Sixth Marine Division
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Stories by Sixth Division Marines

Low Hills of Death: The Sixth Marine Division Turns South

by Bill Pierce (29th Mar-Wpns)

The 22nd Marine Regiment had arrived a few days earlier to the southern end of Okinawa. This was after spending 30 plus days in combat on the hilly northern end of the island, as part of the Sixth Marine Division assigned the task of attacking one half of the island.

The Sixth relieved the 27th Army Division, which would finish the battle resting and recovering from its days on the southern lines. As the trucks passed one another on a narrow road, the 27th was greeted by a barrage of rations, bullets, junk and whatever. The Marines were not happy about this change of events. They had hoped they would garrison the pacified north or at least to rest and recover.

The 27th had won no honors or any ground in their sector. That situation changed. The Marines had arrived and were going south come what may. They found a river to their front and headed for the other side.

The Asa Kawa After the Battle

No Marine who was there would ever forget the attack at night across the shallow Asa Kawa River. The 22nd crossed, one company over the low bridge and another wading. Tanks could not be used due to the muddy river bottom. No artillery barrage preceded the attack, only weapons company's 37s and supporting tanks'105mm guns.

Once the 22nd troops were across, two Japanese soldiers sneaked past Marine lines and blew the bridge up. The Sixth Engineers came up and started repairs on the bridge as the two companies were met with a hail of machine gun and mortar fire from the low range of hills facing them. Some units made it to the hills but heavy Japanese fire drove them back.

The attack was called off and the Marines headed back to the starting point on their side of the river. Some actually crawled back amidst the heavy mortars falling amongst them by using a wooden 4' by 4' drainage box hung from shore to mid river. This entailed crawling through the box with weapons, flamethrowers, packs, etc.

The attack was observed from start to finish by Division Commander General Shepherd. With the bridge repaired, the attack recommenced in the morning, this time with tanks advancing and artillery preparation. The low hills of death were taken, but ahead of the attacking Marines lay Charlie Hill, Sugar Loaf Hill, Crescent Hill and hill after hill ... And, another 42 days of combat!