The Northern Marianas: Japanese Mandate (1914-44)


Figure 1.--Here we see Akira Mango and his sister on Saipan in 1941. Except for the tropical foilage, the photograph could have been taken any where in Japan. They are wearing schools clothes, perhasps uniforms. They are two of the thousands of Japanese immigrants who settled on Saipan. Only a few Japnese civilians settled on the other islands of their South Pacific Mandate.

The Japanese saw the Northern Marianas as useful both militarily as well as an economic assett. The Marianas served as useful air and naval bases to build a shield around Japan. Economically the Japanese were particularly interested in sugar cane. They proceed in clearing groves of coconut palms planted by the Chomoros as well asand tropical forests. This included many ancient latte stones important to the Chamoros. Large numbers of Japanese civilians were brought in to develop the economy. This proved an economic success. The Marianas sugar cane operations were producing 60 percent of the revenues the Japanese were generated in Micronesia. The Japanese also changed the Northern Marianas demographically. When the Japanese acquired the islands, there were about 4,000 Chamorros. The Japanese population when the War began was 45,000, mostly immigrant workers. The Marianas thus became essentially Japanese islands. The Japanese recreated the islands amd thgus life there became similar to that on Japan itself. Schools were opened for the Japanese children.

World War I (1914-18)

Japan had a Naval Alliance with Britain. When World War I broke out in Europe, the Japanese entered the War on the Allied side. The British were at first surprised at the Japanese eagerness to enter the War. Japanese officials saw some advantages to be gained from the War, particularly the opportunity of seizing German colonies. This was helpful to the British because it allowed the Royal Navy to maintain only a small squadron in the Pacific to deal with the Germans. Japanese, British, and Dominion forces seized the German outposts. Japanese forced seized the Northern Marianasa (1914). The World War I settlment assigned the northern colonies to Japan and the southern colonies to Australia. The Mariana Islands legally were turned over to the newly created League of Nations (1919). The League after Japn ascribed to the League of Nations assigned Japan to administer the Mandated Territory (1920). The Japanese thus acquired the Northern Marianas. The Ameicans continued to control Guam to the south.

South Pacific Mandate (1914/19-44)

The Marianas were a part of the The League of Nations South Pacific Island Mandate (Nan-Yo) assigned to Japan. The Mandated covered a large part of Micronesia and were former German colonies. It included the Carolines, Marianas, Marshall Islands and Palau archepeligoes. An exception was made for Guam which continued under U. S. administration. The South Pacific Mandate was put under the control of the Japanese Navy. The Governors appointed were mostly admirals or vice-admirals. The Mandate capital was Koror, in the Palau islands. The most important island was Saipan in the Marianasa for both military and economic reasons. Sapan also became a major center for Japanese settlement. Another important island militarily was Truk (now Chuuk), in the Carolines. The Imperial Navy referred to it as the Southern Gibraltar. The Japanese Navy built airfields, fortifications, ports, and other military instaltions. These facilities proved importantbin the Pacific War (1941-45). The Japanese carrier fleet that attacked Pearl Harbor came from ports in the Hime Islands. The Japanes attacks on the Philippines, New Guinea, Nauru and the Gilberts islands t the beginning of the war were launched frpm bases in the various South Pacific Mandate islands (1941-42).

Sugar Cane

Economically the Japanese were particularly interested in sugar cane. They proceed in clearing groves of coconut palms planted by the Chomoros as well asand tropical forests. This included many ancient latte stones important to the Chamoros. Large numbers of Japanese civilians were brought in to develop the economy. This proved an economic success. The Marianas sugar cane operations were producing 60 percent of the revenues the Japanese were generated in Micronesia.

Fishing Industry

The Japanese colonists also founded a thriving fishing indistry on Saipan.

