Poetry written by Cpl Larry J. "Irish" McMahon while serving with the 543rd EBSR
Additional information on the other Engineer Special Brigades may be found at the
594th EB&SR website.
A site dedicated to the soldiers of the Regiments of the
3rd Engineer Special Brigade.
This page has been developed as an introduction to the service record of the 3rd ESB which served in the southwest Pacific during World War II.
Other Amphibian Engineer Units
from "Surf and Sand"
Robert Amory Jr.
The rest of the 3rd Brigade
1571st Engineer Heavy Equipment Shop
The "stateside" story of the other units of the 3d Brigade is virtually identical to that of the 533d. The two other regiments trained alongside it and participated with it in the full division maneuvers in Carrabelle. The 543d EB& SR (composed of the old 3d Battalions of the 533d Engineer Shore Regiment and the 593d Engineer to the Gulf of Mexico in November 1942. The 593d EB&SR (consisting of the 2d Boat Regiment) made a spectacular convoy trip with LCMs from Massachusetts Battalion, 533d Engineer Shore Regiment and Headquarters, and 1st Battalion 593d Engineer Boat Regiment) took a group back from Florida to Cape Cod in April. These voyages provided the first effective demonstration that small landing craft could be usefully employed far beyond their originally intended ship-to-shore range. On the other hand, the combined training with the 4th Marine Division at Oceanside, California, was exclusively a 533d affair.
In giving a brief account of the overseas history of the Brigade units, separate consideration by regiments is almost essential. Actually the Brigade never participates in actual operations as a unit. Brigade headquarters exercised administrative control over the regiments only as to matters of officer promotion and technical reports. Its primary function was obtaining and forwarding to the regiments equipment and supplies peculiar to amphibian operations, especially landing craft and marine parts and supplies. In addition it acted as adviser to the Theatre and Army commanders in amphibian matters and maintained a separate radio net that provided ready communications between all the scattered elements of the Brigade.
Brigadier General David A. D. Ogden commanded the Brigade from the time of its activation until July 20, 1945 when he was assigned to command the principal base to be established in Kyushu in the Olympic operation. Colonel Moore of the 533d succeeded him and held command until the Brigade was shipped home for inactivation from Yokohama in December 1945. General Ogden's ceaseless efforts to cut red tape and bring Army and Navy agencies together in order that critical supplies might reach the line units when needed and his continual educational pressure on division and corps commanders to insure that his amphibian engineer units were employed with maximum efficiency were a vital contribution to the campaign in the Southwest Pacific. His original executive, Colonel Edward Kraus, was succeeded in January 1944 by Colonel Gerald E. Galloway of the 543d EB&SR who ably held this difficult and thankless post to the end.
The Brigade command post was established initially at Goodenough Island in December 1943, and moved to Finschhafen in March 1944 and to Biak in September of the same year. In May 1945 it moved to Batangas, Luzon, and in September to Otaru on Hokkaido Island, Japan. An advance section of the Brigade headquarters operated as part of I Corps headquarters in the Lingayen Gulf landing and was preparing to act as IX Corps shore party headquarters in the invasion of Kyushu.
New Guinea Campaign Issue of the RAMP
Following is a transcript of the special issue of the RAMP, publication of the 3rd Engineer Special Brigade, issued Saturday February 17,1945.
Edited and published by Head-
quarters , 3rd Engineer Special
Brigade, APO 920. Distributed
Tusday, Thursday and Saturday.
Editor-------T/5 Max M. Moses
Ass't Editor-Pfc Armand Kovitz
Art----------Sgt Alex B. Cook
-------------T/Sgt Earl Hoshall
-------------T/4 John Whisler
Humor--------Pfc Robert Svatos
Advisor------Capt. L. S. McCaslin
Specially Passed By GHQ
This issue MAY be mailed home.
MILNE BAY TO SANSAPOR
THE STORY OF THE THIRD ENGINEER SPECIAL BRIGADE IN NEW GUINEA
With over a year's training behind them, the bulk of the Third Engineer Special Brigade embarked from San Francisco for overseas duty in November and December 1943. They were well skilled in the art of amphibious warfare and New Guinea beckoned as a proving ground.
The early period in New Guinea was one of organization and careful preparation for the tasks to come. The 563d Boat Maintenance Bn had preceeded the remainder of the Brigade overseas and was busy turning out the all important LCM's at an assembly line in Milne Bay.
