Marines in World War II Commemorative Series
Coming Back to Guam
Operation Forager
Ashore in the North
The Southern Beaches
Colonel Suenaga Attacks
Fonte Ridge
Securing the Force Beachhead Line
The Attack North
Beginning of the End
Gen. Roy S. Geiger
Gen. Allan H. Turnage
Gen. Lemuel C. Sheperd, Jr.
Maj. Gen. Andrew D. Bruce
PFC Luther Skaggs, Jr.
PFC Leonard F. Mason
Capt. Louis H. Wilson
Gen. Robert E. Cushman
PFC Frank P. Witek
Special Subjects
3rd Marine Division Insignia
The Taking of Chonito Ridge
The Colt .45-Caliber M1911A1 Pistol
War Dogs on Guam

LIBERATION: Marines in the Recapture of Guam
by Cyril J. O'Brien

Operation Forager

In late 1943, both the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and, later, the Combined Chiefs of Staff (CCS) agreed to the further direction of the Pacific War. General Douglas MacArthur, commander of the Southwest Pacific Area, was to head north through New Guinea to regain the Philippines. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and Pacific Ocean Areas (CinCPac/CinCPOA), proposed a move through the Central Pacific to secure a hold in the Marianas. The strategic bombing of Japan would originate from captured fields on Guam, Saipan, and Tinian. The new strategic weapon for these attacks would be the B-29 bomber, which had a range of 3,000 miles while carrying 10,000 pounds of bombs. The code name of the Marianas operation was "Forager." The Central Pacific drive began with the landing on Tarawa in November 1943, followed by the landings in Kwajalein Atoll on Roi-Namur, Eniwetok, and Kwajalein itself.

In January 1944, Admiral Nimitz made final plans for Guam, and selected his command structure for the Marianas campaign. Accordingly, Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, the victor at Midway, was designated commander of the Fifth Fleet and of all the Central Pacific Task Forces; he would command all units involved in Forager.

Vice Admiral Richmond K. Turner, who had commanded naval forces for the landings at Guadalcanal and Tarawa, headed the Joint Expeditionary Force (Task Force 51). Turner would also command the Northern Attack Force for the invasion of Saipan and Tinian. Admiral Conolly, who had commanded the invasion forces at Roi and Namur in the Marshalls, would head the Southern Attack Force (Task Force 53) assigned to Guam. Marine Major General (later Lieutenant General) Holland M. Smith, the Expeditionary Troops commander for the Marianas, would be responsible for the Northern Troops and Landing Force at Saipan and Tinian, essentially the Marine V Amphibious Corps (VAC). Major General Roy S. Geiger, an aviator who had conducted the Bougainville operation, was to command the Southern Troops and Landing Force, the III Amphibious Corps, at Guam.

General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr.

General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr.

Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., was in his senior year at the Virginia Virginia Military Institute and had not yet graduated when he was commissioned in the Marine Corps. He sailed to France as a member of the 5th Regiment of Marines, part of the 4th Brigade of Marines. He saw considerable action in the war—he was wounded twice at Belleau Wood and after recovering from his wounds and rejoining his regiment for the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives, he was wounded for a third time in the latter. Shepherd served in the Army of Occupation in Germany, and on his return home, became aide to the Commandant and at the White House. During the interwar period, he had a mix of school, staff, and command assignments. In March 1942, he assumed command of the 9th Marines and took it overseas as part of the 3d Marine Division. Upon promotion to flag rank in July 1943, he was assigned to the 1st Marine Division as assistant division commander and, as such, participated in the Cape Gloucester operation. He assumed command of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade in May 1944, and led it in the landing on Guam. Following this operation, he received his second star and took command of the 6th Marine Division, which was formed from the brigade and participated in the landings on Okinawa. General Shepherd commanded Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, in the first two years of the Korean War, and then was chosen as the 20th Commandant of the Marine Corps. General Shepherd died at the age of 94 in 1990.

D-Day for the invasion of Saipan had been set for 15 June. It was an important date also for the 3d Marine Division, commanded by Major General Allen H. "Hal" Turnage; the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade under Brigadier General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr.; and the Army's 77th Infantry Division under Major General Andrew D. Bruce. They were to land on Guam on 18 June, but the 3d Division and the brigade first would wait as floating reserve until the course of operations on Saipan became clear. The 77th would stand by on Oahu, ready to be called forward when needed.

