1. U. S. ENTRY INTO WORLD WAR II
a. The United States was literally blasted into WWII by the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Throughout U. S. history there has never been a naval disaster to compare with the losses inflicted by the Japanese aerial attack on the American Naval Base at Pearl Harbor. Before the war was declared on Japan, Marines were already on duty halfway around the world. China, the Philippines, the Hawaiian Islands, Guam and Midway were just some of the places where U. S. Marines were already stationed.
(1) The island of Guam was attacked within hours of the Pearl harbor attack. Guam was defended by a small group of naval personnel, civilians, and 153 Marines. The heaviest weapons on Guam were .30 caliber machine guns.
(1) The Japanese then attacked Wake Island and it's 447 Marines on 11 December. The first day of the Japanese air strike destroyed two thirds of the Marine aircraft and nearly all of the vital supplies. The Japanese returned to finish the operation three days later. Twelve Japanese ships, including a landing force, came prepared to take Wake Island.
(1) On 8 December, the U. S. Army and Filipinos were preparing to defend Bataan and Corregidor under the command of General DOuglas MacArthur's command. The 4th Marines were transferred from Shanghai to General MacArthur's' command. They were quickly given the mission of defending Corregidor.
(1) June 1942 marked the turning point of the war as the Japanese were handed a severe defeat in the battle of Midway. The main reason that allied forces were victorious was that prior to this battle allied intelligence had broken the secret Japanese communication codes. This aided allied command to anticipate movement and location of enemy ships.
a. The term "island hopping campaign" describes the strategy used by Marines to make 63 amphibious landings during WWII. The Marines' mission tasked them to literally dig the enemy out of their fighting holes, caves, bunkers and pillboxes. Teamwork, discipline, pride, esprit de corps, and in many cases, sheer guts won these battles. Not once did we fail to take an objective.
(a) On 7 August 1942, the first Marine offensive battle began. The First Marine Division made an amphibious landing at Guadalcanal, code named "Cactus". What followed was to be some of the longest and most bitter fighting in WWII for the Marines.
(a) The island of Betio belonged to a group of islands called Tarawa from which the battle took its name. The islands consisted of low-lying coral formations surrounded by reefs nearly 1,000 yards in width. Japanese labor and ingenuity had converted the island into a fortress. It was strongly fortified and heavily garrisoned. Consider this: there were over 4,800 Japanese on Tarawa manning 32 large coastal artillery pieces, 106 machine guns, and 14 tanks.
(a) General Douglas MacArthur wanted to occupy Cape Gloucester on the western end of New Britain's Island, 350 jungle miles from Rabaul, to protect his flank as he moved up along New Guinea's coast. On 26 December 1943, the 1st Marine Division began their assault.
(a) Next stop, Iwo Jima. It was necessary to secure Iwo Jima in order to provide a clear flight path for America's B-29 bombers flying from the Marianas to Japan. Iwo Jima would also be used as an emergency landing strip for B-29's returning from bombing runs over Japan. The Japanese had spent almost 20 years preparing the defense of this island. The barren, rugged terrain was defended by 23,000 Japanese. THere were some 1,500 caves and pillboxes. Many of these had reinforced walls as thick as ten feet.
(a) The final great land offensive of the Pacific area was the invasion of Okinawa by the combined force of the Marine Corps and three Army Division which made up the 10th Army. The Marine Corps was represented by the First and Sixth Marine Divisions landing on the western beaches of Okinawa, with the Second Marine Division held in reserve. Defending this mighty fortress were 117,000 Japanese.