Categories 1944Tags

Marines fight off Japanese ‘Banzai’ charge on Guam

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.

4 thoughts on “Marines fight off Japanese ‘Banzai’ charge on Guam”

    The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Ralph H. Niehaus (0-27011), Second Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps (Reserve), for extraordinary heroism as Leader of a Rifle Platoon of Company K, Third Battalion, Twenty-First Marines, THIRD Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Guam, Maranias Islands, 26 July 1944. After strong hostile forces had enveloped his Regiment’s right flank and had occupied a strategic position to the right rear of our lines, Second Lieutenant Niehaus boldly led his platoon in a determined night attack against this numerically superior Japanese force and, employing hand grenades and bayonets in a desperate Hand-to-hand struggle, directed his men in killing a large number of the enemy and in driving the majority of the hostile force from the position. Although all but four of his men had been wounded and he had been wounded twice, he persisted in the attack until ordered to withdraw to permit shelling of the area. Then, personally covering the withdrawal of his men and the evacuation of the wounded although he, himself, was wounded a third time, he returned under heavy fire to carry the last of the casualties to safety, continuing in his efforts until loss of blood necessitated his removal to an aid station. By his aggressive fighting spirit, daring initiative and courageous devotion to duty, Second Lieutenant Niehaus prevented the Japanese from exploiting the envelopment of the Regiment’s right flank, and his conduct throughout was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
    SPOT AWARD, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific: Serial 00435
    Born: at Reading, Ohio
    Home Town: Columbus, Ohio

  2. My father, Corporal Carroll A. Herzberg was the marine who was trying to pull the bayonet out of a member of his gun crew. He was the machine gunner in the position where much of the action described above took place. He was also bayonetted, and suffered a large number of shrapnel injuries but he survived and was awarded the Silver Star, and Purple Heart.

  3. My Dad (MGSYT David Guido) fought on Guam with the 22 Regiment Ist Provisional Marines. He recalled the Banzai attack and attributed the Marine victory in large part to the artillery support that fired 20,000 rounds that night to turn back the Japanese !

  4. Thank you! I was doing some research about my great Uncle Walter Nolte. He gave all during this battle. He was KIA on July 26th on Guam. He was a member of 22nd Marines. Where would you suggest I look to find more info on this?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.