Saipan: D-Day

The transports arrived off the western coast of Saipan in the pre-dawn darkness of June 15, 1944.

In the darkened holds, thousands of nervous Marines checked and rechecked their equipment, blood singing through their ears. Some had seen combat before, while some were new replacements with no more idea of what to expect than the veterans or the newsreels had told them. Some tried to catch a few moments of sleep, knowing that if they lived to see the next night, there would be little opportunity to rest.

At 0200, the assault troops lined up for their pre-invasion breakfast of steak and eggs.[1] Others choked down pancakes, red beans, fruit, or toast; almost everyone took an extra cup of coffee.[2] Even the greenest Marine knew that unexpected windfalls like a nice meal almost always prefaced what the more polite among them called “the defecation hitting the ventilation.” Those suffering from nerves declined the hot meal; others, believing a full stomach would make abdominal wounds harder to treat, preferred to go hungry too.

At 0400, specially trained Navy underwater demolition teams returned with good news—the approaches to the beaches were clear, and the few obstacles and mines planted by the Japanese had been removed. On their way, however, they noticed a series of small flags flapping above the water. Unsure of the flags’ purpose and with more important things to do, the divers left them alone. In fact, these flags were range markers for Japanese onshore artillery; General Saito’s gunners would have no trouble targeting the lumbering landing craft.[3]

The transports finished their maneuvering, and by 0525 the first assault troops were clambering into their tiny landing craft. In the growing light, Saipan itself could be seen looming in the distance like a gray ghost. As the sun rose, so too did the voices of the naval guns; the concussion from a battleship’s broadside could easily swamp a landing craft full of Marines, and the Coast Guard coxswains wisely kept clear as they motored into position. Not everyone made it on time, and as the bombardment lifted to strike targets inland and carrier planes gave the beaches a final working over, a delay of ten minutes was announced.[4]

The landings on Saipan as seen from one of the Navy's ships.
June 15, 1944, off the coast of Saipan.

If the prospect of crossing Saipan’s beaches was unwelcome, the waiting was pure torture. The starting line for the assault craft was some 4,000 yards from the beach—a twenty-seven minute journey in a lumbering assault craft, which would feel even longer when the Japanese opened fire. The Marines could only fight back once they reached the shore, and most preferred to get in and get the landing over with. The unfortunate seasick, having been tossed in a small boat for nearly three hours, didn’t care what happened on the beach as long as it meant they could stand on dry land.

 0800 – 0900

Finally, the first wave of assault craft gunned their engines and turned towards the beach. The untested Second Armored Amphibian Battalion (Marine) and the 708th Amphibian Tank Battalion (Army) were in the vanguard of the assault; their novel swimming tanks were to provide close-in fire support for the infantry.

At 0812, the flags on the control vessels dipped, signaling the go-ahead for the first wave and the amphibious tractors took off for the beach.[5] For the next half hour, the men were trapped in a defenseless limbo as huge shells from the fleet roared overhead, reminding many of the sound of freight trains passing by. Japanese shells began to fall among the LVTs, and here and there a tractor would disappear in a roaring explosion or sink slowly beneath the waves as heavily laden Marines tried desperately to shed enough gear to swim away. Losses were worse in the following waves; thirty-one of sixty-eight armored vehicles were smashed to wreckage in the 2nd Division’s sector alone. Meanwhile, the naval gunnery continued, and swarms of Navy fighters and dive bombers raked the beaches, trying to take out the menacing artillery.[6]

landingcraft2

At 0843, the first Marines went ashore on Saipan. The 6th and 8th Marines of the 2nd Division hit the northern (Red and Green) beaches, while the 23rd and 25th Marines of the 4th Division landed to their south (Blue and Yellow beaches). Originally, the tractors were supposed to carry the Marines a few thousand yards inland—this was supposed to establish a deeper beachhead more quickly, and avoid a Tarawa-like situation with Marines trapped on the sand. However, their vehicles began to explode with disturbing regularity as accurate Japanese artillery—guided by the range flags—found the range. As a result, most Marines suddenly decided they felt more comfortable walking, and piled out of the armored tractors to find themselves under heavy mortar and small-arms fire fire. Casualties quickly began to mount.[7]

Meanwhile, a diversionary force consisting of the reserve units of the Second Marines, 1/29th Marines, and the entire 24th Marines performed a feint landing against beaches near the village of Tanapag. Warships shelled the beaches, empty landing craft roared in, and then at the last moment turned and headed back. The plan was to divert the attention of the Japanese from the main landing beaches, and while they did tie up the Imperial 135th Infantry, neither side took serious casualties.[8] Lieutenant Frederic A. Stott, a liaison officer serving with Headquarters, 1/24, recorded the feelings aboard the transport in a pamphlet entitled “Saipan Under Fire.”

