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All Original Written Material copyright 1999, Dan Marsh; all original artwork copyright 1999 by Louie Marsh. Please use with permission only.

 

 

The First & Fourth Raiders at Enogai-Bairoko 
Part One:

 

As light infantry, the Raiders had no heavy supporting arms, only limited communications with which to request fire support, and almost no logistics train. Consequently, when the enemy was located, the assault had to be launched quickly and decisively, relying on surprise and a high volume of fire from automatic weapons to overwhelm the foe before he could summon help. In terms of foot-mobility, the Raiders probably were the equal of, if not superior to, Stonewall Jackson’s “foot cavalry” of the Civil War. They were organized, equipped, trained, and conditioned to march and fight in jungles, swamps, plains, and mountains; literally, “. . . in every clime and place / Where we could take a gun.” Surviving barely tolerable conditions, they moved over near impassable routes to arrive in time and in condition to attack. Fighting as a Raider was soldiering of the most difficult and deadly sort.

While the 1st Raiders were digging in at Triri, Colonel Liversedge moved his command group and Major Girardeau’s two companies of the 3rd Battalion, 145th Infantry, into Maranusa I, and by 1600 both villages were enclosed in tight perimeter defenses. The casualties were brought to Maranusa I where, in a grass shack converted into a surgery, the doctors treated the wounded and prepared the dead for interment. Father John P. Murphy read the burial services, and the three dead Raiders were laid to rest in a common grave by a big banyan tree. These were the first deaths in the 1st Raider Battalion on New Georgia but, sadly, not the last.

Captain M. C. Plumley, Liversedge’s intelligence officer, and Captain Radford, his language officer, examined the enemy map captured at Triri and concluded that it was, indeed, a plot of Japanese defensive positions at Enogai. Based on this information, Liversedge decided to request a heavy air strike on Enogai for the following day. All attempts to transmit the request through regular channels, however, failed, and the radio operator resorted to the now familiar catch-as-catch-can approach, requesting any station that copied the message to relay it to the addressee. Finally an Army station at Viru responded and accepted the message for relay to Guadalcanal.

In the meantime, Lieutenant Colonel Schultz had finally discovered that he was out of position. That morning his native scouts reported that the real Munda-Bairoko trail was located several hundred yards farther on and, moreover, fresh footprints indicated that it had seen heavy use quite recently. Upon receipt of this information, Schultz decided to displace his battalion forward and at 1725 reported that he had arrived on his objective and would set out the roadblock the following morning. He also reported that his rations were exhausted and requested that a native carrying party be sent out to resupply him. Against Corrigan’s recommendations, Liversedge acceded to this request, and the natives set out on the long round trip to Rice Anchorage.

At 1700, patrols sent out from the Triri perimeter returned to report that the two trails leading out of the village, one westward toward Bairoko and the other to the north toward Enogai, showed evidence of recent heavy use. Knowing that he had some officers with expertise in ambuscade gained in the Nicaraguan campaigns, Griffith decided to exploit their talent and set on these trails traps, that, with any luck, would bag some unwary Japanese. Accordingly, he ordered Companies “B” and “D” each to send out platoon-sized ambushes at first light, the former on the Enogai trail, and the latter on the Bairoko trail.

Although everyone expected at least probing attacks during the night, there was no contact at all, and Liversedge’s troops finally managed to get some sleep on reasonably dry land. At dawn on July 8, Lieutenant Joseph M. Broderick, an “old timer” who had distinguished himself serving in the Guardia Nacional de Nicaragua, led his Company “D” platoon to a likely position on the Bairoko trail about 800 yards from the perimeter. Another old Nicaragua hand, First Lieutenant Bennie N. Bunn, executive officer of Company “B,” positioned the 1st Platoon similarly on the Enogai trail. By 0630 both officers had sent their runners to report that they were in position and ready for whatever might come down the road.

At around 0700, Broderick’s lookouts sighted a company-sized unit, led by an officer wearing a sword, headed up the trail toward Triri. The Japanese were either totally ignorant of the presence of Americans in the area or incredibly stupid, for they marched along the trail in a near parade-ground formation, with rifles slung and gabbing as unconcernedly as if on a bird walk. Records do not reflect Broderick’s thoughts as he watched this plump flock of the Emperor’s pheasants walking into his trap, but they surely would have been something like: “Just a few more steps and . . gotcha!” Unfortunately, before the quarry was well into the trap—the designated killing ground—some trigger-happy Raider jumped the gun and prematurely opened fire.

Although caught off guard by the scattering of shots from the Raiders, the Japanese reacted quickly and fell back in good order. After a few minutes used to get organized, the enemy came back in a well-coordinated counterattack that threatened to trap the would-be trappers. Lieutenant Broderick was wounded by the first hostile shots, albeit not seriously. Colonel Griffith quickly ordered Company “D” to go to Broderick’s assistance and, as Lieutenant Bunn was not in contact, ordered the Company “B” ambush withdrawn.

