Battle of Saipan

Battle of Saipan

Infobox Military Conflict
partof=World War II, Pacific War
conflict=Battle of Saipan

caption=LVTs heading for shore on 15 June 1944. USS "Birmingham" in foreground; the cruiser firing in the distance is USS "Indianapolis"
date=15 June 1944 – 9 July 1944
place=Saipan, Mariana Islands
result=American Victory
United States
Empire of Japan
commander1=flagicon|USA|1912 Richmond K. Turner flagicon|USA|1912 Holland Smith
commander2=flagicon|Japan|alt Yoshitsugu SaitoKIA flagicon|Japan|naval Chuichi NagumoKIA
casualties1=2,949 killed 10,364 wounded [ [ Battle of Saipan - The Final Curtain, David Moore ] ]
casualties2=24,000 killed 5,000 suicides 921 prisoners|

The Battle of Saipan was a battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II, fought on the island of Saipan in the Mariana Islands from 15 June 1944 to 9 July 1944. The invasion fleet embarking the expeditionary forces left Pearl Harbor on June 5th, 1944—the very same day the allies launched Operation Overlord and the cross-channel invasion of Normandy. The Normandy landings were the larger amphibious landing, but the Mariana's invasion fielded the larger fleet.The American 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions and 27th Infantry Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Holland Smith defeated the 43rd Division of the Imperial Japanese Army commanded by Lieutenant General Yoshitsugu Saito. For the Americans, the victory was the most costly to date in the Pacific War. 2,949 Americans were killed and 10,364 wounded, out of 71,000 who landed. [ [ Battle of Saipan - The Final Curtain, David Moore ] ]


In the campaigns of 1943 and the first half of 1944, the Allies had captured the Solomon Islands, the Gilbert Islands, the Marshall Islands and the Papuan peninsula of New Guinea. This brought the Allies up against the main Japanese defense line in the Pacific: the Caroline Islands, Palau Islands and Mariana Islands.The Allies embarked on two campaigns to break this line: General Douglas MacArthur's Southwest Pacific Area command advanced through New Guinea and Morotai toward the Philippines. Admiral Chester Nimitz's Pacific Ocean Areas command attacked the Mariana Islands. The selection of the Marianas as a target was influenced by the introduction of the new B-29 Superfortress long-range bomber. If the Marianas were in Allied hands, then Tokyo would be well within its range of 1,500 miles (2,400 km).

The Japanese were expecting an attack somewhere on their perimeter — though an attack on the Caroline Islands was thought most likely. To reinforce and supply their garrisons, they needed naval and air superiority, so Operation A-Go, a major carrier attack, was prepared for June 1944.


Bombing of Saipan began on June 13 1944. Fifteen battleships were involved, and 165,000 shells were fired. Seven modern fast battleships delivered 2,400 sixteen-inch (406 mm) shells, but to avoid potential minefields, fire was from a distance of 10,000 yards or more, and crews were inexperienced in shore bombardment. The following day the eight pre-Pearl Harbor battleships and eleven cruisers under Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf replaced the fast battleships but were lacking in time and ammunition. [ cite web|url= |title=U.S. Army in World War II: Campaign in the Marianas, Ch. 5 |publisher= United States Army |accessdate=2006-10-13]

The landings began at 07:00 on June 15 1944. More than 300 LVTs landed 8,000 Marines on the west coast of Saipan by about 09:00. Eleven fire support ships covered the Marine landings. The naval force consisted of the battleships USS "Tennessee" and "California". The cruisers were "Birmingham" and "Indianapolis". The destroyers were "Norman Scott", "Monssen", "Colahan", "Halsey Powell", "Bailey", "Robinson" and the "Albert W. Grant". Careful Japanese artillery preparation — placing flags in the bay to indicate the range — allowed them to destroy about 20 amphibious tanks, and the Japanese strategically placed barbed wire, artillery, machine gun emplacements, and trenches to maximize the American casualties. However, by nightfall the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions had a beachhead about 6 miles (10 km) wide and 1/2 mile (1 km) deep. [cite web
title= "Selected June Dates of Marine Corps Historical Significance"
work= This Month in History
publisher= History Division, United States Marine Corps
] The Japanese counter-attacked at night but were repulsed with heavy losses. On June 16, units of the U.S. Army's 27th Infantry Division landed and advanced on the Aslito airfield. Again the Japanese counter-attacked at night. On June 18 Saito abandoned the airfield.

