with explosive bullets, economic as well as military ... To survive in such a world ... the past two years has proven beyond a doubt that no nation can appease the Nazis ... We are planning our own defense with the utmost urgency ... and in its vast scale we must integrate the war needs of Britain and the other free nations that are resisting aggression ... This effort requires great sacrifice ... We must be the great arsenal of democracy."

The key to the President's plan was to regain US and British control of the Atlantic, reestablishing the safety of Britain's lifeline to America and the world, so that merchant ships could keep the British Isles alive and fighting the war.  This task demanded nothing short of America's waging an undeclared ocean war with Germany.  Now, in this time of crisis, the American President turned US Navy tradition on its head when he demanded that Ernest King be selected to undertake the most difficult command in the US military, the hinge from which US forces could wage the President's undeclared war on Germany in the Atlantic to keep Britain alive and fighting World War 11.

Why King?  Months before World War 11 had started in September of 1939, King had been passed over for the top job in the US Navy, Chief of Naval Operations, and was put on the track to certain retirement instead.  He had not even been considered for the job.  The rumors were rife as to why?  Now, 18 months later, the Secretary of the Navy explained King's stunning resurrection: "He's so tough he shaves with a blowtorch.  This colorful characterization of King helps explain why he'd been passed over before and then yanked off the road to retirement now to take command of the Navy's most daunting challenge.  War was at hand.  America needed war-fighting Admirals.

Flex 7 - Dawn of New Age for Amphibious Assault:   

King took command of the US Atlantic Fleet on 17 December 1940.  One of his top priorities was the US Marines, their ability to quickly launch contested beach landings, particularly on the Caribbean islands held by the German dominated Vichy France, and to reinforce exposed outposts far out in the mid-Altantic.  This included landings on the Portuguese Azores to control of that mid-Atlantic rampart against any German aggression against the Caribbean, and landings on Iceland to relieve the British garrison there for other duties and insure safe transit through the North Atlantic to keep Britain alive. So King promply set sail for the Caribbean and General Holland H. Smith USMC.

The Marines were furiously at work.  For months "Howling Mad" Smith had been pushing key elements of his First Marine Brigade to its limits, dredging and jack-hammering a rough tent camp out of swamp and concrete hard ground at Deer Point that flanked Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, while he also madly trained his men for a looming amphibious war.  It was the culmination of 20 years work, trying to build and master a revolutionary doctrine of sea-borne assault that busted through modern enemy beach defenses and seized beachheads impervious to successful counterattack.  Getting this far had been a long struggle for the Corps, one often frustrated by the Navy, its history of too little cooperation, equipment and understanding, and occasional outright opposition.  Thanks mostly to its own tenacity, the Corps stood on the cusp of cracking open a nut that would alter and enlarge America's part in World War 11.  Still the obstacles were many.  And now the pressure cooker of impending war was gathering a full head of steam.  General Smith was famously protective of US Marine prerogative vis a vis the Navy.  His views built on his experiences going back to the imperial Admiral Sims in the early 1920s were plain: over-bearing Admirals did not mix well with amphibious assault.  Most Admirals knew little, if anything at all, about the subject, yet insisted on running the operation.  Like king, Smith possessed an important combination of qualities, an intellectual perfectionist who was also direct, fearless, and driven by principle to achieve excellence in war.  So as Marine General Holland Smith watched Admiral King's stately approach in his flagship USS Texas to take command of Flex 7, the General was surely loading for bear.  As was the Admiral.  Flex 7 would hold historic consequences.

The Admiral began testing the General soon after the Admiral's fleet sailing under wartime conditions commenced its run on the island of Culebra.  Three times the Admiral summoned the General to the Admiral's flag bridge perched within the battleship's conning tower several decks above Smith's lowly station.  Three times the 57 year old General clambered up the ladders leading to the Admiral's perch only to be asked a trivial question then dismissed.  On his third dismissal, Smith suggested that the Admiral "regularize our meetings" given that the General was not the Admiral's "messenger boy."  King then informed the General that his landing plans for Flex 7 were totally unacceptable.  The Admiral had decided that Smith's three battalions of Marines and two battalions of Army troops, 5,000 men, would not be landing on Culebra at all, but 60 miles away across a beach on the island of St. Johns.  Impossible, the General retorted.  Steep mountains rimmed the landward sides of the beach.  Without beach exits there could be no beachhead.  Only Culebra worked, that's why the Marine had used it since the 1920s.

