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Saipan Island in the Mariana Island Group (Mariana Islands). Also known simply as "Saipan". Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. Borders Tanapag Harbor and the Philippine Sea the west and the Saipan Channel and Tinian Island to the south. Offshore to the west is Managaha Island. Today located in the Southern Islands Municipality of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) in the United States of America (USA).
On March 6, 1521, Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan was the first European to discover Saipan and Tinian but did not occupy either island. The first Europeans were survivors of Spanish galleon Santa Margarita that wrecked offshore in February 1600 and were marooned ashore for two years until rescued. In 1668 Spain formally occupied Saipan with a Catholic missionary expedition and established San Jose on the west coast as a port for ships crossing the Pacific. Ashore, the Spanish established ranches to provision their galleons crossing the Pacific.
Under Spanish rule, the Chamoru population suffered from disease and gradually lost land holdings. By 1720 the natives were forcibly relocated to Guam. In 1898 after the Spanish-American War, Saipan was occupied by the United States. In 1899, Spain sold Saipan to the German Empire and was administered as part of German New Guinea but they made no efforts to settle or develop the island and Spanish landowners remained in control locally.
During World War I, Japan on the Allied side captured Saipan. In 1919, the League of Nations formally granted control of Saipan to Japan as part of its mandated territory in the South Seas Mandate. The South Seas Development Company built sugar refineries, infrastructure and more. During the 1920s, the sugar cane plantations required laborers and resulted in Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese and Okinawan immigration to Saipan. Despite terms of the South Seas Mandate, the Japanese also built military infrastructure on Saipan. By October 1943, Saipan had a civilian population of 29,348 Japanese plus 3,926 Chamorro people plus Caroline Islands.
Starting in late February 1944 attacked by U. S. Navy (USN) carrier aircraft and U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) 7th Air Force aircraft until early July 1944. By June 1944 Saipan was garrisoned by 30,000 Japanese under the command of Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) Lt. General Yoshitsugu Saitō.
American missions against Saipan
February 22, 1944–July 9, 1944
On June 15, 1944 the U. S. Marines Corps (USMC) 5th Amphibious Corps including the 2nd Marine Division and 4th Marines Division landed on Saipan with the U. S. Army 27th Infantry Division held in reserve. In total, the American landing force was approximately 70,000. During initial amphibious landing 20,000 Americans went ashore in the south of the island under heavy Japanese fire. Several Japanese counter attacks and banzai charges bloodied the Americans as they advanced northward. The 29th Marines "Bastard Battalion" went ashore on D-Day with approximately 1,200 men and were pulled off the line a little over two weeks later with only 200 men, not counting replacements.
By early July 1944, the Japanese were nearly defeated. Japanese Army General Saitō ordered the surviving Japanese perform a gyokusai (honorable suicide) by launching a suicidal banzai charge by all remaining Japanese including the walking wounded and some civilians. Many were poorly equipped with only bayonets tied to pole while others were unarmed. On July 6, 1944 in a cave, Imperial Japanese Navy Admiral Chūichi Nagumo committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
On July 7, 1944 in the evening, roughly 4,300 Japanese launched a banzai charge from near Makunsha village down the western coast. The suicidal attack overran the line defended by the U. S. Army 27th Division, 105th Infantry Regiment that suffered 406 KIA and 512 WIA. During the battle, three members of the 105th earned the the Medal of Honor, posthumously Lt. Col William J. O'Brien, Sgt. Thomas Baker and Captain Ben L. Salomon. Forced to pull back, the Americans formed a new defensive line at the beach and managed to defeat the charge.
On July 9, 1944 at 4:15pm Admiral Turner declared that Saipan was secured. On July 10, 1944 at dawn in a cave in Paradise Valley, his force defeated and himself wounded by shrapnel, Japanese Army Lt. General General Yoshitsugu Saitō committed seppuku then was shot by his adjutant. In total, the Battle of Saipan resulted in 3,500 American casualties. An estimated 22,000 civilians died on Saipan many choosing to commit suicide with hand grenades or by jumping off cliffs at the northern end of the island at Laderan Banadero (Suicide Cliff).
Tanapag Harbor located off the west coast of Saipan Island.
Garapan located on the western coast of Saipan, largest city on the island.
Hill 767 located on Saipan with Japanese tunnels.
Hill 721 "Forth of July Hill" located on Saipan.
Navy Hill located inland from the western coast of Saipan.
Naftan Point located in the southeastern corner of Saipan.
Mount Tapachau located in the center of Saipan, highest elevation on Saipan.
Susupe located on the western coast of Saipan including Susupe Airfield (Chalan Kanoa)
Banadero (Last Command Post) located at the northern tip of Saipan includes "Suicide Cliff" and "Banzai cliff".
Agingan Point located on the southwest corner of Saipan.
Marpi Point (Cape Toro) located at the northern tip of Saipan.
Saipan Island Airfields and Seaplane Bases
Aslito Field (Isley Field, Saipan Airport, Francisco C. Ada Airport) located near the southern coast of Saipan.
Kagman Airfield (East Field) located at the eastern end of Saipan, used until the 1960s.
Kobler Airfield located to the west of Aslito on Saipan abandoned since the war.
Susup Airfield (Chalan Kanoa) located on the western coast of Saipan, emergency airfield disused since the war
Marpi Point Airfield (North Field) located at the base of Mount Marpi (Marpi Point) used as a fighter airfield.
Tanapag Seaplane Base located in Tanapan Harbor off Garapan
Torri Gate and Japanese Shinto shrine that survived the war.
Sam McPhetres adds: "There is a named scratched into the inner wall of the of the corridor running along the main cell block of the Saipan Japanese jail that may be worth some research: 'J. J. Beiser, June 15, 1944'."
Located on the southern coast of Saipan Island. After the American occupation, the U. S. Army 27th Infantry Division maintained an observation post at this location overlooking Tinian three miles to the southwest.
After American liberation, 27th Infantry Division had an observation post at this location.
American Memorial Park
Memorial park and visitor center, part of the US National Park system. Located on the western side of Saipan, within Garapan and Puerto Rico villages.
Type 97 Chi-Ha Medium Tank
Displayed on a concrete pedestal.
Japanese Caves and Tunnels
The island's caves and soft coral was tunneled. These fortifications are where Japanese soldiers and civilians hid and fought against the American forces. For many, it was their final resting place when they were killed or committed mass suicide in these subterranean quarters.
Death Valley and Bloody Nose Ridge
The 27th Infantry Division under General Ralph Smith took casualties here. "Bloody Nose Ridge" is in the background.
In recent years, it was renovated and turned into a museum. The hospital goes back before the war and was used to serve both Japanese and islanders. There were very few Japanese military personnel on any of the Mariana Islands until just before the Americans landed. It was mostly a civilian operation - mostly sugar cane cultivation and processing.
Feb 23, 1944
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