Historical Article: Tokyo Firestorm

historical-article-born-in-battle-forged-in-steel-and-aluminium-logoThe US Strategic Bombing Campaign of Japan – Part 2

By John Dudek @ The Wargamer

US Navy battleship and cruiser shells fell thick and heavy upon the Marianas island of Saipan’s landing beaches on the early morning of 15 June 1944. Well offshore, more than 300 LVT amphtrac landing craft carrying over 4,000 Marines cruised in circular formations, chasing each other’s rooster tails of spray emerging from the rear of their tracked amphibious landing vehicles. They were awaiting the “Go Order” to proceed ashore. At 0830 hours Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner gave that order and the LVT’s fanned out towards the Saipan shore. Somewhere off BLUE BEACH 2 a grizzled, flinty old pre-war Marine gunnery sergeant gave his neophyte troops his final orders. He shouted and pointed to a nearby track then running alongside. “Listen up you people! We’re crossing the final line of departure. That’s Lt. Smith’s amphtrack over there. When we get ashore, un-ass this vehicle as soon as we stop, get ashore and tie in with his herd! One other thing. Don’t get killed! That would make me most unhappy because you know how much I hate doing paperwork. Now lock and load and keep your damned heads down!” As the Marines loaded their M-1 Garand rifles, the old “gunny” put a five round clip into his much older Springfield 1903 bolt action rifle. He winked and grinned at the other Marines in the landing craft. All too soon and with a terrifying crashing suddenness, Japanese artillery and mortar shells began falling thickly and heavily around the Marine amphtracks as if someone had unzipped the very heavens above. Japanese anti-boat guns located in the still hidden pillboxes and caves ashore began taking an ever increasing toll of American landing craft. Meanwhile, Japanese artillery gun batteries located well behind the landing beaches began firing upon the incoming amphibious landing force. The sergeant’s LVT lurched to a halt at the water’s edge and the Marines aboard launched themselves over the vehicle’s gunwales onto the sandy beach, but there was no Lt. Smith or any of his men to be seen. His LVT lay still burning on the coral reef offshore like a number of so many other burning, broken toys out there, all of them victims of an anti-boat gun’s direct hit. A mortar shell concussion knocked down the gunnery sergeant, but aside from a few minor metal splinter cuts he was unhurt. As he brushed the black coral sand from his face, eyes and forehead, he looked up at the smoking, mountainous and craggy heights that lay far above and well behind the landing beaches. He shook his head and said incredulously. “How in hell are those doggy pricks going to build a B-29 bomber airfield way up there?”

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