June 1944 (3)

Saipan landing

Saipan landing

15-20 June – H-hour for the landing on Saipan was 0840 hours.  A protective reef, some distance offshore made it necessary to use amphibian tractors (amtracs), for the landing.  The US Army 534th and 773rd Amphibian Tractor battalions, along with the Marine amtracs (making it 350 vehicles), put 4,000 4th Marines ashore in the first 20 minutes.  The US Army 708th Armored Amphibian Battalion spearheaded the landing and blasted a path to a ridge-line running parallel to the shoreline.  Gen. Saito’s 43rd Division was not prepared for all this.

LVT's attacking Saipan, 1944

LVT’s attacking Saipan, 1944

When opposition did come it was artillery fire from Hill 500 on the slopes of Mount Tapotchau and heavy casualties resulted.  At 0300, the evening of 15-16 June, about 1,000 of the enemy came charging down the hill with 36 tanks.  Gen. Saito sent a signal to Tokyo announcing his counterattack to “annihilate the enemy in one swoop.”  But the US destroyers delivered such accurate shell fire, the assault was halted and 15 Japanese aircraft were shot down as they attempted to hit the ships.  Saito decided to await assistance from the Imperial Navy before taking on another offensive.  On the 16th, the US Army 27th Infantry Division landed.

Red Beach 2, Saipan

Red Beach 2, Saipan

Aslito airfield when it was still in Japanese hands, 1944

Aslito airfield when it was still in Japanese hands, 1944

Despite serious opposition, the US troops captured the Aslito airfield in the southern area (later called Iseley).  Adm. Spruance sailed to join up with Lee’s battleships and the returning TF-58.  As the 5th Fleet Commander, he radioed out: “OUR AIR WILL FIRST KNOCK OUT ENEMY CARRIERS… THEN WILL ATTACK ENEMY BATTLESHIPS AND CRUISERS… LEE’S BATTLE LINE WILL DESTROY ENEMY FLEET… ACTION AGAINST A RETREATING ENEMY MUST BE PUSHED BY ALL HANDS…”

Radio direction findings spotted the Japanese force 600 miles west of Guam heading straight for the patrol line of 6 US submarines.  Their orders came directing from CINCPAC: “SHOOT FIRST AND REPORT LATER.”  During the battle, the USS Albacore torpedoed the largest carrier of the Imperial Navy, the IJN Taiko.  One hit caused gas fumes to build up like a bomb.  The Taiko would continue to sail for 3½ hours, then she blew apart.  The second torpedo was spotted by Warrant Officer, Akio Komatsu, who dove his plane into it.

The submarine USS Cavalla, under Commander Herman Kessler, moved in on the IJN Shokaku and released six torpedoes – 3 of which hit.

26

Adm. Ozawa believed his battle plan would be supported by 500 land-based aircraft, when in fact, Adm. Kurita had sent his planes out to dispense any diversionary attacks.  US Adm. Mitscher’s TF-58 Hellcats and Avengers hit Guam in what would be labeled by the pilots as “The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.”

Fighter plane contrails, Great Marianas Turkey Shoot

Fighter plane contrails, Great Marianas Turkey Shoot

US aircraft had shot down 25 of the enemy force of 68 before they reached the fleet.  Those 43 that did get through were met by hellish anti-aircraft fire and only 27 escaped.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Farewell Salutes – 

Russell ‘Buck’ Adkins – Sweetland, WV; US Army, WWII, PTO, Engineers

Anthony Baldino – Dania, FL; US Navy, WWIImm105-3

William Bolin Crow – Abilene, TX; US Army, Korea, 1st Sgt., 187th RCT

John Eresman – Fox Valley, CAN; RC Army, WWII, Prince of Wales Rangers

Nona Gabriel – St. John, KY; US Army WAC, WWII, ETO,  11th Field Hosp., nurse

James Hankins – Memphis, TN; US Navy, WWII, USS Bradford

Donnie Hendrickson – Janesville, WI; US Army, Korea, Cpl., KIA

Richard Pittman – Stockton, CA; USMC, Vietnam, MSgt. (Ret. 21 years), Medal of Honor

Victor VanFleet – Kalamazoo, MI; US Navy, WWII

Burton Wallace – Plymouth, IN; US Army, WWII, medic

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on October 20, 2016, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.

  1. Bravo! 👏🏾 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great historical piece gp, always something new in your posts, there must be a great story behind that picture of sipping wine atop the Eagles nest, those guys must have had great story’s to tell.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Danke lieber Freund wünsche dir ein schönes Weekend alles liebe GISLINDE

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I always enjoy old documentaries “The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” on them. Those pilots must have loved it too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “The US Army 708th Armored Amphibian Battalion spearheaded the landing and blasted a path to a ridge-line running parallel to the shoreline.” – I hadn’t known this and it seemed so fascinating that I read up on the Battle of Saipan and the commander of the operation, General Holland McTyeire Smith, dubbed Father of Modern Amphibious Warfare. So fascinating, brave and innovative. Thank you for the history lessons!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are very welcome, but what I’m happiest about is the fact that you continued to research!! I hope with each post that I may cause someone to have the curiosity about any subject to carry it even further! You’ve made my day!!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I just don’t like to show my hand
    But your posts
    Have reopened my relationship with father
    I thought I had dealt with
    but I never talk to him about his service
    As always Sheldon

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m very happy to hear that. His generation usually felt they had to try and deal with all they saw and did by themselves, if he won’t open up to you, perhaps having another veteran with you might help. Best of luck and ‘if at first you don’t succeed…….’

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Every time someone puts out another Saipan picture I have fun looking at the faces to see if my dad is in one. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know what you mean, I do the same thing for New guinea, the P.I., and Okinawa. Despite dad telling me he used to avoid cameramen so his mother wouldn’t see him in combat, I still have to look!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I also was struck by the line about the guy diving in front of the torpedo. They were enemies but some were also heroes.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. CINCPAC: “SHOOT FIRST AND REPORT LATER.”

    I love it — leaving it to the ‘boots on the ground’ to get on with the job, none of this ‘micro-management’ by folks out of sight!

    That kamikaze pilot has my respect too …

    Like

  10. Pretty impressive that the “US aircraft had shot down 25 of the enemy force of 68 before they reached the fleet.”

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Even though I know the ‘ending’, this continues to read like a really exciting book. The fighting in the Marianas and on Saipan shows the Japanese beginning to get really desperate.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, “Bansai” charges are seen more often, but as Dan brought up, we still needed to fight for more than another year. The Japanese could not be defeated easily.
      Thanks for reading today.

      Like

  12. struggle with a lot of victimes

    Liked by 1 person

  13. They maybe could read the writing, but our guys would fight for another full year. I was struck by the line: “The second torpedo was spotted by Warrant Officer, Akio Komatsu, who dove his plane into it.” Even if he was fighting for the enemy, you have to acknowledge the sacrifice of such a brave and selfless man.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I most certainly do, Dan. The Allies had underestimated their opponent. The Japanese were considered by all who came in contact that they were a very formidable enemy. I slip in posts about some of their troops for just that reason.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I find myself (as a nitpicker) wondering if his sacrifice wasn’t in vain—torpedoes fairly scamper along, it takes time for the bubbles of passage to come to the surface … he’d have had to have allowed enough deflection by crashing down a fair distance ahead of where he saw it (unless it was set to run extremely shallow). Brrrrr …

      Liked by 1 person

  14. While June, 1944 was not a good month for Germany, it seems like it was also pretty bad for Japan.

    Liked by 1 person

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