World War Two: Mediterranean (1-4); Axis Situation-Italy

Pantelleria: A small island about eight miles long, five miles wide, Pantelleria is rugged, with sheer cliffs rising out of the sea. The few small areas of level ground were intensively cultivated except around the airfield, which could handle eighty single engine fighter aircraft. About 120 miles southwest of Palermo, Pantelleria is about the same distance as Malta from Catania. Since late 1940, the British had wanted to reduce Pantelleria in order to remove the air threat which it posed. But by the time the British could devote some attention and effort to the problem, the German Air Force had moved into Sicily, making the risks of assaulting Pantelleria too great. British plans lay dormant until the end of 1942, when they began to receive consideration. Still, seizing Pantelleria would not be easy, for by the spring of 1943 the island was a seemingly impregnable fortress garrisoned by about 12,000 troops, with underground aircraft hangars hewn from solid rock impervious to bombardment.

AFHQ began to look hard at Pantelleria in early February 1943, when General Marshall informed General Eisenhower that the U.S. Navy could not provide eight auxiliary aircraft carriers requested for air coyer of the American assault on Sicily. Marshall suggested instead that Eisenhower seize Pantelleria for its airfield, from which Allied fighters could support the Sicily operation.

Though Eisenhower at first was not impressed, he set his staff to prepare a plan to reduce Pantelleria, but only “if the capture became necessary.” The conclusion of the planners was unfavorable. Pantelleria posed difficult problems even if unlimited resources were available. With preparations for Sicily limiting available resources sharply, Pantelleria seemed altogether too tough. Pantelleria could be taken only at the expense of postponing the Sicilian assault, and planners felt that the importance of Pantelleria to the success of HUSKY was too small to justify delay.

So the matter rested until May, when the invasion plan moved the entire Allied assault to the southeastern corner of Sicily. General Eisenhower again considered seizing Pantelleria. He admitted that there were disadvantages in such an operation: possible heavy losses in men, ships, and landing craft, which could be ill afforded on the eve of the Sicilian invasion; the fact that a successful defense at Pantelleria would put heart into the Sicilian defenders at a time when “we sought to break it;” and the fact that the operation would point rather obviously to the next Allied move in the Mediterranean. Yet Eisenhower now saw great advantages in having the island: better air cover for the American landings; removal of a serious Axis threat to Allied air and naval operations during the Sicilian invasion; the use of Pantelleria as a navigational aid for Allied aircraft and for bases for air-sea rescue launches; denial of Pantelleria as a refueling base for enemy E-boats and submarines; and elimination of enemy radio direction finder and ship watching stations to insure a better possibility of achieving tactical surprise for the Sicilian invasion.

Intelligence reports were promising. Only five Italian infantry battalions, for the most part untested in battle, defended Pantelleria, and they were supported mainly by antiaircraft batteries manned by militia troops. The only evidence of the state of their morale was “the poor display of the antiaircraft gunners when our air forces raided on 8 May.”

On 10 May, perhaps still stung by General Marshall’s rebuke on his “lack of adaptability,” Eisenhower decided to seize Pantelleria, but without expending heavily in men or materiel To obviate a full-scale assault, Eisenhower thought of making the operation “a sort of laboratory to determine the effect of concentrated heavy bombing on a defended coastline.” He wished the Allied air forces “to concentrate everything” in blasting the island so that the damage to the garrison, its equipment and morale, would be “so serious as to make the landing a rather simple affair.” Constant artillery pounding on the defenders of Corregidor in 1942 seemed to have had that effect and Eisenhower wanted “to see whether the air can do the same thing.”

The British 1st Infantry Division, supported by appropriate naval forces, was to follow the bombardment and seize and occupy the island. The smaller nearby Pelagian Islands-Lampedusa, Linosa, and Lampione-were also to come under attack. All three services established a headquarters at Sousse and increasingly heavy air bombardments and a naval shoot soon went to work, reduced Pantelleria to shambles. Enemy casualties were few in number, but damage to housing, roads, and communications was severe.

By 1 June the port was in ruins, the town practically destroyed, and the electric plant knocked out. Shortages in water, ammunition, and supplies, plus the almost incessant explosions, began to have serious effects on morale. During the first ten days of June, more than 3,500 planes dropped almost 5,000 tons of bombs. On the morning of 8 June, members of the Italian garrison brought to the island commander some surrender leaflets dropped by the aircraft. As Supermarina proudly reported the incident to Comando Supremo, Pantelleria had not replied to the Allied ultimatum, Pantelleria would resist to the utmost.

Again on 10 June the, Italians refused to accept surrender. The single radio station working assured Rome that “despite everything Pantelleria will continue to resist.” Successive telegrams, as many as twenty that night, told of Pantelleria’s crumbling endurance, but none mentioned surrender. On the morning of 11 June, the Allied invasion fleet carrying the British 1st Division halted about eight miles off the harbor entrance of the port of Pantelleria. The ground troops loaded into assault craft. The weather was good, the sea calm. Only a few low-hanging clouds flecked the sky. Pantelleria itself was cloaked in the haze and dust raised by air bombardment earlier that morning. The Italian island commander had followed his usual custom of holding a staff conference that morning, even though Allied planes were plunging the island into a “hurricane of fire and smoke.” Heavy smoke and dust clouds blocked a view of the ocean, and the island commander was unaware of the Allied fleet offshore. Discussion at the staff meeting soon showed everyone in agreement—the situation had become untenable because of lack of water, communications, ammunition, and also because of the danger of disease. Furthermore, no Axis planes remained on Pantelleria; help from outside could not be expected; and the 24,000 people on the island had about reached the end of their endurance.

Since the commander had wired Supermarina several hours earlier that “the situation is desperate, all possibilities of effective resistance have been exhausted,” he ordered his air commander to display a white cross on the field. Because it would take almost two hours for the order to reach all the posts, the commander set the time for the cessation of hostilities at 1100. Shortly after he made his decision, the clouds opened and he saw the Allied ships.

At about that time the landing craft started their final run to the beaches. There was a strange stillness, the only noise being the pounding of the assault craft, the drone of fighters orbiting overhead. Cruisers started to fire at shore battery positions around 1100, and thirty minutes later escorting destroyers added their fires. No reply came from the island. At 1135, U.S. Flying Fortresses bombarded the island in “the most perfect precision bombing of unimaginable intensity.” At 1145, the assault echelon commander released his craft. By noon British troops were ashore. Shortly afterwards white flags appeared on many of the buildings.

Lampedusa had also refused the Allied surrender offer, the island commander notifying Rome that “bombardments are continuing without interruption, both from the air and from the sea. Air Support required urgently.” Instead of help, only words of intended cheer arrived:” We are convinced that you will inflict the greatest possible damage on the enemy. Long live Italy.” Disappointed, resentful, feeling that they had done their duty, the members of the garrison, after being ordered to do so by the island commander, raised white flags in surrender. Linosa fell the next day, 13 June. The Allies found Lampione unoccupied.

Allied intelligence had overestimated the will to resist of the defending garrisons. Despite Fascist propaganda, Pantelleria and the Pelagian Islands were hollow shells manned largely by over-age and inexperienced individuals, many of whom had their homes on the isles. When the Allies attacked, quite a few succumbed to the temptation of looking after their families instead of remaining at their posts. But against the power of the Western Allies, there was probably little they could have done with their inadequate and obsolete equipment.

On 20 June British aircraft began to operate from the field at Lampedusa, and six days later a group of U.S. P-40 fighters was based at Pantelleria. Eisenhower’s laboratory experiment had been eminently successful. Pantelleria and the Pelagian Islands gave the Allies a safer channel for shipping in the central Mediterranean and, more important, valuable airfields closer to Sicily and the Italian mainland.

Growing German Strength

Allied seizure of Pantelleria furnished no sure indication to Axis intelligence of the future course of Allied operations in the Mediterranean. Whether the attack on the outlying Italian islands was preliminary to an attack on Sicily or whether it served a plan of greater scope was not clear.

What was more than clear was the speed with which Pantelleria and the other islands had fallen. The rapid collapse showed that the Axis had definitely lost the initiative, for the Axis Powers could do little more than await invasion elsewhere, prepare to counterattack, and hope to repel the landings. Naval forces could react with only light surface craft and submarine activity against Allied shipping. Air forces were reduced to purely defensive efforts. Moreover, Pantelleria seemed to prove to Mussolini that air bombardment, like artillery, conquered ground and allowed the infantry to occupy it. Considering the fact that the Allies were blessed with a superiority of artillery and other equipment, the inference was evident.

To the Italians, the loss of Pantelleria was depressing. If this was the start of the battle for Sicily, Sardinia, or the Italian mainland, it was a poor beginning. As the Italian people awakened increasingly to the realization that they had lost the war defeatism spread.

To the Germans, loss of the islands meant not only a military defeat and a blow to Axis morale, it served also as an indication of the performance they could expect in the future from their Italian allies. The Germans could not understand why the outlying islands had not been sufficiently stocked with the supplies of war. It was difficult for them to comprehend why the Italians, fighting on their own soil, had offered so little resistance. Did the speedy fall of Pantelleria foreshadow the course of future operations in the Mediterranean?

If the capitulation of Pantelleria made the Germans feel that they could expect no resurgence of Italian morale in defense of the homeland, it made Comando Supremo much more willing to accept German help in the form of divisions to defend Italian soil.

Just before the fall of Pantelleria, Ambrosio, increasingly worried over defending Italy, had reluctantly concluded that two robust and highly mobile German divisions were necessary for the defense of Sicily. But if the Hermann Gӧring Division moved to Sicily, southern Italy would be exposed, for the 16th Panzer Division could not act as mobile reserve against landings on both east and west coasts. Ambrosio discussed these problems with Kesselring and Rintelen on 1 June. And when Kesselring forced the issue by asking, “Do you request me to inquire with the OKW to see if there is another division in addition to the 16th Panzer Division?” Ambrosio admitted that that was what he meant. The Italians were now willing to accept five German divisions, the number Hitler had originally offered to Mussolini.

[NOTE: The Hermann Gӧring Division was officially named the Hermann Gӧring Panzer Fallschirmjaeger Division, and was a unit of the German Luftwaffe. The new men were drawn largely from the Luftwaffe, and thus the division acquired the name of a paratroop division.]

Believing that the Germans could defend Italy if the Italians co-operated, having great faith and confidence in Mussolini though suspicious of the Italian military command, Kesselring asked Ambrosio whether the Italians needed more antiaircraft protection for the arterial railway lines and the power dams. Ambrosio did not commit himself at once, but a month later a formal, written request reached Kesselring. The Italians asked for antiaircraft guns and also for German crews. These would not arrive in Italy until August; by then they would be too late.

