US Marines assault the beaches of Guam

First flag on Guam on boat hook mast. Two U.S. officers plant the American flag on Guam  eight minutes after U.S. Marines and Army assault troops landed.

First flag on Guam on boat hook mast. Two U.S. officers plant the American flag on Guam
eight minutes after U.S. Marines and Army assault troops landed.

Close after a terrific naval bombardment that smashed Jap shore positions, Marine and Coast Guardsmen hit the beaches of Guam.

Close after a terrific naval bombardment that smashed Jap shore positions, Marine and Coast Guardsmen hit the beaches of Guam.

US forces in the Pacific pushed on to the next island. The original plan had been to invade Guam just a few days after the invasion of Saipan but the Japanese resistance delayed operations by a month. In anticipation of similar resistance on Guam it was battered by bombing and naval gunfire for over six days.

Alvin M Josephy was a U.S. Marine Sergeant and War Correspondent. As such he had a unique view of the war in the Pacific, serving alongside the men of the 3rd Marine Division but not fighting himself. He was in the third wave that assaulted Guam on the 21st July but that did not make his situation any less dangerous, it may well have been more dangerous to arrive later. Josephy has a vivid account of the ride into the beach, during which he made a sound recording of their progress [see comments below]. After their landing craft hit the reef they had to wade ashore, then sheltered behind half-tracks on the waterline:

“Get the hell away from the halftracks. They’ll be hit. They’ll blow up! ” We had to end our recording. Wheaton snapped off the machine and jumped out of the vehicle; We huddled behind it, the water lapping our feet.

All around us, men knelt and lay, most of them bleeding. One, who was hysterical, was being held by a corpsman, while with his free hand the corpsman tried to press a battle dressing against the forehead of a man who lay mostly under the halftrack.

Two other Marines with bloody dungarees watched him, their eyes wide and staring. Another man ran into our group, stumbled over one of the wounded Marines, and shouted at no one in particular: “Jug’s killed! Jug’s killed!” He looked at us wildly. “The Major says to get out of here. The halftrack’s drawing mortars. Get up to the coconuts!” Then he turned and bolted back up the sand.

We helped the corpsman for a moment. Then he dropped the compress on the man half lying under the halftrack. “He’s dead,” he said calmly.

One of the Marines took the hysterical man and guided him away. They walked around the halftrack, moving as nonchalantly as if they were on a Sunday stroll, and disappeared from sight.

One by one we dashed up the beach. From the hills, from their hundreds of observation and firing positions, the Japs looked down on us and let us have it. They had recovered from the initial shock of the prelanding bombardment and had made up their minds that this was to be our main invasion.

Our first waves, which had landed without much opposition, had got halfway up the hills overlooking the beach. But the rest of us were in trouble. The Jap fire was increasing in intensity each minute. Enemy artillery and mortars were being brought from other parts of the island. They were being registered in. Machine guns, Nambus, and rifles were crack- ing at us from all the hills.

We could hear the crashing of mortar shells closer and closer. We could see the black fountains going up on the beach, in the water, and among the coconut trees, and could hear the whistle of bullets flying past our heads. We didn’t want to leave what seemed to be the shelter of the halftrack’s steel body for the dash across the open. But the big vehicles were targets; one might be hit any moment.

Stumbling and sliding through the sand, we ran across the open, a distance of about fifteen yards. It seemed like a hun- dred. We fell scared and out of breath behind a sand dune and lay on our stomachs panting. Why were we still alive?— No time to think about it. The only thing was to stay alive. Save yourself. Don’t raise up. Don’t move. It was like Tarawa. Men crowded on the sand. When would it end? How would We get out of it?

We wondered suddenly Whether this was any different from what men had undergone during every other amphibious landing in this war. We had sat at home comfortably and read about them – stories under a one-column head, impersonal stuff written at a rear base about our side: landing somewhere, moderate opposition, light casualties, progress made…

There was a terrific crash. Then another, like a house falling down. Sand and coral rained through the air like ashes. A moaning started, high, like a baby whimpering. The odor of blood and cordite filled our nostrils.

A man slid past us, almost crying. His foot was a pulpy mass. “Where’s a corpsman?” he sobbed. “Where’s a god-damned corpsman?”

Somebody motioned back to the water. “Down there, Joe.” The man with the injured foot paused and wiped his nose, then dragged on. “Gotta get a corpsman,” he cried. “Gotta get a corpsman. There’s boys dying back there.”

We knew that at home somebody would soon be getting the news and saying to somebody else: “I see we landed on another little island.”

See Alvin M Josephy: The long and the short and the tall;: The story of a Marine combat unit in the Pacific,

Coast Guard-manned landing barges strike at the beaches near Guam.

Coast Guard-manned landing barges strike at the beaches near Guam.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Editor July 21, 2014 at 10:33 pm

CK, many thanks.

CK July 21, 2014 at 9:42 pm

You can hear a portion of the audio recording over here:
http://www.guampdn.com/VideoNetwork/667295350001/Audio-recording-of-Liberation-landing

They cut off just before the narration above begins, but you can hear him describe the scene before him as they head inshore, you can hear the gunfire, and at one point he describes incoming machine gun fire until he realizes that … “[wow/boy], it’s coming straight at us now…”.

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