Marines in World War II Commemorative Series
The Landing Force: Who, Where, When
Jig Day: Feint and Landing
The Landing
The Drive South
Final Days
Gen. Clifton B. Cates
PFC Robert Lee Wilson
Pvt. Joseph W. Ozbourn
Special Subjects
Selection of White Beach
Napalm: Something New in the Arsenal
Tinian Defense Forces
Preparatory Strikes
Aerial Reconnaissance and Photography

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.

command post
In 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 homes.

Marines bathe a tiny Tinian girl
It 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

SSgt Federico Claveria
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 (USMC)41922

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.

Hill, Schmidt, Spruance, Smith, Turner, Watson, Cates
Top 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 Japan—the coasts that awaited them in the fall. "That Tinian was a pretty good investment, I guess." one Marine finally said.

The anecdote may be apocryphal. The sentiment is historically true.

"Japanese Backyard in Tinian Town," by Gail Zumwalt. Marine Corps Combat Art Collection

flag raising
The 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

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Commemorative Series produced by the Marine Corps History and Museums Division