DURING THE OPERATIONS OF THE PURSUIT PHASE, III Amphibious Corps had received new information from patrols, captured documents, and prisoners of war which forced a revision in the estimate of the enemy situation. Between 28 July and 1 August, calculations of enemy strength had dropped from 14,000 combat-fit men to less than half that number. It was evident that the major battle for Guam had been fought at the beachheads and that the conquest of the rest of the island was to be easier than previously expected. The Japanese had grouped all of their remaining forces in the north of Guam, and they were still withdrawing toward the northern end of the island. They clearly were unable to leave a token force in the south, or even to attempt holding all of the north.
Intelligence now possessed by the III Amphibious Corps revealed that not more than 50 Japanese soldiers were still in the south. Patrols of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade and the 77th Reconnaissance Troop, combing the whole area (for extent of these patrols, see route of the 77th's Patrol George on Map No. 12, page 58), sent back to headquarters reports of skirmishes with scattered groups not larger than 15 men. In the north, field intelligence indicated that the Tiyan airfield and Barrigada regions were not to be held for major stands as previously believed, but only as delaying positions covering a withdrawal of main elements to Yigo, about ten miles from the waist of the island. Near Tiyan airfield marine patrols had encountered no large enemy forces. They had brushed with a single Japanese soldier manning a light machine gun and had found some 100-pound bombs emplaced as land mines. Natives reported that during the night of 31 July/1 August about 800 Japanese had left Pago Bay for Mt. Barrigada, key hill for control of the approach to north Guam. A captured document further showed that on Mt.
MAP NO. 15 Approach to Barrigada, 77th Division, 2-4 August 1944
Barrigada the enemy had emplaced four type-10 (1921) 120-mm fixed dual-purpose guns (navy), two type-96 (1936) 25-mm machine cannon (fixed single mounts usable as dual-purpose guns), and two type-93 (1933) 13.2-mm machine guns.
Between 28 July and 1 August the corps' count of enemy dead had almost doubled the previous total, reaching 7,418. In addition, 3,500 was now considered by intelligence officers a conservative figure for casualties not included in the number of bodies counted. This figure made an allowance for troops killed and buried by the enemy plus the wounded that had been evacuated. Of the effectives available, 2,000 or 3,000 were thought to be labor personnel armed only with
hand-made spear knives on bamboo poles. Once these casualties and non-battle troops were deducted from the original strength estimate of 18,500, only 6,000 combat-fit troops remained.
Since the enemy capabilities were so limited, General Geiger could now employ all of his forces for a quick and efficient conquest of the north of Guam. From the south, even a weak threat was no longer possible. The corps commander therefore arranged to transfer units guarding the rear of the 3d Marine and 77th Divisions to the front line in north Guam. He ordered a regiment of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade to move to an assembly area in corps reserve behind the 3d Marines. The regiment was later to relieve the 3d Marines on the left so that they could concentrate against the Japanese defenses near Yigo. The Garrison Force was to assume responsibility for the defense of Orote Peninsula and Cabras Island at 0800, 2 August.
To the front-line units General Geiger sent a message directing them to continue the pursuit on 2 August: "Reliable information indicates all Japanese have moved to the general vicinity of Yigo. All possible speed will be made by the two divisions to gain contact with the enemy, prepared to attack him. Commander Task Force 53 requested work over [area] with naval gunfire not required in direct support of divisions during day and [deliver] harassing fires during night."
The phase lines set for the first part of the advance on Yigo would take the corps about five miles, from the 0-2 to the 0-3 line (Map No. 15, page 76). The boundary between the 3d Marine and 77th Divisions gave slightly more than half of the width of the island to the 77th. In their zone the marines would be responsible for Tiyan airfield, Tumon Bay, and Finegayan; the 77th would have responsibility for both the town of Barrigada and Mt. Barrigada, about a mile northeast of the settlement.
While the 3d Marine Division prepared to move out again at 0630, 2 August, General Bruce made arrangements for his troops to advance at 0700. The 305th and 307th RCT's would remain abreast on the 77th Division's front of two and one-half miles. The 307th, maintaining contact on the left, with the 3d Marines, would advance from the O-2 line into Barrigada and proceed on to the north toward Mt. Barrigada. The 305th, on the right along a front extending to the east coast, would pass to the east of the town and the hill.
Barrigada, the first objective of the 77th Division, is a village of less than 20 buildings, lying southwest of the 300-foot rise of Mt. Barrigada. The village is located at Road junction 306 on the main route from Agana inland and north to Finegayan. The principal terrain feature near the village is a large clearing, roughly rectangular in shape, 2 -mile from east to west and ¼-mile from north to south. On the north and east sides of the clearing, wooded areas form an almost continuous border. The south and west sides are edged by irregular patches of jungle which extend into the open ground. In the southeast corner of the clearing, within a radius of 300 yards of the road junction, most of the buildings of the village are grouped. On the west a temple, a reservoir and pump house, and a few shacks stand in scattered clumps of trees. Northeast of the junction, a large tin-roofed shack, painted green, is the only building of any size. The largest section of the clearing stretches northwest from the junction and becomes open field on which the grass, even during the first days of August, was only about a foot high. From east and west, the ground rises gently toward the center of this field, and the north-south swell is clearly visible from lower points at the edge of the woods in any direction. On this higher ground the Japanese at one time emplaced four guns, probably antiaircraft weapons defending Tiyan airfield and Agana Bay. Troops advancing through this Barrigada clearing had to cross open areas where for short distances they would have no protected routes.
The 77th had a special reason for wanting to reach Barrigada quickly. The reservoir and pump, located 100 yards northwest of Road junction 306, could supply 20,000 gallons of water daily to the troops. Until now, the men of the division had quenched their thirst by getting water from streams and creeks. But in the northern part of Guam there were no streams, and the reservoir would be the only source of supply. Nevertheless, the division was cautious, for it did not know how strong a delaying position the town and the height would be, and a report was received during the night that 2,000 Japanese were on the road between Finegayan and Barrigada. General Bruce ordered reconnaissance by tanks and requested observation by air.
