'Mopping Up' on Kwajalein
3rd February 1944: Blasting apart the Japanese defences helps minimise casualties - but dealing with the suicidal survivors means getting in close
In the Pacific the US Navy had moved on to Kwajalein atoll in the Marshall Islands and the surrounding islands. After the bloody losses on Tarawa new tactics were adopted - the assault was preceded by a massive Naval bombardment, combined with heavy bombing, that ploughed up the Japanese positions, sometimes to a depth of 15 feet. Over 15,000 tons of explosives were dropped on the small islands.
The devastation was so great that the engineers were not needed to clear beach obstacles. There remained a number of concrete block houses that held surviving Japanese troops - and the Marines still had to clear these out. On this occasion much more use was made of offshore artillery support to blast these apart.
One tank was way out in front of all the others, too far out front. About ten Japs ran out of a blockhouse and surrounded it, throwing hand grenades at it.
By the 3rd February the battle was largely over, 7,870 Japanese had been killed and just 105 taken prisoner, the American casualties were 372 killed and 1,592 wounded.
Lt. Cmdr. John D. Schneidau1, commanding LST-31 had a view of the whole battle from offshore:
The battle for the main island in this section is still going on but the Japs are now pushed into a corner and it shouldn't be long before they are wiped out. They fight right on to the end though, no matter how hopeless the situation is. They figure if they can kill two or three of our troops before they kickoff they have saved their face, or some such rot as that.