When news reached General Takashima of the disastrous defeat suffered by his troops in the counterattack of 25-26 July, he ordered the survivors to withdraw from the Fonte area and to establish a new defensive line farther north. As an intermediate step the troops were to assembly around Ordot, then they were to move north and establish positions along a line between Dededo and Barrigada. While this shift was taking place, a rear-guard force was to be left in the vicinity of Ordot to fight a delaying action until the new defensive line could be established.
Takashima was killed shortly after he issued this order. However, his successor, General Obata, had been kept fully informed of the tactical situation and had no particular trouble taking over. Obata established his headquarters at Ordot on 28 July and remained there for about a day supervising the transfer of troops and equipment to the defensive line. During that time he had under his immediate command in the Ordot area approximately 1,000 Army infantry troops, 800 Navy shore combat troops, and 2,500 others, including the 29th Division Tank Unit, and the 48th Independent Mixed Brigade artillery unit, which had six guns. Just how many other Japanese were scattered through the rest of the island at the time it is impossible to determine.
By the 30th, organized Japanese movement to the north had begun in earnest, and General Obata established his headquarters to the north of the new line at a three-pronged road junction northwest of Mount Barrigada. That same day he reaffirmed his intention to be guided by Takashima’s defensive plan. Along the newly prepared line he deployed his troops in two sectors. A right sector unit was located in the vicinity of Dededo, and a left sector unit was placed on the southwest slopes of Mount Barrigada. In case these new dispositions failed to stop the attackers—and Obata must have been aware of the hopelessness of his situation—a final defense line was to be drawn up just below Ipapao. If this too should succumb, Obata designated Mount Santa Rosa as the site of a last stand. A day later he moved his headquarters again, this time to Mount Mataguac, and on 1 August he set up a hastily organized unit to defend Mount Santa Rosa and its environs. This bobtailed organization, called the Mount Santa Rosa Garrison Force, was composed entirely of naval units, including laborers. The entire force was organized into four and a half companies.
Three of these were placed under command of a Captain Otori and ordered to defend Mount Mataguac, site of Obata’s new command post. The remainder, composed of one company of infantry and two machine gun squads, was assigned to Mount Santa Rosa, where it would construct dummy positions “to fool U.S. troops.” [N4-18-5 ] Obviously, the intention of the Japanese commander on Guam was to make the inevitable American victory as expensive as possible. His compatriots on Saipan had succeeded in doing this by orderly withdrawals to the northward where two separate and fairly well-organized lines were drawn across the breadth of the island.
Obata apparently hoped to accomplish somewhat the same result, but his problem was more difficult and the means at his disposal less promising. Guam was considerably wider than Saipan and there were fewer men left to defend it. The American troops were hot in pursuit and no delays such as had held up the 27th Infantry Division in Death Valley were to give the 31st Army commander on Guam an opportunity to reorganize. To add to his troubles, Obata was constantly being harassed by American naval and aerial bombardment. As postwar Japanese testimony indicates: “The enemy air force seeking our units during the daylight hours in the forest, bombed and strafed even a single soldier. During the night, the enemy naval units attempting to cut our communications were shelling our position from all points of the perimeter of the island, thus impeding our operation activities to a great extent.”
Drive to the O-2 Line 31 July-1 August
General Geiger was fully aware of the route of the Japanese retreat and geared his plans accordingly. Late on the afternoon of 30 July, he ordered the 3rd Marine Division and 77th Infantry Division to commence the pursuit on the morning of the 31st. The corps commander planned to swing his line across Guam, pivoting on its left flank until he had occupied the waist of the island, and then push north, For this he would use both the 3rd and the 77th (initially less the 306th Infantry) Divisions. General Geiger established two objective lines, the first (O-1) ran from the shore just east of Agana along the Agana-Pago Bay road to the town of Famja, where the road curved southeast along the high ground south of the Pago River. The second line (O-2) began at a point on the western shore little more than [N4-18-4] It consisted of the 263rd Air Unit, the 521st Naval Air Unit with attached personnel, the 217th and 218th Construction Units, the 5th Field Hospital, the 5th Construction Unit, a weather observation unit, an air depot unit, an air ordnance unit, and the 30th Labor Unit.
The O-1 line and ran inland through Road Junction 218, reaching the east coast about a mile west of Fadian Point. The drive was scheduled to begin at 0630, 31 July, with the 3rd Marine Division on the left as the hub of the turning maneuver. The 3rd Division had but two to five miles to cover from its line of departure, while the 77th Division would have to advance nearly ten miles from the Tenjo-Alifan ridge. In force reserve was the 22nd Marines (less 3rd Battalion), while the 1st Provisional Brigade (less force reserve but initially plus the 306th Infantry) would hold the Force Beachhead Line, protect the corps right, and continue patrols throughout southern Guam.
[N4-18-5 Ltr. Takeda to McQueen, 20 Feb 52; Japanese Studies in World War II, 55, p. 49; POW Interrogation 47, Interrogation of Leading Seaman Shirakawa Yukio, in TF 56.2 Interrogation Rpts; III Phib Corps Rpt Guam, Incl D, G-2 Rpt 12, 31180 K – 011800K and Rpt 18, 061801K -071800K. ] * [N4-18-6 Japanese Studies in World War II, 55, p. 50. 7 The word pursuit as used here does not imply that the enemy was completely disorganized and routed. Nor does it imply that the attacking troops could move rapidly against few obstacles. General Bruce has suggested that a more accurately descriptive phrase to cover this phase of the battle for Guam would be “pursuit by direct pressure.” Ltr, Bruce to Gen A. C. Smith, 11 Feb 55, Incl 1, OCMH.]
In compliance with this plan, General Bruce directed the 77th Division to move off in column of regiments, with its initial objective the O-1 line along the high ground south of the Pago River. First to move out would be the 307th Infantry, with 3rd Battalion of the 305th Infantry, a reinforced company of the 706th Tank Battalion, and other supporting units attached. Behind the 307th would come the 305th Infantry, less its 3rd Battalion, but otherwise similarly reinforced. The 307th Infantry would move east about two thirds of the distance from the Force Beachhead Line to the east coast and then turn north.
The 305th Infantry, behind it, would cover the division south flank and turn northeast so as to go into position abreast and east of the 307th Infantry. Thus the division would present a two-regiment front facing north, 305th Infantry on the right, 307th on the left. When the 306th Infantry was relieved from its attachment to brigade, it would follow the division advance. The 105-mm. howitzers of the 902nd Field Artillery would give direct support to the 307th Infantry, while the rest of the division artillery would be in general support. The boundary between the 77th Division and the 3rd Marine Division roughly paralleled the Sigua River to the point where it joined the Pago River, and from there the boundary continued generally northeast.
The Army Advance
On the morning of 31 July the 77th Division moved out on schedule. The 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry, led the advance, followed by the 3rd Battalion, and, finally, by the 2nd in reserve. Echeloned to the right was the attached 3rd Battalion, 305th Infantry. Encountering no enemy opposition, the advance moved fairly well. Only the roughness of the terrain and the weight of their loads slowed the troops. Men slid down the steep slopes of ravines and gorges, struggled through tangled undergrowth where it was next to impossible to see other units, and sweated it out in the humid heat. By noon the 305th Infantry, relieved on the final beachhead line by the 4th Marines, had joined the advance, and the 3rd Battalion, 305th Infantry, had rejoined its parent regiment.
So far enemy resistance had been nonexistent, for the handful of Japanese flushed out of their holes were more concerned with saving themselves than with killing Americans. Shortly before noon, General Bruce pushed up his schedule and ordered the two attack regiments to occupy the O-1 line by that night.
During the afternoon the 77th Division troops moved ahead, still encountering little resistance. The 307th Infantry occupied its section of the O-1 line during the early afternoon, while the 3rd Battalion, 305th Infantry, followed by the 1st Battalion, drove farther east toward its assigned objective along that line. As afternoon passed into the dusk of early evening, Captain Lee P. Cothran’s Company I, leading the 305th Infantry’s advance, reached the high ground overlooking Pago Bay. Earlier in the day, a patrol from the 77th Reconnaissance Troop had reported that there were no enemy forces in the vicinity. The men of I Company pushed rapidly down the trail toward the town of Yona, about 1,500 yards southwest of the mouth of the Pago River, where the company commander sought secure positions for the night. As the lead scouts neared the town, they saw two Japanese run across the trail. The enemy soldiers disappeared into the thick vegetation that bordered the trail just as a squad of the 2nd Platoon opened fire. Small arms fire from Yona answered.
