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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.

Morison, Samuel E. History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Vol. VIII. Boston: Little, Brown, 1947–1962.

Spector, Ronald H. Eagle Against the Sun: The American War with Japan. New York: Free Press, 1985.

Philip A.Crowl/a. r.

See alsoPhilippine Sea, Battle of the ; Tinian ; World War II ; World War II, Air War Against Japan ; World War II, Navy in .