Skip to comments.Rare World War II photographs show American soldiers' fight for survival in brutal Battle of Saipan
Posted on 01/16/2012 12:29:48 PM PST by rawhide
It is the little-known battle that claimed the lives of thousands of Americans during World War II. But now black-and-white photographs, captured by Life magazine photographer W. Eugene Smith, show the everyday horrors for the U.S. soldiers fighting against Japanese forces on the Mariana Island of Saipan between June 15 and July 9, 1944.
Faces etched with the pain of their experiences, war-weary men are captured transporting their wounded comrades or forcing Japanese civilians from their hiding places.
The photographs were taken during a battle that claimed the lives of 22,000 Japanese civilians - many by suicide - and nearly all 30,000 Japanese troops on the island. Of the 71,000 American troops who landed on Saipan, 3,426 perished, while more than 13,000 were wounded.
The battle was a turning point for the American battle against Japan's forces. The Japanese situation became so desperate that commanders pleaded with civilians to 'pick up their spears' and join the fight.
The destruction of the Pacific island is captured in the Life photographs, with bleak landscapes bearing the detritus of bombings and gunfire.
(Excerpt) Read more at dailymail.co.uk ...
Those were the days, huh?
Thank you for these great pictures.
Amazing pictures. Thank you for posting, rawhide.
The Limey what wrote this story needs to pull his head out of his arse. Look at the dungarees. That ain’t a soldier- that’s a Marine, by Gawd.
My dad had Life's Picture History of WWII copyrighted in the 1950's. I have the Time hardback WWII series copyrighted in the 1970's.
It is interesting to compare the captions to the same pictures. The first version, my Dad's, is a "God is on our side" type book while the later version (Time's) is full of either corrections or revisionism depending on your point of view.
Just compare old War documentaries, like “Victory at Sea” with what’s out there now.
I dunno about the dungarees, but he’s carrying a K-Bar.
I recognized the shot of the Marine drinking. Spine chilling shots. An amazing time in history.
One the funniest comedians ever, Jonathan Winters, was in the USMC in WWII and after becoming ill was hospitalized for several months. He was then assigned to duty aboard a vessel as a Marine guard. He later ran into a buddy from basic training and learned that everybody else that fellow knew of from Winters’ original platoon had died on Saipan. There but for the Grace of G*d ...
Good pic’s but definitely not rare.
Amazing pics. Thanks!
It is the little-known battle...
Little known battle?! Haven’t these guys ever seen “From Hell to Eternity”?
Actually on the Military Channel I prefer older documentaries about WWII (WWII In HD, WWII In Color) to anything comparable about Vietnam or the Persian Gulf War or OIF or the GWOT.
It seems that all of the contemporary documentaries are full of "howevers" i.e. the US Army won all major battles in Vietnam however the war was opposed on the homefront, then the mandatory pictures of draft card burners.
The photo you both posted had a Getty watermark and was therefore deleted.
The Japanese set themselves up for the A-Bombs with their suicidal defense of Tarawa, Peleliu, Saipan and Iwo Jima, under the false belief that if they made these invasions so bloody that we’d back off and negotiate a peace.
Right up there with Hitler’s decisions to declare war on the U.S. and the invasion of Russia.
The Saipan operation involved the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions. An Army division, the 27th, was held in reserve and eventually fed into the fracas.
One of the USMC Oral Histories I have, recounts what happened at Marpi Point. Marine interpreters begged the Japanese Civilians not to commit suicide, yet they persisted by the 100's.
No need to go into details, but it was horrific.
Book is "Semper Fi, Mac", and the author's last name is "Berry", I think. An excellent read, if you enjoy that sort of thing.
Several actors had connections to Saipan. Lee Marvin was wounded in combat on that island. Eddie Albert operated an LVT that evacuated some of the wounded.
Aw crap...major foul...that pic of the marine smoking a cigarette won’t fly...better that he pee on some dead Jap soldiers...
What???? NO pics of Marine pissing on Jap corpses?
One of them is a soldier, and not a Marine. For decades people thought he was named Underwood. Actually it was Angelo Klonis: http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0510/swanson.html
Excellent photos. Very gritty.
They make me very sad, however, because my brother died in that battle. He was 19 years old.
My brother’s story:
(The article has his age wrong. He was 19 when he died.)
Brooklyn-born hero Pvt. Charles Francis Corrigan (December 28, 1925 July 12, 1944).
Awesome photos! A few have been seen before, but lots of new ones here!
was there on Carrier - CVL 3o. 6.5/43 Jake
Thank you for your service!
I believe the 27th Division came in on day three or so. They were in some of the bloodiest fighting of the campaign, in places nick-named Death Valley and Purple Heart Ridge. They fought in the tough center of the island with the Marine divisions on either flank. They were also in the front line of the horrible Banzai charge of July 7, 1944. Time and Life were embedded with the Marines, which accounts for these being I think 100% Marine pics.
Thanks for posting this. My dad was off shore on a pocket carrier(can’t recall which one), and as he was a 1st class aviation mechinist mate, he came ashore with the seabees to assist with clearing the landing strips. There were stories from my aunt about his possession of the first captured Jap washing machine....dime a load, officers a dollar.
