Jul 27

TINIAN, JULY-AUGUST 1944

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 11:27 AM

From The Marine Corps History Division…

The 24 July – 1 August 1944 campaign for the assault and capture of the Mariana Islands played a vital role in the final defeat of Japan. Planners deemed the islands of Guam, Saipan, and Tinian of critical importance because the Army Air Corps needed bases from which its long-range bombers could make non-stop strikes on Japan. Additionally, the Navy wanted the islands developed as advance bases, and hoped that a Marianas operation would draw out the Japanese Combined Fleet so that it could be engaged in a decisive battle.

After the capture of Saipan in early July 1944, the next step in this campaign was Tinian, whose relatively flat terrain was ideally suited for the construction of airfields for the new American B-29 bombers. Vice Admiral Richmond Kelley Turner, USN, commanded the approximately 800 ships and 162,000 men of the Marianas Joint Expeditionary Force. Turner also led the Northern Attack Force, designated specifically for Saipan and Tinian. The task of taking Tinian fell to the 2d and 4th Marine Divisions, under the overall command of Major General Harry Schmidt, USMC, Commander, V Amphibious Corps.

Tinian underwent over 40 days of preliminary naval gunfire and bombing from the air. Shore fire control was improved from previous campaigns as fire-control parties worked out procedures on board the gunfire ships designated to support the landings. Photo reconnaissance flights and captured enemy documents on Saipan gave a clear picture of the topography of Tinian, and for the first time napalm was used extensively and proved successful in burning off ground cover.

On D-Day, 24 July, the 4th Marine Division led the assault, while the 2d Marine Division provided a convincing diversion off the southwest coast of the island. Shore-based artillery and naval bombardment provided plentiful support to the assaulting Marines, and opposition to the landing was not strong. Subsequent Japanese counterattacks were repulsed by the well-entrenched Marines. On the second day of the invasion, the 2d Marine Division came ashore to join their 4th Division brethren in sweeping to the south and pressing the Japanese defenders back.

By 1 August, after nine days of fighting in a battle often termed “the perfect amphibious operation” of World War II, General Schmidt declared the island of Tinian secured. The combination of surprise, heavy pre-assault bombardment and effective logistical support was responsible for Tinian’s recapture with a much lower casualty rate than had been experienced in previous amphibious landings. Almost a year after its re-capture, Tinian played a final, decisive role in the defeat of the Japanese when a B-29 bomber, the “Enola Gay” left Point Ushi Airstrip on Tinian, carrying the atomic bomb that would be dropped on Hiroshima.

 
 
 
  • Jim Valle

    One part of this piece that really intrigued me was the reference to forty days of naval gunfire and ariel bombing prior to the Marine landings. It seems that by that stage of the war the Japanese had become adept at tunneling, constructing deep bunkers and establishing small concrete pillboxes that were very difficult to knock out except by direct infantry assault. I find myself wondering if the resources expended on preliminary bombardment could have been better utilized in some other way? Could they have been withheld until the troops were ashore and could pinpoint exactly what they wanted blasted? I wasn’t there, of course. I’m just wondering if anybody has any thoughts on this subject.

  • Woody Sanford

    To Jim Valle,
    I agree that the pre-invasion bombing was seemingly quite long and heavy by previous standards. I wonder if by this stage of the Pacific Campaign, the National Authority and Theatre Commanders were becoming much more concerned about the heavy Marine casualties in the earlier amphibious Island invasions,i.e.Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, Peliliu. The USMC paid a quite heavy price for those victories. Of course, the worse came later– Iwo Jima, Okinawa– but they might have been thinking of saving some lives at the time of the Tinian assault. Woody Sanford

  • SHERMAN TITE–EVANSVILLE, IN

    JIM VALLE AND WOODY SANFORD:
    READ YOUR “POSTS” AND IT STIRRED THE SAME QUESTIONS IN
    ME. I THINK YOU BOTH ARE RIGHT IN YOUR ASSUMPTIONS. I
    WAS IN USN 1956-1960. SPENT MY LAST YEAR AND A HALF 1958-59
    AT RADIO BARRIGADA ON THE ISLAND OF GUAM. GUAM OF COURSE
    BEING A MUCH,MUCH LARGER ISLAND THAN TINIAN. TINIAN WAS
    ABOUT 75 MILES DUE NORTH OF GUAM. WISH I COULD HAVE SEEN
    IT. BUT WOULDN’T HAVE WANTED TO BE THERE IN 1944. WHEW!
    MY EMAIL ADDRESS IS USERMRGURK@INSIGHTBB.COM …DROP ME
    A LINE IF YOU CARE TO.

  • Jerry M. Wilson

    I’m working on a project on Tinian and hoping to acquire copies of pre invasion reconnaissance photos of the west side of the island, specifically showing an old winding road southeast of the old
    Japanese airfield going south from Camp Chulu. Reportedly there were 3 120mm Japanese guns in caves apptoximately 700 ft. east of that road. Any information leading to copies of photos of the road and/or the guns will be appreciated
    Thanks.