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Breaking the Outer Ring: Marine Landings in the Marshall Islands

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Kwajalein Atoll


In January and February of 1944, following numerous air strikes since November of the previous year, Rear Admiral Marc A. Mitscher’s Task Force 58 bombarded Japanese positions at Kwajalein, Wotje, and Eniwetok (Enewetak). Amphibious landings on Roi- Namur and Kwajalein islets followed on 1 February 1944.

The assault force was commanded by Rear Admiral Turner and the Marine landing force by Major General Holland Smith, USMC- both were veterans of the Tarawa campaign. Undefended Majuro- today the capital of the Republic of the MarshallIslands- was taken for use as an advanced base.    

Elements of the Seventh Infantry Division under Major General C.H. Corlett, USA, stormed Kwajalein islet at the southern extreme of the atoll as Major General Harry Schmidt, USMC, led the 4 th Marine Division against Roi-Namur islet in the north.     By 5 February, superior US forces had secured the entire atoll. Of the 3,600 Japanese defenders only 91 survived. American losses were 195 killed and 545 wounded.    

Dirk Anthony Ballendorf

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