The Coast Guard
During World War II
The Coast Guard-manned assault transport
USS Hunter Liggett she saw action across the
The Marshall Islands
Throughout the fall of 1943, the Coast Guard actively participated in
the Allied drives through the Southwest and Central Pacific. In February
1944, during the Marshall Island Campaign, the Coast Guard once again
played an important role.
For Operation Flintlock the Allies focused their attention on
Kwajalein, Eniwetok, and Majuro atolls within the Marshall Archipelago.
The plan called for Majuro Atoll to be taken first to provide an
anchorage for the fleet. Kwajalein would be assaulted from both ends the
following day, and for Eniwetok Atoll to be attacked about three months
later to allow the Allies to consolidate their positions.
Coast Guard manned attack transport
USS Hunter Liggett and her LCVP's bringing men and
supplies ashore in an operation repeated throughout the Pacific Theatre
during the war by thousands of Coast Guardsmen.
Assembled to capture these atolls was the Joint Expeditionary Force
comprising nearly 300 vessels and more than 84,000 men. This force split
into three groups: a northern group for an attack on Roi and Namur
islands in the Kwajalein Atoll, a southern group for an assault on
Kwajalein Island 45 miles to the south, and a third group for landings
on Majuro Atoll, about 250 miles southeast of Kwajalein Atoll.
The flagship for the task force attacking Majuro was the Coast
Guard-manned transport Cambria (APA-36). The Majuro force steamed
into position to land troops on Jan. 31. Unknown to the Americans, the
Japanese left Majuro Atoll in November 1943, and only four Japanese
inhabited the islands. On Feb. 1 the task force entered the lagoon
uncontested. This atoll would serve as the staging area for Central
Pacific fleet operations for the next several months.
The Northern Attack Force, including six transports with full or
partial Coast Guard crews, gathered to strike at Roi and Namur islands
within the Kwajalein Atoll, the largest atoll in the world.
They arrived in the Kwajalein area Jan. 30, 1944. The next day the
fire-support vessels and aircraft began subjecting the Japanese
defenders on Roi and Namur and other nearby islands to an intense
The barrage killed a large number of the islands' 3,700 defenders.
The American combat troops landed Feb. 1, with almost no opposition. All
organized resistance from these two islands ceased just shortly after
noon the next day. By Feb. 7, with some mopping-up actions, this attack
force secured about 55 islands.
Coast Guard-manned attack cargo ship USS
On Jan. 30, the Southern Attack Force arrived off Kwajalein.
Battleships and cruisers began immediately laying down a devastating
bombardment on the enemy defenses. The Coast Guard had four manned or
partially-manned transports active in the assault.
The landing went so well that the Reserve Group, including five other
transports with entire and partial Coast Guard crews, did not even
participate. The amphibious forces secured Kwajalein and the nearby
islands by the afternoon of Feb. 4.
The quick capture of Kwajalein and Majuro atolls allowed the American
leaders to advance the date for the capture of Eniwetok Atoll from May
10 to Feb. 17. They now used the Reserve Group and the men that had not
been put ashore.
Coast Guardsmen assist a
battle-blackened Marine on board after two days of heaving fighting on
Eniwetok Atoll lies 330 miles northwest of Kwajalein and is the most
western island in the Marshall group. The three principal islands
defended by the Japanese were Eniwetok, Parry, and Engebi.
A task group of 89 vessels assembled, including the Cambria
which served as the flagship. The Coast Guard-manned transport
Leonard Wood, Centaurus (AKA-17) and Arthur Middleton
also participated, along with the partially Coast Guard-manned
President Monroe (AP-104), Heywood (AP-12) and
Electra (AKA-4). In all, the transports carried nearly 8,000
assault troops. The transports assembled Feb. 15 for the trip to
At Eniwetok Atoll the barrier islands were attacked one at a time.
Each in turn was subjected to a heavy and continuous bombardment in
preparation for the landings. The first island selected for capture was
Engebi. On Feb. 18, the Heywood and Arthur Middleton
participated in these landings. One of the Middleton's boats led
the first wave to the beach.
After the first waves of landing craft reached the beach, the
transports moved closer to shore to facilitate the unloading of supplies
for the troops. As in the earlier assaults the heavy bombardment killed
many of the defenders and the assaulting waves met only light
On the 19th, while the Engebi landings proceeded, the transports
prepared to land troops on Eniwetok, and by Feb. 21 they had secured the
Parry Island was more strongly held than anticipated, therefore the
landings were postponed until D-day plus 5 - Feb. 22. The naval forces
subjected the island to gunfire for four days. Nevertheless, some
defenders survived and the first wave met enemy rifle and mortar fire.
The attacking forces quickly overcame the Japanese and secured Parry
Island 12 hours after the initial landings.