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121st NCB, 20th Marines 4th Marine Division

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Report of Activities, 121st Naval Construction Battalion

 

During the Assaults on Saipan and Tinian, Marianas, Islands

 

The 121st Naval Construction Battalion was attached to the 4th Marine Division and was stationed at Maui, Hawaiian Islands, at the start of the operation. The battalion embarked aboard the USS Callaway, USS LEON, USS Sumpter and USS Storm King on May 5 to 7, inclusive. The ships sailed from Kahalui, Maui, T.H., on May 8 and arrived at Pearl Harbor Oahu, T.H. the same day. The ships remained at anchor from May 8 to May 14. This period was utilized by the officers of the battalion in the study of plans for the seizure of Saipan. Normal Shipboard procedures prevailed for the enlisted men.

 

For the assault on Saipan, by division order, the 121st Battalion was named as the basic element of shore party for Combat Team 23. The battalion was supplemented by assigned personnel from the 7th Field Depot and Transient Center, 5th Amphibious Corps and was further augmented by the Combat Team assigning low priority combat personnel. The total shore party for Combat Team 23 numbering 49 officers and 1662 enlisted men. The Commanding Officer of the 121st Naval Construction Battalion was assigned duty as Combat Team Party Commander and the three 121st Battalion Company Commanders were assigned to the three landing teams, comprising the Combat Team, as shore party commanders.

 

The plan of the assault was for Combat Team 23 to land on beaches blue 1 and blue 2, in front of the town of Charan Kanoa, on the west side of Saipan. Combat Team was to be supported on the right by Combat Team 25 and on the left by the 2nd Marine Division. On May 15 the convoy sailed from Pearl Harbor to Lahaina Roads, Maui, T.H., where it remained on May 15 and May 16. A series of drills were held and a complete ship to shore dress rehearsal landing was made, troops remaining on the beach one night. On May 17 the convoy returned to Pearl Harbor and remained at anchor until May 29. Study of plans and officer conferences occupied this time. On May the convoy sailed from Pearl Harbor and arrived at Eniwetok on June 9 and June 10. Final conferences were held and two landing teams of Combat Team 23 were transferred to LST’s. The landing team shore party commanders and the reconnaissance and security elements of the shore party were also transferred to LST’s. The convoy sailed from Eniwetok at 0800 June 11 and arrive off the coast of Saipan at dawn June 15. Before describing the action during the next critical days a brief resume of the description of the battalion will be given and for simplification the balance of this report will be written in the first person and excerpts from the Battalion Adjutant’s log will be given. Shortly after being assigned duty as Combat Team 23 Shore Part Commander, the Combat Team Commander, Colonel L.R. Jones, USMC, placed me on his staff to work entirely on planning until D-Day. Accordingly, I embarked on the USS Callaway which the Colonel and his regimental staff were on and was carried on the rolls as detachment of one officer, Officer attached to Headquarters Company, 23rd Marines. I was well acquainted with the Commanding Officer and the regimental staff, having served in a similar capacity with this regiment during the assault on Roi, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands. The 121st Battalion was organized into four groups and embarked on four ships compromising the transport division carrying Combat Team 23 as follows:

(a) Company “G†plus Headquarters Company Detachment, under command of Lt.(jg) W.B. Woodrich, CEC, USNR, Landing Team #1 aboard the USS Callaway

(B) Company “H†plus Headquarters Company Detachment, under the command of Lt. J.W. Partridge, CEC, USNR, Landing Team #2, aboard the USS Leon

© Company “I†plus headquarters Company Detachment, under command of Lt. (jg) L.M. Rist, (CEC) USNR, Landing Team #3, board the USS Sumpter

(d) Headquarters Company Command Section under command of Lt. Comdr. Thomas H. Flinn, CEC, USNR aboard the USS Storm King

June 15, 1994 D-Day

I left the USS Callaway at dawn in a LCVP, accompanied by the R-4 and radio communication group and proceeded to the line of departure and boarded the PC-581, which was the control boat for the Blue Beaches. Colonel Jones and the balance of his staff also came aboard the PC-581. The sea was calm and it was a beautiful morning. During the trip to the control boat the preliminary bombardment began and the air strikes were being made. It was apparent that we had complete air superiority and no artillery fire was encountered. We saw two planes shot down over Saipan on the way in. “H†hour was set for 0830 and after a 10 minute delay the first wave flag was run up on the PC-581 and the assault began, The assault waves went in perfect formation and timing. Aboard the PC-581 we watched the first wave near the beach and it seen that that they were receiving fire from shore, although it did not seem very effective. The first wave landed and shortly thereafter the fire from chore became intense on the following waves and some LVT’s were hit. About this time shells hit the bow, going through the craft without exploding. The control boat began to shift around to keep from being bracketed.

