First light in the Hollandia area on 22 April 1944 disclosed a heavily overcast sky from which a light drizzle intermittently fell upon the ships bearing the RECKLESS Task Force toward its objectives. The weather gave no promise that aircraft aboard the carriers of Task Force 58, standing offshore between Humboldt and Tanahmerah Bays, would be able to execute all their assigned support missions. On the other hand, the weather conditions aided Allied forces, for the approach of the convoys to Hollandia was at least partially concealed from Japanese eyes. Chances for local surprise seemed excellent.
The Landings at Tanahmerah Bay
The assault ships of the Western Attack Group, carrying the 24th Infantry Division to Tanahmerah Bay, anchored some 10,000 yards off Red Beach 2, about a mile farther than planned. This change was due to bad weather, which obscured landmarks expected by ships’ pilots to guide them to the proper anchorages. The troops of the 24th Division quickly breakfasted and assault personnel then began clambering down nets into waiting landing craft of the 542nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment. The transfer to small craft, although hampered by rough seas in the transport area, was completed about 0535, and the leading waves formed rapidly.
Naval fire support vessels, operating under the command of Rear Admiral V. A. C. Crutchley (RN), picked up their landmarks through the mist as best they could, and at 0600 the roar of 8-inch guns from the heavy cruisers HMAS Australia and HMAS Shropshire shattered the silence of the steaming tropical morning. [N2-3-1] To this din was added the sharper crack of 5-inch and 4.7-inch weapons from American and Australian destroyers. In order to obtain observation of important targets, the fire support ships stood as close inshore as the weather conditions and incomplete knowledge of the waters at Tanahmerah Bay allowed. The fire continued until 0645, by which time 600 rounds of 8-inch and 1,500 rounds of 5-inch and 4.7-inch ammunition had been expended. The naval bombardment was carried out according to plan and without response from Japanese shore. Despite unfavorable weather, Task Force 58 managed to maintain planes on air alert over the Hollandia area. defenses. At its conclusion Allied destroyers moved still closer inshore to fire on targets of opportunity.
[N2-3-1 Information in this and the following subsection is from: 24th Inf Div [NOISELESS Landing Force] Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 56-79, 223-24; 24th Div G-3 Jnl, Hollandia; 21st Inf Jnl, Hollandia; 19th Inf Jnl, Hollandia; RTF G-3 Jnl Hollandia; CTF 77 Opns Rpt Tanahmerah Bay-Humboldt Bay-Aitape, p. 24; Ltr, CG 2nd ESB to Comdr ALAMO Force, 24 Apr 44, sub: Observations, D Day, Red Beach, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 25-26 Apr 44; draft MS History of the 2nd Engineer Special Brigade, Ch. VII, “The RECKLESS Task Force,” pp. 13-20, copy in OCMH files; Co A, 1st Tank Bn, 1st Mar Div, Opns Rpt, 15 Apr-13 May 44, pp. 1-2; RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, p. 46.]
Despite the unfavorable weather, Task Force 58 had managed to maintain planes on air alert over the Hollandia area since dawn. No enemy aircraft flew up from the Hollandia fields, and the few apparently operational planes sighted on those strips were strafed. In general there were no indications that Japanese defenses or defenders existed in the Tanahmerah Bay area. Task Force 58’s scheduled bombing and strafing missions for that region were therefore canceled.
As the leading wave of landing craft, vehicle and personnel (LCVP’s), approached Red Beach 2, which was obscured by smoke from the naval bombardment, a rocket barrage was laid on the landing area by one Seventh Fleet LCI and two landing craft, support (LCS’s), of the 542nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment. Machine guns mounted aboard the leading LCVP’s kept up a steady fire against the beach. There was no answer from the Japanese, and the only opposition to the landing was scattered small arms and light automatic weapons fire from points far on the flanks of the beach and from a small island in Tanahmerah Bay. This fire was so quickly silenced by supporting destroyers that the assault waves suffered no casualties before reaching shore.
The first group of LCVP’s, carrying men of the 3rd Battalion, 19th Infantry, and the 2nd Battalion, 21st Infantry, was eight or nine minutes late in reaching Red Beach 2. But this tardiness did not prevent a successful landing, and after orders were issued to add eight minutes to the starting time of each, succeeding waves were almost perfectly timed. Tactical surprise was evidently complete. No Japanese defended the beaches and the two assault battalions had no difficulty occupying the initial beachhead.
The 3rd Battalion, 19th Infantry, quickly secured the northern portion of the beachhead and immediately dispatched patrols east and north to probe suspected enemy positions. The 1st Battalion, following the 3rd ashore, went into an assembly area to act as local reserve and to make ready to aid in unloading supplies at the water’s edge if that proved necessary. The 2nd Battalion, 21st Infantry, took the southern half of Red Beach 2 with similar ease. The 3rd Battalion of that regiment quickly followed the 2nd ashore and sent Company I south to look for the trail expected to connect with Red Beach 1 at Dépapré.
Company A of the 21st Infantry led the way to Red Beach 1 aboard LVT’s of the 542nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, protected by the 2nd Engineer Special Brigade’s Support Battery craft. Scheduled for 0725, Company A’s landing actually took place about twenty minutes late. LVT’s on the flanks of the initial waves had to cross coral barrier reefs on their way to the shore, while in the center only two LVT’s at one time were able to proceed abreast through a narrow channel in the reefs. The landing was unopposed, and the remainder of the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry, moved ashore quickly.
Red Beach 1 contained a veritable maze of trails which crossed each other, recrossed, and wandered off toward all points of the compass. The 1st Battalion thus found it difficult to accomplish one of its principal missions—locating the beginning of the road leading inland to Lake Sentani and the airfields. After an hour’s search, the entrance to this important trail was discovered about 500 yards south-southeast of Dépapré. While that reconnaissance was under way, Company A secured and expanded the beachhead. Huts which had survived the naval bombardment were carefully searched, footpaths throughout the area were explored, a few Japanese stragglers were killed, and some potential supply dispersal areas were located.
Back at Red Beach 2, which had been intended as the principal landing area for both troops and supplies, operations were not proceeding according to plan. General Irving, when he assumed command ashore at 0930, found the terrain at Red Beach 2 much more difficult than he or members of his staff had anticipated. A major change in landing plans, not only for the 24th Division but also for the rest of the RECKLESS Task Force, seemed imminent.
The Landing Plans Are Changed
Contrary to estimates, which had been based primarily on interpretation of aerial photographs, Red Beach 2 proved to be but thirty yards deep. Behind this narrow beach was discovered a wide swamp covering most of the area which the task force had planned to use for bivouacs and supply dumps. The swamp was soon found to be impassable for everything except individual infantrymen bearing only small arms. Power tools were useless in the morass. Neither time nor men and equipment were available to adapt Red Beach 2 to the role originally planned for it.
A limited dispersal area, rendered inaccessible by a small stream and by an arm of the swamp, was discovered at the northern edge of the beach, and ultimately the 542nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment constructed a road into this space. Artillery, ashore within an hour after the initial landing, was emplaced there to deliver fire on inland targets. But the fill used to build this road stopped the flow of the little stream which had drained the swamp into Tanahmerah Bay. To prevent a rise in the swamp’s water level, a drainage canal was cut directly through the center of the beach. This procedure speeded the outward flow of swamp water, lowered the water level a little, and created a small additional dry area behind the beach, but it did not provide sufficient dry land for dispersal of all the troops and supplies scheduled to land on Red Beach 2.
Meanwhile, more obstacles to the execution of the original logistic plans had been discovered. First, it proved impracticable to build planned roads inland 500 yards on both sides of Red Beach 2 to dry areas behind the swamp. Then it was found that there was no road connecting Red Beach 2 with Red Beach 1 or with the Dépapré-Lake Sentani road. This was an especially serious circumstance, for the landing plans had called for moving almost all troops and supplies overland from Red Beach 2 to the road inland. Construction of a road between the two beaches was soon found impracticable and when, after a day and a half of hard work, engineers had succeeded in driving a few yards of road into the hills south toward Red Beach 1, the project was discontinued.
The small completed stretch did serve some useful purpose. On D Day two batteries of 105-mm. howitzers were dragged along the road as far as possible to a cramped position on a little ridge immediately south of Red Beach 2. From this site the howitzers could deliver some fire support for troops advancing inland from Red Beach 1, but the direction of this fire was limited by a number of hills nearby. The same stretch of road also provided dispersal space for a few of the many vehicles which had been unloaded at Red Beach 2 on D Day.
Other difficulties were encountered at Red Beach 2. As soon as LST’s touched shore, they began disgorging tanks, 90-mm. antiaircraft weapons, and 155-mm. artillery. Practically all the artillery mounts mired to their hubs in deep mud at the inner side of the beach. Bulldozers then had to be taken off essential road construction projects to pull the vehicles out of the way. The 2nd and 3rd Platoons of Company A, 1st Marine Tank Battalion, ashore at 0830, could not be used tactically and had to find space to bivouac on the beach or on the road to the south. When it was found that the available beach area was inadequate to hold the many tracked and wheeled vehicles still aboard the LST’s, work was redirected to unloading bulk cargo. Roller conveyors were set up on the beach but could not be extended into LST cargo decks because those decks were still so tightly packed with vehicles. A long stream of men had to proceed to the stern of each LST to bring out bulk supplies by hand through narrow spaces between vehicles.
Since it was impossible to move the supplies inland they were piled on the beach, where many stacks of boxes or crates soon reached heights up to eight feet. The beach quickly became so crowded that it was soon obvious that the efforts of ALAMO Force to secure beach sleds for the 24th Division had been in vain—there was simply no room to use them. But, despite the seemingly patent impossibility of finding room for all men and supplies on Red Beach 2, the APA’s and LST’s bearing cargo for the division’s two assault regiments were unloaded by 1900 on D Day. By that time the beach was almost solidly covered with supplies, troops, tanks, vehicles, and gun emplacements. It was clear that supplies and personnel of Headquarters, RECKLESS Task Force, the task force reserve, miscellaneous service units, and various organizations attached to the 24th Division could not possibly be squeezed onto the beach. Unless Red Beach 1 provided materially greater dispersal space, convoys scheduled to reach Tanahmerah Bay on D plus 1 and D plus 2 would have to be held at eastern New Guinea ports or diverted to other landing areas.