The Admiral dismissed the General's concerns.  This ignited a disputation on beaches, beachheads, and bridgeheads, the General and the Admiral going toe to toe, neither giving ground.

Finally King announced that he was sick and tired of hearing about "beachheads."  "Call it a beach," he demanded.  "Why don't you Marines get it straight?"  Having none of it, the General fired back what hit King between the eyes.  "Because I'll lose the confidence of my young officers should I force them into a landing that makes no sense, violating all acceptable doctrine of amphibious assault."  King then abruptly changed course.  He demanded that Smith's Marines assault the south coast of Puerto Rico.  I've got no maps or charts of it, the General snorted.  That was the General's problem, not the Admiral's.  King refused to share his maps and charts but relented to loaning his flagship's catapult seaplane for reconnaissance.  By now, of course, the General's schedule for training his troops before the exercise was fast going down the drain.

Next the General's fly over 'recon mission' revealed King's selection to be a privately owned beach backed by a canal and malarial swamp.  Landing there was not only illegal, it would expose his landing troops to malaria should they survive murderous defilade fire.  This too had to be argued out with King upon the General's return to the Admirals Flagship and yet another arduous climb up to King's perch high above the gun decks of the USS Texas.  And so it went.  Spruance, a witness these events, said that King and Smith quarreled constantly over amphibious tactics and doctrine during Flex 7 between February 4 and 12, 1941.

What was King after here?  What was he trying to accomplish?  Consider that three weeks before the Flex 7 exercises, King wrote Admiral Stark, Chief of US Naval Operations, stating:

"I feel quite strongly that I should have available for service at all times not less than 3 large and 3 small transports for about 3500 troops (and necessary equipment) ... that will enable getting troops ashore in time to prevent the 'first waves' from being overwhelmed before the following waves can arrive, and to carry (equipment that enables) the troops to maintain themselves after they have secured a beach-head (emphasis added)."  Clearly, King knew full well weeks before Flex 7 what a 'beach-head' was: namely, how critically important the rapid and powerful seizure of a defensible beachhead perimeter was to the success of amphibian assault.

But also consider King's antique verbiage in the very same paragraph: "I am coming to the conviction that a division of large transports should comprise 3 large transports plus an Arcturus, the latter to carry extra landing boats, tank lighters, etc. ... and to carry multifarious 'impedimenta" that will enable the troops to maintain themselves after they have effected a secure beach-head."

Arcturus and multifarious 'impedimenta"?  This newly minted Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet obviously hasn't learned the lingo.  Likely too he has very little or no practical experience in the art of seaborne assault.  Rather he's just begun his work, digging into its issues.  But he's quickly grasped from somewhere (likely the Marine Landing Manual) the critical ingredient of assault landings from the sea: to hit the beach fast, heavy, and hard with as many shock troops and war machines as possible to establish and hold a defensible beachhead.  So he's already into the essence of the assault problem and he's firing out strongly worded memos to the top man in Navy telling him "to sent me now available for service for all times three big attack troop transports plus an Arcturus to get multifarious 'impedimenta" ashore to seize and hold beachheads.  King might have been a novice before Flex 7 but he's extremely quick at getting to the root of big practical problems, and taking strong action to solve them, going direct to the top of the Navy chain of command.  Here the proof is in the pudding.  Those three 'large' attack troop transports, so long needed but withheld by the Navy before, would show up now pronto for Flex 7.  King cut to the quick, got big things done fast, to insure critical results.  It's the essence of King's genius at command.

Consider also King's post Flex 7 thumbnail assessment.  "Flex 7 "represented a new development in the amphibious technique of the Marine Corps (as) assault transports ... specially equipped to launch landing boats rapidly were available for the first time. The Marine Corps had experimented intensively with the development of special boats that would facilitate the landing of troops and weapons on a hostile beach ... Battleships, cruisers, and destroyers bombarded the beaches, changing their range farther island as the first landing boats inched in.  The coordination of fire and the maneuvering of the boats, so that their occupants might hit the beach simultaneously, called for careful experiment ... Although the results left much to be desired, they at least exposed the lack of services and equipment necessary to conduct such operations ... (and) that for the first attempt in handling a joint force of five thousand men, something useful had been learned ... Creeping and walking normally precede an ability to run, and ... so far as amphibious landings were concerned, the Marines had learned to walk and were beginning to get up to speed ..."

