FROM MAKIN TO BOUGAINVILLE: Marine Raiders in the Pacific War
by Major Jon T Hoffman, USMCR
The 1st Raider Battalion and the raider regimental
headquarters joined in on the New Georgia operation in the early hours
of 5 July. They spearheaded the night landing of the Northern Group at
Rice Anchorage, a spot selected because previous reconnaissance showed
it to be undefended. Coastal guns from Enogai and the island of
Kolombangara fired on the APDs during the landing, but their accuracy
was poor in the driving rain. The only serious interference came from
enemy destroyers; a long-range torpedo sunk one of the American
transports. Nevertheless, the troops and most of their equipment and
supplies made it ashore, and the amphibious group was able to withdraw
before daylight left them vulnerable to further enemy counter
1st Raider Battalion captured this Japanese 140mm coastal defense gun
after striking Enogai from the rear following the unopposed landing on 5
July 1943. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 59009A
From Rice Anchorage the 1st Raider Battalion was to
advance overland to seize Dragons Peninsula and the enemy's barge bases
at Enogai and Bairoko. The Army's 3d Battalion, 148th Infantry, would
head deeper into the interior and establish a blocking position on the
trail connecting Enogai-Bairoko with Munda. Another Army unit 3d
Battalion, 145th Infantry would divide itself, with half securing
the beachhead and the remainder serving as the reserve force.
Intelligence reports indicated 500 Japanese troops were in place on
Dragons Peninsula. Liversedge and the regimental headquarters
accompanied the 1st Raiders.
A reconnaissance patrol headed by raider Captain Clay
A. Boyd had already been on the island for some time when the American
force landed on 5 July. His small detachment, a coastwatcher, and the
ever-present native scouts helped guide the initial waves of Marines to
shore. The natives had also cut fresh trails leading to the Giza Giza
River at the head of Enogai Inlet. With this advance preparation, the
units covered the seven miles of rough terrain to the Giza Giza before
nightfall. With darkness came heavy rain. There were no trails through
the swamp on the far side of the Giza Giza, and the rain rendered the
Tamoko River unfordable, so it took all of the next day for the force to
move less than a mile and cross the Tamoko. There they halted and
endured another night of rain.
Late in the morning on 7 July the raider advance
guard met up with the enemy for the first time. In a brief fight it
killed two men and captured the remaining five members of a small
Japanese patrol near the village of Maranusa. From there the trail
followed the steep sides of a coral ridge for a mile. In the village of
Triri, at the western end of the ridge, the advance guard encountered a
second patrol. The raiders killed 11 Japanese here, but lost three dead
and four wounded. The attackers set up around Triri for the night and
arranged ambushes along the trails entering the village. At dawn on 8
July a strong enemy force bumped into the platoon of raiders from
Company D blocking the trail to Bairoko. The fight lasted all morning
and the Japanese did not break off till Company C arrived on the scene.
The enemy left behind 50 dead.
(click on image for an enlargement in a new window)
While the Army companies held Triri, the raider
battalion moved out in the afternoon for Enogai. That trail entered yet
another swamp along the southern edge of the inlet. This one was so bad
that Griffith decided to return to Triri and try a new route the next
day. It was just as well, for the Japanese had renewed their
counterattack on the Bairoko trail and were pressing hard on the
soldiers. A raider platoon from Company B slipped around the enemy flank
and soon caused the Japanese to withdraw again.
On the morning of 9 July the 1st Raider Battalion
headed down a different trail toward Enogai. It crossed the swamp by an
easier route and led onto the high ground that dominated the objective.
At 1500 Company C made contact with the Japanese defenses. Company A
went into line on the left of Company C, anchoring its left flank on
Leland Lagoon. Company B took the right flank. Thick jungle canopy
prevented the use of mortars, but the lack of light also kept
undergrowth to a minimum, leaving good fields of fire for small arms.
Companies A and C were soon pinned down, though Company B reported no
contact to its front. As night fell the firing slacked off.
Early the next morning Company B patrols moved
forward and discovered their portion of the front unoccupied. Griffith
then ordered his right flank to attack through the open terrain near the
inlet. Mortars provided valuable support and Company B advanced quickly.
With their flank turned, the Japanese began to pull out and cross to the
spit of land on the north side of Leland Lagoon. Company A's machine
guns turned that into a bloody retreat, but its infantry platoons still
could not crack the tough resistance in their immediate front. By
evening, however, the raiders had surrounded these final holdouts. At
first light the following day (11 July), Company D attacked with hand
grenades and cleaned out the area.
American losses in the campaign against Enogai were
54 dead and 91 wounded. But the Marines and soldiers had killed 350
Japanese and seized 23 machine guns and four 140mm coastal defense guns.
These results were remarkable given the handicaps which the American
forces faced. The rough terrain had made it impossible for the troops to
carry all the rations and ammunition they needed. (The 1st Raiders had
gone without food for more than a day when supplies air-dropped to Triri
finally reached them on the front lines at Enogai the evening of 10
July.) With the exception of one air strike, fire support had come
entirely from the raiders' handful of 60mm mortars.
There was also no way to quickly evacuate wounded to
adequate hospitals until the Marines had taken Enogai. Then, on July 11,
three PBYs flew in to carry the casualties to the rear. That mission
almost had an unhappy ending when two Japanese planes appeared and
strafed the PBYs as they sat on the water boarding the wounded. Luckily
damage was slight and the amphibian planes were able to take off after
the attack. When the PBYs departed they carried two of Liversedge's
staff officers with a plea for better aerial resupply and for the 4th