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

Securing the Force Beachhead Line

With the breakthrough at Fonte and failure of Takashina's mass counterattack, the American positions could be consolidated. The 3d and 21st Marines squared away their holds on heights and the 9th Marines (July 27-29) pushed its final way up to Mount Alutom and Mount Chachao.

The most serious resistance to occupying the Mount Alutom-Mount Chachao massif and securing the Force Beachhead Line (FBHL) across the hills was a surprisingly strong point at the base of Mount Chachao. Major Donald B. Hubbard, commanding the 3d Battalion, 9th Marines (replacing Lieutenant Colonel Asmuth, wounded on W-Day), called down artillery, and, after the barrage, his Marines attacked with grenades and bayonets. They destroyed everything that stood in their path. When that fight was over, Major Hubbard's battalion counted 135 Japanese dead. As the assault force pushed up these commanding slopes, the Marines could spot men of Company A of the 305th Infantry atop Mount Tenjo to the west. Lieutenant Colonel Carey A. Randall's 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, then moved up and made contact with the Army troops. Originally, Mount Tenjo had been in the 3d Division zone, but General Bruce had wanted to get his men on the high ground so they could push ahead along the heights and not get trapped in the ravines. He also wanted to prevent the piecemeal commitment of his division and to preserve its integrity.

A Marine uses a flamethrower on a Japanese-occupied pillbox on what had been the Marine golf course on Guam, adjoining the Marine Barracks on Orote Peninsula. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 88153

Conservative estimates put the Japanese dead as a result of the counterattack at 3,200 men. The loss of Takashina's infantry officers, including General Shigematsu, who had commanded the 48th Independent Mixed Brigade, was held to be as high as 96 percent. Takashina himself fell to the fire from a machine gun on an American tank as he was urging survivors out of the Fonte position and on to the north to fight again. With Takashina's death, tactical command of all Japanese forces remaining on Guam was assumed by General Obata. He had only a few senior officers remaining to rally the surviving defenders and organize cohesive units from the shattered remnants of the battalions that had fought to hold the heights above the Asan-Adelup beaches.

All through the night of 28 July, Japanese troops trudged along the paths that led from Fonte to Ordot, finding their way at times by the light of American flares. At Ordot, two traffic control points guided men toward Barrigada, where three composite infantry companies were forming, or toward Finegayan, where a force of five composite companies was to man blocking positions. As he fully expected the Americans to conduct an aggressive pursuit on the 29th, General Obata ordered Lieutenant Colonel Takeda to organize a delaying force that would hold back the Marines until the withdrawal could be effected.

This Japanese airstrip on Orote Peninsula was one of the prime objectives of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade in its zone. Pockmarks on the strip resulted from the aerial, ships' gunfire, and artillery bombardments directed at this target. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 88134

Contrary to the Japanese commander's expectations, General Geiger had decided to rest his battle-weary troops before launching a full-scale attack to the north. The substance of his orders to the 3d and 77th Divisions on 29 July was to eliminate the last vestiges of Japanese resistance within the FBHL, organize a line of defense, and patrol in strength to the front. With capture of the beachhead line and its critical high ground and the annihilation of great numbers of Japanese, the turning point of the Guam campaign had been reached.

Yet, few Japanese had surrendered and those captured were usually dazed, wounded, or otherwise unable to resist. Almost all of the enemy died fighting, even when their lives were lost without sense or purpose. Still, a substantial number of troops from the 29th Division were still not accounted for.

General Geiger's intelligence sections could only list about one quarter of the estimated soldier-sailor strength that had been on the island, and he needed to make certain that his rear was secure from attack before heading north after the enemy. Captured Japanese documents and prisoners of war, and sightings from aircraft, all indicated to Geiger that the Japanese had withdrawn to the north to better roads, denser and more concealing jungle, and commanding terrain for strongpoints.

tank-infantry team
A tank-infantry team from the 4th Marines advances slowly through the dense scrub growth that characterized the terrain in the regiment's zone on Orote Peninsula. The attack moved forward yard by yard until the objective was secured. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 88152

To ensure that his rear area was not threatened, General Geiger had the 77th Division detail patrols to scour the southern half of Guam, repeating and intensifying the searches the brigade had made. These soldiers, as the Marines before them, found Guamanians every where, some in camps established by the Japanese, others on their farms and ranches. The natives, some surprised to see Americans so soon after the landings, reported the presence of only small bands of Japanese and often only single soldiers. It became increasingly evident that the combat units that remained were in the north, not the south. The best estimates of their strength ranged around a figure of 6,000 men.

Obata had expected a hasty pursuit, and set up strong rear guards to give time for his retreating forces to organize. Victory was no longer even a hope, but the Japanese could still extract a painful cost. General Geiger, who had a little time now, could give his troops a rest and move into attack positions across the width of the island. Strong and frequent patrols were sent out to find routes cross country and glimpse clues of enemy strength and dispositions.

Obata organized delaying defenses to include the southwest slopes of Mount Barrigada, midway across the island from Tumon Bay, and the little town of Barrigada itself, barely 20 houses. On all approaches to his final defensive positions near Mount Santa Rosa, in the northwest corner of the island, he organized road blocks at trail and road junctions, principally at Finegayan and Yigo, and concealed troops in the jungle to interdict the roads which were the only practical approach routes to the northern end of the island. The Japanese commander felt sorely besieged, and as his notes later revealed: "the enemy air force seeking our units during daylight hours in the forest, bombed and strafed even a single soldier." Perhaps even more damaging than the air attacks were artillery and naval gunfire bombardments brought down on men, guns, trenches, anything, by the Navy, Marines, and Army spotter planes which were constantly overhead.

launching hand grenades
Marines of the 1st Provisional Brigade hurl hand grenades at enemy positions on the other side of one of the rice paddies that slowed their advance toward Orote.

Marines bypass two smoldering Japanese light tanks, knocked out of action by Marine Sherman medium tanks on the road to Sumay on Orote Peninsula. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 93468

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Commemorative Series produced by the Marine Corps History and Museums Division