12 March 1945
Dear Mr. Secretary:
Twelve Months ago I presented to the late Secretary Knox a report of the progress of our naval operations and the expansion of our naval establishment since the beginning of the war.
Long before the war Frank Knox saw clearly and supported strongly the necessity for arming the United States against her enemies. He knew that a powerful Navy is essential to the welfare of our country, and fought with all his energies to build a Navy that could carry the attack to the enemy. How well he succeeded is now a matter of history.
The manner in which the Navy has carried the attack to the enemy during the twelve months from 1 March 1944 to 1 March 1945 is the subject of the report, which I present to you at this time.
In reading this report, attention is especially invited to the significant role of amphibious operations during the entire period. In fact, amphibious operations have initiated practically all of the Allied successes during the past three years.
Ernest J. King [signature]
Commandant in Chief, United States Fleet
and Chief of Naval Operations
The Honorable James Forrestal,
Secretary of the Navy,
Washington, D. C.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
|LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL
|II--COMMAND AND FLEET ORGANIZATION
| United States Fleet
| Organization of United States Naval Forces in the Pacific
| Organization of United States Naval Forces in the Atlantic-Mediterranean
|III--COMBAT OPERATIONS: PACIFIC
| Hollandia and Fast Carrier Task Force Covering Operations
| Marianas Operations
| Progress Along New Guinea Coast
| Western Carolines Operations
| Reoccupation of Philippine Islands
| Assault on Inner Defenses of Japan
| Continuing Operations
|IV--COMBAT OPERATIONS: ATLANTIC-MEDITERRANEAN
| United States Atlantic Fleet
| United States Naval Forces in Europe-The Normandy Invasion
| Eighth Fleet-Italy
| Eighth Fleet-Invasion of Southern France
| Ships, Planes and Ordnance
| The Marine Corps
| The Coast Guard
Front-Official U.S. Navy Colorphoto
Inside--Official U.S. Navy Photos
Back--Associated Press, by Joe Rosenthal
I – Introduction
My previous report presented an account of the development of the Navy and of combat operations up to 1 March 1944. This report covers the twelve months from 1 March 1944 until 1 March 1945. Within this period the battle of the Pacific has been carried more than three thousand miles to the westward – from the Marshall Islands into the South China Sea beyond the Philippines-and to the Tokyo approaches. Within this same period the invasion of the continent of Europe has been accomplished. These success have been made possible only by the strength and resolution of our amphibious forces, acting in conjunction with the fleet.
During these twelve months, there occurred the following actions with the enemy in which the United States Navy took part:
20 March 1944
Landings on Emirau Island, St. Matthias Group, northeast of New Guinea
Bombardment of Kavieng, New Ireland
30 March-1 April 1944
Carrier Task Force Attacks on Western Carolines
22 April 1944
Landings in Hollandia Area, New Guinea
29 April-1 May 1944
Carrier Task Force Attacks on Central and Eastern Carolines
17 May 1944
Landings in Wakde Island Area, New Guinea
19-20 May 1944
Carrier Task Force Attacks on Marcus Island
23 May 1944
Carrier Task Force Attack on Wake Island
27 May 1944
Landings on Biak Island, Dutch New Guinea
6 June 1944
Invasion of Normandy
11-14 June 1944
Preliminary Carrier Task Force Attacks on Marianas Islands
13 June 1944
Bombardment of Matsuwa Island, Kurile Islands
15 June 1944
Landings on Saipan, Marianas Islands
15-16 June 1944
Carrier Task Force Attacks on Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima, Volcano and Bonin Islands
17 June 1944
Capture of Elba, Italy
19-20 June 1944
Battle of the Philippine Sea
23-24 June 1944
Carrier Task Force Attacks on Pagan Island, Marianas Islands
24 June 1944
Carrier Task Force Attack on Two Jima, Volcano Islands
25 June 1944
Bombardment of Cherbourg, France
26 June 1944
Bombardment of Kurabu Zaki, Pramushiru, Kurile Islands
2 July 1944
Landings on Noemfoor Island, Dutuch New Guinea
4 July 1944
Carrier Task Force Attacks on Iwo Jima, Chichi Jima and Haha Jima, Volcano and Bonin Islands
21 July 1944
Landings on Guam, Marianas Islands
24 July 1944
Landings on Tinian, Marianas Islands
30 July 1944
Landings in Cape Samsapor Area, Dutch New Guinea
4-5 August 1944
Carrier Task Force Attacks on Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima, Volcano and Bonin Islands
15 August 1944
Invasion of Southern France
31 August-2 September 1944
Carrier Task Force Attacks on Iwo Jima, Chichi Jima and Haha Jima, Volcano and Bonin Islands
6-14 September 1944
Preliminary Carrier Task Force Attacks on Palau Islands
7-8 September 1944
Carrier Task Force Attacks on Yap
9-10 September 1944
Carrier Task Force Attacks on Mindanao, Philippine Islands
12-14 September 1944
Carrier Task Force Attacks on the Visayas, Philippines Islands
14-15 September 1944
Carrier Task Attacks on Mindano, Celebes and Talaud
15 September 1944
Landings on Peleliu, Palau Islands Landings on Morotai
17 September 1944
Landings on Angaur, Palau Islands
21-22 September 1944
Carrier Task Force Attacks on Manila, Philippine Islands
23 September 1944
Landings on Ulithi
24 September 1944
Carrier Task Force Attacks on the Visayas, Philippine Islands
28 September 1944
Landings on Ngesebus, Palau Islands
9 October 1944
Bombardment of Marcus Island
10 October 1944
Carrier Task Force Attack on Okinawa Island, Nansei
11 October 1944
Carrier Task Force Attack on Aparri, Luzon, Philippine Islands
12-15 October 1944
Carrier Task Force Attacks on Formosa and Luzon
18-19 October 1944
Carrier Task Force Attacks on Northern and Central Philippines
20 October 1944
Landings on Leyte, Philippine Islands
21 October 1944
Carrier Task Force Attacks on Luzon and the Visayas, Philippine Islands
23-26 October 1944
Battle of Leyte Gulf
5,6,13,14,19,25 November 1944
Carrier Task Force Attacks on Luzon, Philippine Islands
11 November 1944
Carrier Task Force Attack on Ormoc Bay, Leyte, Philippine Islands
11-12 November 1944
Bombardment of Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands
21 November 1944
Bombardment of Matsuwa Island, Kurile Islands
7 December 1944
Landings at Ormoc Bay, Philippine Islands
8, 24, 27 December 1944
Air-surface Attacks on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands
14, 15, 16 December 1944
Carrier Task Force Attacks on Luzon, Philippine Islands
15 December 1944
Landings on Mindoro, Philippine Islands
3-4 January 1945
Carrier Task Force Attacks on Formosa
5 January 1945
Bombardment of Suribachi Wan, off Paramushiru, Kurile Islands
6-7 January 1945
Carrier Task Force Attacks on Luzon, Philippine Islands
9 January 1945
Landings at Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, Philippine Islands
Carrier Task Force Attack on Formosa
12 January 1945
Carrier Task Force Attack on French Indo-China Coast
15 January 1945
Carrier Task Force Attack on Formosa
16 January 1945
Carrier Task Force Attack on Hong Kong, Canton and Hainan, China
21-22 January 1945
Carrier Task Force Attack on Formosa and Nansei Shoto
24 January 1945
Air-surface Attack on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands
Landings in Subic Bay Area, Luzon, Philippine Islands
31 January 1945
Landings at Nasugbu, Luzon, Philippine Islands
13-15 February 1945
Bombardment of Manila Bay Defenses, Philippine Islands
14 February 1945
Landings on Mariveles, Luzon, Philippine Islands
16 February 1945
Landings on Corregidor Island, Luzon, Philippine Islands
16-17 February 1945
Carrier Task Force Attack on Tokyo
19 February 1945
Landings on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands
Bombardment of Kurabu Zaki, Paramushiru, Kurile Islands
25-26 February 1945
Carrier Task Force Attack on Tokyo and Hachijo Jima
28 February 1945
Landings on Palawan, Philippine Islands
[All dates are given as of local time of the area of the action.]
No listing of actions with enemy, however complete, can include the ceaseless and unrelenting depredaphases of the war they operated by themselves far beyond the range of any of our surface ships or aircraft. Their constant presence in the westernmost reaches of the Pacific limited the freedom of the enemy’s operations: their frequent and effective attacks depleted his shipping and diminished his logistic as well as his combatant strength. The rapid advance of our other forces, both sea and air, has been due in no small measure to the outstanding success with which our submarine activities have been carried on in waters where nothing but submarines could go. During the current phases of the war, our submarines are not only continuing independent operations but are also working in concert with the task fleets which are now exerting such heavy pressure on the Japanese.
The account of combat operations in this report is
based on special summaries recently made by the fleet commanders concerned. In some instances, this information will be found to differ slightly from communiques previously issued, due to the subsequent accumulation of additional facts. However, it should be understood that there has been no opportunity yet for an exhaustive analysis from an historian’s point of view of the great mass of operational reports in my files. I can furnish at this time no more than outline sketches of the highlights of combat operations. The preparation of carefully documented historical studies is underway, but the results will not be available during the progress of the war.
Limits of space further require that this account of combat operations be restricted to those actions, which have had a significant or decisive effect upon the progress of the war. Similarly, because of the greatly magnified scale of the operations described, it has been impossible to cite the names of individual ships and commanders in most cases. To retain any semblance of continuity, it has been necessary to omit the details of the constant activity of many naval air, surface, and shorebased units, which have performed invaluable services of patrol, supply and maintenance on a vast scale. Land-based planes and PT boats have incessantly harassed the beleaguered Japanese garrisons which have been by-passed in our progress across the Pacific. Seabees and other naval forces on shore have made great contributions to the conversion of islands seized in amphibious operations into useful bases for further attack upon the enemy. Countless ships and planes have contributed to the safe progress of troops and supplies along far-flung lines of communications. The operations of these forces, which have frequently involved bitter combat with the enemy, cannot, because of the nature of this report, be further elaborated upon.
II- Command and Fleet Organization
UNITED STATES FLEET
The basic organization of the United States Fleet has remained unchanged during the twelve months covered by this report.
The Headquarters of Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, located in Washington since December 1941, has continued to function as originally conceived, but with the growth in complexity and volume of work, I felt the need of assistance in matters of military policy concerning both the United States Fleet and the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. Consequently, the post of Deputy Commander in Chief, United States Fleet and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations was created, and on 1 October 1944, Vice Admiral R. S. Edwards reported for duty in that capacity. On the same date Vice Admiral C. M. Cooke, Jr., reported as Chief of Staff to Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, and Rear Admiral B. H. Bieri reported as Deputy Chief of Staff.
ORGANIZATION OF UNITED STATES NAVAL FORCES IN THE PACIFIC
United States Paciﬁc Fleet
Operations in the Pacific Ocean Areas continue under the command of Fleet Admiral C. W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, U. S. Paciﬁc Fleet and Paciﬁc Ocean Areas. As the scene of operations moved into the far western Paciﬁc, Fleet Admiral Nimitz’s headquarters at Pearl Harbor became increasingly remote. Therefore, in January 1945 advance headquarters, were established at Guam, from which the Commander in Chief could supervise operations more closely.
The Seventh Fleet (Vice Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid, Commander) continues to operate in the Southwest Paciﬁc Area. Vice Admiral Kinkaid is under the command of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Commander in Chief of that Area.
On 15 April 1944 a series of changes in the command organization of waters along the Paciﬁc coast of the United States was made. The Northwest Sea Frontier which had been composed of the Northwestern Sector (Oregon and Washington) and the Alaska Sector, was abolished. The Northwestern Sector was incorporated into the Western Sea Frontier, and the Alaska Sector was established as the Alaskan Sea Frontier (Vice Admiral F. J. Fletcher, Commander). At the same time the 17th Naval District was created including the Territory of Alaska and its waters. This change consolidated all sea frontier and correlated activities on the west coast of the United States under the Commander, Western Sea Frontier (Vice Admiral D. W. Bagley), and incidentally brought the jurisdictional limits of the naval sea frontiers into conformity with the Army defense organizations on the Paciﬁc coast of the United States.
On 8 November 1944, the functions of the Commander, Western Sea Frontier, were greatly enlarged in scope in order to afford more effective logistic support for war operations of United States forces in the Paciﬁc. On 17 November 1944, Admiral R. E. Ingersoll assumed duties as Commander, Western Sea Frontier, relieving Vice Admiral Bagley.
On 28 November.1944, Vice Admiral Bagley relieved Vice Admiral R. L. Ghormley as Commander, Hawaiian Sea Frontier.
The Philippine Sea Frontier (Rear Admiral J. L. Kauffman, Commander) was established as a separate command under Commander Seventh Fleet (Southwest Paciﬁc Area) on 13 November 1944.
ORGANIZATION OF UNITED STATES NAVAL FORCES IN THE ATLANTIC—MEDITERRANEAN
United States Atlantic Fleet
The U. S. Atlantic Fleet (Admiral Ingersoll, Commander in Chief, until 15 November 1944, when relieved by Admiral J. H. Ingram) consists of the forces operating in the United States area of strategic responsibility, which is, roughly, the western half of the Atlantic Ocean. The Fourth Fleet, operating in the South Atlantic, is a unit of U. S. Atlantic Fleet. Vice Admiral (now Admiral) Ingram was Commander Fourth Fleet until November 1944, when relieved by Vice Admiral W. R. Munroe.
United States Naval Forces, Europe
U. S. Naval Forces, Europe (Twelfth Fleet), Admiral H. R. Stark, Commander, is an administrative command, embracing all United States naval forces assigned to British waters and the Atlantic coastal waters of Europe. Admiral Stark is responsible for the maintenance and training of all United States naval units in his area. For operations connected with the invasion of the continent of Europe, he assigns appropriate task forces to the operational control of the British Admiral commanding the Allied naval contingent of General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower’s supreme command, which embraces all Army, Navy and Air elements involved in activities connected with the Western Front.
United States Naval Forces, Northwest African Waters
U. S. Naval Forces, Northwest African Waters (Eighth Fleet), Vice Admiral H. K. Hewitt, Commander, includes all United States naval forces in the Mediterranean. Vice Admiral Hewitt is under the British naval Commander in Chief of the Allied naval forces in the area, who is, in turn, under the command of the Supreme Commander of the area (formerly General of the Army Eisenhower, later Field Marshal Sir Henry Maitland-Wilson, at present Field Marshal Alexander of the British Army).
There are four sea frontiers in the Western Atlantic The Eastern Sea Frontier (Vice Admiral H. F. Leary Commander) consists of the coastal waters and adjacent land areas from the Canadian border to Jacksonville. The Gulf Sea Frontier (Rear Admiral [now Vice Admiral] Munroe, Commander, until 17 July 1944, when relieved by Rear Admiral W. S. Anderson) consists of the coastal waters from Jacksonville westward, including the Gulf of Mexico, and adjacent land areas. The Caribbean Sea Frontier (Vice Admiral A. B. Cook, Commander until 14 May 1944, when relieved by Vice Admiral R. C Giffen) consists of eastern Caribbean and adjacent Iand and water areas. The Panama Sea Frontier (Rear Admiral H. C. Train, Commander, until 1 November 1944 when relieved by Rear Admiral H. C. Kingman) consists of western Caribbean waters, adjacent land areas and those waters of the Paciﬁc constituting the western approaches to the Panama Canal. The Commander of the Panama Sea Frontier is under the Commanding General at Panama. The other western Atlantic sea frontier commanders are directly under Commander in Chief of the United States Fleet.
The Moroccan Sea Frontier (Commodore B. V. McCandlish, Commander) is under Commander Eighth Fleet.
III- Combat Operations Pacific
During the year 1944, the whole of the United States Navy in the Paciﬁc was on the offensive. My previous report, summarizing combat operations to 1 March 1944, showed the evolution by which we had passed from the defensive, through the defensive-offensive and offensive-defensive stages, to the full offensive. To understand the signiﬁcance of our operations in the account which follows, the reader. must be aware of the basic reasons behind them.
The campaign in the Paciﬁc has important elements of dissimilarity from the campaign in Europe. Since the “battle of the beaches” was ﬁnally won with the landings in Normandy last June, the naval task in Europe has become of secondary scope. The European war has turned into a vast land campaign, in which the role of the navies is to keep open the trans- Atlantic sea routes against an enemy whose naval strength appears to be broken except for his U- boat activities. In, contrast, the Paciﬁc war is still in the “crossing the ocean” phase. There are times in the Paciﬁc when troops get beyond the range of naval gun support, but much of the ﬁghting has been, is now, and will continue for some time to be on beaches where Army and Navy combine in amphibious operation: Therefore, the essential element of our dominance over the Japanese has been the strength of our ﬂeet. The ability to move troops from island to island, and to put there ashore against Opposition, is due to the fact that on command of the sea is spreading as Japanese navy strength withers. As a rough generalization, the war in Europe is now predominantly an affair of armies, while the war in the Paciﬁc is still predominantly naval.
The strategy in the Paciﬁc has been to advance on the core of the Japanese position from two directions. Under General of the Army MacArthur, a combined Allied Army—Navy force has moved north from the Australian region. Under Fleet Admiral Nimitz, a United States Army-Navy-Marine force has moved west from Hawaii. The mobile power embodied in the major combatant vessels of the Paciﬁc Fleet has, sometimes united and sometimes separately, covered Operations along both routes advance, and at the same time contained the Japanese Navy.
In November 1943 South Paciﬁc forces secured beachhead on Bougainville, on which airﬁelds were
constructed for the neutralization of the Japanese base of Rabul on New Britain. Simultaneously Southwest Pacific forces were working their way along the northern coast of 'New Guinea.
In November 1943 Paciﬁc Ocean Areas forces attacked the Gilbert Islands, and at the end of January 1944 the Marshall Islands—the ﬁrst stepping stones along the road from Hawaii. To control the seas and render secure a route from Hawaii westward, it was not necessary to occupy every atoll. We could and did pursue a “leap frog" strategy, the basic concept of which is to seize those islands essential for our use, by-passing many strongly held intervening ones which were not necessary for our purposes. This policy was made possible by the gradually increasing disparity between our own naval power and that of the enemy, so that the enemy was and still is unable to support the garrisons of the by-passed atolls. Consequently, by cutting the enemy’s line of communicating bases, the isolated ones became innocuous, without the necessity for our expending effort for their capture. Therefore, we can with impunity by-pass numerous enemy positions, with small comfort to the isolated Japanese garrisons, who are left to meditate the fate of exposed forces beyond the range of naval support.
This strategy has brought the Navy into combat with shore-based air forces. It has involved some risks and considerable difficulty, which we have overcome. However, as we near the enemy’s homeland, the problem becomes more and more difficult. During the first landing in the Philippines, for example, it was necessary to deal with the hundred or more Japanese airfields that were within flying range of Leyte. This imposed on our carrier forces a heavy task which we may to become increasingly heavy from time to time. While shore-based air facilities are being established as rapidly as possible in each position we capture, there will always be a period following a successful landing when control of the air will rest solely on the strength of our carrier-based aviation.
The value of having naval vessels in support of landings has been fully confirmed. This renewed importance of battleships is one of the interesting features of the Pacific war. The concentrated power of heavy naval guns is very great by standards of land warfare, and the artillery support they have given in landing operations has been a material factor in getting our troops ashore with minimum loss of life. Battleships and cruisers, as well as smaller ships, have proved their worth for this purpose.
As I pointed out above our advance across the Pacific followed two routes. At the opening of the period covered by this report, General of the Army MacArthur’s forces were working their way along the northern coast of New Guinea, while Fleet Admiral Nimitz, by the capture of the Gilbert and Marshall Islands, had taken the first steps along the other route. The narrative which follows begins with the operations leading to the capture of the Gilbert and Marshall Islands, had taken the ﬁrst steps along the other route. The narrative which follows begins with the operations leading to the capture of Hollandia on the north coast of New Guinea.