Lt. J.W. Partridge with Landing Team #2 Shore Party Reconnaissance Group and Lt. (jg) L.M. Rist with Landing Team #3 Shore Party Reconnaissance Group landed on blue beaches blue 2 and blue 1 respectively in the 4th assault wave.

Aboard the PC-581 it was seen that heavy artillery and mortar fire was being encountered on the beach. The balance of the shore part was to land on order from about 0930 on an awaiting order. Fifteen LCVP’s loaded with ammunition and water, forming a floating dump also came alongside. The shore party for the reserve landing team was also lying off awaiting orders.

Communication from the shore communications from the shore during these hours was very spotty and no clear picture of developments ashore was possible. At about 1000 I received a message from blue beach 2 and noted that the LVT’s were available to transfer men from the LCVP over the reef. I accordingly ordered the balance of the Landing Team #2 party to land. I also ordered the reserve shore party to land on blue beach 2 and take position on a line between blue 1 and blue 2.

At about 1100 word was received from blue beach 1 and it was possible for LCVP’s to come in the channel in front of the sugar mill and reach the pier at the north end of blue beach 1. Accordingly the shore party for blue 1 was ordered to land. By 1230 the main part of the shore party had been sent ashore. LCVP’s were going through the channel on blue 1 in single file as it had been found that whenever the LVT’s or LCVP’s grouped they at once drew heavy fire, several crafts receiving direct hits. On consultation with Colonel Jones, I learned that the reserve combat Team CT-24, was going to land and that no boats would be available to land supplies that day but that they would try it during the night. I therefore asked permission to land to organize the Battalion Command Section alongside and left the PC-581 at 1400. Orders were left to the member of the shore party manning the floating dumps to stand by until further orders. I then proceeded to the entrance to the channel and landed on a Jap pier on blue beach 1. No fire was encountered on the way in although it was seen that blue beach 2 was being shelled. Going south along blue 1, I located the command post of Lt. (jg) L.M. Rist at about the center of blue 1. The shore party was well dug in and had their machine guns set up and had communications with blue beach 2 and talked to Lt. J.W. Partridge. His beach was being heavily shelled and advised me that his men were dug in a defensive position and that he had erected a prisoner stockade and was receiving a large number of prisoners. He reported considerable casualties. At 1700 a message was received from the Combat Team Commander stating that he was ashore and advising that a counter attack from the sea was expected, and ordered security placed on the wrecked Jap boats that lined the reef. Guards were posted in pairs on all boats at once and all machine gun posts were warned at once to expect an attack from the sea. At 1730 blue beach 1 was brought under heavy fire by the enemy. Most of the shells landing in the water just off the beach line. The Jap pier at the north end of the beach was hit by several shells and some casualties were suffered. Prisoners were now coming in and a stockade was erected on blue beach 1. All during the night the enemy continued shelling the beach and our front lines. Our front line was established about 500 yards inland. No supplies were landed this day. Casualties suffered by the 121st Naval Construction Battalion were 5 killed and 11 wounded. Prisoners held during the night were approximately 250.

