Saipan 1944

The invasion of Saipan in the Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO) had been referred to as the “Pacific D-Day” because the invasion fleet departed Hawaii on 5 June 1944 (the day before Operation Overlord in Europe) and the invasion was launched 9 days later. The invasion became the most daring, and disturbing, operation in the war against Japan to date. The largest US/Japanese tank battle of the Pacific war occurred on Saipan. After Saipan was captured, the US gained a strategic base where US Army Air Forces (USAAF) Boeing B-29 “Super Fortress” bombers were within flying range of the Japanese home islands.

In 1914 during WWI, Saipan was captured by the Empire of Japan. Japan was awarded formal control of the island in 1919 by the League of Nations as a part of its mandated territory of the South Seas Mandate. Militarily and economically, Saipan was one of the most important islands in the mandate and it became a major Japanese settlement. By October 1943, Saipan had a civilian population of 29,348 Japanese.

The Mariana islands were part of Japan’s inner defense belt. Both Guam and Saipan were close enough to the Japanese home islands to serve as bases for US bombers. Saipan was defended by the Imperial Japanese Army 43rd Infantry Division commanded by Lieutenant General Yoshitsugu Saito. The garrisons on the two islands were reinforced by the Japanese 9th Tank Regiment which also received some of the new Type 97 Kai Shinhoto Chi-ha medium tanks armed with 47mm gun. The 9th Tank Regiment was was split up between the two islands. The 1st and 2nd companies were on Guam while the 3rd, 4th, and 5th companies were on Saipan. Also there were 9 Type 95 Ha-Go light tanks of the Yokosuka 1st Special Naval Landing Forces (SNLF) on Saipan and a similar number with the 24th Independent Tank Company on Guam. Japanese infantry units also begun to receive the new Type 1 47mm towed anti-tank gun which was the same weapon that armed the Shinhoto Chi-ha tank.

In early 1944, Operation Matterhorn deployed USAAF B-29 units to four forward bases in southern China to bomb Japan. The Chengdu region was chosen and US XX Bomber Command sent only a single wing of four groups due to the lack of available aircraft which limited the effectiveness of any attacks from China. There was no overland connection available between India and China, and all supplies had to be flown over the Himalayas mountains, either by transport aircraft or by the B-29s themselves, with some aircraft being stripped of armor and guns and used to transport fuel. B-29s started to arrive in India in early April 1944. Besides the logistical problems associated with operations in China, the B-29s could only reach limited parts of Japan while flying from China. On 15 June 1944, 68 B-29s took off from bases around Chengdu and 47 B-29s bombed the Imperial Iron and Steel Works at Yawata, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. This was the first bombing attack on the Japanese home islands since the Doolittle raid flying 16 stripped down B-25B bombers from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet on 18 April 1942.

Operation Forager was a US offensive launched against Japanese forces in the Mariana and Palau Islands between June and November 1944. Saipan was the first island invaded during the operation and was the first two-division amphibious assault conducted by US forces in the Pacific war. The US 2nd Marine Division (2nd, 6th, 8th Infantry Regiments) and the 4th Marine Division (23rd, 24th, 25th Infantry Regiments) made the amphibious assault supported by the 2nd and 4th Marine Tank Battalions respectively. By this time, all the US Marine tank battalions were re-organized with 46 M4A2 medium tanks (divided into three companies) and M3/M5 light tanks instead of the original 54 light tanks. In reserve was the US Army 27th Infantry Division “The New York Division” (105th, 106th, 165th infantry Regiments) and the US Army 77th Infantry Division “The Statue of Liberty Division”.

Film: Marianas Operation: Saipan

On the afternoon of 15 June 1944, the 2nd and 4th Marine Tank Battalions were landed on Saipan and soon split into small groups to provide fire support to Marine infantry units assaulting entrenched Japanese positions.

M4A2 “FIRE BALL” number 23 of the 4th Marine Tank Battalion is being lowered into a landing craft, mechanized (LCM) in preparation for the invasion. This battalion adopted the practice of painting the turret roof white with large red numbers as an aerial identification aid. Note the wading stack sections are not connected, but tied down to reduce the height while on board the transport ship. Once in the LCM, the crew would attach the wading stack sections during the run to the landing beach.

This large hatch M4A2 named “Gremlin IV” of the 3rd Platoon, B Company, 4th Marine Tank Battalion appears to had fallen into an underwater shell hole in the surf which drowned out the engines. The turret roof is painted white but the red numbers cannot be seen. Note this tank has an oval loader hatch and the split commanders hatch.