HOLLANDIA AND FAST CARRIER TASK FORCE COVERING OPERATIONS
On 13 February 1944 the ﬁnal occupation of the Huon Peninsula in Northeast New Guinea was completed. The occupation of the Admiralty Islands on 29 February 1944 by General of the Army MacArthur’s forces and of Emirau in the St. Matthias group, north of New Britain, by Admiral W. F. Halsey’s forces on 20 March had further advanced our holdings. In these two operations, the amphibious attack forces were commanded respectively by Rear-Admiral W. M. Fechteler and Rear Admiral (now Vice Admiral) T. S. Wilkinson. On 20 March 'battleships and destroyers bombarded Kavieng, New Ireland.
The enemy had concentrated a considerable force at Wewak, on the northern coast of New Guinea, several hundred miles west of the Huon Peninsula. Hollandia, more than two hundred miles west of Wewak, had a good potential harbor and three airstrips capable of rehabilitation and enlargement. In order to accelerate the reconquest of New Guinea, it was decided to push far to the northwest, seize the coastal area in the vicinity of Aitape and Hollandia, thus by-passing and neutralizing the enemy’s holdings in the Hansa Bay and Wewak areas. This operation was made possible by the availability of the fast carrier. task force of the Paciﬁc Fleet to perform two functions, namely to neutralize enemy positions in the Western Carolines from which attacks might be launched against our landing forces or against our new bases in the Admiralties and Emirau, and to furnish close cover for the landing.
Carrier Task Force Attacks on Westem Carolines
Under command of Admiral R. A. Spruance, Commander Fifth Fleet, a powerful force of the Paciﬁc Fleet, including carriers, fast battleships, cruisers, and destroyers, attacked the Western Carolines. On 30 and 31 March, carrier-based planes struck at the Palau group with shipping as primary target. They sank 3 destroyers, 17 freighters, 5 oilers and 3 small vessels, and damaged 17 additional ships. The planes also bombed the airﬁelds, but they did not entirely stop Japanese air activity. At the same time, our aircraft mined the waters around Palau in order to immobilize enemy shipping in the area.
Part of the force struck Yap and Ulithi on 31 March and Woleai on 1 April.
Although the carrier aircraft encountered active air opposition over the Palau area on both days, they quickly overcame it. Enemy planes approached the task force on the evenings of 29 March and 30 March but were destroyed or driven off by the combat air patrols. During the three days’ operation our plane losses were 25 in combat, while the enemy had 114 planes destroyed in combat and 46 on the ground. These attacks were successful in obtaining the desired effect, and the operation in New Guinea went forward without opposition from the Western Carolines.
Capture and Occupation of Hollandia
The assault on Hollandia involved a simultaneous three-pronged attack by Southwest Pacific forces. Landings at Tanahmerah Bay and, 30 miles to the eastward, at Humboldt Bay trapped the Hollandia airstrips situated 12 miles inland. The third landing, an additional 90 miles to the eastward at Aitape, provided a diversionary attack, wiped out an enemy strong point, and won another airstrip. Approximately 50,000 Japanese were cut off and the complete domination of New Guinea by Allied forces was hastened. The operation was under the
command of General of the Army MacArthur. Three separate attack groups operated under a single attack force commander, Rear Admiral (now Vice Admiral) D. E. Barbey, who also commanded the Tanahmerah Bay attack group. Rear Admiral Fechteler commanded the Humboldt Bay group and Captain (now Rear Admiral) A. G. Noble the Aitape group. This amphibious operation was the largest that had been undertaken in the Southwest Paciﬁc Area up to that time. Over 200 ships were engaged. A powerful force of carriers, fast battleships, cruisers and destroyers from the Paciﬁc Fleet. commanded by Rear Admiral (now Vice Admiral) M. A. Mitscher, covered the landings.
Throughout 21 April, the day before the landings, the carriers launched strikes against the airstrips in the Aitape-Hollandia area, which had previously been bombed nightly since 12 April by land-based aircraft. On the "night of 21-22 April, light cruisers and destroyers bombarded the airﬁelds at Wakde and Sawar. The amphibious landing took place on the 22nd, and on that and the following day planes from the Paciﬁc Fleet carriers supported operations ashore, while keeping neighboring enemy airﬁelds neutralized. Prepared defenses were found abandoned at Aitape: at Hollandia and Tanahmerah Bay there were none. The enemy took to the hills and the landings were virtually unopposed. Once ashore, all three groups encountered difﬁculties with swampy areas behind the beaches, lack of overland communications, and dense jungles. In spite of these obstacles, satisfactory progress was made. At the end of the second day the Aitape strip had been occupied and ﬁghters were using it within twenty-four hours. The Hollandia strips fell a few days later.
As soon as the airstrips were in full operation and the port facilities at Hollandia developed, we were ready for further attacks at points along the northwestern coast of New Guinea.
Carrier Task Force Attacks on Central and Eastern Carolines
Returning from support of the Hollandia landings, The fast carrier task force attacked Truk on 29 and 30 April. Initial ﬁghter sweeps overcame almost all enemy air opposition by 1000 on the morning of the 29th, and there after over 2200 sorties, dropping 740 tons of bombs, were ﬂown against land installations on Truk Atoll. Our planes encountered vigorous and active antiaircraft ﬁre, but did exceedingly heavy damage to buildings and installations ashore. One air-attack was attempted on our carriers on the morning of the 29th, but the approaching planes were shot down before they could do damage. Our plane losses in combat were 27 against 63 enemy planes destroyed in the air and at least 60 more on the ground.
For over two hours on 30 April a group of cruisers and destroyers bombarded Satawan Island, where the enemy had been developing an air base. Although existing installations were of little importance, the bombardment served to hinder the enemy’s plans and furnished training for the crews of our ships. Similarly, a group of fast battleships and destroyers, returning from Truk, bombarded Ponape for 80 minutes on 1 May. There was no opposition except for antiaircraft ﬁre against the supporting planes.
During the summer of 1944. Paciﬁc Ocean Areas forces captured the islands of Saipan, Guam and Tinian, and neutralized the other Marianas Islands which remained in the hands of the enemy. The Marianas form part of an almost continuous chain of islands extending 1350 miles southward from Tokyo. Many of these islands are small, rocky, and valueless from a military viewpoint, but others provide a series of mutually supporting airﬁelds and bases, like so many stepping stones, affording protected lines of air and sea communications from the home islands of the Japanese Empire through the Nanpo Shoto [Bonin and Volcano Islands] and Marianas to Truk; thence to the Eastern Carolines and Marshalls, as well as to the Western Carolines, the Philippines and Japanese-held territory to the south and west. Our occupation of the Marianas would, therefore, effectively cut these admirably protected lines of enemy communication, and give us bases from which we could not only control sea areas further west in the Paciﬁc but also on which we could base aircraft to bomb Tokyo and the home islands of the Empire.
As soon as essential points in the Marshall Islands had been secured, preparations were made for the Marianas operation. Admiral Spruance, who had already conducted the Gilberts and Marshalls operations, was in command. Amphibious forces were directly under Vic Admiral R. K. Turner and the Expeditionary Forces were commanded, by Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith, USMC. Ships were assembled, trained, and loaded at many points in the Paciﬁc Ocean Areas. More than 600 vessels ranging from battleships and aircraft carriers to cruisers, high-speed transports and tankers, more than 2,000 aircraft, and some 300,000 Navy, Marine and Army personnel took part in the capture of the Marianas.
Enemy airbases on Marcus and Wake Islands ﬂanked on the north our approach to the Marianas. Consequently, a detachment of carriers, cruisers, and destroyers from the Fifth Fleet attacked these islands almost a month before the projected landings in order to destroy aircraft, shore installations, and shipping. Carrier planes struck Marcus on 19 and 20 May and Wake on 23 May. They encountered little opposition and accomplished their mission with very light' losses due to anti-aircraft ﬁre.
From about the beginning of June, land-based aircraft from the Admiralties, Green, Emirau and Hollandia kept enemy bases, especially at Truk, Palau, and Yap well neutralized. The fast carriers and battleships of the Fifth Fleet, under Vice Admiral Mitscher, prepared the way for the amphibious assault. Carrier planes began attacks on the Marianas on 11 June With the object of ﬁrst destroying aircraft and air faculties and then concentrating on bombing shore defenses 1n preparation for the ' coming amphibious landings. They achieved control of the air over the Marianas on the ﬁrst ﬁghter sweep of 11 June and thereafter attacked air facilities, defense installations, and shipping in the vicinity.
Initial Landings on Saipan
Saipan, the ﬁrst objective, was the key to the Japanese defenses; having been in Japanese hands since World
War I. its fortiﬁcations were formidable. Although a rugged island unlike the coral atolls of the Gilberts and Marshalls. Saipan was partly surrounded by a reef which made landing extremely difﬁcult. To prepare for the assault scheduled for 15 June, surface ships began to bombard Saipan on the 13th. The fast battleships fired their main and secondary batteries for nearly 7 hours into the western coast of Saipan and Tinian Islands. Under cover of this ﬁre, fast mine sweepers cleared the waters for the assault ships, and underwater demolition teams examined the beaches for obstructions and cleared away such as were found.
The brunt of surface bombardment for destruction of defenses was borne by the ﬁre support groups of older battleships, cruisers and destroyers, which preceded the transports to the Marianas and began to bombard Saipan and Tinian on 14 June.
Early on the morning of 15 June the transports, cargo ships. and LST’s of Vice Admiral Turner’s amphibious force came into position off the west coast of Saipan. The bombardment ships delivered a heavy, close range pre-assault ﬁre, and carrier aircraft made strikes to destroy enemy resistance on the landing beaches. The ﬁrst troops reached the beaches at 0840, and within the next half hour several thousand were landed. In spite of preparatory bombing and bombardment, the enemy met the landing force with heavy ﬁre from mortars and small calibre guns on the beaches. Initial beachheads were established not without difﬁculty, and concentrated and determined enemy ﬁre and counter attacks caused some casualties and rendered progress inland slower than was anticipated.
The 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions landed ﬁrst and were followed the next day by the 27th Army Infantry Division. Although Saipan had an area of but 72 square miles, it was rugged and admirably suited to delaying defensive action by a stubborn and tenacious enemy. The strong resistance at Saipan, coupled with the news of a sortie of the Japanese ﬂeet, delayed landings on Guam.
Battle of the Philippine Sea
This sortie of the Japanese ﬂeet promised to develop into a full-scale action. On 15 June, the very day of the Saipan landings, Admiral Spruance received reports that a large force of enemy carriers, battleships, cruisers and destroyers was headed toward him, evidently on its way to relieve the beleaguered garrisons in the Marianas. As the primary mission of the American forces in the area was to capture the Marianas, the Saipan amphibious operations had to be protected from enemy interference at all costs. In his plans for what developed into the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Admiral Spruance was rightly guided by this basic mission. He therefore operated aggressively to the westward of the Marianas, but did not draw his carriers and battleships so far away that they could not protect the amphibious units from any possible Japanese “end run” which might develop.
While some of the fast carriers and battleships were disposed to the westward to meet this threat, other carriers on IS and 16 June attacked the Japanese bases of Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima. During this strike to the northward our carrier planes destroyed enemy planes in the air and on the ground, and set ﬁre to buildings, ammunition and fuel dumps, thus temporarily neutralizing those bases. and freeing our forces from attack by enemy aircraft coming from the Bonins and Volcanoes. The forces employed in the northward strike were recalled to rendezvous west of Saipan, as were also many of the ships designated to give ﬁre support to the troops on Saipan.
On 19 June the engagement with the Japanese ﬂeet began. The actions on the 19th consisted of two air battles over Guam with Japanese planes evidently launched from carriers and intended to land for fueling and arming on the ﬁelds of Guam and Tinian and a large-scale lengthy attack by enemy aircraft on Admiral Spruance's ships. The result of the day's action was some 402 enemy planes destroyed out of a total of 5-25 seen. as against 17 American planes lost and minor damage to 4 ships.
With further air attacks against Saipan by enemy aircraft unlikely because of the enemy‘s large carrier plane losses, and with its basic mission thus fulﬁlled, our ﬂeet headed to the westward hoping to bring the Japanese fleet to action. Air searches were instituted early on the 20th to locate the Japanese surface ships. Search planes did not make contact until afternoon and, when heavy strikes from our carriers were sent out. it was nearly sunset. The enemy was so far to the westward that our air attacks had to be made at extreme range. They sank 2 enemy carriers, ‘2 destroyers and l tanker, and severely damaged 3 carriers, 1 battleship, 3 cruisers, l destroyer and 3 tankers. We lost only 16 planes shot down by enemy antiaircraft and ﬁghter planes. Precariously low gasoline in our planes and the coming of darkness cut the attack short. Our pilots had difficulty in locating their carriers and many landed in darkness. A total of 73 plans were lost due to running out of fuel and landing crashes, but over 90 per cent of the personnel of planes which made water landings near our ﬂeet were picked up in the dark by destroyers and cruisers. The heavy damage inﬂicted on the Japanese surface ships, and prevention of enemy interference to operations at Saipan, made these loses a fair price to pay in return.
The enemy continued retiring on the night of the 20th and during the 2lst. Although his ﬂeet was located by searches on the 215t, planes sent out to attack did not make contact. Admiral Spruance‘s primary mission precluded getting out of range of the Marianas, and on the night of the let, distance caused the chase to be abandoned. The Battle of the Philippine Sea broke the Japanese effort to reinforce the Marianas: thereafter, the capture and occupation of the group went forward without serious threat of enemy interference.
Conquest of Saipan
During the major ﬂeet engagement. land ﬁghting on Saipan continued as bitterly as before. Between 15 and 20 June, the troops pushed across the southern portion of the island, gaining control of two enemy airﬁelds. During the next ten days, from the 2lst to the 30th, the rough central section around Mount Tapotchau was captured. The Japanese, exploiting the terrain, resisted with machine guns, small arms and light mortars from caves and other almost inaccessible positions. This central part of the island was cleared of organized resistance. and the last stage of the battle commenced. By 1 July, the 2nd Marine Division had captured the heights overlooking Garapan and Tanapag Harbor on the west coast, while
the 4th Marine Division and 27th Army Division had advanced their lines to within about ﬁve miles of the northern tip of the island. From 1 to 9 July the enemy resisted sporadically, in isolated groups, in northern ‘Saipan. On 4 July the 2nd Marine Division captured Garapan, the capital city of the island. One desperate “banzai” counter attack occurred on 7 July, but this was stemmed and all organized resistance ceased on the 9th. Many isolated small groups remained, which required continuous mopping up operations; in fact, some mopping up, still continues.
While the campaign ashore went on, it was constantly supported by surface and air forces. Surface ships were always ready to deliver gunﬁre, which was controlled by liaison ofﬁcers ashore in order to direct the ﬁre where' it would be of greatest effectiveness. Carrier aircraft likewise assisted. Supplies, ammunition, artillery and reinforcements were brought to the reef by landing craft and were carried ashore by amphibious vehicles until such time as reef obstacles were cleared and craft could beach. The captured Aslito airﬁeld was quickly made ready for use, and on 22 June Army planes began operation from there in patrols against enemy aircraft. Tanapag Harbor was cleared and available for use 7 July.
Japanese planes from other bases in the Marianas and the Carolines harassed our ships off Saipan from the time of landing until 7 July. Their raids were not large and, considering the number of ships in the area, these attacks did little damage. An LCI, was sunk and the battleship Maryland damaged. An escort carrier, 2 ﬂeet ‘tankers, and 4 smaller craft received some damage, but none serious enough to require immediate withdrawal from the area.
While these activities went on in Saipan, the fast carriers and battleships continued to afford cover to the westward, and also to prevent the enemy from repairing his air strength in the Bonins and Volcanoes. On 23 and 24 June, Pagan Island was heavily attacked by carrier planes. Iwo Jima received attacks on 24 June and 4 July and Chichi Jima and Haha Jima on the latter date. The 4 July attack on Iwo included bombardment by cruisers and destroyers. These attacks kept air facilities neutralized and destroyed shipping.
Reoccupation of Guam
As has been seen, the unexpectedly stiff resistance on Saipan, together with the sortie of the Japanese ﬂeet, had necessitated a postponement of landings on Guam. This delay permitted a period of air and surface bombardment which was unprecedented in severity and duration. Surface ships ﬁrst bombarded Guam on 16 June from 8 July until the landing on the 21st the island was
under daily gunﬁre from battleships, cruisers and destroyers, which destroyed all important emplaced defenses. This incessant bombardment was coordinated with air strikes from ﬁelds on Saipan and from fast arid escort carriers. The destruction of air facilities and planes on Guam and Rota, as well as the neutralization of more distant Japanese bases, gave us uncontested control of the air. The forces engaged in the reoccupation of Guam were under the command of Rear Admiral R. L. Conolly.
Troops landed on Guam on 21 July. As at Saipan the beach conditions were unfavorable and landing craft had to transfer their loads to amphibious vehicles or pontoons at the edge of the reef. With the support of bombarding ships and planes. the ﬁrst waves of amphibious vehicles beached at 0830. There were two simultaneous landings: one on the north coast east of Apra Harbor and the other on the west coast south of the harbor. Troops received enemy mortar and machine gun ﬁre as they reached the beach. The 3rd Marine Division. the 77th Army Infantry Division and the last Marine Provisional Brigade, under the command of Major General R. S. Geiger, USMC, made the landings: from 21 to 30 July they fought in the Apra Harbor area, where the heaviest enemy opposition was encountered.
The capture of Orote Peninsula with its airﬁelds and other installations, made the Apra Harbor area available for sheltered and easier unloading. Beginning on 31 July, our forces advanced across the island to the east coast and thence pushed northward to the tip of Guam. While enemy opposition was stubborn, it did not reach the intensity encountered on Saipan, and on 10 August 1944 all organized resistance on the island ceased. Air and surface support continued throughout this period.
The elimination of isolated pockets of Japanese opposition was a long and difﬁcult task even after the end of organized resistance. As at Saipan, the rough terrain of the island, with its many caves, made the annihilation of the remaining small enemy forces a difﬁcult task. The enemy casualty ﬁgures for Guam illustrate the character of this phase. By 10 August, the total number of Japanese dead counted was 10,971 and 86 were prisoners of war. By the middle of November, these numbers had increased to 17,238 enemy killed and 463 prisoners.
Occupation of Tinian
The capture of Tinian Island, by forces commanded by Rear Admiral H. W. Hill, completed the amphibious operations in the Marianas in the summer of 1944. Located across the narrow channel to the southward of Saipan, Tinian was taken by troops who had already participated in the capture of the former island. Intermittent bombardment began at the same time as on Saipan and continued not only from sea and air, but from artillery on the south coast of Saipan. A joint naval and air program for “softening” the defenses of Tinian went on from 26 June to 8 July, and thereafter both' air and surface forces kept the enemy from repairing destroyed positions. There were heavy air and surface attacks on 22 and 23 July, the days immediately preceding the landing, and these completed the destruction of almost all enemy gun emplacements and defense positions. The landings, which took place on beaches at the northern end of Tinian, began early on 24 July. Beach reconnaissance had been conducted at night and the enemy was surprised in the location of our landing. Troops of the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions landed in amphibious vehicles from transports at 0740 on the 24th. They met only light riﬂe and mortar ﬁre, and secured a ﬁrm beachhead. Like Saipan and Guam, Tinian presented a difﬁcult terrain problem, but enemy resistance was much less stubborn than on the other islands. On 1 August the island was declared secure, and the assault and occupation phase ended on the 8th.
Throughout this period, surface and air units provided constant close support to the ground troops. In addition, on 4 and 5 August units of the fast carrier task force virtually wiped out a Japanese convoy, and raided airﬁelds and installations in the Bonin and Volcano Islands. Damage to the enemy was 11 ships sunk, 8 ships damaged, and 13 aircraft destroyed; our losses were 16 planes.
PROGRESS ALONG NEW GUINEA COAST
Before and during the Marianas operations, Southwest Paciﬁc forces under General of the Army MacArthur engaged in a series of amphibious landings along the north coast of New Guinea. These operations were undertaken to deny the Japanese air and troop movements in western New Guinea and approaches from the southwest to our lines of communication across the Paciﬁc, thus securing our ﬂank. Unlike the Hollandia operation, which was supported by carriers and battleships of the Fifth Fleet, they involved the use of no ships larger than heavy cruisers.
