Flooded Walcheren – reconnaissance by Buffalo

On the way back we ran into difficulties at about 1750 hours when the Buffalo, manoeuvring to avoid ‘Rommel asparagus’, got one of its tracks jammed on a concrete bridge that was totally submerged and unseen under the grubby flood water. A motor-cycle was jettisoned along with other heavy ‘non-essentials’ but this did not help to dislodge and re-float the Buffalo and we remained stuck on the bridge. The Dutch Resistance had contacted our patrol when it first entered Kouderkirke and now they came to our assistance, rowing out to rescue both the Brigade L.O. and myself.

An aerial view of the breached dykes and flooding on the island of Walcheren.
An aerial view of the breached dykes and flooding on the island of Walcheren.
LVT Buffalo amphibians during the invasion of Walcheren Island, 1 November 1944.
LVT Buffalo amphibians during the invasion of Walcheren Island, 1 November 1944.

Walcheren island lies to the north of the Scheldt Estuary guarding the approaches to the port of Antwerp. In October 1944 Antwerp had been liberated but remained unusable as Germans continued to occupy Walcheren. During opening moves in the operation to capture it the RAF had bombed the dykes surrounding the island, causing the greater part of it to flood.

The port of Flushing had been captured in a surprise attack on the 1st November. Now attempts were made to advance on the principal town, Middelburg, and overcome the main German resistance.

The British advance was now greatly assisted by the use of amphibious craft – Alligators, Buffalos and Weasels. Joe Brown was an intelligence officer with the Royal Scots involved in the initial advance:

On the evening of November 4, our newly-appointed C.O. (he was previously Second-in-Command of the Battalion), was ordered by the Brigade Commander to stand-by to lead a white-flag party to negotiate the surrender of the German garrison in Middelburg.

The next morning I went with him to join the Brigadier to observe 4 KOSB advancing up both banks of the canal towards Middelburg, the capital of Walcheren. Although the approaches to Middelburg were being shelled, the advance was extremely difficult with a large number of concrete positions to be overcome.

The Brigadier thought the possibility of heavy casualties could be avoided and decided to send a patrol consisting of the Brigade Liaison Officer with myself and the Reconnaissance Officer of “A” Squadron 11th Royal Tank Regiment (which provided the Buffaloes: amphibious tracked vehicles) to reconnoitre a route to the west towards the main road leading in to the north of Middelburg and determine whether it was possible for a battalion transported in Buffaloes to get into a position to attack Middelburg from the north.

We set off in a Buffalo at about 1445 hours, and it became quickly evident that the difficulties that would face the patrol were the heavy level of flood water surrounding the approaches to Middelburg as well as the extensive minefields and numerous anti-landing devices.

These devices consisted of wooden stakes with explosive charges placed above the flood-level and were interconnected by wires and named by the Dutch Resistance as ‘Rommel asparagus’ after Field-Marshal Rommel who had ordered them to be erected. Initially the progress was slow but we reached Kouderkerke, some four kilometres south-west of Middelburg, without encountering enemy resistance.

After taking time to explore the approaches to the north of Middelburg, the failing light made us decide to return and report to the Brigade Commander that it would be possible in daylight for an infantry force in Buffalos to follow our route and with careful navigation through the various hazards to reach the outskirts of Middelburg and be in a position to attack.

On the way back we ran into difficulties at about 1750 hours when the Buffalo, manoeuvring to avoid ‘Rommel asparagus’, got one of its tracks jammed on a concrete bridge that was totally submerged and unseen under the grubby flood water. A motor-cycle was jettisoned along with other heavy ‘non-essentials’ but this did not help to dislodge and re-float the Buffalo and we remained stuck on the bridge.

The Dutch Resistance had contacted our patrol when it first entered Kouderkirke and now they came to our assistance, rowing out to rescue both the Brigade L.O. and myself. We explained to the Resistance that we needed to get back to Flushing as quickly as possible and although they readily agreed to guide us, they advised we would have to wait for first light to avoid the heavy tidal surge of flood water returning to the sea through the breached sea wall as the nearest crossing point back to Flushing was very close to the gap.

We sheltered in different houses and I shall always remember the kind and warm welcome extended to me. After receiving hospitality I was shown to a bedroom at the top of the house and experienced a few hours rest in the luxury of white sheets!

Two Resistance men called for us in the last hours of the night’s darkness and we set off to begin our wade through the flood water on what proved to be a most hazardous journey.

They had made the crossing before and knew how to attempt it, directing our efforts in handling and positioning large lengths of wood which enabled us to reach an area of submerged ground that the four of us could just about manage to stand and at that stage we were half-way across the gap.

We stood there for a moment to draw breath, clutching one another to keep balance as the tidal waters swept past us; if we had slipped we would surely have been swept into the Scheldt Estuary! With anxiety we viewed the distance still to be crossed but under the leadership and skill of our two friends of the Dutch Resistance and deft use of those valuable logs – we made it!

The men had not yet contacted the Germans but the reconnaissance had proved invaluable in opening up a route by which they could attack the next day. The German commanders in Middelburg were taken by surprise by their swift advance and the British were able to persuade them to surrender. It was only then that the Germans learned how small the attacking force actually was:

Our force of eleven Buffaloes moved into the main square of Middelburg and orders given to the German officers to bring their men into the square and pile their armaments. We had taken 2,000 prisoners with a force of 140 men and as the Germans began to realise this there was signs of unrest. However, this was kept subdued during the hours of darkness by a vigilant ‘A’ Company 7th/9th RS and having positioned well-sited machine-guns of the 7th Manchester Regiment in the four corners of the square.

Just a small part of the Second World War Memoirs of JOE BROWN, which has interesting sections explaining in some detail the work of both Signals and Intelligence officers, as well as his general memoirs of the war. The Daily Mail carried an amusing account of the capture of Middelburg on 7th November, which was reproduced in War Illustrated.

At the time it was common for the British to equate Holland with the Netherlands, as per the original captions to these images, but see comments below.

