In WWII the key to the Pacific began with Saipan

| June 16, 2010

The News Gals (Press Release)Jun 16, 2010

As I write this it is 66 years to the day since the American invasion of that Japanese held island of Saipan. It is June 15th. From the record:

On June 15th, 1944,   at 0542 Admiral Turner, Commander of the Expeditionary Force ordered: “Land the Landing Force.” H-Hour (the time the 1st wave was scheduled to hit the beach) was set for 0830. The weather would not be a problem. The day was clear. 34 LSTs (landing ship tanks) carried the assault elements of the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions to a position known as the “line of departure” about 4,000 yards from shore. It was estimated 4000 yard run to the beach would take 27 minutes.12 LSTs followed with the division’s artillery. Two LSDs (Landing ship Dock) carrying tanks in LCMs (landing craft mechanized) followed behind.

At H-Hour minus 90 minutes, all Naval gunfire lifted and air operations opened up with bomb and strafing runs. When the air operations were concluded, the Naval shelling from eleven close support vessels started again, and lasted for 30 minutes. The close support vessels were as close as 2,500 yards from the beaches. The prime targets were the landing beaches which sustained a heavy concentration of fire. During this time, the Am-Tracs and the DUKWs (“ducks”) were in the water.

Thousands of Marines, including PFC Carl Johnson (the author’s uncle) were getting ready to go for the beaches of Saipan. 24 LCI-Gs (Landing Craft Infantry Gunboat), fitted with rockets, mortars, and guns moved up to the “line of departure.” Their function was to lead the Marine and Army LVT-As (Landing Vehicle Tracked Armed), or armed amphibians as far as the reef while firing rockets and 20 and 40mm guns at the beach of their intended landing. The armed amphibians (armed Am-Tracs) were fitted with 2 machine guns and a 37mm gun, or a 75mm howitzer. In addition they could hold 18 men plus the driver. They crossed the reef where the Gunboats couldn’t go, and behind them would be 700 LVTs (Landing Vehicle Tracked), or Am-Tracs with 8000 Marines on board. The Am-Tracs could hold 24 men, or 4500 pounds of supplies. Admiral Turner delayed H-Hour 10 minutes till 08:40 to allow the waves of boats to get into formation.

Shortly after 08:00, the central control vessel raised its signal flag and the 24 LCI-Gs headed for the beaches with guns blazing. At 08:12 signal flags on the ships were hauled down as a signal for the 1st wave of amphibian vehicles to head for the beaches at full speed. That would have been the LVT-As followed by LVTs loaded with Marines. They would be followed by the DUKWs. Able to carry 25 men, or a howitzer, or 5,000 pounds of supplies, the “ducks” would follow with the Howitzers and their crews. It was 66 years ago today as I write this that in this fashion the United States Military invaded Saipan!!

This morning I spoke on the phone with WWII veteran Hal Olsen. We met on Saipan on the 60th anniversary of the battle for the island. During the Marianas Campaign Hal, an Naval aviation mechanic and specialist in repairing autopilots was sent to Tinian. He is also an artist. When free from his duties as a mechanic, Hal was asked to paint a likeness of a woman on the nose of a B-29. Why? He would say: After all, isn’t that a lot of what we were fighting for? Take time out today – every day, to thank a veteran! Then read this great book!! .

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