Occupation of the Wakde Island Area
In order to secure airdromes for the support of further operations to the westward, an unopposed landing was made on 17 May 1944 by U. S. Army units at Arara, on the mainland of Dutch New Guinea, about 70 miles west of Hollandia. Under command of Captain (now Rear Admiral) Noble, a naval force of ‘cruisers, destroyers, transports and miscellaneous landing craft landed the 163rd Regimental Combat Team reinforced. Extending their beachhead on D-day along the coast from Toem to the Tor River, the troops made shore—to shore movements to the Wakde Islands on 17 and 18 May. By 19 May, all organized enemy resistance on the Wakde Islands had ceased.
Occupation of Biak Island
Because of the need for a forward base from which to operate heavy bombers, an amphibious assault was made on Biak Island, beginning on 27 May. The attack force, under the command of Rear Admiral Fechteler, composed of cruisers, destroyers, transports and landing craft, departed Humboldt Bay on the evening of 25 May and arrived off the objective without detection. Initial enemy opposition was weak and quickly overcome, but subsequently the landing force encountered stiff resistance in the move toward the Biak airﬁelds. Air support and bombardment were furnished by B-24’s, B-25’s and A—20’s, while ﬁghter cover was provided by planes from our bases at Hollandia and Aitape.
After the initial landing on Biak Island, the enemy, entrenched in caves commanding the coastal road to the airstrips, continued stubborn resistance and seriously retarded the scheduled development of the air facilities for which the operation had been undertaken. Furthermore,
it became apparent that the enemy was planning to reinforce his position on Biak. To counter this threat, a force of 3 cruisers and 14 destroyers under the command of Rear Admiral V. A. C. Crutchley, RN, was given the mission of destroying enemy naval forces threatening our Biak occupation. On the night of 8-9 June, a force of 5 enemy destroyers attempting a “Tokyo Express” run was intercepted by Rear Admiral Crutchley’s force. The Japanese destroyers turned and ﬂed at such high speed that in the ensuing chase only one of our destroyer divisions, commanded by Commander (now Captain) A. E. Jarrell, was able to gain ﬁring range. After a vain chase of about three hours the action was broken off.
Occupation of Noemfoor Island
On 2 July 1944, a landing was made in the vicinity of Kaimiri Airdrome on the northwest coast of November Island, southwest of Biak Island. The amphibious attack force, under the command of Rear Admiral (now Vice Admiral) Barbey, consisted of an attack group, a covering group of cruisers and destroyers, a landing craft unit, and a landing force built around the 148th U. S.Infantry Regimental Combat Team reinforced. Landing began at 0800, and all troops and a considerable number of bulk stores were landed on D-day. Prior to the landing nearby Japanese airﬁelds were effectively neutralized by the 5th, Air Force.
Enemy opposition was feeble, resistance not reaching the fanatical heights experienced on other islands. There were not more than 2000 enemy troops on Noemfoor Island and our casualties were extremely light, only 8 of our men having been killed by D-plus—6 day. Again, forward air facilities to support further advance to the westward had been secured at a relatively light cost.
Occupation of Cape Sansapor Area
On 30 July 1944, an amphibious force, under the command of Rear Admiral F echteler, carried out a landing in the Cape Sansapor area on the Vogelkop Peninsula in western New Guinea. Rear Admiral R. S. Berkey commanded the covering force.
The main assault was made without enemy air or naval resistance. Beach conditions were ideal and within a short time, secondary landings had been made at Middleburg Island and Amsterdam Island, a few thousand yards off shore.
Prior to D-day Army Air Force bombers and ﬁghters had neutralized enemy areas in the Geelvink- Vogelkop area and the main air bases in the Halmahera. On D-day, when it became evident that the ground forces would encounter no resistance, Army support aircraft; from Owi and Wakde were released for other missions and naval bombardment was not utilized. Again; casualties sustained were light“; one man killed, and minor damage to small landing craft.
This move brought our forces to the western extremity of New Guinea. It effectively neutralized New Guinea as a base for enemy operations, and rendered the enemy more vulnerable to air attack in Halmahera, the Molukka Passage and Makassar Strait. Enemy concentrations had been by-passed in our progress up the coast, but due to the absence of roads, the major portion of enemy transport was of necessity water-borne. Here our PT boats did admirable service, roaming east and west along the coast, harassing enemy barge trafﬁc, and preventing reinforcements from being put ashore.
WESTERN CAROLINES OPERATIONS
Following closely upon the capture of the Marianas, Fleet Admiral Nimitz’s forces moved to the west and south to attack the Western Caroline Islands. Establishment of our forces in that area would give us control of the southern half of the crescent shaped chain of islands which runs from Tokyo to the southern Philippines. It would complete the isolation of the enemy held Central and Eastern Carolines, including the base at Truk.
Admiral W. F. Halsey, Jr., Commander Third Fleet, commanded the operations in the Western Carolines. Additions to the Paciﬁc Fleet from new construction made an even larger force available to strike the Western Carolines than the Marianas. Nearly 800 vessels participated. Vice Admiral Wilkinson commanded the joint expeditionary forces which conducted landing operations. Major General J. C. Smith, USMC, was Commander Expeditionary Troops, and Vice Admiral Mitscher was again commander of the fast carrier force. Troops employed included the lst Marine Division and the lst Army Infantry Division.
Preliminary Strikes by Fast Carrier Task Force
Prior to the landings in the Western Carolines, wide ﬂung air and surface strikes were made to divert and destroy Japanese forces, which might have interfered. Between 31 August and 2 September, planes from the fast carriers bombed and strafed Chichi Jima, Haha Jima. and Iwo Jima. Cruisers and destroyers bombarded Chichi Jima and Iwo Jima. They destroyed 46 planes in the air and on the ground, sank at least 6 ships, and damaged installations, airﬁelds and supply dumps. Our forces lost 5 aircraft. On the 7th and 8th, planes from the same carriers attacked Yap Island.
Simultaneously, other groups of fast carriers devoted their attention to the Palau Islands where the ﬁrst "Western Carolines landings were to take place. In attacks: throughout the group from 6 to 8 September, they did extensive damage to ammunition and supply dumps, barracks and warehouses.
The plan was for Paciﬁc Ocean Areas forces to land; on Peleliu Island in the Palau group on 15 September, simultaneously with a landing on Morotai by SouthWest Paciﬁc forces. In order“ to neutralize bases from which aircraft might interfere with these operations, carrier air strikes on Mindanao Island in the southern Philippines were made. These. attacks began on 9 September and revealed the unexpected weakness of enemy air resistance in the Mindanao area. On 10 September there: were further air attacks, as well as a cruiser- destroyer raid off the eastern Mindanao coast, which caught and completely destroyed a convoy of 32 small freighters.
The lack of opposition at Mindanao prompted air strikes into the central Philippines. From 12 to 14 September, planes from the carrier task force attacked the Visayas. They achieved tactical surprise, destroyed 75 enemy planes In the air and 123 On the ground, sank: many ships, and damaged installations ashore.
In direct support of the Southwest Paciﬁc landing at Morotai, carrier task force planes attacked Mindanao, the Celebes, and Talaud on 14- 15 September. On the
WESTERN CAROLINES OPERATION
Amphibious tanks moving ashore towards, Anguar, 17 September 1944
14th destrOyers bombarded the eastern coast of Mindanao. There was little airborne opposition and our forces destroyed and damaged a number of aircraft and surface ships.
Landings on Peleliu and Angaur
Ships and tr00ps employed in the Western Carolines landings came from various parts of the Paciﬁc. Three days of surface bombardment and air bombing precedes, the landing on Peleliu. During this time mine sweepers cleared the waters of Peleliu and Angaur Islands and underwater demolition teams removed beach obstructions. The Peleliu landing took place on 15 September, the landing force convoys arriving off the selected beaches at dawn. Following' intensive preparatory bombardment, bombing and straﬁng of the island, units of the lst Marine Division went ashore. Despite difﬁcult reef conditions, the initial landings were successful. The troops quickly overran the beach defenses, which were thickly mined but less heavily manned than usual. By the night of the 16th, the Peleliu airﬁeld, which was the prime objective of the entire operation, had been captured. After the rapid conquest of the southern portion of the island, however, progress on Peleliu slowed. The rough ridge which formed the north— south backbone of the island was a natural fortress of mutually supporting cave positions, organized in depth and with many automatic weapons. Advance along this ridge was slow and costly. The Japanese used barges at night to reinforce their troops, but naval gunﬁre dispersed and destroyed many of them. Enemy forces had been surrounded by 26 September, although it was not until the middle of October that the assault phase of the operation was completed.
The 81st Infantry Division went ashore on Angaur Island, six miles south of Peleliu, on 17 September. Fire support ships and aircraft had previously prepared the way for the assault transports. Beach conditions here were more favorable than at Peleliu. Opposition also was less severe, and by noon of 20 September the entire is— land had been overrun, except for one knot of resistance in rough country. Prompt steps were taken to develop a heavy- bomber ﬁeld on Angaur. Part of the Slst Division went to Peleliu on 22 September to reinforce the lst Marine Division, which had suffered severe casualties.
The southern Palau Islands offered no protective anchorage. Before the landings of the 15th, mine sweepers had been clearing the extensive mine ﬁelds in Kossol Roads, a large body of reef-enclosed water 70 miles north of Peleliu. Part of this area was ready for an anchorage on 15 September, and the next day seaplane tenders entered and began to use it as a base for aircraft operation. It proved to be a reasonably satisfactory roadstead, where ships could lie while waiting call to Peleliu for unloading, and where fuel, stores and ammunition could be replenished.
Marine troops from Peleliu landed on Ngesebus Island, just north of Peleliu, on 28 September, by a shore-to-shore movement. The light enemy opposition was overcome by the 29th. Later several small islands in the vicinity were occupied as outposts.
No landing was made on Babelthuap, the largest of the Palau group. It was heavily garrisoned, had rough terrain, would have required a costly operation, and offered no favorable airﬁeld sites or other particular advantages. From Peleliu and ‘Angaur the rest of the Palau group is being dominated, and the enemy ground forces on the other islands are kept neutralized.
As soon as it became clear that the entire 81st Division would not be needed for the capture of Angaur, a regimental combat team was dispatched to Ulithi Atoll. Mine sweepers, under cover of light surface ships, began work in the lagoon on 21 September and in two days cleared the entrance and anchorage inside for the attack force. The Japanese had abandoned Ulithi and the landing of troops on the 23rd Was without opposition. Escort carrier and long range bombers kept the air facilities at Yap neutralized so that there was no aerial interference with landing operations. Although Ulithi was not an ideal anchorage, it was the best available shelter for large surface forces in the Western Carolines, and steps were taken at once to develop it.
Landings on Morotai
Occupation of the southern part of Morotai Island was carried out by the Southwest Paciﬁc forces of General of the Army MacArthur to establish air, air warning and minor naval facilities. This action was further designed to isolate Japanese forces on Halmahera, who would otherwise have been in a position to ﬂank any movement into the southern Philippines. It was timed simultaneously with the seizure of Palau by Paciﬁc Ocean Areas forces. On 15 September 1944 an amphibious task force composed of escort carriers, cruisers, destroyers, destroyer escorts, attack transports and miscellaneous landing ships and craft, all under the command of Rear Admiral (now Vice Admiral) Barbey, approached Morotai. Practically no enemy opposition was encountered, and personnel casualties were light; difﬁculty was experienced, however, in beaching and unloading, due to coral heads and depressions in the reef adjacent to the landing areas.
Prior to D-day Army land-based planes from Biak and Noemfoor carried out heavy strikes on enemy air facilities in Ceram, Halmahera, northern Celebes, Vogel kop and southern Philippine areas. Carrier ﬁghter sweeps combined with further bombing operations prevented hostile aircraft from reaching Morotai on D—day. Naval gunﬁre support was furnished by destroyers and two heavy cruisers. During subsequent covering operations we sustained our ﬁrst naval loss in the Southwest Paciﬁc Area, except for planes and minor landing craft, since the Cape Gloucester operations in December 1943; the destroyer escort SHELTON was torpedoed and sunk by an enemy submarine.
REOCCUPATION OF PHILIPPINE ISLANDS
After providing support for the Palau landings, the Third Fleet fast carrier task force returned to the attack on enemy power in the Philippines. From waters to the east, they conducted the ﬁrst carrier attack of the war on Manila and Luzon. Under cover of bad weather the carriers approached without detection. On 21 and 22 September planes from the carriers attacked Manila and other targets on Luzon, inﬂicting severe damage on the enemy and suffering only light losses.
On 24 September carrier planes struck the central Philippines. They completed photographic coverage of the area of Leyte and Samar, where amphibious landings were to take place in October, and reached out to Coron Bay, a much used anchorage in the western Visayas. Many enemy planes and much shipping were destroyed. The light air opposition revealed how effective the ﬁrst Visayas strikes of 10 days previous had been. Following the strikes of the 24th, the fast carrier task force retired to forward bases to prepare for forthcoming operations.
Initial plans for re-entry into the Philippines intended securing Morotai as a stepping stone with a View to landings by the Seventh Amphibious Force on Mindanao some time in November. The decision to accelerate the advance by making the initial landings on Leyte in the central Philippines was reached in middle September when the Third Fleet air strikes disclosed the relative weakness of enemy air opposition. It was decided to seize Leyte Island and the contingent waters" on 20 October and thus secure airdrome sites and extensive harbor and naval base facilities. The east coast of Leyte offered certain obvious advantages for amphibious landings. It had a free undefended approach from the east. suﬂicient anchorage area, and good access to the remainder of the central islands in that it commanded the approaches to Surigao Strait. Moreover, the position by passed and isolated large Japanese forces in Mindanao. The accelerated timing of the operation and choice of the east coast for landing required, however, the acceptance of one serious disadvantage—the rainy season. Most of the islands in the Philippines are mountainous and during the northeast monsoon, from October to March, land areas on the east sides of the mountains have torrential rains.
Forces under General of the Army MacArthur carried out the landings in the Philippine Islands. For this purpose many transports, ﬁre support ships and escort carriers were temporarily transferred from the Paciﬁc Fleet to the Seventh Fleet, which is a part of the Southwest Paciﬁc command. The Central Philippine Attack Force, composed of Seventh Fleet units, greatly augmented by Pacific Fleet forces, was under the command of Vice Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid. This large force was divided into the Northern Attack Force (Seventh Amphibious Force, Rear Admiral [now Vice Admiral] Barbey commanding) and the Southern Attack Force (Third Amphibious Force, Vice Admiral Wilkinson commanding), plus surface and air cover groups, ﬁre support, bombardment, mine sweeping and supply groups. It comprised a total of more than 650 ships, including battleships, cruisers, destroyers, destroyer escorts, escort carriers, transports, cargo ships,landing craft, mine craft, and supply vessels. Four army divisions were to he landed on D-day.
The Third Fleet, operating under Admiral Halsey, was to cover and support the operation by air strikes over Formosa, Luzon and the Visayas, to provide protection for the landing against heavy units of the Japanese ﬂeet, and to destroy enemy vessels when opportunity offered.
Preliminary Strikes by Fast Carrier Task Force
Preparatory strikes to obtain information on installations, and to destroy air and surface strength, which might hinder our success in the Philippines, lasted from 9 to 20 October.
While a cruiser-destroyer task group bombarded and damaged installations on Marcus Island on 9 October, ships of the fast carrier forces were approaching the Nansei Shoto [Ryukyu Islands]. Long range search-planes and submarines “ran interference” for the force, attacking and destroying enemy search-planes and picket boats, so that our heavy forces achieved tactical surprise at their
objective. Carrier aircraft attacked Okinawa Island in the Nansei Shoto on 10 October. The Japanese apparently were taken by surprise. Not only was little airborne opposition met, but shipping had not been routed away from the area. Many enemy ships were sunk and airfields and facilities severely damaged.
On 11 October while the force was refueling, a fighter sweep against Aparri on the northern end of Luzon disorganized the relatively underdeveloped and lightly garrisoned fields there.
The next attack, on Formosa and he Pescadores, took place on 12 and 13 October. These strikes on aviation facilities, factory warehouses, wharves and coastal shipping, were expected by the enemy and, for the first time in this series of operations, a large number of enemy planes were over the targets and antiaircraft fire was intense. In spite of opposition, 193 planes were shot down on the first day and 123 more were destroyed on the ground.
At dusk on the 13th, part of the task force was skillfully attacked by aircraft and one of our cruisers was damaged. Although power was lost, the ship remained stable, due to prompt and effective damage control, and was taken in tow. With a screen of cruisers and destroyers, and under air cover from carriers, the slow retirement of the damaged ship began. At that time, the group was 120 miles from Formosa and within range of enemy aircraft on Okinawa, Luzon, and Formosa. Enemy planes kept the group under constant attack and succeeded in damaging another cruiser on the evening of the 14th. She also was taken in tow, and both vessels were brought safely to a base for repairs.
In order to prevent further air attacks while the damaged ships retired, the carriers launched repeated fighter sweeps and strikes over Formosa and northern Luzon on 14 and 15 October.
Beginning on 18 October the carrier planes again struck the Philippines. In strategical as well as direct tactical support of the landings of Southwest Pacific forces at Leyte on the 20th, the strikes of the 18th and 19th were aimed at the northern and central Philippines. On 20 October, some of the fast carriers furnished direct support to the Leyte landing and others conducted long ranged searches for units of the enemy fleet. Thus, Japanese airfields in and around Manila and in the Visayas were kept neutralized during the initial assault phase of the Leyte landing, while at the same time carrier planes from the Third Fleet furnished direct support to the landings by bombing and strafing beaches and interior areas on Leyte throughout the day. On 21 October, there were sweeps and strikes as far west as Coron Bay. Carrier planes also continued long-range searches with negative results.
During the 9 days preceding the landing on Leyte, the task groups sortied from New Guinea ports and the Admiralties and moved toward Leyte Gulf. On 17 October (D-minus-3 day) preliminary operations commenced under difficult weather conditions. By D-day the islands guarding the eastern entrances to Leyte Gulf were secured. The approach channels and landing beaches were cleared of mines and reconnaissance of the main beaches on Leyte had been effected.
After heavy bombardment by ships’ guns and bombing by escort carrier planes had neutralized most of the enemy opposition at the beaches, troops of the 10th and 24th Corps were landed, as scheduled on the morning of 20 October. The landing were made without difficulty and were entirely successful. Our troops, were established in the central Philippines, but it remained for the naval forces to protect our rapidly expanding beachheads from attack by sea and air.
In the amphibious phase of the Leyte operation. YMS 70 sank in a storm during the approach and the tug Sonoma and LCI (L) 1065 were sunk by enemy action. The destroyer Ross struck a mine on 19 October and the light cruiser Honolulu was seriously damaged by an aerial torpedo on 20 October.
Battle for Leyte Gulf
The Leyte landings were challenged by Japanese naval forces determined to drive us from the area. Between 23 and 26 October, a series of major surface and air engagements took place with far reaching effect. These engagement, which have been designated the Battle off Samar, and the Battle off Cape Engano. They involved the battleships, carriers, and escort carriers, cruisers, destroyers and destroyer escorts of the Third and Seventh Fleets, as well as PT boats and submarines.
Three enemy forces were involved. One of these, referred to hereinafter as the Southern Force, approached Leyte through Surigao Strait and was destroyed there by Seventh Fleet units on the night of 24-25 October. A second, or Central Force, passed through San Bernardino Strait in spite of previous air attacks by Third Fleet carrier planes and attacked Seventh Fleet escort carriers off Samar on the morning of the 25th. Finally, a Northern Force approached the Philippines from the direction of Japan and was attacked and most of it destroyed by the Third Fleet fast carrier force on the 25th.
