Battle of Apamama, 21-25 November 1943

The battle of Apamama (21-25 November 1943) saw the Americans capture this atoll in the Gilbert Islands after a brief clash with a Japanese garrison.

Apamama had been occupied by the Japanese in the summer of 1942, but by November 1943 was only defended by a small detachment from the 3rd Special Base Force. The Americans decided to occupy the atoll as part of their wider invasion of the Gilbert Islands, using part of the 6th Marines if it was occupied in some strength. The V Amphibious Corps Reconnaissance Company (Captain James L. Jones) was given the task of investigating the island, to see if it needed the larger force. Aerial photos suggested that the island was almost undefended, but did find one apparently abandoned 6in naval gun.

The atoll was subjected to an aerial bombardment on 17-18 September, as part of the build-up to Operation Galvanic.

The reconnaissance company was transported to the atoll on a US submarine (USS Nautilus), and were lucky to survive an attack by the destroyer USS Ringgold, which hit her with a 5in shell. The company landed on west end of Joe island (a small island in the south of the atoll) on the afternoon of 20 November, having missed their intended landing point on John island (a larger island to the east). The company crossed John, and defeated a 3-man Japanese patrol. They then advanced north, before finding a force of 23 Japanese soldiers dug in at the southern end of Otto island, on the eastern side of the atoll. On 23 November Jones attempted to cross from Orson to Otto islands, but the Japanese fire was too intense. On the morning of 24 November the Nautilus shelled the Japanese positions, in an attempt to all Jones and his men to bypass the strong point by boat, but the Japanese fire was too intense. That afternoon a destroyer added a few rounds to the bombardment.

On the following morning, 25 November, a group of natives informed Jones that the Japanese were all dead. On investigation four had been killed in the bombardment and eighteen committed suicide. Jones had lost two dead, two wounded and one injured.

On 25 November the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines (Brigadier General Hermle), took over the occupation. A 7,000ft bomber strip was operational by 15 January 1944, located on the largest island - Apamama, in the north of the atoll.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (27 October 2017), Battle of Apamama, 21-25 November 1943 ,

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