MAP NO. 16 Reconnaissance of Barrigada, Company D, 706th Tank Battalion, Company I, 305th RCT
Feeling Out Enemy Positions
The first elements of the 77th Division moved forward about 0700 from the 0-2 line to reconnoiter the enemy positions near the town of Barrigada (Map No. 16, above). In the 307th's zone, while the infantry battalions waited for their day's rations, Company D of the 706th Tank Battalion drove rapidly along the Agana road on a preliminary reconnaissance mission, to find out if the 2,000 enemy soldiers reported north of the village had arrived there. When the 12 tanks in the column got within a mile and a quarter of Road junction 306, they drew moderate fire. The tanks' crews machine-gunned suspected areas and returned to the regiment to report that they had seen only eight Japanese soldiers and a machine gun.
At 0800 the tanks left the O-2 line again on a second reconnaissance mission, this time to go north to Mt. Barrigada and east of the town. They retraced their course along the Agana road, passed through Barrigada, and turned up the Finegayan road without difficulty. An empty pillbox at the junction and a deserted road block 500 yards up the Finegayan highway were evidence that the Japanese had intended at some time to defend the town and to restrict movement through it. The tanks were almost abreast of Mt. Barrigada, more than a mile from the junction, when they met Japanese soldiers hiding behind three enemy trucks blocking the road. The leading tanks killed the Japanese, estimated to be 35 in number, and demolished the trucks with machine-gun and 37-mm fire.
Returning to the road junction in Barrigada, the tankmen swung left and drove rapidly over the road which skirts the southern edge of the hill. The jungle east of the town was even denser than it was to the north; the road itself became rougher and narrower. When the vehicles had moved only a few hundred yards from the junction, one tank got hung up on a stump and blocked the rest of the column. When the tanks were stopped, the jungle on each side of the road seemed to come alive with Japanese. They threw 20-mm and machine-gun fire against the sides of the tanks, into the vision slits. While their comrades kept up this fire from dugouts, other Japanese crawled forward with grenades, closing in on the tanks. As one enemy tried to climb up on one tank to drop grenades through the openings, the tank behind shot him off. The enemy fire began to diminish as the tank crews found targets in the jungle and returned even heavier fire than they received. Some Japanese killed themselves with their grenades; most of them filtered off into the woods.
Meanwhile the tank commander reported back to headquarters that 150 Japanese were near his position and asked, "Can I come home?" Permission was granted. After the tank on the stump had worked itself off, the vehicles swung around and reached the regimental lines without incident at 1100.
At the same time that the tanks moved out, the 3d Battalion of the 305th started off from the 0-2 line on the left of its regimental zone. The battalion pushed ahead along a winding trail connecting with the road from Barrigada. east of the town. Company I was leading; S/Sgt. Chester B. Opdyke, Jr.'s squad of the 2d Platoon was the point of the column. Advancing in squad columns, the rest
of the company was spread out behind the point. The heavy weapons of Company M attached to Company I were in the center of the column. The main body of the battalion followed several hundred yards to the rear.
When the men of Opdyke's squad came out on open ground in a draw approaching the southern edge of the Barrigada clearing, about 0930, they oriented themselves on the buildings in Barrigada which they could see about 300 yards to the left. The reservoir and a two-story building, later found to be a temple, were visible near the road junction. The scouts could see no movement in the village, and they heard no sounds in the woods nearby. Then Pfc. John Andzelik, on the lookout for enemy activity, spotted 3 Japanese
MAP NO. 17 The Gap on the Left, About Noon, 2 August 1944
soldiers crossing a trail 200 yards ahead. Opdyke held up his group and sent some of his men to investigate a shack to the right, a likely shelter for more enemy soldiers. They had moved a few yards when Japanese snipers opened up. Although the fire was scattered at first, it was well aimed, and the two leading men were casualties.
The enemy fire increased and seemed to come from an arc stretching from the left to the center front. Members of the point squad tried to get to cover. Opdyke started off toward the shack at the right, but he was stopped by a hit on the arm. Some of the men put fire into the brush ahead before they withdrew, and several more were hit as they ran back for cover.
Despite the heavy fire, the other two squads of the 2d Platoon came up on both wings of the point and formed a rough skirmish line in a slight defilade. The 1st Platoon, commanded by 2d Lt. Edward C. Harper, moved up behind the 2d Platoon. Company Commander, Captain Cothran, was with the 1st. Under Cothran's direction this platoon got around' to the right in a more covered area. Slowly the 1st and 2d squads were brought up on a line. Fire was coming from an enemy machine gun concealed in woods to the left. Two BAR men, who had been watching for smoke or flash from the gun, noticed leaves moving under its muzzle blast and directed their fire where they thought the machine gun was located.
Lieutenant Harper now tried to get around the enemy's flank by moving his men across a small open draw to some woods beyond. They did not know whether the machine gun on the left was out of action or how many more guns were in position to command the draw, so they dashed at intervals to the woods. Others were on their way when fire broke out again from the left. "For Christ's sake, go back and tell Cothran a machine gun has opened up," Harper shouted to one of his men. just as he spoke, several men started across the draw for the woods, and all of them were killed or wounded.
Company I was effectively stopped, at least for the time being. Its 2d Platoon was still pinned down, and its 1st was unable to advance on the right. Other troops from the 3d Battalion were now moving up behind Company I's line. Machine gunners and mortar men from Company M set up their weapons and put fire on suspected areas. But they had difficulty finding targets. The enemy was well concealed, and he seemed to have a trick of cloaking the sound of his firing by shooting short bursts just after Company
M's weapons opened up. While they tried to find enemy gun positions, the heavy-weapons men had to fight off snipers who seemed to be all around them. Taking the place of a wounded machine gunner, Pfc. Edwin L. O'Brien picked up a smoking machine gun, cradled it in his arms, and fired into a tree almost directly above him. The Japanese soldier who had wounded the first gunner tumbled down. Even the heavy weapons were not able to neutralize the enemy's fire, and the leading elements of the 3d Battalion were stymied before 1030.