 

June 16, 1944 – D – Pus- 1

 

The enemy shelling lifted at dawn and preparations were made to land materials from the floating dumps. At 0900 I received a report that the enemy was attacking on the left flank through the sugar mill. Defensive positions were taken up and the reserve shore party was ordered up from its position between blue 1 and 2 to the center of blue 1 and disposed in depth. I notified the Combat Team Commander that an attack of unknown intensity was in progress and was told to hold the beach at all cost and reinforcements would be sent. Moderate small arms and machine gun fire was coming from the direction of the sugar mill. The enemy at this time again brought the beach under terrific artillery and mortar fire. At 0950 I received a message from Lt. (jg) Jackson who was covering the left flank that a group of Japanese had been pocketed in the sugar mill by troops of the 2nd Marine Division, who were driving down the beach south to affect a junction with us. On running into our machine gun fire they were turned and retreated inland and were largely annihilated by the flanking fire of the 2nd Marine Division and the 23rd Marine advance elements. During the action we were reinforced by the arrival of a platoon of 23rd Marines, Division’s Regimental Weapons Company. A number of casualties were suffered mainly due to intense mortar fire. Two of our machine gun positions sustained direct hits. At 1100 contact was established with elements of the 2nd Marine Division on the left flank and I moved my command post from blue 1 to a point midway between blue 1 and blue 2 and about 75 yards inland. I then made an inspection of blue beach 2 and found the shore party well dug in and ready to unload supplies. I then reported to the Combat Team Commander the condition of the beach. An inspection was then made with the Regimental Quartermaster to locate dump areas. It was decided to use the first street of the town of Charan Kanoa as a dump area, the lack of depth of our front lines and the absence of transportation dictating the choice. During the afternoon the supplies in the floating dumps were landed and some other supplies were received directly from ships. During the late afternoon word was received that the 27th Army Division would be landed over blue beach 1 that night. Security was again posted on the Jap hulks along the reef. Enemy artillery continued to shell the beaches throughout the night and day. At about 1600 the fire lifted temporarily from blue beach 1. Casualties sustained this day were 3 killed and 27 wounded. About 300 prisoners were received during the day.

 

June 17, 1944 – D-Plus – 2

 

At dawn reports were received that blue beach 2 was still receiving fire. No fire on blue beach 1 since 1600 the previous day. All unloading accordingly ordered to blue 1 and reserve shore party brought to that beach to assist. All throughout the operation blue beach 2 was of very little use as the beach was to shallow for LCVP’s to land and the LVT’s were being used for other purposes. Unloading progressed fairly well on blue beach 1 and the battalion trucks and cats were unloaded, speeding up the handling of supplies. At dusk the beach was strafed by enemy planes. No damage or casualties incurred. Unloading continued during the night. Our troops were making good progress inland and the beach was secured from enemy fire. Casualties sustained were 1 killed, 1 missing and 4 wounded.

 

 

June 18, 1944 – D-Plus – 3

 

Unloading progressed as rapidly as possible all morning. At 1100 I was called to the command post of Colonel Martyr, 5th Amphibious Corps Shore Party Commander and informed that the 121st Naval Construction Battalion was reverting to Corps control and that I was relieved as blue beach Shore Party Commander. I was then told to hold the battalion in readiness to repair Aslito Airfield, taking what equipment and men I considered necessary, after making a survey of the field. The Colonel had information that the field had been captured that morning. I returned to the beach and assembled 3 cats, 1 truck, 1 jeep and 20 men, and started at 1200 for Aslito Field. The party proceeded south down the beach road for about ¾ of a mile to the 4th Marine Division command post where on checking as to the routes to approach the field, I was informed that the situation on the field was not clear as it was in the zone of action of the 27th Army Division, a counter attack having been reported. A route of approach was chosen and we started inland, reaching the command post of the Army battalion about a mile inland. They were unable to report on the situation at the airfield but advised that the road should be dangerous as it was being shelled continually. I decided then to leave the equipment and men and to proceed with a reconnaissance of the field. Accompanied by Lt. Commander Flinn and a jeep driver, I drove on about 1-1/2 miles to the western of Aslito field where an Army company was on line. They advised me that a clear route of approach was around the northwest corner of the airfield. We then took this route and went to the control tower. We found the 169th Regiment held the entire field, the front lines being a cane field about 100 yards from the eastern end of the field. Lt. Commander Flinn and I accompanied by two Army officers then made a trip around and across the field to survey the damage. The field was damaged by numerous shell and bomb holes and was covered with shrapnel. The field was still in range of the enemy entrenched on Nafutan Point Ridge and two mortar shells struck the field while the inspection was going on, killing one soldier. It was decided that the north side of the runway was the easiest to repair and that a strip 150 feet wide and 2500 feet long could be repaired quickly. The revetments on all sides of the field were full of wrecked Jap planes, and we also observed to our surprise that there were many planes apparently undamaged. It later developed that about 26 Jap planes were recovered. We then returned to where we had left the men and equipment and Lt. Commander Flinn started back with the men and equipment to the field while I started back to the 4th Marine Division Command Post. At this time three enemy planes appeared overhead and one of which came down the road and strafed the party. No one was hit but one man suffered a broken ankle in jumping from the truck to seek cover. Our planes engaged the enemy and a furious dog fight started. All of the enemy planes were downed and one or two of ours were lost. One Jap plane made a crash landing on the field and the plot was made a prisoner. Lt. Commander Flinn then proceeded to the air field and leaving men and equipment with the Army troops to the beach. In the meantime, I went to the 4th Marine Division Command Post and reported the condition of the field to the commanding General. I was asked how soon a fighter strip would be prepared and reported that a strip 150 feet wide and 2500 feet long would be ready by 1800 the following day, This same report was guven to Colonel Martyr, 5th Amphibious Corps Shore Party Commander and preparations were made to move the battalion at dawn. Casualties during the day were 4 wounded.