With the supply of LCM's being built up, the Brigade waited impatiently at Milne Bay and Goodenough Island for it's first mission. The opportunity to prove themselves came in January of 1944 when the 533rd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment left for Cape Cretin, near Finschhafen, New Guinea. Finschhafen at that time was still being subjected to enemy air raids and unloading facilities for cargo ships were in the early stages of development.
In spite of these difficulties the regiment handled the task of unloading Liberty ships with the care and speed of veterans. During a one month period they emptied 35 Liberty ships of their cargo, setting a SWPA tonnage record with 2110 tons unloaded in one day and daily average of 1550 tons.
In February the remainder of the Brigade followed the 533rd to Finschhafen. The Amphibians began to train with the 32nd Division at Scarlet Beach in preparation for future operations. In addition a shuttle service by boat units was begun to more distant points along the coast of New Guinea and New Britain. Under this system, dubbed "milk runs" by the Amphibs, a total of 144,580 ton-miles of cargo was transported in the first month alone and in five months this figure climbed to 2,147,593 ton-miles.
The time for the Brigade to get its baptism of fire was rapidly approaching. The first unit to leave the shelter of Finsch Harbor was again the 53rd which on the 23rd of February moved to Saidor to stage for their first operation
Our Business is Beachheads!
THE MONTH OF MARCH MARKED THE DATE OF THE THIRD BRIGADE'S INITIATION TO COMBAT OPERATIONS. IT IS FITTING THAT THE 533D SHOULD BE THE FIRST TO MEET THE ENEMY, THE MEN HAVING SPARKED THE BRIGADE IN TWO SUCCESSIVE MOVES. WITH STARTLING RAPIDITY THEY SPEARHEADED TWO LANDINGS IN AS MANY DAYS.
On March 5th, with Saidor as their starting point, Company C of the 533d landed troops of the 32d Division at Yalau Plantation, northwest along the coast of New Guinea from Saidor. The operation called for a sweep as far north as Bau Plantation east of Melanua Harbor, and was part of the growing Allied move on Madang and Wewak.
The assault was made by 65 landing craft, including LCVP's LCM's and 9 PT boats. Complete air cover starting at 0700 was maintained throughout by three bombers and eight fighters. The initial landing achieved all objectives, and was run with precision split-second timing. Light resistance was met on the beach, but as they pushed inland artillery fire was encountered by H-Hours plus 12.
Landing the troops was only part of the Amphibian's mission. Once the infantryman were ashore, medical supplies, food and ammunition had to be brought up in the small landing craft, and the wounded had to be evacuated. The men of the Brigade did all this with efficiency, and in addition ran combat patrols to the outskirts of the neutralized area. The total tonnage discharged ran to a daily average of 809 tons, a startling figure under the conditions of poor anchorage and choppy surf.
While Co C of the 533d was meeting their baptism of fire, companies A and F of the same regiment were getting ready at Cape Gloucester, New Britain, for another telling blow against the Japs. The mission, consisting of 60 landing craft of various types with and escort of five PT's left Iboki on the 6th of March for an assault landing at Talasea. Aboard the Amphibian's LCM's were troops of the 1st Marine Division, heros of Guadalcanal.
Hastily planned and rapidly conceived, the operation was none the less a tribute to the Boat and Shore Companies of the 533rd. So hurried were the preparations for the landing that several LCM's carrying supplies to the point of embarkation were drafted into operation almost before they started unloading.
Led by the PT boats, the LCM's and LCVP's ploughed through a choppy sea to reach their destination, despite a night of rain and low visibility, within minutes of the appointed hour.
As the first wave snaked it's way towards shore, it was met by light rifle fire and a stream of mortar fire that continued until after the last wave reached the beach. In some places the reefs were so treacherous that the boats were forced to proceed in single file.
As the troops advanced through Volopai Plantation on their drive to Talasea, a shore of the Brigade organized the beachhead, set up their dumps and out roads through the forests for the heavy equipment that was to follow. Beach defences were set up and foxholes dug around th CP. The preliminary work was now complete, and another advance base had been successfully established to complete a ring around Rabaul.
Before the month of March came to a close, the men of another regiment added further distinction to the work of the Third Brigade. On 17 March 44, a reconnaissance patrol of Amphibian Scouts of the 593d Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment was the first Allied air, sea or land unit to enter Gasmata, former big Jap base on New Britain, since the Nips captured the area on 10 Feb 42.