On the early morning of 23 October two submarines, Darter and Dace, n the narrow channel between Palawan and the Dangerous Ground to the westward discovered the Central Force, then composed of 5 battleships, 10 heavy cruisers, 1 or 2 light cruisers, and about 15 destroyers. These submarines promptly attacked, reporting four torpedo hits in each of three heavy cruisers, two of which were sunk and the third heavily damaged. Darter, while maneuvering into position for a subsequent attack, grounded on a reef in the middle of the channel, and had to be destroyed after her crew had been removed. Other contracts were made later in the day in Mindoro Strait and off the approach to Manila Bay, resulting in damage to an enemy heavy cruiser.
On the 24th carrier planes located and reported the Central Force (in the Sibuyan Sea) and the Southern Force (proceeding through the Sulu Sea) and the Sothern Force (proceeding through the Sulu Sea) sufficiently early to permit aircraft from Vice Admiral Mitscher’s fast carriers to inflict substantial damage.
The third enemy force, the Northern, was not located and reported until so late on the afternoon of the 24th, that strikes could not be launched against it until the next morning. While these searches and strikes were being made, the northernmost of our fast carrier task groups was subjected to constant attacks by enemy land-based planes.
Although about 110 planes were shot down in the vicinity of the group, one of the enemy aircraft succeeded in bombing the light carrier Princeton. Large fires broke out on the damaged carrier and despite heroic efforts of cruisers and destroyers to combat them, Princeton suffered a series of devastating explosions which also caused damage and casualties to ships along-side. After hours of effort to save the ship, it became necessary to move the task group to meet a new enemy threat (the reported sighting of the Northern Force), and Princeton was sunk by torpedo fire from our own ships. It should be noted, that Princeton was the first fast carrier lost by the United States Navy since the sinking of Hornet in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands on 26 October 1942.
Battle of Suriago Strait
A part of the enemy’s Southern Force entered Surigao Strait in the early hours of 25 October 7 ships (2 battleships, 1 heavy cruiser and 4 destroyers) advanced in rough column up the narrow strait during darkness toward our waiting forces. The enemy was first met by our PT boats, then in succession by three coordinated destroyer torpedo attacks, and finally by devastating gunfire from our cruisers and battleships which had been disposed across the northern end of the strait by the officer in tactical command, Rear Admiral (now Vice Admiral) J. B. Oldendorf. The enemy was utterly defeated. This action is an exemplification of the classical naval tactics of “crossing the T”. Rear Admiral Orldendorf had deployed his light forces on each flank of the approaching colum and had sealed off the enemy’s advance through the strait with his cruisers and battleships. By means of this deployment, he was able to concentrate his fire, both guns and torpedoes, on the enemy units before they were able to extricate themselves from the trap. The Japanese lost, 2 battleships and 3 destroyers almost before they could open fire. The heavy cruiser and one destroyer escaped, but the cruiser was sunk on the 26th, by our planes. Other ships of the Southern Force which did not engage in the night battle were either later sunk or badly damaged by aircraft attack. In the night action, the destroyer Albert W. Grant, was severely damaged by gunfire, our other ships suffered no damage.
Battle off Samar
Throughout the 24th the Third Fleet carriers launched strikes against the Central Force which was heading for San Bernardino Strait. This force consisted of 5 battleships, 8 cruisers and 13 destroyers. As they passed through Mindoro Strait and proceeded to the eastward, our planes launched vigorous attacks which sank the new battleship Musashi-pride of the Japanese Navy, 1 cruiser and 1 destroyer, and heavily damaged other units, including the battleship Yamato, sister ship of Musashi, with bombs and torpedoes. In spite of these losses and damage which caused some of the enemy ships to turn back, part of the Central Force continued doggedly through San Bernardino Strait and moved southward unobserved off the east coast of Samar. Our escort carriers with screens, under the command of Rear Admiral T. L. Sprague, were dispersed in three groups to the eastward of Samar, with the mission of maintaining patrols and supporting ground operations on Leyte. Shortly after daybreak on 25 October, the Japanese Central Force, now composed of 4 battleships, 5 cruisers and 11 destroyers, attacked the group of escort carriers commanded by Rear Admiral C. A. F. Sprague. A running fight ensued as our lightly armed carriers retired toward Leyte Gulf.
The 6 escort carriers, 3 destroyers and 4 destroyer escorts of Rear Admiral C. A. F. Sprague’s task group fought valiantly with their planes, guns and torpedoes. Desperate attacks were made by planes and escorts, and smoke was employed in an effort to divert the enemy from the carriers. After two and one-half hours of almost continuous firing, the enemy broke off the engagement and retired towards San Bernardino Strait. Planes from all three groups of escort carriers, with the help of Third Fleet aircraft, which struck during the afternoon of the 25th, sank 2 enemy heavy cruisers and 1 destroyer. Another crippled destroyer was sunk and several other enemy ships were either sunk or badly damaged on the 26th as our planes followed in pursuit.
In the surface engagement, the destroyers Hoel and Johnston, the destroyer escort Roberts and the escort carrier Gambier Bay, were sunk by enemy gunfire. Other carriers and escort ships, which were brought into the fray sustained hits; these included Suwanee, Santee, White Plains and Kitkun Bay. Enemy dive bombers on the morning of 25 October sank the escort carrier Saint Lo. Approximately 105 planes were lost by Seventh Fleet escort carriers during the Battle for Leyte Gulf.
Battle off Cape Engano
Search planes from Third Fleet carriers had located the enemy Southern and Central Forces on the morning of 24 October, and had ascertained that they were composed of battleships, cruisers and destroyers, without aircraft carriers. As it was evident that the Japanese Navy was making a major effort, Admiral Halse reasoned that there must be an enemy carrier force somewhere in the vicinity. Consequently he ordered a special search by one of our carrier planes on the afternoon of the 24th of the enemy Northern Force-a powerful collection of carriers, battleships, cruisers and destroyers-standing to the southward.
During the night of the 24th-25th, our carrier task force ran to the northward and before dawn launched planes to attack the enemy. Throughout most of 25 October, the Battle off Cape Engano (so named from the nearest point of land at the northeastern tip of Luzon Island) went on with carrier aircraft striking the enemy force, which had been identified as consisting of 1 large carrier, 3 light carriers, 2 battleships with flight decks, 5 cruisers and 6 destroyers. Beginning at 0840 air attacks on these ships continued until nearly 1800. Late in the day, a force of our cruisers and destroyers was detached to finish off ships, which had been crippled by air strikes. In that day’s work all the enemy carriers, a light cruiser, and a destroyer were sunk, and heavy bomb and torpedo damage was inflicted on the battleships and other Japanese units.
Early on the morning of the 25th, Admiral Halsey received the report that the Central Force, which his carrier planes had attacked the day before, had pushed on through San Bernardino Strait, had turned southward along the coast of Samar and was attacking Rear Admiral Sprague’s escort carriers. Consequently, Admiral Halsey dispatched a detachment of fast battleships and carriers to the assistance of these Seventh Fleet units. Meanwhile, the Central Force had turned away and begun to retire northward to San Bernardino Strait in the face of the heroic defense put up by the escort carriers and the expectation of attack by other of our forces. Third Fleet aircraft reached this Central Force after it had begun to retire and inflicted additional serious damage. On the afternoon of 25 October or carrier planes probably sank 2 heavy cruisers and a light cruiser, blew the bow off a destroyer, and damaged 4 battleships and other cruisers and destroyers. Fast surface ships of the Third Fleet reached the scene of action after the enemy had re-entered San Bernardino Strait. However, they encountered a straggler on the 26th, which was promptly sunk. This straggler was identified as either a cruiser or destroyer.
On 26 October, aircraft from Third Fleet carriers attacked the retiring Japanese forces again, doing further damage to the surviving battleships. By the end of that day, the Battle for Leyte Gulf was over and the three enemy forces were either destroyed or had retreated out of range of our ships and planes. Thus, the major Japanese threat to our initial Philippine landing was averted and the enemy’s total surface power severely crippled. The losses of our Third Fleet in the action amounted to 40 planes in combat, in addition to the light carrier Princeton.
November Carrier Task Force Strikes
While part of the fast carrier task force retired to fuel and reprovision at forward bases, the remainder continued in action in support of the Leyte campaign. During this period, the fast carrier task force was commanded by Vice Admiral J. S. McCain. On 27 October, planes from carriers bombed and strafed a cruiser and a destroyer off Mindoro.
No major naval actions developed during the remainder of 1944, but the Third Fleet was constantly active in providing vigorous support for the operations in the Southwest Pacific Area. Although Japanese installations in the Philippines and to the northward had been heavily damaged by the September and October strikes, they were not destroyed. On 2 November, enemy planes attacked a carrier task group of the Third Fleet and although 10 of the Japanese aircraft were shot down, several ships were damaged and some personnel casualties were suffered.
Carrier aircraft of the Third Fleet struck at Manila and the airfields in the vicinity on 5 and 6 November. They destroyed 439 planes, sank a cruiser, a destroyer, a destroyer escort, a submarine chaser, an oiler, 2 transports and a freighter, as well as damaging 44 vessels. They hit numerous ground installations and destroyed railroad facilities.
On 11 November, planes from the fast carriers attacked and destroyed a Japanese convoy entering Ormoc Bay on the west coast of Leyte Island. They sank 4 transports, 5 destroyers and 1 destroyer escort, and shot down 13 enemy aircraft. This effectively ended one major attempt by the enemy to reinforce his Leyte garrison.
Another two-day series of strikes on Luzon by aircraft from the fast carriers occurred on 13 and 14 November. Antiaircraft fire over the targets was light on the first day, but increased the second. Carrier aircraft sank 3 transports, 3 freighters, and 3 destroyers, and damaged 43 vessels. 84 enemy planes were destroyed in the two days’ raid.
Another air attack on Luzon targets came on the 19th
There was little airborne opposition, only 16 planes being shot down at the target, but 100 were destroyed on the ground and with those shot down near the carriers, 124 enemy planes were eliminated during the day. Few shipping targets could be located and the total in that category was 1 freighter and 2 small craft sunk with 13 vessels damaged.
On 25 November the last strike in support of the Leyte operation was launched against Luzon. This time a light cruiser, a mine layer, a destroyer escort, 6 freighters, and a tanker were sunk, and 29 vessels were damaged. Over the target our planes shot down 25 aircraft and destroyed 32 on the ground. Enemy air attacks on the carriers were heavier than usual, and 31 enemy planes were shot down near our ships.
During the November strikes, the air combat losses of the fast carrier task force were 97 planes.
Landings at Ormoc Bay
In order to cut the enemy overwater lines of supply and reinforcement and to separate enemy ground forces on Leyte, an additional amphibious landing was made at Ormoc Bay, on the west coast of the island, on 7 December. Naval forces commanded by Rear Admiral A. D. Struble put Army troops ashore 3 miles southeast of Ormoc against sporadic resistance. The destroyer Mahan and destroyer transport Ward were, however, so heavily damaged by enemy aerial torpedoes that it was necessary for them to be sunk by our own forces. Several days prior to the landing, the destroyer Cooper was lost in a night action, while engaged in an antishipping sweep in this vicinity, and on 11 December the destroyer Reid was sunk during an enemy air attack on a supply convoy en route to Ormoc Bay.
Landings on Mindoro
On 15 December, Southwest Pacific forces landed on the southwest coast of Mindoro Island, nearly 300 miles northwest of Leyte, in order to seize the San Jose area and establish air facilities there. Enemy air on Luzon, not having been entirely neutralized, attacked the convoy en route. Our ships suffered some damage but continued the approach. The landing was without opposition from shore but sporadic air attacks resulted in the sinking of a few LST’s. In moving from Leyte in Mindoro, our forces obtained the advantages of more favorable weather for airfield construction and aircraft operations.
Occupation of southwest Mindoro presented a more serious threat to Manila and to Japan’s shipping lanes through the South China Sea. As an immediate and strong reaction by the enemy was expected, carrier planes of the Third Fleet promptly began making Manila and to Japan’s shipping lanes through the South China Sea. As an immediate and strong reaction by the enemy was expected, carrier planes of the Third Fleet promptly began making Manila Bay untenable. Securing tactical surprise, they struck at dawn 14 December, the day before the Mindoro landings. Local air control was gained and held continuously for three days. In attacks on 14, 15 and 16 December our carrier aircraft sank or destroyed 27 vessels and damaged 60 more, destroyed 269 Japanese planes, and bombed air and railroad facilities. Enemy aircraft did not molest the carriers during this strike, but 20 of our planes were lost in combat.
On 17 December, sea conditions began to deteriorate east of Luzon where the Third Fleet was scheduled to refuel: a typhoon of severe intensity developed with great rapidity along an erratic course. Although the main body of the fleet escaped the center of the storm, the destroyers Hull, Spence and Monaghan were lost.
Landings at Lingayen Gulf
The mid-December carrier strikes on Manila Bay had led the enemy to expect further landings in that area. When we by-passed southern Luzon and landed on the south and southeast coast of Lingayen Gulf on 9 January, the enemy was again taken by surprise.
Luzon, the largest of the Philippine Islands, with an area roughly the size of Virginia, is generally mountainous, but is cut by two large valleys. The central plain, extending from Lingayen to Manila Bay-about 100 miles long and from 30 to 50 miles wide—contains Manila, the capital, the major concentration of the population and wealth, numerous airfields, and a network of roads and railways. Prompt seizure of this area would strike at the heart of the enemy defenses in the Philippines, provide bases for the support of further operations against the Japanese, and deny the enemy the freedom of the South China Sea. The most vulnerable part of the central plain is at Lingayen, where the low land does not offer the same opportunities for defense s do the approaches to Manila Bay.
The Luzon Attack Force, commanded by Vice Admiral Kinkaid, under the over-all command of General of the Army MacArthur, was composed of Seventh Fleets units largely augmented by Pacific Fleet forces, and numbered more than 850 ships. This was divided into the Lingayen Attack Force (Vice Admiral Wilkinson commanding), a the San Fabian Attack Force (Vice Admiral Barbey commanding), a reinforcement group (Rear Admiral Conolly commanding), a fire support and bombardment group (Vice Admiral Oldendorf commanding) and surface and air covering groups (Rear Admiral Berkey and Rear Admiral C. T. Durgin respectively commanding). The Luzon Attack Force was to transport, put ashore and support elements of the 6th United States Army (Lieutenant General Walter Krueger commanding) to assist in the seizure and development of the Lingayen area.
The Third Fleet, operating under Admiral Halsey, with its fast carrier task force commanding by Vice Admiral McCain, was to cover and protect the operation by air strikes over Luzon, Formosa and the Nansei Shoto. Complete surprise was attained in attacks on Formosa and the southern Nansei Shoto on 3 and 4 January. There was little airborne opposition, but unfavorable weather conditions somewhat reduced the toll of enemy ships, planes and facilities destroyed. Luzon was hit 6 January, with the zone of operations extending southward to the Manila Bay area in order to give special attention to enemy airfields. Overcast weather prevented blanketing of the northern Luzon fields, and the attack was consequently renewed on the 7th.
Landings in Lagayen Gulf, were scheduled for 9 January. During the passage of the Attack force to Lingayen there was no enemy surface opposition. One Japanese destroyer put out from Manila Bay, and was sunk by our escorting destroyers. There was, however, intensive air attack both during the passage and the preliminary operations in Lingayen Gulf, which resulted in the loss of the escort carrier Ommaney Bay, the fast mine sweepers Long, Hovey and Palmer, and considerable
LANDINGS AT LINGAYEN GULF
topside damage to other ships. For three days prior to the assault, Vice Admiral Oldendorf’s battleships, cruisers and destroyers bombarded the area, while mine sweepers were at work and beach obstacles were being cleared. Immediately prior to the landings the bombardment by heavy ships and the air strikes from escort carriers were intensified; the assault waves were preceded by rocket firing and mortar-carrying landing craft, which took up the frontal fire against the beaches, while the heavier caliber fire was directed inland and to the flanks.
The Lingayen Attack Force landed the 14th Army Corps on the southern shore of Lingayen Gulf, while the San Fabian Attack Force simultaneously put the 1st Army Corps ashore on beaches in the Damortis area to the northeastward. Only very light resistance was met at the beaches, and the troops advanced rapidly inland in spite of unfavorable terrain conditions. Bombardment and bombing had already silenced or destroyed the great majority of fixed defenses and dispersed their personnel.
While the troops were going ashore in Lingayen Gulf on 9 January, the Third Fleet fast carrier task force was striking Formosa. This target was chosen to lessen the enemy air strength, which had been operating against Seventh Fleet forces on earlier days. As a result, of this operation there was little enemy air interference with the actual Lingayen landings: Third Fleet in addition netted 15 enemy ships sunk and 58 damaged for its day’s work.
Although the troops pressed rapidly southward on Luzon, and were soon out of range of naval fire support, a heavy force of battleships, cruisers, destroyers and escort carriers remained in Lingayen Gulf for a considerable length of time to cover the landing of reinforcements and supplies and prevent enemy surface, subsurface, and air interference.
Third Fleet Covering Operations
In continued support of the Lingayen operations, the Third Fleet fast carrier task force made a thrust into the South China Sea, especially seeking the destruction of any major units of the Japanese Fleet that might be encountered there. None were found, but the air strikes of 12 January on the coast between Saigon and Camranh Bay achieved much stripping destruction. One enemy convoy was entirely destroyed and two others were severely mauled: the shipping tally totaled 41 ships sunk and 31 damaged. 112 enemy planes were destroyed and docks, oil storage and airfield facilities were heavily damaged. Air opposition was negligible.
Formosa was struck again on the 15th, against very slight opposition, while fighter sweeps and searches were made to Amoy, Swatow, Hong Kong and Hainan. Poor weather, however, greatly reduced the score of shipping destruction.
To complete the Third Fleet’s visit to the China coast, Hong Kong, and Hainan. Poor weather, however, greatly reduced the score of shipping destruction.
To complete the Third Fleet’s visit to the China coast, Hong Kong, Canton and Hainan were struck in force on 16 January. A considerable amount of shipping was damaged or destroyed. Extensive destruction was inflicted on docks, refineries and the naval station in the Hong Kong area, while huge oil fires were started at Canton. Air opposition was again negligible.
Formosa was struck agaon on the 15th, against very slight opposition, while fighter sweeps and searches were made to Amoy, Swatow, Hong Kong and Hainan. Poor weather, however, greatly reduced the score of shipping destruction.
To complete the Third Fleet’s visit to the China Coast, Hong Kong, Canton and Hainan were struck in force on 16 January. A considerable amount of shipping was damaged or destroyed. Extensive destruction was inflicted on docks, refineries and the naval station in the Hong Kong area, while huge oils fires were started at Canton. Air opposition was again negligible. In the course of this thrust into waters that the enemy had hitherto considered his own, 3800 miles were traversed in the South China Sea with no battle damage to our ships. No enemy aircraft had been able to approach the fast carrier task force closer than 20 miles.
Formosa and the southern Nansei Shoto were again attacked on 21 January under favorable weather conditions. Heavy damage was inflicted on aircraft, shipping, docks and the industrial area at Takao. On the following day Okinawa in the Nansei Shoto was struck. The destruction of enemy aircraft and airfield facilities in all these strikes led to a marked lessening of Japanese air effort against the Luzon assault forces.
Operations Against Manila
During the remainder of January, General of the Army MacArthur’s troops pressed steadily southward from Lingayen Gulf down the central plain. To accelerated the progress of operations against Manila and to open sea access to its harbor, additional amphibious landings were carried out in southwestern Luzon at the end of the month. On 29 January, an amphibious assault force, commanded by Rear Admiral Struble, put the 11th Army Corps ashore in the San Narciso area, northwest of Subic Bay. This move, which was designed to cut off Bataan Peninsula, was entirely unopposed. Mine sweepers made exploratory sweeps off the landing beaches with negative results, and as it was evident that no enemy forces were present the scheduled bombardment of the area was not
carried out. The troops moved rapidly inland and reached Subic by noon. On the following day, the 30th, troops were landed on Grande Island in Subic Bay, again without opposition. Mine sweeping of Subic Bay, again without negative results, and this fine harbor was made available for further operations against the Manila entrance.
