BREACHING THE MARIANAS: The Battle for Saipan
by Captain John C. Chapin
U.S. Marine Corps Reserve (Ret)
D+24, 9 July
It was to be the final day of a long, grueling
campaign. The 6th and 8th Marines came down from the hills to the last
western beaches, while the 4th Marine Division, with the 2d Marines
attached, reached Marpi Point, the northern end of the island.
There a final drama of horror was played out.
Lieutenant Colonel Chambers watched, amazed:
During this day as we moved along the cliffs and
caves, we uncovered civilians all the time. The Jap soldiers would not
surrender, and would not permit the civilians to surrender. I saw with
my own eyes women, some carrying children, come out of the caves and
start toward our lines. They'd be shot down by their own people. I
watched any number of women carrying children come down to the cliffs
that dropped to the ocean.
They were very steep, very precipitous. The women
would come down and throw the children into the ocean and jump in and
commit suicide. I watched one group at a distance of perhaps 100 yards,
about eight or ten civilian men, women and children get into a little
huddle and blow themselves up.. . . It was a sad and terrible thing, and
yet I presume quite consistent with the Japanese rules of Bushido.
Lieutenant Stott in that same division witnessed
other unbelievable forms of self-destruction:
Interpreters were summoned, and they pleaded by
amplifier for the civilians to come forward in surrender. No movement
followed . . . . The people drew closer together into a compact mass. It
was still predominantly civilians, but several in uniform could be
distinguished circling about in the throng and using the civilians for
protection. As they huddled closer, sounds of a weird singing chant
carried up to us. Suddenly a waving flag of the Rising Sun was unfurled.
Movement grew more agitated; men started leaping into the sea, and the
chanting gave way to startled cries, and with them the popping sound of
detonating grenades. It was the handful of soldiers, determined to
prevent the surrender or escape of their kinfolk, who tossed grenades
into the milling throng of men, women, and children, and then dived into
the sea from which escape was impossible. The exploding grenades cut the
mob into patches of dead, dying, and wounded, and for the first time we
actually saw water that ran red with human blood.
With this kind of fanaticism characterizing the
Japanese, it is not surprising that 23,811 of the enemy were known dead,
with uncounted thousands of others charred by flamethrowers and sealed
forever in their caves. Only 736 prisoners of war were taken, and of
these 438 were Koreans. American casualties numbered 3,225 killed in
action, 13,061 wounded in action, and 326 missing in action.
The island was officially declared "secured" at 1615
on 9 July (although "mopping up" continued afterwards). The 4th Marine
Division was later awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its
"outstanding performance in combat" on Saipan and its subsequent assault
on the neighboring island of Tinian.