World War II Marianas Campaign: Japanese Attrocities--Civilians


Figure 1.--Here a U.S. Marine on Tinian attempts to communicate with aapanese father nd his two ons. They are just beginning to realize that the Marines are not going to torture and kill them like the Japanse autorities told them. And thus there is no need to commit suicide.

Japanese World War II attrocities are generally see as heinous acts targeting the people imvading an occupied. Less well covered are the attrocities targetting the Japanese people. This began as far as civilans are concerned in the Marianas, mst promonently on Saipan which had the largest population of Japanese settlers. Japan acquired the Marianas duringWorld War I and had two decades to settle a sizeable number of civilians on the islands, displacing many Chamoros on Saipan. The Japanese were well prepared for the American invasion. The American Central Pacific campaign had made considerable progress. After the Gilberts, Marshalls, and actions in the Carolines, it was obvious that the Marianas were next. The Japanese knew about the B-29 and that the Home Islands could be attacked from bases in the Marianas. Thus the Japanese authorities in the Marianas had pleny of time to brief civilians that the Americans were coming and what they could expect. We know what they were told, although it is not entirely clear who ordered it. We do not know if authorities in Tokyo ordered how civilians should be briefed. As far as we know at this time, local authorities just followed the Japanese propaganda line that the Americans were beasts and would torture and kill civians and rape the women. We are not entirely sure how this message was conveyd. We are not sure it was Tokyo based propaganda. Cetainly Tokyo demonized the Americans at every turn, but it was slow to admit that the Americans were having success in the war, esecially occupying areas with Japanese populations. The Japanese propaganda message at the tome ws that Japan was winning the War, so message about American behavior in occupied areas would seem to have been off message, but perhaps readers who know more about Japanese propaganda can tell us more. The message seems to have been delivered locally, in many cases informally. We are not sure that higher ranking officers really believed this. There was no actual information to sunstantuate it. But this is what civilians were told and most seemed to have believed what they were told. Once the Americn invaded, the civilians hid in the many caves, odrering sheltr from the air raids and fighting. This was done in desperation. The Japanese pre-positiond food and water for soldiers, but not for civilians. And civilins do not seem to have done this on their own. Unlike Okinawa where the Americans also encountted Japanese civilians. Japanese soldiers on the Marianasa do not seem to have forced civilans to commit suicide or even just killed them. After establishing their beachead, American marines and soldiers advanced inland through valleys of sugar cane fields, swamps, and finally reaching jungle-covered mountains. his was the most difficult terrain feature on Saipan for the Americans. Hundres of natural caves honeycombing the island. These caves could conceal Japanese snipers, artillery, or terrified civilians seeking to survive the fierce fighting. It was the first time Americans encountered any substantial numbers of Japanese civilians in the Pacific War. In addition to misinforming their civilians, the Japanese soldiers actually used their own cibvilians as bait for ambushes or as human shields. his of course suggests that at least the officers knew that what they were tellng the civilians were lies. What ever the case, it was effective. Civilins continued to hide in caves evcen when starving. And finally as the Americans soldiers drove the Japanese to the northern corner of the island, womn started commiting suisud, jumping fom high cliffs into the sea, many with their babies in their arms. They ignored pleas by Japanese speakking Americns to surrender. The smesenario unfolded on Guam and Tinian, albeit with smaller numbers of Jpanese civilians.

Japanese Targets

Japanese World War II attrocities are generally see as heinous acts targeting the people imvading an occupied. Less well covered are the attrocities targetting the Japanese people.

Japanese Settlers

Ebcountering Japanese civilians began in the Marianas, most promonently on Saipan which had the largest population of Japanese settlers. Japan acquired the Marianas during World War I and had two decades to settle a sizeable number of civilians on the islands, displacing many Chamoros on Saipan.

Preparartion

The Japanese were well prepared for the American invasion. The American Central Pacific campaign had made considerable progress. After the Gilberts, Marshalls, and actions in the Carolines, it was obvious that the Marianas were next. The Japanese knew about the B-29 and that the Home Islands could be attacked from bases in the Marianas.

Preparing Civilians

Thus the Japanese authorities in the Marianas had pleny of time to brief civilians that the Americans were coming and what they could expect. We know what they were told, although it is not entirely clear who ordered it. We do not know if authorities in Tokyo ordered how civilians should be briefed. As far as we know at this time, local authorities just followed the Japanese propaganda line that the Americans were beasts and would torture and kill civians and rape the women. We are not entirely sure how this message was conveyd. We are not sure it was Tokyo based propaganda. Cetainly Tokyo demonized the Americans at every turn, but it was slow to admit that the Americans were having success in the war, esecially occupying areas with Japanese populations. The Japanese propaganda message at the tome ws that Japan was winning the War, so message about American behavior in occupied areas would seem to have been off message, but perhaps readers who know more about Japanese propaganda can tell us more. The message seems to have been delivered locally, in many cases informally. We are not sure that higher ranking officers really believed this. There was no actual information to sunstantuate it. But this is what civilians were told and most seemed to have believed what they were told.

Civilian Respmse

Once the Americn invaded, the civilians hid in the many caves, odrering sheltr from the air raids and fighting. This was done in desperation. The Japanese pre-positiond food and water for soldiers, but not for civilians. And civilins do not seem to have done this on their own. Unlike Okinawa where the Americans also encountted Japanese civilians.

Japanee Solduers

Japanese soldiers on the Marianasa do not seem to have forced civilans to commit suicide or even just killed them. In addition to misinforming their civilians, the Japanese soldiers actually used their own cibvilians as bait for ambushes or as human shields. his of course suggests that at least the officers knew that what they were tellng the civilians were lies. What ever the case, it was effective. Civilins continued to hide in caves evcen when starving.

American Soldiers

After establishing their beachead, American marines and soldiers advanced inland through valleys of sugar cane fields, swamps, and finally reaching jungle-covered mountains. his was the most difficult terrain feature on Saipan for the Americans. Hundres of natural caves honeycombing the island. These caves could conceal Japanese snipers, artillery, or terrified civilians seeking to survive the fierce fighting. It was the first time Americans encountered any substantial numbers of Japanese civilians in the Pacific War.

Suiside

Finally as the Americans soldiers drove the Japanese to the northern corner of the island, womn started commiting suisud, jumping fom high cliffs into the sea, many with their babies in their arms. They ignored pleas by Japanese speakking Americns to surrender. The smesenario unfolded on Guam and Tinian, albeit with smallr numbers of Jpanese civilians.

Individual Islands

The actual evenys varied from island to island. The Americans first invaded Saipan whivh had the largest Japanese population. The fighting was toughest there. And the largest numbers of civilian suisides took place on Saipan.

After the Fighting









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Created: 6:40 PM 1/15/2015
Last updated: 6:41 PM 1/15/2015