The Battle of Eniwetok was a battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II, fought between 17 February 1944 and 23 February 1944, on Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
The invasion of Eniwetok followed the American success in the battle of Kwajalein
to the southeast. Capture of Eniwetok would provide an airfield and harbour to support attacks on the Mariana Islands
to the northwest.
The island had been lightly defended in 1943—the Japanese believed that the Americans would strike at the southwestern Marshalls first. However, the defenders had been reinforced by the 1st Amphibious Brigade in January. Its commander, Major General Yoshimi Nishida along with Tank Company/1st Amphibious Brigade
led by First Lieut. Ichikawa (9 Type 95 Light Tanks), had begun to construct defenses, but repeated air attacks made this difficult, and the tiny coral islands meant that defence in depth would be impossible.
Vice Admiral Raymond Spruance preceded the invasion by Operation Hailstone, a carrier strike against the Japanese base at Truk in the Caroline Islands. This raid destroyed 15 warships and more than 250 planes, cutting off Eniwetok from support and supply.
Naval bombardment of Eniwetok began on 17 February
, and the 22nd Marine Regiment
, commanded by Colonel John T. Walker
, landed on Engebi Island, on the north side of the atoll, on 18 February
at 08:44. Resistance was light, and the island was secure within six hours. Captured documents suggested that the defences on Eniwetok Island would be light, and accordingly there was only a short bombardment on 19 February
before the 106th Infantry Regiment
went ashore. However, the Japanese soldiers had strong positions, and the Americans were stopped by heavy automatic fire. The island was not secured until 21 February
. 37 Americans were killed; more than 800 Japanese defenders died.
The mistake was not repeated at Parry Island. The battleships USS Tennessee and USS Pennsylvania and other ships delivered more than 900 tons of explosive onto the island. When the 22nd Marines landed on 22 February resistance was light. On 23 February the other islands of the atoll were captured.
Eniwetok atoll provided a forward base for the United States Navy
for its later operations.