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Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces

Discussion in 'The War In The Pacific' started by Jim, Sep 7, 2011.

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  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Tarawa was the first large-scale encounter between U.S. Marines and the Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces. The division intelligence staff had forewarned that “naval units of this type are usually more highly trained and have a greater tenacity and fighting spirit than the average Japanese Army unit,” but the Marines were surprised at the ferocity of the defenders on Betio. The Japanese “Imperial Marines” earned the grudging respect of their American counterparts for their esprit, discipline, marksmanship, proficiency with heavy weapons, small-unit leadership, manifest bravery, and a stoic willingness to die to the last man. Major William K. Jones, whose 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, engaged more of the enemy in hand-to-hand combat on Betio than any other unit, said “these (defenders) were pretty tough, and they were big, six-foot, the biggest Japs that I ever saw:’ Major Lawrence C. Hays reported that "their equipment was excellent and there was plenty of surplus found, including large amounts of ammo."

    The Japanese used Special Naval Landing Forces frequently in the early years of the war. In December 1941, a force of 5,000 landed on Guam, and another unit of 450 assaulted Wake Island. A small detachment of 113 men was the first Japanese reinforcing unit to land on Guadalcanal, 10 days after the American landing. A 350-man SNLF detachment provided fierce resistance to the 1st Marine Division landings on Tulagi and Gavutu-Tanambogo early in the Guadalcanal campaign. A typical SNLF unit in a defensive role was commanded by a navy captain and consisted of three rifle companies augmented by antiaircraft, coast defence, antiboat, and field artillery units of several batteries each, plus service and labour troops. The Japanese garrison on Betio on D-Day consisted of the 3d Special Base Force (formerly the 6th Yokosuka Special Naval Landing Force), the 7th Sasebo Special Naval Landing Force (which included 200 NCOs and officers of the Tateyama Naval Gunnery School), the 111th Pioneers, and the 4th Construction Unit, an estimated grand total of 4,856 men.


    Japanese on Betio conduct field firing exercises before the battle. The film from which this picture was developed came from a Japanese camera captured during the assault.

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    All crew-served weapons on Betio, from 7.7mm light machine guns to eight-inch naval rifles, were integrated into the fortified defensive system that included 500 pillboxes, blockhouses, and other emplacements. The basic beach defence weapon faced by the Marines during their landings on the northern coast was the M93 13mm, dual purpose (anti-air, antiboat) heavy machine gun. In many seawall emplacements, these lethal weapons were sited to provide flanking fire along wire entanglements and other boat obstacles. Flanking fire discipline was insured by sealing off the front embrasures. Admiral Shibasaki organized his troops on Betio for “an overall decisive defence at the beach:’ His men fought with great valour. After 76 hours of bitter fighting, 4,690 lay dead. Most of the 146 prisoners taken were conscripted Korean labourers. Only 17 wounded Japanese surrendered.
     

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