Low-level vertical aerial photograph taken shortly after the daylight attack on the sea-wall of Walcheren Island, Holland, showing a breach in the wall at the most westerly tip of the island, caused by the extremely accurate bombing, being widened by the incoming high tide and inundating the village of Westkapelle (top right).
Low-level vertical aerial photograph taken shortly after the daylight attack on the sea-wall of Walcheren Island, Holland, showing a breach in the wall at the most westerly tip of the island, caused by the extremely accurate bombing, being widened by the incoming high tide and inundating the village of Westkapelle (top right).
An RAF Humber light reconnaissance car in Middelburg, Holland, November 1944.
An RAF Humber light reconnaissance car in Middelburg, Holland, November 1944.

The US supply line stretches across the Pacific

The war goes well on all fronts. Advances in Holland reported. Aachen has fallen after a week of street fighting, and other minor gains in France. In Italy continued small gains toward Bologna. Russians are fighting in Belgrade. Greece is close to completely liberated. The Russians are beginning to pierce Prussia and advancing south from Riga. The net tightens, it will strangle Germany soon.

The East Caves area where the 162D Infantry first encountered the Japanese on Biak. This Japanese counterattack started about 1000 hours on 28 May 1944.
The East Caves area where the 162D Infantry first encountered the Japanese on Biak. This Japanese counterattack started about 1000 hours on 28 May 1944.

Behind the combat units were millions more men engaged in the unglamorous and not necessarily safer business of feeding the supply lines to the front. The Pacific generally had a smaller proportion of such supply troops than other theatres and those employed here worked long hours.

Sy Kahn was with the 244th Port Company, 495th Port Battalion of the Army Transportation Corps. At the time they were based on Biak island, north of New Guinea, loading shells, and other supplies including vehicles, onto ships bound for the Philippines. For someone who was in the middle of the Pacific he was remarkably well informed about the progress of the war.

Biak – described as “a shitty little malaria and typhus infested atoll”, had been invaded in May and Japanese resistance had finally been overcome in August. The Japanese had fought to the death. U.S. casualties had been 474 dead, Japanese confirmed dead 6,100, with a further 4000 unaccounted for.

Kahn had been overseas for over a year and this was the first time that he had encountered black troops. His diary, as usual, recorded everything:

October 22

The war goes well on all fronts. Advances in Holland reported. Aachen has fallen after a week of street fighting, and other minor gains in France. In Italy continued small gains toward Bologna. Russians are fighting in Belgrade. Greece is close to completely liberated. The Russians are beginning to pierce Prussia and advancing south from Riga. The net tightens, it will strangle Germany soon.

Our landing in the Philippines [on Leyte] met little initial opposition and proceeds well. Here, we continue to load ships destined for there. MacArthur has “returned,” and it is 6th Army troops that are in the show. The 41st will occupy, I imagine, when they finish taking it.

As MacArthur said, from Milne Bay, the start of the push against Japan, we have come 2,500 miles in 16 months. Another year, a year and a half on the outside, to finish these Japs. More troops landed on D-day in the Philippines than in France on their D-day. Seven divisions it’s said.

This landing in Leyte right smack in the middle of the Philippines is of great strategical importance because it splits the defending forces on the islands in two and neutralizes, to a great extent, the Jap bases to the south in Borneo, Java, Celebes, Ceram, etc. There are 1/2-million ]aps behind our lines. A funny thing, modern war.

Only in China does the situation look bad. China has already lost much ground and four airbases. The Japs still push forward, and the Chinese are unable to hold. The Jap advance there is more or less a countermove to our advances in the S.W.P. How effective it will be, time will tell. The Jap navy, time and again, has avoided a showdown fight. They will be smashed when they do stand and fight.

At work I have been handling Negro gangs. They are really funny sometimes, and I like to work with them, and sometimes prefer it. The other day one fellow said to me after a hard first hour, “I don’t mind working with you, but you moves too fast” — and later — “When I carry this hook, I needs two men to hold me up.”

They have a great sense of humor and are most always bright-spirited. They are combat troops out of the 93rd who have been converted to service troops. They have colored officers, one of whom I saw today. Norm told me about him, a grad of a Midwestern school, studying for a M.A. in music when called into the army. He drives the men under him hard.

Today “stringing them up” on the dock, I told one colored fellow to be careful that a cable caught right in lifting an eight-ton truck, while he stood between truck and ship. “If she comes your way,” I said, “jump into the water.”

“But,” he said, serious and wide-eyed, “I can’t swim!”

See Sy M. Kahn: Between Tedium and Terror: A Soldier’s World War II Diary, 1943-45

Canines of the QM War Dog Platoon were used on Biak Island, off the coast of New Guinea, to track down Japanese hidden in caves and jungle fastness.
Canines of the QM War Dog Platoon were used on Biak Island, off the coast of New Guinea, to track down Japanese hidden in caves and jungle fastness.

General MacArthur “I have returned” to the Philippines

People of the Philippines: I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God our forces stand again on Philippine soil – soil consecrated in the blood of our two peoples. We have come, dedicated and committed to the task of destroying every vestige of enemy control over your daily lives, and of restoring, upon a foundation of indestructible strength, the liberties of your people.

Landing barges loaded with troops sweep toward the beaches of Leyte Island as American and Jap planes duel to the death overhead. Troops watch the drama being written in the skies as they approach the hellfire on the shore. October 1944
Landing barges loaded with troops sweep toward the beaches of Leyte Island as American and Jap planes duel to the death overhead. Troops watch the drama being written in the skies as they approach the hellfire on the shore. October 1944
American troops of Troop E, 7th Cavalry Regiment, advance towards San Jose on Leyte Island, Philippine Islands. 20 October 1944.
American troops of Troop E, 7th Cavalry Regiment, advance towards San Jose on Leyte Island, Philippine Islands. 20 October 1944.

In March 1942 the Unites States forces on the Philippines had fought a bloody but unsuccessful action against the Japanese invasion. Famously when General MacArthur had then been compelled to evacuate the islands he had declared that “I will return”. Now that US forces were again landing on the Philippines he was not going to let the occasion go without publicity.

General Valdes accompanied General MacArthur and Philippine President Osmeña onto the landing beaches:

Entered Leyte Gulf at midnight. Reached our anchorage at 7 a.m. The battleships, cruisers, and destroyers opened fire on the beaches and finished the work begun two days before ‘A Day’ by other U.S Navy units. The boys in my ship where ready at 9:45 a.m. At 10 a.m. sharp they went down the rope on the side of the ship. Their objective was Palo.