 

June 19, 1944 – D-Plus – 4

 

 

Companies “G†and “H†started at dawn marching to Aslito field. They arrived on the field at 0700 and at once started the repair work. Sixty men and one officer were left on the beach to start repair on blue beach pier. Operators for Cats and trucks not taken to the field were left to continue work with the shore party. Company “I†and the balance of the battalion started for Aslito Field at 0900, reaching there 1100. The holes in the field were filled with coral from stock piles found near the edge of the field. Two Jap rollers were found and put into operation. Brooms made from brush were used to sweep the shrapnel off the field. The men, although weary from four days on the beach worked doggedly and excellent progress was made. Some enemy mortar fire fell on the field during the day. Good afternoon progress was such that a message was sent to the 5th Amphibious Corps stating that 2500 would be ready by 1600. During the morning the battalion command post was moved from the beach to a shop building on the edge of the field. The wrecked planes in the revetments among the field were hauled out. I was informed that a counter-attack was expected that night. The battalion’s guns were set up in the revetments, and during the afternoon Colonel Saunders of the Army Air Corps visited the command post and informed me that 2500 L.F. would not be enough for the planes. I told them that the work would continue until the entire runway was cleared. By dark a strip 150 feet wide and 3,000 feet long was repaired. The night passed quietly with no attack developing. Casualties during the day were 3 wounded.

 

 

June 20, 1944 – D-Plus – 5

 

 

Work resumed at dawn. At 0800 the operations officer of the 169th Army Regiment reported that an air strike was expected and that enemy paratroopers might attempt a landing on the field. He requested cats and trucks be lined up along the edge of the field ready on signal to be driven on the runway, this to prevent landing of airborne troops. This was done and the entire battalion was placed in a defensive position. After about two hours word was received that work could be resumed. Later I found this alert was due to the sea and air battle going on south of Guam. During the day I was visited by an officer from JIGPOA, requesting help in moving undamaged planes into hangars. I detailed a cat and crew of men to help him. During the afternoon the battalion command post was moved into former Japanese officers quarters about 700 yards from the north end of the field. Perimeter defenses were set up and forward observer posts established along the edge of the field. Work on the airfield progressed well. The first plane to land on the field was a Navy TBF at 1800. During the late afternoon I received a message that planes would land the following day and a request was received for a work party to unload and store aviation gas, coming by truck from the beach. Work party worked throughout the night unloading and storing gasoline in Jap gasoline storage blockhouses. The night passed quietly. Casualties were 1 wounded.

 

 

June 21, 1944 – D- Plus – 6

 

 

Work continued on the airstrip, widening the runway to 200 feet for the entire strip. An Army Engineer Battalion began arriving and moved equipment on the field. I received orders from Aslito Field 5th Amphibious Corps to put railroad from Charan Kanoa to the field in operating condition. I made a reconnaissance of the railroad track and found it badly damaged by shell fire. An air raid alert sounded at 1630 and again at 0130 and 0430. No bombs were dropped. Casualties were 1 wounded.