Now the beneficial results of General Irving’s determination to keep Red Beach 1 in the landing plans became apparent. Behind that beach were found some additional dry, flat dispersal areas. Access to the beach was hampered by the fronting reef, but the 24th Division solved this problem by setting up a shuttle system from Red Beach 2.
Shallow-draft boats carried the supplies to the entrance of Dépapré Bay. There, on the water, matériel was transferred to LVT’s which served as ferries to the shore. At high tide small boats could reach Dépapré—only two could beach there at a time—and at 1730 LCM’s took the 2nd Platoon and the command section of Company A, 1st Tank Battalion, to Dépapré through the reefs. Ultimately the water approach to Dépapré was improved when naval demolition personnel 2 blasted a wider and deeper channel through the reef, thus giving small landing craft continuous access to Red Beach 1.
The shuttle to Dépapré continued throughout the night of 22-23 April. Some of the congestion on Red Beach 2 was thereby relieved and, by dint of almost superhuman effort, the cargo from seven LST’s of the D plus 1 convoy was put on that beach on the 23rd, and the AKA of the D plus 1 echelon was unloaded by noon on the 24th. Transshipments to Red Beach 1 were continued, but by noon on 23 April it had become obvious that there was no space to be found anywhere along the shores of Tanahmerah Bay to unload the supplies and troops aboard the D plus 2 convoy.
Meanwhile, advance elements of the 24th Division had pushed far inland on their way toward the airfields over the Dépapré-Lake Sentani road. Contrary to expectations, this road was found to be ungraded and extremely narrow. It was a mere track which, winding in a series of hairpin turns over the Takari Hills east of Dépapré, hung precariously along the sides of slopes that in some cases were as steep as 60 degrees. It was far from being the well-traveled motor road expected. Neither the Army’s wheeled vehicles nor the Marine’s tanks could reach the crest of the Takari Hills over this road. The tanks were relegated to the role of perimeter defense around Dépapré. [N2-3-3] Heavy construction, which was destined to be impeded by many landslides, had to be undertaken before the trail inland could be used for a main supply line as originally planned. Until it was improved, only a small number of men could be sustained over the track, and all their supplies would have to be hand-carried forward from Dépapré.
To Headquarters, RECKLESS Task Force, the logistic difficulties inherent in supporting a large-scale drive inland over the Dépapré-Lake Sentani trail far outweighed the tactical advantages of such a movement. The 41st Infantry Division, on the other hand, was meeting with unexpectedly rapid success in its drive to the airfields from Humboldt Bay, the shores of which had been found better suited to troop and supply dispersal than those at Tanahmerah Bay. The RECKLESS Task Force staff therefore recommended that a sweeping change in plans be made. General Eichelberger, accepting these recommendations, decided to make the Humboldt Bay area the principal task force landing point and to change the emphasis of attack to the 41st Division’s drive inland.
Accordingly, about noon on D plus 1, the D plus 2 convoy to Tanahmerah Bay was diverted to Humboldt Bay. Task force headquarters, the task force reserve, and miscellaneous service units, all of which were still awaiting a chance to unload at Tanahmerah Bay, were also directed to move to the Humboldt Bay beaches. A part of the task force headquarters which had already landed on Red Beach 2 was reloaded on an LST and sent to Humboldt Bay. [N2-3-4]
[N2-3-2 From a mine sweeper (YMS) accompanying the Western Attack Group The men worked under the direction of the Naval Beach Party commander.
[N2-3-3 There being no possible way to employ the tanks in their proper roles in the Tanahmerah Bay area, they merely bivouacked in that region until 2 May, when they were sent to Humboldt Bay. There, the services of the tank company were not needed, and on 4 May the company left the Hollandia area via LST to rejoin the rest of the 1st Tank Battalion on Pavuvu Island in the Solomons on 13 May.]
Red Beaches 1 and 2 had proved able to provide dispersal areas for a bare minimum of supplies for the 24th Division’s two assault regiments, but they were inadequate for the larger load assigned to them prior to the landings. The division would therefore have to support its drive inland with only the supplies and equipment unloaded at Tanahmerah Bay through D plus 1.
The 24th Division’s Drive to the Airfields
Leaving Company A at Red Beach 1, the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas E. Clifford, Jr., had started up the Dépapré-Lake Sentani trail at 0837 on D Day.5 At any one of the numerous hairpin turns and defiles over the first two or three miles of the track, a squad of Japanese riflemen could have delayed an entire infantry division. Surprisingly, no determined opposition was encountered.
Enemy defensive installations (many of them incomplete) at important points were found to be unoccupied. The Japanese had not been ready for the attack and those who had been in the Tanahmerah Bay area had apparently fled in panic when the 24th Division began to land. The 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry, was therefore able to advance as rapidly as terrain conditions and necessary security measures permitted.
The First Day of the Advance
Moving through fire lanes down which no bullets flew and past pillboxes in early stages of construction, the battalion column reached the village of Mariboe at 1047 hours. Only a few scattered enemy rifle shots had been encountered during this march and the village was secured without opposition. Over three miles by trail inland from Dépapré, Mariboe was the 24th Division’s first inland objective. It was evident from scattered Japanese equipment in and around Mariboe that the Japanese had evacuated that village not long before the 1st Battalion’s arrival.
Colonel Clifford now halted his men. Since radio communication with the division command post on Red Beach 2 had been lost, he sent messengers back over the tortuous trail to report progress to General Irving. At the same time patrols were sent toward Kantome, nearly two miles southeast of Mariboe. They reported few signs of enemy activity along the trail beyond Mariboe. Colonel Clifford apparently did not wait to re-establish contact with higher headquarters but, acting on his patrols’ reports, ordered the battalion to push on. Encountering little opposition along the main trail, the unit reached Kantome about noon.
From that village patrols were sent almost ten miles eastward along the trail through Paipou, Jangkena, Waibron-Baroe, and Waibron-Bano to Dazai, the division’s intermediate objective. The patrols encountered no active resistance, although signs of recent enemy occupation abounded at numerous points along the trail to Dazai. Colonel Clifford then sent the main body of the battalion on to Jangkena, about eight miles by trail inland from Dépapré. At Jangkena the advance was again halted because night was approaching and because only sporadic radio contact could be maintained with regiment or division headquarters.
[N2-3-4 RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, p. 46.]
[N2-3-5 Unless otherwise indicated, information on the 24th Division’s drive to the airfields is based on: 24th Div Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 60-100, 150-82, and 191-93; 24th Div G-3 Jnl Hollandia; 21st Inf Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 2-3; 21st Inf Jnl Hollandia; Notes, 27 Oct 50 and 15 Dec 50, provided by Lieutenant Colonel Chester A. Dahlen [ex-CO 3rd Bn 21st Inf] and Mr. Clarence E. Short [ex-S-3, 21st Inf], in OCMH files; Ltr, Brigadier General Charles B. Lyman to Gen Ward, 23 Nov 50, no sub, in OCMH files. The bulk of Company A, 21st Infantry, after securing Red Beach 1 and finding the trail entrance, remained on the beach until 24 April.]
Colonel Clifford possessed little or no knowledge of the situation to the rear other than the difficulties presented by terrain. Ahead, 10,000 Japanese were thought to be concentrated around the airfields. Jangkena was on flat, swampy ground and was not an easily defensible position. Should the 1st Battalion push on to Dazai, also on flat ground, Japanese troops might outflank the unit, cut its line of communications to Dépapré, and destroy it at leisure. If the Japanese bypassed the battalion they could cut off the advance of the rest of the 21st Infantry at any one of the many defiles over the first two or three miles of the trail inland from Dépapré. Colonel Clifford therefore decided to pull his men back to Kantome for the night, leaving only outposts along the trail east of that village. Kantome was located near the foot of the Takari Hills, which he thought would present a serious obstacle to any Japanese flanking maneuvers.
The soundness of Colonel Clifford’s decision was demonstrated about midnight when a small Japanese force, which had apparently moved overland around the 1st Battalion’s outposts, struck the battalion’s left. The jungled hills in the Kantome neighborhood prevented further enemy movement and the Japanese force, although it managed to keep the 1st Battalion awake most of the night, did not penetrate the perimeter. At dawn on the 23rd the Japanese gave up their attempts to cut the trail to the rear and withdrew.
About the time that the 1st Battalion had started withdrawing to Kantome for the night, radio communications with regimental headquarters had been re-established. It was then learned that the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry (less Company I), had moved from Red Beach 2 to Dépapré. During the morning of D Day the 3rd Battalion, under the command of Lt. Colonel Chester A. Dahlen, had been engaged in probing the southern flank of Red Beach 2.
It had soon become apparent, however, that no Japanese were in that area, and General Irving had accordingly ordered the unit to move to Red Beach 1 to support the advance of the 1st Battalion. This move started about 1400 and as each element of the battalion reached Red Beach 1, it started up the Dépapré-Lake Sentani trail. Company I continued overland through the hills between Red Beaches 1 and 2. By nightfall the battalion’s forward elements had reached the crest of the Takari Hills. The rest of the unit (still less Company I) continued moving after dark to close in on the leading elements, finally bivouacking along the trail.
Meanwhile, the remainder of the 21st Infantry had also begun moving to Red Beach 1, responsibility for the defense of Red Beach 2 passing to the 19th Infantry. Colonel Charles B. Lyman, commanding the 21st Infantry, moved his command post to Dépapré about noon. By the morning of the next day, 23 April, the bulk of the 2nd Battalion was concentrated at Dépapré. Company I rejoined the regiment about 1400 the same day, after a march over very rough and jungled terrain from Red Beach 2.