For the next two hours, the volume of firing steadily increased as the antagonists seesawed back and forth, striving to eliminate one another. The extraordinarily rugged terrain—the factor that originally commended the area as an ambush site—made maneuver extremely difficult and further exhausted the Company “D” Raiders, still not rested up after two days of breaking trail for the rest of the force. By 1000, Company “D” was becoming badly disorganized, and Griffith ordered Captain Bud Salmon’s Company “C” forward to relieve it in place.

Salmon carried out the relief under fire with great skill and at around 1100, supported by machine guns and 60mm mortars, assaulted and pushed the enemy back about 200 yards. Soon thereafter the Japanese broke contact and retired in the direction of Bairoko, leaving the battlefield and 50 of their dead to the Americans. Raider losses were several wounded and three killed in action: Private James H. Roosevelt of Company “C,” and from Company ‘D,” Private Paul W. Williams and Pharmacist Mate, third class, James J. Corbett, a medical angel of mercy.

While the battle raged on the trail to Bairoko, Colonel Liversedge quickly moved his command post and reserve (Major Girardeau’s two infantry companies) forward to Triri. At noon, after the wounded were treated and the dead buried, Liversedge assigned to Girardeau the responsibility for the defense of the perimeter and ordered Griffith’s Raiders, less the Demolitions Platoon, to advance along the Enogai trail to attack and destroy Japanese forces on Enogai Point. With Company “A” in the lead, the battalion saddled up and hit the trail around 1230.

The long column quickly covered the 800 or so yards to Bunn’s ambush site, but once past there the trail became less and less well defined with each passing step and soon disappeared in an extensive swamp. Beyond the swamp rose a steep, coral ridge—a continuation of the Maranusa I-Triri ridge and the dominant terrain in the area—but getting to the ridge would be difficult. The swamp that the Raiders faced turned out to be the toughest so far. In addition to the usual natural obstacles, bombs apparently intended for Maranusa II had landed in the swamp and created others: deep craters invisible beneath the muddy swampwaters and impassable tangles of broken, jagged limbs and twisted roots from shattered banyan trees.

For more than two hours, the Raiders battled the swamp, trying first one trail and then another, only to have them all peter out in the quagmire. Finally a patrol operating on the left flank of the battalion returned to report that it had discovered a weakly defined track that ran along a low ridge north toward the Enogai headland. But it was almost 1600 when Griffith received this information and too late even to consider an attack on the enemy position with his now exhausted troops; hence he decided to return to Triri and start out fresh the next day, which turned out to be a most fortuitous decision.

After being driven back by Bud Salmon’s attack, the Japanese regrouped, brought up reinforcements, and, at about 1600, assaulted the left flank of the thinly held perimeter with some 400 men. The brunt of the attack was borne by Company “K,” 145th Infantry, which, after its commander, Captain Donald W. Fouse, USA, was wounded, began slowly to give way. On the right flank, however, Company “L” was receiving only scattered sniper fire. As the enemy continued vigorously to press the attack against Company “K,” Major Girardeau requested assistance in restoring his lines, and Colonel Liversedge committed his only reserve, Angus Goss’s Demolition Platoon.

Just a few minutes later, however, the 1st Raiders returned to the perimeter, and Liversedge ordered Griffith to counterattack immediately to relieve the pressure on Company “K” and restore the line. As the rest of the battalion moved to the relief of the beleaguered infantrymen, Griffith sent First Lieutenant Robert B. “Bob” Kennedy’s 1st Platoon of Company “B” to envelop the enemy’s left flank. Moving rapidly, Kennedy led his platoon north, parallel to Enogai Inlet, for several hundred yards, then swung inland in a wide loop to fall on the enemy’s left and rear. The Raiders’ sudden onslaught caught the Japanese by complete surprise, disrupting their attack on the perimeter and forcing them to withdraw towards Bairoko, leaving their dead on the battlefield.

There were no Raider casualties in this skirmish and only three soldiers of Company “K” were wounded. The Japanese, however, had 20 confirmed killed and an unknown, but undoubtedly large, number wounded. In addition, they left behind two machine guns and numerous rifles. After policing up the battlefield, searching the dead for documents, and gathering up the abandoned equipment, the Raiders and soldiers dug in for the night and waited for the enemy to return, but there was no further contact that night or, for that matter, ever again at Triri.

Just before noon, Liversedge’s communicators had managed to contact an Army radio station near Munda and relayed critical traffic through them to Rendova and Guadalcanal. Included in the messages were requests for an air strike at Enogai on the morning of the ninth and for a rations resupply drop as soon as possible.