“D” day found our regiment in division reserve conducting a diversionary feint to camouflage the main landing effort. As such we had received many reports as to the progress ashore before entering the landing craft. These reports indicated that progress was excellent, and briefly the thought flashed that possibly we might miss out on the fight. We had experienced the same thought on Namur, and with far more justification. Hence this time it was quickly dispelled.[9]

Stott and the rest of the diversionary force would cross the invasion beaches themselves as reinforcements later that day.

0900 – 1100

Confusion reigned on the beach.

Crawling ashore on Saipan. Note Marine in the foreground is soaked to the skin and weaponless – possibly a survivor of a sunken vehicle. Official USMC photo.

Less than 20 minutes after the first tractor made landfall, an astonishing 8,000 Americans were ashore and fighting for their lives.[10] Men watched helplessly as friends and comrades were pierced by flying shell splinters or simply disappeared in explosions. Officers and squad leaders made conspicuous targets; unit command began to fall apart. The wounded could not yet be evacuated, and were dragged under cover or just lay where they fell. A strong northerly current carried LVTs into the wrong landing zones. Tractors and tanks were hit, the line bulged in areas and constricted in others as Marines fought their way towards the tractor organization line 500 yards inland. In a scene with ugly overtones of Tarawa, 1/25 was fought to a standstill only 12 yards from the water.

hq-company-headquarters

A unit of the 4th Marine Division bogged down on the beach at Saipan. Note amphibious tank at top right.

The 23rd, landing on Yellow Beaches 1 and 2, fared somewhat better and moved through their objective of Charan Kanoa virtually unopposed. Upon hitting the far outskirts of town, though, they came under severe artillery fire and were brought up short.

Fighting continued up and down the front as the battle ebbed and flowed around the living, the bleeding, the dying, and the dead.

1100 – 1700

The 24th Marines, still waiting aboard their transports, received the word to prepare to land at 1104. Lieutenant Stott recalled “In the space of a moment the loud-speaker called out ‘lay below for debarkation’; ‘prepare for debarkation’; and “commence debarkation.” We crammed sandwiches into pockets, grabbed our gear, and began clambering down into the small boats which were soon circling endlessly awaiting orders as to where and when to land.”[11] All boats were loaded and away from the ship by 1145.

1/24’s landing orders, as dictated by Lt. Col. Maynard Schultz aboard the USS Calvert.

PFC John Pope, struggling under the weight of a .30-caliber Browning machine gun, escaped having to climb down the difficult net—his section’s boat would be lowered into the water by davits. However, this auspicious start soon turned dangerous. “We were lowered to the water all right, but when they loosened the hook that lowered the boat it got caught on the ramp cable on the way back up,” he related. “[It] lifted the boat full of Marines by one corner almost high enough to dump the entire platoon in the ocean before they could get it stopped. Boy, that would have been as bad as it gets. The entire platoon would have drowned in a matter of seconds… We never wore life jackets in the landing boats.” Once the boat settled, Pope’s coxswain headed off to join the assault wave “just as if nothing had happened.”[12]

Incredibly, 1/24’s landing was captured on film. Chaplain Paul R. Elliott of the USS Calvert had his camera handy on June 15, 1944 – the Marine personnel shown here are all from First Battalion.

 To see the full video, please click here.

For quite some time, it truly seemed as if nothing would happen. In LCVP 4-2, Lieutenant Stott bemoaned the “four tedious hours of pitching and rocking” that passed before the order to head for the beach. Originally, 1/24 had planned to transfer from their boats to tracked LVTs—Saipan’s outer reef was impassable for the boats, while the tracked vehicles could simply climb over—but too many LVTs had been lost in the initial assault. 1/24 reached the assigned area at 1435, but no LVTs were forthcoming. A single, narrow channel led through the reef; the flat-bottomed boats would have to proceed in single file through the bottleneck before proceeding to Beach Blue 1.[13] It wasn’t a pleasant option, but without the LVTs, it was the only one available, and at 1700 the order was finally given to proceed.