Forming a skirmish line, Company I began moving into the town. The Japanese were surprised. Some returned the fire, but others, in varying stages of undress, fled from the village. Those that remained apparently acted as a rear guard to cover the retreat of their comrades, for the Japanese firing at I Company made little or no attempt to move from their huts and dugouts.
Soon K Company joined the fight and, thus reinforced, I Company moved into and through Yona, ending the brief struggle. Of an estimated 50 to 100 Japanese in the village, five were killed and the rest made good their escape. Shortly thereafter the 1st Battalion joined the 3rd Battalion in the area, and the 305th Infantry dug in for the night along its sector of the O-1 line.
It had been a hard, hot, agonizing march. Luckily only a handful of Japanese had shown up to oppose the advance. There was another compensation. At the town on Asinan, on the south bank of the Pago River about a mile from its mouth, troops of the 307th Infantry discovered a concentration camp in which the Japanese had assembled some 2,000 Chamorros. Although the enemy had left the area, the natives were apparently still too frightened to depart, and greeted the men of Company L, first into the area, as liberators.
The scene was a moving one, as sick, hungry, but joyful Chamorros exhibited tiny and hitherto hidden American flags. While the troops pressed rations and cigarettes on them, the natives told of their oppression under the enemy and of their constant faith that the Americans would return. “We long time wait for you to come,” said one.
The 77th Division advance had been so rapid on 31 July that less than two hours after noon of that day General Bruce ordered the 305th and 307th Infantry Regiments to occupy the O-2 line on 1 August.
With the 305th on the right, the two regiments would move out at 0700. The decision to press on with all speed to the O-2 line was based not only on the lack of enemy resistance and the necessity of putting pressure on the enemy before he could reorganize, but on the need to secure a supply route. The Army troops had left the Force Beachhead Line with only small loads of rations in order to lighten their burdens over the rough terrain ahead. Building a supply route behind the advance or landing supplies at Pago Bay proved unfeasible, and it was obvious that the 77th Division would have to be supplied over the main road from Agana to Pago Bay. The Marine advance into Agana on 31 July placed half of this road in American hands, but not until the O-2 line was seized would the rest of it be secured.
If the 77th Division wanted food, it would have to occupy the O-2 line and its half of the cross-island road. “Capture that road,” said General Bruce to the 307th Infantry’s Colonel Hamilton, “and we’ll bring up your breakfast.” With some minor exceptions, 1 August was a repetition of 31 July. The 77th Division’s advance was unopposed. Hungry and thirsty now, and somewhat more weary, the men nevertheless made good progress. By noon a portion of the Agana-Pago Bay road had been seized by the 307th Infantry, and soon the promised breakfast was on the way. Meanwhile, some of the troops appeased their hunger with captured Japanese canned salmon and candy. To satisfy their thirst, the men dropped halazone tablets into the unpleasant-tasting creek water. Others, more enterprising, mixed Tom Collinses from captured sake, K ration lemon powder, and sugar.
By evening the 77th Division was safely deployed along the O-2 line. On the right was the 305th Infantry with its 2nd Battalion on the right, 3rd on the left, and 1st in reserve. Just west of the point where Price Road—the northern branch of the Agana-Pago Bay road—crossed the O-2 line, began the zone of responsibility of the 307th Infantry. That regiment also had two battalions on the line, the 3rd on the right, the 1st on the left; its 2nd was in reserve. So far, the advance to the north had been easy.
The 3rd Marine Division Zone
The same was true for the marines. On 31 July Turnage’s men jumped off at 0630, 9th Marines on the right, 21st in the center, and 3rd on the left. The 9th pushed through Ordot, eliminating the small enemy detachment that had been left there to guard supplies and equipment. That afternoon two Japanese tanks showed up to give battle but were quickly disposed of, and by midafternoon Colonel Craig’s unit had dug in on the O-1 line. Craig’s only real problem was one that was to occur with increasing frequency as marines and soldiers pressed further into the jungle—the matter of contact. The 9th Marines was in physical contact with the Army division on the day’s objective line on its right, but not with the 21st Marines on its left. Finally, before nightfall, patrols from the two Marine regiments met about 300 yards to the left of the 9th Marines boundary, and Craig sent Company C to plug the gap.
Meanwhile, the 21st Marines had reached the corps objective line as had the 3rd Marines on the left. In the course of the day’s advance the 3rd had overrun Agana, capital city of Guam, and seized control of the western end of the Agana-Pago Bay road. Altogether, the Marine division had pushed forward more than 5,000 yards. On 1 August a comparable advance was made against neligible opposition, and the division halted just short of Tiyan airfield, the 21st Marines, which had been in the center, being pinched out.
The chief problem facing Geiger’s troops at this point was supply. The Army and Marine Corps divisions had both moved so rapidly on the last day of July and the first of August that supply dumps were left far in the rear—as much as sixteen miles in the case of the 77th Division.
The problem in the Army’s zone had been foreseen and steps were taken in an attempt to solve it. General Bruce proposed to construct a main supply route from the Agat area across the island. From Agat, a main road ran inland, connecting with trails that lead southeast to the coast. The western terminus of the new supply route that Army planners envisaged would be on this road about 1,000 yards southeast of Agat. From this point the new route would run generally along the high ground to the south of the Pago River in an easterly direction to Yona and Pago Bay. From there, it was planned; the supply route would turn north to follow the advance of the division up the island.
Soon after the 77th Division landed, Companies A and C, 302nd Engineer Combat Battalion, began working on the new road. Like the infantrymen, the engineers found nature on Guam to be their worst enemy. The soft clay of central Guam proved an insufficient foundation for the road, and torrential rains and heavy traffic combined to make it a quagmire. Because of the consistency of the ground and the need for speed, once the move out of the beachhead area was begun the engineers could not follow good road-building practice.
It was impossible to build roads on a higher level than the surrounding ground, since the soft clay would not support such a route. Instead, after culverts of coconut logs or oil drums had been emplaced, a two-lane road was bulldozed out, excess dirt being pushed to either side. This road was actually below the surrounding ground, and water drained onto rather than off of it. As heavy traffic rutted the road, the bulldozers pushed off the mud until a firm base was reached farther down. “Such a road,” commented the S-3 of the 302nd, “is soon lost.” With no other equipment than that organic to a division Engineer battalion, with the need for speed, and with men and equipment of the unit hard-pressed to complete other tasks within their mission, the 302nd Engineers had its troubles.
The rapid advance of the 77th Division on 31 July made it obvious to General Bruce, “that we could not hope to supply the division over this route.” Late that afternoon the 302nd Engineers was ordered to abandon its attempt to construct a main supply route across the island. By this time the engineers had built about three and a third miles of road, and their labors had brought them to the southern slopes of Mount Tenjo. Remaining unfinished were nearly six miles of planned road.
The decision to abandon work on the project meant that the 77th Division had to rely on the main Agana-Pago Bay road, which was captured on 1 August, Since this road would also serve the 3rd Marine Division and corps artillery, indeed had been doing so since the capture of its western half the day before, the strain on it as the main supply route would be tremendous. The road had once been good. It was hard surfaced and two lane, but the rigors of the weather and poor maintenance had considerably reduced its efficiency, and in the summer of 1944 it was a “tortuous route” requiring constant maintenance.
The steady stream moving along this overloaded supply artery threatened to burst it but, by constant day and night movement of every vehicle the weary supply people could lay their hands on, the situation was kept fluid. In the absence of Japanese air and artillery opposition night movement could be carried out with lights on—a tremendous advantage. By dint of hard work and detailed planning, aided not a little by Japanese inability to construction and maintenance difficulties prevented extension of this road as far as Pago Bay, interfere, the Agana-Pago Bay road was made to serve as a main supply route for the whole III Amphibious Corps. “The books would say it can’t be done,” wrote General Bruce, “but on Guam it was done—it had to be.”
The Marine 3rd Division was in a slightly more advantageous position as far as supply was concerned because its supply dumps were closer to its own front lines and because the coastal road through Agana was within its zone of action. Nevertheless, traffic along the route was extremely congested and, furthermore, the road had been littered with Japanese aerial bombs and single-horned mines. To improve the situation, the 25th Naval Construction Battalion and the 19th Marines (the Engineer regiment of the 3rd Marine Division) concentrated all their efforts on improving existing roads and trails and removing the mines. However, the progress of supplies to the front lines was by no means satisfactory, and on 2 August General Geiger requested that a harbor reconnaissance be made of Agana Bay on the west coast and Pago Bay on the east coast, If these could be opened to boat traffic, some of the heavy load on Guam’s poor and inadequate road system might be reduced.