These first contacts at Barrigada had indicated some enemy strength well concealed in the heavy jungle to the east of the junction, in position to command both roads out of the town. Company D, 706th Tank Battalion, and Company I, 305th RCT, had engaged two groups of Japanese infantrymen in that general area at about the same time, and both units had found the enemy ready to put up determined resistance. Company I estimated that at least a company, with plenty of automatic weapons set up in cleared fields of fire, held the woods beyond its forward line. As long as the Japanese controlled the road to Finegayan and the one from Barrigada to the east, reinforcement of their position at Barrigada was easy. Much now depended on the attack of the 307th Infantry, through and west of the Barrigada clearing.
The Gap on the Left
The 307th RCT, on the left, now commanded by Lt. Col. Thomas B. Manuel,1 was ready to move forward in a zone which would flank the area of Japanese resistance so far encountered (Map No. 17, page 82). Objective of the 307th was Mt. Barrigada. On the regiment's left the 1st Battalion, under Lt. Col. Joseph B. Coolidge, was to maintain contact with the 3d Marine Division, reach the Finegayan road north of the village, and take the western slopes of Mt. Barrigada. The 3d Battalion, on the right, was to maintain contact with the 305th, push directly through Barrigada town, and continue on to take the southern slopes of the hill. Each front-line battalion was to have one company in reserve; the 2d Battalion was to be in regimental reserve.
The 307th RCT was to advance at 1030 abreast of main units of
1. Colonel Hamilton was evacuated at about 1600, 1 August because of illness.
the 305th. The men of the 307th, who had received rations after 0930, hurried through their morning meal and were ready within an hour. When they started toward Mt. Barrigada, Company C was on the far left in contact with the marines. On its right was Company A, which tied in with Company L. The 3d Battalion's right wing was formed by Company K. These four companies were to go forward on an azimuth of 45°, which would bring L and K astride Barrigada and put A and C in position to flank the village through the woods on the northwest.
Heavy sniper fire delayed Company A at the start, forcing it to veer too far to the right off its 45° azimuth. The company soon came out on the Agana road and followed it toward Barrigada. Meanwhile Company C had found its zone dear and moved out, and L and K were pushing northeast on the prescribed axis. As the units approached Barrigada, Company A collided with L in the zone assigned to the 3d Battalion. Company L in turn was forced to the right, pinching out K on the 305th boundary. As a result, these three companies were crowded into an area not wide enough for two, and the balanced attack toward Barrigada was thrown off. Company L, the only unit that succeeded in maintaining its normal frontage, had shifted its axis of advance to the southeast and was now heading for the Agana road east of the junction.
The effects of the crowding were felt as soon as contact was made with the enemy. When Company A's advance elements reached the edge of the clearing about 1130, they found the first houses of the village unoccupied, and two light tanks, coming into A's lines from the east, reported seeing no Japanese that morning. Any mistaken conclusions that might have been drawn from this report were quickly corrected; rifle and machine-gun fire started up on the right and front of Company A's advance as soon as the tanks left, and the fire grew in intensity until it sounded like the steady crackling roar of a rifle range. Taking advantage of a very slight defilade, the squads deployed near the temple on a line facing roughly east. As members of the 2d Platoon moved to the right of the temple they encountered Company L coming into line and were crowded out. As a result of the crowding on the 307th's right, when it came to organizing a front of fire to bear on the enemy resistance Company A had only one effective platoon; Company K had almost no front at all. Furthermore, this crowding on the right resulted in a large
gap between Company A on the Agana road and Company C on the left wing. The development of this gap, extending 1,000 yards across the north section of the Barrigada clearing, reduced the possibilities of putting flanking pressure on the enemy positions near Barrigada. Some further disadvantages were to be felt later in the day.
At about noon Maj. Gerald G. Cooney, the 1st Battalion executive officer, heard that Company A was in Barrigada and that it had been pinned down, along with the 3d Battalion, near the temple close to the road junction. He immediately assumed temporary command of the battalion in order to adjust the unit's front line and relieve the pressure on Company A and the 3d Battalion. Colonel Coolidge, commander of the battalion, had gone off with Company C, and he was now out of contact. Part of Company B had already been sent in the direction of C in an effort to maintain contact along the front. As a first move, Major Cooney committed his battalion reserve, the rest of Company B, on Company A's left to reduce the width of the gap between A and C. The 2d Platoon, under 2d Lt. Willis J. L. Munger, on the Agana road approaching Barrigada, was ordered to go diagonally across the grass field, the widest and most open section of the Barrigada clearing, moving up on Company A's left.
Munger's objective, on the east side of the Finegayan road, was the 2-story green shack that had a concrete base and appeared to be a good position from which to put fire on the enemy positions near the junction and outflank the resistance holding up Companies A and L.
In short rushes, groups of two and three men of the 2d Platoon slowly made their way across the field. Their left flank was in the air, but while they worked through the field all seemed quiet in the woods to the north, as well as in the woods behind the green house, The enemy silence did not last long. Just as the first men of the platoon were crossing the road, a machine gun opened up from the woods east of the house. They dived for ditches on each side of the road and sent word back for a section of machine guns to deal with the enemy gun. The men remained in the ditch as the machine-gun section, having suffered one casualty in the field, came up under heavy fire.
Before the section had a chance to set up its weapons in support of the 2d Platoon, the 3d Battalion machine gunners and mortar men near the temple, who had been working for some time trying to find the enemy, finally located a target—a grass shack on the road
east of Barrigada. The shack burst into flames, and as it did so a Japanese medium tank shot out of it and sped along the Agana road toward the lines of Companies A and L. Three soldiers riding on top were quickly knocked off when machine guns, BAR's, and rifles opened up all along the 307th's front. But the tank kept going, undamaged by the fire. Its turret swung back and forth returning the fire of the 307th with cannon and machine guns.
The Japanese tank reached the road junction, turned right, and stopped. Ahead of it, still lying prone in the ditch, were some of the men of Company B's 2d Platoon. The rest of the platoon had dashed to the green house for safety. For a few seconds the tank stood still and machine-gunned the helpless men near the road, killing one and wounding two others. Then it turned back on the Agana road and headed toward the corner of the temple near the junction, where Pfc. John E. Raley of Company A was manning a machine gun. The tank crashed into this building, changed gears, and forced its way through the side. Raley stuck to his post, although the tracks of the tank missed him by a foot. The roof of the temple caved in, pinning Raley to the ground, but the vehicle emerged from under it, restricted in its movement only by a piece of thatch roof covering its vision slit. The tank crew, despite their limited vision, continued on their way and overran another machine-gun position.
