Battle of Saipan, Tinian: 70 years hence (1944-2014)

Saipan welcomes 6 WWII veterans

IT may be the last major gathering of veterans of the historic battle that helped alter the course of the war; however, six surviving veterans from the U.S. and Japan managed to make their nostalgic return to Saipan, where this time, they were honored in a gathering they dubbed as a “reunion of honor.”

In a commemoration of what is also known as the Pacific’s D-Day, when the American forces stormed the beaches of Saipan on June 15, 1944, the Northern Mariana Islands paid tribute to the men and women who fought during the Battles of Saipan and Tinian at American Memorial Park Court of Honor on June 15, 2014.

The six veterans feted in a ceremony at the park were Carl Matthews, Howard Johnson Sr., Robert Arthur Burke, Raymond Russell Kelly, Teruki Okazaki and Yoshio Ideguchi.

Matthews was among the first wave of Marines that landed on the beaches of Saipan on June 15, 1944 in what is now Chalan Kanoa.

An enlarged replica of the photograph of his landing on the beach along with other Marines now hang on the wall of the U.S. Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Virginia.

Raymond Kelly, B-29 navigator, is not only a WWII veteran, he is also a veteran of Korean War and Vietnam War.

He served in the U.S. Army Corps then later U.S. Air Force from 1942-1970.

During WWII, he flew in 35 missions from his base on Tinian.

Johnson Sr., 92, was a merchant marine in 1944 helping refuel U.S. ships engaged in the war effort.

He later enlisted in the U.S. Army and served here on island in 1946-1947.

Burke was a U.S. Navy combat photographer, generator mechanic and electrician.

On Saipan, Burke witnessed the official surrender of Japanese Captain Oba.

93-year-old Okazaki, a private first class, he came to Saipan from Manchuria in 1944 as a member of the Heavy Artillery 9th Regiment. He was wounded here on Saipan in action and was later taken to the POW camp in Ohio.

89-year-old Ideguchi, meanwhile, was among the 60 Karashima Paratroopers who made their nighttime Banzai attack against the American forces on the beach on June 15, 1944. He managed to survive the American counterattack.

Ideguchi who spent over a year holding out in the Saipan jungles, finally capitulated to the Americans several months after Captain Oba’s surrender.

Aside from the visiting WWII veterans, Saipan also honored the fallen and those who couldn’t make it to the event.

Gary McClosky represented WWII veteran Joe Lane.

Miwa Kuriyama delivered a speech on behalf of her grandfather Torazo Kuriyama.

Dr. Kathleen Broome Williams, who presented at the Northern Marianas Humanities Council’s history conference, who came to Saipan with her brother and her father’s namesake, Roger Broome, represented their father, Marine Major Roger Moore who was wounded in action during the Battle of Saipan. Broome was in command of the Regimental Weapons Company, 24th Marines, Fourth Marine Division.

Prior to the ceremony, the veterans went to a Mass at Kristo Rai Church before joining the parade to the American Memorial Park.

On June 14, 2014, the veterans were feted in a dinner at the Saipan World Resort.

On June 13, Matthews, Okazaki and Kelly participated in a camp fire chat at the American Memorial Park where they recounted their war experiences and their journey to peace.


Joint Region Marianas commander recognized Marianas’ strategic role

Rear Admiral Tilghman D. Payne, who was then the commander of Joint Region Marianas, and the event’s keynote speaker, joined the celebration on Saipan and recognized the continuing significant role that the Northern Marianas will play in the region’s security and prosperity as it did 70 years ago.

For Payne, the Northern Marianas “remains an important gateway to the Asia Pacific region.”

He recounted how the war catapulted Saipan to a critical role “as a crucial stronghold” to securing victory of the war.

He said as everything in the world shifts, but one thing remains constant: geography. Saipan’s location is strategic, he said.

“It is just as important today as it was 70 years ago,” said Payne.

He said as the U.S. executes its re-balance to the Pacific, the Northern Marianas continues to be an important gateway. He touted the range of options for military training and skills sustainment in the region. He said the United States will continue to rely on this region and the region “will continue to make ours the greatest military in the world.”

In commemorating the Battles of Saipan and Tinian, Payne reminds them of the value of the warriors—“the men and women who showed incredible bravery during extraordinary times” and of the tragedy and hardship of war.

In an ideal world, Payne said there will always be peace and the military will have no role to play. “But a quick scan of the world headlines prove otherwise. The world is not an ideal place. In fact, the world could be a very dangerous place.”

He said this necessitates a strong military to continue to protect the citizens, to sustain forces in the Pacific, to maintain their ability to do everything from arms conflict to providing humanitarian assistance.

He underscored the need to improve training facilities in the region. This could not be accomplished “without the collective support of the people of the CNMI.”

