7 more Jap islands taken (2-5-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (February 5, 1944)

7 more Jap islands taken

Fleet hammers southern part of Kwajalein in Marshalls
By William F. Tyree, United Press staff writer

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii –
U.S. Marines have seized seven more small islands at the northern end of Kwajalein Atoll against light opposition, it was revealed today as warships joined in a heavy new bombardment designed to crush desperate Jap resistance on four islands to the south.

Attacking under cover of the sea, air and land bombardment, Army veterans of Attu and Kiska extended their holds on Kwajalein and Ebeye Islands at the southeastern corner of the atoll and were expected momentarily – if they have not already done so – to swarm ashore on nearby Loi and Gugegwe.

Howard Handleman, representing the combined Allied press aboard the joint expeditionary force flagship, said Marines under Maj. Gen. Harry Schmidt extended their control of the northeastern portion of the 66-mile-long atoll by occupying seven unidentified islets after capturing the main strongholds of Roi and Namur.

Aided by shells, bombs

U.S. battleships and cruisers, along with bombers, were called in to supplement land artillery in battering down enemy defenses on Kwajalein, Ebeye, Loi and Gugegwe when it appeared they were the only strongpoints of resistance remaining in the huge atoll in the center of Japan’s Marshall Islands.

Army troops under Maj. Gen. Charles H. Corbett have already burned and blasted the Japs from half of both Kwajalein and Ebeye Islands with the aid of flamethrowers, grenades, rifles, bayonets, machine guns and even dynamite.

Smash resistance

Two small islets between Kwajalein and Ebeye have also been occupied following the smashing of “moderate resistance,” Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet, disclosed in a communiqué late yesterday.

A Jap communiqué broadcast in England by the Dōmei Agency said garrisons on Roi and Kwajalein Islands had “repulsed part of the enemy force which landed” and were now “firmly holding the defenses sector.” An earlier Tokyo broadcast of the communiqué in Spanish had asserted that the Jas were battling the “remaining” invasion forces on the two islands “with control of the situation having been assured.” Roi was actually captured on the second day of the invasion.

Both versions said that up to Feb. 1, the Japs had shot down 52 Allied planes, damaged 24 more, sunk two destroyers and set fire to a cruiser and another destroyer in the Marshalls. U.S. front dispatches said that up to Thursday neither Jap air nor naval units had attacked the invasion fleet and no vessels had been lost.

Hurl 16-inch shells

The U.S. warships, some of which were already inside the huge Kwajalein Lagoon, together with carrier and land-based aircraft and field guns, sought to duplicate in the south the devastation that paved the way for the Americans’ speedy capture of Roi and Namur Islands at the northeastern corner of the atoll.

Sixteen-inch shells and one-ton atoll-buster bombs were being used in an attempt to pulverize pillboxes and underground emplacements in which the Japs were entrenched for a last-man stand.

Despite the hurricane bombardment, the Jap garrisons on Loi and Gugegwe Islands, the latter flanking one of the main channels into the lagoon, were reported returning the American fire. Gugegwe is only 4,800 by 400 feet in area and Loi, 1,500 by 400 feet.

Land without opposition

The invasion forces landed without opposition on mile-long Ebeye Island, site of a seaplane base complete with ramps, hangars, shops, a pier and a radio station midway between Kwajalein and Loi, Resistance was encountered inland, however.

The Jap garrison on Kwajalein Island itself, at the southern tip of the atoll of the same name, was still holding out on a narrow stretch of land at the northeastern corner, but observers believed it probably only a question of hours before the defenders were annihilated.

U.S. casualties throughout the atoll continued “moderate,” Adm. Nimitz’s communiqué reported.

Adm. Ernest J. King, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Navy, and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox messaged their congratulations to Adm. Nimitz on the success of the invasion.

Meanwhile, Adm. Nimitz proclaimed himself military governor of the Marshalls, the first pre-war Jap territory to be wrested even in part from the enemy. The proclamation, dated Jan. 3, and written in both Japanese and English, noted that the “exercise of the powers of the Emperor of Japan shall be suspended during the period of occupation.

The proclamation said:

It is the policy of the United States forces not to make war upon the civilian inhabitants of these islands, but to permit them to continue their normal lives and occupations in a peaceable manner so far as war necessities and their own behavior permit.