Download FREE briefings. Have an account? Please log in. Text Size: A A A

Protecting & Repatriating American Remains at the Battle of Saipan

WWII

Protecting & Repatriating American Remains at the Battle of Saipan

A Russian real estate developer plans to construct a condominium development in close proximity to the Battle of Saipan in 1944.

A Russian real estate developer plans to construct a condominium development in close proximity to the Battle of Saipan in 1944.

by Mike Haskew

A Russian real estate developer plans to construct a condominium development in close proximity to the Battle of Saipan in 1944.

Many vestiges of World War II in the Pacific linger, denying the ravages of time.

The battleship USS Missouri, where the war ended nearly 70 years ago, remains as a floating monument and museum at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Not far away, the rusting hulk of the battleship USS Arizona, sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that plunged the United States into World War II, rests in its shallow grave. Nearby, craters left by Japanese bombs, bullet holes from machine guns, and damaged concrete walls remind visitors of that violent day so long ago.

This story can be found in the
December 2014 issue of WWII History Magazine.
Pick up your copy today!

On other islands, rusting tanks, long abandoned guns, the wreckage of aircraft that plunged into jungles, and the remains of honeycombed caves that the defenders of Iwo Jima lived and died in remain as mute testimony to the ferocity of the fighting. A Japanese ghost fleet, sunk during American air raids, lies submerged in the harbor of Truk atoll in the Caroline Islands. Most of these vessels still hold their cargoes of fuel, ammunition, and weapons.

Saipan Today

From time to time the remains of Japanese and American fighting men have been recovered. The repatriation of skeletal remains or their ceremonial cremation and interment have been the subject of widespread media coverage.

Today, on the island of Saipan in the Marianas, the scene of savage fighting during the summer of 1944, a race against time is underway. Members of Kuentai-USA, a nonprofit organization that searches Pacific islands for the remains of Japanese war dead, has been consulting archives in the United States recently. The Japanese are looking for clues, information, evidence, anything that might point them toward the graves of American soldiers who died on Saipan during the war, were buried there, and then through the confusion and shuffle that followed the fighting were forgotten. These are a handful of the thousands of U.S. soldiers, sailors, and Marines listed as missing in action.

Condo Development Where Hundreds Were Wounded or Killed

Usan Kurata, the 58-year-old founder of Kuenti-USA and a journalist by trade, told the Associated Press recently, “This is urgent.” Kurata and others from the organization were searching through records at the New York State Military Museum when the interview was conducted. Kurata told the wire service that the members of Kuenti-USA believe returning the remains of the missing Americans of Saipan to their families is the right thing to do. Kuenti, a Japanese organization, has previously used maps and photographs that were taken in 1944 and appeared in Life magazine to locate a mass grave holding 800 Japanese dead.

Why the urgency now? A Russian real estate developer has announced plans to construct a condominium development on Saipan in close proximity to the beach where a number of Americans lost their lives on July 7, 1944, defending against the largest Japanese banzai attack of World War II. On that night, more than 3,000 Japanese troops attacked positions held by the 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Division, a New York National Guard unit, and more than 900 Americans were killed or wounded.

Continued Efforts by JPAC and the Defense POW-MIA Office

Since 2011, Kuenti personnel have found the remains of two American dead near the proposed construction site, and they have reason to believe that as many as 16 others are buried in the area. According to the Pentagon, 20 American casualties remain missing on Saipan, and a spokesperson for the U.S. Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) has promised that a recovery team will be sent to Saipan if a probable burial site is threatened by commercial development. There are also strict building guidelines that developers are required to follow.

So many years after the life and death struggle for Saipan and other Pacific islands, the effort to locate the missing, both American and Japanese, continues. Hopefully, reforms and renewed accountability in JPAC and the Defense POW-MIA Office will bring additional energy to the ongoing search.

One Trackback

  1. By JPAC Fails Another Recovery | Bataan Missing on November 21, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    […] The following article appeared on warfarehistorynetwork.com […]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *



Issue Previews

The Life of a Military Historian: Walking Through the D-Day Invasion

The Life of a Military Historian: Walking Through the D-Day Invasion

Flint Whitlock shares with us his experiences leading European tours during the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

Military Weapons: NATO’s FN-FAL Rifle

Military Weapons: NATO’s FN-FAL Rifle

One of the most-used military weapons in history, the FN-FAL rifle was the most successful of the NATO military rifles and was used across the globe.

Remembering Edward Saylor & the Doolittle Raiders

Remembering Edward Saylor & the Doolittle Raiders

Edward Saylor, one of four surviving Doolittle Raiders, passed away this January. In this article we look back on their legacy.

The Duke of Wellington’s Preparations for the Battle of Waterloo

The Duke of Wellington’s Preparations for the Battle of Waterloo

The Duke of Wellington did not share Napoleon Bonaparte’s strategic brilliance, but his own strengths played their part at the Battle of Waterloo.

facebook gplus twitter youtube rss

Enter Your Log In Credentials

Forgot your Password?

×
.