The Battle of Saipan

Via Dave at the Mothership.

As the war in the Pacific wore on, it became ever more savage as it approached the Japanese home islands. The first time American forces penetrated the inner ring of Japan’s defenses was in June of 1944, with the assault on Saipan and Tinian islands in the Marianas’.

The Daily Mail has a collection of rare photos from this campaign.


Saipan was a joint Army-Marine operation under the overall command of Marine General Holland “Howling Mad” Smith. The Army contribution consisted of the 27th Infantry Division. Historians (and armchair historians such as myself) continue to argue over “The Battle of the Smiths”:

The operation was marred by inter-service controversy when Marine General Holland Smith, unsatisfied with the performance of the 27th Division, relieved its commander, Army General Ralph C. Smith. However, General Holland Smith had not inspected the terrain over which the 27th was to advance. Essentially it was a valley surrounded by hills and cliffs under Japanese control. The 27th took heavy casualties and eventually, under a plan developed by General Ralph Smith and implemented after his relief, had one battalion hold the area while two other battalions successfully flanked the Japanese.

1 thought on “The Battle of Saipan”

  1. While Ralph Smith was transferred to the ETO and finished well, the same can not be said for “Howling Mad” Smith. Richardson was able to protect Ralph Smith from much of the marine General’s criticism (although some was righteous, given POA policies and tactical doctrines which were set by the Navy and Marines), but Howling Mad ended up being taken out of combat and put in charge of the Pacific Fleet Marine Force, an admin command. It left Howling mad a bitter man, but I think he brought much of it on himself.

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