King's assessment is remarkable.  It shows he appreciated how fiendishly difficult and complex amphibious landing on contested shorelines was, and how much the Marines had suffered from "lack of services and equipment necessary to conduct such operations.And how much he appreciated what Smith's Marines had achieved in light of those facts that most often arose by failure of his own US Navy.  Equally important, it shows how far King thought the Navy and Marines had to go "to get up to speed."  In fact it would take 3.5 years, mostly in brutal combat, for the Navy and Marines to get fully up to speed, going full bore, on amphibious assault.  Tinian proved that.  King's satisfaction with the performance of Flex 7 proves that he grasped the difficulties, obstacles and shifting nature of the problems that his command, Naval and Marine alike, had to master if they were to get fully "up to speed" on the art of assault from the sea.  Later he would factor his Flex 7 insights into his war planning of WW11.  For now he drove hard, ruffling feathers, for solutions for Marines.  The Corps was now part of King's share of the Navy.

Even before Flex 7, King clearly saw that the Marine Corps and their hard earned doctrine of seaborne land assault was the spindle around which much of the oncoming war would turn.  Thus on 1 February 1941 he declared the newly formed 1st Marine Division "an integral and important part of (his newly formed) US Navy Atlantic Fleet."  At Flex 7, although a novice at the specifics, King was going fast down the right alley, getting the big picture on amphibious assault, its needs and opportunities, its issues and solutions.  His rapid uptake shouldn't surprise.  He'd spent a lifetime picking apart novel war machines and their maneuver, doctrines and tactics, seeing what works and what doesn't.  And what's needed to overcome problems and get the job done with excellence.  As usual with innovative doctrine and technology, he waded into the details, testing and challenging all assumptions, pushing everyone involved hard. Aggressive before, King's command of the "undeclared war in the Atlantic" put him into overdrive, testing, probing, evaluating and learning about expanding the power of his command, finding problems to fix and new capabilities to deploy, while he assessed the readiness of the force and competence of those commanding it.  The last insight got him into the subject of Marine General Holland Smith, and the US Army troops and commanders, at Flex 7.        

King's standards in judging fitness for high command were stern.  Rank did not confer privilege, it imposed stern responsibilities and high performance.  Anyone found to be floating on past performance, rank, or reputation, instead of proven current excellence, was out. His rationale was plainly stated.  "War has changed little in principle from the beginning of recorded time ... machines are as nothing without the men who invent them, man them, and give them life.  War is force ... (breaking the enemies will to fight).  War is men against men.  Mechanized war is still men against men, for machines are masses of inert metal without the men who control them - or destroy them.  Any man facing a major decision acts, consciously or otherwise, upon the training and beliefs of a lifetime.  This is no less true of a military commander than of a surgeon who, while operating, suddenly encounters an unexpected complication.  In both instances men must act immediately, with little time for reflection and if they are successful in dealing with the unexpected it is upon the basis of past experience and training."  (See Fleet Admiral King, Naval Record, by Ernest King and Walter Muir Whitehall, W. W. Norton & Co. 1952).

This explains much.  For example, it tosses light on King's otherwise inexplicable refusal to share his plans and charts of the Puerto Rico beach with General Smith.  One can only imagine their exchange.  "I've got no maps or charts of it," the General snorted.  "So what," the Admiral replies.  "Consider your command post destroyed, your maps and charts up in flames.  What the hell then, General?  Surely by now you, a Marine General, knows how to conduct a reconnaissance and act on that!"

While total speculation, this exchange would be typical of King, right in line with the demands he placed on any subordinate he deemed fit for command in war.  For King the reason was obvious.  Without fail, the commander "while operating (in war would) suddenly encounter an unexpected complication" upon which he "must act immediately with little time for reflection."  Victory or defeat, the lives under his command, depended on his "past experience and training" to deal with the sudden confusion, chaos, fog, and horrendous pressure of war.  Without the intervention of command decisions coolly and rightly made then executed, the consequences of battle often go from horrible to horribly worse.   In King's world, this was not platitude or theory, but an obvious fact that either broke your forces or drove them to victory.