Payne pointed out the importance of the training facilities and how this would provide opportunities for both businesses and families.

The training facilities, he said, will continue to provide peace and stability to the region and to the allies and it will continue to provide economic benefit for the people of the CNMI.

Back in 2014, there were ongoing environmental impact studies being conducted on the intent to fill the 62 unfilled training areas in the Western Pacific with Pagan and Tinian being proposed to fill these training requirements.

History Conference: Cultures in War

The Northern Marianas Humanities Council brought to the islands scholars from overseas for the June 14, 2014 conference held at Saipan World Resort.

The scholars who presented were Michael R. Clement, Jr., assistant professor of history and Micronesian Studies at the University of Guam; Haruko Taya Cook, coordinator of the Japanese Language and Japanese Language Teacher Preparation Program, instructor at William Patterson University; Dr. Theodore F. Cook, professor of history and Asian Studies program director at William Patterson University; Alfred Peredo Flores, PhD candidate at UCLA and of Chamorro-Korean descent; Professor Anderson Giles, accomplished artist, photographer, documentary filmmaker, and teacher at University of Maine at Presque Isle; Professor Harold J. Goldberg, professor of history at University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee; Dr. Matthew Hughes, Brunel University; Damien O’Connell, military historian and senior fellow at Marine Corps University; Courtney A. Short, PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; Dr. Kathleen Broome Williams, director of general education and professor at Cogswell Polytechnical College; Yujin Yaguchi, professor at Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Tokyo; Lisa Yoneyama, professor of transnational East Asian Studies, University of Toronto.

From the CNMI, the speakers were Jessica Jordan, who was then a PhD candidate at the Department of History at the University of California, San Diego and local historian Don Farrell.

Clement Jr. talked about “Militarization and Music: Stories of Cross Cultural Encounters in Guam and Saipan during World War II and the Early Post-War Years.”

He explored the impact of the U.S. military men on the cultures of the islands. “These G.I.’s were the first introduction to American Culture,” he said. The Armed Forces Radio, he said, gave islanders an unprecedented access to American music.

Taya-Cook’s presentation, “The Meaning of Saipan in Creating Japanese War Memory: The Use and Abuse of Wartime Myth,” argued that it was not substantiated that all Japanese civilians and soldiers preferred death to surrender. For Tanya-Cook the Saipan gyokusai did not happen, or at least, did not occur to the extent it was reported at the time.

Dr. Cook, meanwhile, examined the struggles of soldiers before the American invasion in the presentation titled, “Defending A Japanese Bastion in Wartime: Perspectives on Saipan.”

Farrell’s “Operation Centerboard: The Plan to Drop Atomic Bombs on Japan,” talked about the plan to drop atomic bombs on Japan and how this expedited war’s end.

Flores’ “The Agony Over Land: U.S. Military Land Acquisition on Guam and Chamorro Land Stewarship, 1944-1972” discussed how necessary land acquisition was for the U.S. military’s expansion efforts on Guam.

Giles’ presentation “There will never be anything like this again,” focused on the American efforts at establishing an airbase facility on Tinian where its B-29 campaign changed history.

Goldberg’s “Seeking a Paradigm of the Warrior Experience: The Battle of Saipan Beyond 1944,” examined ways by which this battle transcends time, place and nationality.

Hughes’ “Race, Culture and Combat in the Pacific, 1944-45” explored the treatment by U.S. military forces of civilians during the war in the Pacific.

Jordan’s “Colonial Subjects and Military Men: Experiences of the Pacific War (1941-1945) in the Northern Mariana Islands Among Common and Elite Indigenous Islanders,” looked at experiences of the indigenous people, how they suffered during the war and how they became “powerless refugees.”

O’Connell’s “Fact from Fiction: The Pied Piper of Saipan” was about the life of Marine Private First Class Guy Gabaldon and examined how his story of singlehandedly capturing  over a thousand Japanese servicemen is scrutinized.

Short’s “The Occupation of Okinawa: Considerations of Race and Identity in Naval Military Government Policy” focused on the naval government on Okinawa from 1945 to 1946.

Dr. Williams’ “Another Kind of Valor: Battling the Wounds from Saipan” examined the cost of war for the wounded and their loved ones.

Yaguchi’s “Japan’s War Tourism to the Mariana Islands” was about Japan’s “contemporary tourism to the Mariana Islands.”

Yoneyama’s “Coming to terms with America’s Justus Hostis: Remembering Japan’s Liberal Empire in Saipan,” questions the inability of the “hegemonic U.S. historical consciousness to perceive its war against Japan as a clash between two liberal empires emerging in co-figuration.”

.Below are some snapshots of these events:


Culture in War: A CNMI history conference. 2014.