In the meantime, early that morning Lieutenant Colonel Schultz had installed his roadblock on the Munda Bairoko trails and sent out reconnaissance patrols, one of which discovered and cut a Japanese telephone line. A couple of hours afterwards, at around 1300, a small group of enemy soldiers, probably a wire-repair team, blundered into one of Schultz’s outposts and, after a brief fire fight, fled back in the direction of Bairoko. Two hours later, a force variously estimated at 40 to 100 men attacked Company “I” which was blocking the trail from Bairoko. Although the attack forced the company outposts back to the perimeter, there was no penetration, and the enemy withdrew, having lost an estimated seven killed and 15-20 wounded. American losses were one killed and three wounded.

Early on the morning of the ninth, after a comparatively restful night, the 1st Raiders once again prepared to hit the trail. Breakfast was only a minor problem this morning, for almost no one had any rations left, and even the mud from the previous day’s trek through the swamp was easier to get off, it having dried out some overnight. Leaving Major Girardeau’s two infantry companies, a TBX radio team from Company “A,” and most of his regimental headquarters personnel at Triri to look after the wounded and maintain communications between his widely scattered units, Colonel Liversedge set out for Enogai with Griffith and the 1st Raider Battalion at 0730.

Movement was much easier on the trail discovered the day before, and, with Company “C” in the lead, the column advanced at a blistering (for that area) rate of 600 yards per hour. At around 0900, the Raiders could hear the explosions of heavy bombs as divebombers worked over the Enogai area, presumably in response to Colonel Liversedge’s request of the day before. Again, muttered words of encouragement could be heard all along the column, and some of the Raiders even dared to hope that the bombing might make their job easier, if not unnecessary.

About an hour and a half after departing Triri, the point fire team discovered a Japanese field telephone line crossing the trail, and Second Lieutenant Joseph P. Cuetara was ordered to take a patrol and follow the line towards Enogai Inlet. After following the wire for several hundred yards, Cuetara’s patrol suddenly came upon several enemy troops and engaged them in a hot fire fight. In less time than it takes to tell about it, the firing was over, with six of the Japanese dead and the rest scattered into the bush.

Unfortunately, the after-action nose count revealed that Private, first class, Thomas F. Powers was missing, and a thorough search of the area did not locate him. Concluding that Powers was dead or, worse, captured, Cuetara reluctantly led his patrol back to the main body. Powers, however, was still very much alive, on the loose, and trying to locate his patrol. But instead of Raiders, he came across two more Japanese and in a brief shootout killed both but was wounded himself. Although in considerable pain from his wound and on the verge of exhaustion, Powers managed to evade the enemy throughout the night and returned to his unit on the following day, somewhat the worse for wear and tear but in high spirits.

At 1100, the head of the column sighted Leland Lagoon, turned right, and began cautiously to advance along the ridge toward Enogai. At about 1300, the point surprised and captured a Japanese messenger who was headed from Enogai toward Bairoko. Unfortunately, the prisoner struggled so vigorously and screamed so loudly that he surely would have revealed the Americans’ presence had not one of his captors permanently silenced him with a strategic thrust of a Raider stiletto. Continuing onward, by about 1500 the column had advanced to within 750 yards of Enogai, still undetected, and Griffith began to get that indescribably upbeat feeling of an impending complete surprise over the enemy.

Shortly, however, Griffith’s good feeling vanished, as he heard the chatter of two Japanese light machine guns opening fire on his lead company. Soon Bud Salmon reported that Second Lieutenant Philip A. Oldham’s 3rd Platoon had encountered an enemy strong point comprising a well dug-in rifle platoon and two machine guns. In the first burst of fire, four men were wounded, two critically, and one, Private, first class, Martin Flaum, was killed. Just moments later, Lieutenant Oldham stood up behind a tree to survey the battlefield and fell mortally wounded himself. The two critically wounded Raiders, Sergeant Lawrence H. Flynn and Corporal Ersel T. Patrick, later died of their wounds, Patrick that night and Flynn the next morning.

Oldham’s Raiders had been well trained and, notwithstanding the loss of their commander and platoon sergeant, reacted like the professionals they were. Quickly deploying to the right and left of the survivors of the point squad, they responded in kind with their rifles and automatic weapons, and soon a steady roar of firing punctuated by the explosions of grenades could be heard from both sides.

Colonel Griffith quickly committed Tom Mullahey’s Company “A” to the left into the gap between the now fully deployed Company “C” and the lagoon; then, when the firing intensified on Salmon’s right, be committed Ed Wheeler’s Company “B” there to guard against a flanking movement which seemed to be developing in that area. Company “B,” however, met with very light opposition, and at about 1700 Wheeler reported that he was no longer in contact with the enemy. Salmon and Mullahey, however, were still heavily engaged and making no progress. At this point, with night rapidly approaching, Colonel Liversedge ordered Griffith to discontinue the attack, dig in where he was for the night, and prepare to resume the attack early the following day. Soon thereafter, about 1830, the Japanese also called it a day, disengaged, and withdrew. In anticipation of the next day’s operations, Griffith ordered Wheeler to send out a strong patrol at dawn on the following day to determine if it were feasible to advance along the shore of Enogai Inlet and thereby outflank the enemy position on the ridge.