 

June 22, 1944 – D –Plus 7

 

 

The companies began work on repair of the railroad track. One company working on the airfield assisting Army Engineers lay Marston mat at the east end of the field. A squadron of P-47 planes landed and began operations. From this day on Aslito was operative. Maintenance of the field was turned over to Lt. Colonel Flanders of the Army Engineers. Air raid alert sounded at 1200. No bombs were dropped.

 

 

June 23, 1944 – D –Plus 8

 

 

The battalion worked on track repair. The detail working on the pier at Charan Kanoa finished work and reported to the airfield. Army Engineers request use of electricians to repair power plant and to trace wiring systems around the field. After approval by Corps Headquarters I assigned a 30 man electrician crew. 25 men were assisting JIGPOA officers, crating Jap plane parts. Repairs were being made on five railroad locomotives. And good progress was made on five railroad locomotives. And good progress was made on track repair. Air raid alerts at 0100 lastinf until 0550. No casualties.

 

 

June 24, 1944 – D-Plus – 9

 

 

Work progressed on track repair although handicapped by lack of tools. The only tools available were Jap tools found along the track. A squadron of P-61’s, night fighters arrived on the field. The battalion was assigned a defense area by the Air Defense Commander and a roving patrol was established. I was informed by 5th Amphibious Corps that the battalion was to report to Captain P.J. Halloran, CEC, USN. Air alert sounded at 1915. No bombs were dropped but planes dropped flares over the beach.

 

 

June 25, 1944 – D –Plus – 10

 

 

Preliminary track repair finished from Charan Kanoa to Aslito Field, a distance of 5 miles. The first train ran to Aslito Field this date.

 

 

June 26, 1944 – D- Plus – 11

 

 

 

Started hauling freight over the railroad to Aslito Field. The battalion working on track repair and railroad rehabilitation. Started repair of track north of airfield to Magicienne Bay to haul supporting supplies to 27th Army Division. At a conference with Captain Halloran the battalion was assigned the task of repairing roads from outskirts of Charan Kanoa to Aslito Field. Air alert at 2115. Enemy planes came in and dropped bombs. One bomb landed in camp area. One killed and four severely wounded. Enemy planes overhead at times until all clear at 0030. Enemy on Nafutan Point reported to have broken through lines and about to attack airfield. At 0430 on request of the Air Defense Command, I sent a 50 man patrol out to cover the southern end of the airstrip. The battalion was alerted and placed in a defensive position. The patrol moved along the southern end of the field and did not encounter the enemy. The Japs had broken through the Army lines and moved north about ½ mile beyond the western end of the airfield. They moved north about one mile and ran into a rest area. About 325 Japs were killed by Marines. Some attempts at infiltration were made along northern edge of airfield. Machine gun post at hangar was manned by Company “H†crew and fired at enemy at intervals. Work continued throughout the night.

 

 

June 27, 1944 – D- Plus – 12

 

 

At 0945 it was considered secure enough to begin the daily work routine. The men were very tired from the air alerts, guard and patrol duty. Made survey of the roads in the battalion sector. There were numerous snipers in the vicinity, left from previous night attacks. Men working on track were fired upon. One Jap Killed by roving patrol. Detail started repairing and watering roads. Railroad facilities were in fair shape. Moved 100 tons of freight to Aslito Field during the day. Air alert at 1845. One bomb dropped. No casualties. Two enemy planes shot down.

 

 

June 29, 1944 – D –Plus – 14

 

Track repaired to 27th Army Division dump at Magicienne Bay. Supply now being hauled from yellow beach to Army forward dump. One company working on roads. No air alert.

 

June 30, 1944 – D – Plus – 15

Railroad now beginning to run smoothly. An average of 100 tons of freight being moved daily for 27th Army Division. Water supply for engine is biggest problem. Six engines now in operation. Air alerts from 2100 to 0100. No bombs dropped.

 

 

July 1, 1944 – D –Plus – 16

 

 

Operation of railroad and repair of roads proceeding smoothly. Only equipment available for roads are 1 bulldozer, 4 dump trucks and 2 water trucks. Received orders to repair railroad from Charan Kanoa to Garapan. Air alert from 0100 to 0200.