Now in the midst of the 307th's lines, the enemy tank was receiving concentrated fire from every weapon that the excited men could handle-rifles, machine guns, BAR's, hand and rifle grenades, and bazookas. Of Company A's three bazookas in the line, two failed to go off, and the gunner of the third did not pull the safety pin until the tank was out of range. When it stalled on a coconut log, riflemen got their aim, knocking ammunition boxes off the top. The tank itself, impervious to the fire, backed off the log, dropped the thatch that had been over the vision slit, and raced down the Agana road. It swept with fire a battalion aid post, a battalion command post, and the 307th Regimental CP in rapid succession. Finally, two of the division's light tanks got in the race, as the Japanese tank went out of sight into the rear areas. Curiously enough, no available records tell what happened to it later or how it was destroyed; the 307th at any rate saw no more of it.
The enemy tank, going through the lines before the 307th had been able to consolidate its position at the green shack, had left a
chaotic situation behind it. Men of Companies A and L, near the temple in the areas exposed to the tank's fire, had broken lines and rushed back for better cover. The formations were now more disorganized than ever. The course of the tank was marked by bleeding men and abandoned positions.
The solo tank action seems to have been impromptu, forced by the direct hit on the shack, for enemy infantry did not follow its attack. Instead the Japanese waited in their positions for another move by the 307th. The 2d Platoon of B Company, in its exposed position, took the brunt of the enemy fire during the next few minutes. From a pillbox 20 yards behind the green house and from other emplacements in the woods, bursts of automatic fire tore through the upper portion of the house where all of the 2d Platoon, except the wounded, had now taken refuge. This fire isolated the men in the green shack from their lines. One BAR man was shot as he fired through a window. An attempt to get two wounded men from the road to the house brought down heavier fire. Lieutenant Munger's men were able to bring in one of the casualties; the other man lay near the road calling to those inside for help until he died.
Lieutenant Munger realized that the house offered no protection against mortar and artillery fire and gave his men a chance to find better cover if they could. "Anyone who wants to go can leave—I wouldn't blame you," he said. "But I'm sticking." Sgt. Charles J. Kunze volunteered to return to the company headquarters for reinforcements. He sprinted from the house, dived into the ditch, crawled through a culvert, and then darted across the exposed field to Capt. Frank L. Vernon, company commander. Kunze told his story and then made the perilous trip back to the green house with orders from Captain Vernon to withdraw. Company A would cover the 2d Platoon as it retired across the field toward the Agana road.
Just as Kunze arrived, several artillery explosions rocked the shack. The men immediately dashed out of it. As they plunged across the road, they dropped into ditches for cover from the continued enemy machine-gun fire and then rose again to make another few feet across the field. Kunze, who was heading through the open field for the fourth time that day, was hit, along with several others, including Lieutenant Munger. Most of the members of Company A, covering the withdrawal of Company B's men, fell back because of the artillery fire. Machine gunner Raley, Pfc. Alfred A. Pucci, and
Pfc. Stanley J. Mrowka, however, stayed in their positions although the shells were falling within 20 feet. They continued to fire on enemy positions until the last wounded man of Company B was taken to the rear.
Back at his CP Major Cooney was surprised to find that the shells landing near the green house were part of a friendly rolling barrage moving to the left. He had no idea who had ordered the support and tried every phone until he located the artillery liaison officer to have the fire stopped before the 307th renewed its attack.
By 1500, after three hours of fighting, the Japanese opposing the regiment were as strong as ever, and they were still in command of the Finegayan road and the reservoir. The gap still existed within the 307th's line northwest of Barrigada.
Tanks Support the 305th
Meanwhile, on the 77th Division's right, the 305th had organized and attempted an advance in its zone. The 3d Battalion was on the regimental left, the 2d Battalion on the right (Map No. 18, page 91). One company of each assault battalion remained in reserve. Only the 3d Battalion was in any position to help the fight at Barrigada.
After the repulse of Company I in the morning, the 305th paused to build up its line in the 3d Battalion zone, where its main effort would be made in the afternoon. At 1330 Company K moved from behind Company I to attack on I's right. Attached to Company K were five light tanks from Company D of the 706th Tank Battalion.1 Company K and the light tanks edged out until they were parallel with the lower end of the draw where Company I had been stopped at 1030. The tanks were in the lead with infantrymen on both sides for close-in protection. Directly behind the tanks were two platoons of infantrymen. The enemy positions which commanded the draw were not known to have been reduced, although considerable machine-gun and mortar fire had been put on the general area during the three-hour interval.
Four tanks and part of the infantry moved across the draw without trouble, but just as the last tank was crossing, machine-gun and can-
1. Light tanks were used because the mediums of the three other companies of the 706th Tank Battalion were still on their way to Barrigada along the Agat-Agana highway.
MAP NO. 18 Situation on the Right, Close of Day, 2 August 1944
non fire opened up from the left. Bullets and fragments ricocheted off the side of the tank toward the men guarding it, killing Sgt. Dexter W. Berry and wounding two others. The infantrymen beyond kept out of the lines of fire by lying low in the brush. The leading tanks returned the fire, but it was hard to find any targets, and their shots did not seem to have much effect. Shortly thereafter the tanks pulled back to a less exposed position. The men of Company K, who had been following the tanks, remained where they were, not daring to move. Colonel Chalgren, commander of the 3d Battalion, held a conference with his company commanders to decide how to attack the Japanese in the woods. Lieutenant Harper of Company 1, who had already crawled up under fire close to the woods, volunteered to direct a tank up to the enemy firing position.
Lieutenant Harper climbed into 2d Lt. Charles J. Fuchs' tank, "Dirty Detail," and moved up the draw. The tank got within five
yards of the position and then machine-gunned it through the leaves and brush. The enemy returned the fire. In rapid succession a Japanese machine gunner scored hits on the trailing idler, the drive shaft, and the side of the tank. One bullet missed Harper by six inches. "Dirty Detail" could not move forward; when it backed up its track dropped off. Harper and the crew tumbled out of the tank and ran back to friendly ground. The crews of the other light tanks destroyed the abandoned vehicle in order to prevent the enemy from using it.