In addition, King believed that another important component of competent command was the commander's ability to take thoughtful action that anticipates events and constructs the means to turn them to best advantage.  This he called "initiative."  He defined such initiative as "... the freedom to act only after all of one's resources in education, training, experience, skill and understanding have been brought to bear on the work at hand ... (and take action that) requires intense application in order that what is to be done shall be done in a correlated part of a connected whole - much as the link of a chain or a gear-wheel in a machine ...  (Thus) war requires exercise ... of the full powers and capabilities of every officer in command ... and subordinates (who) are to become habituated to think, to judge, to decide and to act for themselves.  It requires hard work - concentration of powers- to exercise command effectively and, frequently, even harder work to exercise initiative intelligently.  When told what to do, make sure that "how" you do it is effective, not only in itself, but as an intelligent, essential and correlated part of a comprehensive and connected whole. (King, Exercise of Command, Correct Use of Initiative, 22 April 1941)

Even more important, King demanded that such initiative be pushed all the way down the line of command, and that all commanders demand that all individuals within their commands act with full initiative when performing their jobs, down to every sailor manning a mop or gun battery.  Thus the US navy's warfighting capacity and effectiveness, its ability to learn and adapt, to move quick and hit the enemy hard, and to do all of it again and again, all of this power, King magnified exponently.  Hence King led and drove the most powerful and complicated navy in world history on worldwide campaigns of unmatched reach, ingenuity and success, while insisting that his own staff not exceed 20 executive officers.  

This tells us much about the consequences that flowed from Ernest King's experience and understanding gathered at the early 1941 Flex 7 manuevers.  It's hard to imagine an officer with more "initiative" than General Holland Smith who drove the East Coast program of innovation and refinement and training for US amphibious landings in 1940 and 1941.  Nor is it possible to imagine a group of officers with more "initiative" than the cadre of US Marines who drove the radically new developments in the art of amphibious assault during the 1930s, efforts that would change the face of war in World War 11.  This goes a long way to explaining why "Admiral King was very partial towards Marines, and I thought and still think that this came from his previous experience with Marines on maneuvers (in 1941) under the command of General Holland M. Smith.  This was the beginning of Admiral King's education in amphibious warfare and the capabilities of the Marines." (Oman T. Pfeiffer, King's WWII Marine Staff Officer, Master of Seapower, by Thomas B. Buell, Naval Institute Press, 1980.) 

This also helps to explain why the Flex 7 landings were carried out according to Smith's original plans despite the Admiral's initial protestations.  It's why, although their performance was not to Smith's satisfaction, King sent Smith a note stating: "At the close of the recent intensive landing force exercises, I wish to express to you and to the troops under your command in this area my feeling of satisfaction that such well trained troops, so well commanded, are an integral part of the Atlantic Fleet, and my confidence in their capacity to do their full part and to do us all credit in whatever active operations may come our way.  Well Done!  E. J. King

For King, the third critical test for command was character.  King's rude obstinance at Flex 7 was the Admiral's way of testing the strength of the Marine General's convictions and his nerves under pressure. For ten days he picked, probed, and challenged Smith's competence, his aggressive spirit and hard earned experience in his area of expertise, as well as its practical details and problems, while King also evaluated the readiness of his Marines to meet the challenges they'd soon face in War.  In dealing out this stern treatment, King was trying to force the "false solutions of a birth deck cook" on the General, and test how he reacted, given King's expectation that Smith's subordinates and superiors would try to force such shabby and false solutions on the General in the war looming on the horizon.  Obviously Holland Smith's strong resistance to anything less than excellence, and the force with which his character shone through his Marines going through their paces, doing revolutionary tasks, not only passed King's third test of command, but did so with flying colors.  Having accomplished this with a lack of services and equipment necessary to conduct such operations ... doing their best with what they had, magnified their achievement in King's view.  Fortunately for the nation, King was a highly competent judge, and supremely placed and able to act on his judgement.  This helps to explain why King's high opinion of Marine performance in Flex 7 (one grounded in their 20 year struggle that developed the theory and practice of contested amphibious warfare despite all obstacles) earned them and their commander the central roll in America's assault on Japan's heavily defended islands in the Pacific.  King made this quite clear:

"Shortly before the first full landing, three Army General staff officers arrived from Washington as observers ... but (King) soon discovered that they regarded themselves as in a position to criticize the amphibious techniques of the far more experienced Marines.  Creeping and walking normally precede an ability to run, and as it seemed to King that, so far as amphibious landings were concerned, the Marines had learned to walk and were beginning to get up to speed, while the army had yet to master the art of creeping, he (King) was both amused and annoyed by the attitude of the observers."

