Battle of Wakde

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Battle of Wakde
Part of World War II, Pacific War
Troops at Wakde.jpg
American troops advancing on a coconut plantation
Date 18–21 May 1944
Location Wakde, Netherlands New Guinea
Result American victory
Belligerents
 United States  Japan
Commanders and leaders
Jens A. Doe Hachiro Tagami
Strength
~600 Men, 4 Sherman Tanks 1,080 Men [1]
Casualties and losses
40 killed
107 wounded
2 Tanks lost
759 killed
4 captured

The Battle of Wakde (Operation Straight Line) was part of the New Guinea campaign of World War II. It was fought between the United States and Japan from 18 May 1944 to 21 May 1944.

Wakde is located about 225 miles east of Biak Island and 200 miles west of Hollandia.

Battle

Task Force 77, commanded by Rear Admiral William Fechteler supported by USS Stockton covered the landing on 17 May 1944 by the 2nd Engineer Special Brigade, Company A, 542nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, of the 163rd Regimental Combat Team of the 41st Infantry Division. The pre-invasion bombardment destroyed the few 75 mm gun emplacements the Japanese had and damaged several of the 100 bunkers the Japanese had placed on the island.

The first US troops landed on the Island at 9:10 on the 18th on the south western side of the island and came under heavy fire from concealed positions. The fire however, was predominantly aimed at the LCI gunboats and ultimately the Americans reached the beach with only light casualties. By 9:25, the invasion force was ashore with two tanks (the other two having been lost at sea) which the Americans used to secure the beachhead despite heavy fire from Japanese defenders which killed one of the company commanders. The American units then split up. B and F Companies took the tanks and headed west along the coast whilst A Company were sent south-west to clear out machine gun nests. C Company was then sent north towards the airfield where the were forced to overcome heavy fighting with well defended Japanese positions. Even so, the advance north went well and by noon they reached the airfield. By 13:30, the Americans had also reached the north of the airfield but had failed to take the eastern side where the majority of the remaining Japanese forces were located.

The attack continued at 9:15 on May 19 with the rest of the airfield captured despite well entrenched Japanese positions. Following the capture of the airfield, surviving Japanese made their way to coral caves on the coast, holding the Americans to a delay for a couple hours before finally being overcome. The third day of the battle was mostly American forces clearing up the last pockets of Japanese resistance in north-eastern corner of the island where they were subject to several suicidal 'Banzai' charges over the course of the day but were able to destroy the remaining Japanese resistance by the end of the day.

After a three-day battle the island was declared captured on 20 May. Several Japanese snipers still remained on the island until they were cleared out by L Company between 22 and 26 May. The capture of Wakde cost the Americans 40 killed, and 107 wounded, the Japanese lost 759 killed and 4 captured.

Aftermath

Following the capture, Wakde Airfield was quickly expanded to cover the whole island with the airfield being operational on 21 May despite it having only recently been captured and by 24 May, B-24 Liberators were conducting reconnaissance missions from it. It was initially an extremely important airbase, providing a landing and taking off base for attacks on the mainland and other islands throughout the rest of the Summer 1944. Eventually, its use faded, and it became an emergency landing field, with American troops beginning their withdrawal from the island in February 1945.

References

  1. ^ Rickard, John. "Battle of Wakde Island, 18-21 May 1944". History of War. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  • Davison, John (2004). The Pacific War Day by Day. New York: Chartwell Books, Inc. ISBN 0-7858-2752-8
  • Dunn, Richard. Japanese Operations at Wakde Island.

External links

  • Wakde Island, Pacific War Wrecks

Coordinates: 1°56′S 139°1′E / 1.933°S 139.017°E / -1.933; 139.017

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