At 1 p.m. General MacArthur and members of his staff, President Osmeña, myself, General Romulo, and Captain Madrigal left the ship and proceeded on an L.C.M for Red beach. The beach was not good, the landing craft could not make the dry beach and we had to wade through the water beyond our knees.

We inspected the area, and at two instances shots were fired by Japanese snipers. General MacArthur and President Osmeña spoke in a broadcast to the U.S. We returned to the ship at 6 p.m. under a torrential rain. We transferred to the Auxiliary cruiser Blue Ridge flagship of Admiral Barbey, as the SS John Land was leaving for Hollandia

.
For more accounts see the Philippines Diary Project

MacArthur was now able to declare “I Have Returned”. In a speech, delivered via radio message from a portable radio set at Leyte, on October 20, 1944 he sent this message:

This is the Voice of Freedom,
General MacArthur speaking.

People of the Philippines: I have returned.

By the grace of Almighty God our forces stand again on Philippine soil – soil consecrated in the blood of our two peoples. We have come, dedicated and committed to the task of destroying every vestige of enemy control over your daily lives, and of restoring, upon a foundation of indestructible strength, the liberties of your people.

At my side is your President, Sergio Osmena, worthy successor of that great patriot, Manuel Quezon, with members of his cabinet. The seat of your government is now therefore firmly re-established on Philippine soil.

The hour of your redemption is here. Your patriots have demonstrated an unswerving and resolute devotion to the principles of freedom that challenges the best that is written on the pages of human history.

I now call upon your supreme effort that the enemy may know from the temper of an aroused and outraged people within that he has a force there to contend with no less violent than is the force committed from without.

Rally to me. Let the indomitable spirit of Bataan and Corregidor lead on. As the lines of battle roll forward to bring you within the zone of operations, rise and strike!

For future generations of your sons and daughters, strike! In the name of your sacred dead, strike!

Let no heart be faint. Let every arm be steeled. The guidance of Divine God points the way. Follow in His name to the Holy Grail of righteous victory!

The famous image of General Douglas MacArthur making his return to the Philippines.
The famous image of General Douglas MacArthur making his return to the Philippines.

Peleliu – the Marines are still mopping up snipers

He was just peeking around the turret when a single shot hit him in the side and knocked him down. He rolled off the tank into the road, and the call went out for a corpsman. While we watched, Hillbilly picked himself up, bleeding from the side, and pulled himself back onto the tank. Then he stood up. The next shot caught him in the chest and knocked him flat again. This time he didn’t move.

LET ‘EM HAVE IT – Crouched behind a coral wall, Marines of the First Division fire on Japanese snipers barricaded in this building on Peleliu Island in the Palau group.
LET ‘EM HAVE IT – Crouched behind a coral wall, Marines of the First Division fire on Japanese snipers barricaded in this building on Peleliu Island in the Palau group.

Almost a month after the invasion of Peleliu in what was supposed to be a four day operation, the island had still not been secured. The Japanese had changed their tactics. They were still determined to fight to the death but now they sought to make that process as costly as possible.

In previous campaigns they had engaged in ‘Banzai’ charges, suicidal mass attacks that were usually wiped out quite quickly, even if they caused some casualties. Now as individuals and in small groups, they dug themselves into caves all over Peleliu, hiding behind the US advance, only to emerge later to cause as many problems as possible. It was still a suicidal endeavour but it disrupted the US advance and long extended the period of their resistance.

R.V. Burgin with the Third Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment, First Marine Division. They had had a few days out of the line:

On October 10, K Company was pulled out of reserves and sent to clean out a nest of snipers who had been firing down on the west road. We were well behind the front lines, in territory that was supposed to be secure. But once again the Japs had hunkered down and waited.

A week before, at a spot along the road called Dead Man’s Curve, they had fired on an Army convoy and brought it to a stop. Everyone bailed out and ran for cover, ducking down behind trucks or diving behind rocks at the side of the road.

Colonel Joseph Hankins, commander of First Division’s Headquarters Company, had come along in his jeep to check on reports of snipers. When the convoy stopped, Colonel Hankins got out and walked forward to see what was holding things up. Just as everyone yelled at him to get down, he was hit in the chest. He died lying there in the roadway, the highest-ranking Marine killed on Peleliu.

We had a couple Army tanks along with us this time to provide cover. We were taking rifle and mortar fire from several places along a cliff, but we couldn’t see where it was coming from. Hillbilly Jones’s rifle squad was just up the road, and as the morning dragged on a couple of his men were hit, and one of them was killed.

Hillbilly decided to try to get a better view of the shooters from one of the tanks. I was about 150 feet away directing mortar fire and I didn’t see everything that happened. But after discussing the situation briefly with a staff officer from battalion headquarters, Hillbilly climbed onto the back of the tank and scrambled forward to slap the side of the turret to alert the gunner what he was up to.

He was just peeking around the turret when a single shot hit him in the side and knocked him down. He rolled off the tank into the road, and the call went out for a corpsman. While we watched, Hillbilly picked himself up, bleeding from the side, and pulled himself back onto the tank. Then he stood up. The next shot caught him in the chest and knocked him flat again. This time he didn’t move.

Word spread down the line – Hillbilly’s been hit. By the time I got to the tank, stretcher bearers had carried away the body.

All the memories came flooding back. Hillbilly carrying his guitar down to our tents on Pavuvu. Lazy days singing and cracking jokes on the deck of a troopship. Guard duty drinking grapefruit juice and alcohol, and afterward the hangover, on Banika.

For the rest of the day and into the next we blasted away with machine guns, mortars, and rifle fire at every crack or opening we could find along the west road. We took plenty of fire in return, until eventually it tapered off. Not once during that time did we see a single live Jap.

See R.V. Burgin: Islands of the Damned: A Marine at War in the Pacific

RUGGED TERRAIN – Picking their way through the rocky terrain on Peleliu, a column of Marines moves up to the front lines. This is the kind of territory on which Leathernecks are doggedly battling the remnants of the Japanese forces on the island.
RUGGED TERRAIN – Picking their way through the rocky terrain on Peleliu, a column of Marines moves up to the front lines. This is the kind of territory on which Leathernecks are doggedly battling the remnants of the Japanese forces on the island.