The enemy position still commanded the draw and seemed able to absorb any amount of fire. Colonel Chalgren decided to try artillery. The men who had reached the woods were ordered back. They retired to the battalion line by running around the extreme right end of the draw, three at a time. Even there they did not escape enemy fire; one man was killed before be reached a protected position. After the commanding officer had all his men pulled back, he was told that he could not get artillery support because elements of the 77th Division were so far advanced on the left.
To get supporting fire, Colonel Chalgren called in a platoon of medium tanks which had just arrived behind his forward units. Lieutenant Harper volunteered to direct them, and the tanks moved out four abreast until they came close to the enemy position. Then the crew directed fire on the Japanese. One of the 75-mm. shells knocked off part of a construction which had been camouflaging an enemy tank, leaving it in full view.
"Is that a tank?" an excited tank man shouted over the radio.
"Hell, yes!" the commander shouted back.
Whereupon the crew demolished the Japanese tank with cannon fire at short range.
It was now dark, too late to follow through on the reduction of this position, and the men of the 3d Battalion prepared to bivouac for the night.
Late in the afternoon Companies A and B had come up on the right, to support the 3d Battalion in its attack and to relieve it on the regimental left next morning. The 1st Battalion's advance through fields and jungle had been delayed by snipers in the trees, and by riflemen and machine gunners in pillboxes and dugouts. Darkness closed in before the 1st Battalion was able to help the 3d.
Meanwhile the 2d Battalion had advanced in its zone on the regimental right, keeping abreast of the 3d Battalion without meeting opposition. The progress on the extreme right verified the reports of the reconnaissance units that the main Japanese defenses were protecting the roads to the north and east of Barrigada.
Attempt to Close the Gap
The 307th had been held short of Barrigada in the morning, largely as a result of the crowding of units toward the right of the regimental zone (Map No. 17, page 82). Not only were six (plus) companies advancing on so narrow a front that they could not bring their full power to bear, but they were committed in an area where the terrain favored the enemy defense. As the 3d and 1st Battalions tried to reach the village from the south and southwest, they had to come across the corner of the Barrigada clearing on ground swept by Japanese fire from the northeast and east. Companies L and A had been stopped by this fire west and southwest of the road junction less than halfway across the clearing, L making only 75 yards' progress during the morning. When Company B had attempted to flank the opposition by swinging north of the crossroad, it uncovered a new area of enemy firing positions and, with both flanks exposed, was not strong enough to carry beyond the green house,
After the failure of this attack, Colonel Manuel called General Bruce for his approval to commit the 307th RCT's reserve, the 2d Battalion under Colonel Learner. The Commanding General gave his consent at 1500, and an hour and a half later the 2d Battalion was directed to pass through the 1st, filling the gap which had existed on the regimental front north of Barrigada. Company E on the left would try to contact C, while Company G moved into the green house area. Company G, supported by light tanks, would make the regiment's second attempt to break through at the junction and the green shack (Map No. 19, page 95).
Taking over the area on the left of the 1st Battalion and moving through it, Colonel Learner planned a two-pronged attack toward the green house. The main effort was to be on the right, pushing directly through the Japanese positions at the junction that had stopped Company A earlier in the day. Following four light tanks,
the 2d Platoon of Company G, under 1st Lt. Robert C. Smith, was to proceed along the Agana road to the junction and approach the house from the south. At the same time the 1st Platoon of Company G, under 1st Lt. James T. Whitney, was to advance to the Finegayan road north of the house. The infantry platoons would thus skirt the Barrigada field which the 2d Platoon of Company B had crossed in the earlier attempt to establish a flanking position at the green house.
Unfortunately, when Lieutenant Smith, leader of the 2d Platoon, Company G, reported to 2d Battalion headquarters for orders his company commander, Capt. John F. Gannon, was not there. Lieutenant Smith therefore talked on the phone with Colonel Learner, who merely directed the 2d Platoon to move up on the left of the 1st Battalion. Lieutenant Smith believed that this was his complete order, and he departed to carry it out. Captain Gannon reached headquarters later expecting to see Smith and to give him the full plan of the two-pronged attack, in which the 2d Platoon was to support the tanks on the Agana road.
Following his order Lieutenant Smith located Captain Vernon of Company B, the left wing of the 1st Battalion, to find out where his platoon was to start. He brought his men up on the left of Company B, and by a series of squad rushes guided them into the Barrigada field on the protected side of the swell. At the top of the rise the men began to receive sniper fire, and they crouched in shell holes for protection.
At this position a runner from company headquarters reached Lieutenant Smith to tell him that the order from Captain Gannon was "to follow the tanks in" through the town. Smith was puzzled by the discrepancy with Colonel Learner's instructions. His platoon, having deployed to the left into the field, could not now catch up with the tanks on the Agana road before they got to the shack. The tanks had already gone 200 yards from the 1st Battalion's line and were nearing the junction.
Faced with the problem of rectifying his situation, Lieutenant Smith worked out a scheme on the spot to coordinate his movement with the tanks as quickly as possible. He decided to continue advance of his men across the field in the direction they had started. By this route they would try to arrive at the green house at the same time the tanks did, or if the tanks were stopped at the junction, the men would be in position at the house to support the vehicles.
MAP NO. 19 Company G's Attack, 1500-Dark, 2 August 1944
In a series of rushes, Lieutenant Smith moved his platoon forward as fast as he could, and he overtook the tanks on the Finegayan road near the green house. The enemy fire had increased as the platoon made its way across the field. By the time the first men reached the road, the fire was coming in heavily from the left. The 1st Squad went over to the right of the house, where the tanks were firing into the building and the woods behind. The infantrymen tried to designate targets to the tanks, but the men had no means for communicating with the tank crews. However, tank hits seemed to silence the enemy in the woods.
Lieutenant Smith ordered the 2d Squad to work its way to the left side of the house, where the enemy fire had been most intense. The men threw grenades into the house and returned fire on the enemy positions in the woods. Japanese activity had already begun to diminish when the tanks came over to add the power of their guns to the fight. After the enemy resistance lessened, Lieutenant Smith and his men investigated the green shack, and the open field both to right and left of it, without stirring up any opposition. Smith then formed a skirmish line east of the house extending along the edge of the woods.