Colonel Lyman now had his entire regiment under his control, ready to exploit the initial success of the 1st Battalion. Late at night on the 22nd, he instructed the regiment to resume the advance eastward at 0700 on D plus 1.
Logistic Problems Delay the Advance
The 1st Battalion began moving out of Kantome on schedule on the 23rd and by 1045 had re-entered Jangkena. Shortly after 1200 the unit reached Dazai, farthest limit of patrol advance the previous day, and then pushed on to Sabron. No signs of enemy opposition other than a few rifle shots from woods on both sides of the trail had been encountered. At 1445, after lunch and a rest, the battalion moved cautiously out of Sabron. About 1,500 yards beyond that village a small stream crossed the main track. This crossing had been reconnoitered by patrols early in the afternoon, and there had been found the first signs of organized resistance.
Two platoons of Company B, leading the advance from Sabron, safely crossed the small stream but soon found themselves in the middle of a well-concealed Japanese ambush on the east bank. Rifle and heavy machine gun fire made the stream’s steep banks untenable, and the forward platoons hurriedly withdrew to the west, leaving four dead men behind. Over his now well-functioning radios, Colonel Clifford requested air support. The message was relayed to Task Force 58 carriers lying offshore and three planes quickly appeared to strafe the enemy position. In addition, the 1st Battalion’s 81-mm. mortars and heavy machine guns were also brought forward to lay a barrage on the enemy defenses. But all this fire failed to dislodge the Japanese. In an attempt to outflank the enemy position, Colonel Clifford sent small patrols across the stream both above and below the crossing.
These efforts proved futile, for the patrols could not locate the enemy flanks and were kept away from the main Japanese position by small arms fire. After a lively fire fight at the crossing, which lasted almost to dusk, Colonel Clifford decided to pull back toward Sabron so that mortars and artillery could fire freely on the stream-crossing area.
During the night 105-mm. howitzers of the 52nd Field Artillery Battalion fired on the enemy positions at the crossing for over an hour. The Japanese replied with mortar, grenade, and small arms fire which was directed against the 1st Battalion’s perimeter near Sabron. About 2100 a Japanese field piece, believed to have been a dual purpose 90-mm. antiaircraft gun, opened fire on the battalion from the vicinity of the airfields. The enemy’s harassing fire continued almost to dawn on the 24th, and again the American unit was kept awake much of the night.
The rest of the 21st Infantry was now echeloned along the trail behind the 1st Battalion. The 3rd Battalion, which had advanced to within 1,000 yards of Dazai, was also harassed by Japanese fire during the night of 23-24 April, but the area of the 2nd Battalion (which had moved up to Mariboe from Dépapré) was quiet. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions’ advances had been made without opposition.
Even with the support of the remainder of the regiment echeloned on the trail to its rear, the position of the 1st Battalion was not enviable. The unit was over twelve miles by trail inland; it had only enough rations left for breakfast; and it was running low on ammunition. No supplies had been received since landing, and hard fighting on the 24th seemed unavoidable.
Fortunately the 24th Division’s plans for the Hollandia operation had taken into consideration many of the potential logistic problems that might be encountered in the Tanahmerah Bay area. The division G-4 Section had made a detailed study which had shown that a full infantry regiment could be supplied by hand-carry from Red Beach 2 over the Dépapré-Lake Sentani trail inland as far as Jangkena. When no road connecting Red Beach 2 with Red Beach 1 had been found, the division moved the main supply point to Dépapré, from which the advance inland would be supported.
With this change in plans, the G-4 Section undertook new computations and calculated that the hand-carry distance could be extended to Dazai. This conclusion was based on the assumption that adverse weather conditions would not make the Dépapré-Lake Sentani road nearly impassable. On 23 April heavy rains started to turn the road into a quagmire through which struggling men could scarcely carry their own equipment and food, to say nothing of extra supplies for the leading battalion.
By evening on that day logistic support of the 21st Infantry had therefore become a major problem. There was no question but that the regiment would have to be supported by hand-carry, for it was estimated that at least two weeks’ hard work by engineers would be required before the road from Dépapré as far as Mariboe could be made passable even for jeeps. But the 1st Battalion had already advanced east of Dazai, beyond which point, according to the G-4 estimates, support by hand-carry would be next to impossible.
When the 2nd and 3rd Battalions had moved inland on the 23rd, both had carried extra supplies, principally food and ammunition, but these supplies were inadequate to support the 1st Battalion as well. The 24th Division thereupon decided to increase the number of men assigned to hand-carrying duties. The overwater shuttle system from Red Beach 2 to Dépapré was now working smoothly and few combat troops were needed at Red Beach 2 to assist in moving supplies or to defend that area, which had proved to be bare of Japanese forces. Therefore the 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry (initially division reserve), was moved to Dépapré on D plus 1. The Antitank and Cannon Companies of both the 19th and 21st Infantry Regiments were also dispatched to Red Beach 1 on the same day. To speed the flow of supplies inland, all these troops were stationed at various points along the trail from Dépapré to Mariboe. The supplies were moved by a combination of a shuttle system and forward displacement of companies.
But the best efforts of three infantry battalions and four antitank or cannon companies proved inadequate to assure continued support of the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry. In addition, trail conditions were becoming worse and hand-carrying progressively more difficult. General Irving therefore requested that aircraft (the nearest base for which was at Nadzab, almost 500 miles southeast of Hollandia) drop supplies at Jangkena on 24 April so that the 1st Battalion could continue its advance without depending on hand-carrying parties.
General Irving himself reconnoitered the trail a little way forward from Dépapré during the afternoon of 23 April. After his trip he realized that continued rapid advance inland was no longer possible under the handcarry scheme. He also learned that the weather was so threatening that little dependence could be placed on air supply.
Accordingly, late in the afternoon of the 23rd, he ordered the 21st Infantry to consolidate its forward positions at Sabron and Dazai. Elements of the regiment not already at those two villages were to remain echeloned to the rear for hand-carrying duties. Further offensive efforts were to be limited to patrol action until the inland supply situation could be improved.
Supply Difficulties, 24-25 April
By exhaustive work during the afternoon of 23 April and the following night, rear elements of the 21st Infantry had managed to build up a small reserve of rations and ammunition at Dazai. The next morning the 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry, moved to Dépapré from Red Beach 2 to augment the number of hand-carrying parties along the road inland. The Cannon and Antitank Companies of the same regiment, carrying extra supplies, pushed over the Takari Hills to Mariboe and Jangkena, respectively.
Inland, most efforts during the day were limited to patrolling. In the morning General Irving slogged his way overland to Colonel Lyman’s forward command post with the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry. After learning about the situation in the forward area, he instructed Colonel Lyman to advance no farther than the point at which the two forward battalions, the 1st and 3rd, could supply themselves from Dazai. Accordingly the 3rd Battalion spent the day sending out flanking patrols and closing up on the 1st. The latter unit sent out patrols to the scene of the previous day’s ambush and found that artillery and mortar fire had killed or driven away from that area almost all the Japanese defenders. At nightfall the 1st Battalion’s position had been little changed from that which it had held at daylight, forward displacement of the main body having been limited to less than 200 yards. The 3rd Battalion established a new perimeter about 500 yards to the rear of the 1st, while the 2nd Battalion was spread from Dazai back to Mariboe, its companies acting as links in an ever-growing chain of hand-carrying parties.
To the rear of the 2nd Battalion, additional links had been established by dark on the 24th. Most of the 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry, and the Antitank and Cannon Companies of the 21st Infantry had been hand-carrying supplies from Dépapré to Mariboe during the day and by nightfall had set up a small supply dump at the latter village. The 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry, had been handling supplies all day at Red Beach 1 and had also taken over responsibility for the security of that beach, allowing Company A, 21st Infantry, to rejoin its battalion inland. The Cannon Company of the 19th Infantry had moved forward with supplies to Mariboe, and the Antitank Company of the same regiment had reached Jangkena with some rations and ammunition. The Cannon and Antitank Companies of both the 19th and 21st Infantry Regiments had, perforce, left their organic weapons and transportation behind them and were acting purely as service troops.
In spite of the efforts of all these units, the supply of rations, ammunition, and medical equipment for the two advance battalions was but little augmented on the 24th. Worse still, the scheduled airdrop at Jangkena had been canceled because of poor weather, and the continuing rain was turning most of the Dépapré-Lake Sentani road into a sea of mud. There was little hope for quick improvement in the situation.
But General Irving was optimistic and he felt sure that conditions would improve on the 25th. He requested another airdrop which, in order to get the supplies farther forward, he wanted made at Dazai. On the basis of this request and because the number of carrying parties along the main trail had been increased and some supplies had been moved to Dazai on the 24th, the division commander ordered the 21st Infantry to continue its advance the next day. First objectives were wooded hills on either side of the main road about 3,000 yards beyond Sabron.
The 25th of April dawned heavily overcast and rain threatened, auguring ill for the proposed airdrop. Nevertheless, advance patrols of the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry, moved out at 0500. Colonel Lyman planned to have the two forward battalions advance on a wide front to make sure that no Japanese would be bypassed and left behind to cut the tenuous supply line back to Dépapré. But the jungle was so thick on both sides of the trail that it was impossible for the main bodies to move rapidly in the dense undergrowth. The bulk of the two battalions therefore pushed forward in column along the road, while numerous small patrols kept up as best they could in the jungle off the trail.
After an artillery bombardment of known and suspected enemy positions, the rest of the two battalions followed the advance patrols. Only scattered small arms fire slowed the advance, although it was necessary to halt from time to time as patrols searched the terrain far to both sides of the main trail. About 1115 the advance stopped temporarily while demolition teams destroyed two recently abandoned Japanese armored vehicles. [N2-3-6]
The first objectives were cleared by noon, at which time the 1st Battalion halted to rest at a point about 1,000 yards short of the next natural barrier, a branch of the Dejaoe River. Soon 1st Battalion patrols reached the river. A small enemy delaying position at the crossing—a ford—was quickly outflanked by the 21st Infantry patrols and by midafternoon patrols had moved across the stream toward Julianadorp, a farm settlement to the east. Meanwhile, automatic weapons fire had been received from Japanese guns emplaced on high ground north of the ford. Scouts sent out to locate the source of this fire found enemy antiaircraft guns protected by riflemen and machine gunners. The Japanese positions were soon neutralized by mortar fire, and the main bodies resumed the advance about 1530.