Winters wrote and recited a wonderful poem in tribute to the fallen Marines in his platoon. It’s called “The Ghost Brigade”. You can find it on iTunes and Amazon.
For these shores our hearts have yearned
At last, today we have returned
Our ship is firmly moored
You hear no sound of joyous shouts
No roaring cheers from lusty throats
Deep silence reigns aboard
With hearts and hopes and youth aglow
We left these shores to meet the foe
And with our all, we paid
To you that flaming torch we yield
To hold aloft
From tempests shielded
Let not that beacon fade!
To keep it lit
That flaming brand
For that we fell
On foreign strand
We missed the big parade
Our trip is done
Our task fulfilled
Our Victory won
Our voices, stilled
We are the Ghost Brigade
I wonder if that was a factor in his later nervous breakdown?
My uncle a member of the 2nd Marines was 18 years old during the fight for Saipan. He later took part in the fighting on Tinian and Okinawa.
He like all the Marines I have talked to have a deep respect for Corpsmen, no inter-service rivalry there.
He said that if you heard the yell "Corpsman! Corpsman!" it was repeated up and down the line, there was not mistake about who was needed. As he once said "if you get hit a corpsman is your best friend".
He has never talked about the fighting. Until the last 2 or 3 years he and his wife have driven half way across the United States to attend Marine Corps reunions.
About a month ago he told me about a company commander that sent a few marines to check the packs of dead Marines for gun oil. Gun sounds like a small item but even a M1 needs some oil from time to time.
After the battle of Okinawa 2nd Marines were moved back to Tinian to rest and train for the invasion of Kyushu the southern most island of Japan. While they were there the atomic bombs were dropped.
In 2005, 50 years after the bombs were used my uncle said "the Marines on Tinian thought Truman did the right thing". He dryly added "of course where we were and what we were about to do had a lot to do with how we felt about dropping the bomb".
An interesting book about the plans and the weapons to be used in the invasion of the Japanese homeland is Code-Name Downfall: The Secret Plan to Invade Japan and Why Truman Dropped the Bomb by Norman Polmar and Thomas B. Allen
Hats off to you sir.
I understand your nickname now.
That is a boat with a lotta history.
Again, a salute and a hearty thanks.
Yes. My father was in the 4th Marine Division. He went from Siapan to Tinian then Iwo Jima. He said the "meat grinder" on Iwo was total hell. He never said much until his later years. The stories was chilling.
He was underage when he entered. His parents had to give permission for him to join the Marines.
To think what these men went through to defeat evil and now to see what leads us. Words cannot express how I feel.
True - my dad was in the 27th and was manning a 37mm anti-tank gun about 50 yards behind the front lines of the Banzai attack. The intelligence reports estimated 200-300 enemy remaining to be mopped up, so large elements of the 27th were diverted elsewhere to help out. It turned out that the intelligence was off by a factor of 10, hence much of the 105th Regiment of the 27th was virtually wiped out before they could exterminate the enemy. Three members of the 27th were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions that day. I shudder to think where we would be now had we conducted a politically correct war as we do today...
Wow what a story so sad. :(
Wow what a story so sad. :(
When WWII ended I was in an infantry replacement line on Leyte getting outfitted for the invasion of Japan. After the end I spent a few months on Leyte with some very memorable days as to the battle on that island. From Leyte a bunch of us were shipped to the Marianas as Air Force personnel with not much to do but KP and gambling at the NCO club near Marpi Point. I had heard a lot of stories about the fighting on Saipan and the suicide jumps of civilians off the cliffs. The cliffs right at and above the shoreline were spectacular and the NCO club was right on the edge-beautiful scenery, We did take hikes through the hills and I saw a number of caves blackened by what was presumed flame thrower action. In some of the caves there were burned/charred bones of Japs against the back wall some with destroyed weapons. I recall thinking that the battle for Saipan had to have been a brutal time for both sides including civilians.
All the vets that fought in WWII are worthy of great respect and appreciation, but the Marines who island hopped all the way to Iwo Jima should be held in our nation’s highest honor for what they went thru.
My ship was at Saipan in 1995 for the 50th anniversary commemoration of the battle. I got to meet a lot of vets and went on a bus tour of the island with some of them where they pointed out various places they remembered. I was in awe of them.
I also took a bottle of sake to the Japanese war dead memorial for a good Japanese friend of mine whose father had been killed there.
My buddie's father, who was in the Navy, served with Eddie Albert in the same unit. I also have a friend, Jack, who joined the Coast Guard in 1938, and operated an LVT in the Pacific during the war, and had a brand new LVT shot from under him, forcing him to hang out with the Marines for a couple of days on Guadalcanal. He still comes in our local watering hole every day for a couple of beers.
Are you any relation to “Wrongway?”
God bless your Dad. I can imagine how anybody who came out the other end of that slaughter pen alive might remain silent for 50 years. When I was growing up I worshiped guys like him and still do.