An assault force commanded by Rear Admiral Fechteler landed elements of the 11th Airborne Division at Nasugbu, 15 miles directly south of the entrance to Manila Bay, on 31 January. In this instance, also the naval bombardment was dispensed with because of the obvious lack of shore resistance. Although the troops reached their objective without opposition, a number of small high-speed craft attacked the naval force, and PC-1129 was sunk in the ensuing action.
On 13 February a force of light cruisers and destroyers, commanded by Rear Admiral Berkey, commenced a preliminary bombardment of the entrances to Manila Bay, and on the following day continued to shell Corregidor Island and the southern portion of Bataan Peninsula. Mine sweepers began clearing Manila Bay On the 15th, while the bombardment of Corregidor and the mine sweeping continued, troops landed at Mariveles on Bataan against very light opposition, and on the 16th landings were made on Corregidor itself.
The ability to place troops ashore in protected and mined waters was made possible by naval gunfire against the fixed defenses of Corregidor, and the sweeping of mines in the channel between Corregidor and Mariveles. In considerably less than two months from the initial landings at Lingayan Gulf, General of the Army MacArthur’s forces had covered the ground that had required more than four months for the Japanese in 1942. In comparing the methods used by the two invaders for seizing positions controlling the entrance to Manila Bay, it is interesting to note that in both cases to the attacking forces had control of the sea and air. The Japanese relied principally on field artillery from Bataan against our guns on Corregidor. Our method employed, naval strength as the spearhead of amphibious assault, thus allowing the ground force commander flexibility in selecting the time and place of the attack.
Landings on Palawan
At the close of February various operations against enemy holdings in differenct parts of the Philippines were in progress, in which forces of the Seventh Fleet were participating. On the 28th, the last day covered by this report, a force of cruisers and destroyers commanded by Rear Admiral R.S. Riggs bombarded Puerto Princesa, on the east coast of Palawan. An amphibious attack group, commanded by Rear Admiral Fechteler, put troops ashore shortly after. No opposition was encountered: the town and two near-by airfields were quickly seized. This landing secured virtual control of the westernmost of the Philippine Islands, and provided the sites for air bases that will assist in hindering enemy water transport from the Netherlands East Indies.
ASSAULT ON INNER DEFENSES OF JAPAN
The amphibious operations of the spring, summer and autumn of 1944 carried our forces such great distances across the Pacific that in February 1945 they were enabled to begin the assault upon the inner defenses of the Japanese Empire itself.
The occupation of Saipan, Tinian andGuam had established shore-based air forces of the Pacific Ocean Areas in positions from which continuing air attacks could be made against the Volcano and Bonin Islands, and from which long-range bombers could operate against Japan. To operate with the greatest effectiveness and a minimum of losses, long-range bombers should be provided with fighter base for supporting Marianasbased B-29’s operating over the home islands of the Empire. The possession of Iwo Jima would also permit medium bombers to attack Japan, deprive the enemy of an important aerial lookout station, and reduce his air attacks on our Marianas bases.
The operations for the capture of Iwo Jima were under the command of Admiral Spruance, Commander Fifth Fleet. Vice Admiral Turner was in over-all command of the amphibious forces, and the Expeditionary Forces were commanded, by Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith, USMC. Major General Harry Schmidt, USMC, commanded the Fifth Amphibious Corps; Major General Clifton B. Cates, USMC, the 4th Marine Division; Major General Keller E. Rockey, USMC, the 5th Marine Division; and Major General Graves B. Erskine, USMC, the 3rd Marine Division. The fast carrier task force, operating in support of the assault, was once more commanded by Vice Admiral Mitscher.
It was anticipated that enemy resistance would be severe. Iwo Jima had been heavily fortified by the Japanese over a period of man years because it is the only island in this strategically important group which lends itself to construction of airfields. As the island is only five miles long and less than two miles wide, the enemy could cover the whole shoreline with artillery and machine gun fire and could concentrate on the only two landing beaches. There was no opportunity for maneuver to select an undefended landing place, and hence there could be no surprise once we had begun reduction of the major defenses of the island. Consequently, preparations had to be made for the most intensive ground fighting yet encountered in the Pacific. Landing forces of 60,000 Marines, put ashore by a naval force of more than 800 ships, manned by approximately 220,000 naval personnel, are evidence of the scale of the attack, and the determination of opposition expected.
Preliminary Air-Surface Attacks on Iwo Jima
For seven months prior to the February 1945 assault, Iwo Jima was subjected to air attacks and surface bombardments, which increased in frequency and intensity from December 1944 onward. Planes from the fast carrier task force struck the island on 15, 16, 24 June, 4 July, 4-5 August and 31 August-2 September; on 4 July and 2 September bombardment by surface ships was carried out.
Beginning just before midnight on 11 November and continuing until 0100 on the 12th, cruisers and destroyers commanded by Rear Admiral A.E. Smith bombarded Iwo Jima, making special efforts to damage air installations. There was moderate shore battery fire during the first part of the bombardment, but none of our ships suffered damage. Numerous explosions were seen and several large fires were started.
Early in December bombers of the 7th Army Air Force, operating under the Strategic Air Force, Pacific Ocean Areas, began daily attacks on Iwo Jima, and Marine Corps bomber squadrons, based in the Marianas, began a daily series of night harassing flights against enemy shipping in the area. These constant raids were supplemented periodically by intensified air attack and surface bombardment.
On 8 December and again on 24 December attacks by P-38’s, B-29’s and B-24’s, were followed by over an hour’s bombardment by Rear Admiral Smith’s cruisers and destroyers. A number of large fires were started ashore during each attack. The bombarding ships suffered no damage.
On 27 December Army B-29’s and P-38’s, bombed Iwo Jima once more, and the same surface ships returned to fire on shore targets for an hour and a half. Little opposition was encountered on either day, although one of our ships received slight damage from shore batteries. Light personnel casualties aboard one of our destroyers resulted from a hit from an enemy destroyer escort which was pursued and sunk at sea.
Chichi Jima and Haha Jima in the Bonin Islands, as well as Iwo Jima, were bombarded on 5 January 1945 by Rear Admiral Smith’s surface ships, while Army aircraft of the Strategic Air Force, Pacific Ocean Areas, bombed airstrip installations on Iwo. Fire from enemy shore batteries was meager.
A battleship-cruiser-destroyer force, commanded by Rear Admiral O. C. Badger, attacked Iwo Jima on 24 January in a coordinated action with Strategic Air Force bombers and B-29’s of the 21st Bomber Command. Air installations and shipping were attacked, with no interception by enemy planes and only slight antiaircraft fire. One Japanese cargo vessel blew up and two others were left burning.
Attack on Tokyo
Carrier aircraft of the Fifth Fleet attacked Tokyo on 16 February, exactly one year after the first carrier strike on Truk. Fleet Admiral Nimitz’s communique announcing the strike stated: “This operation has long been planned and the opportunity to accomplish it fulfills the deeply cherished desire of every officer and man in the Pacific Fleet.”
Landings on Iwo Jima, were scheduled for 19 February. Consequently, on the 16th pre-invasion bombardment and bombing of Iwo Jima began, while the fast carrier tasks force struck Tokyo. This attack on the enemy’s capital was designed Iwo by destroying air forces, facilities and manufacturing installations, as well as to bring to the Japanese home front a disrupting awareness of the progress of the war.
Approaching the coast of Japan under cover of weather so adverse as to handicap enemy air operations, our forces obtained complete tactical surprise; our attack was vigorously pressed for two days. All enemy efforts to damage our ships were unsuccessful. Against a loss of 49 of our planes, 322 enemy aircraft were shot out of the air and 177 destroyed on the ground. A Japanese escort carrier at Yokohama was bombed and set on fire; she went down by the bow and was left lying on her side. 9 coastal vessels, a destroyer, 2 destroyer escorts and a cargo ship were sunk. Hangars, shops and other installations at numerous airfields were destroyed; the Ota aircraft factory was damaged; and the Musashine Tama and Tachigawa engine plants were heavily bombed. Upon completion of the 17 February strike, the fast carrier task force retired towards Iwo Jima to give more direct support of the landing operations.
Landings on Iwo Jima
After three days of intensive bombardment by surface ships of the Fifth Fleet and bombing by Navy carrier and Army shore-based planes, the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions began landing operations at 0900, 19 February, on the southeast shore of Iwo Jima. This bombardment and bombing made initial opposition light, except for some mortar and artillery fire at LST’s and boats, but resistance rapidly developed in intensity during the day. The enemy was soon laying down a devasting curtain of artillery, rocket and mortar fire on the beaches, and the remainder of the day saw bitter fighting as the Marines inched ahead against determined resistance from heavily fortified positions. The troops who came ashore encountered an intricate system of defenses, as well as some of the most modern weapons that the enemy has employed in the present war. The defending garrison, system of caves, pillboxes and blockhouses, with both the guns on Mount Suribachi (at the southern tip of the island) and in the high northern area commanding the Marines’ positions, the beaches and the sea approaches. By the end of the first day, the Marines had advanced across the width of the island at its narrow southwestern tip, isolating the Japanese on Mount Suribachi from the main enemy forces in the north.
During the early morning hours of 20 February, an enemy counterattack was broken up by the 27th Marines; by the end of the day our troops had captured Motoyama Airfield No. 1.
Desperate fighting continued during the third day: by 1800 more than 1200 Japanese dead had been counted, and one had been captured. The 3rd Marine Division Division landed, as reserves, and moved into line between the 4th and 5th Divisions. Although enemy air strength was generally light, it succeeded in sinking the escort carrier Bismarck Sea. During the night of 21-22 February, the enemy counterattacked again and again, but each assault was hurled back. The following morning the Marines renewed the attack; by noon they were advancing slowly under adverse weather conditions, knocking out enemy strongpoints. During the afternoon the enemy counterattacked again, exerting maximum pressure on both flanks of the Marine spearhead which was pointed toward Motoyama Airfield No. 2; the attack was repulsed with heavy losses to the enemy.
The southern part of Motoyama Airfield No. 2 was occupied on 23 February. Simultaneously other troops stormed the steep sloes of Mount Suribachi capturing the summit and winning gun positions which commanded the island. At 1035 the 28th Marine Regiment hoisted the United States flag over the extinct volcano. The capture of these heights eliminated some of the enemy mortar and artillery fire which had been directed against our and artillery fire which had been directed against our troops on the previous days, while mortar fire from Kangoku Rock, northwest of the island, was eliminated by a destroyer. Throughout the entire period, close support was constantly furnished by carrier aircraft and
IWO JIMA LANDINGS
Landing craft approaching the beach, 19 February 1945
naval gunfire. Unloading continued on the beaches; roads were being constructed, and the captured airstrips being restored to operational condition.
By 25 February, Marines of the three divisions, spearheaded by tanks, had captured approximately half of the island, including Motoyama Airfield No. 2, and were closing in on the main village. The advance was mad against fanatical resistance from rockets, bazooka-type guns, pillboxes and interlocking underground strong holds. On one flank alone, 100 caves, 30 to 40 feet deep, had to b knocked out one by one.
By the end of February, Marine Corps observation and artillery spotting planes were operating from Motoyama Airfield No. 1; the 3rd and 4th Marine Division had captured hills which further reduced the enemy’s fire power and allowed a freer supply flow on the beaches. The Japanese, despite heavy losses, continued to offer maximum resistance, but the Marines were established on high ground, and the conquest of Iwo Jima was assured.
Renewed Attack on Tokyo
Tokyo was again attacked on 25 February by Vice Admiral Mitscher’s fast carrier task force, which struck the island of Hachijo, off the coast of Honshu, the following day. Weather conditions were extremely adverse, but at least 158 planes were destroyed and 5 small vessels sunk. Numerous ground installations were attacked. The Ota and Koizumi aircraft plants were heavily damaged; radar installations, aircraft hangars, and 2 trains were demolished. Our forces lost 9 fighter planes in combat; the ships of the task force suffered no damage during the attack, but minor damage was inflicted upon two light units during retirement. On 1 March 1944, our forces were in the Marshall Islands and Northeast New Guinea. On 1 March 1945, they were established in Iwo Jima, 750 miles from Tokyo.
In addition to the great battles and the major combats, there were many vital continuing operations against the Japanese in the Pacific. Although less spectacular, they were none the less significant in exerting pressure on the enemy at every possible point. These activities, with the exception of those by submarines, took place in areas where campaigns had already been fought and where the fruits of those campaigns were now capitalized on. Favorable positions and bases gained from the enemy became points of attack on his more remote holdings.
From bases in the Aleutians our air and surface forces kept up a constant attack on Japanese positions in the northern and central attack on Japanese positions in the northern and central Kurile Islands. In spite of chronically bad weather, Army and Navy planes flew both attack and photographic missions to the Kuriles many times each month. They not only observed Japanese activity, but also destroyed important installations, supply dumps and shipping units. A task force of cruisers and destroyers commanded by the late Rear Admiral E. G. Small
bombarded Matsuwa Island in the Kuriles on 13 June and Kurabu Zaki, an important enemy air base on the southeast tip of Paramushiru, on 26 June. Matsuwa Island was again bombarded on 21 November by a task force commanded by Rear Admiral J. L. McCrea. On 5 January 1945, Rear Admiral McCrea’s forces bombarded Suribachi Wan, off Paramushiru, returning on 19 February to bombard Kurabu Zaki.
The activities of Pacific Fleet and Seventh Fleet submarines grew more extensive and varied after 1 March 1944, As previously, they operated aggressively against enemy combat ships and commerce. No waters of the Pacific were too remote for their operations and their patrols carried them to the interior lines of Japanese sea communication, where they have littered the bottom of the ocean with the sunken wrecks of a large part of Japan’s once great merchant fleet, as well as many naval vessels. Their contribution to the success of our advance in the Pacific is noteworthy. Besides their combat patrols, the submarines have rendered invaluable service on reconnaissance missions and have rescued many aviators shot down during strikes against various Japanese bases. Pacific Fleet submarines have been under the command of Vice Admiral C. A. Lockwood, Jr., during the period covered by this report, Seventh Fleet submarines were under the command of Rear Admiral R. W. Christie until 30 December 1944, when he was relieved by Rear Admiral J. Fife, Jr.
The British Pacific Fleet
Recently we have had the pleasure of welcoming the arrival in the Pacific of a strong task force of the Royal Navy, commanded by Admiral Sir Bruce A. Fraser, G.C.B., K.B.E. This potent addition to the Allied naval power in the Far East has been placed under the operational control of the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, and will work side by side with our armed forces in the common effort against the Japanese. Australian cruisers, destroyers and attack transports—under the command of Rear Admiral V. A. C. Crutchley, V.C., D.S.O., RN, later Commodore H. B. Farncomb, M.V.O., D.S.O., RAN—have continued to operate as an integral part of our naval task forces, as they have in previous years.
IV—COMBAT Operations: Atlantic-Mediterranean
UNITED STATES ATLANTIC FLEET
During the past year the combat operations of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet have been concerned primarily with antisubmarine activities, in coordination with the sea frontier commands. Escort systems in certain trans-Atlantic convoy routes are also the responsibility of the Commander in Chief, U. S. Atlantic Fleet. As was announced in the monthly statements of the President and the Prime Minister, the antisubmarine war has been on a fairly low scale during the past year. The German submarine force apparently has been engaged in “licking its wounds” after the rough handling it received in 1943. Its operations were badly interfered with by the invasion of the Continent in June, which knocked out the many U-boat bases on the French coast and forced the Germans to use bases less conveniently located in Norway and the Baltic. It is assumed that the long period of relative quiescence has been employed for building more effective types of submarine. The possibility of a renewed outbreak of submarine activity must, therefore, be guarded against. The remarks in m previous report as to the necessity for complete secrecy concerning our antisubmarine methods still hold. I consider it of the greatest importanct that the material and technique we have developed for dealing with the submarine menace be kept to ourselves until the conclusion of the war, to the end that the Japanese may not be able to apply our antisubmarine methods against our submarines operating in the Pacific.
An important duty of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet has been the maintenance of what might be called a general reserve of battleships, cruisers and other ships needed to make up a balanced task force. While possibility of a break-out of what was left of the German surface fleet remained, this force was held in readiness to deal with surface raids on Atlantic commerce. From time to time, particularly during the landings in northern and southern France, these ships were assigned first to the invasion of southern France. With the successful accomplishment of these operations, the need for heavy surface ships in the Atlantic area was reduced, and a large part of this general reserve has been shifted to the Pacific Fleet.
One of the little publicized but valuable tasks of the Atlantic Fleet has been to train for service elsewhere the large number of ships and landing craft built on the Atlantic coast. This has enabled the best use to be made of the facilities on the east coast, and has prevented overcrowding of the congested harbors on the Pacific coast. The same system is used in training patrol plane squadrons, which insofar as is practicable are fully trained in the Atlantic Fleet before being transferred to combat duty in the Pacific. The fact that during the past year some 3300 ships and craft were “shaken down” in the Atlantic Fleet operational training command indicates the magnitude of these training operations. An important element in this activity is the preparation of new submarines of war, carried on by the Submarine Force of the Atlantic Fleet, and the education of submarine officers and men in the schools at the Submarine Base at New London. The outstanding success of our submarines in the Pacific is in a large measure due to the sound preliminary training they received in the schools and the school submarines in the Atlantic.
The Atlantic Fleet has worked in close cooperation with the British, Canadian French, Brazilian and
Netherlands Navies. The Brazilians have developed a very efficient antisubmarine force of surface ships and aircraft which, operating as an integrated part of the South Atlantic detachment of the Atlantic Fleet, took its full share of the task of knocking out the German submarine effort directed against the convoy routs off the east coast of South America. Netherlands vessels have continued to serve with distinction in our antisubmarine forces.
UNITED STATES NAVAL FORCES IN EUROPE—THE NORMANDY INVASION
After a long period of careful planning, the assembly of United States Army and Air forces in Great Britain military organization set up for the cross-channel invasion involved ground, naval and air forces of a number of our Allies. The United States naval contingent was assembled and trained under the Commander Twelfth Fleet (Admiral Stark), who at the appropriate time turned it over to the operational control of the Allied Naval Commander in Chief.
The Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force, General (now General of the Army) Dwight D. Eisenhower, arrived in London and assumed command in January 1944. Meanwhile, his three principal subordinates had already been appointed: Allied Naval Commander in Chief, the late Admiral Sir Bertram H. Ramsay, RN; Commander in Chief 21st Army Group, General (now Field Marshal) Sir Bernard Montgomery, RA; and Air Commander in Chief, the late Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, RAF.
The success of our amphibious operations in North Africa, Sicily and Italy had demonstrated that, given air and sea superiority, there would be small doubt of our initial success, even against so strongly fortified a coast as northern France. The critical factor was whether, having seized a breach head, we would be able to supply and reinforce it sufficiently fast to build an army larger than that which the enemy was certain to concentrate against ours. The operation thus had two phases of almost equal important—the assault and the build-up. In both, the Navy would play a key part.
The Baie de la Seine beaches in Normandy were selected for the assault because of their proximity to the relatively undamaged ports of southern and western England, and because they were within easy range of fighter plane bases in England. The region was not so heavily fortified as the Pas de Calais area, and could be more easily isolated from other German forces by destruction of the Seine River bridges. The major deficiency of this region was the lack of a good harbor for a quick build-up after the assault. Thus, artificial harbors had to be devised to meet the deficiency.
The date of the assault was determined chiefly by weather and tide conditions. The late spring or early summer presented the most favorable weather prospects, and the long days enhanced our air superiority. A spring tide was desirable so that as many as possible of the beach obstacles would be exposed at low water and landing craft could be floated far up the beach at high tide. The time of day was determined so as to allow some daylight for preliminary bombardment before the troops landed, and a half-tide for beaching the first wave, in order to enable the landing craft to pass over rocks which existed at certain of the beaches.
There was little chance of effecting substantial surprise. The final assembly of ships and craft in British ports was so large as to be beyond concealment. All that could be done was to confuse the enemy as to the time and place of the landing.
Joint Army-Navy training began in September 1943. In the spring of 1944, several large scale rehearsals were conducted in order to perfect our technique and to achieve effective coordination between the troops and the vessels of the expeditionary force.