Progress was slow during the rest of the afternoon. Japanese patrols which threatened the line of communications became active north of the main road, and it was necessary for the 21st Infantry to send out its own combat patrols to hunt down and disperse the Japanese parties. These operations, which delayed the advance of the main body, were not finished until 1700. Then Colonel Lyman halted the advance for the night. The 1st Battalion dug in on the nose of a low hill about 500 yards west of the Dejaoe River branch crossing and approximately 125 yards north of the Dépapré-Lake Sentani trail. The 3rd Battalion and regimental headquarters bivouacked for the night in the vicinity of the day’s first objectives, to the rear of the 1st Battalion.
The supply situation in the forward area had been little improved during the 25th. Rain had fallen steadily all day, there had been no airdrop, and the Dépapré-Lake Sentani road had become practically impassable. The 2nd Battalion, 21st Infantry, had moved forward through Sabron to Dazai, laboriously hand-carrying supplies as it struggled eastward in the rain and mud. By this means small supply dumps had been built up at both villages by dusk, but the battalion’s displacement had left a large gap in the carrying line. West of Dazai the next sizable carrying party was the Antitank Company of the 19th Infantry, at Paipou. Behind that unit was the Cannon Company, 19th Infantry, at Mariboe. General Irving ordered both units to move at dawn on the 26th to Dazai, carrying with them all possible supplies.
[N2-3-6 One report states that these vehicles were light tanks, but all other sources describe them as armored cars or trucks.]
These displacements would leave the trail from Dazai west to Mariboe bare of hand-carrying parties, thus disrupting the supply relay system. General Irving therefore ordered the 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry, to move to Jangkena and instructed a company of the 2nd Battalion of the same regiment to push on to Mariboe. The remainder of the 2nd Battalion, which was to be assisted by miscellaneous artillery, medical, and quartermaster units, was made responsible for moving supplies up the trail from Dépapré as far as the crest of the Takari Hills. Finally, the Antitank and Cannon Companies of the 21st Infantry were ordered to push from Mariboe to Dazai, hand-carrying extra supplies as they advanced.
Thus, by morning of the 26th, three infantry battalions, two antitank companies, and two cannon companies were assigned to carrying supplies. These troops were supported by parts of the Service Companies of both the 19th and 21st Infantry Regiments, by elements of various engineer and quartermaster organizations, and by volunteer groups from other units whose services were not needed for their normal duties. At least 3,500 combat troops were directly employed in moving supplies to the two forward battalions.
Since his two forward battalions were now beyond the most effective and accurate support range of artillery emplaced at the beaches, Colonel Lyman asked that 4.2-inch mortars of Company A, 641st Tank Destroyer Battalion, be sent inland. Such was the condition of the Dépapré-Lake Sentani trail that plans were made to move only one mortar. A detachment comprising two gun crews and the ammunition carriers of an entire platoon were detailed for the task, and the movement of the mortar was given the highest priority. About the same time a single 105-mm. howitzer of Battery A, 52nd Field Artillery Battalion, was started over the Takari Hills. Battery C, 11th Field Artillery Battalion, offered support a different way. Because its guns could no longer help the infantry inland, the battery volunteered to a man to carry rations and other supplies over the Dépapré-Lake Sentani road. Such help was indeed welcome. The spirit was excellent in the 24th Division, but spirit alone could not conquer all the difficulties of terrain. Neither the 4.2-inch mortar nor the 105-mm. howitzer were to reach positions from which they could support the 21st Infantry’s advance on 26 April.
While these steps were being taken to deliver both supplies and support weapons to the front, General Irving decided to order the advance continued. He reached this decision despite the fact that the supply situation was still serious. It had been impossible to drop supplies from the air on the 25th and even hand-carrying had been stopped late in the afternoon by heavy rains which had flooded many small streams. Parts of the Dépapré-Lake Sentani trail were now knee deep in water. The two forward battalions were low on ammunition, and they would have to go on half-rations if the supply situation were not quickly improved. But General Irving was again optimistic about the weather, believing that air supply would be successful on the 26th. Furthermore, he had received information which indicated that the Japanese were evacuating the airfield area. For these reasons he considered that a continuation of the advance would not be unduly hazardous.
In ordering the advance, the division commander was knowingly pushing his men far beyond the limit at which they could be supplied by hand-carry. If the airdrop should again fail or if track conditions should not improve, one of the two forward battalions would probably have to be echeloned back along the trail to augment the carrying parties, and the advance would probably have to be halted. Should enemy opposition prove stubborn, the forward battalions might have to withdraw, perhaps as far as Dazai, to replenish their meager supplies of rations and ammunition. General Irving was taking a calculated risk which assumed the success of the airdrop and an absence of determined Japanese opposition.
The Airfields Are Secured
After passing an uneventful night, the 1st and 3rd Battalions, 21st Infantry, resumed the advance at 0830 on 26 April. There was no opposition as the main bodies moved across the Dejaoe River and on through Julianadorp. About 1130 both units stopped at Ebeli Plantation, about 1,800 yards east of Julianadorp, to clear out a bunker which was occupied by four Japanese riflemen. While the 3rd Battalion dispatched Company L north some 600 yards off the main trail to flush some Japanese from Ebeli Sawmill, the rest of the troops moved on eastward.
By noon advance elements were atop a hill whence they could see the inland airfields, and minutes later forward patrols reached the outermost dispersal areas of Hollandia Drome, the most westerly of the three Japanese airfields on the plain north of Lake Sentani. Now the advance was halted as the battalions regrouped and Colonel Lyman issued a new attack order. The 1st Battalion was instructed to clear a Japanese encampment area left of the trail and north of the center of Hollandia Drome. The 3rd Battalion was to push directly on to the airfield, secure it, and then advance as far as the edge of a swamp lying southeast of the strip.
By 1350 the 1st Battalion had secured its objective, having encountered little resistance. The 3rd Battalion’s forward patrols reached the western edge of the main runway about the same time and, locating no opposition worthy of mention, arrived at the eastern end of the field half an hour later. At 1530 Colonel Lyman radioed to division headquarters that the entire Hollandia Drome area had been secured. By dark the 2nd Battalion, 21st Infantry, had closed at Hollandia Drome.
The bad weather which had forced cancellation of attempted airdrops on 24 and 25 April had finally broken sufficiently for a few planes from eastern New Guinea to get through to Hollandia. Twelve B-25’s of the 17th Reconnaissance Squadron, Fifth Air Force, flew the nearly 500 miles from Saidor to drop rifle, carbine, machine gun, and mortar ammunition, hand grenades, and rations at Dazai.7 Moreover, the 2nd Battalion, 21st Infantry, had managed to bring forward some extra rations, ammunition, and medical equipment. As the rain stopped, fresh carrying parties following the 2nd Battalion found trail conditions greatly improved.
Finally, some wheeled transport was now available at both ends of the Dépapré-Lake Sentani road. Hard work by engineers had made the road passable for jeeps from Dépapré halfway up the first steep slopes of the Takari Hills. At Hollandia Drome the 21st Infantry had captured a few Japanese trucks. These were sent west from the airstrip as far as possible along the main trail, which was passable to a point near Julianadorp. There the supplies dropped from the air during the day, as well as those still being hand-carried overland from Dépapré, were picked up and taken back to the airfield area.
[N2-3-7 The information on the airdrop on 26 April was supplied to the author on 24 May 1949 by Captain Bernhardt L. Mortensen, Air Historical Group, Headquarters, USAF. C-47’s could not be used for the transport because the nearest Allied air bases were beyond practicable round trip range of such aircraft. While the B-25 mission did not fill all the needs of the forward battalions, other rations brought over the trail on the 26th, coupled with larger airdrops on the 27th and succeeding days, saved the situation from becoming critical.]
As soon as Hollandia Drome was secured, patrols of the 21st Infantry pushed on toward Weversdorp, a farm about 2,500 yards beyond the eastern end of the field. At 1645, between Weversdorp and the airdrome, contact was established with elements of the 186th Infantry, 41st Division, which had been attacking westward from Humboldt Bay into the airfield area.[N2-3-8]
The Seizure of Hollandia Town While the 24th Division had been driving inland to Hollandia Drome, the 162nd and 186th Infantry Regiments of the 41st Division had pushed toward the fields from Humboldt Bay, twenty-five miles east of Tanahmerah Bay. The 41st Division had begun landing on White Beaches 1-4 on the shores of Humboldt Bay at 0700 on 22 April. Initial assaults were made by the 162nd Infantry over the sandspits across the inner reaches of Humboldt Bay. The 186th Infantry followed the 162nd ashore to initiate a drive southwest and inland from Humboldt Bay toward the airfields on the Lake Sentani Plain.[N2-3-9]
The Beachhead at Humboldt Bay
The convoy bearing the 41st Division to Humboldt Bay did not have the same difficulty locating landmarks as did the ships at Tanahmerah Bay, and the ships found their assigned transport and fire support areas without much trouble. The naval fire support conducted by American light cruisers and destroyers and the air support missions flown by Task Force 58 planes were executed as planned. There was no opposition to either the naval gunfire or the aircraft activity, and surprise was as complete as that achieved at Tanahmerah Bay. Assault troops of the 41st Division quickly unloaded from the APD’s which had carried them to Humboldt Bay and boarded landing craft, personnel, ramp (LCPR’s), coxswained by naval personnel, for the short run to the beaches. The first of these boats touched shore exactly on schedule at 0700. The leading waves of landing craft were supported by rocket fire from two Seventh Fleet LCI’s which fired principally on Pancake Hill, just north of White Beach 1, and by rocket or automatic weapons fire from two LCVP’s of the 532nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment. There was no answering fire from Japanese weapons and no opposition at the beaches.[N2-3-10]
The first assault was made by Companies K and L, 162nd Infantry, which landed along an 800-yard front on White Beach 1, located on the more northern of the two sandspits dividing Humboldt Bay from Jautefa Bay. [N2-3-11] Succeeding waves of the 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, came ashore in LCVP’s and LCM’s manned by the Boat Battalion, 532nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment. Simultaneously, a reinforced rifle platoon of Company A, 162nd Infantry, was put ashore from Army LCVP’s on White Beach 2, immediately south of White Beach 1. Company I, 186th Infantry, landed in the same manner on White Beach 3 on the southern sandspit. There was no enemy opposition to these two secondary landings. Within half an hour the remainder of the 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the same regiment, six tanks of the 603rd Tank Company, and elements of the 116th Engineer Battalion were all safely ashore on the northern spit.
