Landing On Emirau - Preparations


Halsey's message reached Wilkinson on Guadalcanal on 15 March, by which time ships were already loading for the Kavieng operation, which had originally been scheduled for 18 March. This operation was to have been carried out by Major General Roy S. Geiger's I Amphibious Corps, with the 40th Infantry Division and 3rd Marine Division, reinforced by the 4th Marines. For Emirau, Lieutenant Colonel Alan Shapley's 4th Marines would be sufficient, reinforced by Company C, 3rd Amphibian Tractor Battalion; Company A (Medium), 3rd Tank Battalion, equipped with M4 Sherman tanks; a company of pioneers from the 2nd Battalion, 19th Marines; signals, ordnance and motor transport detachments; and a composite anti-aircraft battery of the 14th Defense Battalion. This would be the first operation for the 4th Marines, which had been reformed on 1 February 1944 from four battalions of Marine Raiders, the original 4th Marines having been destroyed in the Battle of Corregidor. Commodore Lawrence F. Reifsnider was appointed to command the amphibious operation. Brigadier General Alfred H. Noble, the Assistant Division Commander of the 3d Marine Division would command the expeditionary troops. Noble, who was also slated to become island commander, was given a small staff created from I Amphibious Corps and 3rd Marine Division personnel. An air command was organized for Emirau under Colonel William L. McKittrick from the larger one intended for the Kavieng operation.

No opposition was expected on Emirau, but strong naval and air support was provided. A covering force under Rear Admiral Robert M. Griffin, consisting of the battleships USS New Mexico, Mississippi, Idaho and Tennessee, accompanied by the escort carriers USS Manila Bay and Natoma Bay, and 15 destroyers, carried out part of the original Kavieng plan—the bombardment of Kavieng and the surrounding area. In all, some 1,079 rounds of 14-inch and 12,281 rounds of 5-inch ammunition were fired. Unfortunately, the bombardment gave Rear Admiral Ryukichi Tamura the impression that the expected invasion by Allied forces was imminent and he gave the order to kill all the European prisoners in Kavieng. At least twenty-three of them were executed in the Kavieng Wharf Massacre, which later led to six of the perpetrators being sentenced for war crimes in 1947. Sentenced to death by hanging, Tamura was executed at Stanley Prison on 16 March 1948.

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