The general scheme of the operation provided for landing United States troops in United States vessels on the western half of the area to be attacked, while the British and Canadians took the eastern half. The naval assault force was consequently divided into the Western [United States] Task Force and the Eastern [British] Task Force. The Western Naval Task Force, under the command of Rear Admiral (now Vice Admiral) A. G. Kirk, transported and landed the 1st U. S. Army, commanded by Rear Admiral J. L. Hall. Jr., and “U”, commanded by Lieutenant General O. N. Bradley. This task force was comprised of two assault forces: “O”, commanded by Rear Admiral J. L. Hall, Jr., and “U”, commanded by the late Rear Admiral D. P. Moon, and a follow-up force commanded by Commodore C. D. Edgar. Each assault force in turn contained the necessary transports, bombardment ships, landing craft, escort craft, gunfire support craft, mine sweepers and control craft required to transport and land Army forces. Force “O” was designated to land elements of the 5th Corps, including the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions and the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions on “Omaha” beach, which was the Vierville-Colleville sector of the Baie de la Seine, extending from Porten –Bessin to Carentan Estuary, Force “U” landed elements of the 7th Corps on “Utah” beach, near St. Martin-de-Varreville.
The U.S. 8th Army Air Force, the U.S. 9th Army Air force and the Royal Air Force were available in the United Kingdom at the time of the invasion. During the
final preparatory period (D-minus-90 to D-day) air bombing commitments included industrial, strategic and coast defense targets in northern France, the low countries and western Germany. As D-day approached, attacks were intensified until the maximum effort of planned heavy, medium and fighter- bomber missions were executed the night of 5-6 June. A low ceiling on the morning of 6 June hampered the scheduled pre landing bombing of “Omaha” breach by heavy bombers; to which some of the difficulty later experienced in gaining a foothold on “Omaha” beach may be attributed. The fighter cover throughout the operation limited the German air force to ineffective sporadic night attacks. The old United States battleships Arkansas, Texas, and Nevada delivered naval gunfire support, beginning with the preliminary bombardment, and continuing until the troops had advanced beyond range of their major caliber guns. The cruisers Tuscaloosa and Quincy and some 30 United States destroyers functioned as fire support ships, together with units of the British, Free French and Dutch Navies. Rear Admiral M. L. Deyo commanded the fire support group of Force “U” and Rear Admiral C. F. Bryant the comparable group in force “O”.
About 124,000 United States naval officers and men participated directly or indirectly in the invasion. Of these, 87,000 were aboard landing craft and small escort vessels, 15,000 were aboard the combatant ships, and 22,000 were attached to the amphibious bases in England.
By 1 June, when the loading of troops began, 2,493 United States Navy Ships and craft had been assembled for the operation, and of these only 14 were unable to take part because of material difficulties.
On 3 June all troops had been loaded and briefed, but because of weather conditions the timing of the operation was still undetermined. At least four days of good weather were needed, commending with D-Day, which was initially set for 5 June. It was apparent on 3 June that unfavorable weather was developing and early on 4 June the order for a postponement of 24 hours was broadcast. By the evening of 4 June, much improved conditions were forecast for the morning of the 6th, although there was some doubt as to how long the favorable condition would continue. However, because of tide and light considerations, the uncertainty of the weather immediately following D-Day was accepted, and on the evening of 4 June, a confirmation of 6 June as D-day was broadcast.
The terrain where the landings were made was of great natural defensive strength, augmented by many strongly protected and cleverly concealed gun emplacements, machine guns nests and pill boxes, together with slit trenches, tank traps, and antitank ditches. In addition, between the high and low water levels on the beaches there were installed several rows of underwater obstacles consisting of hedgehogs, tetrahedrons and pole ramps interconnected by barbed wire and thickly sown with mines. Artillery and machine guns were placed for enfilading fire along the beaches, and in some cases were completely concealed and protected from seaward by concrete walls covered with earth.
The assault plans contemplated overcoming these defenses by the employment of naval gunfire and air bombardment to destroy or neutralize as many of the emplaced installations as possible, to breach the underwater obstacles under cover of an assault by infantry and tanks, and to storm the remaining defenses with succeeding waves of infantry supported by naval gunfire.
The Assault on “Omaha” Beach
Fore “O”, the larger of the two American assault forces, had as its target the Vierville-Colleville sector of the Normandy beaches, called for the purpose of these landings beach “Omaha”. On its eastern flank was Port-en-Bessin, which marked the dividing line between the British and American areas. On its western flank was the Carentan estuary, which separated it from Force “U’s” beach, “Utah”, on the Cherbourg peninsula.
The ships and craft of Force “O” loaded at Portland, Weymouth and Poole on the south coast of England. Cross-channel convoys began moving on 5 June, and were joined by Rear Admiral Bryant’s fire support group, which had assembled at Belfast. No enemy action hindered the movement, but a choppy sea with a 20-kknot wind from the southwest made landing operations difficult, though possible. Mine sweepers cleared channels, and Arkansas, Texas and other combat ships opened their scheduled fire on shore batteries. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, the planned air bombing was badly hampered by weather conditions, and certain LCT (A)’s [landing craft armed with M-4 tanks] and amphibious tanks failed to reach the beach on schedule. In addition, the 352nd Field Divisions of the German Army happened to be holding exercises in the area, and immediately joined the coastal defense troops in opposing our attack.
The tanks, infantry and demolition parties which landed at H-hour were subjected at once to a heavy cross-fire from artillery, mortars and machine guns, and losses were severe. Troops continued, however, to move in toward the beach, and by 1030 the entire landing force had been committed, though numerous personnel
both of the assault waves and the Army-navy shore party were pinned down on the beach just above high water by enemy fire. Destroyers and gunfire support craft stood in as close to the beach as the depth of water would allow and engaged all enemy guns, which they could observe. The first encouraging news came at 1100 when German soldiers began to leave their posts and surrender. At 1300, Colleville was taken, and by 1330, our troops had begun a general advance up the slopes of the beach. At about 1430, Commodore Edgar’s follow-up force arrived with the remaining regiments of the 1st and 29th Divisions; by late afternoon, except for sniping and occasional artillery and mortar fire, hostile acting against the beach area had ceased, and the work of organizing the beaches for further unloading was progressing in orderly fashion.
Our heavy ships had no trouble in putting the enemy’s major shore batteries out of action promptly. Our chief difficulties came from the light artillery and machine guns, which the enemy had sited to fire up and down the beach instead of out to sea. These guns, which were very difficult to detect, waited for our troops to land before opening fire. Specially trained Navy Shore Fire Control Parties attached to Army units were put ashore early in the assault to inform our ships by radio of the location of such targets, but many of them were unable to set up their radio equipment because of casualties and enemy fire. At this juncture 8 United States and 3 British destroyers closed the beach and took many enemy positions under the fire. This unplanned bombardment, which directed in part from the ships and in part from those Shore Fire Control Parties, which had succeeded in establishing communications, deserves great credit. The battleships and cruisers for the most part fired with air spot at targets designated by Shore Fire Control Parties, which had succeeded in establishing communications, deserves great credit. The battleships and cruisers for the most part fired with air spot at targets designated by Shore Fire Control Parties or by planes, which were busily searching for enemy guns inland from the beaches. By 1300 on 6 June, the Shore Fire Control Parties had begun to function, according to schedule. Acting on their directions, Texas and the other ships repeatedly took enemy troops, tanks and vehicles under fire several miles inland. On D-plus-2 D-day, for example, Texas’ 14-inch guns demolished the railway station at Isigny and effectively scattered a convoy of German vehicles moving through the town square. It is not surprising that a German Government broadcast on 16 June, recorded by the BBC, expressed admiration of the military value of this naval gunfire. These “floating batteries”, it said, “enabled the invaders to achieve overpowering artillery concentrations at any point along the coast.” By D-plus-4 day, when the Army’s forward line reached the forest of Cerisy, the enemy was beyond the range of our ships.
On the morning of 7 June, the first of the build-up personnel convoys of transports arrived off the beach. Just to seaward of the assault area the transport Susan B. Anthony struck a mine and eventually sank, though all personnel aboard were taken off. During the forenoon, surveys for the establishment of the artificial harbor and the small craft shelters were begun.
The Assault on “Utah” Beach
The mission of Force “U” was to establish tank-supported infantry on the beach area, designated “Utah”, near St. Martin-de-Varreville. Consisting of approximately 865 vessels and craft. Force “U” was organized in ports along the English coast between Plymouth and Torquay, although the fire support group of heavier ships assembled at Belfast.
The safety of Force “U’s” cross-channel movement lay with three squadrons of United States and three flotillas of British mine sweepers. In general, all waters through which our convoys were to pass were suitable for mining, and the final leg of the course assigned Force “U” lay squarely across a very probable mine field on Cardonnet Bank. The only casualty occurred when the mine-sweeper Osprey was sunk.
The assault on “Utah” beaches progressed substantially as planned. Bombardment by the fire support ships, supplemented by aerial bombing, preceded the landing of waves of amphibious tanks and landing craft carrying troops of the 8th Infantry Division, which were supported by rocket-firing landing craft. Our forward troops encountered no small arms fire, and the little artillery fire directed against the beach several distant batteries proved inaccurate and ineffectual. Main battery fire from Nevada and Quincy had breached the seawall in five places, materially aiding our advance inland. Our amphibious tanks, proceeding through rough waters under their own power, managed to survive the heavy swells, engaged enemy installations on the forward beachhead and pressed on inland.
Following the initial assault against “Utah” beach, the landing of subsequent waves proceeded with but slight deviation from schedule. Nearly all of the beach obstacles were exposed and Army engineers and Navy demolition teams were able to clear lanes for the passage of subsequent waves of troops and vehicles. Although our concentrated air and naval bombardment had temporarily neutralized the enemy’s coastal batteries, thus affording the earlier assault waves a reasonably safe landing, the enemy from 1100 onwards brought the beach under accurate artillery fire. Aided by Shore Fire Control Parties, our support ships replied. Some of the enemy batteries were extremely hard to knock out, but
by early afternoon all but three had been silenced. These tended to come to life unexpectedly and to fire a few rounds when landing craft offered good targets. Otherwise they caused little hindrance to the work on the beaches. During the first twelve hours we landed 21,328 troops, 1742 vehicles and 1695 tons of supplies.
In the course of the “Utah” landings the destroyers Meredith and Glennon, the destroyer escort Rich, the mine-sweeper Tide, and several landing craft were lost.
During the next few days the batteries of the fire support ships were turned against targets well inland and to the west as the 7th Corps fought its way toward Cherbourg, and requests for these support missions continued until the Army had advanced beyond the ships’ range. Our troops were now more than half way across the Contentin peninsula, and were advancing northwest along the coast towards, Cherbourg against stubborn opposition.
The Normandy Build-up
Once the Army had been successfully established on the beaches, the Navy’s primary responsibility was supply. The enemy had fortified and defensively manned the ports to such an extent as to make the military cost of direct attack upon them extreme. On the other hand, to attempt the assault of a continent over open beaches, affording no protection from the vagaries of the weather, would place the entire operation jeopardy.
The solution of this problem was one of the most dramatic creations of the war—the artificial harbors, or “Mulberries”, and the small boat shelters, or “Gooseberries”. There were to be two of the former— “Mulberry A” in the American sector (at St. Laurent in “Omaha” area), and “Mulberry B” in the British sector at Arromanches—and five “Gooseberries”, three in the British sector and one on each of the two American beaches
The “Gooseberries”, created by sinking a number of old warships and merchant ships in a line in 2.5 fathoms
Of water just off the beaches, were to provide a refuge for small craft in rough weather. The blockships were to proceed to the beaches under their own power, and be sunk quickly by internally placed explosives. The “Gooseberries” were relatively simple undertaking.
The “Mulberries” were much more complicated. Conceived by the British, the tremendous task of manufacturing and assembling the many components had to be carried out with complete secrecy, lest the enemy gain a clue as to our intention to assault a harborless part of the French coast.
It was necessary to tow “Mulberry” units and other essential parts of the invasion armada across the channel. This inconspicuous but important role was carried out by a large pool of British and American tugs. The latter had come across the Atlantic under their own power, many of them manned by civilian masters and crews who had had little experience with naval or military operations. TUG CONTROL operated from Lee Tower, Lee-on-Solent and was headed by Captain (now Commodore) Edmond J. Moran, USNR.
On 7 June, all elements had towed from England, and Rear Admiral Hall, Commander of Force “O” at “Omaha” beach, gave permission to begin “operation Mulberry”. Specially trained Seabees sank hollow concrete cassons, each mounting an AA gun, in designated positions by flooding through built-in valves. Inside the breakwater thus formed were established two Loebnitz floating pierheads. These were connected to the beach by a floating roadway composed of bridgework mounted on pontoons, and two sunken causeways constructed of the same material used in pontoon causeways and Rhino barges. Protecting both the breakwater and the blockships of the nearby “Gooseberry” was a line of steel caissons secured end to end and moored to buoys. The work of installation and construction of “Gooseberries”, and “Mulberries” progressed rapidly and smoothly, with all blockships in place by D-plus-4 day.
By this time the delays caused by the unfavorable weather and by the failure of the assault at “Omaha” to proceed as planned had been overcome, and the buildup began to move rapidly and on schedule. AT “Utah”, in spite of the problems of handling a great number of ferry craft in a small area, often under shell fire, unloading was nearly up to schedule by D-plus-4 day. On the 8th the first pontoon causeway had been successfully established at “Utah”, although at the outset it could not be employed because of shell fire. During the first week of occupation, we succeeded in landing approximately 74,000 troops, 10,000 vehicles, and 17,000 ton of supplies.
Then came the storm. During the night of 18 June, the wind began to freshen, and by mid-afternoon of the 19th it was blowing a moderate gale from the northeast. Ferry service ceased, all craft took shelter inside the “Gooseberry” or “Mulberry”, and unloading of almost every type of brought to a halt. It continued to blow steadily for the next three days, with the seas making up to destructive proportions. When the storm ended on the morning of 22 June, the beach was a shambles. More than 300 craft had been washed up high and dry, many of them damaged beyond salvage. The only ferry craft undamaged were the DUKW’s, which had remained safely parked ashore during the storm.
The blockships of the “Gooseberry” shelter had held
together, although several of them had broken their backs and all had settled, but the storm had been disastrous to the “Mulberry”. The concrete caissons had either broken apart or had become submerged in the bottom sands. The roadway to one of the Loebnitz pierheads had been smashed by the impact of LCT’s driven against it, and many of its pontoons were flooded. The causeway had held together but was twisted. Many of the steel caissons had carried away from their moorings and had drifted about as a menace to shipping. Others were flooded and half submerged.
The British “Mulberry” suffered less from the storm than the American, which was exposed to heavier seas and had been built on deeper sands, where the scour was far more severe. Consequently, it was decided to abandon the American harbor. The British one was completely, partly with material salvaged from the American.
A major port was absolutely necessary if unloading schedules were to be maintained through the fall and winter. The first to fall to our troops was Cherbourg.
Bombardment of Cherbourg
To assist the 7th Corps, which was advancing on the port of Cherbourg from the land side, the fire support group of the Western Naval Task Force, commanded by Rear Admiral Deyo, bombarded the shore batteries, which commanded the waters leading to Cherbourg casemated batteries [guns covered by steel and concrete walls and roofs], three of which had 280mm guns with an estimated range of 40,000 yards [approximately 20 miles].
The force, consisting of the battleships Nevada, Texas and Arkansas, U.S. cruisers Quincy and Tuscaloosa, British cruisers Glasgow and Enterprise, and 11 destroyers, approached the coast shortly before noon on 25 June. The intention was to avoid engaging the enemy batteries as long as possible in order to close the shore and provide the support requested by our troops. The Germans, waiting until our ships arrived well within range, opened fire. The destroyers interposed with smoke, but the enemy fire. The destroyers interposed with smoke, but the enemy fire increased in volume, and shortly afterwards the mine-sweepers, which had preceded the force, were obliged to withdraw to the northward.
By 1230 the enemy’s fire had become so heavy and accurate that our ships were directed to maneuver independently, and they steamed back and forth in a line ranging from four to eight miles offshore. While the heavy ships fired at targets inland designated by Shore Fire Control Parties and spotting planes, the destroyers endeavored to silence the enemy coastal batteries. The latter were only partly successful, and our ships continued to be under shore fire until, having completed their mission, they retired shortly before 1500. This abnormal exposure of ships to heavy shore guns, without adequate counterfire, was well warranted by the urgent need of supporting our invading troops. The Army later reported that of 21 firings requested on inland targets 19 were successful.
Of the seven heavy ships engaged (battleships and cruisers) all but one were either hit or had fragments on board, and all were closely missed frequently. The destroyer O’Brien was considerably damaged, and the destroyers Barton and Laffey slightly damaged. Personnel casualties—14 dead and 28 wounded for the entire force—were remarkably small. The 7th Corps occupied Cherbourg two days later, assaulting and capturing the remaining shore batteries from the rear.
Under the command of Commodore W. A. Sullivan, task forces composed of British and American salvage and fire fighting units did phenomenal work repairing ships and craft, and clearing the major ports for dockside unloading of cargo. This important but difficult task was performed with rapidity. Cherbourg’s port facilities were in operation early in July. Although we soon secured several minor ports, a second major port was not available until Le Havre surrendered on 12 September. It was opened to small craft in three days, and was in full operation within a month. For some time, however, shipping in the approaches to Le Havre was seriously harassed by enemy mining. Although organized resistance in Brest ended on 19 September, its facilities were so damaged, and it was then so distant from the battle front, that it did not appear worthwhile to restore the port.
With the approach of winter, it became apparent that only three liberated ports in northern France could be operated on a year round basis. These were Cherbourg, Le Havre, and Rouen, unloading having begun at the last port in mid-October. Antwerp in Belgium, a British commitment, became early in December an important avenue of supplies to our troops. A U.S. Naval Port Office was opened there, and daily unloadings of up to 22,000 tons of U.S. stores were handled.
Support of the Anzio Beachhead
On 22 January 1944, a combined British-American operation secured a beachhead at Anzio on the west coast of Italy, some 60 miles behind the German lines. The landing progressed as scheduled against slight initial opposition; however, the enemy reacted strongly, and rapidly assembled a powerful force around the beachhead. Resistance and counter-attacks were so severe that extraordinary effort was required to maintain and support the Army in this area; the capacity of the small captured port Anzio and the adjoining beaches was so small that scarcely any part of the Army was free from enemy observation and artillery fire. The beachhead was raided by enemy aircraft 277 times during the first twelve weeks after landing. On 25 May the beachhead forces joined those advancing from the main front; throughout the four months preceding this junction, cruisers and destroyers constantly furnished gunfire support by bombardment of enemy targets on shore. Screening and patrol vessels guarded the anchorage from air surface attack and amphibious craft transported supplies and fresh troops from the Naples area to Anzio, returning with prisoners and other personnel.
Continuously throughout the year British and U.S. Eighth Fleet motor torpedo boats were on patrol to intercept enemy corvettes, torpedo boats were on patrol to intercept enemy corvettes, torpedo boats and the barges with which the enemy desperately sought to carry on coastwise support of his armies in Italy. Destruction of enemy naval strength and coastal commerce in the Ligurian Sea was the prime objective.
Capture of Elba
An amphibious assault resulting in the capture of the island of Elba was carried out on 17 June by a naval task force under the command of Rear Admiral T. H. Troubridge, RN. United States destroyers, mine-sweepers, patrol and landing craft formed part of the combined force. One of the immediate objects in securing the island, which is situated only five miles from the coast of Italy, was to set up a heavy battery opposite the mainland to curtail the movement of enemy supply convoys which hugged the coast. The army forces to be landed comprised the French 9th Colonial Division and support elements totaling 11,200 more under the command of General of Army Corps Henri Martin, French Army. Although the attacking forces outnumbered the defenders about five to one, the strongly defended beaches were well alerted and several hours of severe fighting were required to secure the initial beachhead. All organized resistance ended on 19 June.