At 0645 the first wave of Brigade LCVP's raced towards the shore at Aitape to establish the beachhead that spelled doom for the Jap 18th Army at Wewak. The actual landing was spearheaded by Company A of the 593d EBSR.
The first wave of V's was met by only desultory rifle fire. Some distance inland light machine gun fire from an enemy emplacement was quickly stopped by one of the tanks carried to the beach by a Brigade LCM. On the beach the unloading of supplies and equipment was carried out by the Shore Bn of the 593d.
Undoubtedly the most outstanding engineering achievement of the initial operation was the construction of seven jetties, each 40 feet long, and running out to where the larger landing boats had beached in four feet of water. All seven jetties were completed in one hour.
Immediately following the initial phase of the landing, combat patrols and resupply missions were run by A Company for 25 to 50 miles up and down the coast. Co A also teamed up with the shore Bn to unload 30,000 tons of cargo in three weeks.
After a months work spent in consolidating the Aitape beachhead, the 593d was relieved by the 533d EBSR. In a period of five months the 593rd unloaded 153,506 tons of cargo, a daily average of 1,210 tons.
The Shore Bn was also active along the defense perimeter, necessitated by the attempted breakthrough of the Jap 18th Army. The weapons sections of the 533d rendered much assistance in setting up defensive positions. They also helped to man the pill boxes and held down a section of the main defense.
While the Shore Bn of the 593d was setting up the initial beach operations at Aitape in april, Company C of the 593d, attached to the Australian 5th Division, spearheaded the Allied advance from Saidor to Madang, and later Alexishafen.
The Madang landing took place on the 24th of April. While the Australian ground forces marched into Madang from the beach, LCM's manned by C Company carried assault trops into the inner harbor to complete the occupation of what was once the leading enemy air and naval base in that section of New Guinea.
The occupation of Madang was the end of two months of backbreaking struggle against the jungle and the Japs by the Aussies and their Amphibian Barge Company. Together they formed a hard-striking team that displayed unbeatable cooperation and teamwork.
The score now stood at four landings and the Brigade had established itself as an outfit that could do the job of infantry, navy, and engineers.
On the 15th of May the Shore Bn of the 593d EBSR left Aitape to join a task force for the Wadke landing. Because of a last minute change in plans, they were given only eight hours notice of the impending move, and in that time had to load their own equipment, as well as continue their work of loading the Task Force. Bulldozers worked up to the last minute before being loaded.
Preceeded by heavy air and naval bombardment the infantry landed at 0715, H-Hour, and met no opposition. By H plus 60, the troops of the 593d came in on LST's and immediately went to work establishing dumps, building jetties, and assisting in the unloading.
On the morning of D plus 1, the infantry landed on Insoemar Island. Heavy resistance was encountered and Co E, 593d, was rushed to the island to begin the unloading. During the unloading, sniper fire harassed our troops continuously and Co E suffered a few casualties. Headquarters Co Shore Bn Weapons platoon eliminated one pillbox by-passed by the infantry, and also accounted for several of the snipers. Co E mopped up in their area on the right flank and established a bivouac area on the high ground there. a perimeter was formed bt Hq Co Shore Bn and Co E weapons platoon.
By D plus 2, the 593d's defense perimeter had been strengthened by the arrival of D and F companies weapons sections and the men felt more secure. The Japs, however, still had a great deal of fight left in them and in the early morning of D plus 3 at 0530 they infiltrated thru the left flank, set a jeep on fire and killed sveral of our troops with machine guns and bayonets attached to long poles. The tires on the regimental trucks and and weapons carriers were machine gunned and slashed. The attack was wiped out by the combined efforts of all weapons sections of the 593d. Grenades were the best weapon due to the confusion, but 30's and 50's were also used effectively. Forty-five dead Japs were counted in the extreme left flank and in the center of the area.
The gains in the Wadke area were consolidated during the month of May. The Shore Bn of the 593d engaged in beach, dump and access road developments and training for future operations.
The Shore Bn of the 593d EBSR with the Wakde mission still fresh in their memories, formed part of the Task Force that hit Noemfoor Island in the early morning hours of July 2. They were accompanied by another Brigade unit, Company A, of the 543d EBSR, who distinguished themselves even before the landing was made. The company made a continuous trip from Finschhafen to Noemfoor, a distance of 900 miles in order to participate in the operation.
