A CLOSE ENCOUNTER: The Marine Landing on Tinian
by Richard Harwood
By 14 August the entire 4th Division had embarked on
the long trip to its base camp on Maui. It had suffered in this brief
operation more than 1,100 casualties, including 212 killed. Its next
assignment would be Iwo Jima.
an impromptu command post set up behind his 8th Marines, Col Clarence R.
Wallace, checks the progress of his frontline troops on a situation map.
The overhead poncho provides some protection from Tinian's constant
rains. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 87678
The 2d Division remained in the Marianas, setting up
a base camp on Saipan where the 2d and 6th regiments took up residence
in mid August. The 8th Marines remained on Tinian for mopping-up
purposes until October 25, when the 2d and 3d Battalions moved to
Saipan, leaving an unhappy 1st Battalion behind until its relief at the
end of the year.
The campaign for Tinian had cost the division 760
casualties, including 105 killed. These numbers did not include
casualties suffered after the is land was "secured" on 1 August.
Japanese military losses, based on bodies counted and
buried, totaled 5,000. Other thousands are assumed to have been sealed
up in caves and underground fortifications. The number of prisoners
taken was 250 by some counts and 400 by others.
The capture of the Marianas gave the Army Air Corps
the B-29 bases it needed for the bombing of Japan. They were located
1,200 nautical miles from the home islands of Japan, a distance ideal
for the B-29 with its range of 2,800 miles. Tinian became the home for
two wings of the Twentieth Air Force. Three months after the conquest of
Tinian, B-29s were hitting the Japanese mainland. Over the next year,
according to numbers supplied by the Air Force to historian Carl
Hoffman, the B-29s flew 29,000 missions out of the Marianas, dropped
157,000 tons of explosives which, by Japanese estimates killed 260,000
people, left 9,200,000 homeless, and demolished or burned 2,210,000
was not long after the initial landing that Marines encountered the
civilian population of Tinian. Here Marines bathe a tiny Tinian girl
after she and her family had been removed from a hillside dugout.
Following the scrubbing, new clothes were found for the children and the
entire family was taken to a place of safety in the rear. Department of Defense
Photo (USMC) 90441
Former Marine Corps Combat Correspondent SSgt Federico
Claveria looks at photograph of himself giving an interned Tinian child
candy 25 years earlier. Claveria participated in the initial landings on
Roi-Namur and Saipan also. Department of Defense Photo
Tinian's place in the history of warfare was insured
by the flight of Enola Gay on 6 August 1945. It dropped a nuclear
weapon on Hiroshima. Two days later a second nuclear weapon was dropped
on Nagasaki. The next day, the Japanese government surrendered.
commanders gather for the flagraising on 3 August 1944 at the conclusion
of Tinian operations. From left are RAdm Harry W Hill; MajGen Harry
Schmidt; Adm Raymond L. Spruance; LtGen Holland M. Smith; VAdm Richmond
Kelly Turner; MajGen Thomas A. Watson; and MajGen Clifton B.
Cates. Marine Corps Historical Collection
In his official history of the 2d Marine Division,
Richard W. Johnston records the reaction when news of the surrender
reached the division at its base on Saipan:
They looked at Tinian's clean and rocky coast, at the
coral boulders where they had gone ashore, and they thought of the
forbidding coasts of Japanthe coasts that awaited them in the
fall. "That Tinian was a pretty good investment, I guess." one Marine
The anecdote may be apocryphal. The sentiment is
"Japanese Backyard in Tinian Town," by Gail
Zumwalt. Marine Corps Combat Art Collection
hand salute in its various forms is rendered by those present as the
colors are raised over Tinian on 1 August. At the extreme right is VAdm
Richmond K. Turner, commander, Expeditionary/Northern Attack Force for
the Tinian landings. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 152064