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Battle of Saipan, Marianas Islands pt1-2 1949 US Army Pacific Island

"INVASION OF SAIPAN IN MARIANAS GROUP IN JUNE 1944 BY 2D AND 4TH MARINE DIVISIONS AND 27TH ARMY DIVISION."

US Army Film HR-A-10

The Battle of Saipan was a battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II, fought on the island of Saipan in the Mariana Islands from 15 June -- 9 July 1944. The Allied invasion fleet embarking the expeditionary forces left Pearl Harbor on 5 June 1944, the day before Operation Overlord in Europe was launched. The U.S. 2nd Marine Division, 4th Marine Division, and 27th Infantry Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Holland Smith, defeated the 43rd Division of the Imperial Japanese Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Yoshitsugu Saito.

In the campaigns of 1943 and the first half of 1944, the Allies had captured the Solomon Islands, the Gilbert Islands, the Marshall Islands and the Papuan peninsula of New Guinea. This left the Japanese holding the Philippines, the Caroline Islands, Palau Islands and Mariana Islands.

It had always been the intention of the American planners to bypass the Carolines and Palaus and to seize the Marianas and Taiwan. From these latter bases communications between the Japanese homeland and Japanese forces to the south and west could be cut. In addition, from the Marianas Japan would be well within the range of an air offensive relying on the new B-29 Superfortress long-range bomber with its operational radius of 1,500 mi (2,400 km).

Part Two

While not part of the original American plan, Douglas MacArthur, commander of the Southwest Pacific Area command, obtained authorization to advance through New Guinea and Morotai toward the Philippines. This allowed MacArthur to keep his personal pledge, made in his "I shall return" speech, to liberate the Philippines, and also allowed the active use of the large forces built up in the southwest Pacific theatre. The Japanese, expecting an attack somewhere on their perimeter, thought an attack on the Caroline Islands most likely. To reinforce and supply their garrisons, they needed naval and air superiority, so Operation A-Go, a major carrier attack, was prepared for June 1944.

Bombardment of Saipan began on 13 June 1944. Fifteen battleships were involved, and 165,000 shells were fired. Seven modern fast battleships delivered twenty-four hundred 16 in (410 mm) shells, but to avoid potential minefields, fire was from a distance of 10,000 yd (9,100 m) or more, and crews were inexperienced in shore bombardment. The following day the eight pre-Pearl Harbor battleships and eleven cruisers under Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf replaced the fast battleships but were lacking in time and ammunition.

The landings began at 07:00 on 15 June 1944. More than 300 LVTs landed 8,000 Marines on the west coast of Saipan by about 09:00. Eleven fire support ships covered the Marine landings. The naval force consisted of the battleships USS Tennessee and California. The cruisers were USS Birmingham and Indianapolis... by nightfall the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions had a beachhead about 6 mi (9.7 km) wide and .5 mi (0.8 km) deep. The Japanese counter-attacked at night but were repulsed with heavy losses. On 16 June, units of the U.S. Army's 27th Infantry Division landed and advanced on the airfield at Ås Lito (which is now the location of Saipan International Airport). Again the Japanese counter-attacked at night. On 18 June, Saito abandoned the airfield.

The invasion surprised the Japanese high command, which had been expecting an attack further south. Admiral Toyoda Soemu, commander-in-chief of the Japanese Navy, saw an opportunity to use the A-Go force to attack the U.S. Navy forces around Saipan. On 15 June, he gave the order to attack. But the resulting battle of the Philippine Sea was a disaster for the Imperial Japanese Navy, which lost three aircraft carriers and hundreds of planes. The garrisons of the Marianas would have no hope of resupply or reinforcement...

By 16:15 on 9 July, Admiral Turner announced that Saipan was officially secured...

In the end, almost the entire garrison of troops on the island—at least 30,000—died. For the Americans, the victory was the most costly to date in the Pacific War. 2,949 Americans were killed and 10,464 wounded, out of 71,000 who landed...

 

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