Nijmegen: the 82nd Airborne assault across the Waal


20 September 1944: Nijmegen: the 82nd Airborne assault across the Waal

Defenseless, frail, canvas boats jammed to overflowing with humanity, all striving desperately to get across the Waal as quickly as possible. Large numbers of men were being hit in all boats and the bottoms of these crafts were littered with the wounded and dead. Here and there on the surface of the water was a paddle dropped by some poor unfortunate before the man taking his place had been able to retrieve it from his lifeless fingers.

Dutch civilians ride on a jeep during the advance towards Nijmegen, 20 September 1944.
Dutch civilians ride on a jeep during the advance towards Nijmegen, 20 September 1944.
Cromwell tanks of Guard's Armoured Division drive along 'Hell's Highway' towards Nijmegen during Operation 'Market-Garden', 20 September 1944.
Cromwell tanks of Guard’s Armoured Division drive along ‘Hell’s Highway’ towards Nijmegen during Operation ‘Market-Garden’, 20 September 1944.
The bridge at Nijmegen after it had been captured by the 82nd (US) Airborne Division. A dead German SS officer lies where he fell during the attack.
The bridge at Nijmegen after it had been captured by the 82nd (US) Airborne Division. A dead German SS officer lies where he fell during the attack.

Operation Market Garden was a series of airborne attacks on a succession of bridges on the route into Germany. The US 82nd Airborne Division had dropped in Nijmegen and been engaged in a furious fight to secure the ground around the southern end of the bridge across the Waal. They had still not secured the northern end when a small force of British tanks arrived on the 20th September.

A plan was now developed to launch an amphibious assault across the Waal while the tanks rushed the bridge. British canvas boats were now brought up and the 3rd Battalion of the 504th Regiment prepared for the attack. They were unfamiliar with the boats and untrained in this type of attack. On the opposite bank the Germans were well dug in in established positions. Lt James Magellis describes the opening of the attack:

At 1500 on 20 September, Major Cook blew a whistle signaling the start of the assault. Shrill cries of “let’s go” followed as the paratroopers released pent-up emotions. We grabbed the boats by the gunwales, charged up the embankment, crossed the open, flat top of the dike, and made a mad dash for the river. The boats, loaded with our gear and weapons, were heavy, and the going was tough in the loose sand.

We caught the Germans by surprise. For the first hundred yards they hadn’t fired a shot, but when they realized what was happening, all hell broke loose. They opened up with everything they had: small arms, machine guns, 20mm flak wagons, mortars, and artillery.

Magellis includes a number of different accounts of the action that afternoon in his memoirs, amongst them one written by Captain Henry B. Keep:

As we frantically scurried for the river’s edge, chaos and confusion reigned. With shells exploding all around us, we kept charging forward. At that point we were all driven by instinct and running on adrenaline with but a single purpose: to get our boats in the water and across the river.

At last we reached the drop. We let the boat slide down to the beach and ourselves slid alongside of them. We pulled our boat quickly across a short beach and everyone piled in. By this time, the situation was horrible.

The automatic and flat trajectory fire had increased and the artillery was deadly. Men were falling right and left. In everyone’s ears was the constant roar of bursting artillery shells, the dull wham of a 20-mm, or the disconcerting ping of rifle bullets.

After a false start we got stuck in a mud bar and several of us were forced to get out and go through the extremely uncomfortable process of pushing off again. We found ourselves floating in the wrong direction. Everyone grabbed a paddle and frantically started to work. Most of the men had never paddled before and, had it not been for the gruesomness [sic] of the situation, the sight might have been rather ludicrous.

Every movement in excess of the essential paddling was extremely dangerous since the bullets were flying so thick and fast that they gave a reasonable facsimile of a steel curtain. By now the broad surface of the Waal was covered with our small canvas crafts and crammed with frantically paddling men.

Defenseless, frail, canvas boats jammed to overflowing with humanity, all striving desperately to get across the Waal as quickly as possible. Large numbers of men were being hit in all boats and the bottoms of these crafts were littered with the wounded and dead. Here and there on the surface of the water was a paddle dropped by some poor unfortunate before the man taking his place had been able to retrieve it from his lifeless fingers.

Somehow or other we were three-quarters of the way across. Everyone was yelling to keep it up, but there was very little strength left in anyone. But at last we reached the other side.

We climbed over the wounded and dead in the bottom of the boat and up to our knees in water waded to shore where behind a small embankment we flopped down gasping for breath, safe for the moment from the incessant firing.

All along the beach what was left of our flimsy boats were reaching shore. Men more dead than alive were stumbling up the beach to get momentary protection behind the unexpected but welcome embankment before pushing across the broad flat plain in front of us.

See James Megellas: All the Way to Berlin: A Paratrooper at War in Europe.

Nijmegen and Grave 17 - 20 September 1944: A large group of German soldiers who have been taken prisoner in Nijmegen and the surrounding area by American paratroopers of the 82nd (US) Airborne Division.
Nijmegen and Grave 17 – 20 September 1944: A large group of German soldiers who have been taken prisoner in Nijmegen and the surrounding area by American paratroopers of the 82nd (US) Airborne Division.

The battle was very far from over, the 3rd Battalion was to fight an intense action before the bridge was finally secured at 1700. Meanwhile the 2nd Battalion was still battling it out in Nijmegan itself, as Germans now sought to retreat across the bridge they fell into the hand sod the 3rd Battalion.

The small force of British tanks were now ten miles away from Arnhem. Controversially they did not press on but waited to regroup before renewing the attack.

Meanwhile the isolated British Parachute Regiment were still battling it out in Arnhem:

Lance Sergeant John Baskeyfield VC
Lance Sergeant John Baskeyfield VC

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the VICTORIA CROSS to: –

No. 5057916 Lance-Sergeant John Daniel Baskeyfield, The South Staffordshire- Regiment (1st Airborne Division) (Stoke-on-Trent).

