11th-12 March 1943 contd
Operation Tully was a go. It had been obvious since the capture of Mili and Majuro that an attack on the central Marshall Islands was soon to come. Twice before the operation had been called off as enemy carriers snooped into the area of operations. The last cancellation averted a major disaster thanks to the SS Trigger and her attack on the Shokaku and subsequent location of the main enemy fleet. Third time was as charm. The main carrier fleet was suspected in home ports, well the Kaga and Shokaku were in dry dock for sure. Other elements of the enemy carrier force were spotted two days ago in a cover position near the southern Solomon Islands. Large number of fast transport vessels were seen coming into Lunga, the carriers no doubt providing aerial cover. Ship sightings at Ponape were proved to be ACM’s, sunk by the SS Silversides.
The plan called for simultaneous landings on Roi-Namur and Kwajaelin. The 1st USMC Paras would carry out their third combat jump of the war as they dropped into Roi-Namur in support of the the Army’s 35 Infantry Regiment. The main landings on Kwajalein would see two USMC tank battalions in support of the 15th Marine Defence Battalion and the 5th Marine Regiment. The 1st Marine Regiment would act as floating reserve should it be needed. The operation against Kwajalein also saw the baptism of fire of a new landing vessel, the Landing Ship Tank (LST) that would deliver the tanks right onto the beach!
The Bombardment force was led by the New Mexico that bombarded the main enemy positions on Kwajalein prior to the arrival of a force of minesweepers leading the LST’s in. It proved to be an awe inspiring and fearsome sight for the tankers as the big guns on the battleship lit up the coming dawn. The 3rd USMC Tank Battalion was going into action for the first time and it was many a trooper that emptied their breakfast into their tanks.
As it turned out the fireworks just made a lot of noise and smoke as opposition was negligible as it was obvious the Japanese had pulled out a while ago. Several enemy companies did put up some sort of spirited last ditch defence but the outcome was never in doubt. Indeed Roi-Namur was bereft of enemy troops and it was only US Marine Paras that met the GI’s on the beaches. Whatever the case several units did gain the experience of their first amphibious landings and the LST proved more that capable of the task it was designed for. Furthermore two importbant bases had been acquired that would soon be able to project American power further into the Central Pacific