Meanwhile, Kesselring returned to Rome on 8 June after visiting Hitler’s headquarters. Hitler had told him that he was willing to send more planes, tanks, reconnaissance units, self-propelled guns, and troops to Italy. All the Italians had to do, Hitler said, was to have the Duce and Comando Supremo ask for them. But Ambrosio was in a quandary. If Mussolini was really going to break with the Germans, the fewer German troops in Italy the better. If, on the other hand, Italy was to oppose an Allied attack, more German troops were necessary. More were available, as Kesselring pointed out to Ambrosio on 11 June, the day that Pantelleria surrendered.

But when Kesselring said that both General Hube, the XIV Panzer Corps commander, and the Italian commander in Sicily thought that additional German troops were needed, Ambrosio professed to be unconvinced. He wondered whether the 16th Panzer Division might be sent to Sardinia, the Hermann Gӧring Division held in southern Italy. Kesselring objected on two counts: Sardinia was inappropriate terrain for employing an armored division–the 16th Panzer Division should therefore stay on the mainland; and one mobile German division was insufficient as a reserve in Sicily because two areas of attack were likely, in the west and in the southeast. Kesselring urged that Ambrosio, if he planned to request additional German forces, make his requests promptly so that OKW would have adequate time to prepare the divisions and move them. Ambrosio replied with some irritation that he was not prepared to make a formal request, though he said he would submit a complete statement of Italy’s requirements within a few days.

The fall of Pantelleria and the Pelagian Islands, which prompted Hitler to order both Sardinia and Sicily reinforced, caused Ambrosio to change his mind. When Ambrosio met again with Kesselring on 12 June, he was in a completely different mood. He acknowledged the validity of not moving the 16th Panzer Division to Sardinia, though he wanted to be sure that there were adequate gum and tanks on the island. Upon learning that the Germans intended to send additional strength to Sardinia, Ambrosio agreed to keep the 16th Panzer Division on the mainland. Kesselring then announced that the Germans had another motorized division–the 3rd Panzer Grenadier-available and, if requested, it could be promptly moved to southern Italy, making possible the transfer of the Hermann Gӧring Division to Sicily.

Ambrosio agreed to this proposal and to another by Kesselring that the reconnaissance battalion of the Hermann Gӧring Division proceed to Sicily at once. He also agreed that the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division might move into Italy immediately. Kesselring then said that if the Italians wished, the Führer could send a fourth division for the defense of the Italian soil, making a total of six German divisions in Italy. Ambrosio replied that he would have to study the distribution of divisions carefully, and would give a formal answer in a few days.

A few days later professional advice from field commanders overcame Ambrosio’s reluctance to admit additional German troops to Italy. After a very pessimistic report by the Italian commander in Sicily on 14 June, Comando Supremo three days later requested OKW to send to Italy two additional armored or motorized divisions. OKW complied by selecting the 29th Panzer Grenadier and the 26th Panzer Divisions, units that in mid-May had been earmarked for the occupation of northern Italy under Plan ALARICH.

By the end of June 1943, five German divisions, in whole or in part, were in Italy; two more divisions were about to enter the country; the XIV Panzer Corps headquarters was already in Italy and agreement had been reached for the arrival of another corps headquarters (the LXXVI Panzer Corps). Italy was beginning to resemble an occupied territory.

The Defenses of Sicily

Recognizing the impossibility of constructing and manning effective fortifications along the entire extensive Italian coast line, Comando Supremo had originally decided to concentrate the defenses on the major islands, plus part of the southern mainland. During the winter of 1942-43, the Italians began to give precedence to the defenses of Sardinia, the most likely Allied target. Around March 1943, they started to make special efforts to brace Sicily.

German coastal defense advisers, who had supervised the construction of the Atlantic Wall on the Channel coast, arrived in Italy in the spring of 1943, and one group went to Sicily to make recommendations for its defense. Though Italian fortification experts, some of whom had visited the Atlantic Wall, were impressed and anxious to duplicate it, the Italians lacked the resources to build and man such a fortified belt. Despite strenuous efforts to improve and extend the few existing fortifications on the coast of Sicily, the Italians made little progress. The Italian Sixth Army had been stationed on Sicily since the autumn of 1941.

Generale di Corpo d’ Armata Comandante Designato d’ Armata Mario Roatta, former chief of staff of the Italian Army, took command in February 1943 and assumed responsibility for part of Calabria as well as for Sicily. Roatta controlled almost a dozen divisions under two corps headquarters, an air reconnaissance force, and, through liaison, certain German units. With only partial control over the territorial antiaircraft defenses manned by the Fascist Militia (headquartered at Palermo), Roatta had no control over ground militia, naval, and air forces on Sicily. He had no direction of the units under the civilian prefects of the provinces. To co-ordinate his dispositions with the plans of various independent headquarters, Roatta had to rely on liaison. In all, the Italian command authority was divided among seven military and nine civilian agencies. Except for the naval bases and a few ports, the island in early 1943 was not on a wartime basis.

Shortly after assuming command, Roatta obtained a degree of unified command by having Comando Supremo give his Sixth Army headquarters the additional title of Armed Forces Command, Sicily. Roatta then became responsible for the tactical commitment of the Italian Army, Navy, Air, and militia elements, plus the German ground troops in Sicily and in southern Calabria. Through a high commissioner for civilian affairs, Roatta also assumed control of the civilian administration of the nine provincial prefects. The relatively small German air and naval elements remained under autonomous German control.

Roatta next requested troops and weapons to bring his ground forces up to wartime strength. He wanted manpower and materials so he could construct additional fortifications, improve communications, make possible the evacuation of the civilian population from battle areas, and stockpile supplies and food. But the men and materials he received were far below the amounts he considered minimum requirements.

Roatta nevertheless set soldiers and civilians to work to enlarge and improve the defenses on the beaches and at vital points on the main highways. He also began to construct a belt of fortifications and obstacles twelve to fifteen miles behind the beaches in order to contain Allied forces that might get ashore. He assigned each military unit a specific coastal sector for defense.

After serving as commander for three months, Roatta issued a proclamation that the population interpreted as a slight to Sicilian patriotism. This, added to changes recently made in the Italian high command, prompted Comando Supremo to appoint Roatta chief of the Army General Staff (Superesercito ) and to nominate Generale d’ Armata Alfredo Guzzoni in his place. Guzzoni’s appointment was somewhat surprising, for he was sixty-six years old and had been in retirement for two years. Furthermore, he had never been to Sicily, nor had he ever displayed interest in the island and its military problems. Guzzoni’s chief of staff, Colonel Emilio Faldella, a young and capable officer, appeared a good choice, but he, too, was a stranger to Sicily. Nor had Faldella, contrary to the usual Italian practice of keeping a commander and his chief of staff together, ever served with Guzzoni.

The Italian command structure was not rigid but rather relied on co-operation and co-ordination among commanders. An officer’s ability to engage in teamwork was therefore important. Similarly, unit organization was flexible. Commanders formed small groups of varied composition to meet various situations, without formal reassignment or reorganization, designating them by location, the name of the commander, or by letters of the alphabet. When the need disappeared, the task force was informally dissolved and its elements returned to the original units. These features were particularly significant in Sicily where an army headquarters had become responsible for employing a diversity of forces, Italian and German. Despite his unified command, Guzzoni exercised real control in great part only through liaison and mere recommendations.

The co-ordination of German and Italian units on Sicily varied, with the result that the German elements were partially under German and partially under Italian control. In due course, parallel channels of communication and command developed, one from Guzzoni to Comando Supremo and Mussolini, the other from the individual German headquarters on the island to 0 B SUED. Liaison between Kesselring and Ambrosio, chief of Comando Supremo, re-established co-ordination at that level.

Part of this setup was the outgrowth of the organization established during the North African campaign. Hitler’s predilection for dual control channels, mutual distrust between Italians and German after their defeat in Tunisia, and the need for flexibility brought about considerable vagueness, not to say confusion, in the command organization of the Axis partners.

At the close of the North African campaign, when an Allied attack on Italy appeared in the offing, Kesselring was the main connecting link between Hitler and OKW on one hand and Mussolini and Comando Supremo on the other. Kesselring had controlled the German armed forces in Italy and the central Mediterranean through German representatives in Italy who also maintained liaison with Comando Supremo. Now, for better liaison, Kesselring established within Comando Supremo a mixed staff of Germans and Italians headed by his own chief of staff, General der Artillerie Siegfried Westphal.

[NOTE:4-1KR (Kesselring was also the commander of the German Second Air Force until replaced in June 1943 by Field Marshal von Richthofen, who assumed command over all German air forces on the Italian mainland, Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica, and certain training units in France. He was also responsible for the Luftwaffe ground units, most of the German antiaircraft units in Italy, Luftwaffe signal units, and all air force administrative matters. [See Deichmann in MS #T-Ia (Westphal et al.), ch. III, pp. 3-4, 34; British Air Ministry Pamphlet No. 248, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force (1933 to 1945) (London, 1948).]

In mid-June, when Kesselring relinquished his air command to Feldmarschall Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen but retained his prerogatives as Commander in Chief South, he emerged as the strongest German officer in Italy. As theater commander, unifying in his person control of all the German armed forces in Italy, Kesselring was Hitler’s representative on all questions concerning the conduct of the war in the central and western Mediterranean areas. Guzzoni found Kesselring a typical German officer who had a determined though courteous and conciliatory manner and who promised effective co-operation.

Two of Kesselring’s major problems were trying to reconcile the sometimes conflicting demands of German commanders and Italian prerogatives and trying to combat Italian pessimism on defending Sicily. Guzzoni, like his predecessor, saw little strength in the Sicilian defenses. The coastal battalions, he reported to Comando Supremo, were composed of men of older age groups, often had commanded, and in some instances covering defensive sectors up to twenty-five miles in length.

Guzzoni, lacking anti-naval guns and deficient in all other types of artillery, had but one antitank gun for each five miles of coast line. As against a daily need of 8,000 tons of supplies to meet civilian and military requirements, he was receiving 1,500 to 2,000 tons. The morale of the civilian population was very low because of Allied air bombardments and the restricted food supply-the rationing system had broken down, and blackmarket operations were widespread. The people wanted only an end to the war. If resolutely committed, Guzzoni estimated, his forces might hold back the initial Allied landings but could not check successive attacks. Reiterating Roatta’s earlier demands for more artillery and tanks, he urged in addition the immediate transfer of the Hermann Gӧring Division to Sicily.

Except at the naval bases, no continuous system of coastal defenses existed. Obstacles, mine fields on and off shore, antitank ditches, and concrete fortifications appeared only at widely separated points. Many fortifications lacked garrisons or weapons, many were poorly camouflaged and lacked troop shelters. In the interior, only a few roadblocks were ready, and most of these were inadequate. On the highway from Licata to Campobello, for a distance of more than twelve miles, for example, the entire antitank defense consisted of one 47-mm. gun. The inland blocking line consisted of a beautiful colored pencil mark on a map.

