Going Ashore To Join The Fighting
I got up early the next morning and again had a good breakfast. We were still at general quarters, and our gunners were on special alert in case of another air attack during these early dawn hours. This was the expected time for them, or else just after sunset.
Our convoy was still intact and was moving slowly back and forth about five miles off the west end of the island. I could see considerable activity from individual landing craft going in and some coming back. I found out later they were trying to take in reinforcements and supplies, plus trying to remove the most severely wounded. Incredibly, they were being pounded by the shore batteries about as heavily as the day before. Some reports later were that it was actually worse.
The ship's PA system announced that the island had not been secured yet and that our forces were heavily engaged along the beach area with the Japanese, who were putting up heavy resistance. That came as a surprise because during our briefings, we were told that we were going in to pick up the pieces since it would be devastated by our pre-invasion bombardment, also that it should be secured by the end of the first day. Something was going very wrong.
Some of our aircraft were again circling around the island watching for targets of opportunity or for calls from ground controllers for directions to a certain target. The two destroyers, Ringold and Dashiell, had worked their way in even closer to the island, ignoring the shallow reef, and were blazing away at the shore defenses. Dense smoke still covered most of the island. Sometimes, it drifted our way, hanging low over the water and we could smell it. But, it smelled different than normal smoke. Mixed with it was also the strong pungent smell of gun powder, dust and a horrible stench like that I had smelled before from dead bodies on Guadalcanal, only much stronger.
The battle continued on furiously as I watched from the railing. Apparently the report was correct that the big, eight-inch naval guns that had shot at us the preceding day had been put out of action. They were a serious threat and I felt relieved about that.
It was still morning on this second day when the entire Sixth Regiment, including our Company, H&S Sixth Regimental Headquarters, was called in to join the raging battle.
Now, the entire Division was committed. There were no reserves left. It was up to us to turn the tide of battle since most of the Second and Eighth Regiments, which had landed on the first day, were still pinned down on the narrow beach behind the sea wall on the north side of the island.
Two Battalions of the Sixth Regiment, the First and the Third, executed a flanking movement by landing around the corner of the island on Green Beach at the west end, which was to the right of the other two Regiments. It's here that the island is at its widest part of only about 600 yards.
The First Battalion went in using rubber boats which allowed them to get over the reef. The Third Battalion came in behind them. Being fresh, these two Battalions drove hard, attacked the shore defenses on Green Beach and overcame them. Later in the day, they joined up with elements of the battered Second Regiment's extreme right flank. They were almost tearfully greeted. The two forces joined together and started sweeping towards the other end of the island, but progress was extermely hard and the Japanese made them fight for every foot of it.
Copyright© 2003, Roy William Roush. All Rights Reserved.