|All Original Written Material copyright 1999,
Dan Marsh; all original artwork copyright 1999 by Louie Marsh. Please use with permission
The First & Fourth Raiders at Enogai-Bairoko
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Company lost Sergeant Jay Jordon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here for Part Two of Enogai-Bairoko