The three naval bases on Sicily were equipped with anti-naval and antiaircraft artillery, and their seaward defenses were effectively organized. Their weaknesses were the undependable militia who manned many of the guns, the age of the guns, and their small caliber and short range. The bases had little defense against landward attack.

Though the naval commanders remained in control of technical, administrative, and training matters, Guzzoni was responsible for the defense of their bases. In the event of a ground attack, he was to send army reinforcements. Because of the importance of liaison to the command channels, the poor condition of signal communications caused serious apprehension among all the commanders concerned.

Expecting the Allies to try to seize airfields quickly, the Italians started work to surround the airfields with obstacles and strongpoints manned by infantry supported by artillery. They mined all landing strips to render them useless in the event of loss.

The heart of Sicily’s defenses consisted of forces under the two corps commanded by the Sixth Army: six coastal divisions, two coastal brigades, one coastal regiment, and four mobile divisions. In addition, two mobile German divisions were in Sicily by the end of June. The Italian units, numbering some 200,000 men (including the airfield defense troops), generally had a poor combat effectiveness. The coastal units especially had antiquated or deficient armament and virtually no transportation, they were badly commanded in many cases, and their indigenous personnel, as much as 75 percent in some units, reflected the low morale of the Sicilian population. Tactical groups created from division elements and from corps reserves were deployed relatively close to the beaches to support the coastal units, and these had some mobile elements.

The special groups organized to defend the airfields consisted usually of one infantry and one artillery battalion per airfield, but they were soon augmented by mobile elements-light tanks, self-propelled guns, armored cars, motorized infantry and artillery, and various engineer units-and they served as a mobile reserve for general defensive operations. The four Italian mobile divisions, the best of the Italian combat forces on the island, were none too good. The Aosta and Napoli Divisions, largely composed of Sicilians, were poorly trained. The Assietta Division was somewhat better. But all three operated under reduced Tables of Organization, and their artillery and other equipment were for the most part antiquated. Only the Livorno Division was at full strength and had organic transportation. In all four divisions, artillery ammunition was generally in short supply or nonexistent, signal communications varied from poor to inadequate.

The two German divisions made quite a contrast. The Division Sizilien, re-designated the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division on 29 June and commanded by Generalmajor Eberhard Rodt, was ready for commitment. It had supplies for twenty days of operations. Though not completely mobile, the division could move relatively quickly with its organic equipment. The Hermann Gӧring Division, under the command of Generalmajor (later, General der Fallschirmtruppen) Paul Conrath, moved from southern Italy into Sicily during June.

[N4-44 MS #C-077, Studie ueber den Feldzug in Sizilien bei der 15.Pz.Gren.Div., Mai-August 1943 (Generalleutnant Eberhard Rodt ) ; Unit Record Card, OKH / Org Abt., Karteiblatt, 15.Pz.Gren. Diu (H 1/ 540).HMS #T-2, Der Kampf um Sizilien (General der Panzertruppen Walter Fries et al. ); the detailed order of battle for the Italian and German units on Sicily can be found in MS #R-125, Order of Battle, I July 1943, ch. V of Axis Tactical Operations in Sicily, July-August 1943 (Bauer) .]

It was somewhat deficient in infantry, but was also well trained and equipped, although the process of combined training did not effectively begin until the arrival of the division on Sicily. Airborne elements and other German units in southern and central Italy, if necessary, could also be employed in the defense of Sicily.

Though operational command of German units-totaling some 30,000 men-remained in Italian hands, Hitler and the OKW sometimes sent instructions directly to local commanders, who frequently communicated directly with the OKW. The Italians soon came to accept the view that obtaining German co-operation was preferable to a strict imposition of Italian authority.

The XIV Panzer Corps headquarters, located in southern Italy, functioned under DB SUED to administer and supply the German units in Sicily. The Italians could hardly object to this, and the Germans had a headquarters ready to take over active operations should such a course of action become necessary or desirable. General Hube had commanded the corps in Russia and had received high praise for his performance.

Late in June 1943, the Germans introduced another officer into the command picture, Generalleutnant Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin, who became liaison officer with the Sixth Army headquarters and responsible for co-ordinating the employment of German troops committed on the island.

The Italian battle fleet, stationed at La Spezia and far removed from Sicily, was seriously reduced in strength, lacked radar and aircraft carriers. It could be effective against an Allied armada only with adequate air protection, which was not available. Furthermore, it needed twenty-four hours to reach the waters off Sicily. For these reasons and because of apprehension that the first major battle of the surface fleet might well be its last, Comando Supremo decided late in May to commit the naval forces in the defense of Sicily only if an extraordinarily good opportunity presented itself and if sufficient fuel oil was on hand to support the operation. Comando Supremo also directed the small naval craft stationed in Sicilian and Sardinian waters to remain in defense of their home stations rather than join forces in the event one or the other island came under attack.

[N4-48 Details on the organization and execution of the ferrying service are contained in the Translation of the Report on the Evacuation of Sicily (August 1943) by Vice-Admiral Friedrich von Ruge (1946), with enclosures (cited hereafter as Ruge Rpt), folder X-III, OCMH, and in Kommandant Messina Strasse, KTB, 25. VII.-25. VIII. 43 und Anlagen (35746/1-3) (cited hereafter as Baade Diary)]

The most important German vessels consisted of a landing craft flotilla at Messina. Plans to supplement the few German submarines in the Mediterranean had to be abandoned because the passage through the Strait of Gibraltar had become increasingly difficult.

The better to organize their services of supply across the Messina Strait, the Germans in May unified a number of Army, Navy, and Air Force transportation installations into a single headquarters. Eventually known as Commandant Messina Strait under Colonel Ernst Guenther Baade, it was responsible for ferry service, depots, and antiaircraft defenses, controlling in the latter function some seventy antiaircraft batteries on the Italian mainland and on Sicily to guard the strait.

The Italian Air Force was III a hopeless situation because of obsolete and inferior aircraft. After the fall of Tunisia, Allied air attacks on Sicilian airfields became so intense that toward the end of May the Axis withdrew its bombers to the mainland. Italo-German co-ordination of air matters was poor, the German fighter units taking over the protection of Sicily from their own fields as though the Italians were not even present. But in a series of twenty-one air battles from the latter half of May through the early days of July, the Germans sustained heavy losses. Gӧring, who recognized what was happening but not the cause, brought heavy pressure to bear on the German Second Air Force, calling for incessant commitment of long-range bombers and fighters. But the German aircraft were not able to match the speed and armament of Allied planes. Gӧring added insult to injury by sending a special message to the fighter pilots of the Second Air Force.

Together with the fighter pilots in France, Norway, and Russia, I can only regard you with contempt. I want an immediate improvement and expect that all pilots will show an improvement in fighting spirit. If this improvement is not forthcoming, flying personnel from the commander down must expect to be remanded to the ranks and transferred to the Eastern front to serve on the ground.

Though Generaloberst Hans Jeschonnek, chief of staff of the OKL, visited Kesselring and learned that decisive numerical and technical inferiority of German aircraft to those of the Allies was at the bottom of German air failure, Gӧring stubbornly refused to admit that the responsibility was his own. Because of air and naval weakness, the whole burden of the defense of Sicily fell on the Axis ground forces. Misunderstandings and misinterpretations among Italian and German commanders further aggravated the situation.

Despite inadequate forces, materiel, and fortifications to defend the entire coast, the Italians felt impelled to fight at the water’s edge. Small tactical reserves were to stand ready close behind the coastal defense forces, and mobile reserves in centrally located positions farther to the rear were to be available to counterattack as soon as the point of the main Allied attack became apparent. Because the Italians considered their coastal units incapable of repelling a landing, the commitment of these units to stubborn defense meant their sacrifice. Since reserves were few, the commanders hoped to increase their effectiveness by holding them together and ready to move to anyone of a number of widely separated points.

The great drawback in this concept was the lack of sufficient mobility on the part of most units. The German units, with far greater mobility, could form the only effective reserve. Appreciating this, Kesselring, late in May, instructed German commanders to counterattack as soon as they knew the location of the main Allied attacks without waiting for orders from Guzzoni’s headquarters. Guzzoni’s headquarters was near Enna, fairly close to the center of the island. The Italian XVI Corps under Generale di Corpo d’ Armata Carlo Rossi was to defend the eastern half of the island; the Italian XII Corps, first under Generale di Corpo d’ Armata Mario Arisio, later under Generale di Corpo d’ Armata Francesco Zingales, was assigned the western half of the island. By the latter part of May the coastal units were in their assigned sectors, and the Sixth Army had attached the Italian mobile divisions to both corps for commitment in their respective areas-Aosta and Assietta under XII Corps in southwest Sicily, Napoli near Catania, and Livorno near Gela under XVI Corps. In the Sixth Army reserve and reinforced by a self-propelled Italian regiment of artillery, the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division split its forces into three regimental teams-Group Ens in the southwest; Group Fullriede in the southeast; and Group Koerner in the Enna area as an unassigned reserve.

General Rodt, the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division commander, represented bv his chief of staff, discussed with Guzzoni the possibility of holding the mobile reserves closer to the coast. He proposed moving two of his regimental groups quite close to Gela and Catania, the third to the west but keeping it ready for immediate transfer to the east if necessary. Assuming that the Italian coastal divisions would barely delay the attackers, and estimating that the Allies would land in several different places before moving inland in pincer movements, Rodt wanted to counterattack immediately and eliminate each landing in turn. He asked Guzzoni to attach to his division the mobile groups organized to defend the airfields. Convinced that the airfields would be immediately threatened, Guzzoni refused.

Admitting that the southeastern corner of Sicily was vulnerable and that the Napoli Division lacked sufficient mobility to move in time to any area under attack, Guzzoni, contrary to the German view, doubted that the Allies would space their landings in such a way as to permit counterattacking forces to execute successive operations. He nevertheless issued a revised plan on 9 June. The Aosta and Assietta Divisions under the XII Corps and the Napoli Division under the XVI Corps were to remain in their previously assigned areas. But because General Guzzoni was very conscious of the German determination to attack immediately, he feared that the German units, representing his only truly mobile reserves, would escape his grasp. Deeming it wise to have some Italian troops firmly in hand, he transferred the Livorno Division to army reserve and moved it closer to his Sixth Army headquarters. The German elements remained generally in place. But additional units arriving in Sicily formed a fourth reserve force as Group Neapel in the center.

The identity and composition of Group Neapel is unclear. It may have included the 215th Tank Battalion (German general headquarters troops), attached later to the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division; it may also have included the reconnaissance battalion of the Hermann Gӧring Division.