The invasion surprised the Japanese, who had been expecting an attack further south. Admiral Toyoda Soemu, commander-in-chief of the Japanese Navy, saw an opportunity to use the A-Go force to attack the U.S. Navy forces around Saipan. On June 15, he gave the order to attack. But the resulting battle of the Philippine Sea was a disaster for the Imperial Japanese Navy, which lost three aircraft carriers and hundreds of planes. The garrisons of the Marianas would have no hope of resupply or reinforcement.

Without resupply, the battle on Saipan was hopeless for the defenders, but the Japanese were determined to fight to the last man. Saito organized his troops into a line anchored on Mount Tapotchau in the defensible mountainous terrain of central Saipan. The nicknames given by the Americans to the features of the battle — "Hell's Pocket", "Purple Heart Ridge" and "Death Valley" — indicate the severity of the fighting. The Japanese used the many caves in the volcanic landscape to delay the attackers, by hiding during the day and making sorties at night. The Americans gradually developed tactics for clearing the caves by using flamethrower teams supported by artillery and machine guns.

The operation was marred by inter-service controversy when Marine General Holland "Howling Mad" Smith, unsatisfied with the performance of the 27th Division, relieved its commander, Army General Ralph C. Smith.

By July 7, the Japanese had nowhere to retreat. Saito made plans for a final suicidal banzai charge. On the fate of the remaining civilians on the island, Saito said, "There is no longer any distinction between civilians and troops. It would be better for them to join in the attack with bamboo spears than be captured." At dawn, with a group of a dozen men carrying a great red flag in the lead, the remaining able-bodied troops — about 3,000 men — charged forward in the final attack. Amazingly, behind them came the wounded, with bandaged heads, crutches, and barely armed. The Japanese surged over two battalions of American troops, killing or wounding 650 of them. But by 16:15 on July 9, Admiral Turner announced that Saipan was officially secured. [John Toland, "The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire 1936-1945", Random House, 1970, p. 516] Saito, along with commanders Hirakushi and Igeta, committed suicide in a cave. Also committing suicide at the end of the battle was Vice-Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, the naval commander who led the Japanese carriers at Pearl Harbor and Midway, who had landed on Saipan to help lead the ground defense.

Many hundreds of Japanese civilians committed suicide in the last days of the battle, some jumping from "Suicide Cliff" and "Banzai Cliff". Efforts by U.S. troops to persuade them to surrender instead were mostly futile. Widespread propaganda in Japan portraying Americans and British as "devils" who would treat POWs barbarically, deterred surrender (see Allied war crimes during World War II, The Pacific, American Mutilation of Japanese War Dead and Japanese Military Propaganda (WWII)).Fact|date=July 2008

In the end, about 22,000 Japanese civilians died. Almost the entire garrison of troops on the island — at least 30,000 — died. For the Americans, the victory was the most costly to date in the Pacific War. 2,949 Americans were killed and 10,364 wounded, out of 71,000 who landed. [John Toland, "ibid", p. 519.] [ [ Battle of Saipan - The Final Curtain, David Moore] .

Guy Gabaldon

PFC Guy Gabaldon, a Mexican-American from Los Angeles, California, is officially credited with capturing more than 1,000 Japanese prisoners during the battle. PFC Gabaldon, who was raised by Japanese-Americans, used a combination of street Japanese and guile to convince soldiers and civilians alike that U.S. troops were not barbarians, and that they would be well treated upon surrender. For his outstanding bravery, Gabaldon received a Silver Star, which was upgraded to the Navy Cross. [ cite web
title="Pentagon salutes military service of Hispanic World War II veterans"
date=September 24, 2004
author=Burlas, Joe
publisher=Army News Service
] During the war, his commanders had requested that he receive the Medal of Honor for his actions; however, his initial award was the Silver Star. In 1998, efforts were re-initiated to secure the Medal of Honor for PFC Gabaldon. [cite web
title= "An Interview with Guy Gabaldon"
author=Burbeck, James
work= War Times Journal
] . The effort is still ongoing. [cite web
title=PFC Guy Gabaldon, WWII, The Pacific
publisher=America USA


As a result of the Japanese defeat in the battle, Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo fell from power. Immediately after the news of the defeat reached Tokyo, Tojo was relieved as head of the Japanese Army; and on July 18 1944, Tojo and his entire cabinet resigned. [ Hoffman, p. 260.]

