12 February, 1944, Roi-Namur

On February 12,1944 most of the 4th Marine division had departed and the remainder, with the 121st Battalion, were preparing to leave. Japanese bombers launched a heavy attack against Roi, setting fire to a bomb dump. In the resulting destruction, the 109th "CB" Battalion suffered 102 casualties and lost 75 per cent of its material and 35 per cent of its equipment. The 121st's losses were 55 casualties, equipment was transferred to the 109th to help replace losses from the attack.

On February 12, the Japs hit the jackpot. A small group of planes, flying high, dropped a few incendi-ary bombs on Roi Island. One of them struck the ammunition dump and a moment later the whole island was an exploding inferno. To elements of the Twentieth Engineers and Seabees, who were still on Roi, the holocaust was more terrible than anything they had gone through in capturing the island. Combat Corre-spondent Bernard Redmond, attached to the Engineers, described "solid sheets of flame" that resulted from the explosions of our own ammunition and TNT. The raid lasted only five minutes, but the bombardment from the ammunition dump continued for four hours.

"Tracer ammunition lit up the sky as far as we could see," Redmond wrote, "and for a full half hour red-hot fragments rained from the sky like so many hailstones, burning and piercing the flesh when they hit.... A jeep exploded in our faces a few yards away. Yet half an hour after the first bomb hit, several hospitals and first aid stations were functioning with all the efficiency of urban medical centers."

Casualties were numerous, and it was later estimated that damage to the supplies and equipment amounted to one million dollars. Many of the troops had previously embarked on the transports that were to take them back to the Fourth's base on Maui. Some of the ships were still in the lagoon, and the men came topside to watch the grim spectacle.

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