Friday, June 15, 2012

June 15, 1944

Officer Cynical asked to do a guest post today, in memory of those who gave all in one of the most vicious battles of World War II. Take it away, Officer!

On June 6, 1944 the largest amphibious invasion in history took place in Normandy. Lost in its shadow are equally important events that happened at the same time on the other side of the world.

Today, June 15, 2012, marks the 68th anniversary of the U.S. Marine assault on Saipan.

On June 5, 1944, the same day the allied invasion ships set off across the English Channel for Normandy, another amphibious force left Pearl Harbor to carry out a mission of equal importance in the Pacific. It's almost-forgotten today, but the effects were tremendous. As one Japanese admiral commented, ""Our war was lost with the loss of Saipan."
Saipan was an important objective, both to cut off Japanese supply lines and to provide an airbase from which bombers could reach the Japanese home islands.
At 8:00 a.m., 8,000 Marines came ashore against 31,000 Japanese defenders. Many Marines later stated it was the most savagely opposed amphibious landing of the Pacific war.
Japanese artillery (pre-aimed at the invasion beach), along with machine-gun and sniper fire, made the landing murderous. You can see in the photos below the desperation of the men who have just hit the beach.

Men & machinery coming ashore.

Crawling to duck snipers

The Marines at the center and far left have just been hit by enemy fire.
Many enemy artillary positions were neutralized by gunfire from American warships, which was guided by Navajo code-talkers who'd gone ashore with the troops.
The morning after the landing, the Marines awoke to find every support vessel except a hospital ship had left. The Japanese Imperial Navy had counterattacked the U.S. Task Force near Saipan in an attempt to reinforce and resupply the defenders. The result was the naval/air Battle of the Philippine Sea, and the decisive allied air victory called The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.
Ultimately, the combined American forces of Marine and Army units numbered about 70,000 men. After three weeks, the Japanese staged a last-ditch banzai charge of about 4,000 soldiers, including their wounded and conscripted civilians. Some had no firearms, but carried sticks with knives tied to the ends and other crude weapons.

Shaking out a shoe, sitting on an unexploded shell from a battleship.
 In the end, 13,790 American (19%) were killed or wounded. 29,000 Japanese (94%) were killed; only 920 prisoners were taken. Some 20,000 of the 25,000 civilians living on Saipan also died, almost all by suicide, either by jumping from cliffs (after throwing their children off) or by blowing themselves up with grenades. They had been convinced by the Japanese military that suicide was preferable to capture by the Americans. 
The nightmare of Saipan shows on the face of this Marine:

The "thousand-yard-stare"


Anonymous said...

We owe much!

Anonymous said...

thanks for this...wish you would bring your blog back

Darlene said...

Love this. My Uncle fought in the Pacific. He would not talk of the atrocities he saw there. I recently had the opportunity to read letters that my Uncles (4 brothers who were in Europe and the Pacific) wrote home during WW11, and they made me cry. The loneliness and desperation is reflected on the penciled scraps of paper. They just wanted to come home. I am grateful to them all.

Carolyn said...

Thank you, Officer Cynical ... I didn't know about this and am glad that I do. Just awed and humbled by their bravery.

bobbie said...

We owe so many so much ~

Having lived on Guam for a while, I knew about this ~ thanks for the reminder.

Packer said...

I will admit to the lump in my throat and tear in my eye. Thank you for your service.

Sallie B. said...

Thank you for telling us about this. My father was a Marine
in the WWII Pacific. Like Darlene's uncle, he never
talked about it. My mom had a scrapbook of photos he sent
her--mostly Marines catching big fish. It is good to know what
really happened.

RehabRN said...

Bad a$%ed Marines. Devil dogs for sure!

I took care of a Marine who was in the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was a huge man who was an amputee as a result of it.

Can only imagine what the Japanese thought when they saw all six foot five of him coming up the hill.

He was a sweet Cookie Monster type character in his old age. He made us laugh so hard, calling everyone "you girls".


Anonymous said...

My grandfather-in-law had to sleep in a separate bed from his wife because his nightmares were so bad...and he was just a driver for an officer in the Pacific. We owe so much to even the least of them. Now don't screw it up, America!

Anonymous said...

Former Guam resident here, made several trips to Saipan. Still many signs of the battle visible, from a semi-submerged tank to shell scars on the cliffs. The stories of Banzai and Suicide Cliffs are heartbreaking.

The Marianas are well worth a visit. Thanks for the post, Officer, and Dr. Grumpy.

--Dixie McCall

Hungarican Chick said...

When I was in ninth grade at the International School of Brussels, we had a class trip to Bretagne and Normandy, which included a tour of Omaha beach, the various graveyards and other war-related sites.

For someone of 14 years of age, that was a pretty profound thing to see. The hills of gleaming white gravestones, the sound of our footfalls echoing through the bullet-ridden bunkers, the ocean washing over the still-existing platforms sunken into the water offshore... Growing up next door to someone who lived through the occupation in Belgium, WWII has a very personal space in my heart. These are lessons I carry with me every day.

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