The Battle of Saipan
This one took place only a few months before the next entry, and indicated that though the Japanese had, by 1944, no chance of winning the war, they would fight to the death to kill as many Americans as they possibly could, and thus there could be no simple method by which to achieve their defeat. The island is about 44 square miles, and the Japanese stationed 30,000 troops on it. They fought to the bitter end for 3 weeks, with only 921 prisoners being taken. 21,000 died in action. 5,000 simply killed themselves in the caves.
The U. S. Navy preceded the invasion with 165,000 artillery shells, many of them 16 inches, pulverizing the island into a stewy morass of mud and limestone. On 15 June, the Marines stormed the shore and the defenders attempted to hold them on the beach itself, but Saipan showed for the rest of Japan that this could not be done, necessitating the change in strategy seen in #7 and #1, among others. By nightfall of D-Day, 15 June, the Marines had a beachhead of 6 miles long by half a mile deep, but the worst was to come shortly.
The Marines nicknamed features of the terrain, “Purple Heart Ridge,” “Hell’s Pocket,” and “Death Valley.” Hell’s Pocket was a deep gully amid several low hills, all nestled in the mountains on the west side of the island. When the Marines took it, the Japanese staged an immediate counterassault, and Battalion Surgeon Captain Ben Salomon repelled most of the attack himself, knifing 4 Japanese soldiers in order to defend the wounded on stretchers in his tent, then manning a .50 caliber machine gun and cutting 98 more in half while the wounded were evacuated to the rear. He was shot 76 times, and as many as 24 of these he suffered while still firing.
Saipan saw the largest single banzai charge of the entire war, when, at dawn on 8 July, General Yoshitsugo Saito led 3,000 drunken Japanese in addition to all the severely wounded, unarmed, limping and on crutches, in raiding the positions of the 105th U. S. Army Infantry. They and the Marines promptly killed more than 4,300 in hand-to-hand combat, swinging their M-1s until they broke, losing 650 dead and wounded in the process.
Another 22,000 civilians were also killed, several thousand by accidental napalming when the Marines mistook their huts for identical-looking Japanese sniper and machine gun nests. The civilians were indoctrinated by Emperor Hirohito himself to refuse to be taken alive, and some 17,000 killed themselves by jumping off the north cliff face.