Stott described the moments leading up to the landing:

Drawing closer, the ruins of Charan-Kanoa gave ample evidence of the destructive power of the aerial and naval gunfire preparations. And we also saw numerous splashes along the beach line and six hundred yards out on the reef which we were soon to cut. For some unknown reason, probably a lack of familiarity, we did not identify the splashes as enemy artillery and mortars. The overwhelming effectiveness of the bombs and shells on Roi-Namur unconsciously influenced us to discount the possibility of much artillery opposition.

Miraculously the shelling ceased as we neared shore, and all landed safely, many without wetting their feet. Then, oblivious to what might occur, we formed up in a series of semi-massed companies, found all men present, and commenced to move off to our designated assembly area. In movement we deployed, finally ending our high target priority.[14]

The bunching of companies caused by the improvised landing took time to straighten out as the Marines of 1/24 got their first look at the island of Saipan.

It was still another maneuver as we travelled the initial quarter of a mile through scrubby vegetation on sandy soil, which afforded fair cover and concealment. Naturally the actual ground appeared differently than it had in the aerial photographs and on the maps, and we were experiencing difficulty in locating our assembly area – assigned on the map. Suddenly came the realization that it was again battle, and that this time our supporting ships and planes were not overwhelming.[15]

Captain Irving Schechter, the skipper of Company A, was even more blasé when recalling the landing in 1982. “So we landed and started to move in. I can’t recall that my battalion’s landing was rugged, but it didn’t take the Japanese artillery very long to open up.”[16]

Schechter’s recollection was an understatement. One of Charan Kanoa’s landmarks was a sugar mill with a large smokestack; it was the perfect place for Japanese artillery spotters, and indeed one was spotted in turn and subsequently killed. For a time, though, this one man caused considerable havoc with any American movement within his line of sight.

We had started across a stretch of open field when a missile whizzed by at terrific speed and exploded a couple of hundred yards away. It was our first introduction to unfriendly artillery, and we were to have a couple of days in which to become well acquainted…. After some ten minutes the fire ceased, and by detouring we managed to pass the area with light casualties, but we now realized that our position was down on the flats with the Japs in the hills, and looking down with more than small arms.[17]

PFC George Smith, the unofficial comic of Company A’s machine gun platoon, was making the best of the landing. As his squad moved carefully down a dusty road leading to Saipan’s interior, Smith noticed an abandoned hibachi grill in a ditch and called out “Looks like someone got their dinner interrupted!” As if on cue, a Japanese shell whistled down, narrowly missing Smith and knocking him out with a concussion. When he came to his senses, he was crawling desperately towards a small building. Nearby was a pen, home to a nervous goat and an equally nervous Corporal Eugene Walsh. The barrage that knocked Smith down had driven a piece of shrapnel into Walsh’s left foot. After inspecting their wounds, Smith and Walsh bucked each other up by teasing the goat. “Think we could milk that thing?” Smith asked. Walsh dipped his head to examine the goat’s undercarriage. “Nope. That’s the wrong kind of goat.”

Smith thought he’d been out for only a few moments, and was startled to find that his company had advanced all the way across a large open field, forcing him to trot at the double to catch up. When he finally flopped down among the familiar faces of his platoon, his friend PFC Dave Spohn commented, “We thought you were dead, so we left you behind.” Smith was only half sure that Spohn was joking.[18] Gene Walsh limped in the other direction and was evacuated from the beach—his part in the Marianas campaign over in less than an hour.

By 1730, all elements of 1/24 were ashore. Stott recounted that “prior to darkness we reached our appointed area, and fortunately found that industrious Jap labor had constructed some deep and excellent fire trenches which served our purposes better than they had the diggers,” while the regiment’s After Action Report stated more drily, “All units proceeded to a general assembly area approximately 800 yards south of Charan Kanoa, and organized an all-around defense for the night.” Companies A and B, 1/24, were ordered into the front line, tying in with 2/23 and 2/25. Company C remained in battalion reserve.