A Marine M4A2 tank and two LVT Amtracs knocked out in the surf. On the right is a LVT-4 with a silhouette of another tank behind it. On the left is a LVT(A)-4 armed with a 75mm howitzer mounted in an open top turret.

This is my close up of the M4A2 tank above. The tactical number on the side of the turret might be “A10” (not 100% sure). Since the commander’s hatch is not painted white, it probably belonged to the 2nd Marine Tank Battalion.

This small hatch Fisher built Marine M4A2 with an early M34 Gun Mount has tactical number “C32” on the side of the turret. It also probably belonged to the 2nd Marine Tank Battalion.

During the night of June 15, a Japanese SNLF raiding party supported by several Type 2 Ka-mi amphibious light tanks landed near Garapan on the left flank of the 2nd Marine Division northern landing beaches attempting to disrupt the US defenses. The Marines called in for naval star shell illumination from offshore warships which lit up the area. During the ensuring firefight, the Type 2s fell victim to Marine bazookas and tank guns. This was the first wide scale use of bazookas in the Pacific war.

The Type 2 Ka-mi tank had detachable pontoons on the front and rear. This Type 2 was knocked out in the fighting after it discarded its pontoons. This is the left rear of the tank.

This is the left side of the tank. Note the angles of the suspension boogies as it climbed up the small wall.

This is the right side of the tank which has a number “4” on the turret. A Marine shell hit and knocked out a piece of the hull side.

This is the front of the tank. In the background on the right is a LVT(A)-4 amtrac on the landing beach.

This is a color photo of another knocked Type 2 Ka-mi tank.

At dawn on June 16, the Yokosuka 1st SNLF Type 95 Ha-go tank company and the 4th company, 9th Tank Regiment attacked the US beach head with supporting infantry. They were devastated by tank fire from the two Marine tank battalions.

This Type 95 Ha-go tank of the 4th company, 9th Tank Regiment was knocked out during the fighting near Red Beach 3 on the early morning of June 16. This tank appears to have been hit by an anti-tank round on the upper edge of the sponson which not only penetrated the tank, but cracked its armor.

The hull of this Type 95 Ha-go light tank had been ripped open by a direct hit by a US 75mm high explosive (HE) round. The Marines found that armor piercing (AP) rounds were usually ineffective against Japanese tanks because the shells penetrated the armor and just pass straight through the tank without exploding.

On June 16, the US Army 27th Infantry Division (minus the 106th Infantry Regiment), 30 miles (48 km) from Saipan was ordered to immediately land over the 4th Marine Division beaches. The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 165th Infantry Regiment came ashore over Blue Beach 1 in the early hours of the morning and was attached to the 4th Marine Division. It moved inland through the Marine positions, took up positions on the 4th Marine Division’s southern flank, and prepared to attack towards Aslito Airfield at 0730 hours. Supporting the 27th Infantry Division was the 762nd Provisional Tank Battalion consisting of Company B (M4s) and Company D (M5A1 Stuarts) with the attached Company D (M5A1s) from the 766th Tank Battalion. One source states that Companies A and C, not B, were on Saipan.

These two late M5A1 Stuart tanks from Company D of either the 762nd Tank Battalion are stuck in the sand on Blue Beach 1 at low tide. Note the white stars on the turrets and above the serial number on the rear hull side is “US ARMY”.

One of the most deadly enemies of US tanks were mines. The Japanese occasionally buried aerial bombs with the mines along likely tank routes. The blast from such a mine has blown off the front right bogie, ripped apart the drive sprocket, and flipped the tank onto its side.

This is a late M5A1 Stuart of D Company of the 762nd Tank Battalion with the beaches evident behind it. This unit carried large tactical numbers on the turret and note the large white star on the front hull. This tank is missing its front right fender and the front hull MG has been removed.

Sources incorrectly captioned this Sherman as being a Marine M4A2 but it is clearly a composite hull M4 Sherman. It was named “Last Chance” and belonged to Company B, US Army 762nd Tank battalion. The composite hull M4 was similar to the basic M4 medium tank, but the front hull was a single casting instead of being constructed of the usual welded armor plates.

M8 75mm howitzer motor carriages (HMC) were assigned to the Headquarters companies in US Army medium tank battalions. Six M8s were assigned to the 762nd Tank Battalion on Saipan. Based on the M5 light tank chassis, the short barrel 75mm howitzer was mounted in an open top turret and it provided fire support to the infantry and other units in the battalion.