 

 

July 2, 1944 – D-Plus – 17

 

 

Started repair of railroad north of Charan Kanoa. Church services were held. A quiet night was spent getting a good nights rest.

 

July 3, 1944 – D- Plus 18

 

All work details making good progress. Receiving orders from Corps Headquarters relieving battalion of maintenance of roads in southern part of island and assigned task of removing rails and converting railroad bed to a road from 27th Amy Division dump to Lau Lau Village on the north side of Magicienne Bay, a distance of 1 ½ miles. I made a reconnaissance of the route and visited the 4th Marine division Command Post at Lau Lau. Road needed badly as the only road forward in this sector is up over a spur of Mt. Tapotchau. Military situation good as 4th Marine Division makes good progress up east coast. A quiet night.

 

 

July 4, 1944 – D – Plus 19

 

 

All available personnel started removing rails on track to Lau Lau Village. Excellent progress made. Operation of railroad not essential on priority basis, until receipt of further orders.

 

July 5, 1944, - D- Plus – 20

 

Road finished to 4th Marine Division Command Post. Resumed work of track repair to Garapan. Received orders to turn operation of railroad from Charan Kanoa to Magicienne Bay over to Army Engineers as soon as they could take over. Battalion to finish repair and operate railroad from Charan Kanoa to Garapan. Two air raid alerts during the night. The bombs landed directly in camp area. Casualties 2 Killed and 4 wounded.

 

 

July 6, 1944 – D – Plus – 21

 

 

One company detailed to salvage rail removed from road. Work on repair of track north of Charan Kanoa making good progress. Track is very badly damaged. Stretches as long as 1000 feet torn up. Started training Army personnel to operate railroad. Three air alerts during the night. No bombs dropped but between second and third alert the airfield and surrounding camp areas were shelled by enemy from Tinian. About 10 rounds hit along the southern end of the field and adjoining area. Some casualties reported by the Army. This was the first hostile action from Tinian since the beach assault. Received orders to extend reconstruction of railroad to Tanapag Harbor pier. Three air alerts during the night Bombs dropped but not near the field. Enemy planes made repeated attempts to break through to airfield but intense AA fire drove them back or broke up their runs. One plane made a low level attack and strafed the east end of the airfield. This plane was shot down and fell into the sea. No casualties.

 

 

July 8, 1944 – D – Plus – 23

 

 

 

Continued reconstruction of railroad. Still operating southern end of railroad as Army Engineers not ready to take over. Crew from 18th NCB and Army Engineer Company started assisting on track repair.

 

 

July 9, 1944 – D – plus – 24

 

 

All work continued, Island was announced secure at 1430. Mopping up continues.

 

5. After the securing of the island the battalion continued to work on the repair of track to Tanapag Harbor. A special train was run from Charan Kanoa to Garapan on July 10 with Lt. General Holland M. Smith, USMC as passenger. The line was completed to Tanapag Harbor on July 14. The battalion continued to operate the northern end of the railroad until preparations were made for transfer to Tinian. During this period the battalion also constructed a pier at white beach two and constructed roads to an Army hospital located near this beach. All equipment was repaired and placed in readiness for the Tinian operation.

6. The assault of Tinian was set for July 24. Orders were received to stand by as of 0800 on this day. The main assignment of the battalion was the repair of the North Airfield at Tinian and it was planned that work would start as soon as Mt. Lasso, a hill to the south of the airfield was secured and the enemy was denied direct observation of the field.

7. Ensign J.P. Smith, CEC, USNR, and Carpenter W.S. Hammerman, CEC, , USNR, with a detail of five men were assigned to handle LVt’s equipped with a special landing ramp (Doodlebug) designed by Captain P.J. Halloran, CEC, USNR. This detail landed on Tinian on J-Day July 24, 1944 and set up and maintained 4 of these ramps.

8. Excerpts from the Battalion Adjutants log are given for the Tinian operation:

 

July 24, 1944 – J- - Day

 

 

Received orders to move battalion from Aslito Airfield to beach blue 1 at 1100. Battalion arrived at beach at 1430 and placed in bivouac area.