Transfer of the Hermann Gӧring Division to Sicily as the second German division created a new problem. The German commanders in Sicily wished to use the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division in the eastern half of the island where they saw the greatest Allied threat and where the division was well acquainted with the terrain-where, in fact, the division had executed a map maneuver based on a simulated Allied landing in the Gela area. They therefore wanted the Hermann Gӧring Division, which was not so far advanced in combined training as the 15th, committed as a whole in the western part of the island, where the threat seemed not so great. Guzzoni, convinced that the main Allied attack would hit the eastern coast near the southeastern corner, wanted to hold both German divisions together as a mobile reserve in the eastern part of Sicily. He envisioned the Livorno and Napoli Divisions fighting delaying actions until the two German divisions could mount a counterattack and strike.

Kesselring reiterated the German view that an invader was weakest when he left his assault boats and waded ashore. He therefore wanted the reserves very close to the coast because he believed that the Axis forces were too weak to eliminate beachheads once they were well established, and because he was concerned that Allied air might retard daylight movements of the reserves on the narrow, winding, Sicilian roads. Furthermore, reserves stationed inland would literally have to come down the mountains in daylight and would thus present good targets for Allied naval gunfire. Reserves stationed close to the coast would be spared long and difficult approach marches and casualties from Allied air attacks.

The decision reached was to commit the German divisions as much as possible as complete units, one in the east, the other in the west. The Hermann Gӧring Division was to assemble in the southeastern area in Sixth Army reserve but was to be available for use by the XVI Corps with Guzzoni’s permission. Group Koerner of the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division, located near Catania, was to be attached to the Hermann Gӧring Division.

Group Ens of the 15th was to remain in the west under direct army control. Group Fullriede, integrating Group N eapel into its organization, would be in the center near Caltanissetta. Guzzoni then had as the Sixth Army reserve the augmented Group Fullriede and the Livorno Division. This fully motorized reserve near Caltanissetta would be ready for commitment toward Catania, sixty miles to the east; Gela, thirty miles to the southeast; Licata, thirty miles to the south; and Agrigento, thirty miles to the southwest.

When the Hermann Gӧring Division established its headquarters at Caltagirone, twenty miles northeast of Gela, it assembled about two-thirds of its units in the area. The other third combined with Group Koerner of the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division to form Group Schmalz and went into position near Catania. The 15th Panzer Grenadier Division headquarters and Group Fullriede moved into the western part of Sicily. Kesselring, though expecting the main Allied landings to take place on the eastern or southern coasts, was still pre-occupied with a possible secondary attack in the west. He proposed transferring Group Fullriede to the western sector, leaving Group Neapel in the Caltanissetta area. He also proposed moving the German units closer to the coast than the Italians contemplated, and he suggested concentrating them in the south central part of the island.

Guzzoni agreed. On 26 June Kesselring summarized his concept of repelling an invasion: the battle was to be fought at the coast line by coastal units supported by local reserves under division and corps control; mobile reserves-the four Italian mobile divisions-relatively close to the coast in small groups, were to be ready to pounce as soon as the Allies set foot on shore; finally, the German divisions were to clean Up. At the end of June, then, the Aosta and Assietta Divisions and the bulk of the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division were in the west; the Napoli, Livorno, Hermann Gӧring Divisions, and one-third of the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division were in the south and east.

Expecting the Allies to land in several quite separate places, the Axis commanders planned to counterattack the landings immediately, wipe them out one after another, and prevent the establishment of a continuous front. When Guzzoni committed his mobile reserves, he hoped to do so at that “fleeting moment” when the main invasion sites were evident but the individual beachheads were not yet fully merged.

The axis commanders believed they had several more weeks to complete their final preparations, for they expected the Allies to attack about the middle of July.[N4-57 Faldella, Lo sbarco, pp. 65-66, 86; MS #T-2 (Fries et ‘at.), pp. 6-7 Aosta Division, though under XII Corps, could be moved only after securing army approval.]

SOURCE: Sicily and the Surrender of Italy: BY; Lieutenant Colonel Albert Nutter Garland & Howard McGaw Smyth (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Sicily-HUSKY (1-5); Final Allied Preparations

World War Two: Mediterranean (1-3); Allied Preparations and Preliminaries 1943


World War Two: Marianas (2-3) Planning the Invasion-Saipan &Guam

For the Marianas, as in the case of all operations in the Pacific outside of General MacArthur’s jurisdiction, Admiral Nimitz retained over-all command of the campaign. Under him in the chain of command was Vice Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, commander of the Fifth Fleet, and under him Vice Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, who was to command the Joint Expeditionary Force (Task Force 51), was charged with the actual job of taking the islands. Turner wore a second hat. Until 15 July 1944, he was also in command of the Northern Attack Force (Task Force 52), which was made up of all the amphibious elements assigned to the attack on Saipan and Tinian, and which was one of the two component parts of Task Force 51. Its equivalent for Guam was designated Southern Attack Force (Task Force 53) and was commanded by Rear Admiral Richard L. Conolly. Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher’s Fast Carrier Task Force (Task Force 58) and Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood’s Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet (Task Force 17), were assigned supporting missions according to their appropriate capacities. The former operated as part of the Fifth Fleet and the latter directly under Admiral Nimitz.

Tactical command of all troops ashore for the Marianas operation devolved upon Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith, USMC. General Smith was perhaps as well grounded in the fundamentals of amphibious techniques as any general officer in either the Army or the Marine Corps at that time.

In 1941 and 1942 he had supervised the training of the 1st Infantry Division and the 1st Marine Division in basic landing problems on the U.S. east coast. At that time amphibious warfare was still something of a novelty, and United States forces were generally innocent of the fundamentals of launching an assault of seaborne troops against a hostile shore.

For at least two decades before the outbreak of World War II, it is true, the Marine Corps had slowly been piecing together a workable body of amphibious doctrine, and after 1934, in conjunction with the U.S. Navy, it had conducted yearly landing exercises, chiefly on the island of Culebra, Puerto Rico. These had been valuable, indeed indispensable, experiments. They were in no small measure responsible for the ability of American troops to invade the beaches of Africa, Europe, and countless Pacific islands. Not until after the fall of France did the United States commence to prepare in earnest for large-scale amphibious landings.

In February of 1941 General Smith and his staff planned and oversaw a joint Army-Marine Corps practice landing in the Culebra area. In June of the same year the first full two-division landing exercise was conducted at New River, North Carolina, under their supervision. Another was held on a somewhat smaller scale off Lynn Haven Roads, Virginia, in January of 1942, Two months later, General Smith was ordered to duty as Commander, Amphibious Corps, Atlantic Fleet, an amphibious training command, and later in the year he served in much the same capacity as Commanding General, Amphibious Corps, Pacific Fleet. In September 1943 he and his staff left San Diego for the Central Pacific, where Smith was to be commander of the V Amphibious Corps. As such, he commanded the expeditionary troops that captured Tarawa and Makin in the Gilbert Islands and Kwajalein and Eniwetok in the Marshalls. Now his task was even greater. Holland Smith’s designation for this operation was Commanding General, Expeditionary Troops (Task Force 56). He was directly responsible to Admiral Turner until the amphibious phase was completed.

Like Turner, he was to play a dual role. As Commander, Northern Troops and Landing Force (Task Group 56.1), he personally exercised tactical control of all troops ashore during the capture of Saipan. He was relieved on 12 July 1944 from this command (but not from command of Expeditionary Troops) by Major General Harry Schmidt, USMC, who thereafter performed the same role during the seizure of Tinian. Their counterpart on Guam was Major General Roy S. Geiger, USMC, the commanding general of III Amphibious Corps and of Southern Troops and Landing Force (Task Group 56.2). Although in this capacity Geiger and Smith held parallel commands, the former was subordinate to the latter as Commanding General, Expeditionary Troops.

The command relationships among General Smith, his naval superiors, and his Marine and Army subordinates, although resembling in complexity the hierarchy of saints, can be reduced to fairly simple terms. In effect Admiral Spruance enjoyed, by delegation from Admiral Nimitz, supreme command of the operation. He retained operational command throughout and upon him devolved the responsibility of determining when the capture and occupation phase of each island had been completed. Tactical command during the amphibious phases of the operation was placed in the hands of Admiral Turner, who exercised it directly at Saipan and through Rear Admiral Harry W. Hill on Tinian and Admiral Conolly on Guam. The completion of the amphibious phase was determined in each instance by the landing force commander—whenever he decided that the situation warranted it, he was to establish his command ashore.

Thereafter, all tactical decisions regarding the disposition of troops would be made by him. On Saipan the landing force commander was Holland Smith, on Tinian Harry Schmidt, and on Guam Roy S. Geiger. On all three islands, however, “overall troop command” was retained by General Smith as Commander, Expeditionary Troops.

There were 105,859 assault troops assigned to capture the three islands; 66,779 were allocated to Saipan and Tinian and the remaining 39,080 to Guam. The bulk of the force was made up of two reinforced Army divisions, three reinforced Marine divisions, and a provisional Marine brigade consisting of two regimental combat teams.

The landing on Saipan was to be made by the ad and 4th Marine Divisions, with the 27th Infantry Division in reserve, All three of these organizations had seen previous action in the Pacific. The 2nd Marine Division was activated in San Diego on 1 February 1941. One regiment (2nd Marines) took part in the initial attack on Guadalcanal on 7 August 1942, and the remaining two entered that campaign in November and January, The division had also fought the bloody battle of Tarawa, losing over 3,000 casualties there. An independent Marine unit, the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, which was formed in the spring of 1944 around cadres of 2nd Marine Division veterans of Guadalcanal and Tarawa, was attached to the 2nd Division for the Saipan operation. In the Marianas, the division was commanded by Major General Thomas E. Watson, USMC, who had previously led the Marine and Army regimental combat teams that captured Eniwetok in the Marshalls.

The 4th Marine Division was not formally activated until 16 August 1943, but it was by no means totally unseasoned. In early February 1944 it had captured Roi and Namur Islands in Kwajalein Atoll while troops of the 7th Infantry Division were taking nearby Kwajalein Island in the central Marshalls.9 The 4th was to be commanded at Saipan by General Schmidt, who had been the division’s commander since it was first formed. When General Schmidt relieved Holland Smith of command of the Northern Troops and Landing Force after Saipan was officially declared secure, he in turn was succeeded in command of the 4th Marine Division by Major General Clifton B. Cates, a veteran of Guadalcanal and an alumnus of the 1st Marine Division.

The 27th Infantry Division was a National Guard unit of New York State when it was called into federal service in October 1940. Its three regiments, the 105th, 106th, and 165th, had had their headquarters at Troy, Albany, and New York City, respectively. It was the first combat division to leave the United States for Pacific duty and by the war’s end had spent a longer time overseas than any National Guard division in the United States Army.

In March 1942 advance echelons arrived in Hawaii and for the next year and a half the division served as base defense force, first for the outer islands and then on Oahu after the 25th Division was sent to Guadalcanal. In November 1943 the 165th Infantry, reinforced by the 3rd Battalion, 105th Infantry plus organic artillery, engineer, and service units, invaded and captured Makin simultaneously with the 2nd Marine Division’s assault on Tarawa.