Due to the steady progress of the US landing forces, Japanese Vice-Admiral Nagumo ordered the army garrison commander Lieutenant General Saito to launch an all-out counter-attack against the US forces during the night of June 16-17. Spearheading the attack were about 37 of the remaining 44 tanks of Colonel Hideki Goto’s 9th Tank Regiment and Lieutenant Colonel Karashima’s Yokosuka 1st SNLF. The US Marines were able to hear the Japanese tank engines which were carrying troops of Colonel Ogawa’s 136th Infantry Regiment in the town of Garapan to the north of the landing beaches. The Marines requested tank support and received a M4A2 platoon from Company A, 2nd Marine Tank Battalion and several M3 75mm half track GMCs (Marines called them SPMs).

The largest single Japanese tank attack of the Pacific war started at 0200 hours on the morning of June 17 towards the radio station at the northern end of Charan Kanoa airstrip, which was in American hands. The Japanese tank attack advanced across open ground and again naval star shells quickly illuminated the advancing enemy tanks. The Marines began firing at them with bazookas and 37mm towed anti-tank guns, knocking out several of them. During the melee, several Japanese tank strayed into the nearby marshes and became bogged down. Several of the enemy tanks reached the Marine lines but were quickly knocked out. As the attack was repelled by a hail of gunfire, the Marine tanks and SPMs moved into the fields and attacked any surviving enemy tanks. Only 12 Japanese tanks (6 Type 95s and 6 Type 97s) managed to escaped the annihilation.

Video: Banzai Tank Charge – Saipan 1944

A M4A2 Sherman A-20 named “AWOL” of the 4th Marine Tank Battalion is driving over a small hill. On the hull side to the left of the tank name are a couple of shell holes probably from a Japanese 47mm gun.

This is a Type 97 Chi-ha medium tank of the 5th company, 9th Tank Regiment and behind it is a Type 95 Ha-go light tank. Note the numerous hits from armor piercing rounds on both tanks.

Film: Aftermath of Japanese Banzai charge on Saipan, Mariana Islands during WWII

This film shows dead bodies which might not be appropriate for all.

This is my close up of the same Type 97 Chi-ha tank above in the film.

This is another view of the battle field. A 75mm armor piercing round hit the turret of the Type 97 Chi-ha with such force that the armor plate shattered causing the gaping hole in the turret right side. Missing rubber and piles of ash around the road wheels indicate that the tank had completely burned out.

This is a Type 97 Chi-ha tank of the 4th Company, 9th Tank Regiment which became bogged down on soft ground during the attack. The frame attached to the rear hull of the tank was added to many tanks to permit them to carry infantry.

This is a burning Type 97 kai Shinhoto Chi-ha tank armed with a 47mm gun on the battle ground. The loader’s, commander’s and rear turret hatches are all open.

This is my close up up the Type 97 kai Shinhoto Chi-ha tank above. There appears to be a spare road wheel mounted on the turret front where the rubber is burning. Note the markings on the 47mm gun mount.

This is a knocked out Type 97 kai Shinhoto Chi-ha tank which belonged to the regimental command platoon indicated by the white segmented band marking around the turret.

This is another knocked out Type 97 kai Shinhoto Chi-ha tank. Note the two Japanese flags on the lower front hull.

US Marines are using a captured Japanese truck to tow a Type 95 Ha-go light tank from the battle field.


US Marine divisions did not have any tank destroyer units attached but instead each division had a special weapons company which was equipped with a dozen M3 half track 75mm GMCs which the Marines called SPM (Self Propelled Mounts). Saipan was the first Pacific battle since the 1941 Philippines campaign that had extensive encounters with Japanese tanks and on Saipan the SPMs were involved in several engagements against enemy armor. In most campaigns, the SPMs provided fire support to Marine units only when they encountered Japanese bunkers and other heavily fortified positions.

US Marines confer with the crew of a SPM during the fighting. Note the section of canvas hanging over the hull side and the Jerry cans mounted on the sides. The front tires and the tracks are caked with mud.

This is a well armed SPM of the 4th Special Weapons Company, 4th Marine Division. This unit has added two heavy pintles for .50 cal MGs on both sides, two smaller pintles for .30 cal MGs forward these, and a third .30 cal MG pintle on the center of the gun shield.

Not all SPMs were so lucky. A Japanese artillery shell hit the right track of this SPM. The tracks were made of molded rubber over steel cabling with metal track guides. The shell blast burnt off sections of the rubber and burnt the track cables and guides. Note the burnt area on the hull side.


