* World War II Pacific Theater -- Mariananas Saipan invasion s








The Marianas: Invasion of Saipan (June 15-July 8, 1944)


Figure 1.--This battlefield photograph was taken by a U.S. Navy photographer from the "USSS Indinapolis" He took it on July 10 at the end of the Saipan invasion campaign. It was taken at Marpi Point at the moutaneous northern tip of the island. The caption read, "Marine rescuing wounded jap child from along the shorelinr of northern Saipan. Child had been tied in cave by parents." Apparently his parents who were told by the military authorities that the Americans would commit unthinkable attrocities on civilians had chosen suiside by jumping off the cliffs, but they could not bear to take their child with them. Many parents did. Admiral Nagumo shot himself a few days earlier in a near by cave. This marine is risking his life (because of sniper fire and booby traps) to rescue this littlev boy who is probsably still alive somewhere in Japan.

Saipan, Tinian and Rota are the principal islands of the Northen Marianas. American planners debated how to attack The Marianas. The initial plan was to take periferal island and then attack Saipan. Admiral Nimitz vetoed this approach and decided to go right for Saipan. The Americans decided to bypass Rota. Tinian was a smaller island 5-miles southwest of Saipan and thus combined in the Saipan invaion. The American invasion force was enormous. It was an armada of 535 ships with 127,570 U. S. military personnel. About two-thirds were Marines (2nd and 4th Divisions). Seven American battleships and 11 destroyers shelled Saipan and Tinian for 2 days prior to the landings. On the second day the initial force was joined by 8 more battleships, 6 heavy cruisers and 5 light cruisers. Saipan and Tinian were ringed by an incredible naval force which conducted one of the most intensive shellings of the War. Without planes and ships, the Rota garrison had no ability to threaten the American assault on on Saipan and Tininan. The main American invasion force went ashore on a 4 mile streach of beach at Chalan Kanoa. Despite the 2-day naval barage, Japanese shore defenses were still largely intact. The Japanese destroyed 28 American tanks the first day. The Japanese had crefully prepared for the invasion. They had placed colored flags in the lagoon to indicate the areas in which howitzers in positions beyound Mt. Fina Susu has been ranged. The artillery fire proved deadly on the Second Marine Division which suffered 2,000 casualties. Fighting continued for 24 days

Japanese Defenders

Japanese Lieutenant General Yoshitsugu Saito, commander of 43d Infantry Division and Northern Marianas Army Group was given the job of holding Saipan and keeping the strategically located Mariana Islands in Japanese hands. By this time the Japanese knew about the B-29 and that bases in the Marianas woukd bring the Home Islands within range of strategic bombbardment. The Japanese on Saipan was well supplied and equipped. The island was one of the major Japanese bases in the central and western Pacific and had erved as a supply and staging area for their islands further south. Large quantities of supplies were stored in caves. This would be one of the few island campaigns where the Americanns would face substantial numbers of Japanese tanks. The 9th Tank Regiment was equipped with about 100 medium tanks. [Stewart] The Japanese hoped that the intervention of the Imperial Fleet could finally stop the series of American victories in the South and Central Pacific. The failure of Japanese carrier viation and the Great Marianas Turkey shoot dashed those hopes. The Japanese at the start of the War dispairaged American soldiers, believing that as a result of soft living and the role of women that they lacked courage and the will to fight. By the time of the NMarianas campign, they no longer believed this to be the case. General Saito, told his men, "There is only one way out--death. We will show those American devels what courage is." Also located on Saipan was Admiral Nagumo, the commander of the crrier task firce that began the Pacific war at Pearl Harbor.

American Strategy

Saipan, Tinian and Rota are the principal islands of the Northen Marianas. American planners debated how to attack The Marianas. The initial plan was to take periferal island and then attack Saipan. Admiral Nimitz vetoed this approach and decided to go right for Saipan. The Americans decided to bypass heavily defebnded Rota. Tinian was a smaller island 5-miles southwest of Saipan and thus combined in the Saipan invaion.

Invasion Force

America assembeled a powerful armada of 535 with sips carrying with 127,570 service people, about two-thirds of whom were Marines of the 2nd and 4th Divisions. The American invasion force was enormous. It was an armada of 535 ships with 127,570 U. S. military personnel. About two-thirds were Marines (2nd and 4th Divisions). Seven American battleships and 11 destroyers shelled Saipan and Tinian for 2 days prior to the landings. On the second day the initial force was joined by 8 more battleships, 6 heavy cruisers and 5 light cruisers. Saipan and Tinian were ringed by an incredible naval force.