Three months later two battalions (1st and 3rd) of the 106th Infantry, plus an independent Marine regiment, took Eniwetok Atoll. Thus, of the entire 27th Division only the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 105th Infantry, and 2nd Battalion, 106th, which secured Majuro Atoll without battle, were unseasoned in atoll warfare.

Major General Ralph C. Smith joined the 27th Division as commanding general in November 1942. His previous wartime duty had been with the Military Intelligence Division (G-2) of the War Department General Staff and with the 76th Infantry Division at Fort George G. Meade. His primary job for the next year was to supervise training of the division for forthcoming operations. His own initiation into Pacific warfare came at Makin, where he exercised tactical command over the reinforced 165th Infantry Regiment.

Aside from the three reinforced infantry divisions, the largest single unit attached to Northern Troops and Landing Force for the Marianas operation was the XXIV Corps Artillery (Army). The organization was formally activated on 25 March 1944 and consisted of two battalions each of 155-mm. howitzers and 155-mm. guns.

The nucleus of this new organization consisted of coastal artillery and field artillery battalions originally assigned to the defense of Oahu. One battalion (145th) had participated in the Kwajalein Island landing, but the rest were new to combat. For the Marianas Campaign the corps artillery was commanded by Brig. General Arthur M. Harper, a field artilleryman since 1920. Between the commencement of the war and his assignment to XXIV Corps, he had served as artillery officer of I Corps, of the 30th Infantry Division, and as commanding general of III Corps Artillery. The 22nd Marines. This unit later was incorporated into the 1st Marine Provisional Brigade, which fought on Guam. The brigade was subsequently expanded to the 6th Marine Division, which saw action on Okinawa.

Major General Ralph C. Smith at Tactical Planning Headquarters, V Amphibious Corps, was first alerted to its forthcoming responsibilities in the Marianas on 15 January 1944, when it received Admiral Nimitz’ Campaign Plan GRANITE setting forth the concept and outlining a tentative schedule of operations for the Central Pacific area for the year 1944. Operation FORAGER, involving the seizure, occupation, and defense of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam, was included as the final phase of this program. The first two months of 1944 witnessed an unexpected speed-up in Pacific operations.

By 17 February, as already noted, Kwajalein Atoll had been seized, a successful landing had been made on Eniwetok, and, most important, a fast carrier strike against Truk had revealed the alleged impregnability of that once-powerful base to be a myth, On 13 March, therefore, Nimitz assigned highest priority to the Marianas operation.

A week later he issued his Joint Staff Study for FORAGER to all major commanders as a guide for advanced planning. The study indicated that V Amphibious Corps, including the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions, would be mounted in the Hawaiian area for the initial assault on the beaches of Saipan with the 27th Infantry Division in reserve. The III Amphibious Corps, consisting of the 3rd Marine Division and the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, was to be mounted in the Guadalcanal area for an invasion of Guam. The 77th Infantry Division was to be alerted in the Hawaiian area for possible movement to the Marianas twenty days after the initial landing on Saipan. The probable target day (D Day) for Saipan was set as 15 June. The date for the invasion of Guam (W Day) was tentatively established as 18 June.

On 12 April General Holland Smith divided his V Amphibious Corps staff into two separate components. One, initially known as the Red Staff, later functioned as Northern Troops and Landing Force (Task Group 56.1) for the capture of Saipan and Tinian. The other portion, first known as Blue Staff, later served as Headquarters Expeditionary Troops (Task Force 56).19 General Smith’s two staffs were heavily augmented by U.S. Army personnel. On the Northern Troops and Landing Force Staff, the assistant chiefs of staff for both intelligence (G-2) and supply (G-4) were Army officers—Lieutenant Colonel Thomas R. Yancey and Lieutenant Colonel Joseph C. Anderson.

There were disadvantages to this cellular fission, however unavoidable it may have been. First, there was a decided shortage of trained personnel, especially of special staff sections, officer assistants and trained clerks, draftsmen, and stenographers; and second, a shortage of headquarters and corps troops already existed in V Amphibious Corps. “In effect,” as one commentator put it, “you have here an army and a corps trying to operate with a staff too small for a corps,” All echelons prepared their plans simultaneously, and the normal time sequence of planning from highest echelon down, with each subordinate basing his own plan on that of his immediate superior, was seldom achieved. For example, Headquarters Expeditionary Troops (Task Force 56) Operation Plan 3-44 was issued on 26 April, whereas the next higher echelon, Admiral Turner’s Headquarters Northern Attack Force (Task Force 52) did not issue its plan until 21 May. Again, it was not until 12 May that Admiral Spruance, who was superior to both Turner and Smith, came out with his operation plan for the Fifth Fleet.

Northern Troops and Landing Force

Headquarters Operation Plan 3-44 of 1 May summarized all previous plans from higher echelons and governed the tactical order of all troops in the proposed landings on Saipan.24 The 4th Marine Division (reinforced) was to land on Blue and Yellow Beaches, extending from the town of Charan Kanoa south almost to Agingan Point. Its first objective was to be a line inland from the beaches about 2,000 yards at the north and tapering down to the water’s edge at the southern end. Then, on order, the division was to advance rapidly and seize Aslito airfield and the surrounding terrain.

The 2nd Marine Division was to land simultaneously to the north of Charan Kanoa on Green and Red Beaches, seize the first commanding ground inland, and then advance rapidly and capture Mount Tapotchau and Mount Tipo Pale and the adjacent ground. The XXIV Corps Artillery was to land on order on beaches to be designated and to execute missions as assigned. North of the 2nd Marine Division’s beaches, in the vicinity of Tanapag Harbor, a naval force consisting of transport divisions carrying reserve regiments from the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions would conduct a diversionary demonstration to last from a half hour before sunrise to an hour after the main landing.

Finally, the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, was detached from its parent organization to perform a separate mission. Originally, the battalion was to land from destroyer transports (APD’s) on Magicienne Bay on the southeast side of the island the night before the main landing on the west coast.

It would then move rapidly inland, attempt to seize Mount Tapotchau before daylight and hold on until relieved by the main elements of the 2nd Marine Division, Later, on 7 May, this order was changed, and the battalion was to be prepared to land on Magicienne Bay or perhaps other beaches after the main landing had been effected and then move west and north to attack enemy positions from the rear. Eventually, the whole scheme was canceled as impractical and involving excessive risks.

The final decision was in all probability the soundest one. To have committed a single battalion armed with nothing heavier than 60-mm. mortars against the formidable defenses the Japanese had set up around Magicienne Bay would in all likelihood have proved disastrous. As events turned out, it took the entire 2nd Marine Division ten days to reach Mount Tapotchau’s summit.

At headquarters of the 27th Division the problem of planning for landings on Saipan was seriously complicated because there was no certainty as to how the division would be employed. It was the corps reserve and might be committed on Saipan only in part or piecemeal, might be reserved for later action on Tinian and Guam, or might not be used at all. In short, there were a large number and wide variety of possibilities, and operations officers had to plan accordingly. Hence, Ralph Smith’s G-3 (operations) section found it necessary to prepare a total of twenty-one complete plans for tactical employment of the division. A few of these were discarded as higher headquarters made progress in outlining the details of their own plans. By the time the troops sailed from Hawaii it appeared that, if used on Saipan at all, the division would probably be employed in one of three ways and, accordingly, three preferred plans were devised. The first contemplated a landing of two regiments (105th and 165th) on beaches at Magicienne Bay and a rapid advance northwest across the island to capture the seaplane base at Flores Point, The second envisaged a landing by the same two regiments on the beaches north of Charan Kanoa, on the left of the 2nd Marine Division, followed by a northward thrust to Garapan Village. If either of these were executed, the third regiment (106th Infantry) would act as floating reserve. Plan number three called for the two assault regiments to go ashore at Tanapag Harbor and prepare to move southward to join forces with the 2nd Marine Division. In this case, the 106th Regimental Combat Team (RCT) was to seize Maniagassa Island off Tanapag and support the main assaut A final plan was made only after the division had sailed from Hawaii. On its arrival at Kwajalein the 106th Infantry was attached to the Southern Landing Force and ordered to prepare plans for a landing on Guam.

In actual fact, all of the plans had to be abandoned early in the battle for Saipan. Although it cannot be said that all the laborious preparations by the 27th Division were entirely wasted, it is true that neither the division nor the corps headquarters had on hand a detailed plan that exactly fitted the situation as it had developed by the time the division was committed.

Preliminary naval and aerial bombardment of the Marianas was planned along lines by then well established in the Central Pacific theater. Landings at Tarawa and in the Marshalls left little doubt of the necessity for heavy preliminary pounding of the beaches from both the air and the sea if excessive American casualties were to be avoided.

For Saipan, an impressive armada of ships and planes was allocated to do the job. A total of fifty-five ships was originally scheduled to deliver fire against the main island: 7 fast battleships from Marc Mitscher’s fast carrier force, 4 old battleships, 2 heavy cruisers, 3 light cruisers, 15 destroyers, and 24 LCI gunboats (LCI (G)’s). Simultaneously with this bombardment, the smaller island of Tinian was to be subjected to similar fire from an additional 33 ships, including 3 old battleships, 4 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers, 7 destroyers, and 24 LCI(G)’s.

Two days before the scheduled landing, fast battleships and destroyers of Task Force 58 were to bombard Saipan and Tinian, destroy aircraft, put airfields out of commission, destroy coast defense and antiaircraft batteries, burn off cane fields in the landing area, deliver antipersonnel fire, and, finally, cover mine-sweeping operations off the western shore line. Next day, old battleships and smaller fire support ships of Turner’s Task Force 52 were scheduled to deliver counterbattery fire, area bombardment, and interdiction fire, commencing at daybreak and continuing throughout the day. Their primary mission was to destroy as many coast defense guns, antiaircraft batteries, artillery weapons, and other enemy defenses and personnel as possible. Ships were directed to remain well beyond the range of enemy shore batteries on that day, which meant in effect that their fire would be delivered at ranges in excess of 10,000 yards.31 They were instructed to pay particular attention to gun positions at Magicienne Bay and to the beach defenses and installations on the selected landing beaches on the west coast.

Also, they were to cover mine-sweeping operations and beach reconnaissance by the underwater demolition teams, whose job it was to inspect the beaches and approaches thereto for mines, underwater obstacles, and explosives. Simultaneously, ships of Admiral Conolly’s Task Force 53 were to work over neighboring Tinian in much the same manner, although these vessels were to conserve most (80 percent) of their ammunition allowance for pre-assault bombardment of Guam.