King also noted that the three Army General Staff officers "apparently" reported to General Marshall "that King had no regard for the niceties of high command and was only concerned with getting the Army combat units ashore in the proper place and time. To King that was quite enough of an undertaking, but evidently this view was not shared, for General Marshall when King called on him in Washington several weeks later was, although polite, distinctly cool in his manner ... and did not seem particularly cordial to (King's) suggestion that the Army and Navy work together on other fleet landing exercises.  (Marshall) appeared to think that landings were easily managed and that while Marines might be competent in this respect, they were hardly capable of commanding an entire division, with its adjuncts of engineer, communications, medical, and intelligence units!  Such a point was unintelligible to King... (given the Marines' record of accomplishment over the past twenty years). (See Fleet Admiral King, Naval Record, by Ernest King and Walter Muir Whitehall, W. W. Norton & Co. 1952, pg. 321-22).

Almost surely King's characterization of General Marshall arose out a meeting in April between King, as Commander of the Atlantic Fleet, and Marshall, as Chief of Staff of the Army, during which King insisted that Marine General Holland Smith command all amphibious troops, including all Army troops, during the planned amphibious landing on the Azores.  On that occasion Marshall acquiesced to King's demand.  But this controversy proved to be only the opening battle of an internecine war that raged within WWII, during which King confronted Marshall and/or MacArthur again and again on issues relating to the US Marine Corps.  The record is plain.  On matters of conviction, among officers unafraid to confront power with highly informed principle, Ernest King and Holland Smith were without equals in WWII, save as regards to one another.   Fortunately, too, each man could also rattle strong cages, shake up group think, sloppy performance, and ill-advised plans and interference, and thus alter the course of events.  Each could also react properly and with distinction when they were the targets of such challenge, including by one another.  Smith's Chief of Staff Col. Graves Erskine recalled that when Admiral King laid out his overly detailed instructions as to How the Marines were to land on the Azores:

"I could see Holland Smith getting ready to explode.  He drew himself up, and usually when he was real mad he would start breathing heavily, and I could see it coming.  He finally exploded at King and told him he was going to issue the orders and he would determine the scheme of maneuvers for any operation, that no admiral was going to give orders to the Marines and tell them how to go and fight.  That was his job ... Some junior officers were discreetly leaving the room as King declared "I am the Commander-in-Chief, I'll have you relieved."  (But) Smith stood right up to old Admiral King (saying) "Relieved or not, as long as I am in command, I am going to command."

Finally King, realizing that he'd overstepped his own bounds of proper command, calmed down, and both men "continued their discussion in reasonable fashion."  (Erskine, Oral History USMC).  Here King won his struggle to restrain his instinct to control.  Such self mastery, often waged against one's own selfish interests, is a precious commodity in war where its far too often in short supply.  Thus it served King extremely well.  His insistence that Holland Smith command the V Amphibious Corps by reason of the Marine General's highly competent and fiercely independent character and his willingness to stake his career on getting the job done right, likely saved King's Central Pacific Compaign from crib death twice.  It happened first when Smith challenged King's orders to attack Nauru instead of Makin.  It occurred next when he successfully reversed Turner's decision to attack Betio without troop carrying Amtracs.  Thus "Howlin' Mad" saved the US Navy, his Marines and US Army troops from twin debacles.  Similarly Smith overturned Admiral Nimitz's effort to undercut the command authority of the US Marine Corps by ordering Spruance's 5th Fleet to sail into the Battle for the Gilberts without its Marine V Amphibious Corps Commander.  Here Howlin' Mad saved the Amphibious Corps' command over its Marines and US Army soldiers in combat.

It was a remarkable performance.  On arrival in Hawaii Smith demanded transfer out of his assigned quarters to those more suitable to his rank.  Next, when King arrived to review the kick off the Central Pacific Campaign at Nauru and Tarawa, Nimitz invited Spruance and Turner to discuss the plan, but excluded Holland Smith.  As the Marine General sat alone in his small office down the hall, Turner carried in Holland Smith's memo rejecting the plan.  Turner initialled the memo then handed it to Spruance.  Spruance read it then passed it to Nimitz who read it as if for the first time then handed it to King without commment or expression as if to step behind two human shields, Turner and Smith.  King watched this performance then he took the memo from Nimitz and read it with what appeared growing amusement.  Smith's memo told King why his Narau operation already approved and now being planned by US Navy for the Marines and Army had zero chance of success.  It was a fool's errand.  The Marine General's memo explained why.

