Download FREE briefings. Have an account? Please log in. Text Size: A A A

“Walt’s Ridge”: Col. Lewis Walt and the Battle of Cape Gloucester

WWII

“Walt’s Ridge”: Col. Lewis Walt and the Battle of Cape Gloucester

During the Battle of Cape Gloucester, Lewis William Walt led a perilous assault on the well-fortified Aogiri Ridge. It was renamed Walt’s Ridge in his honor.

During the Battle of Cape Gloucester, Lewis William Walt led a perilous assault on the well-fortified Aogiri Ridge. It was renamed Walt’s Ridge in his honor.

by Al Hemingway

In searching the bodies of enemy dead, the Marines uncovered an important dispatch on the body of one Japanese officer. The message read: “It is essential that we conceal the intention that we are maintaining positions on Aogiri Ridge. Concerning the occupation of this position, it is necessary that Aogiri Yama is maintained.”

Where was this Aogiri Ridge? Marine planners scanned their maps but found no such location. From information gleaned from enemy maps it was thought to be somewhere near the Hill 150 area.

Japanese Fortifications

A small group of Japanese had managed to set up positions in a lowland area near Hill 150 where a supply dump was situated. Companies from the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, aided by tanks and half-tracks, neutralized the fortifications. Here, the Leathernecks met weak resistance, and it was determined that this was not the mysterious Aogiri Ridge they had been seeking.

The most audacious plots to assassinate the man responsible for the death of millions...
Get your copy of Warfare History Network’s FREE Special Report,
Killing Adolf Hitler

Lieutenant Colonel Lewis W. “Silent Lew” Walt took command of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines when both its commanding officer and executive officer were wounded. As the battalion crept forward, the Marines were soon receiving heavy fire. Also, Walt noticed the “increasing steepness” of the terrain. He was convinced he had found the true Aogiri Ridge.

Holding On to Hard-Earned Gains

Walt badgered his superiors for a 37mm gun to aid his beleaguered men. Brigadier General Shepherd sent Walt Companies K and L, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines to reinforce the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. The barrel-chested colonel had devised a plan to envelop the ridge from the southeast, but the wicked terrain made the going painfully slow.

According to the 1st Marine Division special action report, “The situation was desperate. The assault elements had reached the limit of their physical endurance and morale was low. It was a question whether or not they could hold their hard-earned gains.”

Calling for the 37mm howitzer to be pulled forward, Walt asked for volunteers to get the gun into position to fire. When no one stepped forward, he and his runner tried to push the cumbersome piece up the hill. While doing this, Walt pulled both his arms from their shoulder sockets. Witnessing this, Marines soon volunteered to get the howitzer the rest of the way up the incline.

Reaching the Summit

Along the summit of Aogiri Ridge, the Marines counted 37 earth and log bunkers manned by crews with automatic weapons and machine guns. Most of the trenches had interconnecting tunnels as well. As a hard monsoon rain fell, the Leathernecks could hear the enemy preparing their defenses and being reinforced amid the chants of “Marines prepare to die!”

As darkness fell, Walt’s men dug in for the night fully expecting a Japanese counterattack. They were not let down. All supporting weapons were brought to bear on the immediate front of the Marine perimeter. The 105mm shells from the 4th Battalion, 11th Marines screeched overhead and crashed into the attacking Japanese hordes. The 37mm field piece Walt and his Marines had manhandled up the ridge fired canister rounds at the attackers.

Walt ordered the artillery shells closer to the Marine perimeter. Major A.M. Roebuck later wrote: “At 0300 I was in the FDC [Fire Direction Control Center] of the 4th Battalion, 11th Marines…. I objected vigorously as the range kept on being reduced until we were practically firing on our own troops.”

“You Die, You Son of a Bitch!”

On the fourth Banzai charge, a Japanese major and two other officers managed to get through the line and came precariously close to Walt’s foxhole. Suddenly, one officer was killed when several artillery rounds fell short. Walt later stated: “He actually died three paces from where I was crouched .45 in hand waiting for him.”

Pharmacist Mate 2nd Class Herman Billnitzer, a corpsman with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, later remembered Aogiri Ridge: “The Japs came screaming, shouting, and hollering: ‘You die, you die, you son of a bitch!’ They were firing their weapons and waving their swords. We cut loose with all the firepower we had…. The jungle was well lit from all the shells. The noise was so intense you could not hear yourself scream. The cries, groans and screams of the dying and wounded were beyond human description…. I heard the cry for corpsmen and moved among the men … giving shots of morphine for pain relief….”

The most audacious plots to assassinate the man responsible for the death of millions...
Get your copy of Warfare History Network’s FREE Special Report,
Killing Adolf Hitler

The 11th Marines’ artillery struck one group of enemy soldiers massing for a fifth Banzai assault. This ended the Japanese attempts to seize Aogiri Ridge. The following morning hundreds of Japanese bodies were strewn across the battlefield.

Earning the Navy Cross

“Much credit must be given to our company commander, Captain Andrew “Ack Ack” Haldane, and our battalion commander, Lt. Col. Lew Walt,” continued Billnitzer. “It was their inspiration and brilliant leadership that helped to repel the Japs.”

Shepherd soon renamed Aogiri Ridge “Walt’s Ridge.” For his outstanding bravery on Cape Gloucester, Walt was awarded the Navy Cross.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *



Issue Previews

USS Potomac: FDR’s White House on the Water

USS Potomac: FDR’s White House on the Water

President Franklin D. Roosevelt took the bullet-proofed yacht the USS Potomac on two of the greatest diplomatic missions of WWII.

Il-2 Sturmovik: The Soviet’s Deadly Tank Killer

Il-2 Sturmovik: The Soviet’s Deadly Tank Killer

The Soviet Air Force’s Ilyushin Il-2 “Storm Bird” took a heavy toll in German armor on the Eastern Front.

“Love” Company in the Vognes Mountains

“Love” Company in the Vognes Mountains

The author, a rifleman in “Love” Company, 399th Infantry Regiment, 100th Infantry Division, recalls brutal winter combat on the French-German border.

The Last Doolittle Raider: 75 Years After the Daring Mission

The Last Doolittle Raider: 75 Years After the Daring Mission

The last of the Doolittle Raiders observes the anniversary of the Tokyo bombing mission.

facebook gplus twitter youtube rss

Enter Your Log In Credentials

Forgot your Password?

×
.