October 11, 2013 – Saipan
Saipan is the second island we have visited where significant WWII battles took place. Between Guam, Tinian (a mile or two to the South of here), and Saipan, 24,000 Americans and friendly civilians lost their lives retaking these islands. The Allied commanders had, after early battles to retake Pacific islands, learned that they were better off invading only islands of extreme tactical value as airfields, bypassing Japanese strongholds, which did not hold such value. This was due to the fact that unlike the war in Europe, defeated Japanese did not surrender, preferring to retreat to caves and fight to the death, causing high casualties in “rooting” them out. Guam, Tinian and Saipan, were important because of their large, and expandable airfields, which could handle the new B 29 Bombers, which would be used to attack the mainland of Japan. Unlike Guam, which belonged to the US and was seized by the Japanese at the start of the war, Saipan belonged to Japan, having been obtained from Germany as part of the Treaty of Versailles, in 1918. The Japanese had 20 years to fortify the island.
This is the view our troops would have had as they approached Saipan – minus the hotel. You can see the waves breaking on the reef, which is actually a mile from the beach.
This island is covered with the remnants of war – both Japanese and American.
An American tank that never completed the landing.
A Japanese tank sits atop a gun emplacement on the beach.
A bomb storage facility at As Lito Airfield. This airfield was expanded after the retaking to a total of 8 miles of B-29 runways.
Various Japanese tank and artillery pieces at the airfield.
This is the Japanese jail on Saipan, where according to local unsubstantiated rumor, Amelia Earhart was held after being captured by the Japanese. Allegedly, a Caucasian woman was spotted being removed from this jail and was taken to the cane fields and shot. This occurred in the time frame she was missing, but there is no way to confirm it.
A sign of the changing times – and a picture which creates mixed feelings in me. These flags fly outside one of the luxury hotels in Saipan, which sits on a beach where thousands of Americans and Japanese lost their lives. While I heartily embrace the concept of commerce rather than war, it still creates a creepy feeling.
Further signs of modern commercialization of Saipan – Sally in front of the Hard Rock Café – Saipan, in the Galleria Mall.
An interesting discovery. This ship, which is, I believe, an LSD, which stands for Landing Ship Dock, has been anchored here since 1990, and according to the local guide, contains provisions in case of war.
Goodbye to Saipan and off to Kobe, Japan.