Marines in World War II Commemorative Series
D+1-D+2, 16-17 June
D+3, 18 June
D+4-D+7, 19-22 June
D+8-D+15, 23-30 June
D+16-D+19, 1-4 July
D+20-D+23, 5-8 July
D+24, 9 July
Saipan's Legacy
Lt. Gen. Holland M. Smith
Maj. Gen. Harry Schmidt
Maj. Gen. Thomas E. Watson
PFC Harold Christ Agerholm
PFC Harold Glenn Epperson
Sgt. Grant Frederick Timmerman
GySgt Robert H. McCard
Special Subjects
The 2d Marine Division
The 4th Marine Division
The Army 27th Infantry Division
Divisional Reorganiation
Ground Command List
Marine Artillery Regiments
Navy Chaplains

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.

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Commemorative Series produced by the Marine Corps History and Museums Division