EIGHTH FLEET—INVASION OF SOUTHERN FRANCE
Landings in southern France were an integral part of the over-all Allied strategy in Western Europe, and as conceived were a logical sequence to the invasion of northern France. By the beginning of 1944, planning was underway and Vice Admiral H. K. Hewitt, Commander Eighth Fleet, had been appointed naval commander for the operation with the designation of Commander Western Task Force. Beaches finally selected for landings were east of Toulon, in the Cavalaire-Frejus area, since the necessary forces and supplies required for a quick thrust up the Rhone valley could be advantageously landed there.
The general situation in the western Mediterranean was favoravle for amphibious operations during the summer. The submarine menace was rapidly being brought under control, and enemy naval surface strength was not a serious threat. As a result of losses sustained in the invasion of Normandy, the enemy air force was no longer able to operate in strength in the Mediterranean. The coast to be assaulted had fair beaches with strong enemy defenses; however, these defenses lacked depth, and th enemy had few available reserves for counter-attack.
All forces allocated for the invasion of southern France were included in the Western Task Force under the over-all command of the Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean. General (now Field Marshal) Sir Henry Maitland-Wilson. Tactical command was jointly exercised by the Naval Commander, Vice Admiral Hewitt; the Army Commander, Major General (now Lieutenant General) A. M. Patch; and the Air Commander, Brigadier General G. P. Saville, Command of the joint Army and Navy forces of the Western Task Force after embarkation was vested in the Naval Commander until the Commanding General landed and assumed command of the Army forces on shore.
Intensive bombing of targets in southern France in support of the invasion commenced on 29 April with a damaging raid on the airport installations of Toulon. Thereafter, according to a plan carefully coordinated with the allied bombing of Europe from England, the assault area was isolated by destruction and damage to bridges, tunnels, viaducts and railroad yards, without definite indication to the enemy of the precise location of the projected landings. This bombing was carried out by the Mediterranean Allied Strategic Air Force and comprised about 5,400 sorties which dropped 6,700 tons of bombs.
On 9 August the first of the assault convoys sailed from Naples, and thereafter further convoys left other ports in order to arrive in the assault area on the morning of the 15th. All convoys arrived on schedule, and 880 ships and craft and 1,370 shipborne landing craft were present. This allied naval force included 515 United States, 283 British, 12 French and 7 Greek ships and craft and 63 merchant ships of various nationalities.
About eight hours before the main landings, French commandos and units of the First Special Service Forces were landed near Cape Negre and on the Hyeres Islands by forces under command of Rear Admiral L. A. Davidson. Rear Admiral T.E. Chandler (subsequently killed in the Philippine Islands in January 1945) commanded a group of gunfire support ships of this force. No resistance was met on the islands, and only inaccurate machine gun and small arms fire on the mainland.
In the meantime, diversionary groups were operating to the eastward in the Nice-Cannes area and to the westward between Toulon and Marseille, where a mock landing and a repulse were staged at LaCiotat, producing considerable enemy reaction.
The bombing in tactical support of the landings commenced before daylight on D-day. This was followed at dawn with heavy and medium bombing for one hour and twenty minutes by more than 1,300 aircraft along a 40 mile front. The execution of this plan, in conjunction with naval gunfire and barrages of rockets, appeared to paralyze the enemy defenses on all the initial assault beaches.
Preceded by this coordinated neutralizing attack of 1,300 aircraft and 53 gunfire support ships, the assault took place at 0800, about two hours after daylight, on
15 August. The main amphibious landings were carried out in three principal sectors. The attack in the Frejus-St. Raphael sector was made by forces under command of Rear Admiral S. S. Lewis; the St. Maxine—St. Tropez area under the command of Rear Admiral B. J. Rodgers; and the attack on the beaches in Pampelonne and Cavalaire Bays under the command of Rear Admiral F. J. Lowry. Gunfire support groups for these main landing forces were commanded by Rear Admiral Deyo, Rear Admiral Bryant and Rear Admiral R. M. Mansfield, RN, respectively. Two escort carrier groups operating off the coast furnished airplane spotters for the shore bombardment, provided protection for our assault forces against air attack, and assisted the Army Air Force in its attack upon the enemy. This naval air force was under command of Rear Admiral Troubridge, RN, with Rear Admiral Durgin commanding one of the groups.
The amphibious assaults of 15 August established a firm beachhead. Eleven army divisions were used in the operation. The U.S. Army 3rd, 36th and 45th Infantry Divisions and the French 1st Armored Division comprised the assault forces. The remaining divisions, landed during the follow-up and build-up periods, were entirely French. With strong air support, the Army continued vigorous and rapid thrusts inland and successfully kept the enemy from making a concerted stand. The weakened German defense was stunned by the power and effectiveness of coordinated blows from sea and air.
On the morning of 17 August an operation by a light diversion force was carried out in the Ciotat area. Returning from this operation the destroyer Endicott and two small British gunboats encountered two German corvettes, which were engaged and sunk about 13 miles from Capte Croisette Light; 211 survivors were taken prisoner.
On 18 August rapid progress by the Army continued, and sustained naval effort was required to speed up unloading to meet the requirements of our rapidly advancing forces.
In the days that followed, United States ships engated German Coast defense batteries along the coast and repulsed attacks by light enemy forces. By 29 August the last defenders of Toulon and Marseilles had surrendered. With the capture of these ports, naval emphasis was shifted to mine-sweeping and port clearance. Ships and craft were released from duty in the assault area as rapidly as their services could be spared. On 1 September U.S. Naval Detachment Marseille was established. While Army engineers were clearing the land side of the port Marseille with full Navy cooperation, additional Seabee personnel were engaged in the rehabilitation of part of the port Toulon. On 25 September, with the closing of the last beaches used for maintenance, the amphibious phase of the campaign was considered ended. During this phase, naval vessels carried out 850 separate shore bombardment missions, with more than 54,000 rounds fired, and mine-sweeping forces swept 550 mines. The invasion of southern France achieved highly satisfactory results with comparatively small losses. As no further large scale amphibious operation appeared in prospect in the Mediterranean, forces were returned as rapidly as practicable to the United States for use in other war areas.
SHIPS, PLANES AND ORDNANCE
Naval accomplishments in this mechanized age are dependent upon production. The best officers and men can do little without an adequate supply of the highly specialized machinery of warfare. Our guiding policy is to achieve not mere adequacy, but overwhelming superiority of material, thereby insuring not only victory, but early victory with the least possible loss of American lives. The excellence of our material is unquestioned. The genius of American research and industry has put us a long step ahead of our naval enemies in effectiveness of ships, planes and weapons. As regards quantity of ships, planes and weapons, the balance of power is, also, decisively on our side. The magnificent productive capacity of the United State has given us the greatest navy in all history.
The Navy is deeply grateful to industry for it accomplishments, which have enabled the Navy to play a large and effectibve part in the landings of the Allied armies in Europe, as well as to prosecute the Pacific war with a vigor evidenced by the rapid advance towards Japan in recent months. We have gone ahead rapidly because we have been able to keep steady pressure on the enemy. It is of the utmost importance that we not only maintain this pressure but intensify it. There must be no relaxation of the fighting effort, nor of the industrial effort that makes the fighting effort possible. I make a special point of this because of recent indications that industry is having difficulty in meeting the needs of the armed services. This is cause for concern, since, if the industrial output falls off, the effect will be to prolong the war at great cost in American lives as well as money.
Ship Production Program
As the war develops, the changing nature of operations results in shifting of production emphasis from vessels of one type to another. For example, during the first five months of 1944, the need for landing craft was paramount. After the landings in France and the capture of Saipan and Guam, large assault transports had the right-of-way in preparation for operations in the far reaches of the Pacific. Some of the small ship programs have come to completion during the past year, while the construction of the larger vessels goes on with undiminished intensity.
The ship construction program is under constant
acquired 6,000 of these, ranging in size from tank lighters to the 457-foot landing ship (dock). In addition, more than 29,000 smaller landing boats of all types have been produced. The effectiveness of our landing craft has been demonstrated from the shores of Normandy to the beaches of Iwo Jima.
Our landing craft, initially conceived merely as carriers of troops and cargo, have been found capable of considerable combat value of their own, due to recent developments in rocket armament and light-weight rapid-fire guns.
The so-called amphibious vehicles, craft that are equally at home on water and on land, have proved their value and are under constant improvement.
As new ships are added daily to the fleet, the maintenance problem grows more difficult. The skilled crews of our vessels do much to keep their ships in repair. Fully equipped repair units follow the fleet as one advanced base after another is captured. The huge machine shops in our repair ships are always near at hand when a man-of-war needs help. By these means, much is done in forward areas to effect battle repairs and normal upkeep.
However, really serious repair problems must be dealt with in our navy yards. Here, man power shortage has begun to present a critical problem. Battle damage repair has kept some of our combatant ships out of the fighting line for far too long a time. Plate numbers 1 and 2 graphically illustrate the vast increase in hulls and machinery to be maintained. Plate number 3 shows the fall in shipyard employment. The possibility that the situation may get worse is cause for concern.
At the beginning of the current year, most of our fighters were either Hellcats or Corsairs, while a greatly improved version of the Wildcat was operative from escort carriers. In production are still newer fighters, including those which are jet-propelled. One of the most important innovations of the year has been the employment in combat of night fighters armed with machine guns, cannon and rockets.
The Sea Hawk is now replacing the Seagull as our standard scout observation plane. The Seagull had previously replaced in part the Kingfisher.
The Helldiver, which has proved its worth time and again in the Pacific campaigns, is now our dive-bomber. It carries, over considerably longer ranges and at much higher speeds, twice the bomb load of the older Dauntless. Experimentation is being vigorously pushed to produce dive-bombers with even better performance.
The Avenger, a torpedo-bomber, has replaced the Devastator, and is in turn about to be supplanted by new models now in production. All are designed to increase the load, range and rates of climb of the present torpedo-plane. A new night torpedo-bomber has already come into use.
The Catalina, a long range twin-engine patrol plane, still in great demand for air-sea rescue work, has been generally supplanted for patrol work by the larger Mariner and the Liberator. Its bombing work has been taken over in part, also by the Ventura and the Privateer. Experimental patrol planes now envisaged will carry
greater loads of fuel or bombs at considerably higher speeds than those of the present day.
The Mars, which entered regular service this past year, has proved to be a most efficient cargo carrier in terms of cost per ton-mile. Plans for the experimental transport program now contemplate pressurized cabin planes for high-speed, high-altitude transports.
Amphibious gliders, rotary wing devices, and target aircraft for the improvement of antiaircraft fire, are also under intensive development.
The present technique of amphibious operations has imposed upon the fleet the role of acting as support artillery for our ground forces. Today this artillery support is of major importance, as landings are normally preceded by terrific naval bombardment. After landings have been effected, naval gunfire is often called upon for the destruction of specific targets, to assist the advance of our troops.
Engagements with other sea-going targets are usually relatively brief. Shore bombardment, however, is a tremendously heavy consumer of ammunition, and has increased enormously the volume requirements for firepower. For example, our bombardments from 7 December 1941 to July 1944 (not including the shelling of Saipan) used approximately 40,000 tons of projectiles. During the one-month bombardment of Saipan, from 13 June to 12 July, the ships of the attacking task force fired 11,000 tons of shells. In many cases in the Pacific, it has been found possible to neutralize enemy installations before our troops have landed. For example, in an official report of the Guam action it was stated that “coastal defense guns, heavy and light AA guns, dual-purpose guns and all types of defense installations were rendered impotent prior to the landing of troops…. It is believed that not one fixed gun was left in commission on the west coast that was greater size than a machine gun.”
These shore bombardments have changed ordnance requirements and standards affecting high-capacity shells, rockets, bombs, and fuses. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Navy had virtually no high-capacity ammunition [so called because it contains an extremely high amount of explosive]. Since then, production of this type of projectile has risen rapidly, and currently accounts for 75 per cent of the output of shells from six to sixteen inches in caliber. Monthly naval production of all types of major caliber ammunition now exceeds the total quantity delivered during World War I.
The multiplicity of tasks which must be performed in rendering impotent an enemy-held shore involves far more than volume of fire, however. There are many different types of projectiles and many different types of fuses, but the nature of the objective is the major factor in determining their employment. For example, armor-piercing shells (the only type effective against armored ships) are relatively ineffective against personnel or light structures ashore.
During the year the rocket has become a major weapon. Beach barrage rockets, first used by the Navy in the invasion of North Africa in the fall of 1942, have assisted our landing craft, as well as our heavier ships, to act a support artillery for ground forces. Their great usefulness begins when the barrage and bombing by big guns and planes cease. At this time, when landing troops are most exposed to enemy mortars and machine guns, rockets provide effective fire support. Seven main types of rockets, ranging from 2.25 inches to 5 inches and larger, are now being produced in quantity. Production this year will be approximately ten times that of 1943.
Approximately nine hundred ordnance research projects are currently in progress. Although combat, experience has proved the efficiency of our ordnance, it has also emphasized the necessity for the greatest possible concentration on research and development.
The weekly procurement of ordnance equipment during 1944 equalled the total yearly production during 1938. In addition to equipping our naval vessels, we have armed approximately 5500 merchant ships. Although a number of construction programs are due for completion shortly, heavy demand for such expendable items as high-capacity ammunition and rockets will continue final victory is won.
On 19 July 1944 the President authorized the Navy to base its plan upon a total strength of 3,389,000 by 30 June 1945. On 31 December 1944, the personnel strength of the Navy consisted of 300,101 officers, 2,833,904 enlisted men and women, 84, 627 officer candidates, and 8,893 nurses. The growth of all branches of the naval service has been as follows:
||7 Dec. 1941
||31 Dec. 1942
||31 Dec. 1943
||31 Dec. 1944
The enormous increase in enlisted personnel is graphically indicated in Plate 4.
Within the past twelve months, the Navy has gained by the experience of its personnel, from flag officers to gun pointers. A large number of senior commanders have been tried and tested in combat, as have many of the Reserve officers, whose continued professional improvement and excellent performance of duty have made them not only an indispensable but an integral part of the Navy team.
Of the personnel on active duty on the last day of February 1945, only about 10 per cent were in service before Pearl Harbor. It is not surprising therefore, that in June 1944 we were conducting no less than 947 training schools with a daily average attendance of 303,000. Because the peak of recruitment was reached and passed during the year under consideration, it has been possible to eliminate, consolidate, or adapt to other purposes, a few of the training facilities.
In the early months of the war, when the need was most urgent for large numbers of trained personnel, it was frequently impossible to provide the degree of specialization desired. To some extent this has been remedied by the institution of operational and precommissioning training ashore; this development has become invaluable in molding crews into integrated combat units. The time required to reach petty officer rank varies according to rating, branch, length of specialized training, and vacancies in the complement of the ship or activity to which
the man is assigned. The trend is in the direction of still more training ashore, starting with a recruit training period of at least 10 weeks.
One of the most important aspects of our training program is the urgent need for turning over to the fleet men who are familiar not only with the fundamental skills, but with the very latest practices required in the jobs they are to fill. This means that there must be accurate and up-to-date information on the duties and responsibilities of men in fleet assignments. Job analysis specialists are serving aboard combatant vessels to observe and tabulate the operations performed in various billets, the skills required, and the equipment used. This information is used in writing the qualifications for the various rates; in establishing curricula for schools training men for particular rates; and in preparing self-study training courses.
As the war has progressed, many new ratings and subdivisions have been added. There are now more than 450 petty officer ratings and enlisted specialties. To overcome the lack of opportunity for training while at sea and to utilize to best advantage time spent ashore while ships undergo repairs, a program of refresher training has recently been organized at special training centers. These courses serve to bring personnel up to date with the latest advances in tactics and equipment, and thereby promote the efficiency of operating units.
Of officers commissioned since Pear Harbor, approximately 131,000 were appointed directly from civilian life, 97,000 from officer candidate programs, and 58,000 from enlisted sources. By direct commissioning it was generally possible from 1942 to mid-1944, the period of greatest expansion, to meet the immediate requirements of the service.
Procurement of officers from civilian life for general sea duty was closed on 17 August 1944; since then our principal source of young sea-going officers has been the six Reserve Midshipmen’s Schools. Towards the end of 1944, a General Line School at Hollywood, Florida, was opened to provide already commissioned officers with an eight weeks’ course of training at sufficient scope to qualify them as junior division offers. The procurement of chaplains, doctors and electrical engineers from civilian life still continues, in order to meet urgent needs.
It is anticipated that we will be able to meet most of our developing needs for new officers through the officer candidate programs—aviation cadet (V-5), Reserve midshipmen (V-7), college (V-12)—and by commissioning enlisted personnel of the Regular Navy and Naval Reserve. These appointments to commissioned rank from within the service have steadily increased.
At the end of February 1945 approximately 12,500 aviation cadets were under instruction. During the year ending 28 February 1945, approximately 20,000 officers were commissioned after completing four months’ deck and engineering training at the Reserve Midshipmen’s Schools: 91 per cent of these were products of the Navy college program (V-12). At the end of February 1945, reserve midshipmen numbered 8,600; the V-12 program was operating 269 units at 185 colleges and universities, with an attendance of 52,000. Through the active assistance and guidance of university authorities, V-12 curricula have been designed to need our operating needs; the methods used in selecting candidates have enabled us to obtain the most promising material available. Recent congressional authorization has made possible the institution of a plan of transition from the V-12 to an expanded NROCT program.
The Seabees [Construction Battalions] now number approximately 235,000 men and 8,500 Civil Engineer Corps officers. Of these, more than three-fourths are serving overseas, not only building the shore facilities required for offensive operations but also providing logistic support for combat forces. Landing with the first waves of assault troops. Seabees have participated in almost every amphibious operation yet undertaken.
During the past year the Women’s Reserve grown to a total of more than 83,000 officers and enlisted activity. At 500 shore stations throughout the United States and more recently in Hawaii, permission having been given them to volunteer for overseas duty at certain non-combat bases in the American area, WAVES have been assigned as direct replacements for men or to fill expanding complements. At the peak of the WAVES training program there were approximately 40 schools preparing them for duty. Beginning on 1 December 1944, however, the Navy established revised recruiting quotas, reducing monthly enlistments to 500. This number, it is believed, will cover current requirements, although it will be increased if future needs show that additional women can be used.
During the latter part of 1944, a new system of classifying Reserve officers was established; symbols were devised to designate as accurately as possible the qualifications necessary for specific types of duty at sea and ashore.
Needs of Personnel
Faced with a war of uncertain length requiring prolonged service, it has been our responsibility to see that military spirit and efficiency are maintained at the highest possible level. In 1944, this involved increasingly close attention not only to material requirements but to the needs and aspirations of personnel. Continuing emphasis was placed upon the effective administration and extension of insurance, dependents’ benefits, and family allowance programs, which support the morale of the individual by providing for his long-range welfare and for that of his dependents.
During the year the voluntary off-duty education program was also greatly expanded. It is in operation at overseas and continental bases and stations, is being extended to the fleet, and is an integral part of the rehabilitation program in naval hospitals. During 1944 about 100,000 personnel were enrolled in correspondence courses, 250,000 in courses involving classroom instruction, and self-study materials and reprints of standard texts were supplied for an additional 750,000.
Plans for Demobilization
Since there still exists a critical need for combat and seagoing officers and enlisted personnel, no demobilization of personnel can take place until the defeat of Japan is at hand. When Germany is defeated, we will be confronted with the enormous task of transporting men and material from the European theater to the Pacific.
The end of the war in Europe will therefore result in a redistribution rather than a reduction of naval strength.
However, for more than a year, we have worked on demobilization methods and have completed tentative plans. We are considering priority for severance, and intend, when the time comes, to give due consideration to length of service, service outside the continental limits, combat service, and parenthood.