To the northwest, in the field west of the Finegayan road, the 1st Platoon of Company G was now in action. Lieutenant Whitney had received his order from Captain Gannon to extend Company G's line to the left along the woods bordering the north side of the field. Lieutenant Whitney's route of advance would require him to move across a wide and open area to the northeast, where any enemy to the north would have a clear field of fire on his men. Though, so far, no enemy fire had come from this area, Whitney felt he was ordering his men out on a dangerous mission. He had his platoon move with the left squad trailing, for security against whatever might be in the woods to the north, almost parallel with his advance.
Colonel Learner shouted to the platoon, "Get that left flank up!" Lieutenant Whitney's men started off on a run. Unfortunately, the tanks at the green house had just withdrawn down the road toward the junction, and their departure was the signal for the Japanese to open up again. This time the open flank, left by the gap produced in the morning's advance, was to show its full possibilities for causing trouble. From the woods on the left of the 1st Platoon, Japanese machine gunners and riflemen in dug-in positions brought down heavy fire on the men. The same fire hit the 2d Platoon at the green house. An enemy machine gunner also reopened fire from the woods east of the house. Neither platoon of G was in position to support the other.
Out in the field, some of Lieutenant Whitney's men hit the ground where they were; others tried to reach the Finegayan road. They searched for shelter in the open field; some got to shell holes, but most lay in the short grass in clear view. With communication back to headquarters impossible, the survivors could only wait for the fire to let up. In the skirmish line at the green house two of
Lieutenant Smith's men were wounded, and they were dragged into the house. Four others tried to run around the right side of the building to silence the enemy machine gun; all were hit with automatic fire. Captain Gannon was also wounded. The men of the 2d Platoon left their line for cover and carried their casualties, now seven in all, to a protected side of the shack until help could reach them.
S/Sgt. Edward E. Whittemore volunteered to cross back over the open field to get aid, just as Sergeant Kunze had done earlier in the day. Lieutenant Smith wanted fire support and medics, and asked to have the tanks return. Whittemore reached Company G headquarters and told 1st Lt. Garret V. Rickards, the executive officer succeeding Captain Gannon in command of the company, "The 2d Platoon are almost all casualties. They are over there in that green house. We need stretchers and help to get them out."
While Lieutenant Rickards went over to the 1st Battalion to get tanks to support the evacuation of the 2d Platoon, he sent word back to 1st Lt. Walter E. Seibert, Jr., to get the 3d Platoon of Company G up front immediately. Without definite knowledge of where the 1st and 2d Platoons were, Lieutenant Seibert started off with his men. At the swell in the field, Seibert could not see either Platoon, but he could hear the noise of guns near the village and assumed that at least one platoon was there. In squads deployed as skirmishers, his men went rapidly across the field toward Barrigada.
As the 3d Platoon reached the village, Sergeant Whittemore, following the unit to give it the exact location of the 2d, -overtook Lieutenant Seibert and told him what was happening at the green house. Leaving one squad near the junction to secure the right flank, Lieutenant Seibert moved two squads toward the house. Approaching on the road, the squads met heavy fire and stopped to set up a light machine gun in a grove west of the road. The men sprayed the tree tops with BAR, rifle, and machine-gun fire. In return, the Japanese wounded the first and second gunner.
The firepower of the forward elements of the 3d Platoon was quickly built up. Two heavy machine-gun crews from Company H moved in near the green shack, and an 81-mm mortar section emplaced its weapons behind the lines. The machine guns and mortars, selecting targets which had been pointed out by Sergeant Whittemore, were soon joined by two of the 1st Battalion's tanks which had
MAP NO. 20 Barrigada Positions, Close of Day, 2 August 1944
just arrived on the road west of the shack. Although a great deal of enemy opposition was still coming from the woods north, of the field, Lieutenant Seibert localized all his fire in the vicinity of the house because he did not know where the 1st Platoon was.
Protected by the heavy weapons and tanks, 18 men of the 3d Platoon went forward to carry out the casualties of the 2d Platoon. Some were placed on the tanks, others were put on stretchers. All the wounded were brought back except for one man, who could not be located and lay out near the green house until he was picked up next morning. When the tanks and stretcher bearers had made their way to the rear, the rest of the 2d Platoon retired about 100 yards, as far as the 3d Platoon's position.
It was now getting dark and heavy weapons were running short of ammunition. At this time orders reached Lieutenants Smith and Seibert to withdraw their platoons. Retreat was not easy, for the
men were to move again across the field west of the road. To give the main elements as much protection as possible, Lieutenant Seibert left two BAR men and one heavy machine gunner, and Lieutenant Smith left several machine gunners to cover the withdrawal. Despite their efforts, the Japanese sprayed the retreating men with small-arms fire and inflicted a few more casualties.
During all this time, Lieutenant Whitney's 1st Platoon was pinned down helpless in the open, north of the action around the green house and entirely out of contact. Its fate could only be guessed at back at battalion. As soon as Lieutenant Seibert appeared at the company headquarters, Lieutenant Rickards greeted him with the news that the 1st Platoon was in the field to the northeast near the woods and that it had been almost completely wiped out. Rickards, Seibert, the 3d Platoon, and three tanks immediately left on another rescue mission. This party, led by Colonel Coolidge, found the men of the 1st Platoon scattered across the length of the field. The only ones who had escaped the Japanese bullets, coming from positions less than 100 yards to the north, were those who had found some kind of hole in the field. The others, lying in foot-high grass, had been an easy mark because their packs had revealed their positions.
The tanks moving in from the south gave the Japanese in these woods their first real opposition. Following the vehicles, the 3d Platoon started to collect the men of the 1st Platoon. So many were casualties that the relief force ran out of stretchers and had to improvise with rifles and coats. When the count was taken the 1st Platoon had lost 26 men, most of them killed. One squad alone had eight killed and one wounded. Lieutenant Whitney was dead. Colonel Coolidge, in charge of the evacuation, was hit. Rescue completed, the 3d Platoon returned to the ridge on the west of the field aad dug in for the night with the rest of Company G. The day's action had cost Lieutenant Seibert's unit three wounded.