On 20th September, 1944, during the battle of Arnhem, Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield was the N.C.O. in charge of a 6-pounder anti-tank gun at Oosterbeek. The enemy developed a major attack on this sector with infantry, tanks and self-propelled guns with the obvious intent to break into and overrun the Battalion position. During the early stage of the action the crew commanded by this N.C.O. was responsible for the destruction of two Tiger tanks and at least one self propelled gun, thanks to the coolness and daring of this N.C.O., who, with complete disregard for his own safety, allowed each tank to come well within 100 yards of his gun before opening fire.

In the course of this preliminary engagement Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield was badly wounded in the leg and the remainder of his crew were either killed or badly wounded. During the brief respite after this engagement Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield refused to be carried to the Regimental Aid Post and spent his time attending to his gun and shouting encouragement to his comrades in neighbouring trenches.

After a short interval the enemy renewed the attack with even greater ferocity than before, under cover of intense mortar and shell fire. Manning his gun quite alone Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield continued to fire round after round at the enemy until his gun was put out of action. By this time his activity was the main factor in keeping the enemy tanks at bay. The fact that the surviving men in his vicinity were held together and kept in action was undoubtedly due to his magnificent example and outstanding courage. Time after time enemy attacks were launched and driven off.

Finally, when his gun was knocked out, Lance Sergeant Baskeyfield crawled under intense enemy fire to another 6-pounder gun nearby, the crew of which had been killed, and proceeded to man it single-handed. With this gun he engaged an enemy self propelled gun which was appoaching to attack. Another soldier crawled across the open ground to assist him but was killed almost at once. Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield succeeded in firing two rounds at the self propelled gun, scoring one direct hit which rendered it ineffective. Whilst preparing to fire a third shot, however, he was killed by a shell from a supporting enemy tank.

The superb gallantry of this N.C.O. is beyond praise. During the remaining days at Arnhem stories of his valour were a constant inspiration to all ranks. He spurned danger, ignored pain and, by his supreme fighting spirit, infected all who witnessed his conduct with the same aggressiveness and dogged devotion to duty which characterised his actions throughout.

Nijmegen and Grave 17 - 20 September 1944: British engineers removing the charge which the Germans had set in readiness to blow the Nijmegen bridge.
Nijmegen and Grave 17 – 20 September 1944: British engineers removing the charge which the Germans had set in readiness to blow the Nijmegen bridge.
A panoramic view of the city of Nijmegen, Holland, and the Nijmegen Bridge over the Waal (Rhine) River in the background.  The city was hit by German and Allied bombardment and shelling.  September 28, 1944.
A panoramic view of the city of Nijmegen, Holland, and the Nijmegen Bridge over the Waal (Rhine) River in the background. The city was hit by German and Allied bombardment and shelling. September 28, 1944.

Peleliu: US Marines attack towards Bloody Nose Ridge


16 September 1944: Peleliu: US Marines attack towards Bloody Nose Ridge

For me the attack resembled World War I movies, I had seen of suicidal Allied infantry attacks through shell fire on the Westem Front. I clenched my teeth, squeezed my carbine stock, and recited over and over to myself, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me…”

September 1944 – Shot of the Marines going across the beach and airport on the initial landing.
September 1944 – Shot of the Marines going across the beach and airport on the initial landing.

It was already apparent that the landings on Peleliu were not going to be over within the four days originally anticipated. Despite the blasting that the entire island had received prior to the landings on the 15th most of the Japanese defenders had survived in their bunkers.

Eugene B. Sledge, with the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines 1st Marine Division, was keeping notes of his experiences in his New Testament Bible. He was later to develop it into one of the classic memoirs of the war. After being selected for officer training he and many others had deliberately ‘flunked out’ so that they didn’t ‘miss the war’. So it was that he found himself as a Private in the middle of one of the bloodiest operations in the Pacific.

After a sleepless night under shellfire they were all desperately thirsty, but men fell ill after drinking from a well. When water reached them in old oil drums it proved contaminated with rust and oil. That day it would reach 105 in the shade and, as Sledge points out, they were not in the shade. Their job was to attack across the airfield:

“Let’s go,” shouted an officer who waved toward the airfield. We moved at a walk, then a trot, in widely dispersed waves. Four infantry battalions — from left to right 2/1, 1/5, 2/5, and 3/5 (this put us on the edge of the airfield) – moved across the open, fire-swept airfield.

My only concern then was my duty and survival, not panoramic combat scenes. But I often wondered later what that attack looked like to aerial observers and to those not immersed in the firestorm. All I was aware of were the small area immediately around me and the deafening noise.

Bloody Nose Ridge dominated the entire airfield. The Japanese had concentrated their heavy weapons on high ground; these were directed from observation posts at elevations as high as three hundred feet, from which they could look down on us as we advanced. I could see men moving ahead of my squad, but I didn’t know whether our battalion, 3/5, was moving across behind 2/5 and then wheeling to the right. There were also men about twenty yards to our rear.

We moved rapidly in the open, amid craters and coral rubble, through ever-increasing enemy fire. I saw men to my right and left running bent as low as possible. The shells screeched and whistled, exploding all around us.

In many respects it was more terrifying than the landing, because there were no vehicles to carry us along, not even the thin steel sides of an amtrac for protection. We were exposed, running on our own power through a veritable shower of deadly metal and the constant crash of explosions.

For me the attack resembled World War I movies, I had seen of suicidal Allied infantry attacks through shell fire on the Westem Front. I clenched my teeth, squeezed my carbine stock, and recited over and over to myself, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me…”

The sun bore down unmercifully, and the heat was exhausting. Smoke and dust from the barrage limited my vision. The ground seemed to sway back and forth under the concussions. I felt as though I were floating along in the vortex of some unreal thunderstorm. Japanese bullets snapped and cracked, and tracers went by me on both sides at waist height. This deadly small-arms fire seemed almost insignificant amid the erupting shells.

Explosions and the hum and the growl of shell fragments shredded the air. Chunks of blasted coral stung my face and hands while steel fragments spattered down on the hard rock like hail on a city street. Everywhere shells flashed like giant firecrackers.

Through the haze I saw Marines stumble and pitch forward as they got hit. I then looked neither right nor left but just straight to my front. The farther we went, the worse it got. The noise and concussion pressed in on my ears like a vise. I gritted my teeth and braced myself in anticipation of the shock of being struck down at any moment.