Pre-invasion Shelling

The inasion was supported by 7 American battleships and 11 destroyers. They shelled Saipan and Tinian for 2 days before in preparation for the landings. The vessels fired 15,000 16 and 5 inch shells at Japanese positions on the islands in addition to 165,000 other shells of various caliber. On the second day first 7 battleships were joined by 8 more battleships, 6 heavy cruisers and 5 light cruisers. The two islands were subjected to an almost unbelievable level of firing from this massive assemblage of naval fire power. It was one of the most intensive demonstrations of naval shellings during the War. The naval guns were supported by carrier air strikes. Rails roads, and communities on the island were obliterated. The towns of Chalan Kanoa, Susupe and Garapan were totally destroyed. Caves provided the only available shelter from this destruction.

The Invasion

The main American invasion force went ashore on a 4 mile streach of beach at Chalan Kanoa. Despite the 2-day naval barage, Japanese shore defenses were still largely intact. The Japanese destroyed 28 American tanks the first day. The Japanese had crefully prepared for the invasion. They had placed colored flags in the lagoon to indicate the areas in which howitzers in positions beyound Mt. Fina Susu has been ranged. The artillery fire proved deadly on the Second Marine Division which suffered 2,000 casualties. Fighting continued for 24 days and the rugged Saipan terrain acquired names such as Death Valley, Purple Heart Ridge, and Harakiri Gulch. Fighting on Saipan did notend until July 9 when organized Japanese resistance finally ceased.

Japanese Civilians

Unlike some of the islands which became World War II battlefields, Saipan was an inhabited island. It was in fact the first island the Americans encountered with a substantial Japanese civilian population. There was an indigenous Chamoro population in addition to a much larger Japanese population. There were also Okinawans and Japanese. No one knows the precise population at the time of the invasion. There were, however, about 23,658 people living on Saipan (4,145 were indigenous) in 1937 a few years before the war began. The population of Saipan in 1937 was overhalf of the entire population of the Northern Marianas which totaled 46,708 people. Japanese authorities told civilians that the Americans were barbaric and would bruttaly torture all prisioners, both military and civlian. The Japanese bushido code precluded soldiers from surrendering. Why the Japanese authorities did not want the civilians to surrender is unclear. They urged the civilians to kill their children and commit suiside. Many did. Hundreds of Japanes families committed suiside. Many civilians jumped to their deaths from the high cliffs along the island's most northern point, the last area of Japanese resistance. The suisides included mothers with babies in their arms. Americans and Saipanese used loudspeakers to try to disuade the Japanese civilians to surender. Most of the civilians on Saipan survived the invasion. An estimated 90 percent are believed to have survived. The occupation of Saipan was the first American encounter with Japanese civilians. The civilians encountered by the Americans were interned in camps. Here the military authorities could keep them away fromthe fighting as well as provide food and shelter as well as military care. fter 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). Conditions in the camps were primitive, but food was adequate. as soon as the fighting ended, families were allowed to leve 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 suiside. Some had also killed their children. Others could not bring themselves to doing this.

Losses

American loses on Saipan were costly. They were twice as high as losses on Guadalcanal. The landing force totaled over 71,000 men. There were 3,100 men killed and 13,100 wounded or missing in action. Among the 31,600 Japanese defenders, about 29,500 died or committed suiside. Only 2,100 Japanese soldiers allowed themselves to be taken prisoner.

Reporting in Japan

Japan's cintrolled a steady stram of victories after Pearl Harbor. For the furst 6 months, tghis is exactly what transpired. It wasa completely inprecedented series of victories. Jaopan has defeated Tsarius Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (1905-96), but this was a seady series of victories against both Anerica and Britain as well as the Dutch. Thise victories were stopped cold at Midway (June 1942). But the press reported a great victory at Midway. There was no indicatiin for the next 2 years that the war was going badly. The press continued to report great victories, although the Empire was no longer expanding. This did not cnage until the American took the Marianas (July 1944). This couukd not becovered up as it brought Anerican bombers in nrange of the Home Islands. Even school children were told, imn part because it would mean that many schools were closed, older boy drafted anf children set into the Factories. .

Sources

Stewart, William H. "Bill", Military Historical Cartographer, "An analysis of the 1944 Japanese defense of Saipan" The Japanese Defense Of Saipan (Military Intelligence Service, War Department, January, 1945).







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Created: 5:12 AM 6/28/2008
Last updated: 11:54 PM 5/14/2012