[Tuttle climbed up to sit with an artillery battery with a high perch overlooking the next advance.]
Finally orders came in for my artillery unit to hit targets near the beach. I watched boats come in toward the beach, alternately covering my ears with one hand until someone lent me a pair of good earplugs. Our 105 mm guns walked a pattern down the northeast sides of the hill masses that overlooked the beach from the south and east. Other guns put fresh craters into the towns that bracketed the beach. Recent experience with civilian mob attacks made villages wholly expendable.
On the crumpled plain below our position I could occasionally make out vehicles moving slowly along the larger roads. There were friendly infantry in the trees nearby, clearing out brush and treetops of snipers. The snipers down there weren’t the sort who get off a couple good shots then move to another spot. The Japanese soldiers left behind tie themselves up in a tree, from which they will fire until being spotted, then shot and killed, and left hanging in the tree. It is desperate, and sad, and highly effective at slowing down the American advance.
By mid afternoon the RCTs were largely ashore, having broken firm but thin resistance at the beach. They were a mile inland into the first high ground. Below and to the east of me the 5th Cavalry had gone over two miles. Then both groups hit tough resistance at the same time. Both had to get across a river and through a narrow pass at the same time. Both were engaged separately and couldn’t support the other. Each had to work it out independently.
Artillery fire from my hilltop perch shifted from covering the RCTs to bailing out our own division. Radio traffic picked up to an overwhelming pace, as requests came in, were prioritized, then cancelled or reprioritized. More than once a major countermanded a captain, or a colonel overruled the major. Ultimately it was orderly and professional, but tense and chaotic in the moment.
My view had been obscured while friendly units were down in valley roads, but I could see more of them as they maneuvered around their problems. Both regiments pushed up onto hills to one side of the passes they needed, but in opposite directions. A spotter next to me was the first to catch Japanese moving in the gap between the forces.
Without orders, we put artillery into the river valley behind the 5th Cav, where Japanese troops and a few trucks could be seen moving in between masses of trees. They chose to attack the cavalry regiment in the back just as it was itself attacking up a serious slope. Japanese squads came out of the trees in scattered groups, finding holes to fire from and charge out of, too close for American artillery to get at them.
Impacts from some Japanese field guns hit the American held hillside as I heard a voice beside me. “Mind if I borrow those for a minute?” General Connor Colt himself had made the trip up to see the action. I let him look through my field glasses while I took a wide look around myself. Navy destroyers were conspicuously close to the beach, where landing craft were still coming in with combat troops and the first support teams. The destroyers had nothing to shoot at, with the action too close in all fronts. To the south I saw fresh plumes of smoke all across the horizon, where the 112th RCT at least had a few planes supporting it up close.
The general made a few comments to his aide and turned back toward our guns. I got my binoculars back this time. He gave final instructions to the artillery captain before heading back out.
“See what you can do about the Jap artillery down there, and for gods sake don’t let them retreat. We didn’t want to have Japs wedged in between us, stabbing us in the back, but while they’re here we might as well kill them.”