The day’s action had cost the 1st Raiders nine killed and one missing. In addition to those killed in the 3rd Platoon, Company “C” also lost Private, first class, Barney Zinkevich and Privates Burrell D. Hodges and Elmo Le Bleu, killed, and Private, first class, Norton C. Retzch, missing. The other losses were Privates, first class, James M. Harper, Jr., and Theodore Q.Igleburger of Company “B,” killed in action.

As night fell over the dripping jungle, Liversedge found himself in an extremely vulnerable position. His Northern Landing Group was divided between Rice Anchorage, Triri, the Munda-Bairoko trail block, and the approaches to Enogai, and neither grouping was in a position to assist the others. The 3rd Battalion, 148th Infantry, was way out on a limb, vulnerable to attack from Munda and Bairoko, and the 1st Raiders were between the proverbial rock and hard place, here represented by enemy garrisons of unknown strength at Enogai and Bairoko. Moreover, communications between the widely separated positions were so poor that Liversedge could not exercise effective control over them.

In addition to their precarious tactical situation, the 1st Raiders were beset by a host of other problems. They had several non-ambulatory wounded in desperate need of hospitalization, their only drinking water was what they could catch from falling rain, and their food was gone. Fortunately, after great effort, they were able to contact an outside radio station and were promised a resupply drop the following day, but they would have to go into battle the next day hungry. With patience and no little ingenuity, individuals could collect enough rain water to ease, but by no means slake, their thirst. But there was nothing further the doctors and their corpsmen could do for the wounded, except to keep them as warm, dry, and comfortable as possible and to pray for a speedy victory on the morrow so they could be evacuated.

The Japanese, thankfully, chose not to exploit Liversedge’s vulnerability, if indeed they knew of it, and the night passed without contact at either position. Although there were plenty of shadows to excite the imagination of the watching Raiders before moonset, fire discipline throughout the night was outstanding, and not a shot was fired. The silence was broken, however, when a huge limb from a banyan tree, partially severed by bomb fragments and overweighted with moisture, crashed down inside the command post, almost wiping out the battalion communications section. Staff Sergeant Joseph A. “Zack” Szakovics was crushed to death, three communicators were injured, two seriously, and the battalion TBX was destroyed. One of the seriously injured men, Private, first class, Harry R. Seymer, had his left arm nearly severed, but quick action by Doctor Stuart C. Knox, battalion medical officer, stopped the bleeding and saved Seymer’s life.

In the meantime, at around 0900 that morning, Triri had received a message alerting them to prepare for the requested resupply drop at around noon. Major Stevenson, the regimental communications officer, quickly sent the seemingly ubiquitous Corporal Henry Poppell with a radio team and about 30 natives to prepare the drop zone. Poppell and his men quickly cleared trees and brush from an area about half the size of a football field and laid out identification panels, but noon came and went with no planes; then 1300, 1400, 1500, and still no planes. Finally just before 1600, when everyone had almost given up hope, the sounds of approaching aircraft were heard.

Soon the escort fighters passed overhead but, apparently having failed to sight the drop zone, flew on. To everyone’s indescribable relief, however, the planes swung around for a second pass, on which the flight leader revved the engine of his plane to signal that he had identified the drop zone. In just a few minutes, the transports arrived over the drop zone, and the men on the ground were treated to the colorful spectacle of the red, yellow, green, and purple parachutes drifting earthward with their precious cargo, as the transports flew on in the direction of Schultz’s position.

The natives hurriedly collected the bundles, and soon the party was on its way back to camp, arriving only a few minutes before dusk. There the supplies were broken down into one-man loads for transport to Enogai by a supply train scheduled to leave at first light on the tenth. The Triri detachment held back only enough food to keep body and soul together for one more day.

The technique for the air delivery of supplies was greatly improved during this operation, and by its end the Northern Landing Group had received 20 drops, of which only one went awry. Still, the best drop zone, clearly marked with colored panels and colored smoke, will not guarantee success in the absence of reliable communications with the aircraft making the drop. There is far more to air delivery than just dropping according to map grid coordinates.

