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Saipan 1944 (Paperback)

The Most Decisive Battle of the Pacific War

Military > Frontline Books > Frontline: WWII Photographic Books WWII > Battles & Campaigns > Japan & the Pacific Front WWII > Photographic Books

By John Grehan, Alexander Nicoll
Frontline Books
Series: Images of War
Pages: 216
Illustrations: 180+ black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526758309
Published: 21st May 2021



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After the astonishing Japanese successes of 1941 and early 1942, the Allies began to fight back. After victories at Guadalcanal, Coral Sea, Midway and other islands in the Pacific, by 1944, the Japanese had been pushed back onto the defensive. Yet there was no sign of an end to the war, as the Japanese mainland was beyond the reach of land-based heavy bombers. So, in the spring of 1944, the focus of attention turned to the Mariana Islands – Guam, Saipan and Tinian – which were close enough to Tokyo to place the Japanese capital within the operational range of the new Boeing B-29 Superfortress.

The attack upon Saipan, the most heavily-defended of the Marianas, took the Japanese by surprise, but over the course of more than three weeks, the 29,000 Japanese defenders defied the might of 71,000 US Marines and infantry, supported by fifteen battleships and eleven cruisers. The storming of the beaches and the mountainous interior cost the US troops dearly, in what was the most-costly battle to date in the Pacific War.

Eventually, after three weeks of savage fighting, which saw the Japanese who refused to surrender being burned to death in their caves, the enemy commander, Lieutenant General Saito, was left with just 3,000 able-bodied men and he ordered them to deliver a final suicide banzai charge. With the wounded limping behind, along with numbers of civilians, the Japanese overran two US battalions, before the 4,500 men were wiped out. It was the largest banzai attack of the Pacific War.

As well as placing the Americans within striking distance of Tokyo, the capture of Saipan also opened the way for General MacArthur to mount his invasion of the Philippines and resulted in the resignation of the Japanese Prime Minister Tojo. One Japanese admiral admitted that ‘Our war was lost with the loss of Saipan’. This is a highly illustrated story of what US General Holland Smith called ‘the decisive battle of the Pacific offensive’. It was, he added, the offensive that ‘opened the way to the Japanese home islands’.

With the release of Saipan 1944, authors Grehan and Nicoll have written an introductory history to one of the Pacific Theatre’s most pivotal engagements and made it available to a wider audience.

Saipan 1944 is the latest offering from the Images of War series from Frontline Books, an imprint of Pen and Sword, one of the world’s most prolific publishers of military history books. As the series title indicates, this volume is heavily illustrated with black and white photographs taken during the Second World War. Coming in at 190 pages in total, there is a shortage of text, although the book does give the reader a
good introduction to Operation Forager and the epic fight for Saipan.

Along with offering a good grasp of Saipan’s grand strategy, the authors thoughtfully included accounts from the common soldiers who were actually on the ground. The text includes captivating vignettes that highlight the sacrifices of men who were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor after sacrificing their lives for their fellow Marines. By pairing such sobering accounts with period photography, Saipan 1944offers a brief but unvarnished glimpse at the horrors of combat in the Pacific Theatre.

The Northern Mariner, Winter 2021

Full book review available at: https://www.navyhistory.org/2022/02/saipan-1944the-most-decisive-battle-of-the-pacific-war/

Highlight: 'The textual lead-ins to the chapters are superb scene-setters for what follows. Those tightly written paragraphs show the professionalism that characterizes this book, this series, and its authors, Grehan and Nicoll.'

John Grady, Naval Historical Foundation

As Featured in

WWII History, April 2022

This is a solid addition to the series.

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Beating Tsundoku

"...the book contains the same wonderful collection of photographs as previous volumes."

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The Historical Miniatures Gaming Society

This offering from Pen and Sword, provides a tasteful view of the taking of Saipan in 1944. With this battle being against the Japanese, it is hard to avoid covering the brutality of war, especially when you consider that 3,500 Japanese soldiers were committed to the largest Banzai attack ever, and behind these 3,500 followed up the walking wounded. With the images covering various aspects of warfare, it makes this offering particularly visually interesting due to its scope.

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"...well worth picking up...."

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"With superb narration and cogent captions of the choicest 180 black and white photographs from America’s military archival sources, many now published for the first time, the book promises to prove of greatest interest to all military fans, whether buff, scholar, historian, author, and photographer, as well as every other American citizen."

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"Highly Recommended for anyone interested in the Pacific War island hopping campaign in the Marianas."

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Recommended to any student of WW2, Model-maker or Historian.

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ARRSE (Army Rumour Service)

Saipan in 1944 was a pivotal part of WWII, in that it helped bring about the end of the war in the Far East. Saipan was such a heavily defended and fortified island, the hell on both sides would have been great. I think what really struck me when reading this book and I have read a few, it just struck me the amount of hardship and suffering that went on and this was through reading the great history published here. The thing about the photos that caught my attention was the utter devastation unleashed, this knowledge and evidence is so clearly important to be kept to warn against the devastation that war brings. A really solid book that I have really enjoyed and would recommend to others most certainly.

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UK Historian

"For the reader unfamiliar with the Pacific Theatre in WW2 this work is a very good introduction to the sheer intensity of the fighting on land, sea and in the air as well as a sound view of the Invasion of Saipan and its strategic importance to both Japan and the Allies."

Martin Willoughby, Chairman of the Wessex Branch of the Western Front Association

The conquest of Saipan was a vicious battle, but one which directly contributed to the end of the war by providing an airbase from which bombers could operate, and these of course eventually included those which dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Helpful text to set the scene in each chapter, while the extensive captions to a very fine collection of archive images adding the rest. Some of these don't pull punches, and the human cost of the operation is clear. For those interested in the history of the Pacific War, this is well worth seeing.

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Military Model Scene

About John Grehan

JOHN GREHAN has written, edited or contributed to more than 300 books and magazine articles covering a wide span of military history from the Iron Age to the recent conflict in Afghanistan. John has also appeared on local and national radio and television to advise on military history topics. He was employed as the Assistant Editor of Britain at War Magazine from its inception until 2014. John now devotes his time to writing and editing books.

About Alexander Nicoll

ALEXANDER NICOLL has been involved in writing and publishing military history for thirty years. He began his career with local history, and has since written numerous books and magazine articles, predominantly on subjects relating to the two world wars.

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