Indigenous Population

The Chamorros are the indienous populatiomn of the Marianas. The reached the Marianas Islands from Southeast Asia (about 2,000 BC) They are most closely related to other Austronesian-speaking proples, especially the people of eastern Indonesia (paticularly Maluku and Sulawesi), Taiwanese aborigines, and the peoples of the Caroline Islands to the south (especially the outer islands of the FSM state of Yap). They were expert seafarers and skilled craftspeople mastering weaving and pottery-making. During the long Spanish Colonial Era, the Chamorro population declined substantially, primarily because of the introduction of European diseases, but also due to societal changes under Spanish rule. he Chamorros resisted Spanish colonization. In an effort to control the Chomorros and Chrstianize, the Soanish killed many Chamorros, altough precise details are unavailble. The Spanish relocated most of the Chomorro population to the southern island of Guam where they were settled in Christian parishes to prevent rebellion. Some sources estimate that as many as 100,000 Chamorus may have populated the Marianas when they were firsr encounterd by the Spanish (1667), although that estimate is speculative. A more substantial estimate of only about 10,000 Chomorros was reported (about 1800). Most of the remaining Chomorro population of the Northern Marianas live on Saipan. The population on Rota and Tinian was rather small. There was was a substantial immigration of Carolinians (mostly from what are now the outer islands of Yap and Chuuk) to the northern Marianas. We believe that this was primarily for ecomomic reasons, but do not yet have much information. This apparently stopped once the Japanese took control of the islands during World War I and placed greater control on population movement. The Japanese set out to change Chomorro culture, having them learn Japanese and attend Japanese schools. This was the same as the process on Taiwan seized by the Japanese as part of the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) and Korea was also made into Japanese colony and a process of enculturation began (1909). The Chamorro population was much smaller and thus under greater cultural pressure. We have few details on the life style of the Chomorros under Japanese occupation or the Caroliniam immigrants. The Japanese immogrant engulfed the apporimately 4,000 Chamorros by about 19 to 1. We are not aware at this time of the relations with the Japanese colonists which settle during the Mandate period, mostly on Saipan. We do know that the Japanese used the northern Chomorros in their World War II occpation of American Guam. They were useful as interpretors becauase the Guamaian Chomoros spoke only Chommoro or English. The northern Chomorros were deemed as loyal by the Japanese. The Guamanian Chomorros on the other hand were seen as a largely hostile enemy people. The Japanese occupation of Guam was very brutal, some 10 percent of Gumanian Chomorros were kiled are died as a result of abuses by the Japanese. [Juhl] We do not know to what extent the northern Guamanians participated in these abuses, but considrable illwill developed between between the two groups of Chmorros.

Japanese Immigrants

The Japanese also changed the Northern Marianas demographically. When the Japanese acquired the islands, there were about 4,000 Chamorros. Japan settled on Saipan, Tinian and Rota. The Japanese population when the War began was 45,000, mostly immigrant workers. This was about 10 time the indigenous Chimoro population. The Marianas thus became essentially Japanese islands. Much of te Japanese settlement was focused in Saipan. The Japanese recreated the islands amd thus life there became similar to that on Japan itself. The Japanese also established Japese cultural institutions including schools, schools, shrines and temples. Schools were opened for the Japanese children. I believed the Chimoros also attended the Japanese schools, although here I do not yet have details.

Annexation (1931-35)

Rather than administer the islands with some consideration of the indegionous population, the Japanese moved to make the islands Japanese territory. Japanese immigrants soon outnumbered the Chomoros. Japanese ebnterprises were set up to develop the islands commercially. Japan was even more interested in China and finally seized Manchuria (1931). Outraged with League of Nations actions condeming the seizure of Manchuria, Japan withdrew from the League (1935). This meant that Japan had no legal authority to its continued administration of the islands. Japan by this time had already virtually annexed the Northern Marianas into the Japanese Empire. Saipan was a little different than other Japanese colonial possessions in that the population was because of immigration, largely Japanese.

Military Construction

The Japanese saw the Northern Marianas as useful both militarily as well as an economic assett. The Marianas served as useful air and naval bases to build a shield around Japan. Initially the Japanese military instalations were limited. After Japan withdrew from the League of Nations (1935) they escalated military preparations. By the time of World war II there was a Japanese military garison of over 30,000 men. This was in addition to the 40,000 civilans.

American Invasion (June 1944)

The Japanese garison on Saipan and Guam was virtually wiped out to a man. Japanese authorities told civilians that the Americans were barbaric and would bruttaly torture all prisioners, both military and civlian. The Japanese bushido code precluded soldiers from surrendering. Why the Japanese authorities did not want the civilians to surrender is unclear. They urged the civilians to kill their children and commit suiside. Many did. Hundreds of Japanes families committed suiside. Many civilians jumped to their deaths from the high cliffs along the island's most northern point, the last area of Japanese resistance. The suisides included mothers with babies in their arms. Americans and Saipanese used loudspeakers to try to disuade the Japanese civilians to surender. Most of the civilians on Saipan survived the invasion. An estimated 90 percent are believed to have survived. The occupation of Saipan was the first American encounter with Japanese civilians. The civilians encountered by the Americans were interned in camps. Here the military authorities could keep them away fromthe fighting as well as provide food and shelter as well as military care. After the figting was over, authorities opened schools for the children.

Sources

Gruhl, Werner. Imperial Japan's World War Two, 19311945 (Transaction Publishers, 2007).>







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Created: 3:01 AM 9/27/2006
4:50 AM 5/8/201812:00 AM 12/31/2012