As ordered, well before daybreak on the tenth, Wheeler sent out a strong patrol under Lieutenant Bunn to reconnoiter the approaches along Enogai Inlet. Returning at about 0600, the patrol reported that they had reached Enogai Inlet without seeing any Japanese and had found a fairly good approach route over level ground along the shoreline. Based on this information, Griffith formulated his plan of attack and issued his order: The three companies now on line would attack at H-hour to destroy the enemy in their zones; Company “D” would continue in reserve, prepared for commitment in either zone; the attack would be preceded by a 60mm mortar barrage and would be accompanied by long-range, overhead machine-gun fire; H-hour would be at 0700.

After the mortar preparation, the attack kicked off promptly at 0700, although Wheeler’s company had to dispense with the overhead machine-gun fire because of the dense foliage in its zone of action. On the left and center, Companies “A” and “C” almost immediately encountered stiff resistance and paused to let their mortars work over the enemy positions again. Company “B,” however, met only light opposition and by 0900 had swept through Baekineru, killing 12 Japanese and capturing one heavy and four light machine guns. The machine guns were quickly turned about and used to fire on the fleeing enemy.

On the left, however, an entirely different scenario was being played out. Mullahey’s company soon had found itself in a mangrove swamp near Leland Lagoon, entangled in roots, mired down in the stinking mud of the swamp, and pummeled by fire from two Japanese heavy machine guns and two lights. Likewise, Company “C” had found it extremely difficult to advance under heavy rifle, machine-gun, and grenade fire. Wheeler’s company, however, continued its advance along the inlet, threatening the enemy with encirclement and forcing him from his ridgetop positions onto the low ground around Enogai Point, thereby easing the pressure on the other two companies.

At around midday, Mullahey’s and Salmon’s Raiders began to move against decreasing resistance and by 1300 were on the high ground about 600 yards from Enogai Point. From here, Mullahey could see the Japanese evacuating the point in a steady stream, crossing the shallow passage to the spit that formed the windward side of Leland Lagoon. Mullahey directed his machine gun officer, Marine Gunner Joseph G. “Joe” Cafarella, to bring his guns to bear on the escape route, and in a very few minutes Cafarella’s gunners killed 45 of the fleeing enemy and disrupted the evacuation attempt.

In the meantime, Bob Kennedy’s 1st Platoon, at the point of the Company “B” advance, had reached a position overlooking the Japanese camp site near Enogai but was pinned down by heavy enemy machine gun fire. To maintain the momentum of the attack, Colonel Griffith quickly sent Angus Goss and his Demolitions Platoon to reinforce Company “B” and ordered Lieutenant Thomas D. Pollard of Company “D” to pass his platoon through Company “C” and attack toward Kennedy’s position. Following an intense mortar barrage and supported by machine gun fire from the Company “B” position, Pollard’s Raiders charged headlong down the slope, overran the machine gun position holding up Kennedy, and continued on through the enemy camp to the beach, driving the Japanese before them into the inlet, where they were slaughtered by Raider machine guns.

Pollard’s quick and vicious attack had been an awesome sight, terrifying not only to the enemy but also to Bob Kennedy, whose platoon was in the path of the onrushing Raiders. As the charge swept down the slope toward his position, Kennedy stood up, hoping that the oncoming Raiders would recognize him and not fire on his men. Apparently he was recognized by Pollard’s men, for they didn’t fire on him or his men, but commenting on this action later, Kennedy admitted that “the bravest thing 1 did during the whole war was to step out in front of that mad, charging Pollard.” Previously, on the seventh and eighth, that same “mad” Pollard single-handedly had stalked and killed four enemy snipers who were harassing his platoon, and this latest feat propelled him into the ranks of the Raider superstars.

By 1400, Pollard’s attack was over. It had broken the back of the enemy resistance and divided his troops into two groups that now had no thought in mind but to escape. Pollard’s Raiders were credited with killing a large number of the enemy (they and Company “B” shared credit for the 75 dead counted in this area) and the capture of three enemy machine guns. One of the machine guns, a heavy, was attacked from the rear by a fire team that killed off the crew while its attention was distracted to the front, an operation that was very much to Griffith’s liking.

Griffith was highly pleased with the combat effectiveness of the fire team, an innovation which he had introduced into his squad organization on New Caledonia. On Tulagi and Guadalcanal, the 1st Raiders had used the then standard Marine Corps rifle squad; however, Griffith had been sold on the fire team since early 1942, when he visited the 2nd Raiders at Jacques Farm and saw the three-fire-team rifle squad in action. He was very impressed by its superior maneuverability, flexibility, and firepower and, upon his return to Quantico, pushed for adoption of this organization in the 1st Raiders. The press of events, however, had precluded further action until after Guadalcanal. Now, in addition to the superior leadership, sheer guts, and stamina that had served his Raiders so well on Guadalcanal, they had the firepower they should have had then.