King immediately agree to switch out Nauru.  Why not, General Smith knew what he was talking about.  Smith's courage to deliver his unvarished judgement to (and Turner's courage to endorse it in front of) higher command was precisely why King (and Spruance) had selected Holland Smith and Kelly Turner to their commands.  Why the hell should Spruance and Nimitz and their US Navy staff approve and plan these major amphibious operations when they knew so relatively little about the subject.  It was absurd. The war and mens' lives were at risk. Nimitz did not agree.  His actions make this plain, trying to keep General Smith locked up in Hawaii, sitting clueless in the dark, during the Tarawa and Makin battles, so as not to upset the delicate sensibilities of the US Army despite the fact that Smith had saved the 27th Infantry division from a debacle at Nauru.

Thus the General started off his job by challenging first the orders of the top man in the US Navy (King), then Admiral Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, and finally Turner on the Betio seaborne assault.  He did this soon after V Amphibious Corps creation and his selection to command it.  General Holcolm, the Marine Commandant, had called this "the Big Job" by reason of its power and the special place it held in Marine Corps history, a command specially created by King to defeat efforts by the US Army to gain control of the Corps.  King in so doing gave the Marine Corps command of more troops (army and Marines) ashore than ever before in history.  And King gave the Marines a bifurcated parity with the US Navy in amphibious assault operations.  Nimitz's attempt to undermine this parity so as to keep the US Army happy, and to keep the Marines under the Navy's thumb, ran headlong into Howlin' Mad Smith.  Howlin Mad won.  It wasn't the first time he risked his career to retain command of his troops and do the right thing.  Nor was it the last.  Long lasting major consequences flowed from Holland Smith's courageous display of integrity right up front in his first exercise of high command.

Unfortunately too many US subordinate commanders in WWII failed to exercise such integrity.  And too many of their superiors too often ignored or punished those who rightfully challenged their opinions, plans and actions in WWII, however ill advised.  Not only did such incompetence destroy the initiative of immediate subordinates, it put their entire command at unnecessary risk and diluted its operational effectiveness, doing untold harm.  Here in the Central Pacific Campaign at its start things were different.  King had initiated that difference years before, demanding character driven initiative down the chain of command.  Holland Smith with King's support compounded that difference, pushing it down his chain of command.  Hence Smith had a superb staff and, on average, his subordinate commanders were also superb, down to and including the enlisted ranks. So the qualities Admirals' King and Spruance so admired 3 years earlier during Flex 7 were put into place at Tarawa, saving America's Central Pacific Campaign from a ruinous debut.  It's all quite remarkable.  

Here the proof is in the pudding.  Commanders of high character, working up and down the chain of command, were potent game changers from 1940 through Tinian in the late summer of 1944 in the Pacific Ocean war, all to the nation's benefit.  The Marine Commandant saw this coming well in advance.  "Good, Holland can pound a table as hard as any admiral," said General Holcomb, upon learning of Smith's selection to command all landing forces during the Central Pacific Campaign.

This drove Admiral King to insist on Holland Smith's selection to the "Big Job" over the resistance of Admiral Nimitz.  King wanted an antidote to Nimitz's obsessive discretion, his compulsive need to push disagreement on important matters under the rug, hiding them from full and open consideration by others, including by King.  He knew such behavior cost lives and lengthens wars.  So King kept Nimitz on a tight leash.  And pushed Marine Holland Smith into Nimitz's chain of command.  King needed Smith and Turner to help keep the decision making process open and transparent and performance driven, insolated from political corruption.  It worked.  "Howlin Mad" proved a powerful antidote to disaster.  Another antidote was King's selection of Admiral Turner, another fiercely independent and outspoken commander, making a matched pair in the arena of US Navy and Marine Central Pacific amphibious assault under the quietly brilliant and effective Raymond Spruance, the balancing wheel between his two strong willed subordinates.  This too was no accident.  These three men, working under Admiral Nimitz, helped plug the hole that King considered the major weakness in Nimitz's competence as a commander.        