It seemed impossible that any of us could make it across. We passed several craters that offered shelter, but I remembered the order to keep moving. Because of the superb discipline and excellent esprit of the Marines, it had never occurred to us that the attack might fail.

How far we had come in the open I never knew, but it must have been several hundred yards. Everyone was visibly shaken by the thunderous barrage we had just come through. When I looked into the eyes of those fine Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester veterans, some of America’s best, I no longer felt ashamed of my trembling hands and almost laughed at myself with relief.

To be shelled by massed artillery and mortars is absolutely terrifying, but to be shelled in the open is terror compounded beyond the belief of anyone who hasn’t experienced it. The attack across Peleliu’s airfield was the worst combat experience I had during the entire war. It surpassed, by the intensity of the blast and shock of the bursting shells, all the subsequent horrifying ordeals on Peleliu and Okinawa.

See E. B. Sledge: With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa

A wounded Marine, while he waits for the stretcher bearers to come for him, is given a drink of water from the canteen of a buddy while the Marines fight the enemy in rough country on Peleliu Island.
A wounded Marine, while he waits for the stretcher bearers to come for him, is given a drink of water from the canteen of a buddy while the Marines fight the enemy in rough country on Peleliu Island.

See also Peleliu 1944 a website developed by William Eagar in tribute to his Uncle, PFC JOE SOUTH, which contains not only personal memories but a selection of original battle reports as well as artwork and other material.

"2000 YARD STARE" "
“2000 YARD STARE”
“Down from Bloody Ridge Too Late. He’s Finished – Washed Up – Gone”
“As we passed sick bay, still in the shell hole, it was crowded with wounded, and somehow hushed in the evening light. I noticed a tattered Marine standing quietly by a corpsman, staring stiffly at nothing. His mind had crumbled in battle, his jaw hung, and his eyes were like two black empty holes in his head. Down by the beach again, we walked silently as we passed the long line of dead Marines under the tarpaulins.

One of the original Tom Lea pictures that Life magazine commissioned that reflects the reality of Peleliu, as featured on Peleliu 1944.

The US Marines hit the beach at Peleliu


15 September 1944: The US Marines hit the beach at Peleliu

It was almost a glorious feeling, roaring in toward he beach with fear gone for the moment. We were in motion with thousands of tons of armed might at our backs; and it seemed that nothing could stop us. We were an old and tried outfit, led by men like Buck and the squad leader, who would know what to do when the time came to do it. As we rolled in on Peleliu, and before we were hit, the excitement took us and we were not afraid of anything. Some men began to chant: “Drive! Drivel!Drive!”

PELELIU PRELUDE – A massive wall rises from the water of Peleliu as 8.000 lbs. of tetrytol explode to mark the successful conclusion of a UDT mission and the prelude to assault.  The following day our forces swept ashore through the channels cleared by the underwater demolition men and opened the grim battle for the Palaus.
PELELIU PRELUDE – A massive wall rises from the water of Peleliu as 8.000 lbs. of tetrytol explode to mark the successful conclusion of a UDT mission and the prelude to assault. The following day our forces swept ashore through the channels cleared by the underwater demolition men and opened the grim battle for the Palaus.
The first wave of LVTs moves toward the invasion beaches, passing through the inshore bombardment line of LCI gunboats. Cruisers and battleships are bombarding from the distance. The landing area is almost totally hidden in dust and smoke. Photographed from a USS Honolulu (CL-48) plane. Date	September 15, 1944.
The first wave of LVTs moves toward the invasion beaches, passing through the inshore bombardment line of LCI gunboats. Cruisers and battleships are bombarding from the distance. The landing area is almost totally hidden in dust and smoke. Photographed from a USS Honolulu (CL-48) plane.
Date September 15, 1944.

The steady progress of the US forces across the Pacific towards Japan continued. One more island needed to be taken to protect the flank of attacks on the Philippines. The Palau islands would also provide another airfield in the region.

The 11,000 Japanese troops on Peleliu had been busy. Japanese military strategists now favoured developing a defence in depth as they realised they would now be on the defensive. A network of concealed bunkers had been built across the island. Overlooking the beaches a series of bunkers protected with steel shutters hid 20mm guns.

The three day preliminary bombardment by US Navy ships offshore and aircraft hit the 6 square mile island with 519 rounds of 16 inch (410 mm) shells, 1,845 rounds of 14 inch (360 mm) shells, and 1,793 500 lb (230 kg) bombs. The US Navy believed they had run out of targets. On 15th September the 1st Marine Division went in for what was expected to be a four day operation.

Russell Davis was a Marine in the third wave of Amtrac assault tractors, he describes the run into the beach :

We went quickly into line, backing and plunging a bit in the surf like race horses in the starting gate. The control oflicers in the picket boats sighted along the line and then waved us ahead. We took off into the wake of the second Wave, but it was hard to see them when they were in the troughs of the swells.

Everyone was up and yelling but Buck and the squad leader. They crouched low; both of them were young but their faces looked old with determination and fear. When We hit the beach they would have the job to do, and we would do whatever they told us to do.

It was almost a glorious feeling, roaring in toward he beach with fear gone for the moment. We were in motion with thousands of tons of armed might at our backs; and it seemed that nothing could stop us. We were an old and tried outfit, led by men like Buck and the squad leader, who would know what to do when the time came to do it. As we rolled in on Peleliu, and before we were hit, the excitement took us and we were not afraid of anything. Some men began to chant: “Drive! Drivel!Drive!”

I saw the amphibious tractor in front of us go up in a shellburst. For a moment I didn’t realize what I had seen. Somebody said: “Hey, I think they hit him,” in a complaining tone, as though it were against the rules to do that.

The amtrac flamed, spread gas on the water, and wallowed in a puddle of fire. Men spilled from it. The driver of our tractor screamed so loud we heard him above everything. He had seen the hit and he was very frightened.

Wingy also screamed, begging for an order to open fire with the machine gun. The squad leader bellowed at him: “You crazy kid, there’s nothing in front of you but our own guys. If you fire one burst I’ll chop you down.”

The first shell came in and hit in our wake. It sprayed water all over the men in the rear and slewed the back of the amtrac around. The driver fought it straight and we went on. But now we were all trying to cram ourselves back down inside the steel sides. And there was less space, for some reason. Quiet fear shrinks men; wild fear expands them.