By 1500, the coastal defense positions were in the Raiders’ hands and active resistance had collapsed, except for two small pockets. Colonel Liversedge directed that these be surrounded and contained by Companies “A” and “D” until the next morning. Meanwhile, Companies “B” and “C” organized an all-around defense of Enogai and tracked down and killed most of the isolated snipers who, having managed to escape detection during the attack, were now making nuisances of themselves.

By this time, most of the Raiders had not had a bite of food for almost 30 hours and were depending on the rain for drinking water. Thus, their jubilation knew no bounds when, at around 1600, a carrying party of the regimental headquarters personnel and Captain Clifford W. Morrow’s Company “L,” 145th Infantry, arrived from Triri with water and the ammunition and rations that had been air-dropped the day before. The rations they delivered were supplemented by canned goods from Japanese stocks, and that night the Raiders feasted on K-rations, rice, canned meat, and canned fish, all liberally seasoned with captured soy sauce and washed down (by some) with captured sake and beer.

While the men were enjoying the luxury of eating once again, their commanders were bending to the sorrowful task of counting the cost of the day’s action in terms of human lives lost and mentally composing the letters of condolence they would be writing to the next-of-kin of the dead Raiders, seeking words that might somehow help to ease their pain. For this day’s fighting there would be 27 letters to mail.

Headquarters Company lost Sergeant Jay Jordon.

Mullahey’s Company “A” had, without doubt, drawn the most difficult assignment in the battle, and the combination of rough terrain and Japanese resistance was reflected in its losses—nine killed in action: Gunnery Sergeant Harry F. Erickson; Corporals Samuel W. Anderson and Robert L. Mulford; Private, first class, George R. Oiler; and Privates Lambert S. Andrzejewski, Robert L. Kaufman, James Kennedy, Harvey J. Medicis and Floyd W. Wahlers.

Although the progress of Company “B” in the attack had been the most rapid, it was not cost free, and four of Wheeler’s Raiders had fallen to enemy action: First Lieutenant Bennie M. Bunn; Privates, first class, James I. Johnson and Kenneth L. Lewis; and Private Gerald R. Ashdown. The loss of Nicaraguan campaign veteran Lieutenant Bunn would be sorely felt in days to come, for he was the company’s resident expert on small-unit, jungle operations. For heroic action, Lieutenant Bunn was posthumously awarded the Army Distinguished Service Cross.

Losses in Salmon’s Company “C” totaled four killed in action and one missing. Privates, first class, Alfred J. Booth Jerry W. Visco, Jr.; and Privates Walter B. Scott, and Harley B. Seaton were killed, and Private, first class, William A. Pelkey was missing in action and presumed dead. Behind the death of Private Scott lies a story that, perhaps as well as any other, illustrates the indomitable fighting spirit of the Raiders. On July 8, Scott had sprained an ankle very badly and after being treated was sent to the rear. Later in the day, however, he insisted on rejoining his squad and, in spite of severe pain, remained with it for the next two days, performing at full capacity until his death.

Proportionally, losses in Boyd’s Company “D” were the most severe, for all eight were from Pollard’s platoon. Killed in action were: Platoon Sergeant John G. A. Combs, Corporal Harold W. Smith; Privates, first class, Charles E. Daniels, George B. Makin, Hughie McSweeney and Harold W. Pyne; and Private Daniel A. Wabschell. Corporal William F. Cain was critically wounded and died on the 11th. For heroic action on July 7, 8, and 10, Corporal Cain was posthumously awarded the Army Distinguished Service Cross.

As night fell over western New Georgia, Colonel Liversedge established a combined Northern Landing Group- 1st Raiders command post and attacked the myriad of after-action administrative details that can make soldiering such a tedious occupation. First on his list of “things to do” was a message to General Hester to report the capture of Enogai and to request air evacuation of the wounded. For the first time in the entire operation, the communicators made contact with Hester’s net control station on their very first try and prepared to clear their traffic. Unbelievably, however, net control refused to accept their traffic, even the “Urgent” request for air casualty evacuation, and requested instead that Liversedge postpone all radio traffic until 0700 the next day.

As repeated pleas met with silence, Liversedge finally became disgusted with such bureaucratic intransigence and directed his communicators to send their traffic without authorization, and it eventually reached the proper addressee. This communications blockage has been variously attributed to a lack of standardized inter-service communications procedures and misunderstanding; however, such explanations are inconsistent with facts.

In the first place, there had been no procedural problems heretofore, at least on those rare occasions when direct contact was made. In the second place, the Raiders’ detailed justification for extraprocedural transmission would have obviated any possible misunderstanding. Thus it would appear most likely that the problem was personal rather than procedural. In my opinion, the root cause of the blockage probably was the cerebral constipation that affects some staff officers to such a degree as to render them absolutely incapable of making an unregulated move.