 

July 25, 1944 – J – Day – Plus -1

 

Battalion alerted at 0530 for movement on 15 minutes notice. Notice to embark received at 1100 and cancelled at 1115. Warrant Officer J.F. Singer, CEC, USNR, with 50 men and an LCT load of gear had embarked and could not be recalled. Balance of battalion returned to bivouac area.

 

July 26, 1944 – J – Day – Plus – 2

 

Battalion on 15 minutes alert. Warrant Officer P.S. Spampito, CEC, USNR, and 50 men sent aboard ammunition ship SS Rockland Victory, for unloading party at 0800. Lt. (jg) W.E. Hines, Jr., CEC, USNR, with 3 men left Saipan at 1000 to set as guard for Captain Halloran and to set up an advance command post. Main body ordered to embark at 1230. Arrived off Tinian at 1430. Beach jammed. Ordered by control boat to lay off as LCT’s with ammunition had priority. Laid off beach through night.

 

July 27, 1944 – J – Day – Plus – 3

 

 

Landed at 0830 and moved at once to North Field and started repair of field. Found Lt. Hines and warrant Officer Singer and 50 men already at work. They landed the previous day and made a reconnaissance of the field. They had started work at dawn of this day. Field covered with shrapnel and numerous bomb and shell holes. A strip 150 feet wide and 2500 feet long was repaired by 1700. Security was set up and guards placed in area to prevent looting.

 

 

July 28, 1944 – J – Day – Plus – 4

 

Continued repairing airfield. First plane, a P-47, landed on strip at 0705. Strip 150 feet wide and 4700 feet long, the entire length of the field, completed by 1900. Started repair of roads.

 

 

July 29, 1944 – J – Day – Plus – 5

 

 

Continued repairing airfield, widening strip to 200 feet. Planes landing and field operational. Road repair and salvage work proceeding.

 

July 30, 1944, - J – Day – Plus – 6

 

 

A B-25 bomber lands on strip. Transports start landing and evacuating wounded to Saipan (note: from this morning on all wounded were evacuated by transport from strip).

 

 

July 31, 1944 – J – Day – Plus – 7

 

 

Repair work continued on airfield. Transports evacuating wounded and bringing supplies.

 

 

August 1, 1944 – J – Day – Plus – 8

 

 

Tinian secured. Battalion receives order of release from Fifth Amphibious Corps and reverts to control of Sixth Naval Construction Brigade.

 

 

RESUME

 

The battalions activities on Saipan and Tinian fall into five phases:

1. Shore Party

2. Repair of Aslito Airstrip

3. Reconstruction of railroad from Tanapag Harbor to Magicienne Bay.

4. Miscellaneous Tasks.

5. Repair of North Field, Tinian.

 

Conclusion: In conclusion it is to be noted that the 121st Battalion landed in assault at Saipan with a very small amount of tools and equipment taken along for the purpose of conducting an assault shore party. The men had with them only their packs and one seabag. All tentage, housekeeping gear and office supplies were left in the rear echelon due to the limited space allotted us in the assault ships. This equipment did not reach Tinian until September 9th, so for 84 days the battalion was living in field conditions with extreme physical hardships, insufficient food and lack of medical supplies being great. Immediately on the completion of the assaults the battalion went into a heavy construction program in which it is still engaged. The additional equipment the battalion was to receive upon detachment from the Marine Corps has not been received as yet. This includes galley equipment, washing machines, recreational gear and other camp equipment which other Seabee units do have. The foregoing statements are not to be considered complaints as the officers and men of the battalion know that the conduct of the war caused this condition. I merely wish to point out that the separation of a unit from its servicing organization at the end of a hard campaign in a forward area, where supplies are at a minimum hampers the efficiency of the unit in general construction work.

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Holy cow. Sat down to read it this morning, but will have to take more time to read it thoroughly at a later date. Will probably print it out to peruse on the couch.

 

Yes you're right. Rare stuff and should be cherished.

 

That's the same way I feel about reports from North Africa. The records I received from NARA sketchily cover that part of the war. You start getting really precise records in Sicily and Italy, so anything I find on North Africa regarding the 540th are extra special to me.

 

Once again thanks for sharing all this. :pdt34:

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