NEW GEORGIA: Enogai Inlet
The 1st Raider Battalion and the raider regimental headquarters joined
in on the New Georgia operation in the early hours of 5 July. They spearheaded
the night landing of the Northern Group at Rice Anchorage, a spot selected
because previous reconnaissance showed it to be undefended. Coastal guns
from Enogai and the island of Kolombangara fired on the APDs during the
landing, but their accuracy was poor in the driving rain. The only serious
interference came from enemy destroyers; a long-range torpedo sunk one
of the American transports. Nevertheless, the troops and most of their
equipment and supplies made it ashore, and the amphibious group was able
to withdraw before daylight left them vulnerable to further enemy counteraction.
From Rice Anchorage the 1st Raider Battalion was to advance
overland to seize Dragons Peninsula and the enemy's barge bases at Enogai
and Bairoko. The Army's 3d Battalion, 148th
Infantry, would head deeper into the interior and establish a blocking
position on the trail connecting Enogai-Bairoko with Munda. Another Army
unit - 3d Battalion, 145th Infantry would divide itself, with half securing
the beachhead and the remainder serving as the reserve force. Intelligence
reports indicated 500 Japanese troops were in place on Dragons Peninsula.
Liversedge and the regimental headquarters accompanied the 1st Raiders.
A reconnaissance patrol headed by raider Captain Clay A. Boyd had already
been on the island for some time when the American force landed on 5 July.
His small detachment, a coastwatcher, and the ever-present native scouts
helped guide the initial waves of Marines to shore. The natives had also
cut fresh trails leading to the Giza River at the head of Enogai Inlet.
With this advance preparation, the units covered the seven miles of rough
terrain to the Giza Giza before nightfall. With darkness came heavy rain.
There were no trails through the swamp on the far side of the Giza Giza,
and the rain rendered the Tamoko River unfordable, so it took all of the
next day for the force to move less than a mile and cross the Tamoko.
There they halted and endured another night of rain.
Late in the morning on 7 July the raider advance guard met up with the
enemy for the first time. In a brief fight it killed two men and captured
the remaining five members of a small Japanese patrol near the village
of Maranusa. From there the trail followed the steep sides of a coral
ridge for a mile. In the village of Triri, at the western end of the ridge,
the advance guard encountered a second patrol. The raiders killed 11 Japanese
here, but lost three dead and four wounded. The attackers set up around
Triri for the night and arranged ambushes along the trails entering the
village. At dawn on 8 July a strong enemy force bumped into the platoon
of raiders from Company D blocking the trail to Bairoko. The fight lasted
all morning and the Japanese did not break off till Company C arrived
on the scene. The enemy left behind 50 dead.
While the Army companies held Triri, the raider battalion moved out in
the afternoon for Enogai. That trail entered yet another swamp along the
southern edge of the inlet. This one was so bad that Griffith decided
to return to Triri and try a new route the next day. It was just as well,
for the Japanese had renewed their counterattack on the Bairoko trail
and were pressing hard on the soldiers. A raider platoon from Company
B slipped around the enemy flank and soon caused the Japanese to withdraw
On the morning of 9 July the 1st Raider Battalion headed down a different
trail toward Enogai. It crossed the swamp by an easier route and led onto
the high ground that dominated the objective. At 1500 Company C made contact
with the Japanese defenses. Company A went into line on the left of Company
C, anchoring its left flank on Leland Lagoon. Company B took the right
flank. Thick jungle canopy prevented the use of mortars, but the lack
of light also kept undergrowth to a minimum, leaving good fields of fire
for small arms. Companies A and C were soon pinned down, though Company
B reported no contact to its front. As night fell the firing slacked off.
Early the next morning Company B patrols moved forward and discovered
their portion of the front unoccupied. Griffith then ordered his right
flank to attack through the open terrain near the inlet. Mortars provided
valuable support and Company B advanced quickly. With their flank turned,
the Japanese began to pull out and cross to the spit of land on the north
side of Leland Lagoon. Company A's machine guns turned that into a bloody
retreat, but its infantry platoons still could not crack the tough resistance
in their immediate front. By evening, however, the raiders had surrounded
these final holdouts. At first light the following day (11 July), Company
D attacked with hand grenades and cleaned out the area.
American losses in the campaign against Enogai were 54 dead and 91 wounded.
But the Marines and soldiers had killed 350 Japanese and seized 23 machine
guns and four 140mm coastal defense guns. These results were remarkable
given the handicaps which the American forces faced. The rough terrain
had made it impossible for the troops to carry all the rations and ammunition
they needed. (The 1st Raiders had gone without food for more than a day
when supplies air-dropped to Triri finally reached them on the front lines
at Enogai the evening of 10 July.) With the exception of one air strike,
fire support had come entirely from the raiders' handful of 60mm mortars.
There was also no way to quickly evacuate wounded to adequate hospitals
until the Marines had taken Enogai. Then, on July 11, three PBYs flew
in to carry the casualties to the rear. That mission almost had an unhappy
ending when two Japanese planes appeared and strafed the PBYs as they
sat on the water boarding the wounded. Luckily damage was slight and the
amphibian planes were able to take off after the attack. When the PBYs
departed they carried two of Liversedge's staff officers with a plea for
better aerial resupply and for the 4th Raider Battalion.