Invasion of Saipan: Surviving Civilians (June-July 1944)

marines Saipan
Figure 1.--Here an American Marine only a few days after Saipan was secured has made friends with a Japanese boy. The new wire caption read, "American Marines and Infatrymenwho took Saipan extended a rotective hand to the Japanese women sand children left behinf by the Jap soldiers. A friendly Yank Marine gets a big hick out of giving a little Jap voy a ride on his shoulders." The photograph was dated July 11, only days after the island was secured. (The date may be when the newspaper received it rather than when the photograph was taken.) One wonders after what the boy was told before the American invasion what was going through his mind.

Most of the civilians on Saipan survived the invasion and fighting. Almost none of the Japanese soldiers survived by surendering. Among the Japanese military who committed suicide was Admiral Nagumo whon led the carrier attack on Pearl Harbor nearly 3 years earlier. An estimated 90 percent of the Jap[anese civilians are believed to have survived. Many of the Japanese who did not survive committed suiside because the Japanese authorities terrified them with horific tales about what the Anericans did to captives, including women and children. We are not sure why the Japanese authorities did this. The American occupation of Saipan was the first American encounter with Japanese civilians. Saipan had been made a Japanese trusteeship after World war I and there was an acrive effprt to breing in Japanese settlers. The civilians encountered by the Americans were interned in camps. Here the military authorities could keep them away from the fighting as well as provide food, shelter, and military care. The Japanese were by far the largest group on the Island, but not the only group. After the figting was over, authorities opened schools for the children. The camps held 13,954 Japanese, 1,411 Koreans, 2,966 Chamorros and 1,025 Carolinians at the end of the War (September 1945). The Koreans are probably the survivors from labor bruigades and perhaps comfort women. Japanese civilians on Guam were transferred to Saipan. Conditions in the camps were primitive, but basic sanitation was maintained and food was adequate--better than before the American invasion. As soon as the fighting ended, families were allowed to leave released from Camp Susupe during the day to raise vegetables. The camp had an improvised Buddhist temple which the Japanese also used for Shinto religious ceremonies. The Japanese on Saipan had a high birth rate. There were many Japanese orphans in the camps. These were children whose parents had committed suicide. Some had also killed their children. Others while killing themselves could not bring themselves to killing the children. The Japanese and Koreans were repaitriated agter the War.

Civilian Survivors

Most of the civilians on Saipan survived the invasion and fighting. An estimated 90 percent of the Jap[anese civilians are believed to have survived.

Japanse Military

Almost none of the Japanese soldiers survived by surendering. The Japanese on Saipan as on other Pacific islands simply refused to surrender. Among the Japanese military who committed suicide was Admiral Nagumo whon led the carrier attack on Pearl Harbor nearly 3 years earlier.

Japanese Civiliams

Saipan had been made a Japanese trusteeship after World War I and there was an acrive effprt to breing in Japanese settlers.

Japannese Military Incourages Civilian Suisides

The American occupation of Saipan was the first American encounter with Japanese civilians. And it was a shocking first encounter. Many of the Japanese who did not survive committed suiside because the Japanese authorities terrified them with horific tales about what the Anericans did to captives, including women and children. We are not sure why the Japanese authorities did this. As far as we know, it was not instructions from Tokyo. Some of the soldiers who spread these accounts masy have believed them. And in some instance, soldiers forced the civilians to commit suicide.

Internment Camps

The civilians encountered by the Americans were interned in Camp Susupe. At these camps the military authorities could keep them away from the fighting as well as provide food, shelter, and military care. The Japanese were by far the largest group on the Island, but not the only group. After the figting was over, authorities opened schools for the children. The camps held 13,954 Japanese, 1,411 Koreans, 2,966 Chamorros and 1,025 Carolinians at the end of the War (September 1945). The Koreans are probably the survivors from labor bruigades and perhaps comfort women. Japanese civilians on Guam were transferred to Saipan. There were actually three different camps. The main camp was Susupe. This was for the Japanese civilians as well as the Okinawans and Koreans. The Chamorros and Carolinians were held at Chalan Kanoa. Many believed that at the time of the invasion, the Japanese soldiers were about to kill them. The Japanese soldiers who surrendered or wounded so badly they could not commit suiside were held separately. Conditions in the camps were at first very primitive, but basic sanitation was maintained and food was adequate--much better than before the American invasion. As soon as the fighting ended, families were allowed to leave released from Camp Susupe during the day to raise vegetables. The camp had an improvised Buddhist temple which the Japanese also used for Shinto religious ceremonies.

Orphans

The Japanese on Saipan had a high birth rate. There were many Japanese orphans in the camps. These were children whose parents had committed suicide. Some had also killed their children. Others while killing themselves could not bring themselves to killing the children. We are not sure just how the orphans were cared for and who took responsibility for them.

Camp Chalan Kanoa Opened

The gates of Camp Chalan Kanoa was opened (About December 1944). The military contunued to support the people in the camp. They could move out if they wanted and return home if posdsible or look for jobs on Saipan. The U.S. military operations on the Saipan and Tinian created a variety of job opportunities.

Repatriation

The Japanese and Koreans were repaitriated after the War. The limited availability of shipping prevented immediate repatrition. This finally began (January 1946). Many of the Japanese were patriate (June-July 1945).

Sources

Trefalta, Beatrice. "After the Battle for Saipan: the Internment of Japanese Civilians at Camp Susupe, 1944-1946," Japanese Studies Volume 29, Issue 3, 2009, pp. 337-52.






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Created: 10:32 PM 3/31/2010
Last updated: 6:33 AM 5/4/2011