To Barrigada and the O-3 Line 2-4 August
On the evening of 1 August General Geiger informed the forces under his command that the enemy, by all indications, had fallen back to the vicinity of the town of Yigo, in the eastern half of Guam, roughly eight miles northeast of the O-2 line. The two divisions were to make all possible speed to regain contact with the Japanese, while Task Force 53 was to work over enemy concentrations in the north with naval gunfire. Geiger’s hope was that he could close with the Japanese in northern Guam before they could construct effective defenses there. Each division made ready for its mission. Meanwhile, corps artillery shifted to take targets farther north under fire, and a force of two battleships, five cruisers, ten destroyers, and four LCI(G)’s cruised off Guam’s northern coasts to carry out their part of the attack. Since the advance was in the nature of a pursuit, no artillery preparation was to precede it. Since the Japanese were withdrawing northward, corps artillery and naval gunfire support were concentrated on northern targets and neither of the infantry divisions planned a pre-assault bombardment. Later that night General Geiger issued additional orders, directing the ground attack to begin at 0630, 2 August, with the initial objective a phase line (O-3) crossing the island about four miles northeast of the O-2 line.
77th Division: 2 August
In compliance with these orders, General Bruce directed the light tanks of the 706th Tank Battalion to open the advance with a reconnaissance to the O–3 line. The infantry attack elements of the 77th Division—the 305th and 307th Infantry Regiments—were not to move out until 0700.
The first major objective of the 77th Division drive was the village of Barrigada, in a large clearing about two miles northeast of the center of the divisional position on the O-2 line. The town was important to General Bruce for two reasons. First, about a hundred yards northwest of Road Junction 306, in the center of the town, was a reservoir and pump capable of supplying the thirsty troops with 20,000 gallons of water daily. Up to now streams and creeks had been the main source of water, but there were few watercourses in the northern part of Guam into which the division was moving. Moreover, water points established by the engineers near the beaches were too far away from the front lines for rapid delivery, a situation made worse by the fact that all supplies were carried along the overworked Agana-Pago Bay road. Weapons and ammunition had first priority on this artery, and with two divisions as well as corps troops being supplied along it there was not much room to bring up large quantities of water. On the morning of 2 August, for instance, the 305th Infantry put in an urgent plea for water.
“We haven’t had any since yesterday,” it reported. [N4-18-27] The capture of the Barrigada reservoir would solve the problem. Furthermore, even before they reached Barrigada, the troops would be in control of the entire length of Price Road, the northern branch of the Agana-Pago Bay road, and thus obtain an additional route over which supplies might be carried to the front-line troops. Seizure of Road Junction 306 would give the 77th Division a link from Price Road to Barrigada, and a direct route from Agana to Barrigada.
[N4-18-27 77th Inf Div G-4 Jnl, 2 Aug 44, Msg 1. It was not until nearly 1500 that a water point could be moved forward to take care of the 305th Infantry’s requirements. Ibid., Msg 5; Guam, 77th Div (MS), pp. 122-23.]
The capture of Barrigada was assigned to the 307th Infantry, on the left of the division line. Maintaining contact on its left with the 3rd Marine Division, the regiment was to push through the town and continue generally northeast for a little over a mile to seize Mount Barrigada—a jungle covered mountain, 674 feet in height. With its 3rd Battalion on the right, its 1st on the left, and its 2nd in reserve, the regiment was to advance in a series of three phase lines to Mount Barrigada. The first of the lines, the so-called C line, would place the as yet uncaptured portion of Price Road in 77th Division hands and, if the marines on the left did their share, breakfast for the 307th could be brought up along Price Road as soon as it was captured. From the C line, with full stomachs, the 307th Infantry would advance on order, the 3rd Battalion, on the right, passing through the center of Barrigada, with the 1st Battalion moving up to the west of the town.
[N4-18-28 A request by the 307th Infantry that it be allowed to stop once Price Road was secured in order to receive the expected food had been approved by General Bruce. 307th RCT Summary of Events, p. 3, and Overlay Showing Scheme of Maneuver for 2 Aug, in Opn Overlays, both in 307th RCT Guam Opn, FORAGER Rpt.]
The 305th Infantry, to the right of the 307th, would attack northeast at the same time. Responsible for the area between the 307th Infantry and the east coast of Guam, the 305th planned to strike with its 2nd Battalion on the right, its 1st in reserve, and its 3rd Battalion on the left, in contact with the 307th. The 305th Infantry would advance east of Barrigada and Mount Barrigada, and thus would not, if the plan were followed, be engaged in the fight for the town itself.
Promptly at 0630 about a dozen light tanks of D Company (reinforced), 706th Tank Battalion, moved out from the 77th Division lines and advanced in column northwest along Price Road. On the alert for 2,000 Japanese reported north of Barrigada, they turned east at the point where the road from Barrigada met Price Road. No sooner had the tanks made this turn, a little over a mile west of Road Junction 306, than they were fired on by a small group of enemy soldiers. After putting machine gun fire on the enemy and on likely areas of concealment, the reconnaissance force turned and drove back to the division line with their report of contact. It was 0730.
At 0800 the light tanks moved out again on a second reconnaissance. To supplement the armor, General Bruce requested an aerial reconnaissance of the area around Barrigada and northward. The tanks moved rapidly ahead, in close radio contact with the division advance command post, and pushed along the same route they had taken on their first reconnaissance. About 0845 they brushed aside an estimated twenty-five Japanese defending a roadblock at Road Junction 306 and, following orders, by 0900 had turned to continue north on the road to Finegayan. Two thousand yards up the road the tankers found their way blocked by three Japanese trucks. The tankers knocked out the trucks, killing about thirty-five enemy soldiers, then moved back to Barrigada and turned east to investigate matters in that direction.
Despite enemy mines and a Japanese pillbox that proved to be undefended, the tanks advanced a few hundred yards with no resistance. When one tank got hung up on a stump, however, the whole column was halted on the narrow road. At this point the enemy put in an appearance in force. About 1045 some 150 Japanese attacked the tanks with hand grenades and 20-mm. and machine gun fire. The tanks returned the fire with a vengeance and managed to drive off their attackers without any American casualties. They then returned to their own lines.
While the tanks had been making their reconnaissance, the attack echelons of the 77th Division moved out. At 0700 the 305th Infantry, on the right, and the 307th Infantry, on the left, crossed the line of departure and began the general advance. From right to left were the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 305th Infantry, and the 3rd and 1st Battalions, 307th Infantry. Moving forward against little or nor resistance, the men reached C line, securing Price Road, by 0830. Supplies were moved in quickly and 10-in-1 rations issued to the hungry troops of the 307th. While the 307th Infantry was eating and reorganizing, General Bruce sent word to the 305th Infantry to hold and reorganize on the C line, abreast of the 307th. Both regiments would resume the attack at 1030.
The plan of attack for 2 August had not called for the 305th Infantry to a halt on the C line. Consequently, sometime between 0930 and 1000 when that regiment received General Bruce’s order to halt along C line,33 the 305th had already sent a reinforced company of the 3rd Battalion beyond. Company I, reinforced by the heavy machine guns and mortars of M Company, was advancing in front of the battalion and by about 0930 the point of the company had just reached the edge of a clearing in a small draw about 300 yards southeast of Barrigada.
Reconnoitering the area, the lead squad of the 2nd Platoon came under enemy small arms fire from the direction of the town and took some casualties before it could fall back on the rest of its platoon and form a skirmish line. Soon the 1st Platoon had joined the 2nd and a fire fight began between the Americans and what appeared to be a small group of Japanese with a machine gun. The Japanese were well concealed in the thick foliage at the edge of the draw, and attempts to flank the position were halted by effective fire from the same or another enemy machine gun.
Company M’s machine guns and mortars joined the struggle, but the enemy troops were so well hidden and their fire discipline was so perfect that the American fire had little effect. Moreover, a few enemy riflemen managed to infiltrate the M Company positions. By 1030 the Americans estimated that a company of Japanese, well equipped with automatic weapons, was dug in in good positions to command the clearing. The presence of these enemy troops, possibly some of the same soldiers who in a few minutes would ambush the tank patrol, was ample proof that the Japanese controlled the road east of Barrigada and were therefore free to bring in reinforcements along that route. At the time, the men of the 3rd Battalion, 305th Infantry, were in no position to challenge effectively the enemy control there.
