SAIPAN is the northernmost of the southern Mariana Islands and lies 1,270 miles south of Tokyo. In June 1944 it was the most heavily fortified Japanese outpost of the Marianas chain. Saipan figured imporantly in American war plans. Seizing it would bring Tokyo within flying range of the new U.S. Army Air Force B-29 very-long-range bomber. Also, to defend the island the Japanese were expected to dispatch a major fleet and thereby precipitate a sea battle with the U.S. fleet.
Overall command of the operation to seize Saipan was given to Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean areas. After two days of intense preliminary bombardment, two marine divisions landed at dawn on 15 June 1944, on the eastern coast of the island, and by nightfall had established a defensible beachhead. While the U.S. Fifth Fleet defeated a Japanese carrier task force in the adjacent Philippine Sea on 18–19 June, marine and army units pushed rapidly to the western coast of Saipan and then deployed northward on a three-division front with the army in the center. By 9 July the attacking troops reached the northernmost point of the island, which was then declared secured.
Total American casualties came to an estimated 14,111 killed and wounded. Almost all of the Japanese garrison of 30,000 was destroyed. Premier Hideki Tojo and his entire war cabinet resigned immediately. The inner defense line of the Japanese empire had been cracked.
Crowl, Philip A. Campaign in the Marianas. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army, 1993.
Isely, Jeter A. and Philip A. Crowl. The U.S. Marines and Amphibious War: Its Theory and Its Practice in the Pacific. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1951.
Spector, Ronald H. Eagle Against the Sun: The American War with Japan. New York: Free Press, 1985.
Philip A.Crowl/a. r.
Saipan (sī´păn, sīpän´), volcanic island (2010 pop. 48,220), 47 sq mi (122 sq km), W Pacific, capital of the Northern Mariana Islands. It is mountainous; the highest peak is Mt. Tagpochau (1,526 ft/465 m). Clothing was the main export, but the industry died (2005–9) after trade quotas were ended. Sugarcane, coffee, citrus fruits, and coconuts are grown, and the island has phosphate and manganese deposits. The main campus of Northern Marianas College is on the island. Saipan, with the other Marianas, was mandated to Japan in 1920 by the League of Nations. In World War II the island (site of a Japanese airbase) was taken by U.S. forces in 1944 and became a base for air attacks on the Japanese mainland. From 1953 to 1962 Saipan was used to train Nationalist Chinese guerrillas for infiltration of the Chinese mainland.