The rifle platoon of Company A, 162nd Infantry, advanced rapidly south along the spit and by 0745 secured Cape Pie, at the peninsula’s southern extremity. This action eliminated the possibility of a Japanese surprise attack and secured the southern end of the spit. Company I of the 186th Infantry, also unopposed, quickly secured Cape Tjeweri at the northern tip of the southern spit, and then began moving southeast along the shore of Humboldt Bay toward Hollekang to forestall any Japanese counterattacks from that direction.
[N2-3-8 This final paragraph is based on 24th Div Opns Rpt Hollandia, p. 80; 186th Inf Opns Rpt Hollandia, p. 8; 21st Inf Jnl Hollandia. These sources disagree as to the locations of the meeting between the 24th and 41st Division units on the afternoon of 26 April, the 186th Infantry report putting it west of Weversdorp and the 21st Infantry journal placing it east of that farm. From a close check of the timing of all reports concerning this contact, it seems that a point some place between Weversdorp and the eastern edge of Hollandia Drome is correct. ]
[N2-3-9 LETTERPRESS LF FO 1, 9 Apr 44, in G-3 Annex to 41st Div Opns Rpt Hollandia.]
[N2-3-10 CTF 77 Opns Rpt Tanahmerah Bay-Humboldt Bay-Aitape, pp. 5, 26-27; CTG 77.2 Opns Rpt Humboldt Bay, pp. 3-4.]
[N2-3-11 Information in this and the following subsection is based on: 41st Div Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 2-7; 162nd Inf Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 1-3; 41st Div G-3 Jnl Hollandia; 162nd Inf Jnl Hollandia; 186th Inf Jnl Hollandia; draft MS 2nd ESB Hist, Ch. VII, pp. 7-8, 30-31.]
Meanwhile, the remainder of the 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, had landed on White Beach 1 and had started north to secure Pancake Hill which, located at the inland end of the northern peninsula, overlooked all the 41st Division’s landing beaches.
So surprised had the Japanese been by the landings and by the speed of the 3rd Battalion’s advance, that the American troops, encountering only scattered rifle fire, were able to take Pancake Hill before 0800. Atop that important terrain feature they found a Japanese antiaircraft gun from which the canvas weather covering had not been removed. This weapon had not been touched by the preassault naval bombardment and was still in perfect condition. Had the Japanese antiaircraftmen been alert, they could have created havoc among the 41st Division troops landing on the beaches below Pancake Hill.
After the hill was occupied, most of the 3rd Battalion pushed up the shores of Humboldt Bay, while one company moved overland north from Pancake Hill. No resistance worthy of mention opposed this two-pronged attack, the objective of which was to surround and seize another dominating terrain feature, Jarremoh Hill. This hill, rising some 1,000 feet, overlooked the sandspits and the shores of Challenger Cove, a northwesterly arm of Humboldt Bay. On the west shore of the cove was located the town of Hollandia.
By 1430 the 3rd Battalion had cleared Jarremoh Hill and was digging in for the night along a ridge overlooking Hollandia. The battalion commander wanted to push on into the town before dark, but General Fuller, commanding the 41st Division, vetoed this proposal. On the basis of intelligence reports which indicated that the Japanese were occupying Hollandia in some strength, General Fuller had decided that the seizure of the town would have to wait until the morning of the 23rd. During the night naval guns and 105-mm. howitzers of the 146th Field Artillery Battalion—emplaced on firm ground north of White Beach 1—bombarded Hollandia, softening the 3rd Battalion’s task for the morrow.
In the meantime the 2nd Battalion had begun advancing from White Beach 1 to the track connecting Hollandia with Pim, on the western shore of Jautefa Bay. Company E led off on the left at 0756, moving past the southwest side of Pancake Hill, while Company G took a route east of the hill. The rest of the battalion soon started out after Company E but found the terrain west of Pancake Hill unexpectedly swampy and rough going for a large body of troops. The battalion commander therefore ordered the units on that side to turn and follow Company G. Company E kept on overland and quickly reached the Pim-Hollandia track at a point about 1,000 yards west of Pancake Hill. By midmorning Company G had arrived on the trail north of Company E. The rest of the battalion concentrated on the trail between Companies E and G early in the afternoon.
Contact was soon established with the company of the 3rd Battalion which had advanced to the Pim-Hollandia road from Pancake Hill earlier in the day. The 2nd Battalion then moved up the road toward Hollandia, and by nightfall had joined the 3rd on the ridge overlooking the town. Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion had assembled as division reserve at the base of Pancake Hill.
By dark on the 22nd the 162nd Infantry had carried its advance to the 41st Division’s first phase line. To that time, opposition had been so light that American casualties, including those of the 186th Infantry, totaled only six men killed and sixteen wounded. As at Tanahmerah Bay, the Japanese had made no effort to man their prepared defenses which, though not as extensive as had been expected, could have produced considerable trouble for the 41st Division. The division staff was both pleased and worried by the lack of enemy resistance and could make no estimate as to the character of Japanese opposition which might be met on the 23rd. Nevertheless, since it was expected that the 162nd Infantry would have little trouble in seizing Hollandia, that action was ordered. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 162nd Infantry, jumped off at 0730 on the 23rd. The units moved rapidly down the ridge to Hollandia and at 1115 reported that they had secured the town. There was no opposition.
The 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry, had meanwhile relieved a battalion of the 186th Infantry which had been waiting in division reserve west of Pancake Hill. The 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, after helping the 3rd to secure Hollandia, moved into high ground west and northwest of that town. During the remainder of the attack phase of the Hollandia operation, the entire 162nd Infantry patrolled the hilly environs of Hollandia, securing the northern shores of Humboldt Bay, the beaches of Challenger Cove, and rough hills along the western side of Jautef a Bay. To the 186th Infantry fell the task of driving inland to the main objective, the airfields on the north shore of Lake Sentani.
The Drive Inland from Humboldt Bay
The Landing of the 186th Infantry LVT’s carrying Companies K and L of the 186th Infantry hit White Beach 2 about 0715, ten minutes ahead of schedule, on 22 April. [N2-3-12] Original plans had provided that these LVT assault waves would cross White Beach 2 and the mangrove swamp to its rear and proceed overwater across Jautefa Bay to White Beach 4, located north of Pim, near the eastern terminus of the main road leading inland to the airfields. But the mangrove swamp proved impassable for the LVT’s. The amphibians withdrew from the beach and, under cover of Support Battery craft of the 2nd Engineer Special Brigade, proceeded into Jautefa Bay through the narrow channel between Capes Pie and Tjeweri.
[N2-3-12: Information in this and the following two subsections is based principally on: 41st Div Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 2-11; RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 9-12; 41st Div G-3 Jnl Hollandia; 186th Inf Jnl Hollandia, 186th Inf Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 1-8; draft MS 2nd ESB Hist, Ch. VII, pp. 32-34.]
At 0810 Company L started moving ashore about 900 yards north of Pim. Company K landed 500 yards farther north about 0825. The remainder of the 3rd Battalion (less Company I, which was operating on White Beach 3) arrived in the White Beach 4 area about 0915. The first objective was Leimok Hill, lying 1,800 yards northwest of Pim. Part of the battalion secured the hill by 1000, and other elements advanced southward toward Pim. That village and its usable jetty were secured, against light opposition, by 1645, while Suikerbrood Hill, on Jautefa Bay south of Pim, was cleared by 1800. The danger that enemy troops atop dominating heights near Pim might make White Beach 4 untenable was over.
The 3rd Battalion established a night perimeter at Pim, extending its defenses along a trail leading west from that village to the point at which the Pim-Hollandia track joined the main road inland to Lake Sentani, thus securing the roadhead from which movements to inland objectives had to begin. The 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry, which had followed the 162nd Infantry ashore on White Beach 1, had proceeded north and west around the mangrove swamp and down the Pim-Hollandia track to Leimok Hill. There it relieved the 3rd Battalion and established a night defensive perimeter. The 2nd Battalion (less two rifle companies) landing, remaining two companies stayed afloat until D plus 1. Orders were issued late at night on the 22nd to the 186th Infantry, Colonel Oliver P. Newman commanding, to move out the next morning at daybreak. The objective was the inland airfield area and the axis of advance was the Pim-Lake Sentani road.
Back on White Beach 1, the Naval Beach Party and the 532nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment (the Shore Party), augmented by the Cannon Companies of the 162nd and 186th Infantry Regiments, worked hard to unload all D-Day shipping before dark. Seven LST’s were discharged on White Beach 1. Roller conveyors were used for the 375 tons of bulk cargo each LST carried in addition to its mobile load.
Cargo and equipment aboard the APA HMAS Westralia was lightered to White Beach 1 or 2 by small craft. Since White Beach 3 was very steep and had no suitable landing spots, most cargo had to be unloaded on the northern sandspit. That spit was already cluttered with Japanese stores; it was narrow; and exits to inland dispersal areas were limited. These factors combined to lead to a great deal of congestion.
