The War in the Pacific


Gilbert Islands

Marshall Islands





Iwo Jima


Coast Guard

The Coast Guard During World War II


The next move westward was the Marianas Islands in an operation called Forager. The Marianas Islands lie 1,300 miles east of the Philippines and about 1,300 miles due south of Tokyo. The group comprises about 15 islands that stretch 450 miles north to south and lie 1,200 miles west of the most forward American base at Eniwetok. The invasion would be a a supreme test of Allied amphibious capability.

The planners assembled two attack forces and one reserve force for the operation. The Northern Attack Force that sailed for Saipan and Tinian consisted of 37 transports including the Cambria, Arthur Middleton, Callaway, Leonard Wood and LSTs 19, 23, 166 and 169. Seven other transports had partial Coast Guard crews.

Coast Guard-manned LST-71, one of 76 LSTs manned by Coast Guard crews.

The Southern Attack Force steamed for Guam and included the Coast Guard-manned transports Aquarius,, Centaurus, cargo ships Cor Caroli and Sterope, the LSTs 24, 70, 71, and 207, as well as seven other vessels with partial Coast Guard crews. The reserve force included the Coast Guard-manned ship Cavalier.

landing craft
Renforcement and supplies are brought in by Coast Guard landing craft.

The invasion forces included a total of 535 ships that carried an aggregate of more than 127,000 troops in four and one-half reinforced divisions. The operation called for the capture of the most important islands on the southern end of the Marianas chain: Guam, Saipan, and Tinian. The islands north of these had little strategic value and few or no Japanese on them. The Navy began the campaign by subjecting Saipan and Tinian to heavy bombardments beginning two days before the landings.

At dawn June 15, the transports assembled off Saipan while the fire-support vessels and aircraft began an intense prelanding bombardment at 0800. Forty minutes later, 8,000 Marines streamed toward the beach along a four-mile front in 600 LVTs, supported by 150 LVT(A)s (Landing Vehicle, Tracked, Armored) that operated as light tanks. The larger landing craft such as LCIs (Landing Craft, Infantry) and even the LCVPs could not be used to land the initial waves of the Marines because their deep draft prevented them from crossing over the reefs that surrounded the island.

Coast Guardsmen at Saipan
(Left to right): Coast Guardsmen Ralph Crumpton, Leo Hoff, Janus Myers, Russell Speck, and Frank Macomber pose for the camera after taking part in and surviving the assault on Saipan.

The larger landing craft brought Marines to the seaward edge of the reefs where the men transferred into the LVTs that crossed over top of the reefs. The LVTs shuttled between the reefs and the beachhead for load after load. The Japanese made the trips to the beach difficult. As the battle raged it became imperative that larger craft be brought to the beachhead.

The Coast Guard mission became critical that morning when the main assault at the port town of Charan-Kanoa bogged down. Marines on the beachhead clung there with limited ammunition, medical supplies and support.

Searching over a wide area of the lagoon, a Coast Guard landing craft, under intense enemy fire, probed until it found a four-foot-deep, 150-foot-wide channel. This act proved to be crucial in the battle for the beachhead. After marking a passage, a steady stream of larger craft brought supplies to the beach. The Marines eventually secured the beachhead and pushed the Japanese defenders inland.

The amphibious campaign against Saipan was considered a model operation in every respect. By 6 p.m., nearly 20,000 Marines had landed on Saipan. The Marines completely verwhelmed the enemy and spent a great deal of time fighting isolated Japanese units. Twenty-five days after the initial landings the island was in American hands.