Small-arms fire racketed along our side. A man’s shoulder showed a putt and then a dark stain, and he clasped it with his other hand and swore briefly. Buck said: “Machine guns. How can they reach us out here?”

Buck and the squad leader had jumped up when the return fire began. They were the best kind of old men, who never left an inch of themselves exposed when there was nothing to be done. But when there was trouble they were up.

The squad leader stumbled over heads and fell toward Wingy. “What’s going on, kid? Are they reaching us?” Wingy turned his thin face, and it was all big eyes. The rest of his features had retreated. “They’re hitting them all,” he said. Again he complained, as though it were against the rules. “What will we do?”

“Fire at that near point,” the squad leader ordered. “Keep high.” Wingy fumbled with the belt and slide, trying to full-load. But he didn’t fire. He stood up straight and then fell over among the men. And he seemed to vanish. I don’t remember seeing Wingy again, but he must have still been in the amtrac. People and things dropped suddenly out of sight in action. Or at least the memory of them did. The squad leader and Buck began to feed and fire the machine gun.

Fire chopped and roiled the sea around us, and water sloshed in over the gunwales and steamed on the hot metal. Some men were crouched down but others pressed their faces in against the steel sides. We were bumping on something underneath. Buck and the squad leader fired on. The radioman started a gobbling call into his set, even though he couldn’t have been getting through to anyone.

The tracks bumped on, hitting high places in the sand underneath the water. The tracks would hit, grind, spin, and then kick into free water throwing high geysers as the whole amtrac shot forward.

“I can’t get any farther in,” the driver yelled. “Get out of here, before we get hung up.”

“Get in,” Buck yelled. “Get on in farther, or I’ll blow you into the water.”

See Russell Davis: Marine at War

As a rocket-firing LCI lays down a barrage on the already obscured beach on Peleliu, a wave of Alligators (LVTs, or Landing Vehicle Tracked) churn toward the defenses of the strategic island September 15, 1944. The amphibious tanks with turret-housed cannons went in in after heavy air and sea bombardment. Army and Marine assault units stormed ashore on Peleliu on September 15, and it was announced that organized resistance was almost entirely ended on September 27. (AP Photo)
As a rocket-firing LCI lays down a barrage on the already obscured beach on Peleliu, a wave of Alligators (LVTs, or Landing Vehicle Tracked) churn toward the defenses of the strategic island September 15, 1944. The amphibious tanks with turret-housed cannons went in in after heavy air and sea bombardment. Army and Marine assault units stormed ashore on Peleliu on September 15, and it was announced that organized resistance was almost entirely ended on September 27. (AP Photo)

No 4 Commando finally rest out of the line


26 August 1944: No 4 Commando finally rest out of the line

About three miles beyond the town we marched along dusty lanes, the hedges of which were already full of ripe hazel-nuts. On either side were orchards in which rosy apples hung heavy on the trees. Here we halted. Each troop was given an area, an orchard with a barn filled with sweet-smelling straw. It was just like heaven. The date was 26 August.

Troops, including men from No 4 Commando, returning from shore in landing craft after raiding the Lofoten islands, Norway, 4 March 1941.
Troops, including men from No 4 Commando, returning from shore in landing craft after raiding the Lofoten islands, Norway, 4 March 1941.
Men of No. 4 Commando after returning from a raid on the French coast near Boulogne, 22 April 1942.
Men of No. 4 Commando after returning from a raid on the French coast near Boulogne, 22 April 1942.
A German prisoner, Unteroffizier Leo Marsiniak, being escorted at Newhaven. He was captured at the gun battery at Varengeville by No. 4 Commando. The Dieppe Raid, 19 August 1942
A German prisoner, Unteroffizier Leo Marsiniak, being escorted at Newhaven. He was captured at the gun battery at Varengeville by No. 4 Commando. The Dieppe Raid, 19 August 1942
Sherman DD tanks of 'B' Squadron, 13th/18th Royal Hussars support commandos of No. 4 Commando, 1st Special Service Brigade, as they advance into Ouistreham, Sword area, 6 June 1944.
Sherman DD tanks of ‘B’ Squadron, 13th/18th Royal Hussars support commandos of No. 4 Commando, 1st Special Service Brigade, as they advance into Ouistreham, Sword area, 6 June 1944.

It had ben a long war for some of the men of No 4 Commando, formed in 1940, when the notion of specialist assault troops had been a novelty in Britain. Since the spring of 1944 they had included two troops of French soldiers who had volunteered for the Commandos. The Commando had been a relatively experienced unit when they landed at Sword beach on D-Day and they had been in action continuously ever since.

Now the war was outrunning them and Lieutenant Murdoch C. McDougall had time to take in the sights of the liberation of France before they paused to rest:

It was by now fairly obvious to us all that the war was moving much too fast for us to keep up with it for long. Next day we marched in brilliant sunshine through the town of Beuzeville, where the people crowded out into the streets, cheering and waving, and thrusting bottles into the ready hands of the marching men.

Most of these folk were genuinely delighted to see us, particularly the older generation, many of whom stood, with tears of joy coursing down furrowed cheeks, saluting as we passed. They were saluting not us as men, but the return of their self-respect.

In a side-street a slatternly-looking young woman was screaming and struggling as a group of men with tricolour armbands sheared and shaved the hair off her head. Two or three other young women, already shorn, stood weeping by the roadside, as they helped one another to wrap a scarf or a kerchief around their baldness. They looked repulsively sexless with their white domes above the heightened colour of their faces.

The original version of the famous image by Robert Capa, "Collaborationist is Scorned by the People, Chartres, France", August 18 ,1944 © ICP / Magnum Fotos / Agentur Focus Courtesy: Galerie Daniel Blau Munich/London
The original version of the famous image by Robert Capa, “Collaborationist is Scorned by the People, Chartres, France”, August 18 ,1944 © ICP / Magnum Fotos / Agentur Focus Courtesy: Galerie Daniel Blau Munich/London

About three miles beyond the town we marched along dusty lanes, the hedges of which were already full of ripe hazel-nuts. On either side were orchards in which rosy apples hung heavy on the trees. Here we halted. Each troop was given an area, an orchard with a barn filled with sweet-smelling straw. It was just like heaven. The date was 26 August.