To the Shore of Lake Sentani
At 0800 on 23 April the 1st Battalion left its night positions on Leimok Hill and started out over the main track, passing through the 3rd Battalion. The movement was supported by the 205th and 218th Field Artillery Battalions, set up near Cape Pie, and by aircraft from the carriers of Task Force 58. By 0900 the 1st Battalion had reached Brinkman’s Plantation, about 2,200 yards by trail southwest of Pim. So far, there had been no opposition.
Now Companies A and C parted from the main body to patrol northwest up the Borgonjie River. Proceeding to a fork about 2,000 yards upstream, the two companies repulsed a series of uncoordinated attacks which were launched against the right flank of the 186th Infantry during the afternoon by a Japanese force estimated at 150. The two companies remained at the stream branching during the night of 23-24 April, and on the latter day they moved overland southwest to rejoin the main force on the Pim-Lake Sentani trail.
Leaving Companies A and C to guard its right flank, the remainder of the 1st Battalion had continued the advance along the main trail against negligible opposition. By noon the battalion had reached the outskirts of a large Japanese dump and storage area about 2,500 yards beyond Brinkman’s Plantation. The unit halted to await the results of an air strike on suspected enemy positions west of the storage area and for the 3rd Battalion to close up from the rear.
It was hoped that the 186th Infantry could reach the second phase line, Koejaboe and the northeast shores of Lake Sentani, during the afternoon of the 23rd, but air observers and forward patrols had reported considerable Japanese activity along the trail west of the storage area. Colonel Newman felt that the now understrength 1st Battalion did not have enough men to continue an advance against what might prove to be strong enemy defenses. Moreover, the 3rd Battalion’s movement from Pim had been slow and the unit did not reach the Japanese storage area until 1500, when it was necessary to halt for the day. General Fuller had ordered that offensive action—other than patrolling—cease each day at 1500 so that defensive positions could be prepared before dark. The forward elements of the 186th Infantry set up their night perimeters at the eastern edge of the Japanese storage area.
By 1500 heavy rain had begun to turn spots of the Pim-Lake Sentani road—the best yet found in the Hollandia area—into great mudholes. LVT’s had started out over the trail from Pim to bring supplies forward to the advancing infantry and, if necessary, to provide fire support. But many of the LVT’s bogged down in the mud along the road. Supply problems seemed imminent.
Colonel Newman suggested to division headquarters that on the 24th the advance be resumed with the 3rd Battalion passing through the 1st. The latter was to remain in the storage area until rejoined by Companies A and C, after which it would follow the 3rd Battalion and protect the right flank of the advance by patrolling along high ground north of the main trail. The 3rd Battalion’s initial objective was a jetty at the point where the main road first touched the shore of Lake Sentani. This jetty was to be held as a base for future operations. Company I, scheduled to rejoin the 3rd Battalion on the 24th, was ordered to take a branch trail to Koejaboe and its jetty, southeast of the first jetty. The 2nd Battalion was to remain in reserve in the Pim area and along the track west of that village.
Permission to carry out Colonel Newman’s plan came from 41st Division headquarters at 0630 on the 24th, and at 0845 the 3rd Battalion moved out. Since Japanese air action during the night of 23-24 April had succeeded in firing the American ammunition and ration dumps on White Beach 1, the advance of the 186th Infantry had to be made on half-rations, and the troops were ordered to conserve ammunition.
Luckily, little enemy opposition was encountered during the morning, and by 1100 3rd Battalion patrols were within 500 yards of the initial objective. Light fire from a force of Japanese, estimated at 150, then temporarily delayed the advance, but the first jetty and its environs were secured shortly after noon.
It had meanwhile become apparent that the 1st Battalion was too widely dispersed to carry out its assigned support and follow-up roles. Two companies followed along the main track as best they could, but extensive patrolling on the high ground north of the trail proved necessary because small parties of Japanese were continually being discovered wandering about on the right flank.
While these Japanese parties did not seem aggressive in most cases, Colonel Newman wisely chose to take no chances by leaving his flank unprotected. Companies A and C were again assigned to the arduous patrolling task. The 3rd Battalion was now far inland and practically unsupported. General Fuller therefore released the 2nd Battalion, until now in division reserve, to Colonel Newman’s control.
The 2nd Battalion pushed rapidly westward from Pim, passed through such elements of the 1st Battalion as were still on the trail, and took up positions on the right of the 3rd Battalion late in the afternoon. The two units then set up night perimeters in the vicinity of the jetty. The 3rd Battalion was established along a line running 700 yards inland from Lake Sentani and the 2nd Battalion refused the right flank by extending its lines northeast 500 yards to the right rear. About 1630, Companies A and C rejoined the main body of the 1st Battalion in a night perimeter at the junction of the main Pim-Lake Sentani road and the track leading to Koejaboe, not yet captured. The 1st Battalion’s position was about 3,500 swampy yards east of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions. During the day the 34th Infantry of the 24th Division, RECKLESS Task Force Reserve, had been transferred from Tanahmerah Bay to Humboldt Bay. Its arrival had allowed the task force commander to release Company I, 186th Infantry, from White Beach 3 and the 2nd Battalion, 186th Infantry, from its reserve role.
Amphibious Movement on Lake Sentani
Colonel Newman’s plans for the 25th envisaged using his entire regiment in a combined amphibious and overland advance to the airfields, a maneuver now possible because the 34th Infantry could free 186th Infantry units from guard duties along the line of communications back to Pim.
Colonel Newman ordered the 3rd Battalion, 186thInfantry, to move west along the main road to Nefaar, six and one half miles beyond the night bivouac area. The 1st Battalion was to load on LVT’s at the jetty which had been captured the previous afternoon. From that jetty, the troops were to move by LVT over Lake Sentani to a point on the shore west of Nefaar and, upon landing, help the 1st Battalion to secure that village.
Two companies of the 2nd Battalion were to clear scattered enemy troops from high ground on the right flank, whence the Japanese had harassed the battalion’s night bivouac. As soon as this task was accomplished, the 2nd Battalion would reassemble as regimental reserve and follow the 3rd along the main track toward Nefaar. Company I had not reached the 3rd Battalion the previous day and was therefore ordered to operate with the 1st Battalion, at the perimeter of which it had arrived just before dark. Company B was lent to the 3rd Battalion to bring that unit up to full strength for the advance west.
The 3rd Battalion started moving at 0800 on the 25th and by 1000 had marched almost 3,000 yards westward against no opposition. The Japanese who had delayed the advance on the 24th had vanished. Company K, moving to the north of the main road, flushed the few enemy seen during the morning.
LVT’s of the 2nd Engineer Special Brigade had now moved up to the jetty which the 3rd Battalion had captured the previous day. There, at 1000, two companies of the 1st Battalion loaded on the amphibians and departed for Nefaar. No Japanese fire from the shores of Lake Sentani greeted this landlocked amphibious maneuver, and at 1150 two companies landed at Nefaar. The remainder of the 1st Battalion moved by LVT to Nefaar later in the day and at 1530 the 3rd Battalion reached that village after an uneventful march overland. The 2nd Battalion closed on the village shortly thereafter.
Vigorous patrolling north and west of Nefaar characterized action the rest of the afternoon, during which only slight resistance was encountered. Expected strong enemy opposition had not as yet materialized, but before dark a platoon of Company A made a brief reconnaissance of Cyclops Drome, most easterly of the three Japanese fields on the north shore of Lake Sentani, and reported evidences of considerable enemy movement and strong defensive positions. Despite these reports, Colonel Newman was confident that his troops would have little or no difficulty in securing Cyclops Drome on the 26th, for he now believed that the enemy had vacated the airfield area.
One of the reasons that the 186th Infantry had not reached the airdromes on the afternoon of 25 April was that artillery fire was falling on those fields. Some of this fire may have been from the 155-mm. weapons of the 11th or 168th Field Artillery Battalions, emplaced on the 24th Division’s beaches at Tanahmerah Bay, but other artillery fire was undoubtedly from Japanese dual-purpose weapons dug in north of the airfields. Whatever the case, communications difficulties prevented the fire from the 24th Division’s area being stopped before the time came for the 186th Infantry to set up night defenses. The 1st Battalion bivouacked about 1,700 yards west of Nefaar and placed outposts in high ground 700 yards north of the main trail. The 3rd Battalion went into position about 1,000 yards behind the 1st, while the 2nd remained at Nefaar for the night.
For the morrow, Colonel Newman ordered the 1st Battalion to seize the northwestern half of Cyclops Drome. One company of the 3rd was to secure the southeastern part of the field and the remainder of the battalion was to act as general reserve. The 2nd Battalion was to move by LVT from Nefaar to another jetty located about 2,000 yards southeast of Sentani Drome and the village of Ifaar. Pushing rapidly up a trail from the jetty to Ifaar, the battalion was to seize that village and Sentani Drome.
The 1st and 2nd Battalions moved out as planned shortly after 0800 on the 26th. By 1040 the 1st Battalion had secured Cyclops Drome against no opposition. About 1000, Companies F and G of the 2nd Battalion landed against scattered rifle fire at the jetty below Ifaar, a mile overwater from Nefaar.
The rest of the battalion came ashore in the same area in the early afternoon. Advance elements of the 2nd Battalion were on Sentani Drome at 1130, and by 1215 the battalion commander was able to report that the airfield and its environs had been secured.
During the remainder of the afternoon patrol action around both airfields accounted for a few Japanese stragglers. Opposition throughout the day had been conspicuous by its absence—the Japanese had disappeared. The 3rd Battalion moved up to the airstrips before dark, and at nightfall the entire 186th Infantry set up a defensive perimeter around Cyclops and Sentani Dromes. Patrols of the 1st Battalion were sent west beyond the fields and at 1645 made contact with patrols of the 21st Infantry between Weversdorp and Hollandia Drome. This contact completed the pincers movement instituted by the 24th and 41st Divisions on 22 April. All important objectives of the RECKLESS Task Force had been secured.
