...a new Images of War book from Pen & Sword
Title: Saipan 1944
Author: John Grehan & Alexander Nicoll
Publisher: Pen & Sword
A recent addition to the Images of War series of soft-cover books, this time with 190-pages and hundreds of archive photos from what the sub-title describes as The Most Decisive Battle of the Pacific War, the invasion of Saipan in June 1944, part of the campaign to re-take the Marianas.
The story is spread across an Introduction which sets the scene and then 8 chapters to describe and illustrate what happened. It starts with the Plan of Attack and the Preliminary Operations. D-Day for the invasion was 15th June 1944. The invading US Marines took 3 weeks of heavy fighting, into the mountains on the island, suffering significant casualties, but ultimately leading to a final large 'Banzai' charge by surviving Japanese troops, a charge in which the great majority were killed. Pictures in the book illustrating the bodies that were left on the ground is quite frightening by the sheer waste and futility of it. Some troops remained hidden in caves in the hills. Some of their families had been told that if they were captured by the Americans that they would be killed. Many chose suicide and simply jumped, including with their young children, from 'Suicide Cliff'. In the end, the final chapter covers 'Hell is With Us', how the Japanese government viewed to loss of Saipan. American engineers built a huge airfield where large numbers of the then new B-29 Superfortress were able to reach, and bomb, the Japanese mainland. This resulted in over 200,000 killed and according to the figures, over 9million made homeless on the Japanese home islands.
The conquest of Saipan was a vicious battle, but one which directly contributed to the end of the war by providing an airbase from which bombers could operate, and these of course eventually included those which dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Helpful text to set the scene in each chapter, while the extensive captions to a very fine collection of archive images adding the rest. Some of these don't pull punches, and the human cost of the operation is clear. For those interested in the history of the Pacific War, this is well worth seeing.
Thanks to Pen & Sword for our review copy.