Meanwhile, at 1030 the 307th Infantry and the remainder of the 305th began their advance in accordance with Bruce’s orders. On the right, where the Japanese positions had already been discovered, the 305th Infantry built up a line on I Company. On the left, however, the advance of the 307th Infantry had not uncovered the main enemy positions by 1030. It was here, on the left of the 77th Division, that the major action of 2 August was to occur. The formation of the 307th Infantry was, from right to left, Companies K, L, A, and, in contact with the marines. Each battalion kept a rifle company in reserve, and the 2nd Battalion was in regimental reserve. The direction of the attack was northeast, aimed at Mount Barrigada, which meant that the 3rd Battalion would push through the town of Barrigada while the 1st Battalion would move past it on the west, in position, if necessary, to flank any Japanese in the town.
As the regimental attack got under way, a number of enemy riflemen opened fire on Company A. The resulting delay in the company advance was in large measure to abort the attack of the 307th Infantry on 2 August.
By the time A Company had driven the Japanese off before it, the rest of the line had advanced beyond it. Drawn slightly to its right by the enemy, and further confused by its poor maps, Company A took up its advance in the wrong direction. Instead of following its assigned azimuth of 45°, the company veered to the right and followed generally along the road linking Price Road and Barrigada, or on an azimuth of nearly 80°. A wide gap between C Company, on the division left, and A Company, which in turn was now moving into the 3rd Battalion zone, resulted. Once contact between these units was lost, it was extremely difficult to regain, not only because of the dense undergrowth but also because the 1st Battalion’s radio batteries had become so weak that its radios were ineffective beyond a range of two hundred yards.
As the troops approached Barrigada, Company A pushed in on the left of Company L, which in turn crowded K Company over against the 305th Infantry zone. The axis of the 3rd Battalion attack was thus shifted away from Barrigada and toward the area south of the town. Company A was moving toward Barrigada, but the three companies were crowded into the center and right half of the 3rd Battalion area, in a line not wide enough for two companies, much less for three. Moreover, on the left of A Company was a gap of 1,000 yards between that unit and C Company, which was still advancing to the northwest of Barrigada.
By about 1130 Company A reached the edge of the clearing just west of Barrigada and almost immediately was taken under heavy small arms fire by Japanese troops in the town. Deploying on a north-south line near a temple in the southwest corner of the clearing, about 225 yards west of Road Junction 306, the men of A Company began to extend to their right only to run into members of L Company, also moving into the clearing. By the time the Americans could get into line they were squeezed into an abbreviated front. Company A could only bring one platoon to bear on the enemy and, while Company L could place its entire force in action, K Company had almost been driven into the 305th Infantry’s zone and was facing that portion of the enemy opposing the 305th, rather than the Japanese in front of the 307th Infantry.
Thus the Americans attacking the western half of the Japanese position, like those attacking to the east, were unable to force their way forward into the enemy line, By about noon, most of the 1st Battalion reserve—a large portion of B Company—had been committed to regain contact with C Company, northwest of Barrigada. The 2nd Platoon, B Company, was ordered to drive north around Barrigada, on the left of A Company, and capture a two story green house with a concrete base that was located less than 200 yards north of Barrigada on the east side of the Barrigada-Finegayan road. From here the platoon would be in a good position to put fire on the enemy flank.
The 2nd Platoon, B Company, moved across a large, open, grassy field on the left of Company A. Advancing by short rushes in groups of two or three men, the troops reached Finegayan road without incident. Since they had not been fired upon and all appeared quiet to their front and flank, the men began to cross the road. As the first small group reached the other side, however, an enemy machine gun in the woods east of the green house took the platoon under fire. The men of the 2nd Platoon threw themselves into the ditches on either side of the road and sent back a request for a section of machine guns, which was moved up under heavy fire.
It was now nearly 1400. About this time, the weapons of Companies A and L scored a hit and set afire a grass shack on the road east of Barrigada near the point where the light tanks had been ambushed that morning. An enemy medium tank inside was forced to leave in a hurry, and, with three Japanese on top, drove west along the road toward the 307th Infantry’s line. Raking the American position with cannon and machine gun fire, the tank moved up the road in the face of machine gun, BAR, and rifle fire. The three passengers were quickly knocked off, but the tank was still undamaged when it reached Road Junction 306 and turned north to confront the men of the 2nd Platoon, B Company.
Caught in the open, some of the Americans dashed forward to the house, while the others pressed themselves helplessly against the bottom of the ditch. The tank threw a burst of machine gun fire at the prostrate men, killing one and wounding two, but then turned back to the road junction. Here it turned west again and moved along the Agana road toward Company A, 307th Infantry. A machine gunner emplaced in the temple opened fire on the tank, which retaliated by plunging into the side of the building, shifting gears, and forcing its way out the other side. The tracks missed the American gunner by a close margin, but the roof of the temple caved in and pinned him to the ground. The tank, meanwhile, undamaged but with a piece of thatched roof partially obscuring its vision slit, continued on and into the American lines.
Rifles, machine guns, BAR’s, and grenades were powerless against the tank. The three bazookas in the A Company line—the only weapons that might have stopped it—were of no avail since two failed to go off and the gunner of the third was so excited that he failed to pull the safety until it was too late. For a moment the tank got hung up on a coconut log, but even then it remained impervious to American bullets and continued to fire wildly. In another moment it was free again and swept on down the road through a battalion command post and aid station and, about 1415, on through the command post of the 307th Infantry.
So far luck had been with the Japanese tank on its impromptu dash. It had succeeded in raising havoc on the 307th Infantry lines, forcing the men to fall back in search of better cover. Wounded men and scattered equipment marked its trail. What happened to it next is difficult to establish firmly. The tank left the 307th Infantry sector around 1430 and apparently moved west into the 3rd Marines’ sector, since a lone Japanese tank was destroyed there late in the afternoon by two American mediums.
Since the tank dash was not part of a planned Japanese attack, but rather an extemporaneous move on the part of the driver, the enemy forces made no attempt to follow up their advantage. However, those men of the 2nd Platoon, B Company, who had sought shelter in the green house were exposed to the same enemy fire that had opposed the platoon advance across the road. From a pillbox and from other emplacements in the woods, the Japanese sent machine gun and automatic weapons fire through the thin walls of the house. The men were helpless, and a runner made his perilous way back to company headquarters and received permission for the exposed platoon to withdraw.
It was agreed that Company A would cover the withdrawal, but before the 2nd Platoon, Company B, could begin to fall back, American artillery fire began to drop around the house. The battalion commander tried desperately to have the shelling stopped, the men in the house who could still move made a dash for safety, and most of A Company also fell back to escape the artillery fire. Enough men stayed, however, to cover the withdrawal of the 2nd Platoon, B Company, and the evacuation of the wounded.
It was by then 1500. With the exception of C Company, which had reached a point north and west of Barrigada, the men of the 307th Infantry had been stopped short of their day’s objective. The gap in the line was still open and should the Japanese choose to take advantage of it they might inflict heavy damage. Accordingly, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas B. Manuel, who had replaced Colonel Hamilton as regimental commander when the latter was evacuated for illness, asked General Bruce for permission to commit the reserve 2nd Battalion (less one company) of the 307th Infantry. This was granted immediately, and Bruce ordered the 306th Infantry, the division reserve, to send one battalion forward to a position of readiness should it too be needed.
Probably General Bruce would have sent more forces into the 307th Infantry area, even had they not been requested. The heavy jungle growth retarding and confusing the advance of C Company had resulted in a loss of contact between Army and Marine troops in the early afternoon. General Turnage was forced to commit a portion of his reserves in an attempt to regain contact. Indeed, shortly after 1400 General Geiger had radioed a terse message to General Bruce: “You are holding up advance of 3rd Mar[ine] Div[ision],” he said. “Make every effort to advance your left flank to maintain contact.” General Bruce replied with a brief description of his difficulties in the 307th Infantry sector. “I do not,” he said, “expect to capture Mt. Barrigada today.” He would consolidate for the night on a line just north of Barrigada village and attack again the next morning. To his own troops, after approving use of the 307th Infantry’s reserve, Bruce sent orders to complete the capture of Barrigada, tie in with the marines, and hold for the night.
Bruce’s realization that he could not take Mount Barrigada on 2 August was not based on consideration of the situation on his left alone, since his advance on the right had been equally frustrated. By 1330 Company K, 305th Infantry, reinforced with five light tanks of Company D, 706th Tank Battalion, moved out in attack. It had taken the 305th Infantry until that time to strengthen I Company’s position on the left and deploy in the thick woods.