For D Day (15 June) on Saipan the schedule of fires was to be stepped up sharply, with particular attention to be paid to the landing beaches. Counterbattery fire was to commence at dawn and to cover known and suspected positions of enemy coast defense guns and antiaircraft, dual-purpose, and field artillery batteries both on Saipan and on Tinian. Ships were to be in position to bombard beach defenses and possible flanking positions, with close-range fire to commence at the low-water line and extend 400 yards inland. Area bombardment of secondary defenses such as supply installations, barracks, and bivouac areas was to be continued, as was supporting bombardment of Tinian by Task Force 53. Shortly before the scheduled landing hour (H Hour) on Saipan, close supporting fires were to be delivered against the Charan Kanoa beaches and in the Tanapag Harbor area, the latter being in support of the demonstration landing and therefore on a smaller scale. All naval gunfire, except for counterbattery fire necessary to the protection of ships and landing craft, was to cease for a half hour (between H minus 90 and H minus 60) to permit a low-altitude aerial strike on the beaches, and then resume for the hour before the landing. For the hour remaining before the troops were scheduled to touch shore, battleships, cruisers, and destroyers were directed to move in to close range and bombard the selected landing beaches and adjacent installations.

Then, just before the scheduled landing hour, when the assault troops were assembled in the leading waves of amphibian tractors, twenty-four LCI gunboats, equipped with rockets and 20-mm. and 40-mm. guns, were to move slowly forward toward the beach in line-abreast formation, just ahead of the first wave of amphibian tanks. As the LCI’s reached the line where the heavier fire support ships lay to, they were directed to open fire on the beach areas with their 40-mm. guns. Those off the northern beaches (Green and Red) were to stop dead in the water at this line, let the leading waves pass through them, and continue to fire as long as safety to the landing craft permitted. No rockets were to be fired by the northern group of gun boats since the reef in this area would keep them out of effective range of the beach (1,100 yards). At the southern beaches (Blue and Yellow), LCI(G)’s were ordered to proceed at a distance two hundred yards ahead of the first landing craft until they reached a line 1,000 yards off the beach, then fire their rockets and 40-mm. guns as long as safety allowed.

Just as impressive as the plans for preparatory naval fire were those for pre-landing aerial bombardment. Mitscher’s Task Force 58 had made its first strike against the islands of Guam, Rota, Tinian, and Saipan on 23 February, and thereafter on the occasions when aerial reconnaissance missions were flown across the islands some bombs were released, although with dubious results. According to the original plans, however, not until two days before the scheduled landing on Saipan would a heavy and prolonged aerial bombardment of that island and Tinian be undertaken.

The fast carriers of Mitscher’s force, working in conjunction with escort carriers under command of Admiral Turner, would undertake this task. One D minus 2 (13 June) planes from the fast carrier force were to make fighter sweeps on airfields on both Saipan and Tinian to destroy enemy aircraft. On the same day thirty-three planes would deliver counterbattery fire against guns firing on the mine sweepers. Combat air patrol and antisubmarine patrol missions were to be flown simultaneously.

The next day a more intensive program of destruction was to be undertaken. Inland coast defense and dual-purpose and antiaircraft guns were to be bombed heavily. Cane fields not already burned were to be fired. Other priority targets were inland defense installations and structures, the buildings around Aslito airfield, and communications and transportation facilities on the west coast of Saipan including small craft, radio stations, observation towers, railroad and road junctions, and vehicles. The same day six smoke planes were to provide protection for underwater demolition teams operating close offshore, if necessary. Also, vertical photographs were to be made of all beaches from Tanapag Harbor to Agingan Point.

On 15 June, in addition to continuing most of the above duties, a heavy half-hour aerial attack on both islands was to be carried out and to be terminated only one hour before the scheduled landings. During this period naval gunfire was to be lifted so that planes could fly in low for precision bombing and rocketing of enemy installations. A total of 60 fighters, 51 dive bombers, and 54 torpedo bombers were to take part in this final preliminary saturation attack. Thereafter, until the carriers were withdrawn, the carrier-based planes would act as aerial observers for land-based artillery, make photographic sorties, lay smoke on request, and provide deep and close support for the troops ashore. For the critical movement of assault troops from ship to shore the plans followed, with some variation, the pattern used so successfully in the Marshalls operation.

Astern of the LCI gunboats, amphibian tanks (LVT(A)’s) would constitute the bulk of the leading wave. They mounted either 75-mm. howitzers or 37-mm. guns plus machine guns, and their first job was to lead the waves of assault amphibian tractors (LVT’s) from the reef’s edge to the shore line. The LVT(A)’s Would provide the only close fire support for the assault troops during the critical few minutes between the time that naval gunfire and aerial bombardment were compelled to lift and the time that the infantrymen actually hit the beach’s edge.

Moreover, for the Saipan landing the mission of the amphibian tanks was not to cease at the shore line. On the 4th Marine Division beaches, the tanks of the 708th Amphibian Tank Battalion (Army) were to push inland approximately 1,500 yards to the first objective line and set up a perimeter defense closely supported by infantry in the amphibian tractors. To the northward, in the 2nd Marine Division’s zone of action, the 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion (Marine) was ordered to move four companies of its amphibian tanks inland only about three hundred yards to the tractor control line and there cover the debarkation of assault troops from its LVT(A)’s. Thereafter, most of the amphibian tanks were to remain under cover and engage targets as far inland as 1,500 yards, but only on call from the infantry. Thus, LVT(A)’s were scheduled to proceed beyond the beaches’ edge and to act, to all intents and purposes, as land tanks until such time as heavier tanks could be brought ashore. This was an innovation in amphibious techniques and one that, as events developed, proved to be of dubious merit.

Training and Rehearsals

With the conclusion of the Marshalls operation, it became apparent that the future promised a shift in the Central Pacific Area from atoll warfare to operations on larger land areas that were both mountainous and jungle-covered. Hence, even before the official warning orders came down from corps headquarters, all three divisions assigned to Northern Troops and Landing Force had commenced training their troops to meet the particular conditions that the forthcoming campaign would impose.

The 27th Division, stationed on Oahu, made an early study of the methods of burning sugar cane and the movement of foot troops through freshly burned fields. Groups from all of the infantry regiments conducted exercises in methods of burning fields, cutting passage through them, and the movement of large and small numbers of troops through standing arid freshly burned cane.

The division also concentrated heavily on training its men in combined tank-infantry operations. All infantry companies engaged in field exercises involving the use of tanks in direct support, a particularly important exercise for the Army division since its tank battalions were not organic but were specifically attached to the infantry for the Marianas operation. Other specialized training included intense education in amphibious communications procedures. The 295th Joint Assault Signal Company (JASCO) was attached to the division sufficiently far in advance to allow for thorough familiarization of the infantry battalions with the functions and abilities of the various JASCO teams.

All units were instructed in the proper organization and plan of fires for a night perimeter defense, A period of five weeks was devoted to the study and practice of methods of loading 105-mm. howitzers in amphibian trucks (DUKW’s). Combat engineers were instructed in the use of flame throwers and demolitions for the reduction of fortified positions. The 27th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop conducted rubber boat training with emphasis on beach reconnaissance, hydrographic studies, and night landings.

The 2nd Marine Division boasted excellent training facilities in the vicinity of its “Camp Tarawa” on the main island of Hawaii. It too held special exercises in the techniques of fighting through sugar cane. Also, the jungle and mountainous terrain on Hawaii approximated the type that the division would meet on Saipan and was ideal for the simulation of realistic combat conditions.

The 4th Marine Division fared less well. Its camp site on Maui was new, its living and training facilities were incomplete. Hence, camp construction and training had to be carried out simultaneously—a situation that, though common enough in the Pacific, was never desirable. Nevertheless, by instituting emergency measures for the acquisition of suitable land and through co-operation with the Navy and Army authorities, “a fairly satisfactory schedule of individual, unit and combined training was completed,” according to the division’s commanding officer.

The chief training problem facing XXIV Corps Artillery was that of converting two coast artillery battalions into field artillery battalions. The XXIV Corps Artillery was not activated as a unit until the end of March 1944. At that time the 225th Field Artillery Group was alerted to take part in the Marianas operation and relieved of its defensive mission on Oahu. Two of its field artillery battalions were detached, and the 32nd Coast Artillery Battalion and 2nd Battalion, 55th Coast Artillery, were attached.

As finally organized, the XXIV Corps Artillery was made up of one 155-mm. howitzer group of two battalions and one 155-mm. gun group of two battalions drawn from available field artillery personnel and supplemented by coast artillery personnel. Because of its infancy as an organization and the lack of combat experience of most of its personnel, adequate training for the unit was urgent.

Coast artillery officers were immediately given an intensive education in basic field artillery methods, and a similar program for enlisted personnel followed. Demonstrations held by field artillery batteries and battalions were followed by four field exercises per week. On 1 May two batteries of the 53rd Field Artillery Battalion were loaded on an LST and taken to Maui to experiment with methods of loading 155-mm. guns and to obtain training in unloading across sandy beaches. Experiments were also conducted in loading the 155’s on the smaller LCT’s (landing craft, tank). Because of the shortness of time and its relative lack of basic training, XXIV Corps Artillery did not participate in the final grand rehearsal. Instead, the two-month intensive training period culminated in a corps artillery field exercise held during the rehearsal period.

On 14 May ships carrying the two Marine divisions with their full loads of equipment rendezvoused in the area of Maalca Bay, Hawaii, for final rehearsals before shoving off to Saipan. LVT’s and other amphibious craft were launched; the assault battalions practiced ship-to-shore movements; shore party team personnel and beach parties were landed with their communications equipment; artillery was beached and dragged ashore. On 16 and 17 May each of the divisions made a coordinated landing on the island of Maui and battle conditions were simulated as far as was practicable. However, in view of the fact that the island was populated, ship and aerial bombardment had to be “constructive” only. Moreover, the landing beaches were separated and maneuver area ashore was extremely limited, preventing rehearsal of co-ordinated movements inland and any extensive deployment of troops once they had reached the shore line. As an exercise in ship-to-shore movement the rehearsal was useful, but it failed to give the troops an adequate foretaste of the problems involved in consolidating a beachhead once they had landed.

Finally, on 19 May, a simulated landing was made jointly by the two Marine divisions on the nearby island of Kahoolawe. This time troops approached the shore under actual cover of naval and aerial fire. On reaching a line 300 yards from the beaches they turned back, but in every other respect the exercise was a full-dress rehearsal of the plans for the forthcoming landing on Saipan, with units, positions, intervals, distances, and other details as prescribed in the operation plans. This was followed immediately by a second exercise in which air and naval gunfire did not take part. Then troops were re-embarked in the vessels in which they were scheduled to sail overseas and returned to their respective rehabilitation areas.

