The Battle of Saipan was fought between June 15th and July 7th 1944. Saipan, which was part of the Mariana Islands, provided significant strategic importance for both the Japanese and the Americans. The battle began in the early hours of June 15th when the US Fifth Fleet, under Admiral Spruance, converged on the island under the cover of darkness. Admiral Spruance, among others in the naval elite, was said to hold Admiral Nagumo, Commander of the Japanese Central Pacific Fleet personally responsible for directing the air raids on US Naval ships at Pearl Harbor and Midway.
During the attack on Pearl Harbor Admiral Spruance had been at sea. The very next day, Admiral Spruance steamed into the harbor where he witnessed the destruction of the entire Pacific fleet. Friends, colleagues and countless brothers in arms died during what must have seemed at the time such a senseless act of violence. Admiral Spruance was reportedly so devastated by what he saw that he actually shed tears when telling his wife of the horrific event. For Admiral Spruance the battle of Saipan was a way to get even for the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Capturing Saipan would allow the Americans to build runways long enough to launch B29 super fortress bombers. This vantage point would allow the B29s to bomb mainland Japan and return to Saipan safely. The Japanese were well aware of this importance and were prepared to fight to the death. Losing Saipan would also mean that Japanese forces south of Saipan would be cut off from the Japanese mainland itself. The battle of Saipan proved to be one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific War. As night gave way to dawn the Japanese witnessed before them a massive fleet extending as far as the eye could see.
Admiral Spruance had amassed, for his vengeance, a fleet of fourteen battleships; twenty-five carriers with carrier escorts; twenty-six cruisers; 144 destroyers and countless transports. This was truly a navy that meant business. When Admiral Nagumo and his officers first set eyes on this massive American fleet they initially thought American ghosts of Pearl Harbor had returned to haunt them. During the first few days of the battle American Marines established several strongholds on the island causing the Japanese to engage multiple counter attacks.
Even though there were significant loses on both ends the Americans repeatedly fought off the Japanese. Japans high command changed strategies deciding to attack the US fleet at sea instead of the Marines on land. This turn of events led to the sea “Battle of the Philippines” (June 15th 1944). This strategy also proved disastrous for the Japanese as they lost three aircraft carriers and many aircraft. Even more importantly the Japanese found it difficult if not impossible to replace aircraft carriers. The Americans were beginning to enjoy a shift in firepower in the Pacific.
As a result the Japanese Navy was no longer able to resupply or reinforce their troops on Saipan. General Saito, Japanese commander of Saipan, ordered his troops to fight to the end. He set his final base along a defensive line around Mount Tapotchau in the mountainous Centre of Saipan. This proved to be an excellent base as it was riddled with cave complexes which gave the Japanese the ability to carry out night time hit-and-run raids on the Americans. As casualties mounted on both sides the Americans were forced to adopt new tactics aimed at clearing out the cave complexes.
The weapon of choice for this task was the flamethrower. Flamethrowers were used to drive the Japanese out of their hiding holes or to kill them where they hid. The battle turned to July 7th when Saito ordered a suicide offensive. He ordered 3,000 able-bodied men, hundreds of ambulatory injured soldiers and Japanese civilians to attack American forces. Initially the Americans were taken by surprise as the Japanese successfully pushed through their front lines. “Once the Americans regrouped their rally resulted in the death of 4,300 Japanese soldiers and civilians.
General Saito’s Banzai charge became the largest of its kind during World War II. ”Even though this suicide effort had little chance of success against America’s overwhelming firepower on Saipan, it was a clear indication of what the Americans would face the closer they got to the Japanese mainland. History tells us that the island of Saipan was officially secured on July 9th 1944. This date also serves as the official end of the Battle of Saipan. Even so, a small group of Japanese soldiers held out in the mountains until December 1945 when they finally accepted that not only the battle but also the war had been lost.
The Battle of Saipan resulted in nearly 30,000 Japanese soldiers’ deaths. American casualties included 3,426 deaths and over 13,000 wounded – “fractionally fewer than 25% of the 71,000 US soldiers who landed on Saipan. ” After the Battle of Saipan the US Navy discovered that approximately 25,000 Japanese civilians resided on Saipan prior to the battle. The Japanese government had caused these civilians to believe that untold horrors would befall them if captured by the Americans. This fear along with an alleged order sent by Emperor Hirohito caused over 1,000 Japanese civilians to commit suicide as the battle came to an end.
US army film clips exist of Japanese civilians throwing themselves off ‘Suicide Cliff’ to escape the shame of capture and the fear of what the Americans would do to them. When Saipan fell on the 9th of July, Tinian and Guam quickly followed ending the slaughtering by the middle of August. With these islands now controlled by the US, we must examine the impact of this action on the course of the war. This meant that the Japanese on the mainland were exposed to punishments from air and the sea. On July 18th, eight days after the fall of Saipan, Premier Tojo along with his entire cabinet resigned.
Premier Tojo was the same Japanese leader and army general who unsuccessfully negotiated in Washington by the end of November 1941which marked the famous day of December 7th to attack Pearl Harbor and other Asian countries. In 1948, Premier Tojo and eight others were executed by the United Nations for war crimes against humanity, justice had finally been accomplished. The B-29 was a global bomber fashioned in 1942 at a price of three billion dollars in order to protect America in case England fell to Germany. Separately, the atomic bomb project was driven by a two billion-dollar price tag.
American must acknowledge the American industry for bringing together the atomic bomb and the B-29 at just the right moment in August of 1945. Technology ended this terrible conflict, saving untold lives of the brave American servicemen who would eventually lead tomorrow’s world. Massive punishment was approaching the Japanese. American forces had no option except to invade the mainland. General MacArthur became appointed to the task. In doing so he prepared three Marine divisions and eleven Army divisions. MacArthur was to invade Japan on November 1945.
What the Americans were unaware of is that there were over 2,350,000 soldiers in 60 divisions left on the home islands, who were willing to sacrifice their lives in order to save their country and their Emperor. The predicted number of American Naval casualties was estimated to be 1,000,000. Thanks to American scientists and our new technology, two atomic bombs were delivered to Tinian on July 16th, 1945 due to a high speed run over the Pacific Ocean by the Cruiser USS Indianapolis. On August 6th a B-29 flew from the Tinian runway to drop the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima causing 78, 000 deaths in seconds.
The world would never forget this event. During the Cold War, which followed WWII, the world would never use an atomic bomb now that they understood its capability of mass destruction. During the same time, the Russians started declaring war on the Japanese. On the 15th of August, the Emperor announced Japans surrender. These events resulted in President Roosevelt and his 405,399 service men not witnessing the marked “Day of Infamy”, which was honorably erased from the history books. In conclusion, this war was costly to both armies.
The Japanese lost over 30,000 soldiers, and the US lost over 3,426 soldiers. The victory over Saipan was incredible and a real turning point in World War II. Through accurate artillery, a strong military, and a wise command, the US won the Battle of Saipan and used it as a stepping stone to combat Japan. American Soldiers gave their lives in defense of American life and liberty on the Island of Saipan. Without their sacrifice, and that of so many others during World War II, our nation might now be governed by totalitarian force. Never forget these men who died for you and for me.