Today in History: Retaking of Guam

77 years ago today, July 21st 1944, The battle to retake Guam began. Part of Operation Forager, the plan to capture the Marianas, the Battle of Guam was conducted by the III Marine Amphibious Corps which consisted of the 3rd Marine Division, 1st Provisional Marine Brigade and the 77th Infantry Division. W-Day began at 0600 with assault units forming up followed by a preparatory bombardment. The Marines of the 3rd Marine Division hit the sand of the northern beaches at 0832 and the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade hit the southern beaches at 0832. Considering the beaches are roughly 7 miles apart and not in sight of each other this is pretty impressive. The 1st PMB’s focus in the battle was to secure the Orote Peninsula, with the 3rd Marine Division and 77th splitting the island lengthwise with the Marines on the left and the soldiers on the right. The majority of Japanese resistance was concentrated near the landing beaches and overlooking hills. As such, expanding the beachhead was rather slow. It was a week before the two landing beaches were connected. Once connected the 3rd MarDiv moved north while the 77th headed south and the 1st PMB secured the peninsula. Later on August 7th, once the southern end of the island was secured, the 1st PMB formed up on the 3rd MarDiv’s left flank for the final drive north. Lasting 20 days the battle has been since over shadowed by the earlier, and larger Battle for Saipan.

Liberating Guam - Warfare History Network

Now, let’s get geared up.

The 3rd Marine Division and 1 Provisional Marine Brigade wore rather basic uniforms and equipment in the battle. So much so it can be hard to differentiate them from the soldiers of the 77th Infantry Division in a lot of the photos.

Virtually all wear the standard P41 HBT utilities and most discarded their leggings. Interestingly even in photos of the landings there are few leggings seen. Most units wore them during the landing but would discard them as time went on. Additionally there are very few helmet covers seen. I’m not sure why but they are few and far between it seems. They do seem to appear mostly with the 3rd MarDiv and hardly with the 1st PMB. Some Marines did make use of various nets though. Even the classic 3/4″ square of ETO fame makes an appearance. And chinstraps are down, either unbuckled or buckled but never up around the back of the helmet.

The web gear is also very basic on Guam. I don’t see any thing unique that would stand out or be unique to the battle. I would have expected since the 4th Marines were former Raiders that there would be more customized or unique equipment. It seems that first aid pouch availability was pretty mixed or spotty though. There seems to be no consistency. Marines had either the M1910, M1924 or the jungle first aid kit. I do notice that none of them have the smaller pouch hung under the jungle first aid kit though. Not sure it that is because they only got one or the other or if they didn’t like how long it hung. I wasn’t sure so I sort of cheated and wore one type on each side.

It looks like the units were not issued the M6 gas mask bag like the like the 2nd and 4th MarDivs were on Saipan the month before as none appear in photos. So all extra gear is carried in the standard M1941 haversack. In light marching configuration to be specific. Bed rolls/shelter halves are not seen after the beach. Almost all the shovels are still the M1910 or T-Handle type as well. Knife is worn woven through the connecting belt of the BAR belt since KaBars don’t have and wont accommodate M1910 wire hangers (at least without modification). And the essentially standard dual canteens. The most common canteen cover being the USMC 2nd pattern.

US Marines of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade sit in pouring rain while  one of them uses a radio for communicati… | History war, World war two,  Military veterans
US Marines of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade sit in pouring rain while one of them uses a radio for communication during a lull in the fighting for the Orote Pennisula, Guam. July 29th 1944
Pin on guam ww2
Asan Beach
Historical] The Taking Back of Guam - News - War Thunder
Liberating Guam - Warfare History Network
Guam Invasion, 1944
Marines enter the ruins of Agana, Guam, on July 31, 1944.
Battle of Guam 1944 | Wwii, World war two, War photography
Guam Invasion, 1944
Guam Invasion, 1944. Marines pose with the plaque from the old Orote Marine Barracks, recovered when Guam was invaded in July 1944. Present are: (l-r): Colonel M.F. Schneider, PFC. J.C. Brown, PFC. C.J. Catania, Corporal J.J. Marrino. The enlisted men seen had discovered the plaque, which had been removed when the Japanese conquered Guam in 1941. 22nd Marines, 1st Provisional Marine Brigade.
Recapturing of Guam Invasion, July-August 1944.
Marines pursue the Japanese through the ruins of a Guam Town, July-August 1944. Buildings like these were ideal hiding places for snipers, and were thoroughly searched.
Guam Invasion, 1944
4th Marines on the Orote Peninsula

You can make out a little more detail in the colorized version below.

A tank-infantry team from the US 4th Marines advances slowly through the  dense scrub growth that characterized the terr… | War photography,  Infantry, History photos
1st PMB on Orote

It took me a while to determine if this was a Marine or Soldier as they were both on the island and I’ve seen it labled as both but after finding some more angles I think it is safe to call it the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade on the Orote Peninsula. Main element that helped me besides finding more souces was the suspenders have the narrow size of the M1941.

Diaporama Photo Bataille de Guam en 1944 | Laintimes
1st Provisional Marine Brigade on the Orote Peninsula
Historic WWII photos show gritty U.S. Marine struggle over Guam
負け犬の遠吠え 大東亜戦争37 マリアナ諸島の戦い④ 原爆の島|Underdog|note
Guam Invasion, 1944
The drums are makeshift deep wading gear.
Marching Through Agana. It’s unclear if this is the 3rd MarDiv during it’s capture or 1st PMB moving up to link up with the 3rd afterwards.
File:1944 Guam Plaza de Espana.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
3rd MarDiv
US Marines marching through a jungle, Guam, 1944 | The Digital Collections  of the National WWII Museum : Oral Histories
Guam- July 20: American Marines ducking below gunwales while approaching Ascan Point beaches in small landing craft during the fighting against Japanese forces for Asan Point.
Check out the M1943 shovel being used in an M1910 cover.

While the P42 uniforms were still around on Guam it looks like the only ones with them were the Amphibious Tractor Units.

American LVTs lined up on beach, Guam, 1944 | The Digital Collections of  the National WWII Museum : Oral Histories
Three Marine officers of an amphibian tractor battalion who took part in the invasion of Guam (left to right): Major Erwin F. Wann, Major W. W. Butler, and Lt. Colonel Sylvester Stephens
Three Marine officers of an amphibian tractor battalion who took part in the invasion of Guam (left to right): Major Erwin F. Wann, Major W. W. Butler, and Lt. Colonel Sylvester Stephens

Here is a period film real of the battle

If you want to read a detailed account of the operation here is a PDF of Liberation: Marines in the Recapture of Guam.

As well there is the indispensable Ibiblio/hyperwar The Recapture of Guam

Here’s where I found a lot of the photos among other random places, Naval History and Heritage Command and wwiionline.

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