1700 – 2359

Despite the official record’s claims of an organized defense, few of the Marines felt terribly secure on their first night on Saipan. “Night clamped down before we were well organized, and without a real orientation as to the situation in that sector,” commented Stott. “And with the darkness came a series of artillery barrages which far exceeded anything experienced or expected. As our familiarity with shelling increased, fear correspondingly declined, but had it not been for the trenches the casualties would have been very heavy, and they were plentiful regardless!”[19]

One Able Company squad did not enjoy the comfort of the trenches. As the shells began to fall, Sergeant Michael Frihauf ordered his twelve Marines to drop everything and dig in. Frihauf’s squad (Third Squad, First Platoon) had been specially trained in demolitions and bunker assault on Maui, but their skills were useless against artillery. As his nervous men pitched earth, Frihauf tried to calm them with some NCO wisdom; PFC Robert Tierney remembered the sergeant saying “Don’t worry about the artillery you hear, they’ve already passed. The shells to be concerned about are the ones you don’t hear.” Despite his bravado, shellfire wounded Corporal Lee R. Anderson and PFC Richard McGinnis. The demolitions squad was down two men before they’d even seen an enemy soldier, let alone an emplacement to attack.

frihauf squad

Sergeant Frihauf (standing, left) and his squad just before Saipan.
McGinnis stands fourth from left. Tierney stands at far right. Anderson crouches at far right.

David Dempsey, a combat correspondent attached to the Marines, described the fighting around Charan Kanoa:

[It] was a battle of Japanese artillery against men who could not retreat without backing Into the sea, of Jap soldiers fighting to regain a town against Marines equally determined to hold It. It was fought amid flowerbeds and under bougainvillea trees, in the ruins of a sugar refinery, through smoldering cane fields, and amid the pigsties of Japanese farmers…. [The town] was being bombarded so heavily that we crouched deep in foxholes at the outskirts of the town. We dug in along a line that ran from the sugar mill at the north to beaches just south of Charan Kanoa. The Japanese laid hundreds of shells in the town itself and attempted to squeeze us back into a death trap.[20]

For most of 1/24, this was the first experience with a prolonged barrage. PFC Howard Kerr, a machine gunner from Company A, recalled that “the first night on Saipan, everybody had their own foxhole, and the Japanese had a lot of artillery pieces. Even though we had bombarded Saipan for several weeks, their artillery was embedded in the hills, and they could roll ‘em out and fire and roll em back in. Every time you’d hear a shell going off at night, sitting there by yourself you’d think ‘That one’s got my number on it for sure!’ After that we started having two men in the foxholes. So one could sleep a little bit and one could stay awake.”

Not far from Kerr was George Smith, whose head still swam from his concussion.  “The shellfire that first night on Saipan was the worst experience I remember. If there was a place I could have run to, I would. Most of us stayed on the line because we were petrified and didn’t want to let our friends down. I was behind the gun with Cease [PFC Charles Stafford] beside me, and we could hear those rounds getting closer and closer. Thank God our batteries opened up and the fire lifted. The next rounds would have landed right on us.”[21]

Another pair of Marines was not so lucky. Corporal Robert Johnston, a supply clerk with Headquarters, found a likely looking spot for a foxhole near Charan Kanoa’s sugar refinery. He dug in with his fellow clerk and best friend, Corporal Robert Leon Hunget, but found themselves sharing their foxhole with some unwelcome guests – a horde of rats displaced from the refinery. Hunget couldn’t stand the rats. Ignoring common sense and Johnston’s warnings, he got out and sat on the ground ten paces away. Just then, the Japanese began to shell the refinery.

One of the projectiles landed directly on the 22-year-old Hunget. “There was not much left but his dog tags,” Johnston recalled years later. “I never told his family what really happened.”[22]

Nearby, PFC Dwyer Duncan of Headquarters Company found himself digging in alone.

We had not grouped, so I was alone in a trench full of decomposing Japanese who had been killed by bombing and naval gunfire.  I spent the first night alone in the trench without sleep because I was alone.  Japanese fire resumed early on the second day and I took shrapnel in the left shin.  Skinny pieces went through my leggings (required in all landings), trousers and skin to slide along the bone.  I cut the shrapnel out, used iodine that I always carried, and joined my unit.  If I have to pick my worst time in combat it would be time in that shallow, sandy trench under fire with no buddy to back me up. [22.5]

Another casualty of the shelling was First Sergeant Ralph C. Lilja. The oldest of the four Lilja brothers in the Corps, “Top” Lilja was an old salt whose ten years of service included China in the 1930s, sailing the seas aboard the USS Enterprise, and coaching boots at the Quantico rifle range. The next brother in line, George Lilja, was off with the 7th Marines; he’d been through Guadalcanal and New Britain without a scratch, and was living up to his nickname of “Lucky.” Edwin Lilja was partway through his second hitch back in the States, safely out of harm’s way. It was the youngest brother that worried Top Lilja. PFC Verner Lilja Junior was just a few hundred yards away, crouched in a foxhole in Able Company’s sector, and undergoing the same shellfire.