On the heels of the assault troops of the first wave, Co A LCM's loaded with heavy equipment and reserve troops, hit the beach. The Shore Bn of the 593d was ashore by H plus 50 and engaged in clearing cuts through the beach area, unloading equipment and setting up supply dumps.
The beaching facilities were very poor, and the large offshore reef made unloading a tough job but in spite of the difficulties they unloaded 2000 tons on D-Day and between D-Day and D plus 19, 23,630 tons. These figures do not include organic engineer equipment.
The part played by Co A, 543d was equally important. Besides their work on D-Day they participated in the secondary landing of D plus 5 at Namber strip and landinga small force of paratroopers on Manin Island. working in cooperation with the 593d they also assisted in salvaging equipment lost in the fissures lost in the coral reef on D-Day.
The second operation during the month of July, and the eighth and last of the New Guinea campaign, was the landing at Sansapor. It was executed by the 543d EBSR which teamed up with the infantry to make the landing on July 30,1944.
No opposition was met in the initial landing and the Shore Bn immediately set up beach control, smoothly took care of unloading, roads, dumps, and jeties. Unloading operations after D-Day were carried out in the face of increasing air attacks.
THE LANDING AT SANSAPOR BRINGS THE ROLE OF THE THIORD BRIGADE IN NEW GUINEA TO A CLOSE. THE RECORD IS A GOOD ONE AND THE MEN ARE PROUD OF IT. TOKYO ROSE GAVE A GOOD CLUE TO THE REACTIONS OF TE JAPS WHEN SHE LABELED THE MEN OF THE BRIGADE"DESPERADOS". THE AMPHIBS CONSIDER THE TITLE A JUST REWARD FOR NINE MONTHS OF COMBAT.
More from "Other Amphibian Engineer Units"
from "Surf and Sand"
The 543d EB&SR Overseas
Company C 543rd Reunion, Morgantown, Pa. 1998 while serving with the 543rd EBSR
The Regiment landed in Milne Bay during December 1943 and January 1944. The critical shortage of LCMs in the Theatre caused a substantial part of the Regiment to be utilized in the assembly lines of the 5211th Steel Hull Battalion which was erecting LCMs shipped in sections from the U.S. When this crisis eased a few weeks later, the Boat Battalion operated an extensive convoy service bringing new craft and critical supplies to New Britain and the Huon Peninsula. In April the Regiment, now under command of Lt. Col. Hughes, shifted its base to Finschhafrn and continued its emergency supply service to forward areas. With the enemy-held coast between Madang and Aitape stretching nearly 300 miles, an intermediate refueling base was set up by the 543d, first at Kronprinz Harbor and then at Bogia. This
outpost, which was raided occasionally by the Japs, was essential to the operations of all brigades as the scene of the fighting moved ever westward along the New Guinea Coast.
Company A of the 543d made what was undoubtedly the record pre-assault cruise by small landing craft during the war. Leaving Milne Bay it moved steadily up the coast, stopping only long enough to refuel, for a distance of 1400 miles to Biak. There it rested briefly and made the 70-mile assault dash to Noemfoor Island July 2, 1944. An amusing side to this story is that Vice Admiral Barbey, commanding Seventh Amphibious Force, initially refused at Biak to let the boats make the 70-mile run to Noemfoor under their own power on the ground that such a long run was too much for open landing craft!
Meanwhile the rest of the Regiment had been attached to the 6th Infantry Division and on July 30,1944 landed at Sansopar near the western tip of New Guinea. Here its existence was very similar to that of the 533d at Aitape. Bad beach and surf conditions, life on a small offshore island for the Boat Battalion, and hard, dusty work for the Shore Battalion, were common to both places. Moreover, the Jap division cut off to the east at Manokwari, kept harassing the perimeter and on occasions involved Boat Battalion gunboats and other craft in sharp clashes.
Still attached to the 6th Division, the Regiment, less the Boat Battalion but with most of Companies A and B, embarked in navy transports and landed in Lingayen Gulf on Blue Beach immediately south of the 533d. Because this beach had almost impossible surf conditions, it was abandoned within a few day's and the 543d moved to White Beach and operated there under control of the 533d. Its boat elements shared the crowded Bued River with the 533d Boat Battalion.
Early in February, the 543d Shore Battalion and Regimental Headquarters Company moved by LST to Mindoro where they were joined by C Company and attached to the 41st Infantry Division. On March 10 they landed at Zamboanga, Mindanao, suffering numerous casualties from the intense shellfire laid down on the beach. In the next few weeks a series of shore-to-shore operations down the Sulu Archipelago stretched C Company to the limit. Jolo, Basilan and Tawi Tawi were the most important, the latter being only 30 miles from Borneo. As the main fighting on Mindanao shifted eastward and the 533d became spread around the island, Company D and two platoons of C Company moved to Parang to reinforce the 533d.