Although the contact between the 24th and 41st Divisions ended the major tactical phase of the Hollandia operation, it was necessary to clear the area of scattered enemy troops, attempt to find large organizations of Japanese forces, and cut enemy escape routes. [N2-13] With these objectives in view, elements of the 186th Infantry reconnoitered the north shores of Lake Sentani, and Poegi and Ase Islands in the lake during 27 April. These and many later patrols, most of which were transported by 2nd Engineer Special Brigade LVT’s or amphibian 6×6 trucks (DUKW’s), encountered few Japanese in the area covered. Other troops of the 186th Infantry flushed about 400 Japanese on Hill 1000, approximately 4,000 yards northeast of Cyclops Drome. On the 29th, with the help of fire from the 205th Field Artillery Battalion, the 1st Battalion seized the hill, killing or dispersing the enemy. Thereafter the 186th Infantry patrolled into the Cyclops Mountains north and northeast of the airdromes.
[N2-13 This subsection is based principally upon: RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, p. 14; 41st Div Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 11-16; 186th Inf Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 8-12; 24th Div Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 85-92, 98-110; draft MS 2nd ESB Hist, Ch. VII, pp. 23-24.]
The 162nd Infantry’s principal action after clearing the environs of Hollandia was to seize Cape Soeadja, at the northwest limits of Humboldt Bay, on 27 April. The regiment continued patrolling in the Hollandia area until 6 May when it was relieved by the 34th Infantry.
The latter unit was greatly dispersed. Some elements patrolled around Pim and along the road inland to support the drive of the 186th Infantry, while the 2nd Battalion moved to the Hollekang-Cape Djar area, east of Humboldt Bay. Ultimately, the entire 2nd Battalion moved to Tami Drome, on the coast six miles east of Hollekang, to protect engineers who were repairing the Tami strip. The battalion later established an outpost at Goya, about five miles inland south of Hollekang, in order to halt Japanese movements in that area. The 1st and 3rd Battalions furnished guards for supply dumps, working parties at the beaches, truck drivers, and construction personnel for a number of minor projects.
The 21st Infantry sent a reinforced company to Marneda, about five miles southwest of Lake Sentani, to establish a patrol base, and another company held a base at Iris Bay, northwest of Tanahmerah Bay, for a short time. The 19th Infantry sent patrols overland to the coast north of the Cyclops Mountains to secure trails running through the mountains to the Dépapré-Lake Sentani road or the airfields.
Other elements of the regiment were transported by 542nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment boats to Demta Bay, west of Tanahmerah Bay, and maintained an outpost there for some days. Still other units of the 24th Division probed overland from the western end of Lake Sentani to Genjem, a main inland trail junction through which passed many Japanese who were attempting to escape westward from the Hollandia area. The 24th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop, later reinforced by Company B, 21st Infantry, patrolled along the western, southwestern, and southern shores of Lake Sentani.
By 6 June the mopping-up efforts of the RECKLESS Task Force had succeeded in clearing all but a few Japanese stragglers from the immediate area of the airfields, Hollandia, Tanahmerah Bay, and Tami.
Logistic Problems of the RECKLESS Task Force
Evening of 26 April found the RECKLESS Task Force in an excellent position tactically. The principal objective—the inland airfields—had been seized within four days despite radical changes in the original scheme of maneuver. Japanese opposition had been negligible and in much less strength than expected; there was no evidence that any large-scale enemy counterattack could or would be made against the Hollandia area; and land-based air support for the RECKLESS Task Force was being made available from fields captured at Aitape, 125 miles to the southeast. On the other hand, the restricted beaches at Tanahmerah Bay and the poor condition of the Dépapré-Lake Sentani road gave no promise that supplies for the 24th Division would be adequate for some time to come. Congestion on the beaches at Humbolt Bay, the rapid deterioration of the Pim-Lake Sentani road, and a disastrous fire on White Beach 1 during the night of 23-24 April made supply of the 41st Division difficult. In brief, the logistic problems of the entire RECKLESS Task Force had assumed amazing proportions.
The units moving ashore at Humboldt Bay on 22 April found Japanese supplies covering White Beaches 1 and 2. Air bombing and naval support fire prior to the landings had scattered these enemy supplies all over the northern sandspit, while smoke and flames issued from much of the matériel as a result of the bombardment. A complicated dispersal problem for the supplies of the 41st Division and its attached units was thereby created. [N2-15]
The 116th Engineer Battalion, ashore shortly after H Hour, immediately set to work clearing White Beach 1. In accordance with RECKLESS Task Force plans, the battalion endeavored to construct an exit road from the beach to the Pim-Hollandia track, but the terrain north of the beach proved more rugged than anticipated and the swamp northwest of the beach more formidable than expected. Rapid road building was impossible and the project was temporarily abandoned while all efforts were turned to unloading D-Day shipping. On D plus 1, more troops, vehicles, and supplies began pouring onto White Beaches 1 and 2.
Only slow progress could be made on exit roads, and beach congestion increased. The situation was not helped by the necessity for basing both antiaircraft and field artillery units along the northern sandspit. Some relief was effected during the day as boats of the 532nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment began ferrying a few supplies directly from the transports to Pim and transferring more there from the two principal unloading beaches. [N2-16]
Shortly after dark on the night of 23-24 April, a lone Japanese aircraft, apparently guided by still smoldering fires in old Japanese dumps, dropped a stick of bombs on White Beach 1. One of these bombs, landing at the edge of a Japanese ammunition dump below Pancake Hill, started a series of conflagrations which soon spread to an American gasoline dump nearby and thence to other RECKLESS Task Force equipment. Efforts to stop the fires during the night proved fruitless, for intense heat and continuous explosions drove back troops who tried to put out the flames or salvage matériel. The fires raged all night and through most of the next day. [N2-17]
[N2-15 RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 18-19; GTF 77 Opns Rpt Tanahmerah Bay-Humboldt Bay-Aitape, p. 28. ]
[N2-16 RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 18-19, 55. ]
[N2-17 RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 10, 19; 41st Div Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 6-7; GTG 77.2 Opns Rpt Humboldt Bay, p. 4.]
[N2-18 Msg, 41st Div to 186th Inf, 2100, 23 Apr 44, in 186th Inf S-1 Jnl Hollandia.]
Much confusion resulted from the fires. Shortly before midnight it was rumored at 41st Division headquarters that a Japanese force of unknown strength had landed on White Beach 1 or 2 and possibly on White Beach 4. This erroneous report was relayed to forward units.18 But even after this rumor had been proved false, both the 162nd and 186th Infantry Regiments were ordered to cease all forward movement, go on half-rations, and make every attempt to conserve ammunition.19 As daylight came and the situation at the beaches became clearer, the 186th Infantry was instructed to continue its advance inland, but was again ordered to issue only half-rations and to continue all efforts to conserve ammunition and other supplies. The 162nd Infantry was allowed to execute its plans to seize the town of Hollandia but after that was to limit its operations to patrolling and defensive measures until further notice. [N2-20]
The fire had a far worse effect on the logistical situation than on the tactical. Well over 60 percent of the rations and ammunition landed through D plus 1 was burned or blown up during the following two days. The equivalent of eleven LST loads of supplies was lost, while twenty-four men were killed and about one hundred wounded or injured as a result of the fires and explosions.[N2-21]
General Eichelberger immediately radioed to ALAMO Force a request for duplication of all bulk stores which had been unloaded from LST’s at Humboldt Bay on D Day and D plus 1. It was further requested that these loadings be sent forward with the first reinforcement convoy, scheduled to arrive on D plus 8. [N2-22] When these instructions reached the RECKLESS Task Force’s G-4 liaison groups at the staging areas in eastern New Guinea, ships of the D plus 8 convoy were already being loaded not only with supplies but also with service troops. In order that enough matériel might be sent forward to replace the eleven LST loads which had been lost, the troop space was reassigned to supplies. A good deal of confusion was caused in the rear bases by the speed at which decisions had to be made, lack of traffic control at the loading area, absence of ammunition data except for dead-weight tonnage, and incomplete understanding of time and space requirements by those responsible for the new loading plans. [N2-23]
Some of the paper work for shipping plans, especially for resupply echelons, had apparently not been completed, and the RECKLESS Task Force G-4 later reported: “. . . the Task Force was extremely handicapped by the lack of stowage plans and manifests on shipping in the harbor and awaiting call forward. This resulted in the loss of valuable time in unloading urgently needed cargo and the calling forward of most ships was like reaching in a grab bag”.
[N2-19 Msgs, 41st Div to 186th Inf, 0400 and 0545, 24 Apr 44, in 186th Inf S-1 Jnl Hollandia. ]
[N2-20 41st Div Opns Rpt Hollandia, p. 7. ]
[N2-21 RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 11, 19; Rad, CTG 77.2 to CTF 77, 23 Apr 44, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 23-24 Apr 44].
[N2-22 Rad, RTF to ALAMO, 5619, 24 Apr 44, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 25-26 Apr 44; RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, p. 19.]
[N2-23 RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 37, 65-66.]
As a result of inadequate information and the confusion in the staging areas, it was impossible for the G-4 Section to ascertain exactly what types and quantities of ammunition arrived with the hurriedly reloaded D plus 8 replacement ships. It can be assumed, however, that all ammunition losses were adequately replaced at least after D plus 12, by which time the end of Japanese resistance in the Hollandia area had eliminated the ammunition problem. Even though the ammunition resupply problem had been solved without undue difficulty, it was the opinion of the G-4 that the RECKLESS Task Force had been extremely fortunate: “Had the enemy attack from the air been in force, the loss of life and property would have probably delayed the operation for a considerable period of time.” [N2-26]
But the general congestion at Humboldt Bay was not improved for some time. On D plus 2, with fires still raging on the northern spit, RECKLESS Task Force headquarters, the task force reserve, and miscellaneous service units, together with their supplies and equipment, arrived from Tanahmerah Bay. In addition, five LST’s of the D plus 2 convoy from eastern New Guinea bases hove into view. There were now eleven LST’s awaiting unloading in Humboldt Bay, and the best beaches, White 1 and 2, could not be used. Beaches at Hollandia and other points around the shores of Challenger Cove were obstructed by reefs. Extensive demolitions would be necessary before LST’s could use that area. White Beach 4, at Pim, was inaccessible to LST’s. The only remaining area was White Beach 3 and the shore line to its south along the Cape Tjeweri sandspit.
