The Invasion of Angaur

On 17 September, 1944, the 3rd Amphibious Group, landed the 322nd and 321st Regimental Combat Teams of the US 81st Infantry “”Wildcat” Division on the island of Angaur to secure the phosphate plant and airfield, and prevent Japanese artillery from shelling Peleliu. By the 22nd, and after fierce fighting, the two RCTs forced the Japanese defenders into the northwest corner of the island, but then the battle began in earnest.

The northwest corner of Angaur was dominated by Romauldo Hill, but it couldn’t be approached effectively without going through the torturous terrain of a large stone quarry beneath it, dubbed by the Wildcats “The Bowl”. Furthermore, the Bowl had only one entrance, which they quickly named “The Bloody Gulch”. With the Japanese throwing shells at the Seabees constructing the airfield, all three had to be taken.

The 322nd RCT secured the Bloody Gulch after three furious and costly frontal assaults, all of which were to cover the construction of a road to bring up tanks and bulldozers. Once the entrance was secure, the battles for The Bowl and The Hill took on a different approach. The Japanese were dug in like they were on Peleliu, but the terrain meant only one RCT could fight at a time. The limited troops needed to be used differently.

The 322nd RCT decided to bury the Japanese.

Once a tunnel or bunker entrance was discovered, the Wildcats seized it. They then packed it with smoke pots and napalm from the airfield, and sealed it by bulldozer. It was then ignited and wherever the smoke and coughing Japanese appeared elsewhere on the Hill or in the Bowl, the process was repeated. After a few days, the Japanese fiercely counter attacked when they heard or felt the approach of a bulldozer. The last hole was filled a month and 1,614 casualties later, on the 23rd of October.

The 322nd had to secure Angaur by themselves was because the other RCTs were needed elsewhere. On 26 Sep, 1944, the 323rd RCT loaded up on the USS Storm King and was sent north to secure the Ulithi Atoll so MacArthur had a deep water lagoon close by for his invasion of the Philippine island of Leyte. The rest of the 321st were pulled off the line on Angaur on 23 Sep so they could be sent to help out the 1st Marine Division on Peleliu. By 27 September the 321st were in the thick of the fighting for Bloody Nose Ridge. That battle would eventually would consume all three RCTs of the 81st Wildcat Division.

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