But whatever the communications difficulties elsewhere, the radio operators at Enogai approached their work that evening contented and proud of a job well done, feelings eloquently verbalized (with just a hint of irony) by Henry Poppell in his diary entry for July 10:

A few snipers are on the outer perimeter. . . but we have no worries for food has been found in the form of Jap salmon, beans, etc. The rain is bringing us water too. The dusk has come once again, and we are now operating the radio . . . to tell the world Enogai has been taken. . . . The men had fought as hard as men had ever fought—no water, no food, no place to care for your buddies who were wounded, cut off from the outside world, wet & dirty from days of trudging through swamps up to your waist amidst a continued rain. . . . [Men] known to all who had seen them in action as a fighting band . . . whose sole ambition was to have those back home tell them that they had completed their job & did it well. True to form, their answer was flashed over the air this very same night. . . [in] the news. . .  account of the huge coal strike John L. Lewis has brought forth in the East. This my friends is a beautiful thought to end a day’s work with and fall unconsciously asleep in such a hell hole of a jungle.

The night of July 10-11 passed quietly enough in that “hell hole of a jungle,” until an hour or so before dawn, when Company “D” outposts on the beach heard the motors of Japanese barges off Enogai Point. Since the Raiders’ primary defensive positions were oriented toward Bairoko, there were some moments of high tension as everyone scrambled to do an about-face and prepare to repel a landing. After a short time, however, the sound of the barge motors receded in the distance, and everyone relaxed. Whether the enemy barges were lost or possibly trying to evacuate the stragglers from the sandspit is unknown; however, their withdrawal undoubtedly saved them from a mauling such as that the 4th Raiders had administered to their fellow countrymen at Vangunu only 10 days earlier.

At first light on the eleventh, Companies “A” and “D” attacked to reduce the two remaining small pockets of resistance. While Company “A” made short work of its pocket, Company “D” had a somewhat tougher nut to crack. In the initial contact, heavy enemy fire wounded several of Boyd’s Raiders and forced them momentarily to hold up. After a quick assessment of the situation, Boyd relocated his machine guns and automatic rifles to deliver overhead fire and pin down the enemy while the rest of his men crawled to within hand-grenade range of the pocket. On signal. the automatic weapons shifted their fire to the flanks; and, after a barrage of hand grenades, the assault group charged the enemy position with fixed bayonets, killing the last Japanese on Enogai Point and capturing in the process one heavy and two light machine guns and many rifles.

While this action was taking place, the rest of the battalion was preparing defensive positions around the point and on the beaches and improving its positions facing Bairoko so as to counter a surface attack from any direction. Japanese reaction to the capture of Enogai Point was not long in coming, and twice during the morning twin-engine bombers attacked the area. They did not, however, attack and depart unchallenged, for our fighters attacked both enemy formations, and for most of the morning the Raiders were treated to an aerial show, as dogfights raged overhead plainly visible to all. Unfortunately, the second attack at about 1130 caught several Raiders in the open, wounding 15 and killing three. The dead, all from Company “A,” were Privates William 0. Bovenschulte, John C. Haxer, and Reinhard J. Sauer.

The total blood payment for Enogai was 124 1st Raiders casualties: 45 dead, two missing in action and presumed dead, and 77 wounded. The brave Raiders who gave their all were buried in the U.S. Government Cemetery at Enogai. Japanese losses at Enogai were 350 counted dead and undoubtedly many wounded who, along with an unknown number of healthy survivors, managed to escape onto the sandspit and make their way along it to Bairoko or else slipped through the Raider lines into the jungle. Enemy materiel losses were four 140mm naval rifles, three .50-caliber machine guns, four .303-caliber heavy machine guns, 14 .303-caliber light machine guns, two Lewis machine guns, large numbers of rifles and pistols, thousands of rounds of ammunition of all calibers, and grenades. Other booty included two diesel tractors, a power plant, a large searchlight, communications equipment, and miscellaneous items such as food and clothing and documents.

Examination of the captured documents confirmed the identity of the defenders of Enogai as elements of the Kure 6th Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF), and the Kawasiki Naval Gun Detachment. Two of the 140mm rifles manned by the Kawasiki detachment could fire to the east, and it was these that had fired “at” the Rice Anchorage landing on July 5 and continued to do so for the next five nights. Curiously, the Kure 6th SNLF had departed Japan as part of the Midway invasion fleet and, had things gone according to plan, would have encountered Companies “C” and “D” of the 2nd Raiders on the beaches of Sand and Eastern Islands. After the Japanese defeat at Midway, however, the Kure 6th was diverted to the Central Solomons and had now come a cropper of the 1st Raiders in the jungles of New Georgia.

