D-Day in the Pacific: The Battle of Saipan

D-Day in the Pacific: The Battle of Saipan

D-Day in the Pacific: The Battle of Saipan

D-Day in the Pacific: The Battle of Saipan

Synopsis

In June 1944 the attention of the nation was riveted on events unfolding in France. But in the Pacific, the Battle of Saipan was of extreme strategic importance. This is a gripping account of one of the most dramatic engagements of World War II. The conquest of Saipan and the neighboring island of Tinian was a turning point in the war in the Pacific as it made the American victory against Japan inevitable. Until this battle, the Japanese continued to believe that success in the war remained possible. While Japan had suffered serious setbacks as early as the Battle of Midway in 1942, Saipan was part of her inner defense line, so victory was essential. The American victory at Saipan forced Japan to begin considering the reality of defeat. For the Americans, the capture of Saipan meant secure air bases for the new B-29s that were now within striking distance of all Japanese cities, including Tokyo.

Excerpt

Take all the Pacific battles that had gone before, from the fall of Corregidor to
Eniwetok. Take Tulagi and Guadalcanal, and Tarawa and Attu, and Los Negros
and Buna and Gona. Stir them all together, and add a little European season
ing—perhaps from Sicily—and pour them out on a flat blue sea under a blue
bowl of sky, and you’ll have something that looks and smells and feels and hurts
like Saipan. For Saipan had everything: caves like Tulagi; mountains and ridges
like the ’Canal; a reef nearly as treacherous as Betio’s; a swamp like Buna; a city
to be conquered, like those on Sicily; and death-minded Japs like the defenders
of Attu. A lot, for so small an island.

As indicated by this official history of the 2nd Marine Division, the Battle of Saipan in June 1944 included elements that made it one of the most dramatic and fascinating encounters of the war. One factor was the presence of an entrenched and dedicated enemy force, prepared to fight for victory or die in the process. The Japanese were dug into the island in numbers far greater than the Americans expected at the time of the invasion. While Japanese tenacity was not unusual in the Pacific war, the finale of the Saipan battle included mass suicides on a scale previously unknown. For Japanese soldiers and civilians, devotion to Japan’s Asiatic mission and to the emperor remained primary, and many considered it their duty to die for these causes. When faced with likely defeat or the prospect of surrender, most Japanese soldiers chose death.

An equally resolute invading force of U.S. marines and army soldiers . . .

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