As the senior enlisted man of Company C, Ralph Lilja had plenty on his mind—not the least of which was the safety of his own enlisted men. The Top, being a seasoned Marine, presumably reckoned there was nothing to be done in any case. Vernon was a Marine, after all, and could take care of himself. They would be able to check up on each other come morning. Fate intervened: an enemy shell burst too close and riddled Ralph Lilja with shrapnel. The Western Union telegram announcing his death to the Lilja family would be followed days later by word of Vernon’s serious injury, and “Lucky” Lilja’s luck would run out on Peleliu in September.

Captain Milton Cokin’s Company B always seemed to attract trouble, and the first night on Saipan was no different. The mortar section lost Corporal Harmon Chichester to a bullet in the foot; mortarman Robert Pitts was killed, along with machine gunner Otto Becker and hulking, taciturn Corporal Peter Wilchinski. Shell fragments caused the majority of the company’s first casualties, and one man broke down so badly that he was evacuated as a psychoneurosis case. Far more serious was the damage done to the battalion’s medical section; three experienced corpsmen were wounded and a fourth, 18-year-old HA2c Joseph C. Heidler, was killed on his first day of combat.

Nor was the shelling the only danger. The 1/24 had some experience with Japanese night fighters on Namur, but on Saipan they would have many more. Not far away, correspondent Dempsey was writing:

After darkness, many [Japanese] infiltrated into our lines through almost jungle-like terrain outside the town. Some sneaked down the railroad tracks leading to the sugar mill, hiding among the hundreds of railroad cars piled high with sugar cane. Others came from the sugar refinery, where they had hidden throughout the day.[23]

The final duty for many officers that day was to take a roll call and count their losses. In the few hours that had passed since the landing, the battalion suffered more casualties than in the entire battle for Roi-Namur—and the fight for Saipan was just beginning.

The Fallen

hq_hunget a_leisure a_willenborg b_wilchinski b_becker

Corporal
Robert L. Hunget
Age 22
Clerk, HQ Co.
Artillery shell

Sergeant
Armand D. Leisure
Age 31
MG Section Leader, A Co.
Cause unknown
Corporal
Carl J. Willenborg
Age 20
Fire Team Leader, A Co.
Shrapnel wounds, body
Corporal
Peter Wilchinski

Age 24
Fire Team Leader, B Co.
Cause unknown
Private First Class
Otto H. Becker

Age 21
Mortarman, B Co.
Cause unknown
b_pitts c_lilja   c_motovidlak xz_nopic
Private First Class
Robert E. Pitts
Age 19
Mortarman, B Co.
Cause unknown
First Sergeant
Ralph Lilja
Age 30
1st Sgt, C Co.
Shrapnel wounds
  Private First Class
Raymond Motovidlak
Age 21
Rifleman, C Co.
Cause unknown
Hospital Apprentice 2c
John C. Heidler