Meanwhile most of A and B Companies had remained at San Fabian, Luzon, attached to the 533d until the latter moved out and thereafter attached to the 534th. In April they shifted their base northward to San Fernando and in July, in conjunction with elements of the 544th EB&SR, they made an unescorted end run around the northwest tip of Luzon to Aparri where they awaited the descent of the 11th Airborne Division.
In June, Colonel James Walsh was named to command the Regiment and he and General Ogden selected Major Lawton of the 533d to command the Boat Battalion. The scattered Regiment was gradually concentrated at Leyte during the summer of 1945 and attached to the 81st Infantry Division for the attack on Kyushu. After the surrender the Regiment remained with the 81st, landing in late September at Aomori on northern Honshu where it remained until November when it moved to Yokohama for return to the U.S. and inactivation.
The 593d EB&SR Overseas
"Our Business is Beachheads - The History of the 593rd EB&SR" by Ernest W. Paquette
Immediately upon landing in Milne Bay without its Boat Battalion in December 1943 the Regiment, under Colonel Oliver W. van den Berg, found itself faced with orders to move to Goodenough Island 80 miles away. Converting Company E to an emergency boat company and taking over a fleet of dilapidated LCVPs, the Regiment moved over mountain trails to Goodenough Bay and ferried itself to Good-enough. There it performed engineering and port work for Alamo base force.
In February, Company B moved forward to Finschhafen and Arawe where it supported the 112th Cavalry Regiment in its coastal drive east along the south shore of New Britain to and beyond the important Jap base at Gasmata. In March Company C relieved our C Company at Saidor where it teamed with the 5th Australian Division in its drive from Bogajim and Madang to Hansa Bay and Manam Island. In January 1945 this company again relieved the 533d, this time at Aitape and supported the 6th Australian Division as it moved eastward toward Boram and Wewak.
Meanwhile in April 1944 the 593d, less B and C Companies, was part of the great task force that originally enveloped Wewak and secured Hollandia. The Regiment landed with the 128th and 163d Combat Teams at Aitape and cleared the off-lying group of islands including Seleo where company A remained until August. The Regiment, less the Boat Battalion, re-embarked and on May 17 provided the shore party for the force that landed at Arara and then jumped across the narrow strait to take Wadke Island. The smallness of the island, coupled with a fanaticism rare even for a Jap garrison, made this a pretty hot beach.
The Regiment's next assignment was Noemfoor Island southwest of Biak. With a 543d boat company and attached to the 158th RCT, it landed on the coral reefs of Noemfoor early in July. Here the Shore Battalion remained for many months building airstrips, roads and jetties. The cancellation of the K-1 plan for invading Mindanao kept the Regiment out of the Philippines until June 1945.
The Boat Battalion early in 1945 was attached to the First Australian Army and concentrated at Morotai. Company B served with the 9th Australian Division's 26th Brigade that seized Tarakan Island, off Northeast Borneo, early in May. A few weeks later the same division landed at Brunei Bay on Borneo's northwest coast, this time with Company C, 593d, which was joined by B Company after a long rough trip around through the Sulu Archipelago. In the labyrinth bays and rivers washing the important oil fields in this area these boat companies led a life similar to the 533d's in Mindanao and contributed materially to the speedy completion of the campaign. In July, Company A was part of the 7th Australian Division task force that seized the Balikpapan area in Dutch Borneo.
During the summer of 1945, the Regiment, now under command of Lt. Col. Shaeffer, started to concentrate at Batangas, Luzon. It was attached to the 77th Infantry Division for the occupation of Japan and, less the Boat Battalion which was still largely employed in the Borneo clean-up, it moved to Otaru on northwest Hokkaido. After two months there it returned to the United States via Yokohama for inactivation.
Chronology of The 3rd ESB
from "Surf and Sand"
by Robert Amory Jr.
by Brigadier General William F. Heavey
Return to 533rd EB&SR Page
This page established 11/11/98
This page updated 2/1/99
Poetry written by Cpl Larry J. "Irish" McMahon while serving with the 543rd EBSR
Additional information on the other Engineer Special Brigades may be found at the
594th EB&SR website.