After the battle, Saipan became an important base for further operations in the Marianas, and then for the invasion of the Philippines in October 1944. Bombers based at Saipan attacked the Philippines, the Ryukyu Islands and Japan.

Japanese Army Captain Sakae Oba held out in the mountains with forty-six men until he surrendered on December 1 1945.

ee also

* Battle of Saipan order of battle



*cite book
last = Bright
first = Richard Carl
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 2007
chapter =
title = Pain and Purpose In the Pacific: True Reports Of War
publisher = Trafford Publishing
location =
id = ISBN 1425125441

*cite book
last = Denfeld
first = D. Colt
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 1997
chapter =
title = Hold the Marianas: The Japanese Defense of the Mariana Islands
publisher = White Mane Pub
location =
id = ISBN 1-57249-014-4

*cite book
last = Goldberg
first = Harold J.
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 2007
chapter =
title = D-day in the Pacific: The Battle of Saipan
publisher = Indiana University Press
location =
id = ISBN 0-253-34869-2

*cite book
last = Jones
first = Don
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 1986
chapter =
title = Oba, The Last Samurai
publisher = Presidio Press
location =
id = ISBN 0-89141-245-X

*cite book
last = Manchester
first = William
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 1980
chapter =
title = Goodbye, Darkness A Memoir of the Pacific War
publisher = Little, Brown and Co.
location = Boston - Toronto
id = ISBN 0-316-54501-5

*cite book
last = Morison
first = Samuel Eliot
authorlink = Samuel Eliot Morison
coauthors =
year = 2001, reissue
chapter =
title = New Guinea and the Marianas, March 1944 – August 1944, "vol. 8 of "History of United States Naval Operations in World War II
publisher = University of Illinois Press
location = Champaign, Illinois, USA
id = ISBN 0-252-07038-0

*cite book
last = O'Brien
first = Francis A.
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 2003
chapter =
title = Battling for Saipan
publisher = Presdio Press
location =
id = ISBN 0-89141-804-0

*cite book
last = Petty
first = Bruce M.
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 2001
chapter =
title = Saipan: Oral Histories of the Pacific War
publisher = McFarland and Company
location =
id = ISBN 0-7864-0991-6

*cite book
last = Rottman
first = Gordon
authorlink =
coauthors = Howard Gerrard
year = 2004
chapter =
title = Saipan & Tinian 1944: Piercing the Japanese Empire
publisher = Osprey Publishing
location =
id = ISBN 1-84176-804-9

*cite book
last = Sauer
first = Howard
authorlink =
year = 1999
chapter = Torpedoed at Saipan
title = The Last Big-Gun Naval Battle: The Battle of Surigao Strait
publisher = The Glencannon Press
location = Palo Alto, California
id = ISBN 1-889901-08-3
— Firsthand account of naval gunfire support by a crewmember of USS "Maryland".

External links

* cite web
title="The Marianas and the Great Turkey Shoot"
author = Chen, C. Peter
work=World War II Database

* [ "Saipan"] — a 2nd Marine Division pamphlet describing certain expected features of the invasion and combat, including the presence of a large civilian population.
* [ Breaching the Marianas: The Battle for Saipan] (Marines in World War II Commemorative Series)
* [ Banzai charge in Saipan: "Gyokusai"] ja icon Suicide for the Emperor?
* cite web
title=Saipan: The Beginning of the End
author = Hoffman, Major Carl W., USMC
work=USMC Historical Monograph
publisher=Historical Branch, United States Marine Corps

* cite web
title=U.S. Army Campaigns of World War II: Western Pacific
publisher=CMH Pub 72-29, U.S. Army Center of Military History

*cite visual
crew = Woo, John (Director)
date = 2002
title = Windtalkers
medium = Feature-length film
location = (Filmed in Hawaii and southern California)
distributor = Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

*SMU's [ Frank J. Davis World War II Photographs] contain [ 124 images of Saipan] , including [ 18 images depicting the surrender of the famous "hold-out" Japanese forces under the command of Captain Oba in December 1945]

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