Admiral Spruance kept the floating reserve well south and east of Saipan, out of the path of an expected Japanese naval attack. A powerful Japanese fleet, eager to close with the American invasion force, descended upon the Marianas. The opposing carrier groups clashed nearby in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, one of the major air battles of the war. The Imperial Navy lost 330 out of the 430 planes it launched in the fray. The clash (19 June), called "the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot," was catastrophic for the Japanese and ended once and for all any naval or air threat to the Marianas invasion.

Sheperd, Walker, Shapley, Schneider
BGen Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., Commanding General, 1st Provisional Marine Brigade and his principal officers, from left, Col John T Walker, brigade chief of staff; LtCol Alan Shapley, commander, 4th Marines; and Col Merlin T Schneider, commander, 22d Marines, view a relief map of Guam for the brigade's operation. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 90434

With the hard fighting on Saipan turning gradually but inevitably in favor of the American Marines and soldiers battling the Japanese, the U.S. Navy was ready to direct its attention to Guam, which was now slated to receive the most thorough pre-landing bombardment yet seen in the Pacific War. After weeks at sea, the 3d Division and the 1st Brigade were given a respite and a chance to go ashore to lose their "sea legs" after so long a period on board ships. The Task Force 53 convoy moved back to Eniwetok Atoll, whose huge 20-mile-wide lagoon was rapidly becoming a major forward naval base.

Major General Andrew D. Bruce

Andrew D. Bruce, a native of Missouri and a graduate of Texas A&M in 1916, was commissioned an Army second lieutenant in June 1917. His association with the Marine Corps goes back to World War I, when as a member of the 2d Infantry Division's 5th Machine Gun Battalion, he participated in actions in France in the Troyon Sector near Verdun, in the Aisne Defensive operation near Chateau Thierry, the Aisne-Marne offensive at Soissons, the fighting at St. Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne offensive at Blanc Mont. With the rest of the 2d Division, he hiked into Germany to become part of the occupation force.

In the interwar period, he had a mix of staff, command, and school assignments. At the outbreak of World War II, then-Lieutenant Colonel Bruce headed the Army's Tank Destroyer School, which was first at Camp Meade, Maryland, then at Camp Hood near Kileen, Texas. He assumed command of the 77th Infantry Division in May 1943. The division first saw combat at Guam with the 3d Marine Division and the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, and then landed at Leyte for the Philippines operation. General Bruce's 77th once again fought with Marines in the landing on 1 April 1945 on Okinawa. When the XXIV Corps attacked to the south, General Bruce's soldiers and the 1st Marine Division were neighbors in the frontlines.

General Bruce retired with three stars as a lieutenant general and died in 1969.

Major General Andrew D. Bruce

The Marines welcomed the break and the chance to walk on dry land on the small islands of the atoll. There was even an issue of warm beer to all those on shore. The Marine veterans of the fighting on Bougainville, New Georgia, and Eniwetok had a chance to look over the soldiers of the 305th Regimental Combat Team, which now came forward from Oahu to be attached briefly to the brigade for the landing on Guam, set for 21 July and designated W-Day. The rest of the Army contingent, the 77th Infantry Division, was well trained and well led, and was scheduled to arrive at the target on W plus 1, 22 July.

Geiger, Silverthorn, del Valle
En route to Guam on board the command ship USS Appalachian (AGC 1), Marine III Amphibious Corps commander, MajGen Roy S. Geiger; his chief of staff, Col Merwin H. Silverthorn; and the Corps Artillery commander, BGen Pedro A. del Valle, all longtime Marines and World War I veterans, review their copy of the Guam relief map to assist in their estimates and plans for the operation. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 87140

The 3rd Marine Division, composed of the 3d, 9th, and 21st Marines (rifle regiments), the 12th Marines (artillery), and the 19th Marines (engineers and pioneers), plus supporting troops, numbered 20,238 men. It had received its baptism of fire on Bougainville in November and December 1943 and spent the intervening months on Guadalcanal training and absorbing casualty replacements. The 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, which was organized on Guadalcanal, was also a veteran outfit. One of its infantry regiments, the 4th Marines, was formed from the disbanded raider battalions which had fought in the Solomons. The other once-separate regiment, the 22d Marines, was blooded in the seizure of Eniwetok in February 1944. Both regiments had 75mm pack howitzer battalions attached, which now joined brigade troops. In all, the brigade mustered 9,886 men.