This ended the fight at Barrigada. Company A had been able to make no headway from its morning positions near the temple. Companies L and K, supported by tanks, had tried during the afternoon to neutralize the enemy in the woods east of the road junction; they knocked out some emplacements, but because of approaching darkness were unable to follow through.
On the left of the gap, Company C of the 307th had pushed along its designated course with a platoon of Company B and some sections
MAP NO. 21 Advance to the 0-3 Line, 305th and 307th RCT, 3-4 August 1944
of Company D attached (Map No. 26, page 98). Company C was out of contact with the rest of the regiment all day, and therefore could play no part at Barrigada. But the unit had troubles of its own in the dense jungle, where advance was slow and control of elements difficult. One platoon split away from the main body and ended up in the 3d Marine's zone. Late in the afternoon Company E followed out on C's route to gain contact with C. Reaching the
Finegayan road leading south into Barrigada, E started to take the enemy from the flank. Sniper fire delaying its advance the company, although headed in that direction, did not reach the green house area in time to help the situation there.
As darkness closed the battle of Barrigada, the 305th and 307th
RCT's reorganized and bivouacked for the night. To most of the men of the 77th Division the 2d of August had been a day of frustration. Few had ever seen the Japanese, so well concealed were their men and weapons. The enemy had held the division short of Mt. Barrigada, but the size of his force was impossible to estimate. His toll on the 77th Division for the day was 29 killed and 98 wounded.1
North to O-3 Line
When the 77th Division dug in for the night of 2 August, it was more than two miles short of its objective, the O-3 line (Map No. 21, page 100). The Japanese had been so successful in holding Barrigada, and in retaining control of the roads to the north and east, that G-2 began to feel the division had hit the forward installations of an enemy defensive system guarding north Guam. Intelligence estimates suggested that the retreating forces might have positions in depth near Mt. Barrigada. The division troops themselves began to worry about a Banzai attack. They had heard of the charge of 5,000 Japanese on Saipan who overran and decimated 2 battalions, and they expected such a charge any night. However, the darkness of 2 August brought no enemy activity; the morning came without incident. The 77th started the day with another chance to break the defenses in the town, claim the reservoir, capture Mt. Barrigada, and get to the O-3 line.
The main difficulty which the 77th had faced on the 2d had resulted from the bad start which Company A of the 307th had made in the morning, leaving a gap on the left of the Barrigada road junction and crowding the units attacking on the center through the Barrigada clearing. Before the advance on 3 August, General Bruce pulled back his forward units and organized a new front line to carry out the coordinated attack on the town and height which he had planned for the day before. Regimental boundaries remained unchanged. In the 307th's area the 2d Battalion occupied the left wing, relieving the 1st Battalion there; the 3d Battalion, shifted to recover its normal frontage, continued on the right. In the 305th's area the 1st Battalion relieved the 3d on the left, while the 2d Battalion kept its place on the right.
1. Breakdown of casualties is as follows: The 305th RCT had 7 killed and 35 wounded; the 307th RCT had 22 killed and 63 wounded.
At 0630 the attack jumped off, and by 0930 the regiments had advanced through the Barrigada clearing, beyond the enemy positions that had held them at a standstill the whole day before. This time the troops encountered only a few snipers; evidently the Japanese had had enough. During the night they had evacuated their dead and wounded and had withdrawn north of the village. The 77th Division occupied the village and secured the important reservoir.
The close of the Barrigada action seemed like an anticlimax after the preparation of the morning, but the 305th and 307th Regiments soon became absorbed in problems of movement. Beginning now and lasting for four days, difficulties of operating in jungle country were to harass the 77th and to cause more trouble than enemy opposition. The vegetation north from Barrigada became so dense that forward units were divided into a number of spearheads, out of touch with each other. Columns veered to the right and left, picking their way through the almost trackless jungle. Patrols had to be sent out to locate adjacent units. In addition, the maps were not accurate, and aerial photographs, supplementing them, had been taken when clouds covered the most important areas.
Because the troops could not rely on the maps and photographs, they were not able to send back to headquarters an accurate location of their positions. Forward units often were hundreds of yards from their reported front lines. Air and artillery support was limited; artillery, when it was called, was many times misdirected. Company E, 307th, was getting into line on the division's left wing when an artillery concentration killed several of the men and wounded others, including Colonel Learner (battalion commander). When the men came under artillery fire they invariably suspected that it was their own, and sometimes it was. General Bruce found it necessary to order his regimental commanders to "stop accusing our own artillery of firing on our own troops until the facts are known."
Losing their way, hacking out new paths through a tangle of trees and vines, hurrying to reach night defensive areas in time to dig in properly, the infantrymen began to experience the full misery of operations in the tropics. The rainy season was now at its height, and drenching showers alternated with terrific heat. At night, when the men could use warmth, they sat in flooded fox holes and found their teeth chattering; during the day, their fatigues stayed wet with perspiration. Mosquitoes were a torment at night, and the flies took
over at dawn. Always, there was the mud; helmets, uniforms, equipment, and their own skins turned the dirty red color of Guam's soil.
As the division started on toward the 0-3 line, the 307th, with the 2d Battalion on the left and the 3d on the right, was responsible for taking Mt. Barrigada. The 305th, on the division's right, would clear the area south of the height. The 1st Battalion was to maintain contact with the 307th, while the 2d Battalion pushed along the east coast.
The 307th had by now lost its original regimental commander and each of its battalion commanders from wounds or sickness. Led by Colonel Manuel, executive officer, the regiment was ready shortly after noon on 3 August for an attack on Mt. Barrigada. The 2d and 3d Battalions (then under command of Maj. Thomas R. Mackin and Maj. Joseph W. Hanna) pushed off from the Finegayan road behind a rolling barrage 200 yards ahead of them. Tanks spearheaded the drive and beat a path through the jungle. The troops met scattered resistance on the lower slope of Mt. Barrigada, but this diminished to only occasional sniper fire near the top. At 1500 the 3d Battalion reached the summit and found itself out of contact with the 2d. Even within the 3d Battalion lines a gap of 400 yards separated Companies K and L. The 3d Battalion reorganized and sent out patrols to contact neighboring units.