Because the postwar size of the Navy is yet to be determined, no precise estimate of the number of naval personnel that will be required is possible. The deciding factor will be the needs of the Navy in order to carry out the strategic commitments of the nation. It is assumed in all the plans now under consideration that many more officers and men will be needed than can be provided by personnel now in the Regular Navy. These comprise but 16 per cent of the wartime Navy. Accordingly, serious attention is being given to regulations under which Reserve officers may transfer to the Regular Navy, and to the organization of the Naval Reserve in the postwar period. In December 1944 a board was appointed to consider these problems and make recommendations concerning the means by which an effective and realistic Naval Reserve may be maintained, and by which Reserve officers of the highest quality and of appropriate age and rank may be attracted towards a naval career, in which they will receive the same training as and compete on an equal basis with Regular officers.
The supply of combatant forces is a major problem of vital importance at sea, as it is on land. The Navy has two distinct phases of this problem with which to deal: the moving of supplies into advanced shore bases, and the supply of ships while they are at sea.
The United States Navy has for years given great attention to developing means for replenishing fuel, food and ammunition at sea. Before the war began, (even as far back as 1916) we had the so-called “Fleet Train” composed of tankers and other auxiliary vessels specially designed for this purpose. Since the war began, we have developed improved types of ships and better technique in using them, with the result that our fleet in the Pacific has been able to keep at sea for long periods of time. This has given us a decided advantage over the Japanese Navy, which is largely dependent on bases as sources of supply, and therefore has much less mobility.
The question of how to supply a fleet must be settled largely on geographical grounds. If the ocean combat area is small, as it the case in European waters, and if it is possible to set up shore-based establishments at strategic points, there is little need for a Fleet Train. However, the problem that we have had to solve in the Pacific is how to project a fleet throughout a vast ocean area initially dominated by the enemy. We are solving this problem by rapidly establishing repair and supply bases in enemy islands as we capture them, and by pushing our supplies forward in ships of the Train, now referred to as the Service Force, to supply our task forces at sea. To paraphrase Napoleon, a fleet swims on its stomach. It has to swim long distances to get at the Japanese. The success of this scheme is a tribute to the farsighted planning of those who, with clarity of vision concerning the problems of naval logistics in the vast reaches of the Pacific, directed naval affairs during the past 30 years.
The Navy has, I think, the right to be proud of its floating supply system. It has performed its functions successfully since the beginning of the war, largely because of actual experience doing this sort of thing in peacetime exercises. The other part of the problem—the moving of supplies to advance bases—has been less successful, largely because in peacetime we had less opportunity to obtain such actual experience. Performance has, however, improved, and during the past twelve months in the advance across the Pacific the handling of the supply problem has been good. It is being further improved.
Logistic operations in the Pacific require that great quantities of material be landed with and immediately following the first wave of the assault troops. Not only must we supply the ammunition and provisions needed for the assault troops, but we must also commence to build at once the airfields necessary to secure local control of the air without carrier assistance. Immediately following, there must be moved in repair facilities for ships of the fleet, and vessels of the Fleet Train. Docks and other harbor facilities must be improvised rapidly. The amount of material that is involved is enormous. Air squadrons require living quarters, supply depots, and repair shops on a large scale. Extensive facilities are necessary for ship repairs, to the end that minor battle damage may be remedied without the necessity of returning the ships to the mainland. Large quantities of spare parts must be kept on hand and given careful and specialized handling, so that no ship may be immobilized for want of something necessary to put a vital mechanism into operating condition. Quantities of ordinary stores and ammunition must be handled and protected from the weather.
All necessary material must be provided long before an operation commences and must be stored initially in the continental United States. In consequence, the naval supply system for the Pacific Ocean consists of a “pipe line”, beginning hundreds of miles inland from the western coast of the United States and extending across the Pacific to the Philippines, with branches to our many ocean bases. The management of this type “pipe line” is a difficult problem. The capacity of the “pipe line” is limited, and it requires careful control to insure that the most necessary things get through and that the line be not clogged by the shipment of unessential items. Care must be taken that there is an adequate reserve at the start of the “pipe line”, and at intermediate points, but this reserve must not be allowed to reach undue size, since the hoarding of material in storehouses would be a very real handicap to the war effort. The loading of cargo ships must be painstakingly planned in order to give high priority to the most important cargo. Cargo ship schedules must be carefully worked out so that ships may unload promptly when they reach their destinations; we cannot afford to waste shipping by having vessels lie idle while waiting their turn to unload at their destinations.
The Navy’s trans-ocean service of supply is in many
Respects like any commercial trans-ocean freight business, but it is complicated by the lack of organized ports at the distant termini, and by the fact that the urgency of certain types of cargo is constantly shifting with changes in the military situation. The problem has been attacked by taking into the Navy men of experience in the shipping world, who are bracketed together with naval officers to form teams conversant with all its phases. For the most part shipments to advanced bases are carried in commercial vessels, supplied by the War Shipping Administration, and loaded and unloaded under the direction of the Navy. Assault ships [transports and cargo ships specially fitted to support that serve the fleet in combat areas are, as a rule, naval vessels.
On shore, in the western United States, where the flow of supplies largely originates, the problem has become more and more difficult as the scope of the Pacific operations increases. So important has this task become that recently one of the most senior officers in the Navy, Admiral R.E. Ingersoll, was shifted from the assignment of Commander in Chief, United States Atlantic Fleet, in which he had served with distinction since the early days of the war, to the command of the Western Sea Frontier to handle the vital and complex operating and logistic tasks in that area. Recognition of the magnitude of the logistic problem was again emphasized in the promotion of Vice Admiral F.J. Horne, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, to the rank of Admiral on 29 January 1945.
It should be added that supply operations in the Pacific are not solely naval. The Army has a task of at lease equal magnitude in supplying its air and ground forces. The supply systems of the two services have been merged together, as much as possible, under Fleet Admiral Nimitz in the Central Pacific and under General of the Army MacArthur in the Southwest Pacific. In some cases, in which only one service uses an item, that item is handled entirely by the service concerned. For example, the supply of pare parts peculiar to the Super-Fortress bombers is handled entirely by the Army, while battleship ammunition, being used only by the Navy, is handled only by the Navy. Certain items in common use are pooled for stances, it has been found convenient to have one service look out for the needs of both; fuel in the Pacific is handled entirely by the Navy, while rations for all personnel on shore are handled by the Army.
In the foregoing discussion I have stressed the problems in the Pacific, because they are the most difficult with which to deal from the naval logistic point of view, due mainly to the absence of port facilities in the island bases we have captured, and to the distances involved. In the Atlantic the problem has been easier, because of the more highly developed nature of the ports we have moved and handled has required the maximum service from every ship that could be made available. Extensive logistic operations were also carried out in the Mediterranean. The most spectacular of these efforts was the creation of artificial harbors during the landings in Normandy. Here United States naval personnel installed and operated the unique breakwater caissons and flexible pier-heads (of British design and fabrication) at the beaches where United States troops landed. The Normandy operation was a striking example of close logistic support of masses of troops during the landing attack.
Despite the great increase in combat operations and the extremely unhealthful conditions in many occupied areas, the health record of the Navy compares favorably with past experience. In terms of total naval strength, recent tabulations indicate an estimated rate for casualty deaths of 3.3 per thousand in 1944 as compared with the final rate of 3.0 per thousand for the previous year. Again, on the basis of preliminary calculations, the total death rate from all causes is estimated at 5.8 per thousand for the year 1944 against the final figure of 5.4 per thousand in 1943.
Experiences in this war indicates that of the wounded men who live until they receive medical attention, 98 out of every 100 survive. We are sparing no effort, therefore, to bring medical assistance as close to the battle lines as possible. Accordingly, battle casualties among our medical personnel have been substantial, as in many assaults they have landed simultaneously with the attacking forces. Moreover, it has been found practicable, when there are no off-shore obstacles, to beach landing craft fully equipped surgically. The use of new jeep ambulances is further keeping the handling of wounded men to a minimum. Amphibious tractors, together with newly designed elevators or davits, are being successfully employed to carry wounded promptly, despite difficult terrain conditions, to hospital ships anchored outside reef formations. The extensive use of whole blood, penicillin, plasma, new types of bandages, and serum albumen is proving effective in saving many lives.
The administrative problems which arise during a large-scale landing are considerable. Lately it has been found practicable to divide surgical landing craft in two groups—one to care for the slightly wounded, the other to care for the more serious cases. Medical personnel are correspondingly divided into specialized teams, and liaison units are formed to locate and cooperate with the beach dressing stations. Resuscitation teams are organized to appraise and diagnose injuries and treat casualities suffering from shock. Surgical teams, specializing in certain types of wounds, provide operating rooms, procure and prepare supplies, administer anaesthetics, and perform necessary operations. During several landings last year psychiatrists were assigned to medical divisions to handle cases of combat fatigue. In order to manipulate this complex organization, it has been found desirable to station a medical officer aboard the control ship where he can received reports and transmit quickly the necessary orders. Systems have been worked out which enable ships to interchange medical equipment efficiently during combat.
On many Pacific islands, disease and unsanitary conditions provide serious obstacles to the maintenance of good health. Sanitary measures must be applied as soon as territory is won. The introduction of new insect control methods during the year has brought excellent results. The incidence of dysentery and other epidemic diseases that were troublesome during earlier operations lowered markedly. Hundreds of cases of pulmonary tuberculosis, broncho pneumonia, bacillary dysentery
and malnutrition among the natives were treated. Volunteer native nurses, who were recruited in large numbers, were of considerable assistance in caring for both civilian and military patients.
The Navy has provided for the health of thousands of men aboard ships, submarines and planes, and has maintained and operated a system of fleet, advance base, base and naval hospitals, hospital ships and dispensaries. During the year, a number of new hospitals and hospital ships were commissioned : several large hotel properties and estates were acquired and converted into convalescent hospitals, as well as other field units, were established. Also, many new dispensaries were set up to serve the various continental shore activities.
Naval medical research during the year fell into four large divisions; that relating to naval service in general, to naval aviation, to the submarine service, and to the Marine Corps. Among the new developments were personnel selection tests and techniques, protection equipment and devices (relating to such matters as chemical warfare, flash burns, sunburn, sound, immersion and armor), aids to survivors at sea, insecticides and fungistatic agents, training devices, field equipment, and various preventive medicine and surgery techniques.
THE MARINE CORPS
In 1939 the Marine Corps comprised 19,500 officers and men, little more than the equivalent of one division. It is now composed of 478,000 men and women. There now six full divisions of combat troops in the field, and 118,086 officers and men in Marine Corps aviation.
The greater part of this strength is devoted to the combat divisions and supporting troops, who have so notably furthered our progress in the Pacific by their participation in the amphibious operations described earlier in this report. 12,000 Marines are assigned to combatant naval vessels as integral parts of the crews. Others are on duty guarding naval establishments within the United States and at advanced bases.
Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia, have carried out an intensive officer training program, including advanced studies at its new Command and Staff School, set up to train officers for staff duties in Marine Battalions, regiments, and divisions. Some 400 officers have been graduated from the Command and Staff School; since 1 March 1944, the Reserve Officers’ School has graduated 2,939 officers; and the Officer Candidates’ School, as of 1 January 1945, has graduated 3,237 commissioned officers. The Aviation Ground Officers’ School, organized in January 1944, has turned out 650 trained specialists to relieve pilots for operational duties. The elementary and specialist training of enlisted men is conducted in recruit depots, sea schools, training centers and other schools, including those of the Army and Navy , when available. In general, the policy has been to transfer basic training activities to the east coast.
The expansion of the Corps and the altered circumstances of recent operations have necessitated several changes in organization. During March and April of 1944 defense battalions were converted into antiaircraft artillery battalions and field artillery battalions; all Marine raider units were merged into the 4th Marine Regiment. On 15 April the 1st marine Amphibious Corps was redesignated the 3rd Amphibious Corps. On 5 June, Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith was designated type commander of ground forces attached to the Fleet Marine Force in the Pacific Ocean Areas.
The Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, now completing its second year of service, reached its total authorized strength of 18,000 in June 1944. Approximately 1700 of their number have been requested for duty in Hawaii.
THE COAST GUARD
The Coast Guard, which is a part of the Navy in time of war, has performed a great variety of duties, both within the United States and aboard, as part of the naval combatant forces, as well as in furtherance of normal Coast Guard functions. As of 31 December 1944, Coast Guard personnel totaled 169,832.
Coast Guard personnel man nearly 300 vessels of the fleet—transports, cargo vessels, fuel ships, destroyer escorts and landing craft of various types—which have participated in numerous amphibious operations in both the Atlantic and Pacific—as well as 600 Coast Guard cutters and 3,000 small craft employed in escort service and harbor security duty. 221 cargo vessels under Army control are manned by Coast Guard crews.
Acting as volunteer port security forces, Coast Guard personnel have been assigned to safeguard the nation’s ports, with their 5,000,000 linear feet of wharfage.
The Coast Guard has continued to improve aids to navigation along our inland and coastal waterways. The safe movement to the seaboard of landing craft built in the upper Mississippi River basin and on the Great Lakes has been accomplished by Coast Guard pilots, utilizing well marked channels. Intracoastal waterways, recently extended in the Gulf area, have been marked to permit safer movement of vital war materials.
A major function of the Coast Guard has been the inspection of merchant vessels and safety appliances thereon. The efforts of Coast Guard inspectors to ensure that merchant vessels carry adequate safety equipment, and that their crews attain greater efficiency in operation, has contributed to the decline of casualties among our merchant seamen. In home ports, lifeboat drills and safety instructions have been given by the Coast Guard. Marine inspectors detailed to ports in the United States and abroad have examined merchant officers and seamen for upgrading, and have administered discipline.
In carrying out its function of life saving, the Coast Guard, under direction of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has undertaken the task of developing improved methods and devices for rendering emergency assistance to aircraft and surface vessels in distress and to rescue survivors thereof. In connection with the recovery of these survivors, the use of helicopters from shore and surface craft is being thoroughly evaluated.
SPARS [Women’s Reserve of the Coast Guard] are performing practically every type of non-combatant duty, thus releasing men for service at sea. Their enlistment except for replacements, was terminated in November 1944; the SPAR officer training program was completed in December. As of 31 December 1944, there were 9,829 SPARS.
At the conclusion of my previous report, I commented upon the successful teamwork between the Army and Navy, which has so effectively furthered the progress of the war. Within the past twelve months, the character of our operations has increasingly necessitated a free and rapid interchange of forces of the several services, so that the greatest possible strength can be brought to bear against the enemy at the place, and the time that will do the most good. It is a matter of basic policy to freeze the smallest possible number of forces in permanent assignment to any single area, and to leave the major portion of the fleet as a mobile unit that is ready for service where it is most vitally needed. As an example, during the past year Admirals Halsey and Spruance, in turn commanding major units of the Pacific Fleet, have been moving back and forth between the Central and Southwest Pacific in support of the westward advances of Fleet Admiral Nimitz in the Pacific Ocean Areas and of General of the Army MacArthur in the Southwest Pacific Area. As a general principle, all naval forces are placed under a naval commander of the nation that has the primary naval responsibility in the area of operations. During the invasion of Normandy and in the Mediterranean, United States naval forces operated under British naval commanders, while British and Australian naval forces are under our operational control in the Pacific.
The harmonious integration within and between the services has been particularly essential in amphibious operations, where personnel of one service have served under the command of another. In any amphibious operation, command of all forces engaged rests in the hands of the naval commander until the troops have been put ashore and have established their command organization. At this point the landing force commander advises the naval commander that he has assumed command of his troops ashore.
The function of the Navy in an amphibious operation falls into four main phases. During the “approach” phase, the Navy commands passage to the area of landings for the invasion forces, bombards shore batteries, landing beaches and supporting areas, conducts mine sweeping operations and removes beach obstacles. Frequently the bombing of landing beaches and shore defenses is a joint function of Army and Navy aircraft. In the “landing” phase, the Navy, by employment of special landing craft, puts the invasion forces and all their equipment ashore for as long a time as they remain within range of ships’ guns, and until shore based aviation can relieve our carriers of the task of air support. In the “supply” phase, the Navy guarantees the security of the supply lines of the invasion forces and obstructs the enemy’s efforts to reinforce his troops by sea.
The extent and varied character of naval participation in amphibious operations have required vast quantities of ships, men and material. Consider, for example, the Lingayen Gulf landings on 9 January 1945. The naval attack and covering forces for this operation consisted of 1,033 ships, ranging in size from battleships and carriers on down through landing craft. The naval personnel in this force numbered upwards of 273,000. The Army forces put ashore on D-day and during the following four days were slightly more than two-thirds of this number. Similarily, in the landings on Iwo Jima, approximately 800 naval vessels were involved, with a total personnel of over 220,000. Approximately 60,000 Marines were landed in the first three days of the operation, a ratio of ships’ personnel to troops landed of slightly less than 4 to 1.
The experience of more than three years of war has demonstrated the soundness of our concept of a “balanced fleet”, in which aircraft and ships work together has a coordinated team. There has been no dispute as to “carriers versus battleships”. Aircraft can do some things that ships cannot do. Ships can do some things that aircraft cannot do. Working together, surface ships, submarines and aircraft supplement each other so that the strength of the unified team is greater than the sum of the parts.
Given the conditions under which naval war is now fought, it is impossible for a fleet to operate effectively without air power of its own. Our superiority in carrier strength has enabled us to take giant’s strides across the Pacific in spite of the enemy’s island network of air bases. The fast carrier task forces of the Pacific Fleet, consisting of carriers, battleships, cruisers and destroyers, have repeatedly made bold offensive thrusts into distant waters, inflicting significant damage on the enemy’s shipping and installations. They have supported amphibious operations, controlling the air both before and after landings and until air strips could be completed. They have equally proved their worth in the two major actions with the Japanese fleet that have taken place during the past year. The clearest evidence of their effectiveness is seen in the box score of damage inflicted upon the enemy by Admiral Halsey’s Third Fleet between 24 August 1944 and 26 January 1945. During these five months, while Carolines and Philippine Island operations, 4,370 enemy aircraft were destroyed, 82 enemy combatant ships sunk (excluding small craft), against a loss in combat by the Third Fleet of only 449, of our own planes and the light carrier Princeton.
The amphibious landings of the past twelve months have repeatedly shown the value of naval gunfire in gaining in victory and in saving the lives of our assault troops. Shore bombardments in preparation of landings, during the landings, and for as long after as troops are within range ships’ guns, have been carried out on a scale not contemplated in the past. New methods, joint procedures, and new materials have been developed. A sufficient volume of fire is laid down to knock out the shore
and beach defenses and to drive off the beach defense personnel. Initially, fire is carried out by heavy ships and support aircraft. Battleship fire provides the only gun (or weapon for that matter) that is sufficiently powerful and accurate to knock out reinforced concrete pillboxes eight to ten feet thick, and other similarly strong land gun emplacements. Just prior to landing, destroyers, gunboats, and rocket ships lay down heavy barrages of fire; ships and aircraft continue to give support as the troops move in. Although ships are designed primarily to fight other ships, their effectiveness against heavy shore batteries has been well proven in this war, as in the object sought is sufficiently important, more especially when command of the sea is not in jeopardy. The Normandy landing was an especially convincing demonstration of the value of naval gunfire in support of troops, not only as they land but also as they move inland off the beaches. The new applications of naval gunfire in amphibious operations, as well as in fleet actions, have demonstrated that the battleship is a versatile and essential vessel, far from obsolete.
We have heard much of thins being ahead of schedule in the Pacific. Actually we have had no schedule except to go as far and as fast as the means in hand would permit. It can be said that the war today is ahead of our expectations of last year. This should stimulate rather than sap our determination to carry on with every mean we can muster. I have said before, and I repeat—a quick and easy Pacific victory cannot be taken for granted, even after the European war is over. While we rejoice in the reoccupation of Guam and of the Philippines, from which our forces were driven three years ago, we must constantly realize that we are only now gaining a position from which we can assault the heart of the Japanese strength. That is our goal, and the enemy is welcome to know that we shall continue to press him with every means at our command. But the very speed of our advance has created new production problems. Our accelerated operations are placing a heavy strain upon reserves of certain vital items, while production of certain necessities is falling behind mounting requirements. It is only by unrelenting support and effort on the home from that our advance can continue.
While we contemplate with pride the accomplishments of the past twelve months—accomplishments without precedent in naval history—we must never forget that there is a long, tough and laborious road ahead.