In the interest of not reverting to the days when my average post was 1,500 words, this post will only include select information. Those who want greater details can check out the sources listed at the end.
My generous thanks to the USMC for putting such wonderful historical monographs online for free!
The Battle of Saipan lasted from 15 June–9 July 1944 on the island of Saipan, part of the Marianas. It was nicknamed Death Valley, Hell’s Pocket, and Purple Heart Ridge due to the intense fighting and high casualties.
Over the three weeks and three days of battle, 71,000 Marines and members of the Army’s 27th Infantry Division faced off against 32,000 soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army. Navajo code-talkers prevented disasters during several key moments.
A preliminary bombardment began 13 June, from fifteen battleships. The landings began at 7:00 AM on 15 June. Unlike the disastrous landing by Tarawa in November 1943, this time there was no neap tide stranding Marines on a reef or forcing them to go the rest of the way on foot through the water.
Some Marines, however, landed at the wrong place, due to the LVT drivers not heeding their pleas to bear to the right. The drivers had swerved north to avoid a violent strafing attack, but that didn’t take them to their planned disembarkation point.
About twenty LVTs were destroyed, and casualties were high as Marines encountered traps of barbed wire, trenches, mines, pillboxes, and combatants hiding in the underbrush. Prior to the landing, they were issued pamphlets explaining what to expect, and the signs of booby traps and mines.
During that brutal first day, a mortar landed on the 2nd Regiment’s command post and wounded their new commander, Major Howard Rice, who’d just taken over from the also-wounded Lt. Col. Raymond Murray.
By the first nightfall, the 2nd and 4th Marines had taken a beachhead six miles (ten kilometers) wide and 0.5 miles (one kilometer) deep. The Japanese attacked again that night, but the Marines put up an intense counterattack and repulsed them.
The bugler who’d sounded the alarm of the night attack was killed by a bullet going up his instrument’s windpipe.
The Imperial Japanese Navy bit off more than they could chew by deciding to attack the nearby U.S. Navy ships too. This new, independent Battle of the Philippine Sea crushed much of their naval strength.
Having lost all hope of reinforcements and resupply, the cards were decisively cast for U.S. victory, but the Japanese were determined to fight to the last man, woman, and child.
After Lt. Gen. Yoshitsugu Saito ordered a suicidal banzai charge, it became impossible for the Marines to distinguish civilians from soldiers.
At dawn on 7 July, the banzai charge began. Behind the remaining 3,000 able-bodied soldiers were the wounded. This attack almost destroyed the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 105th Infantry Regiment, but they refused to retreat. Many other Marines also fought back.
Saipan was officially secured by 4:15 PM on 9 July. Human costs were high, as 22,000 of the almost 30,000 Japanese dead were civilians. On the U.S. side, over 10,000 were wounded and over 3,000 killed.
My characters Patya Siyanchuk and Rodya Duranichev serve with the 6th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Division at Saipan. Once again, Rodya is terrified, but determined to prove himself as a real Marine who doesn’t need his best friend constantly protecting him.
The second morning, Rodya investigates a suspicious noise, and ends up attacked by a Japanese. Patya has to come to his rescue yet again, and Rodya feels like an unmanly failure.
On their way to the medic, Patya is wounded by a rifle grenade. Now it’s up to Rodya to find the attackers and prove his mettle as a Marine, in spite of a seriously wounded shoulder.