Company K and the tanks moved from behind Company I and up and parallel to it. To reach the enemy positions, it was necessary to cross a slight draw, all fairly open ground. The attackers adopted a formation in which the tanks took the lead, each with a small group of infantrymen for close-in protection, while two platoons of infantry moved in the rear of the armor. Four tanks and their accompanying infantry moved across the draw without opposition. As soon as the fifth tank exposed itself, however, it became a target for machine gun and cannon fire. This had no effect on the tank, but the ricochets off its sides hit the infantrymen around it. The riflemen threw themselves into the dirt, and the lead tanks tried to return the fire, but the Japanese were so well concealed that the tankers could discover no targets and had to fire blind.
With their accompanying infantry pinned down, the tanks did not dare to advance farther toward the Japanese positions and shortly thereafter pulled back to less exposed positions. The men of K Company, hugging the ground in the slight cover of the draw, were unable to move in any direction. There was no indication that the Japanese positions had in any way been reduced, and the Americans still had no precise idea of their location. The tank-infantry attack had gained nothing.
One more attempt was made to knock out these enemy positions with armor. Carrying as a guide an officer of Company I, 2nd Lieutenant Edward C. Harper, who had already crawled forward on his belly to reconnoiter the enemy line, one light tank moved to within five yards of the presumed Japanese position and opened fire with its machine guns. The enemy fire proved to be more effective, however, and Japanese machine gun or possibly 20-mm. bullets hit the tank’s trailing idler and drive shaft and put a hole in its armor plating. Unable to move forward, the tank backed, only to have one of its tracks drop off. Thus ended this attempt. Covered by two medium tanks of Company C, 706th Tank Battalion, which had just come up, the tankers jumped out of their vehicle and ran back to safety. The mediums then destroyed the abandoned light tank.
The Japanese position was still intact, and the 3rd Battalion, 305th Infantry, did not yet have a clear idea of the enemy dispositions. Accordingly, the riflemen still out in the draw were ordered to fall back, and artillery fire was requested. The men in the draw made their way out by a circuitous route, not without casualties, but the 3rd Battalion was denied artillery support on the grounds that shelling might hit 307th Infantry elements on the left.
There was one last chance. Four medium tanks of C Company, 706th Tank Battalion, with Lieutenant Harper again acting as a guide, moved out abreast. Advancing on the enemy position, they fired 75-mm. shells at the Japanese. The fire destroyed some of the enemy’s camouflage that had hidden a tank, which the mediums quickly knocked out. Under protection of the tanks several American wounded who had previously been trapped were evacuated, but by this time it was almost dark, and any hope of following up the attack vanished. Moreover, A and B Companies, which had been moving up during the afternoon to join the 3rd Battalion attack, had been so delayed by scattered enemy fire that they were not yet ready to begin an attack, even if one had been possible. It was fully dark before the two companies were in position between the 3rd and 2nd Battalions. The 305th Infantry thus had little success on 2 August. Only on the extreme right, in the 2nd Battalion sector, had its advance been unopposed, though the 2nd Battalion had not ventured forward of the line held by the 3rd, lest contact between the units be broken.
On the left of the 77th Division, the 307th Infantry was to make one more attempt before dark. Shortly after 1500 the 2nd Battalion (less F Company) began to move up to fill the gap in the 307th line. Within an hour or an hour and a half, with Company E advancing to make contact with C Company and Company G pushing toward Barrigada, contact was established along the line. The gap still was not completely filled since the line curved inward, leaving a salient that might still be occupied by enemy troops.
Late in the afternoon the regimental commander planned to send a small force of tanks and Company G to evacuate wounded from the green house area. The plan called for an enveloping attack. The 2nd Platoon was to follow four light tanks of D Company, 706th Tank Battalion, along the Agana-Barrigada road to Road Junction 306 and then, turning north, to approach the house from the south. At the same time the 1st Platoon would move east parallel to the 2nd Platoon advance and 200 or 300 yards north of it, to hit the Finegayan road north of the house. The two platoons would thus move around the edges of the open field across which B Company had made its unsuccessful attack a few hours earlier.
Unfortunately for the success of the plan, the officers concerned were not sufficiently briefed. Consequently, when the tanks moved through the 1st Battalion and along the Agana-Barrigada road, the 2nd Platoon was not behind them. Instead the platoon leader, following what he believed to be his orders, had begun to move his men across the open field, a move that the planners had specifically meant to avoid.
When the 2nd Platoon was halfway across the field and still somewhat protected from enemy fire to the east, a runner reached it with the correct orders but it was too late for the infantrymen in the field to move back and catch up with the tanks which had by then almost reached Road Junction 306. Accordingly, the platoon leader decided to continue his advance across the field in an attempt to arrive at the green house simultaneously with the tanks. Moreover, should the tanks be held up at the road junction, he believed his men would be in position to break up any resistance in front of the tank advance.
The platoon leader’s plan worked. The 2nd Platoon reached the green house just as the tanks arrived. Heavy Japanese fire was coming from the woods, but although the infantry had no way of communicating with the tank crews to designate targets, fire from the tanks greatly reduced the volume of enemy fire. The 2nd Platoon soon formed a line just east of the house, and the tanks began evacuating wounded.
Meanwhile, the 1st Platoon, G Company, had moved across the northern edge of the field. Before the 1st Platoon was across the field, the tanks at the house began to fall back with the wounded they had gone to rescue. The volume of American fire was thus noticeably lessened, and from the woods to the north Japanese riflemen and machine gunners, who had remained quiet all day, opened fire on the flank of the two American rifle platoons. Another machine gunner east of the house also began shooting, and the two platoons were caught in a cross fire.
As the men of G Company’s 1st and 2nd Platoons fell back or vainly searched for cover, the heavy Japanese fire began to take its toll among the exposed Americans. One of the men managed to get back to company headquarters with a call for help, and the 3rd Platoon was sent forward to assist. It pushed across the field and into Barrigada village. Leaving a squad at Road Junction 306, the rest of the men advanced north on the Finegayan road pouring a heavy volume of rifle, BAR, and machine gun fire at the enemy. Machine guns and mortars from H Company moved up and joined the fight, and soon two tanks were back to lend their heavier fire.
The rescue force did not know where the 1st Platoon was, and so had concentrated on getting to the 2nd Platoon, which was around the green house. Moreover, fearing to hit the 1st Platoon, the force had concentrated its fire to the east, rather than to the north. This sufficed to cover the evacuation of the wounded men of the 2nd Platoon, in the gathering dusk, and with their men now low on ammunition, the leaders of the 2nd and 3rd Platoons withdrew their units, although not without sustaining a few more casualties.
The 1st Platoon, to the north, was still pinned down and still suffering casualties. The rescue force, this time with three tanks and led by the regimental commander, now moved out to the aid of the beleaguered men who were scattered across the northern half of the field, most of them casualties.
Covered by heavy fire from the tanks, the rescuers began evacuating the wounded. The 1st Platoon had suffered twenty-six casualties, most of them killed, including the commander, 1st Lieutenant James T. Whitney. As darkness closed in, the last men of G Company returned to their line of departure and dug in for the night. With the coming of night, the 77th Division had yet to take Barrigada village.
The American line ran roughly from southeast to northwest, with the woods just north-northwest of Barrigada forming an enemy salient. The Japanese positions had been barely dented, although by dark American attacks had developed the enemy defenses fairly well. At least the Americans knew where the Japanese were, which had not been the ease twelve hours earlier. To acquire this information had cost a total of 102 casualties: 6 killed, 18 wounded, and one missing in the 305th Infantry, and 22 killed and 55 wounded in the 307th Infantry. The two regiments claimed a total of 105 Japanese killed, almost all by the 305th Infantry. Contact with the 3rd Marine Division was at best tenuous, for while a platoon of C Company, 307th Infantry, was with the marines, it was out of contact with the rest of its own company.
On the evening of 2 August the Japanese still controlled most of Barrigada village and the roads leading north (to Finegayan) and east. The 77th Division G-2 section made a cautious estimate that the enemy resistance might indicate that the Americans had struck forward positions of a Japanese line defending northern Guam. On lower echelons, the troops were restless in their foxholes, mindful of the great banzai attack on Saipan that had overrun and ripped up American lines on that island.
The night passed without incident, but General Bruce’s plan of action for 3 August was a more cautious one than that of the previous day. This time the 77th Division commander called for an artillery preparation on the enemy before him. Division artillery—supported by a battalion of 155’s from corps artillery—would begin firing at 0630. At 0700, as the big guns shifted their fire to targets farther north and northeast, the 305th and 307th Infantry Regiments would renew their attack. General Bruce hoped to push on to Mount Barrigada and the O–3 line, if necessary bypassing and containing resistance at the town of Barrigada itself in order to reach his objective. There was to be no change in regimental boundaries, but the battalions were regrouped.