The only incident that had marred last minute training was the loss of three deck-loaded LCT’s over the sides of the LST’s that were carrying them to the rehearsals. This resulted in twenty-nine casualties to the 2nd Marine Division. Moreover, two of these LCT’s had been specially equipped with 4.2-inch mortars. Plans called for their employment on Saipan as support ships to supplement the rocket-firing LCI’s in the last minutes between the lifting of heavy ships’ fire and the landing of troops. Their loss during rehearsals prevented the equipment from being tested until a later operation and deprived the assault troops of that much additional naval support.

From 18 to 24 May the 27th Division (minus its artillery), fully loaded on three transport divisions, conducted similar rehearsals. The exercise emphasized the technique of debarking and landing a large number of troops with a limited number of boats, a situation thought likely to occur if reserve troops had to be landed at all on Saipan. Ship-to-Shore communication was established although, as in the case of the two Marine divisions, no supplies were unloaded since all ships had already been assault loaded for the actual landing.

Loading and Embarkation

The task of carrying three reinforced divisions and almost seven thousand corps and garrison troops with all their supplies and equipment over a distance of 3,200 miles from Hawaii to Saipan was the heaviest yet imposed upon the Navy in the Pacific war. To accomplish it, Admiral Nimitz assembled a flotilla of no naval transport vessels of all varieties—37 troop transports (APA’s and AP’s), 11 cargo ships (AKA’s and AK’s), 5 LSD’s (landing ships, dock), 47 LST’s, and 10 APD’s.

In addition, a whole division of Liberty ships had to be organized to transport the 106th Regimental Combat Team because of the scarcity of Navy troop transports in the area. Altogether, a total of 74,986. measurement tons of cargo representing 7,845,194 cubic feet was loaded. By comparison, during the invasion of Kwajalein in January 1944, only 49,283 tons were carried in the assault shipping. Nimitz’ operation plan provided that assault and garrison forces should be allowed 32 days of Class I supplies (rations), 20 days of Class II (organizational and individual equipment), 20 days of Class III (fuels and lubricants), weapons and 10 for antiaircraft weapons.

Staging areas for the three divisions were widely separated and not all were conveniently located. Ships assigned to the 2nd Marine Division loaded at Hilo on the main island of Hawaii, those of the 4th Marine Division at Kahului, Maui, and those of the 27th Division at Oahu. The ports of Kahului and Hilo were ill suited to loading the two Marine divisions efficiently. The piers at each could berth only four ships alongside the dock at one time. There were not enough dock cranes, stevedore equipment, and warehouses. There were no dock lighting facilities, and it was difficult for LST’s to beach properly. Also, Hilo was some sixty miles away from the 2nd Marine Division’s Camp Tarawa, which complicated the problem of loading both troops and equipment.

Standard combat unit loading procedures were followed as a rule, but shipping shortages sometimes made this impossible. This was especially true of supplies and equipment belonging to V Amphibious Corps troops, XXIV Corps Artillery, and garrison troops. The last available AP in the Pacific (USS G. F. Elliott), two AK’s (USS Hercules and USS Jupiter), and two LST’s were assigned to lift these units, but the shipping space was inadequate. Excess personnel (approximately 4,000) were distributed among the transports carrying the two Marine divisions. As a result most of these units, especially the XXIV Corps Artillery, were separated from their cargo. In other words these particular units were “convoy unit loaded”—which was highly undesirable from the point of view of tactical disposition.

Even after parceling out more than half of its attached troops to the ships carrying the Marine divisions, V Amphibious Corps still did not have enough room aboard its own vessels. It was impossible to combat load its cargo. To have tried to vertically load each of the twenty-five units carrying cargo on the corps ships would have meant leaving from 25 to 35 percent of the cargo behind. The upshot was that a top priority was assigned to corps artillery and the corps signal battalion, and the remainder of the units’ equipment was stowed wherever it could be fitted in.

As early as 1 May 1944, Holland Smith’s headquarters had ordered 25 to 50 percent of all supplies and two to five units of fire to be palletized. The object was to permit rapid transfer from the beach to inland dumps by using tractors to drag the pallets instead of resorting to the older method of trucking loose supplies inland employing manpower to load the trucks. From the outset, the two Marine divisions were lukewarm toward the project, and in the end loaded only a few pallets. The 27th Infantry Division, however, had had several months’ experience in handling palletized cargo and was enthusiastic about this technique for loading and unloading supplies. The division not only complied with corps orders, but went beyond it and palletized between 80 and 90 percent of all supplies.

One reason for the Marine divisions’ failure to follow suit was inexperienced labor and a shortage of equipment. The 4th Marine Division reported that it could procure only enough material to palletize 10 to 15 percent of all supplies and that the job was done so poorly that some pallets broke down during handling. In the end, the division decided that palletization of supplies at least for the initial stages of the assault was not worth the trouble. The marines argued that palletized supplies took up too much space aboard ship, were difficult to transfer from one type of landing craft to another, and required too much extra equipment. Furthermore, it was contended that pallets were not practical where dumps were located more than 500 yards inland and where reefs were encountered.

Neither corps headquarters nor the 27th Division agreed. Holland Smith’s transport quartermaster maintained that the “reasons for palletization overbalance the negative effects,” and cited as the primary benefits the rapid unloading of landing craft at the beaches and the release of large working parties formerly engaged in transferring cargo from landing craft to trucks. The 27th Division headquarters was so enthusiastic about the process that it diverted from training one and sometimes two companies of infantry in addition to a platoon of engineers for a period of six weeks just to palletize supplies.

Amphibian tanks and tractors, the all-important vehicles of assault, were as usual transported aboard LST’s. Each LST carried seventeen LVT’s, loaded in two rows of eight with the odd one secured on the ramp. By loading LVT’s in this manner, about fifteen feet of clear space remained on the after portion of the LST tank deck, and emergency supplies were “preloaded” thereon. In addition to the amphibian vehicles, each LST carried more than 300 marines from Hawaii to Eniwetok. There, they received fifty to seventy-five more from transports to fill the complement of the assault waves. A serious LST shortage almost occurred when six were destroyed by fire at Pearl Harbor on 21 May. However, LST’s originally assigned to the garrison force were used as substitutes, and loading and embarking was only delayed twenty-four hours.

One impediment to well-planned and well-coordinated combat loading was that troop transport quartermasters too often received insufficient or inaccurate information on the characteristics of the ships assigned to them. Precise data on the location, size, and shape of ships’ holds, the number and location of hatches and winches and other equipment, plus myriad other details concerning ship structure are essential to proper combat loading. This was not always forthcoming. New ships arrived at the very last moment, and there was little or no time available to obtain correct ships’ characteristics. For two AP’s (USS Storm King and USS John Land) assigned to the 4th Marine Division, no characteristics were obtainable before actual loading. The division’s supply section had been instructed to assume that these vessels’ characteristics were similar to those of another AP, USS LaSalle. Upon arrival of the ships, it was discovered there was no such resemblance, that the new ships were not entirely suitable for combat loading, and that the winchmen were inexperienced and too few in number to cope with the problems at hand. Hence, many valuable items of equipment, especially twenty-five 2½-ton cargo trucks, had to be left behind.

In spite of these and kindred difficulties, the three divisions met Admiral Turner’s loading schedule. By 14 May both the Marine divisions were aboard their transports and ready to depart for rehearsals, completely loaded except for a few last-minute items. By 18 May the 27th Division was also set to go.

After a brief period of rehabilitation following rehearsals, all units of Northern Troops and Landing Force once again boarded their ships and prepared to set sail for the final ordeal. The slower LST’s carrying assault elements of the two Marine divisions sortied from Pearl Harbor on 25 May. On 29 and 30 May two groups of naval transports followed. All ships carrying the assault troops rendezvoused at Eniwetok, where last-minute intelligence data was disseminated and additional troops assigned to the initial landing waves were transferred from transports to LST’s.

By 11 June the last of the attack transports had weighed anchor in Eniwetok lagoon and the mighty convoy, split into four separate groups, was steaming westward through hostile waters toward still more hostile shores. Well to the rear came the transport and tractor (LST) groups carrying the reserve troops, the 27th Infantry Division. These had sailed from Pearl Harbor between 25 May and 1 June and had rendezvoused at Kwajalein. There, the 106th Regimental Combat Team was informed that it would undoubtedly be detached to the Southern Attack Force for the invasion of Guam. Otherwise, the voyage for all units was uneventful.

The Prospects Ahead: Intelligence of the Enemy

While still at anchor in Eniwetok, the intelligence section of Headquarters, Expeditionary Troops (Task Force 56), received a final batch of aerial photographs of Saipan and the southern Marianas. These had been made on 28 May for Saipan and on 29 May and 7 June for Guam.

They were disseminated to the two Marine divisions before their departure from Eniwetok on 11 June, although the initial assault elements aboard the LST’s had left before the new information could reach them. Hence, the leading waves of troops would make their landings on the basis of information of the enemy situation as derived from photographic sorties flown on 18 April.

A final G-2 “Summary of the Enemy Situation” was prepared by Holland Smith’s intelligence section on 13 June and represents the last-minute estimate of enemy potentialities in the Marianas before the actual landing. This document predicted that the Japanese had on Saipan alone from 15,000 to 17,600 troops, with an additional 10,150 to 10,750 on nearby Tinian. Of the total, 9,100 to 11,000 were thought to be ground combat troops located on Saipan, The rest of the garrison, it was believed, was made up of air base personnel, maintenance and construction personnel (including Koreans), and a home guard. This represented a considerable increase over an estimate made a month earlier (9 May), which put the total number of enemy troops on Saipan at 9,000 to 10,000 and on Tinian at 7,500 to 8,500.

Saipan had three airfields in varying stages of preparedness. Aslito Naval Air Station in the south was 3,600 feet in length and believed to be fully operational; an emergency landing strip 3,280 feet in length had been sited in the area of Charan Kanoa; and at Marpi Point a large airfield (4,300 feet) was still under construction and was considered to be nonoperational. In addition, a major seaplane base at Flores Point in Tanapag Harbor was thought to be fully operational.

The latest estimate of air strength on Saipan before the carriers’ strikes was a total of 152 aircraft. However, on 11 and 12 June 140 aircraft were destroyed on Saipan, Tinian, and Guam, and since no aerial opposition was encountered at Saipan on 13 June, Japanese aerial resistance from Saipan was thought unlikely.

The newest photographs of Saipan revealed several significant increases in the number of gun installations since 18 April, when the last photographic sortie had been flown. The most notable of these were an increase of 32 percent in the number of heavy antiaircraft guns, 28 percent in medium antiaircraft guns, and 37 percent in machine guns.

According to intelligence estimates, the preferred landing beaches off Charan Kanoa were defended by a well-developed system of trenches, tank traps, pillboxes, and machine guns. It was assumed that infantry elements on the island would be assigned chiefly to the defense of this area.