For the first three days we slept for about fifteen hours of the twenty-four. Most of the waking hours were spent lying in the sun, stretching out a lazy hand for another apple, soaking in the warmth of the sun which shone steadily down from a cloudless sky.

Up to the time we reached this haven, we had been in action continuously over a period of eighty-two days and eighty-two long nights, in which time we had not once been relieved. Our casualties in this stretch were more than one hundred per cent of our original strength, for as fast as replacements had arrived, they were hit. In “F” troop we still had about nine of the original sixty-three.

As we lay basking in the sunshine in our Elysian orchards, the war for us was very remote, but for the French troops it was as real as ever. Most of them were frantic for news of their homes and families, which were being liberated daily, as the tide of battle swept past them. The news of the liberation of Paris sent a surge of joy through them all. Several of them obtained leave to go there and find their relations.

See Murdoch C. McDougall: Swiftly They Struck: The Story of Number Four Commando. One of the French officers reached Paris to see his family for the first time in three and a half years, only to discover that his brother had recently been killed fighting for the FFI.

A Humber scout car crew watch for the enemy in Cormeilles as a Churchill tank burns in the town square, 26 August 1944
A Humber scout car crew watch for the enemy in Cormeilles as a Churchill tank burns in the town square, 26 August 1944

Marines fight off Japanese ‘Banzai’ charge on Guam


26th July 1944: Marines fight off Japanese ‘Banzai’ charge on Guam

A moment later another band of Japs appeared. Again, several paused at the gun and tried to swing the heavy weapon around. They had almost succeeded, when from the darkness a lone, drunken Jap raced headlong at them, tripped several feet away over a body, and flew through the air. There was a blinding flash as he literally blew apart. He had been a human bomb, carrying a land mine and a blast charge on his waist.

Marines dig in after hitting the beach. Taking cover from Jap snipers until they can eliminate them.
Marines dig in after hitting the beach. Taking cover from Jap snipers until they can eliminate them.

On Guam the Japanese were once agin well dug in and determined to fight to the death. Despite the overwhelming might of the US Naval forces ranged against they still faced a bloody and brutal assault in order to prevail.

Alvin M Josephy had landed with one of the first waves on the 21st, he was still with them on the night of the 25th/26th as that faced up to a suicidal Japanese counter-attack:

Toward midnight one of the men on watch noticed that the Japs were throwing a lot of grenades. On both sides of him, other Marines were hurling their own grenades back into the night. Many of these burst five and ten feet above the ground, the fragments showering on the wet dirt.

At about three A.M. a rifleman named Martinez heard a swishing of grass out ahead of him, like men moving about. Then he noticed the pang of pieces of metal hitting each other and a busy stirring in the darkness that made him uneasy. He peered into the mist but was unable to see anything.

Then, as he listened, other things happened. A barrage of hand grenades flew through the darkness and exploded behind him. They kept coming, and he noticed mortar shells beginning to crash more frequently on the ridge.

He woke the other two men in his foxhole. They had been curled in their ponchos, and they got to their feet uncertainly. At the same moment an orange signal flare shot up from the Japanese lines. A singsong voice shouted into the night, and an avalanche of screaming forms bounded suddenly into view.

With their bayonets gleaming in the light of sudden flares, they charged toward the Marine foxholes, throwing grenades and howling: “Ban-zai-ai!” like a pack of animals.

The Marines awoke with a start. Along the ridge, wet, groggy men bolted to their feet and grabbed their weapons. Grenades exploded like a crashing curtain against the onrushing Japs. A man on a telephone yelled for uninterrupted flares, and flickering lights began to hang in the air like giant overhead fires.

All along the line the enemy attack was on. Red tracer bullets flashed through the blackness. Japanese orange signal flares and American white illumination shells lit up the night like the Fourth of July, silhouetting the running forms of the enemy. On the right and the left the attack was stopped cold.

Action around two heavy machine guns was typical of what was occurring. A Jap grenade hit one gun, temporarily putting it out of action. The crew members fixed it quickly and started firing again.

A second grenade hit the gun’s jacket and exploded, knocking off the cover and putting it completely out of the fight. The same blast wounded one of the men. His three companions moved him to a foxhole ten yards behind the shattered gun.

One man jumped in beside him. and the other two ran back to the machine-gun foxholes with their carbines. Heaving grenades like wild men, they managed to stall any Jap frontal charge for the moment.

Meanwhile, the other gun was also silenced. Riflemen in foxholes near by heard a sudden unearthly screaming from the gun position. By the wavering light of flares, they saw one of the crew members trying to pull a Japanese bayonet out of another Marine’s body.

The same instant a wave of Japs appeared from nowhere and swept over both men. Three of the enemy, stopping at the silent machine gun, tried to turn it around to fire at the Marines. In their hysteria, one of them pulled the trigger before the gun was turned, and the bullets sprayed a group of Japs racing across the top of the ridge.

Finally the Japs tried to lift the entire gun on its mount and turn the whole thing. A Marine automatic rifleman blasted them with his BAR, and the Japs dropped the gun. Two of them fell over the bodies of the Marine crew. The third pulled out a grenade and, holding it to his head, blew himself up.

A moment later another band of Japs appeared. Again, several paused at the gun and tried to swing the heavy weapon around. They had almost succeeded, when from the darkness a lone, drunken Jap raced headlong at them, tripped several feet away over a body, and flew through the air. There was a blinding flash as he literally blew apart. He had been a human bomb, carrying a land mine and a blast charge on his waist.

See See The Long and the Short and the Tall: Marines in Combat on Guam and Iwo Jima (Classics of War)

A Marine Corps tank stands by as Leatherneck sharpshooters take cover and attempt to pick off the occupants of a Japanese pillbox.
A Marine Corps tank stands by as Leatherneck sharpshooters take cover and attempt to pick off the occupants of a Japanese pillbox.

US Marines assault the beaches of Guam


21 July 1944:US Marines assault the beaches of Guam

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?

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 hundred. 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 The Long and the Short and the Tall: Marines in Combat on Guam and Iwo Jima (Classics of War)

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