Roi Namur, WWII

Many times things didn’t go as planned during Invasions of the Islands in the South Pacific for the Marines. One such incident was at Roi Namur in the Kwajalein Island group. Roi Namur was the target of the 4th Marine Division in the Battle for Kwajalein. There isn’t many references to this so you’ll just have to rely on the memory of an Old Marine who got the story from one of the Marines who landed on Roi Namur, later information of this was given reference to in articles and stories of the Invasion.

Roi and Namur are two separate islands, Roi to the West and Namur to the East. The islands are connected by a causeway on a narrow strip of land with the total land mass of only about a square mile. Namur, if memory serves, had a building that had been hit hard by Naval Gunfire. The building which was a strong concrete structure, after the Naval gun fire there was just a large concrete foundation like a blown up building leaving ample spaces for Snipers, etc. Marines had fairly well cleaned up Roi of the enemy soldiers and crossed the causeway intending to eliminate any snipers in the building.

A Marine was given the task of putting a satchel charge in the building hoping to blow a large hole in the building giving access to any hidden snipers. As the Marine was creeping and crawling toward the building he was oblivious of noise of battle going on around him and couldn’t hear an Engineer calling out to him telling him to stop and not put his satchel charge in the building as it was a Torpedo Warhead storage building, and none of the Torpedo Warheads had gone off during the Naval Gun fire. The Marine crept up to the building and pulled the primer on the satchel charge, throwing it into the building and running back, diving into a hole about 50 or so yards from the building.

There was a terrible explosion, an airplane flying over the area at the time was tossed high in the air and damaged to where the pilot had to limp back to the carrier and land his plane. Blocks of concrete were thrown way out to sea, I don’t know if any landed on ships or not.

Twenty Marines were killed and dozens more wounded.

GySgt. F. L. Rousseau, USMC Retired

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4 thoughts on “Roi Namur, WWII”

  1. Great story Gunny. It kind of reminds me of a similar incident which occurred on 15 May 1975 during the rescue of the crew and ship, SS Mayaguez, on Koh Tang, Cambodia. Of course, the operation was SNAFU from the git-go, and Murphy’s Law was working overtime that fateful day. The assault force was supposed to attack the east beach, coming out of the sun at first light in a surprise attack. But, as fate would have it, they didn’t arrive until the sun was well up and the first aircraft, call sign Knife-26, was hit and the tail blown off. Then as the following aircraft, Knife-31, attempted to land, it was hit in the left cockpit by an RPG and crashed in the surf line. This effectively closed off the east beach LZ, and everything was routed to the west beach LZ, which was no picnic either. However, through the dauntless flying of USAF crews, and bravery of Marines, a small force was established on the west beach, and the enemy was engaged. Sometime around noon, the troops noticed a C-130 drop a pallet with a parachute, and they thought it was resupply of water and ammunition. Only problem was that it was several hundred yards south of their position on west beach. Then there was a huge explosion which scared the crap out of everyone. Turns out that what the fly boys had dropped was a BLU-82 Daisy Cutter, the Mother-of-All ordnance, 15,000 bomb. Luckily, as far as we know, no one was killed or injured by the explosion. But it sure did get your attention, particularly when Cricket (ABCCC Commander) didn’t bother to tell anyone it was on the way. To read more about this, you can go to http://www.kohtang.com , the web site for the Koh Tang/Mayaguez Veterans Organization. Semper Fi!!! Top Pro

  2. Thankyou for the interesting and factual incident related to the torpedo munitions explosion on Roi-Namur. The 24th Marines took Roi-Namur in less than 2 days. PFC Stephen Hopkins, the 19yr old son of FDR’s senior advisor, Harry Hopkins was KIA on Feb 1, 1944. leading an assault on a pillbox. He had turned down an opportunity to attend OCS at Quantico to remain with his machine gun platoon for the invasion. His body was never recovered. Corp. Lee Marvin and later and future Oscar winner was also at Roi-Namur with 3/24 and was wounded later in 1944 at Saipan

    1. Probably . It is generally believed that the detonation of the torpedo magazine at Roi-Namur was the largest single (non-nuclear) explosion in the pacific war. A stateside explosion of a munitions ship at Port Chicago in July 1944 near Mare Island killed over 300 sailors (mostly African American) and was recorded on a bay area seismograph as equal to a 4.0 earthquake as well.

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