Sunday, 24 July 2016

Tarawa Ramblings

A.   Hammel, E and Lane, J. 1985. 76 Hours, The Invasion of Tarawa. Pacifica: Pacifica Press.

And the US Tarawa film clip from the national archives

Narrative terms:
CT to mean Regimental Combat Team.  I dont tend to use it as it is very confusing as for example the three assault battalions came from 2 different regiments but were under command of CT2 and the other Landing Teams as they landed were also placed under CT 2 until later in the battle.
LT to mean Battalion Landing Team
Unit nomenclature follows the format of Platoon (if known)/Company/Battalion/Regiment. Example, 1/A/1/18 is 1st Platoon, Coy A, 1st Battalion, 18th Marine Regiment and K/3/2 is Coy K, 3rd Battalion, 2nd marines.  Some sources just state Company B, 2nd Marines.  This would actually be Coy B, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment and not the 2nd Battalion.

In terms of boat loads I have never found the definitive but have made up a composite from varying sources over the years. There is some generalisation in my figures as the accounts aren't straightforward to follow. For example one account has a rifle platoon split into one load of 12; one load of 17 (12 riflemen plus five from Pl HQ) and one load of 13 (12 riflemen plus Pl Sgt) and another account has LVT-124 carrying 18 men (K/3/2)

Essentially the three LT (Battaltion Landing Teams) which conducted the initial assault each used a similar structure (less LT2/2). The accounts all quote 42 LVT-1 in wave 1 (I read this as initially as 14 per LT).  24 LVT-2 in wave 2 (8 per LT) and 21 in wave 3 (7 per LT). There were spare LVTs allocated as spares to replace break downs etc. However, Ref A, has an account where one LT has 15 Tractors so I don't know if this includes the allocation of spare vehicles, another LT has 24 in the first assault wave (but could mean 24 in the waves to the Right/West of the pier and therefore two battalions worth), and then 12 in the remaining LT.  So I don't think there is anything like an identical structure across the three LT and am now somewhat unsure of just splitting things into 3 LT groups.

LT 3/2 were assigned to Red Beach 1, LT 2/2 were assigned to Red Beach 2 and LT 2/8 to Red Beach 3.

Each LT opted to land with two assault companies adjacent to each other. But the initial wave only carried in two rifle platoons plus elements from the Company weapons platoons. This first wave was in LVT-1s. This is because the LVT-2s didn't arrive until the morning of the actual assault, so the planners had to make two plans just in case these new LVTs didn't arrive. As a result the assault wave 1 went with what was actually on hand. The accounts talk about the slowness of the assault crossing the reef and that as a result the gap between the waves closed up,somewhat (in addition the LVT-2 were slightly faster) as a result the narrative about which LVT arrived exactly when are intermingled while other reports state that the the wave separation of 3 minutes per wave was followed.


Specific changes mentioned:
LT2/8 reinforced E/2/8 with a platoon from G/2/8 to provide a link between it and F/2/8.  If so this would account for an additional 3 LVT loads in the 3rd wave, assuming that the reserve platoons from E/2/8 and F/2/8 came in as wave 2.

The company structure went along the lines of the following:
 The platoons had migrated to the E series and as such had 42 men (3 sections of 12 and a 6 man Pl HQ).  Most of the sources state that that 3 LVTs carried each platoon. Which means each LVT carried between 12 and 18 marines, and there are plenty of references to 18 man boat loads. If each LT had roughly 14 LVTs and 3 per platoon and we know that the plan had each company landing two platoons that gives us 12 LVT-1s.

I orignally made an assumption that elements of the 60mm mortars and .30 Cal LMG teams were distributed among the platoon vehicles. This then leaves the other two LVTs carrying the balance of the Company Weapons platoon (about 15 marines). However Ref A, Page 51, has a line which says the the weapons Platoon leader K/2/2 brought in three 60mm Mortars in his track so I am revising this assumption that they are in their own AMTRACs somewhere.  The report of LT 2/8 says there were 12 AMTRACS in the first wave in which case, and noting that the arrival schedule between waves had become compressed, may mean that the elements in the 3rd wave could have included these weapon teams.  In which case it might make for a clearer breakdown.

Wave 2 has the 3rd rifle platoon and possibly a section of Combat engineers and the 8 LVT-2s in the LT would seem to support this (3+1 per Company).  Ref A, Page 59, lists the 17 occupants as being assault engineers from from 3rd Platoon A/1/18.

Wave 3 has the company HQ and a MMG platoon from the Bn Heavy Weapons platoons plus other supports, apart from LT 2/2 which had elected to land it's 3rd rifle company in early and held the MMG platoons back on the LCVPs.  Ref A, Page 57 indicates that a section of the MMG Platoon was in an AMTRAC with the Platoon Commander so would assume that three of the LVT-2s are used per LT for the MMG platoon (less 2/2)

I keep meaning to add more detail as i found it but the same HDD crash which lost all my aircraft artwork also had all my Tarawa source information so gradually having to find it all again.

If anyone has more info to flesh it out it would be great fully received, Plus the above has a lot of generalisations in it, which I did have recorded as to where it came from. For example the CMOH Citation for SSgt Bordelon mentions "his" LVT but it is in fact the one carrying the Company Commander (who also survived the initial hit) so I do need to go into more detail

Friday, 22 July 2016

Tarawa - LVT Allocation

I thought it time to go back and look at detail on the structure of assault waves.

We know that the LVT-2 only joined up with the rest of the invasion force as the assault began so were allocated to the second and third waves (a back up plan of how to go without the additional vehicles had been made)

A range of sources state that:
42 LVT-1s comprised the first wave;
24 LVT-2s, the second;
21 LVT-2s, the third.

Divide that between the thee assault battalions and we get something like
14 LVT-1 in wave 1
8 LVT-2 in wave 2
7 LVT-2 in wave 3

As to the loading plan, the three assault battalions appear to have had the same tactical loading plan based on the E Series organisations;
Four reinforced rifle platoons in the first wave
Two reinforced rifle platoons in the second wave
Two Company HQ and supports in the third wave
The rest of the battalion would follow in LCVP

Each wave was meant to have been separated by 3 minutes but in war nothing goes to plan and there is plenty of evidence documenting the intermingling of the boat teams on the way in.
The three waves carried the lead companies from the three Landing teams onto Beach Red-1, Beach Red-2 and Beach Red-3.

Looking at the landing plan at company level in more detail we have:
Two rifle platoons with the Company weapons platoon 60mm and .30 Cal Sections in the first wave
one rifle platoon in the second wave
Company HQ and a Platoon from the Bn MG platoon in the third wave.

The assault rifle platoons are stated as comprising 42 men.  This is three 12 man sections and a 6 men in the Platoon HQ.

If each assault platoon has 3 LVT-1s that makes 6 per company and 12 per LT or 36 in the first wave. So what went in the other 6?  It is reasonable to assume that the other 6 are split two to each LT, one per company and could have carried the balance of the Company weapons platoon if we assume that the 60mm and .30cal teams are dispersed in the rifle platoon vehicles (Platoon HQ, SNCOs, ammo carriers etc).  If we accept this model that gives us a combat loading of 18 men per vehicle (rifle platoon LVT) and 15 men in the Weapons platoon LVT.

Wave 2 then has a similar loading plan
3 LVT-2 carrying the third platoon of each company
1 LVT-2 carrying an undisclosed load possibly combat engineers (noting there isn't any more company support elements or battalion weapons mentioned in the first two waves in the available accounts)

Wave 3
Company HQ