On the right of the division line, southeast of Barrigada, the 305th Infantry would continue its push to the northeast. Its 2nd Battalion maintained its position on the right while on the left the 1st Battalion replaced the 3rd, which had done the bulk of the regiment’s fighting on 2 August.49 On the division left, the 307th Infantry was to drive northeast through Barrigada. Its 3rd Battalion remained tied in with the 305th Infantry. The 1st Battalion, however, was so spread out that the 2nd Battalion, part of which had already seen action on 2 August, replaced it as the left flank unit of the 77th Division. This replacement was actually carried out in the late afternoon and night of 2-3 August at the direction of Brigadier General Edwin H. Randle, assistant division commander, present at the regimental command post during the afternoon.
In planning the advance for 3 August, General Bruce gave some attention to the problem of contact between units. On 2 August the main body of his troops had been out of contact with the 3rd Marine Division, and the drive northeast through the thick jungles of Guam promised to make lateral liaison progressively more difficult While Bruce was well aware of this problem and gave it due consideration, he did not feel that it was the primary issue. The Army general subscribed to the theory that, in jungle fighting, close contact between units, though desirable, should not be insisted upon to the sacrifice of rapidity of advance and destruction of the enemy. Under such conditions, according to this theory, it is often preferable to push ahead quickly over whatever trails and roads there are through the jungle and maintain lateral contact only by patrols and connecting files or only where favorable terrain permits.
Bruce had served in Panama in 1933 and while there had developed a set of principles governing jungle warfare, some of which were later incorporated into the Army manual on the subject and all of which he impressed on the 77th Division during training. As he himself later expressed it, “The Japanese were skillful in penetrating ‘lines’ and attacking flanks and rear. I pointed out that it was far better to get through the jungle regardless of flanks until they [the attacking troops] arrived at a trail or road where liaison and contact could be established with adjacent units. I emphasized the lack of vision in woods or jungle precluded the ordinary concept of fighting in the open. In brief, my idea . . . was to push boldly forward and then take up a strong all around defense at night.”
Bruce’s thoughts were made clear on the morning of 3 August when he submitted his plan for the day’s action to the III Amphibious Corps. “I intend to push hard with my right unit past [Mount Barrigada] without regard to contact. I suggest 3rd Div(ision) unit on my left push up past mountain. This may cause a gap which I will fill with my reserve. Otherwise progress will be slow because of the difficult terrain.” Almost immediately corps headquarters approved this method of attack, and Bruce was ordered to “keep pushing to hit main enemy body. Do not hold up for small pockets which can be mopped up later.” By this time the 77th Division attack was already well under way.
77th Division: 3 August
At 0700 on the morning of the 3rd, as 77th Division Artillery shifted to forward targets, the two infantry regiments began to move slowly forward. The 307th Infantry, advancing with Company A, 706th Tank Battalion, in support, reported that the artillery preparation had inflicted numerous casualties on a platoon-sized enemy patrol that had approached the American positions. However, the advance of the 2nd Battalion, on the left, was slowed by short artillery rounds that disrupted communications and killed some men in the command post area and wounded others, including the battalion commander, Colonel Learner, who was replaced by Major Thomas R. Mackin, battalion executive officer.
The division advance was slow but, initially, steady, for most of the Japanese defending Barrigada had pulled back during the night or under the morning’s artillery fire. Only scattered resistance met the Americans as they moved forward, and in the 305th zone on the right the troops had more trouble with the difficult, heavily wooded terrain than they did with the scattered enemy. On the division left the 2nd Battalion, 307th Infantry, pushed through Barrigada clearing it with relative ease but was halted by automatic weapons fire north of the town shortly after 0900. The 3rd Battalion was generally astride and east of the Barrigada-Finegayan road, 200 or more yards from Barrigada and in contact with the 305th Infantry.
The seizure of the village of Barrigada, anticlimatic after the frustrating struggle of the previous day, put the important Barrigada reservoir in American hands on 3 August. Working rapidly, the 302nd Engineers established a water point and had it in operation by 1430 to assure a ready supply for the thirsty troops.
Meanwhile the 3rd Battalion, 307th Infantry, supported by the tanks of Company A, 706th Tank Battalion, had pushed farther northeast through the Japanese defenses.
The advance was extremely slow, however, because the thick, almost trackless jungle made for hard going. Moreover, at 1130 the battalion commander, Major Lovell, had to be evacuated because of sunstroke and was replaced by his executive officer, Major Joseph Hanna. By now the regimental commanding officer and each of the battalion commanding officers had been evacuated because of wounds or illness. On the left (southwest) of the 3rd Battalion, the 2nd Battalion was still moving extremely slowly, but its right had reached Finegayan road at Road Junction 410, about 1,000 yards from Barrigada. At noon the entire 307th Infantry halted to reorganize for another attack in the afternoon. The 305th Infantry, meanwhile, was east-southeast of Barrigada, pushing very slowly northeast through the dense and virtually uncharted jungle.
It had become apparent that the bulk of the enemy resistance was north to northeast of Barrigada in front of the 3rd Battalion, 307th Infantry, exactly where General Bruce had expected it. Bruce’s original plan had been to continue the push on his right with the 305th Infantry, regardless of how much the 307th might be held up. With conditions now anything but favorable for such a maneuver, the division commander changed his plan to take advantage of the success at Barrigada village.
All four division artillery battalions would support an attack by the 307th Infantry with a five-minute concentration and a rolling barrage. The shelling would start at 1330, at the rate of a round per gun per minute. At 1335 it would lift 100 yards and an additional 100 yards every two minutes thereafter, maintaining the same rate of fire. As the artillery fire climbed Mount Barrigada, the infantry would follow close behind to seize the height.
On the heels of the artillery fire, the 307th Infantry attacked. Two platoons of tanks spearheaded the advance, breaking a trail through the thick jungle as the troops moved against scattered resistance on the lower slopes of Mount Barrigada. As the men pushed forward resistance lessened, and by 1500 the 3rd Battalion was on the summit, 2,400 yards northeast of the town of Barrigada. A 400-yard gap lay between K and I Companies, but the regiment had ample time to reorganize and close the gap before nightfall.
Echeloned to the left rear (southwest) of the 3rd Battalion was the 2nd Battalion. The 2nd Battalion’s advance had been held up somewhat because it had to resupply itself with water. Company E, for instance, had received no issue of water for at least twenty-four hours. Another reason for the delay was the denseness of the vegetation. The failure of the 2nd Battalion to keep up with the 3rd had left a gap between the two units and, on the left, the 2nd Battalion was out of contact with the 3rd Marine Division. In addition to falling behind, Mackin’s men had moved somewhat to the right in an attempt to maintain contact with the 3rd Battalion. Responsibility for the loss of contact between Army and Marine troops did not lie entirely with the 2nd Battalion, 307th Infantry, however. General Bruce’s plan and Geiger’s approval of it had been passed on to the 3rd Marine Division that morning. General Turnage immediately ordered the 9th Marines, on the right of his division line, “to break contact with the 77th and push ahead as rapidly as possible.” Thus as early as 0845 on 3 August, contact between Marine and Army units was as good as lost.
During the day the 2nd Battalion, 307th Infantry, made numerous attempts to regain contact with the 3rd Battalion as well as with the Marine division—all unsuccessful. By 1230 General Turnage was worried enough about the gap between Marine and Army troops to rescind his earlier order to the 9th Marines and halt the advance on the right. Meanwhile, the 307th Infantry continued its efforts to regain contact with the 3rd Marines and late in the afternoon a platoon of medium tanks with men of the 2nd Battalion riding on their decks moved north along the Finegayan road toward the Marine lines. However, Japanese mines and an enemy roadblock less than 1,000 yards beyond Road Junction 410 frustrated the attempt, and the 9th Marines began to protest that Army fire on this roadblock was falling within their positions. Thus at nightfall gaps still remained between the two battalions of the 307th Infantry and between the 307th and the 9th Marines. To fill the latter and protect his right flank, General Turnage released a battalion of the 21st Marines from reserve to the 9th Marines.
