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MARK R. HENRY, MIKE CHAPPELL
THE US ARMY IN WORLD WAR II. THE PACIFIC

Gilberts/Marshalls/Marianas

The 27th Division seized Makin (Gilberts) in November 1943. In February 1944 the 7th Division landed on Kwajalein (Marshalls), seizing the island in a week for a loss of just under 1,000 men. Later in the month, the 27th Division landed on Eniwetok in support of the Marines with similar results. In June 1944 the 27th Division reinforced two Marine divisions in the bitter fighting for Saipan (Marianas). Almost 30 days of fanatical Japanese resistance ended on 13 July; US losses were 16,000 men. During the battle, the 27th's commander was relieved by the (Marine) corps commander for lack of aggressiveness - a conflict which probably had more to do with differences in tactics between the Army and Marines than anything else. Guam (Marianas) fell to the Marines and the 77th Division in July 1944.

Okinawa, 1945: three GIs from the 77th Division wearing typical uniforms and equipment of late war front line infantry. The medic (centre) has the standard medical pouches but not the yoke suspenders. Note (left) the World War I canteen, and the three-pocket grenade pouch hanging in front of his thigh. Both riflemen appear to be wearing the old M1928 pack, with two of the suspender straps looped together across their chests. At (right) the deep pocket of the second pattern HBT shirt shows well.

Philippines

The 1st Marine and 81st Divisions made the preliminary landings on the Palaus (Peleliu) in September 1944; fierce fighting cost the Marines 6,500 and the 81st 3,300 men. MacArthur's first landings in the Philippines hit Leyte unopposed in October. The Japanese rapidly fed in reinforcements, and the capture and pacification of the island would continue until VJ-Day, costing some 16,000 US casualties. MacArthur then landed on Luzon in January 1945. Gathering strength, the Army slowly began the drive to Manila and the nearby Clark Field airbase. The 275,000 Japanese troops commanded by the able Gen Yamashita mostly stayed in the rugged terrain of the north, waiting for a battle of attrition. Racing ahead with the 1st Cavalry and 37th Divisions, the US forces seized Clark Field and Manila after hard fighting, especially in the city; Manila fell on 4 March 1945. Corregidor would fall to a daring airborne and amphibious assault on 27 February. Until VJ-Day MacArthur continued to expend his forces on reducing the Japanese on the various islands of the Philippines archipelago and preparing for the assault on Japan. US losses in the Philippines were 64,000, with an additional 100,000-plus non-battle casualties.

This unusual photo of the commander and staff of the 6th Ranger Bn in a rear area shows rank insignia and camouflage helmet covers being worn. In combat no rank would be displayed, and billed soft caps were preferred by the Rangers. The CO (front) appears to be wearing paratrooper boots. The 6th Rangers were constituted in 1944 and served with distinction in the Philippines.

Medical services

World War II saw huge advances in the treatment and evacuation of casualties, especially by US medical personnel. 'Wonder drugs' like penicillin, sulfa powder and morphine, and the ability to transfuse with stored blood, drastically reduced deaths due to infection and shock. Medics and sometimes GIs themselves carried sulfa powder and one-shot morphine ampules for immediate use in the foxhole. If a wounded GI could be safely evacuated for treatment - a big 'if' - his chances of survival were remarkably high, averaging 95.5% in 1941-45. About 75% even of stomach wounds, and an astonishing 95% of chest wounds, survived treatment. Even men with limbs blown off, or head wounds, survived more often than not - if they were evacuated to the rear areas quickly enough.

Burma, 1944: dog handlers of BrigGen Frank D.Merrill's 5307th Composite Unit ('Merrill's Marauders', later Mars Task Force) - cf Plate F. The GI with the carbine has padded the straps of his camouflage jungle pack. The Thompson gunner (left) wears the rubber and canvas jungle boots, and a soft billed cap under his helmet; note his dog's first aid pouch. For their third mission in April 1944 the 5307th comprised H Force (Col Hunter) with 1st Bn divided into Red and White Combat Teams, plus the Chinese 150th Regt; M Force (LtCol McGee) with 2nd Bn and 300 local Kachin guerrillas; and K Force (Col Kinnison) with 3rd Bn divided into Orange and Khaki Combat Teams, plus the Chinese 88th Regiment.

Disease, as always, was a major problem: during World War II as a whole, for every one man wounded in combat 27 were temporarily disabled by disease. In the Mediterranean and European theatres the Army's greatest single scourge was venereal disease. Malaria was also a serious problem in North Africa and Sicily. In the Pacific, VD was not a problem - but almost every other disease known to man was; the heavily jungled and malarial South-West Pacific was especially hazardous. Malaria was almost universal in combat areas, and dysentery, dengue fever and typhoid could cause debilitating fever and diarrhoea. For malaria the Allies produced Atabrine pills, which would suppress the symptoms; their side effects were that they turned the skin a yellowish hue - and were rumoured to cause sterility, which discouraged soldiers from taking them as ordered!

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