Occupation of Carter Island, 31 January 1944

The occupation of Carter Island (31 January 1944) was one of the first steps in the invasion of Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands (Operation Flintlock).

Carter Island (Gea) was to be occupied in order to secure Cecil Pass, the best deep water route into the middle of the atoll. It was located to the south-east of the pass, and was the third island to the west of the main Kwajalein Island.

The invasion of Carter was to be the first action on D-Day. A unit made up of the 1st and 3rd platoons from the 7th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop and 93 men from Company B, 111th Infantry were to land from USS Manley (APD-1) before dawn and eliminate any defenders as quickly as possible, ideally without alerting the Japanese on other islands.

When the Manley was around 2,600 yards from Carter Island, the troops set off in their small boats. The reconnaissance troops went first, in one motor launch and several rubber boats. The infantry followed in Higgins boats. The plan was for the motor launch to tow the rubber boats to within 800 yards of the shore. A powered raft would then take a two man team to the shore, where they would set up lights to guide in the recon squadron. They would establish a beachhead and then summon the infantry. The infantry would then hold the beach while the reconnaissance platoons would search the rest of the island.

The landings didn’t go quite as planned. The low lying islands were invisible from the launching point. This caused a delay in getting the mission under way. The leading boat then headed for nearby Cecil Island by mistake, and this delayed the arrival at Carter until almost dawn. The raft reconnaissance was abandoned, and the rubber boards went straight in, landing on Carter Island on 0620.

The Japanese only had a handful of men on the island - just over twenty in all - and had built an observation tower at the north-western corner of the island. They didn't put up any resistance as the Americans landed, and the beachhead was soon secured. The reconnaissance patrol then set off towards the observation tower. They found and killed one Japanese solder at the tower, and then began to return to the beachhead, this time heading down the ocean shore.

At this point they finally made contact with the Japanese, coming under fire from a group of nineteen Japanese soldiers sheltering in a shell hole caused by either the naval or air bombardment of the island. The platoon leader ordered a machine gun to be set up in the branches of a tree to provide covering fire, and grenades were then thrown into the crater. As the amount of Japanese fire began to reduce, the Americans crawled forward and dived into the crater. After a brief melee the fighting was over, with 19 Japanese dead and one American wounded. A few more Japanese troops were found hiding near the ocean shore, but by 0930 hours Carter Island was secured.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (22 November 2017), Occupation of Carter Island, 31 January 1944 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/occupation_carter.html

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