While the 307th Infantry was advancing on 3 August with varied success, the 305th Infantry, to its southeast, had continued to push slowly across the thickly overgrown terrain. By this time the tropical rain forest had grown so thick that the only way the men could make any progress at all was by reversing the guns on their medium tanks and tank destroyers and using the vehicles as trail blazers. Struggling through the luxuriant vegetation, the regiment soon found roads dwindling to trails and trails disappearing altogether. Small pockets of enemy resistance in the heavy jungle involved the Americans in a number of minor engagements, with companies or smaller units fighting independent actions. The regimental right did not extend all the way down to the water’s edge, but rather held along the top of a bluff, which paralleled the coast about 1,000 yards inland. An attached platoon of the 77th Reconnaissance Troop patrolled the slope of the bluff. By the end of the day the 305th Infantry was southeast of Mount Barrigada, almost on line with the 307th Infantry on its left. The regiments were in contact with each other.
For most of the 77th Division, the day’s advance had netted disappointingly short gains of from 2,000 to 2,500 yards, the 2nd Battalion, 307th Infantry, having advanced less than 1,500 yards. The reserve 306th Infantry was in position 1,500 yards south of Barrigada. It had not been used to fill the gap between Army and Marine units, though General Bruce had indicated that morning that he might so employ the unit, because the gap was at most 800 yards wide and Bruce felt that it could be closed once the enemy roadblock on the Finegayan road was broken. The 3rd Marine Division, meanwhile, had pushed rapidly ahead, held back only on its right flank in order to keep in contact with the 77th Division. Casualties in the two Army regiments attacking on 3 August were four killed and twenty wounded in the 305th Infantry and eight killed and thirty-three wounded in the 307th. A total of 161 enemy dead was claimed by the two units.
Disappointed with the speed of the 77th Division advance on 3 August, General Bruce issued his orders for the next day’s operations. He hoped on 4 August to secure Mount Barrigada and pull his troops up to the O-3 line. The attack was to continue at 0700. The only change in the assault formation was in the 307th Infantry sector where the 1st Battalion would push through the 2nd to replace it on the regimental left. The 3rd Battalion would hold in position until the 1st was abreast of it. The 306th Infantry was to maintain contact with the 305th, follow behind that regiment mopping up the area, and be prepared to turn north toward Mount Santa Rosa once Mount Barrigada had been passed, pinching out the 307th Infantry and replacing it on the line.
77th Division: 4 August
The 77th Division attack got under way on 4 August after a night that saw American lines raided by small groups of Japanese, despite harassing fire placed on enemy-held road junctions by division and corps artillery. Actually, the infantry attack was taken up only by the 305th Regiment, for the 307th Infantry spent the morning reorganizing its assault formation and attempting to regain contact with the marines.
Shortly after 0600 the 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry, began to move through the 2nd in order to relieve that unit on the regimental left. Less than three quarters of an hour later, a platoon of the 1st Battalion, with a single tank of Company A, 706th Tank Battalion, in support, set off along the Finegayan road to reduce the Japanese roadblock between Army and Marine positions. The 3rd Battalion held firm but sent patrols over the northern part of Mount Barrigada. By 0700, when the 305th Infantry began its attack, the 307th had already made a good beginning in its own sector.
The attempts to gain contact and to pull the 307th Infantry lines abreast of the 3rd Marine Division—both part and parcel of the same general scheme to align and tie in the entire corps front—met both tragedy and failure. By about 0800, little more than an hour after the tank-led patrol had set out for Marine positions, it was halted by the same Japanese roadblock that had stopped similar attempts the previous afternoon and evening. The roadblock was well covered by machine guns, and the 2nd Battalion commander requested artillery fire to knock out the Japanese position. The request was turned down, and instead Major Mackin was ordered to use tanks to break through the roadblock. A few minutes later a platoon of tanks set off up the road leading an infantry patrol. Shortly after 1030 the tank-infantry force succeeded in smashing the Japanese position as well as a second roadblock a little farther along the road. Just before 1100 the American patrol came upon a third block. Taking no chances, the men in the tanks opened fire immediately, but with unfortunate results.
The roadblock was not manned by enemy troops, but rather by Americans of Company G, 9th Marines, who had established the block in accordance with 3rd Division orders to protect the right flank of the Marine division. The 3rd Marine Division had been warned of the approach of the Army patrol and was expecting it; the Army troops, on the other hand, had been told that red smoke grenades would be used as a signal to indicate friendly positions, although Company G, 9th Marines, was apparently unaware of this signal. The marines, recognizing the Army troops, did not fire; the soldiers, not seeing any signal, did. Seven marines were wounded before the Marine company commander, Captain Francis L. Fagan, stopped the action by running down the trail to the Army troops and waving his helmet. Only through this mishap was contact between the two divisions at last re-established.
Even so, it was tenuous and short-lived. The main body of the 9th Marines had picked up the advance again at 0700 that morning and by now was well ahead of the point of contact; there was thus no tie-in of the front lines of Army and Marine units. The 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry, had passed through the 2nd by about 0900 and continued to move forward unopposed.
Heavy undergrowth, however, blocked the way as the battalion moved very slowly up the western slopes of Mount Barrigada. At 1230 the 1st Battalion was still slightly to the left and rear of the 3rd, and not yet in contact with it. On the regimental left contact with the marines was again lost as the assault troops of both services pushed on past the roadblock on Finegayan road. General Geiger therefore ordered the 3rd Marine Division to halt its advance until the 77th Division could straighten its lines and close the gap. He so informed General Bruce, who in turn passed the word on to the 307th Infantry. Shortly after 1245 the 1st Battalion was abreast of the 3rd, and the 307th was ready to take up the attack.
Even before receiving General Geiger’s prodding message, General Bruce ordered the regiment to drive forward to a trail, roughly paralleling and just short of the O–3 line, which ran generally east out of Finegayan. The division commander suggested that the advance be made in one or two columns per battalion for the drive through the jungle, with the regiment reorganizing along the trail, where it would dig in for the night. A Marine patrol would make contact with the 1st Battalion on the regimental left at a point on the trail about 1,100 yards southeast of Finegayan.
About 1300, as the 307th Infantry prepared to attack, the regiment was a little more than 1,000 yards short of its objective line. With hopes that this attack would be successful, General Geiger directed the 3rd Marine Division to continue on to the O-3 line if the left of the 77th Division moved up. It was the hope of the III Amphibious Corps commander to tie down his entire front along the O-3 line that night.
During the afternoon the 307th Infantry moved slowly toward its objective. Crossing the line of departure sometime between 1300 and 1400, the regiment moved in columns through the thick jungle against scattered, light opposition. Contact between the two battalions was maintained mostly by radio, although occasional openings in the heavy undergrowth permitted visual contact from time to time. Shortly after 1600, men of the 3rd Battalion hit the trail that General Bruce had designated as their objective, and within an hour or so the entire battalion was on it. The 1st Battalion, to the left, was a little slower in coming up, the jungle in its sector being extremely heavy. Medium tanks of the 1st Platoon, C Company, 706th Tank Battalion, strained their engines to knock down trees and break trails through the thick vegetation. By 1800 at the latest, however, the 1st Battalion appears to have been in position.
As usual, there was the question of contact with the marines on the left, and as usual there was no contact. Both the 9th Marines and the 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry, sent patrols along the trail, the marines pushing southeast from and the soldiers northwest toward Finegayan. The jungle was thick and enemy elements engaging the American patrols prevented free movement. As dusk settled on the battlefield, the soldiers and marines, in radio contact with each other, decided to postpone further attempts to make physical contact until the next morning.
Though not in contact with the marines, the 307th Infantry had gained its objective, the trail just below the O-3 line. About 1800 the 3rd Battalion was a little too far to the right of the 1st Battalion and out of contact with it, except by radio. By dark, however, the 3rd Battalion had extended to its left and made contact with the 1st Battalion.
On the right of the 77th Division, meanwhile, the 305th Infantry moved up to and, indeed, beyond the O–3 line in its zone. Unhampered by problems of contact or of straightening its line, the regiment was opposed only by the difficult terrain and scattered enemy resistance. Attacking at 0700 on the heels of a five-minute artillery preparation, the 305th Infantry made its main effort on the left with its 1st Battalion advancing on a narrow front. On the right, the 2nd Battalion moved over a wider area, and patrols covered the 1,000-yard slope of the bluff between the regimental right and the sea. The mission of the 305th Infantry was to seize a strong position on its left on the O–3 line and push on toward the O–4 line so as to allow the 306th Infantry to slip across the front of the 307th Infantry on the left of the division line.