Age 18
Corpsman
Cause unknown

WOUNDED

COMPANY Name Assignment Cause Destination
Headquarters Cpl. John F. Beard
Cpl. Roy F. Haney
PhM1c Alex L. Grady
PhM2c Eloy Manzanares
PhM2c Jack Mason
Postal Clerk
Chemical NCO
Corpsman
Corpsman
Corpsman
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Not Evacuated
Not Evacuated
USS Calvert
USS Pierce
Unknown
Able Cpl. Lee R. Anderson, Jr.
Cpl. Leon H. Roquet
Cpl. Fred E. Thomas
Cpl. Eugene R. Walsh
PFC John M. Corcoran
PFC Richard H. Dues
PFC Richard C. McGinnis
PFC Vern J. Neeson
PFC Hamilton T. Pendergast
PFC John R. Svoboda
ACk John M. Yonkers
Fire Team Leader
Fire Team Leader
Rifleman
Fire Team Leader
BAR Gunner
Messenger
Rifleman
BAR Gunner
Machine Gunner
Squad Leader
Cook
Shrapnel
Unknown
Unknown
Wound, left foot
Sprain, right ankle
Shell fragment, left hand
Shell fragment, right axilla
Unknown
Shell fragment, both legs
Unknown
Serious contusion, back
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
USS Livingston
Unknown
USS Leon
USS Leon
Unknown
USS Leon
USS Bountiful
USS Sumter
Baker Sgt. Harold D. Caudill, Jr.
Sgt. Elza R. Wallace, Jr.
Cpl. Harmon Chichester
PFC Donald E. Anderson
PFC Robert N. Arsenault
PFC Paul A. Bloor
PFC Clifford A. Cederleaf
PFC Attilio Centofanti
PFC John K. Howell
PFC Eugene T. Langston
PFC William J. O’Connor
PFC Edward Olkowski
PFC Charles V. Nelson
PFC Lee L. Parker, Jr.
PFC Thomas Puckett, Jr.
PFC Charles Rospop
PFC Harry Schueneman
PFC Charles Thompson
Pvt. Robert D. Baatz, Jr.
Pvt. Raynor C. Lehman
Squad Leader
Section Leader
Mortar Squad Leader
Ammo Carrier
Machine Gunner
Mortar Gunner
General Duty
General Duty
Machine Gunner
Rifleman
Machine Gunner
Machine Gunner
Messenger
BAR Gunner
Messenger
Barber
BAR Gunner
Ammo Carrier
Machine Gunner
Rifleman
Fragment, right lumbar
Unknown
Gunshot, left foot
Fragment, right thigh
Unknown
Unknown
Frag. left arm, right wrist
Unknown
Psychoneurosis
Unknown
Blast Concussion
Unknown
Frag. left leg, left arm
Fragment, head & buttocks
Fragment, right cheek
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Fragment, right hand
USS Storm King
USS John Land
USS Sumter
USS Leon
Unknown
Unknown
USS Leon
Unknown
USS Sumter
Unknown
USS Leon
Unknown
USS Leon
USS Leon
USS Leon
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
USS Leon

Charlie

PlSgt. James F. Blake
Sgt. Edward F. Vodopest
Cpl. Bernard C. Nuzum
Platoon Sergeant
Squad Leader
Fire Team Leader
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown

 

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FOOTNOTES

[1] The steak-and-eggs breakfast was a tradition picked up from ANZAC troops in 1942; by mid-1944 it had spread from a First Marine Division specialty to a Corps-wide pre-landing tradition.
[2] Harold J. Goldberg, D-Day In The Pacific: The Battle of Saipan, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007), 56.
[3] Carl W. Hoffman, Saipan: The Beginning of the End (Washington: Historical Division, US Marine Corps, 1950), 45.
[4] Hoffman, 47.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid., 49.
[7] Ibid., 50.
[8] John C. Chapin, Breaching the Marianas: The Battle for Saipan (Washington: Marine Corps Historical Center, 1994), 1.
[9] Frederic A. Stott, “Saipan Under Fire” (Andover: Frederic Stott, 1945), 2.
[10] Hoffman, 50.
[11] Stott.
[12] John C. Pope, Angel On My Shoulder, Kindle ed. (John Pope: November 30, 2013) location 899.
[13] Hoffman, 66-67. The after action report for 1/24 reads “1730: Landed on Beach Yellow 2.” Most histories of the battle, including Hoffman’s, state that 1/24 and 2/24 both landed on Beach Blue 1. The reasons for this discrepancy are unknown.
[14] Stott, 3.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Henry Berry, Semper Fi, Mac (New York: Harper, 1982), 224.
[17] Stott, 3.
[18] George A. Smith, interview with the author, November 2009.
[19] Stott, 4.
[20] David Dempsey, “Fight Rages All Night: 24 Hour Charan Kanoa Battle One Of War’s Fiercest,” Marine Corps Chevron, 8 July 1944. Accessed June 6, 2014.
[21] Smith, interview with author.
[22] Robert Johnson, “Memories of Robert Johnston,” ed. Dick Krug. Accessed June 6, 2014.
[23] Dempsey.

One thought on “Saipan: D-Day

  1. The casualties would have been far worse if the the UDT’s had not have cleared the way for the landing craft. Unfortunately it seems they missed the range flags. The UDT’s; Underwater Demolition Teams, now called Seal’s were in their infancy, but served well. Lucky Six was UDT Team 6 of which my father was one that saw that day, and others like it at Guam , Peleliu, and Leyte. Very little is said in our history of these events as to the ones who were there before the invasions and cleared the way for them.

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