In response to Colonel Liversedge’s request for air evacuation of his wounded, three PBYs mistakenly landed at Rice Anchorage at 1600 and, after some very heavy coaxing, finally agreed to taxi the five or so miles along the coast to Enogai Inlet to make the pickup. Quickly the Raiders began loading the wounded into rubber boats and ferrying them out to the planes; however, before even one plane was loaded, the fighter escort ran low on fuel and had to return to its base. Upon their departure, a precautionary air raid alert was sounded, and all hands not helping with the wounded were ordered to stand by with their weapons, “just in case.” The loading of the wounded continued, but now at a feverish pace.

“Just in case” came only a few minutes later, when the Raiders began to hear the faint throbbing of aircraft engines, immediately recognized as belonging to “ducks,” one of the few printable nicknames for the ubiquitous Japanese Zero float planes. Quickly the PBYs discontinued loading operations and prepared to take evasive action, while the Raiders anxiously gripped their weapons and searched the skies in the direction of the engine noises. Soon the first enemy plane came roaring in over Enogai Inlet to strafe and drop its bomb, which fortunately landed between the shoreline and the PBYs. As the flying boats darted about like hawk-frightened ducks on a millpond and the Raiders attempted to fill the air with lead, a second Zero roared in fast on the tail of the first with a duplicate performance.

When the Zeroes came back for their second pass, however, they no longer enjoyed the element of surprise, and every Raider in the area, including some of the wounded, was firing at them. By their third pass, the ground-to-air fire had become sufficiently intimidating as to discourage the Japanese pilots from a fourth attack, and they departed the area. The bombing and strafing had wounded some already wounded Raiders (one for the third time) and two of the pilots and damaged the PBYs, but not enough to keep them from flying. The loading of the wounded resumed, and as night fell over Enogai Point, the three flying ambulances took off for Tulagi with more than 100 wounded and sick Raiders aboard.

With the sick and wounded on their way to a safe haven, Liversedge could now devote full attention to his next objective—the capture of Bairoko Harbor, and his first action toward this end had been to consolidate his forces. On the tenth, as soon as Enogai was secured, he had ordered Lieutenant Colonel Freer to move the rest of his 3rd Battalion, 145th Infantry, from Rice Anchorage to Triri, leaving only a small security detachment at Rice Anchorage. He also directed the movement of all supplies to Enogai. Henceforth, Rice Anchorage would serve as a transshipment point where APDs would offload supplies into landing craft for transport to Enogai or to Triri. Once the entire 3rd Battalion, 145th, was reassembled at Triri, Liversedge ordered Freer to send a company to reinforce the hard-pressed Schultz on the Munda-Bairoko trail block.

While the 1st Raiders had battled for Enogai, the infantrymen of the 3rd Battalion, 148th, had not exactly been enjoying rest and relaxation on the trail block. After the enemy probe on the afternoon of the eighth, Schultz’s men had no further enemy contact until early in the morning of July 10. Then the battalion was hit first on the right flank by an estimated 50 Japanese and then on the left by a somewhat larger force. Both attacks were driven back, with the enemy suffering 14 killed, but other probes soon followed: right-left, right-left, like a boxer gauging the strength and reflexes of his opponent. After a number of such light jabs, a Japanese force estimated at more than two companies suddenly hit the right flank at the junction of Companies “I” and “L,” forcing both to withdraw from their positions on the ridgeline.

A counterattack by Company “K,” the battalion reserve, failed to regain the position, and Schultz resorted to an 81mm-mortar barrage along the ridgeline to discourage further enemy progress. On the following day, July 11, Company “K” twice attacked the enemy position, but was driven back each time, fortunately with only light casualties. That night, it was the turn of Company “K” to be attacked, as the Japanese launched a noisy bayonet charge against their positions. The enemy assault, however, was more sound than fury and was easily repulsed at the cost of only three wounded Americans.

            By this time, Schultz’s men were in as bad shape as the 1st Raiders had been before the capture of Enogai. The air resupply drop in the late afternoon of July 9 had been far wide of the mark, and Schultz’s men had recovered only a single parachute load containing mostly mortar shells of the wrong caliber and spoiled rations. Consequently, the battalion was running uncomfortably low on 81mm mortar ammunition, and the ration dump was now as bare as Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. The situation was fast becoming desperate, when Company “I,” 145th Infantry, arrived from Triri on the afternoon of the eleventh escorting a caravan of native bearers packing rations. Needless to say, the arrival of the rations was an occasion for thanksgiving by Schultz’s hungry men.

On the following morning, Company “I,” 145th Infantry, moved up behind Company “K” and, after a heavy preparation by mortar and machine-gun fire, assaulted the Japanese position. To everyone’s great surprise, however, the attack was met by silence—the ridgeline had been abandoned. Judging by the absence of dead or wounded, the enemy units had withdrawn sometime during the night, probably under the cover of the noisy banzai attack against Company “K.” Patrols sent out in both directions on the Munda-Bairoko trail found no trace of the enemy.

Copyright:  ReView Publications

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