Occupation of Carlson Island (31 January 1944)

The occupation of Carlson Island (31 January 1944) was part of the preliminary operations before the invasion of Kwajalein, and saw the Americans capture an island that they intended to use as an artillery base during the main battle (Operation Flintlock).

Carlson Island (Enubuj) was the next island to the west of the main Kwajalein Island. Once the Americans had decided to land at the western tip of Kwajalein, Carlson became an invasion target for D-Day (31 January 1944), with the intention of using it as an artillery base during the main invasion.

The invasion of Carlos and Carlson Islands were to be the second phase of operations on D-Day, following on from the invasions of Carter and Cecil Islands. Carlson was to be invaded by the 2nd Battalion, 17th Infantry. The artillery would wait offshore for the signal to land.  Once the islands were secured Carlson would be used by forty-eight 105mm and twelve 155mm howitzers, which would support the landings on Kwajalein.

Carlson Island was two thirds of a mile long and 300 yards wide. The Americans had found a pier on the lagoon side and several radio towers, and expected to find 250-300 Japanese troops on the island.

The plan was for the 2nd Battalion, 17th Regimental Combat Team (Lt Col Edward P. Smith) and one platoon of amphibious tanks, to land at the north-western tip of the island. Four light tanks were to land with the fourth wave of troops.

The landings were delayed by an over-complex landing plan which saw the troops transfer from their transports into Higgins Boats, and then from the Higgins boats into LSTs, all in total darkness. This caused a 40 minute delay.

The attack was made in several waves. The first four used amphibian tractors with some LCT(A)s for more firepower. The other waves used LCVPs, which couldn’t reach the shore, forcing their passengers to wade in the final 75 yards.

The landing was made at the north-western corner of the island at 0912. The Americans then began to advance. Company F advanced on the right, Company E on the left and Company G served as a floating reserve.

The Americans had over-estimated the strength of the defence of Carlson. As the troops advanced across the island they briefly came under fire from artillery on Kwajalein, but that was silenced by naval gun fire. One man was wounded by small arms fire, but the defenders proved to be unusually unwilling to risk their lives - eventually 21 Koreans were taken prisoner, but no live Japanese troops were encountered. The island was declared secure by 1210.

The artillery began to land even before the island had been declared secure. The first of the 155mm howitzers was ready to fire by 1525, but the last wasn't ready until well into the night. The 105mm howiters were landed by DUKWs and actually opened fire just after 1500. All of the planned gun batteries were ready to take part in the main fighting on the following day.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 November 2017), Occupation of Carlson Island (31 January 1944) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/occupation_carlson.html

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