18 december 2020

Second Battle of Guam.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY. July 21, 1944. Dad hits the beach in the second battle of Guam.

I remember my youth and the feeling that will never come back anymore. The feeling I could last forever, outlast the sea, the earth, and all men. - Joseph Conrad

July 21, 1944. Reveille was at 0400 hours, a quick wash, and down to the mess hall for a breakfast of corned beef hash, and hard boiled eggs. Very little conversation, it seemed each man was alone with his private thoughts. 0500, and word was passed that church services were being held on deck, some went, and others sat and fiddled with their gear. 0530, muster, and final check of equipment. Hatches were unbattened and the huge pole cranes begin to bring the guns and ammunition up to be loaded into the landing craft. H-hour was 0700, when the first elements of the Third Marine Division, and the First Provisional Marine Brigade would make simultaneous landings on beachheads located miles apart. The invasion of Guam was just minutes away. 0600, dawn, and the Naval bombardment of the island began. Far out to sea the big ships were raining death and destruction on the beaches. The first aircraft appeared and the dive bombing and strafing runs began, soon the beach was ablaze with a black smoke obscuring the hills beyond. The first waves of men were in their landing craft, circling at the rendezvous point and waiting the signal from the Beachmaster to form in echelon and make for the beach. 0700, the landing is on, I stood on the deck of the Monroe and watched the first waves land and inch their way up onto the sands. The Naval gunfire bombardment lifting as they made their way forward. The shells continuing to land a couple of hundred yards in front of the advancing troops. The landing craft returning to embark more troops. 0745, my wave is called, and we are over the side and down the cargo net to embark on an amphibious tractor, and we are away from the side of the ship and into the circling pattern. The sea is rough, and I am scared shitless, and within minutes I am seasick and heaving my guts over the rail. My arms are dangling over the side and I can see water inside the crystal of my wrist watch. Oh Christ, what am I doing here? I look around, and see that most of the occupants of the craft are in the same shape as me. The Captain looks a little green around the gills too, and he reassures us that once we leave the pattern and pick up speed the sea will calm, and all will be fine. Somehow I believed him. Finally the signal is given and the landing craft form into echelon and we are on our way in.

The sea is suddenly smooth, and the horrible bobbing and heaving is over. I dig through my wet gear and find a dry cigarette. I light up, and my shakes abate, I’m still scared, but realize there is only one way off this craft and that is on the beach. Unlike the LST’s our tractor is as much at home on land as it is on water, and we claw our way right up onto the beach, and the Coxswain gives the word to disembark. I'm up and over the side with full Combat pack and gear and drop at least seven feet to the sand. If the Japanese don't kill me, I'll kill myself with another foolish move like that. I have my pack, a Thompson Submachine gun, and 120 rounds of ammunition. Japanese mortar rounds are landing all around us, and I pick myself up and run forward to where the Captain has designated as an assembly point, in the event we were separated on landing. I get the word to dig in, and I don't need to be told twice. My entrenching tool and I are as one unit, and in minutes I have dug myself into the sand. The incoming mortar fire eases, and we advance to the main road connecting Agana and Orote Point. We dig in again. We have landed at Asan Point. Right across the road there is a battery of 75 mm howitzers firing into the face of the cliff just a few hundred yards ahead. The Japanese have the high ground, and their mortars are deadly. They have owned Guam for two-and-a-half years, and are well-entrenched. All of a sudden I am faced with a problem. I've got to crap. There's a small green telephone relay building just the other side of the road and I see someone hunkering down near there crapping, and so I make a dash for it. All of my gear except for helmet and toilet paper I leave in the hole. I reached the building, drop my drawers. The mortar fire starts up again, and one lands just 30 or so yards away, another is closer, I think, my God, they are zeroing in on me. I don't stop to wipe, I just haul ass out of there and back across the road just as a round drops in the very spot where I was shitting moments before. My thoughts were: what an inglorious way to die.

Photo shows scene on Asan Beach an hour and a half after the first landings, 21 July 1944. A field dressing station is in operation in the foreground. Note LVTs and M-4 tanks.