Moving slowly through the thick jungle with tanks and bulldozers clearing the way, Colonel Tanzola’s regiment advanced in a column of companies within each battalion. Resistance during the morning was negligible, the biggest problem was to find the way through the jungle. Maps were completely useless when it came to showing trails and roads, and the paths that the Americans followed twisted and turned, branched and forked, stopped dead and started up again with amazing frequency and inconsistency. Perhaps as much time was taken in choosing a route as in following it, and when the men had to push cross country more tanks with dozer blades and more bulldozers had to be called on. Moreover, frequent patrolling on cross trails was necessary in order to maintain contact between nearby units. Not much progress had been made by noon, and by 1300 the regiment had barely pulled abreast of Mount Barrigada’s summit.
Shortly thereafter tanks and infantry leading the 1st Battalion advance were halted by dense undergrowth at a bend in the trail they were following. While stopped, one of the men of the point suddenly spotted a small party of Japanese and opened fire. The men in front formed a skirmish line to fight off the enemy at ranges so close that the Japanese, well concealed in the thick woods, could easily reach them with grenades. While the advance squads were so engaged, the remainder of the lead company, Company C, with tanks to beat a path through the undergrowth, circled the enemy position, and fell upon it from the rear. Thus outmaneuvered, the Japanese left some of their weapons and many supplies and hastily retreated. They had been cooking when the Americans surprised them, and when the 1st Battalion moved into the area the food was still warm. The 1st Battalion then picked up the advance again.
During this action the 2nd Battalion on the regimental right had continued to push ahead almost unopposed and by 1600 was just short of the O–3 line. As the advance continued, Adair’s men shifted more and more to the left because that was where the emphasis of the 305th Infantry attack lay and because the terrain and vegetation forced them that way. By late afternoon the 2nd Battalion had moved in front of the 1st to cross the O-3 line. When, about 1800, the two battalions dug in for the evening, the 1st was on the O–3 line on the regimental left and tied in with the 307th Infantry, and the 2nd Battalion was about 1,250 yards ahead—one third of the way to the O-4 line. The reserve 3rd Battalion was on the southeast slopes of Mount Barrigada, perhaps a mile behind the 1st. Patrols covered the area from the regimental right flank to the sea.
By the night of 4 August the 77th Division had reached the O–3 line and, on the right of the 305th Infantry, had pushed a battalion well forward of the line. The 306th Infantry, under Lieutenant Colonel Aubrey D. Smith, remained in reserve just below Barrigada, conducting reconnaissance and laying plans for its move the next morning to replace the 307th Infantry on the division left. Casualties in the two attacking regiments on 4 August were, for the 305th Infantry, four killed and thirteen wounded, and for the 307th Infantry, nine killed, seventeen wounded, and one missing. The 305th Infantry claimed fifty-nine enemy killed, and the 307th Infantry claimed none at all.
The advance of the 77th Division from the O-2 to the O-3 line had taken three days and had cost about two hundred casualties, of which slightly more than fifty were fatal. It had been an advance against two enemies, the Japanese and the jungle, and it would be difficult to say which of the two had been the more effective in slowing the American drive. On the first day the Japanese themselves were the more successful in frustrating the 77th Division attack, although the jungle terrain contributed to the mix-up on the American left.
On the following two days it was definitely the thick, heavy undergrowth that thwarted progress. In places the jungle was almost trackless; the few existing trails led nowhere and only served to confuse the troops. The Japanese proved only slightly more than a nuisance, their main achievement being to prevent soldiers and marines from regaining contact with each other, and here of course the almost impenetrable jungle must be given almost equal credit.
The denseness of the Guamanian vegetation, inadequate maps, and aerial photographs obscured by cloud cover, all combined to make the location of individual units a nightmare. Unit commanders rarely knew exactly where they were, and the reports they sent back to higher echelons could not be relied on. This not only hampered attempts to maintain contact between units, but sometimes also resulted in American artillery fire falling on friendly troops. Consequently, even when Japanese shelling hit 77th Division positions the men often refused to believe it was not American fire. General Bruce had to remind his troops that the enemy had heavy-caliber weapons and that the Japanese frequently masked the sound of their own artillery by firing at the same time that the American guns were fired. He warned the infantry regiments to “stop accusing our own artillery of firing on [our] own troops until the ‘facts are known.’ “
To add to the disagreeableness of the heavy jungle and of the chance of friendly shells hitting them, the men of the 77th Division were faced with other discomforts.
This was the rainy season on Guam. Intermittent drizzles, or heavy, drenching showers, fell regularly. When it was not raining, the blazing heat of the tropical sun in the steaming, insect-infested jungle bathed the men in their own perspiration. At night lower temperatures and foxholes filled with water chilled the same troops who had sweated during the day. Flies and mosquitoes tormented them with pestiferous malevolence. One veteran of the campaign later recalled there were “billions of flies—dead Japanese and animals all over —with inevitable results, something new on Guam.” Even the frogs, which normally kept Guam’s fly population under control, couldn’t cope with the stepped up proliferation caused by such wholesale human death and decay. All of nature seemed to combine to make life more difficult for the tired soldiers. As they moved north the sticky red mud, which smeared uniforms, equipment, and hands and faces with a thick dirty coating, gave way to hard coral and limestone five inches below the surface and made foxhole digging a major excavation problem. “The hike was tough,” commented one American after a particularly trying day, “the heat terrific, the insects maddening and the digging backbreaking.” To add to his troubles he was soon taken under fire by an enemy rifleman who had infiltrated the American lines after dark. There were few pleasures in the life of an infantryman on Guam.
The Marines: 2-4, August
Nightfall of 2 August saw the 3rd Marine Division in full possession of Tiyan field but more rapid progress, which might have been expected in view of the negligible character of enemy resistance, was frustrated by the jungle and by the difficulties of establishing contact with the Army troops on the right. On 3 August the 9th Marines on the right of the two-regiment front flushed a covey of Japanese, estimated to be about platoon size, near Road Junction 177, southwest of Finegayan village. Within half an hour the stronghold was overrun by tanks and infantrymen and 105 dead Japanese were counted. By 1300, after a second brief encounter with a smaller number of the enemy, the road junction was secured, and the marines prepared to spend the night in Finegayan. Any further advance was considered impracticable because firm contact with the Army troops still had not been established.
On 4 August the 21st Marines was fed into the middle of the division line, making it again a three-regiment front with the 9th Marines on the right, 3rd on the left. To fill the ever widening gap along the division boundary, General Turnage ordered the 3rd Battalion, 21st Marines, and 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, to move over and protect his right flank. In pursuance of these orders, the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, established a roadblock on the Finegayan-Barrigada road, and it was this position that was fired on by the patrol sent out by the 77th Division.
Later in the afternoon, when it appeared that the problem of contact was still unresolved, General Turnage ordered the 21st Marines to take over the zone of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, and halt about a thousand yards short of the O-3 line. The 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, drew up before a roadblock along the Finegayan-Barrigada road, which the Japanese were still defending with antitank guns, 75-mm. guns, machine guns, and rifles. Meanwhile, on the division left the 3rd Marines had made good progress against light resistance and had reached the O-3 line from Naton Beach inland to a point north of Dededo.
During the day, for the fifth time since their arrival on Guam, American troops were molested by their own planes. This time two B-25’s opened up on the command post of the 3rd Battalion, 21st Marines, and strafed other marines along the Finegayan-Barrigada road.
While the two divisions in the attack had been moving through the jungle against what was left of the main line of enemy resistance, the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade had been assigned the duty of patrolling southern Guam to flush the scattered remnants of enemy soldiers lurking there in the bush. Altogether, three companies were employed, A of the 22nd Marines and A and F of the 4th Marines.
Late on the afternoon of 3 August, General Shepherd was ordered to move the entire brigade (less the 1st Battalion, 22nd Marines, the 9th Defense Battalion, and the 7th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion) to the vicinity of Toto, where it would act as force reserve and prepare to support the final push to the north. The excluded units would be formed into a separate task force with the mission of protecting Geiger’s southern flank and, with the help of Guamanian volunteers, would continue the job of capturing or eliminating Japanese stragglers still in the southern part of the island.
As the marines and soldiers of the III Amphibious Corps prepared to launch their final drive to the northern tip of the island, General Obata was engaged in a withdrawal to his final defense line. The Dededo-Barrigada line had crumbled before the American attack—in fact in documents do not appear that the Japanese had had time to set up anything resembling an organized defensive line there at all. From his new headquarters atop Mount Mataguac, to which he had retreated as early as 31 July, the Commanding General, 31st Army, now summoned his last feeble strength to pit itself against the American juggernaut as it moved inexorably toward Mount Santa Rosa, Mataguac, and Yigo.
SOURCE: Campaign in the Marianas; BY: Philip A. Crowl (United States Army Center of Military History)