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.
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.
You can make out a little more detail in the colorized version below.
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.
While the P42 uniforms were still around on Guam it looks like the only ones with them were the Amphibious Tractor Units.
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