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.