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    Pityilu Island Manus Province Papua New Guinea

Location
Lat 1° 57' 0S Long 147° 13' 0E  Pityilu Island located in the north east of Manus Island. The island is nearly three miles long and varies in width of 250-650 yards.

Wartime History
A small Japanese garrison of approximately 60 troops were station on the island during early 1944. Prior to the American landing, Naval gunfire, artillery, and air strikes were used against this island. Destroyers first bombarded it to keep down hostile fire when the approaches to Lorengau and Lugos Mission were being cleared of mines.

On March 30, 1944 at 06:30am, two destroyers fired 30 rounds each at the island until 0730. A spectacular air strike followed the naval fire. For the first 10 minutes P-40's dive-bombed the landing beach; the next 10 minutes P-40's and Spitfires strafed the entire island. Immediately afterwards the 61st Field Artillery Battalion, which had registered the previous day from positions on the south side of the Lorengau Airfield, pounded Pityilu with 105mm artillery fire.

When the artillery barrage was lifted, two LCS's (Landing Craft, Support) on either flank of the beach opened up with their rockets. By this time the assault waves were approaching the shore, and the rockets searched the island in front of the first wave. The assault force consisted of the US Army 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry, reinforced landed. The beach chosen for the assault was the only one suitable for landing; with white, hard sand and located at the center of the southern shore. Six waves of troops were transported in LVT's, LCM's, and LCV's. After landing, the troops advanced through the coconut plantation covering the western two-thirds of the island.

The successive waves landed unopposed and the troops established a beachhead with Troop C as the left wing, Troop A in the center, and Troop B on the right. At 1000 some patrols sent out immediately after landing reported no contact with the enemy. The Reconnaissance Platoon moved by buffalo to the west, while Troop C in reserve on the beach sent patrols west into the interior. Troops A and B, with one medium tank leading the way, began an advance east toward the rain forest which covered that end of the island.

As the troops advanced they ran into light machine gun and sniper fire which was easily silenced. Enemy guns in a hut, encountered by Troop B after moving 1,000 yards along the south coast, were neutralized by the tank, which blew up the entire position. At 1212, after progressing 1,500 yards, Troop A ran into heavy resistance from dug-in positions midway between the north and south shores. Troop A started to withdraw to permit an artillery concentration to be placed on the position, but the Japanese followed the withdrawal so closely that it was impossible to evacuate our wounded until a light tank was brought up to cover this operation. Then a 45-minute artillery concentration was placed on the enemy bunker, after which Troop A, aided by the light tank, attacked the position and killed 14 Japanese. Troop B came upon a hastily constructed trench containing 21 Japanese, who gave their position away by loud chatter. When 2nd Lt. John R. Boehme and two privates went out to investigate the position, they were wounded by fire from the group. In spite of his wound, Pvt. Paul A. Lahman advanced on the position, firing clip after clip from his BAR. He was credited by Lieutenant Boehme with the destruction of practically the entire force. At 1720 the squadron withdrew on regimental orders to a position on the western edge of the rain forest and established a perimeter for the night. The Reconnaissance Platoon patrolled the western end of the island and returned to report no contact. Although the attacking force then did not know it, all the Japanese garrison had been killed or wounded. After a bombardment the next morning, the squadron advanced and discovered more dead Japanese, which made a total of 59 killed against 8 cavalrymen killed and 6 wounded on Pityilu. Seizing Pityilu was an expensive operation compared with the other small islands, which turned out to be unoccupied.

Afterwards, a detachment of the 140th US Navy Construction Battalion "Seabees" arrived on the island and began constructing Pityilu Airstrip.

Pityilu Airfield
Built by Americans and used by the US Navy and turned over to the Royal Navy.

JM-1 Marauder Bureau Number 66617
Plot Auer crashed December 29, 1944

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Last Updated
August 25, 2018

 

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