Imperial Japanese Army LtGen Takeshi Takashina, commander of the 29th Infantry Division, which came to Guam from Manchuria in early 1944, where it was part of the Kwantung Army, was killed on 28 July while directing the evacuation of his Fonte defenses.

Corps troops of the III Corps were heavy with artillery and would use every gun. III Corps had three battalions of 155mm howitzers and guns and the 9th and 14th Defense Battalions, whose 90mm guns could and would fire at both air and ground targets.

For the handling of casualties, III Corps had a medical battalion, with equipment and supplies to operate a 1,500-bed hospital. In addition, the 1st Brigade had two medical companies; the 3d Division its own medical battalion; and the 77th Division a fully staffed and equipped Army field hospital. Each of the divisions had a medium tank battalion and a full complement of engineers, augmented by two Marine separate engineer battalions and two naval construction battalions (Seabees). Two amphibian tractor battalions and an armored amphibian battalion would carry the assault waves to shore. All in all, the III Amphibious Corps was prepared to land more than 54,000 soldiers, sailors, and Marines.

Waiting for the attack and sure that it would come, but not where, was the Japanese 29th Infantry Division under Lieutenant General Takeshi Takashina. The 29th had served in Japan's Kwantung Army, operating and training in Manchuria until it was sent to the Marianas in February 1944. One of its regiments, the 18th, fell victim to an American submarine, the Trout, and lost 2,200 of its 3,500 men when its transport was sunk. Reorganized on Saipan, the 18th Infantry Regiment took two infantry battalions to Guam, together with two companies of tanks.

Another of the 29th's regiments garrisoned Tinian and the remaining unit, the 38th Infantry, together with division headquarters troops, arrived on Guam in March. The other major Army defending units were the 48th Independent Mixed Brigade and the 10th Independent Mixed Regiment, both formed on Guam in March from a six-battalion infantry, artillery, and engineer force sent from the Kwantung Army. With miscellaneous supporting troops, the total Army defending force numbered about 11,500 men. Added to these were 5,000 naval troops of the 54th Keibitai (guard force) and about 2,000 naval airmen reorganized as infantry to defend Orote Peninsula and its airfield. General Takashina was in overall tactical command of the 18,500 Army and Navy defenders. His immediate superior, Lieutenant General Hideyoshi Obata, commanding the Thirty-first Army, was also on Guam, though not intentionally. Returning to his Saipan headquarters from an inspection trip to the Palau Islands, Obata was trapped on Guam by the American landing on Saipan. He left the conduct of Guam's defense to Takashina.

(click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Lt Gen Hideyoshi Obata, Thirty-first Army commander, who took command of the defense of Guam after Gen Takashina's death, was himself killed by soldiers of the 306th Infantry, when they overran the Mataguac command post.

The fact that the Americans were to assault Guam was no secret to its defenders. The invasion of Saipan and a month-long bombardment by ships and planes left only the question of when and where. With only 15 miles of potential landing beaches along the approachable west coast, the Japanese could not be very wrong no matter where they defended.

Tokyo Rose said they expected us. On board ship, the Americans heard her and her pleasant beguiling voice on the radio. While she made threats of dire things to happen to invasion troops, she was never taken seriously by any of her American "fans."

Major General Kiyoshi Shigematsu, shoring up the morale of his 48th Independent Mixed Brigade, told his men: "The enemy, overconfident because of his successful landing on Saipan, is planning a reckless and insufficiently prepared landing on Guam. We have an excellent opportunity to annihilate him on the beaches."

Premier Hideki Tojo, supreme commander of the war effort for Japan, also had spirited words for his embattled commanders: "Because the fate of the Japanese empire depends on the result of your operation, inspire the spirit of officers and men and to the very end continue to destroy the enemy gallantly and persistently; thus alleviate the anxiety of the Emperor."

Back to visit Guam a half century later, a former Japanese lieutenant said the tremendous American invasion fleet offshore had "paved the sea" and recalled what he thought on 21 July: "This is the day I will die.":

"Conditions," said Admiral Conolly, "are most favorable for a successful landing."

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Commemorative Series produced by the Marine Corps History and Museums Division