1994 29¢ WWII: US Troops Clear Saipan Bunkers
US #2838g pictures a US soldier with a flamethrower clearing an enemy bunker on Saipan.

On July 9, 1944, American troops claimed victory after a three-week battle on Saipan.

1985 50¢ Chester W. Nimitz
US #1869 – Nimitz was a fleet admiral in charge of US forces at Saipan.

Throughout 1944 American troops continued to advance on two fronts in the Pacific Theatre. While MacArthur fought his way across New Guinea toward the Philippines, Admiral Nimitz’s amphibious forces leapfrogged from island to island toward Japan.

2002 37¢ Masters of American Photography: W. Eugene Smith
US #3649nFrontline Soldier with Canteen, Saipan by W. Eugene Smith, from the Masters of American Photography sheet

This leap-frogging tactic, also known as island hopping, was a military strategy that began in 1943 where they bypassed the more heavily fortified Japanese-held islands and instead targeted strategic islands with a smaller enemy presence.

By the summer of 1944, they had their sights set on Saipan. The Japanese expected the US to attack further south, so they were surprised by the two-day pre-invasion bombardment that began on June 13. US Marines came ashore early on June 15, supported by naval gunfire. By 9 a.m. 8,000 Marines had landed on Saipan. They quickly secured a beachhead and spent the night repelling Japanese attacks.

1993 29¢ Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
US #2804 – The Marianas and Palau Islands Campaign took place between June and November 1944 and helped bring about the end of World War II.

The Japanese put up a fierce resistance and bitter fighting ensued. As the battle continued, American troops nicknamed areas of the battle – Hell’s Pocket, Purple Heart Ridge, and Death Valley – showing how bad the fighting there was. The Japanese would also hide in the caves during the day and drop sorties at night, but the American troops eventually used flamethrowers to clear the caves.

2013 46¢ The Medal of Honor: World War II - Army
US #4823
Seven men were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions on Saipan.

The US victory nearby at the Battle of the Philippine Sea removed all hopes for relief or supplies for the Japanese. Troubled by the thought of his people surrendering to the Americans, Japanese emperor Hirohito issued a statement that they would enjoy elevated spiritual status in the afterlife if they took their own lives.

By July 7, the Japanese had nowhere to hide. Their commander said that “there is no longer any distinction between civilians and troops. It would be better for them to join in the attack with bamboo spears than be captured.” So the Japanese military supplied the locals with weapons and launched an early-morning banzai charge on the Americans. The 15-hour battle was brutal, but the Americans won.

2011 44¢ Flags of Our Nation, Northern Mariana Islands
US #4313 – The Marianas were the site of the last major “carrier-versus-carrier” naval battle of the war in the Pacific, which the US won.
2019 American Memorial Park Quarter, D Mint
Item #CNMIAM25D – The American Memorial Park in Saipan is a tribute to the soldiers who participated in the Marianas Campaign.

In the end, American forces fighting on Saipan and in the Philippine Sea dealt Japan a serious blow. The Japanese suffered at least 28,000 troop deaths, plus the destruction of five ships, including two fleet carriers, and more than 500 aircraft. On July 9, 1944, after more than three weeks of savage fighting, Saipan was declared under American control, though a small Japanese force evaded capture. Many locals believed the Japanese propaganda that if they surrendered they would be tortured or raped, and instead took their own lives, accounting for about 10% of civilian deaths. So ominous was the defeat that on July 18th, Japan’s Prime Minister Tojo resigned. One Japanese admiral later admitted that their war “was lost with the loss of Saipan.”

2019 American Memorial Park Quarter, P Mint
Item #CNMIAM25P – American Memorial Park Quarter from the Philadelphia Mint

Within a week of the battle’s end, American troops also occupied Guam and Tinian. Nimitz was now within striking distance of Tokyo and on November 24th, the first force of B29s took off from Saipan to bomb Japan. Using submarine and air bases on Saipan, Nimitz was eventually able to launch the assaults on Iwo Jima and Okinawa that led to the inevitable defeat of Japan.

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7 Comments

  1. Thank you Mystic for the history lesson. One of my patients, now deceased, was involved in the Pacific theatre. He was a talented artist (after the war he taught) and he, along with other men, under the cover of darkness, would do advance scouting. They would bring back sketches showing where the Japanese forces were and what the fortifications looked like.

  2. If I were still a teacher (I retired 13 years ago after 43 years of teaching), I would teach my history class using stamps (I have always thought stamps would be an interesting avenue to pursue in teaching history) and I would use the information you supply daily on this site. For example, I learned the names and order of Presidents from the 1930’s series of presidential stamps … and have told students about the 1-cent stamps all being green, the 2-centers red, and the 3-cent variety in violet. Thank you for keeping history alive … especially since we no longer seem to place history in its deserved place of honor and respect in our schools.

  3. I remember this batt or Midle. We on the home front that the turning point was Ghadlecanal or Midway.

  4. Certainly like idea of Tom’s by using stamps to thumb through recent histories. Remember always after hitting weight room for gym (nobody else would) took nap through history. This is a great series to keep alive.

    Not to say the “circus” stamps aren’t collector worthy lol. Today’s showing is really the direction the USPS needs to be at. Who thinks up a lot of this stuff??

    Here Again, Rich

  5. Harvey Arnold

    For 6 years I was a volunteer teacher at Orchard view Elementary School in Delray Beach, Florida. I started a stamp class for after school children. I taught History, Geography and math through the hobby of stamp collecting. Living in Florida for 26 years and volunteering for 26 years. Still have my first stamp Album.

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