As the first wave of LSTs and LVTs made for the beaches of Saipan, it was only 8:30 in the morning on the 15th of June. The Japanese waited patiently having endured two days of bombardment from over 20 USN ships, ranging from battleships to destroyers. The 43rd Division of the IJA under General Yoshitsugu Saito held themselves ready to meet the assaulting 2nd and 4th Marine divisions.
The first assault wave was a mixed force of the latest model Amtracs equipped with a rear facing ramp. These armored amphibian tractors, LVT-4s and LVT-4(A)s which were equipped with 3-inch howitzers, would go ashore first. The LVTs could with great difficulty cross the reef, but the the LSTs and small landing craft were unable to penetrate the natural barrier and advance until a channel would be discovered.
As the Marines stormed ashore, murderous fire from hidden machine guns and mortars tore into the exposed men. Strong currents inside the reef had dispersed Marine units across the landing beaches which allowed a crucial gap to appear between the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions. This would cause a great deal of problems in coordination and supply. Later in the day several Sherman tanks made it ashore, but these arrived too late and could not force their way out of the beachhead on the 15th of June. By the end of the day, the Marines had with some 20,000 men on the beaches and had pushed around 500 yards inland. In some places they had established a foothold, but in doing so, had sustained nearly 2,000 casualties.
The night would bring no respite, the Japanese Army made numerous counterattacks. One of these, shortly after the landing, included the first armored assault the Marines of the 6th division had ever experienced. Around 40 Japanese medium and light tanks accompanied by 2,000 infantry attacked through the darkness toward the beach. The 1st Bn, 6th Marines were the focus of the assault, but the Marines stood their ground with the help of illumination from star shells fired from the ships out beyond the reef. Night turned to day and US M4 and M3 tanks, bazookas, artillery and naval gunfire destroyed the Japanese tank battalion as well as the supporting infantry units.
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