White Beach 3 was ill suited for beaching LST’s and there were some objections from Admiral William M. Fechteler’s Central Attack Group to RECKLESS Task Force plans for using that beach. But the admiral realized that many of the available LST’s had to be unloaded promptly so that they could be returned on schedule to the Central Pacific Area, whence they had been borrowed. He also knew that the cargo aboard some LST’s was badly needed ashore to replace the supplies destroyed on White Beaches 1 and 2. He therefore decided to use White Beach 3 until White Beaches 1 and 2 were again safe. Admiral Fechteler ordered his LST commander, Captain Roger Cutler (USN), to run the LST’s into White Beach 3 from the northern side of Humboldt Bay at full speed in order to ram the ships as high as possible on the sandspit. Captain Cutler’s LST skippers did such a good job that the Central Attack Group later had considerable difficulty retracting many LST’s from the beach. [N2-27]
Supplies and equipment unloaded at White Beach 3 were transferred by small craft to Pim, where, since very limited dispersal areas were available, a bottleneck soon formed. The road inland from Pim, barely passable for wheeled vehicles on D Day, was rapidly deteriorating under continuous heavy trucking and rain. Finally, demands for the use of lighterage between White Beach 3 and Pim far exceeded the available supply of small craft. Some additional complications arose from disagreements between naval and engineer special brigade units regarding the employment of small boats. Luckily, ample manual labor was available, especially after the arrival of the 34th Infantry and various service units from Tanahmerah Bay. LST’s were unloaded rapidly at White Beach 3, and work around the clock kept the unloading areas at Pim clear enough for steady use of the limited beach and small jetty there. White Beaches 1 and 2 were usable again on D plus 8. [N2-28]
[N2-26 RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, p. 36.]
[N2-27 RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 19-20; Ltr, Adm Fechteler to Gen Ward, 8 Nov 50, no sub, in OGMH files.
[N2-28 RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 19-20; CTF 77 Opns Rpt Tanahmerah Bay-Humboldt Bay-Aitape, pp. 28-29; CTG 77.2 Opns Rpt Humboldt Bay, p. 4.]
By the morning of 25 April an inventory of supplies could be taken. With the supplies and ammunition landed from the D plus 2 convoy and those transferred from Tanahmerah Bay, the situation appeared brighter. During the afternoon General Eichelberger was able to report to ALAMO Force that three and one half units of fire for all weapons were on hand and that enough rations were available to feed all troops for six days. [N2-29]
Supplying Forces Inland
The problem of supplying the troops on the Lake Sentani plain did not end with the seizure of the airfields on 26 April. For some time thereafter the 24th Division continued to receive some of its supplies by laborious hand-carry from Tanahmerah Bay, but this relatively inefficient method did not get adequate quantities of food forward. The division’s inland troops were on half-rations much of the time. Despite continuous work by engineers, the 41st Division’s main supply line—the Pim-Lake Sentani road—could not stand the demands made upon it, and from time to time sections of the road had to be closed so that heavy equipment could make repairs on it.
Early half-successful airdrops had added little to the supplies of the troops inland, but air supply was the only feasible method of supporting the inland forces. Cyclops Drome was ready for limited employment on 27 April, and Hollandia Drome could be used by 1 May. But the mere availability of these fields did not solve the supply problem. First, weather prevented regular air supply runs for a while and, second, it was initially somewhat difficult to assemble the needed supplies at rear bases, from which supplies were already on their way forward to Hollandia by water or were being loaded aboard ship for water transportation. Neither time nor planes were available to carry out a program of unloading the ships, reloading their cargoes on aircraft, and flying the supplies to the Hollandia fields. This difficulty was overcome in part by the seizure of Tami Drome, on the coast six miles east of Humboldt Bay.
Tami Drome was ready for use by transport aircraft on 3 May. From unloading points at Humboldt Bay, small craft lightered supplies to the mouth of the Tami River, whence trucks hauled the matériel to Tami Drome. From that field C-47 aircraft shuttled supplies to Cyclops and Hollandia Dromes, probably executing one of the shortest field-to-field air supply missions on record. [N2-30]
But these efforts at local air supply proved inadequate, and with no marked improvement of road conditions the supply situation for troops inland deteriorated rapidly. The 186th Infantry, for instance, subsisted for three or four days principally on rice and canned fish from captured Japanese ration dumps. [N2-31] The 24th Division was in like straits. Finally, all local measures became insufficient to meet the needs of the inland infantry units, to say nothing of the thousands of engineer troops who began pouring into the airfield area on 27 April. Consequently, on 4 May, the RECKLESS Task Force requested that 20,000 rations be flown daily to the Hollandia airfields from eastern New Guinea Services of Supply bases. This particular phase of the air transport was begun immediately and ceased about 15 May, by which time local overland transportation had greatly improved.
[N2-29 Rad, RTF to ALAMO, 0304, 25 Apr 44, and Rad, RTF to ALAMO, 2050, 25 Apr 44, both in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 25-26 Apr 44.]
30 RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 14, 19-20; ALAMO Force Opns Rpt Hollandia-Aitape, pp. 48-51; 24th Div Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 88-89, 153-54.]
[N2-31 This information on the 186th Infantry was supplied to the author by Colonel Newman, ex-commanding officer of the 186th Infantry, who read and made notes on this and other draft chapters of the volume during March 1950. These notes are hereafter cited as Newman Notes. Copy in OCMH files.]
Many expedients were employed to get the roads into shape both for supply movements and to send inland the heavy engineering equipment that was needed to repair the three airfields. To avoid some of the worst stretches of the Pim-Lake Sentani road, especially those along the north shore of the lake, overwater movements were executed.
Small boats and amphibian vehicles were laboriously hauled to Koejaboe (captured on 25 April) from Humboldt Bay, and from the Koejaboe jetty supplies and equipment were transported across the lake to Nefaar. Meanwhile, engineers kept up steady work on the road inland from Pim. Landslides, mud, and lack of heavy equipment hindered rapid reconstruction of the Dépapré-Lake Sentani road, over which few attempts were made to move supplies after 26 April. [N2-32]
In order to organize and control supply activities, the RECKLESS Task Force set up supply “Sub-Sectors” at Tami Drome, Cape Pie, Cape Tjeweri, and Pim. The officers in charge of each Sub-Sector were made responsible for clearing the beaches, making the most efficient use of available lighterage, speeding the flow of supplies inland, and controlling local troop movements. This decentralization of responsibility from the task force G-4 relieved that section of burdensome detail work and operating functions, permitting it to revert to the normal role of planning, overseeing, and co-ordinating. As time passed, roads were repaired or new ones constructed, air supply became automatic, shipping difficulties were straightened out, and the supply situation gradually improved.
Although the terrain and the unlucky bomb hit on White Beach 1 did much to complicate the supply problems of the RECKLESS Task Force, other explanations for the difficulties are to be found in the task force G-4 Section’s reports: “Operation ‘G’ [Hollandia] was a logistical nightmare due primarily to the fact that too much was thrown too soon into too small an area. Under the circumstances, it is felt that the Operation progressed far more smoothly than should be reasonably expected.”
And again: “Operation G almost completely ‘bogged down’ due to the fact that in both objective areas [Tanahmerah and Humboldt Bays] many more vehicles, pieces of heavy equipment, and supplies were landed on the first three days than could be cleared from the beaches.” What might have happened at Hollandia had the Japanese been prepared can only be surmised.
The End of the Operation
The RECKLESS Task Force retained control over supply and construction in the Hollandia area until 6 June. During this period the task force, under the direction of ALAMO Force, initiated that construction which ultimately resulted in the development of Hollandia into a major base from which many future operations were supported.
The RECKLESS Task Force paid particular attention to airdromes, roads, docks, headquarters buildings, and dispersal areas. On 6 June the Services of Supply assumed responsibility for the continuation of this development. [N2-36] At Hollandia the Services of Supply established Base G, under which construction was speeded. Major headquarters that ultimately moved to Hollandia included General Headquarters of the Southwest Pacific Area, United States Army Forces in the Far East, Allied Air Forces, Allied Land Forces, the U. S. Seventh Fleet, the Fifth Air Force, ALAMO Force (Sixth Army), and the U. S. Eighth Army.
[N2-32 RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 19-20. It is the author’s remembrance that the good road which was finally built from the airfields to Tanahmerah Bay was completed in July 1944. This road, an impressive engineering feat, led to Seventh Fleet fuel installations at Tanahmerah Bay, where PT boats were based.]
After 6 June patrolling in the area continued, much of it by the 24th Division, which was later succeeded by other units. By the 6th, American casualties amounted to 124 men killed, 1,057 wounded, and 28 missing. During the same period, 611 Japanese were captured and over 3,300 killed. Most of the Japanese losses occurred after 26 April (the day the airfields were captured) during mopping up, and the bulk of the enemy were killed in small groups. The pace of the mopping-up operations is illustrated by the fact that 800 Japanese were killed during the week ending 6 June.
In exchange for each American killed or wounded, to 6 June, the enemy lost four men. For this price, the Allies secured a forward area which lay in the heart of territory previously held by the Japanese. The Hollandia area was to prove an excellent air, naval, and logistic base from which future operations in western New Guinea were to be staged and protected, and from which a large part of the force which invaded the Philippines in October 1944 set sail. [N2-37]
[N2-36 ALAMO Force Opns Rpt Hollandia-Aitape, p. 54.]
[N2-37 ALAMO Force Opns Rpt Hollandia-Aitape, pp.]
[N2-31, 58; ALAMO Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 43, 31 May 44, copy in G-2 DofA files.]
Source: Approach to the Philippines: BY Robert Ross Smith (United States Army Center of Military History)