Thus it should be no surprise that King wasn't Holland Smith's the only naval admirer at Flex 7:

"...Spruance was impressed by Smith's professional knowledge, his stubbornness, and his zeal.  The Marine General obviously knew his business.  Spruance received an eye-opening demonstration in the latest equipment and techniques of amphibious warfare.  Smith was especially enthusiastic about his new 'alligator', a tracked armored vehicle that could float on water and crawl over land.  Two and a half years later alligators would help win the battle of Tawara.  Spruance (at Flex 7) decided that if he ever needed a Marine to command an amphibious assault, it would be Holland Smith.  (The Quiet Warrior, by T. Buell, Naval Institute Press, 1974).

King considered Raymond Spruance the smartest officer in the Navy, and so invited him and kept him close to Kings side at Flex 7.  Then charged with improving Caribbean naval bases against the German threat, Spuance later commanded the Central Pacific Campaign.

The game changing results of Flex 7 also began to be felt immediately.

"Thanks to Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander in Chief Atlantic Fleet, and Major General Holland M. "Howling Mad" Smith, 1st Marine Division, the drive to get America's amphibious Forces ready for war was accentuated in early 1941."  (The Amphibians are Coming, William McGee, 2000, BMC publications.)

"After Flex 7 the Navy and Marines began getting the amphibious equipment they needed" said Admiral Turner as reported in The Amphibian's Came to Conquer, by Vice Admiral George Dyer, US gov. printing office).

Flex 7 dramatically impacted all aspects of amphibious assault in 1941 before Pearl Harbor plunged America into World War II.  (see also generally U. S. Marines and Amphibious War, Jeter Isely & Philip Crowl, Princeton University Press, 1951.)

Genesis of US Navy-Marine Amphibious Assault pre-Flex 7 COMES NEXT   



2/ Richard Harwood, A Close Encounter: The Marine Landing on Tinian, Marines in World War 11 Commemorative Series.

3/ Ibid.


5/ Heavy firepower indeed, given its placement within a 75 yard front.

6/ Richard Harwood, A Close Encounter: The Marine Landing on Tinian, Marines in World War 11 Commemorative Series.

7/ Coral and Brass, by Holland McTyeire Smith, C. Scribner's Sons (1949)


REED M. FAWELL - BATTALION: The preparation and writing of the history of our Battalion was initiated in November of 1980 by a Company D officer, Robert E. Wolin.  He died in 1982.  His work was taken up in 1989 and completed in 1991 by 101 members of our Battalion these many years after the amphibious assault landings on Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima.  Had Robert E. Wolin lived to complete his work, he would have dedicated it to those who didn't return and made it possible for us survivors.

A Special Note contained in the Battalion history states that: The Japanese soldier fought a bravely as any warrior the world has ever seen. (Note: After the war Cornelius J. Vanderkolk said: Next time let's be sure the Japanese are on our side. Surely no man was better qualified by experience to render such an opinion than Lt. Vanderkolk.)

CREDITS -  Ultimately a total of 107 men of the 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion from all five companies pooled their REMEMBRANCES, DOCUMENTS, PHOTOS, etc, and RESEARCHED, WROTE, REVIEWED, and COMPILED their Battalion's military history as set out in 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion USMC WW II, ISBN - 9656571-0-7, and/or later furnished more oral histories to this site's web creator who also collected and researched additional documentary and archived material relevant to the Battalion.  All of these materials were then edited, reordered, and supplemented into this digetized narrative format by the website creator.  As well over 1200 men served in the Battalion during its short life (from 24 Jan 1944 to 30 Nov 1945), many of their memories, actions, individual experiences and achievements that are important parts of the Battalion's history are not recorded in the 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion USMC WW II, ISBN - 9656571-0-7, or here.  The names of all who served and all information that may be collected in the future will, however, become an important part of this website, and their stories and accomplishments, despite being unrecorded, are AND ALWAY WILL REMAIN criticial to the history and achievements of the Battalion.  Thanks are also due to the US Marine Corps Achives and Special Collections, at Quantico Va., for their documents and collections and the valuable assistance they rendered in accessing them. Copyright © 1991 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion Association per ISBN -0-9626571-0-7 & Copyright © 2011 Reed M. Fawell 111, website creator. All rights reserved.