The absence of extensive field fortifications and the presence of heavy-caliber weapons between Garapan and Flores Point suggested to intelligence officers that the defense of that area would be primarily the responsibility of artillery and antiaircraft elements of whatever guard forces, special landing forces, and antiaircraft units that were stationed on the island. Intelligence officers also believed that the machine guns around Aslito field, at the southern end of Charan Kanoa strip, and on the eastern end of Marpi Point would probably be manned by similar elements and by air base defense antiaircraft personnel.

Intelligence also led the officers to believe that the enemy probably had a tank detachment or at least an amphibious tank unit on Saipan. This, plus other factors, suggested that the Japanese contemplated a strong defense at the shore line combined with a mobile defense in the area behind the preferred landing beaches.

The last assumption was essentially correct, even if some of the detailed estimates as to the number of enemy troops and installations proved to be well under the mark. At any rate, nothing in the last minute intelligence surveys indicated that a basic change in the preferred landing plans was necessary. The die was cast. Under mild skies and through gently rolling seas the advance groups of troop-laden ships moved in slow procession toward the battleground.

SOURCE: Campaign in the Marianas; BY: Philip A. Crowl (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Marianas(2-4); Prewar Japanese Activities

World War Two: Operation Cartwheel (18) Emiau

World War Two: Operation Cartwheel (18) Emiau

March was a busy month in the Admiralties and at Empress Augusta Bay, where battles raged almost simultaneously. It was also a month of important decisions that culminated in the last Allied offensive move directed against Rabaul and Kavieng.

General MacArthur and his staff for some time had been convinced that the invasion of Hansa Bay in New Guinea was not a worthwhile move. On 3 March, just after the reconnaissance force landed in the Admiralties, General Chamberlin suggested to other members of the staff that since Rabaul and Kavieng were now so much weaker than when operations were planned it might be possible, if carrier-based aviation was provided, to bypass Hansa Bay and advance beyond Wewak in a long leap forward. Two days later, by radio, MacArthur took up the question with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Explaining that complete occupation of the Admiralties would soon follow, he argued that the success of the reconnaissance party presented an excellent opportunity to move west along the north coast of New Guinea. He suggested that his forces seize Kavieng at once, bypass Hansa Bay, and advance all the way to Hollandia in Netherlands New Guinea, if Admiral Nimitz could provide the carriers for a short time. Carriers would be required for fighter cover, for Hollandia lay beyond effective fighter-plane range of the most westerly Southwest Pacific bases. Such a move, he pointed out, would bypass the main strength of Adachi’s 18th Army (then at Madang and Wewak) and speed the advance to the Vogelkop by several months.

[N8-2 Rad, MacArthur to CofS for JCS, 5 Mar 44, in GHQ SWPA G-3 Jnl, 5 Mar 44. On the same day MacArthur told Krueger of the proposals he had made and ordered him to prepare plans for both Hollandia and Hansa Bay so as to be ready for any contingency. Rad, MacArthur to Comdr ALAMO, 5 Mar 44, in GHQ SWPA G-3 Jnl, 5 Mar 44.]

The Joint Chiefs of Staff were undoubtedly influenced by Halsey’s arguments against Kavieng and in favor of Emirau, and by Nimitz’ opposition to Kavieng, as well as by MacArthur’s proposals. They ordered that the Kavieng plan be canceled, that Emirau be seized instead, and that Kavieng and Rabaul be isolated with minimum forces. They authorized the bypassing of Hansa Bay in favor of the invasion of Hollandia. The Hollandia invasion would be the first direct move in MacArthur’s advance to the Philippines.

MacArthur forwarded the relevant provisions of the orders to Halsey, directing him to revoke plans for Kavieng and to seize, occupy, and defend Emirau with minimum forces at the earliest possible moment. At Emirau a light air and naval base was to be established from which to blockade the Bismarck Archipelago and neutralize Truk. Meanwhile operations to neutralize Rabaul and Kavieng would continue.

Admiral Halsey has written that when he received these orders at Noumea he was surprised, but that no special problems were raised. “This entailed no more than dusting off our original plan, picking the landing force, and notifying Ping Wilkinson and Roy Geiger to load them in.” Commodore Reifsnider was given command of the amphibious force. The landing force Halsey selected was a new regiment, the 4th Marines, which had been created out of the recently disbanded raider battalions. [N8-6] Landing force command was entrusted to General Noble of the Marine Corps. Carried aboard nine APD’s and one APA and escorted by nine destroyers and two tugs, the landing force sailed from Guadalcanal on 18 March and made a peaceful voyage past the Solomon’s and New Ireland to Emirau. On 20 March, while four old battleships fired 1,079 14-inch and 12,281 5-inch shells at Kavieng, the Marines went peacefully ashore. There were no Japanese; air bombardments and naval gunfire were unnecessary. This operation, wrote Admiral Halsey, established “a record of six days between ‘Stand by to shove off!’ and ‘Well done!’ ” 

[N8-6 It was numbered the 4th to commemorate the 4th Marine Regiment that was taken prisoner on Corregidor. ]

Within a month 18,000 men and 44,000 tons of supplies had been ferried to Emirau. The first airstrip was opened in May. From here Allied planes and torpedo boats patrolled New Ireland, and when bomber strips were ready long-range bombers from Emirau and Nissan could reach Truk.

And so, peacefully and almost anticlimactically, the Emirau operation was concluded, and with it the long, hard-fought series of operations against Rabaul which had begun with the invasion of Guadalcanal almost two years before. Whereas the first of the operations, Guadalcanal and Papua, were agonizingly slow, the CARTWHEEL and Bismarck Archipelago campaigns had clicked off with speed and precision. In less than one year MacArthur’s and Halsey’s forces fought their way from Guadalcanal and Buna through Woodlark, Kiriwina, Nassau Bay, New Georgia, Lae, Salamaua, Nadzab, the Markham and Ramu Valleys, Finschhafen, the Treasuries, Empress Augusta Bay, Arawe, Cape Gloucester, Saidor, the Green Islands,

Emirau, and the Admiralties. They gained control of all the seas and straits, as well as the air, in the whole vast region of the Japanese Southeast Area. Using carrier aircraft and planes based on airfields captured by ground forces that had been transported and protected by air and naval surface forces, they reduced Rabaul to impotence. They destroyed hundreds of Japanese planes, seriously diminished the dwindling force of trained pilots, sank or damaged precious warships, chewed up three Japanese divisions and several brigades, and safely bypassed some 100,000 Japanese who, for practical purposes, were now out of the war. Together with Admiral Nimitz’ forces, they forced Japanese air and naval surface forces to evacuate the Southeast Area. In taking these strides, the Allied forces of the South and Southwest Pacific Areas accomplished their assigned mission of defending the U.S.-Australian line of communications. They also placed MacArthur’s forces in position to start the drive along the New Guinea coast to the Philippines.

This great advance from Guadalcanal and Buna employed elements of the armed forces of three nations and called for the most careful co-ordination and timing of a complex variety of operations. With the exception of large armored battles, true close air support, and struggles between aircraft carrier task forces, CARTWHEEL and the Bismarck operations boasted about every important type of action, singly and in combination, that, characterized World War

There were bitter struggles for a few yards of swampy jungles; land marches; assaults against fortified positions; gallant defenses; parachute jumps and airlifts; amphibious invasions, both ship-to-shore and shore-to-shore; air and naval support bombardments; fighter sweeps; large bombing raids; strikes by land-and carrier-based planes against ships; and gun and torpedo actions between surface warships. Throughout the series of battles an improvement in technique, especially in amphibious operations, is apparent.

All the invasions shared a dominant feature; in each case the range of the fighter plane was a vital factor in determining the objective, setting the timetable, and fixing the limits of the advance. Aircraft carriers might have made longer advances possible, but during much of the time they were not available and doctrines then current warned against using carriers to support the invasion of air and naval bases.

Planning and executing these forward moves were military accomplishments of a high order, and the credit must be shared by all participants from the area commanders to the men in the ranks. But stamped upon the whole series of operations is the imprint of the higher commanders. Although many of the staff officers and subordinate commanders stood out prominently and later won greater fame and rose to higher posts—Krueger, Collins, Harmon, Twining, Carney, Turner, Kenney, Kinkaid, Barbey, Sutherland, Fechteler, Chamberlin, Swift, Vandegrift, Geiger, Griswold, Hodge, Wilkinson, Beightler, and Turnage, to name a representative few—it is clear that General MacArthur and Admiral Halsey dominated and controlled the campaigns.

They were different men, and they worked differently: MacArthur, austere and aloof, insisting that his staff and subordinate commanders reach agreement on details; Halsey, with a salty façade of bluff humor and informality, working more closely with his generals and admirals. But both possessed and exhibited exceptional leadership and judgment. And they worked well together. With an easy, cordial relationship, they co-operated and assisted each other to further the Allied cause. They shuttled ships back and forth from area to area to bolster each other’s forces, and they timed operations in such a way that, as General Marshall predicted, forward moves in each area supported the other, thwarted the enemy strategy, and gained a significant victory. This victory was won at the cost of fewer casualties than the Japanese sustained in defeat. Both MacArthur and Halsey were obviously deeply conscious of their responsibility for conserving the lives of the men entrusted to their leadership, and considered each objective, not only in terms of its strategic value, but also in terms of human life.

In opposing the Allies, the Japanese had fought with characteristic resolution and often with great skill, but to little avail. Except for their delaying tactics in New Georgia, which slowed the campaign and required the commitment of far more Allied troops than had been planned, they were uniformly unsuccessful. General Imamura and Admiral Kusaka were, as far as the evidence indicates, experienced and skillful. Close analysis fails to show many overt errors in their strategy or in its execution. The flaw in their conduct of operations was fundamental, and was imposed on them by Imperial General Headquarters; they had to try too much with too little. Attempting to hold almost the entire Southeast Area with inferior numbers of men, ships, planes, and guns, they lost it all except the parts the Allies neither needed nor wanted. They had possessed, strategically speaking, interior lines which enabled them to switch reserves back and forth and to reinforce their forward units as long as they controlled the air and the sea. But they were so badly outnumbered that the advantages of interior lines were vitiated from the start, and when they lost control of the air and the sea the interior lines became valueless. Having lost the initiative, they never knew exactly where and when the next blow would fall and were never able to dispose their forces properly to meet it.

The Allied forces operated, strategically, on exterior lines—which as has often been pointed out present to the attacker greater difficulties but also greater promise of decisive results. Because of their superior strength the Allies could select targets so as to avoid strong points and seize lightly held, strategically valuable areas. In short, the Allies were able to use the bypass technique with its concomitant savings in lives and time.

So it was that March 1944 saw the Allies as far forward as Emirau, the Admiralties, and Saidor, with the Southwest Pacific forces making ready to drive toward the Philippines.

SOURCE: Cartwheel: Reduction of Rabaul; By John Miller Jr. (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Marianas (2-3) Planning the Invasion-Saipan &Guam

World War Two: Action in the Admiralties II (16)

World War Two: Bougainville Counterattack (17)