In its zone the 2d Battalion could not keep abreast of the 3d Marines, and before long lost contact with them. The battalion's advance on Mt. Barrigada tended to pull it to the right as the elements in the line drew together to keep in touch with each other. A tank patrol from Company A, 706th Tank Battalion, failed to reach the marines because of mines and Japanese machine guns.
About 1,000 yards to the right of the 307th, the 305th was involved in a series of isolated small actions in which the companies had to fight separately, without support on their flanks, because of the dense growth. The 1st Battalion of the 305th, with Company A leading, found its road out of Barrigada suddenly dwindling into a rough trail. The scouts and leading squad of the company were well into a clearing when Japanese in ambush positions along the trail opened fire on them from the right rear. A wild skirmish followed. So confused was the fighting that Capt. Arthur G. Curtin, company commander, mistook grenades exploding among his men as their own. "Get those grenades up in there if you're going to throw them,"
he shouted. As they tried to organize resistance, Captain Curtin and 1st Lt. John F. Scullen, 3d Platoon leader, were wounded.
To wipe out the ambush required close-in action. S/Sgt. John Kane, running through the brush, fell into a hole, already sheltering two enemy soldiers. "Bring me a bayonet," he yelled. One of the Japanese tried to grab his leg; Kane kicked him in the face, jumped out of the hole, and opened up with his BAR. As he fired, one of the Japanese exploded a grenade, which killed both of the enemy in the fox hole. S/Sgt. Benjamin J. Szafasz found another Japanese dug in under a clump of brush. Szafasz threw a white phosphorous grenade into the clump; the enemy soldier, crying "Me no wanna die!" threw it out before it went off. "Come on out then," Szafasz shouted back. But a hand grenade exploded in the hole; the Japanese had decided to finish himself off.
Company A lost several men killed and wounded in this skirmish. Colonel Landrum, 1st Battalion commander, ordered Company A to lead the battalion 300 yards forward; he did not want the men to feet that they had to stop when they had a few casualties. Then he passed B through A to take the lead next day. The 1st Battalion tied in for the night with the 2d Battalion.
Owing to the difficult movement through the jungle on its left and to small-scale actions on its right, the 77th Division had gained only one mile on 3 August. Next day Division exerted more Dressure on its lower units to advance as fast as possible toward the Yigo area, and at the same time to maintain contact with one another. The 77th in turn was under pressure from General Geiger, who early in the afternoon of 4 August notified General Bruce he regretted that it would be necessary to hold up the advance of the 3d Marine Division until the 77th lines were better organized and the gap between the divisions closed. The marines had been moving forward steadily, meeting light and scattered resistance.
With the going no easier on the 4th, the 77th pushed forward on the last mile toward its objectives. The 307th secured Mt. Barrigada and gained contact with the 3d Marines, although under unfortunate circumstances. A section of tanks with infantry following set out to reach the marines, in the second attempt made during the day. The tanks overcame two enemy road blocks, and when they were approaching a third block, they were quick to put 75-mm and machinegun fire on it. Instead of throwing a colored grenade, a signal used
by the corps for friendly identification, a man came running up the trail into the teeth of the fire, waving his hands. He established that the road block was a marine position, but before he did so; five marines had been wounded.
Meanwhile, on the right wing, the 305th's progress was still slow because of the narrow and indistinct trails. The 1st Battalion, leading the advance, was parallel with the southern slopes of Mt. Barrigada when Company B, at the front of the column, took the wrong trail. While B retraced its steps, Colonel Landrum had Company C take the lead. Medium tanks, at the head of C's column, beat down the brush on each side of the trail and reconnoitered occasional clearings. The infantrymen followed close behind.
At 1300, when the advance elements halted at a bend in the trail, Colonel Landrum went ahead to find out why they had stopped. He overtook Capt. Frank E. Barron, Jr., commander of Company C, in the middle of the bend. just behind him, the troops and tanks were crowding up, trying to funnel through the heavy growth. Colonel Landrum sat down by a coconut tree, looked around, and suddenly realized that he himself was the point. There were no scouts out. just then a member of the company 40 feet behind the colonel spotted a Japanese soldier lying in the woods and shot him.
Colonel Landrum stood up, scanned the jungle, and said to Captain Barron, "This looks like an ambush."
As he spoke, he saw an enemy soldier lying on the ground in a clearing a short distance away. Before the Japanese could raise his rifle, Colonel Landrum shot him.
"This is an ambush," the colonel exclaimed as he moved back and ordered Captain Barron to take cover.
The men were already hitting the ground as fire came in from the jungle on both sides of the track. From the woods at the bend, where they commanded the route, the Japanese opened up with automatic fire. Company C formed a rough skirmish line along the trail and tried to return fire. Some of the Japanese were less than ten feet away, but the troops found it almost impossible to locate them. Grenades rained into C's line.
Farther down the trail other elements of Company C quickly deployed. Part of the infantrymen set up mortars in the woods, while the rest started out to envelop the ambush. With tanks clearing a way through the brush, they circled through the woods on the left and closed in on the enemy from the rear. The Japanese, who had no defense against such an attack, gave up. After the skirmish the troops looked over the ambush area and found that the Japanese had left behind at the bend a heavy and light machine gun and an ample store of supplies. Apparently they were not expecting combat so early, for their positions were not well dug in and they had been caught preparing their noon meal.
The ambush cost Company C four men killed and nine wounded, most of them from automatic fire. Captain Barron and one of the platoon leaders were wounded.
The 1st Battalion continued its advance late in the afternoon and made contact with the 2d Battalion, a short distance ahead. Company G had also suffered casualties during the day in skirmishes with the enemy along the trail. It was after 1800 when the battalions set up their defensive perimeters for the night.
The 4th of August marked the end of the phase from the 0-2 to the O-3 line. The 77th Division had moved abreast of the 3d Marine Division, which the day before had passed through Finegayan and beyond the Tumon Bay area and was waiting for support on its right flank. At the O-3 line the 77th prepared for further movement toward the Japanese main defenses at Yigo.
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