Japanese concrete bunkers were the bane of the US Marines in their island hopping battles in the Pacific war. Often these bunkers were upwards of two feet (60.96 cm) thick. The 37mm gun of the M3 Stuart and even the 75mm gun of the M4 Sherman could barely scratch these structures. The Marines turned to attacking them with flamethrowers.

Prior to flamethrower equipped tanks, the Marines employed the US Army’s M1A1 infantry flamethrower. The operator had to risk enemy fire to get as close enough to the bunker as possible and spray the flame into the openings of the bunker since the weapon had an extremely short range. After Guadalcanal in early 1943, both the US Army and Marine Corps began working on designs to mount the M1A1 flame equipment on the M3 Stuart light tank. The first attempt was to fire the M1A1 through the pistol port of the M3 turret, but this gave a limited field of fire. This led to the idea of mounting the flame projector in place of the bow machine gun. This setup also allowed 2 additional units of flamethrower fuel to be carried inside the tank.

The inadequate performance of the improvised flame throwers led the Marine Corps and the US Army to look for a flamethrower system that could replace the main armament of the tank. The flame equipment they chosen was the Canadian built Ronson F.U.L Mk. IV. Ronson flamethrower which was first developed by the British Petroleum Warfare Department in 1940. The Ronson was mounted in the turret of mothballed obsolete M3A1 Stuarts where the flame projector replaced the 37mm gun main armament. The mantlet was retained, but a wide tube was mounted into the void left by the removed gun barrel to protect the flame projector. The outer diameter of the tube was 6.625 (5/8) inches (16.8275 cm) and the wall was 1/2 inch (12.7 mm) thick. The .30 Cal coaxial machine gun was retained on the right of the flame aperture and the tanks had their bow machine guns removed. The crew was reduced to two (Driver and Commander/Gunner). Inside the tank, a huge 170 gallon (643.5 Liters) fuel tank was installed and it gave the weapon a 2 minute duration of fire. The projector had a range of up to 80 yards (73.152 meters). A total of 24 M3A1 “Satan” flamethrower tanks were produced by Army and Navy mechanics in Hawaii in time for the Marianas operations.

The M3A1 Satans were formed into dedicated flame thrower units in the 2nd and 4th Marine Tank Battalions and the Satan combat debut was on Saipan. The Satans were not deployed alone. They were fielded accompanied by one or more M5A1 gun tanks for support. Unfortunately, Marine commanders were not well versed in the use of flame tanks at the time, and as such the Satan was not used as much as it could have been. After the bitter fighting of the initial days of the invasion, the commanders soon learned of the Satan’s effectiveness. They were used the most in clearing Japanese cave defenses and ‘mop-up’ operations later in the invasion.

On July 24th, Tinian (south of Saipan) was assaulted by the Marines and supported by M4A2s and M3A1 Satans. Tinian was captured in early August.

Film: Rare WW2 Light Tank M3A1 Satan – Stuart

Film: HD Historic Archival Stock Footage WWII Color FLAME THROWING TANKS SAIPAN

A number of issues were highlighted in combat; its was unreliable, had poor projection range, a poor arc of fire, faults with the electrical ignition system, inadequate duration of fire, and cramped crew conditions. Coordination with the infantry, a key part of Marine Tank tactics, was hampered with the M3A1 Satan as the radio was mounted in the right sponson, behind the flamethrower equipment. This conversion also introduced a small limitation, the piping connecting the projector to the internal fuel tank limited the turret traverse to only 180 degrees to the left or the right meaning the turret could not make a complete 360 degree transverse.

After the Marianas campaign, the M3A1 Satan was replaced by the M5A1 Satan (based on the M5A1 Stuart) and later by more improved Marine flamethrower tanks that were based on the M4 Sherman such as the POA-CWS-H1 (Pacific Ocean Area-Chemical Warfare Section-Hawaii-1).

No M3A1 Satans had survived the war and none are known to still exist today.

A M3A1 Satan flaming a Japanese bunker.

This M3A1 Satan is flaming a Japanese position. Note the extra storage bin on the engine deck and the sandbags on the upper hull.

This is my close up of the above Satan. The name “NOBBY” on the turret probably refers to the short flame tube. Note barely visible on the hull side is “U.S.A.” and part of a serial number and above the serial number is “USMC”.

M3A1 Satan D-21 ‘DUSTY’ of Company D, 2nd Marine Tank Battalion was commanded by 1st Lieutenant Alfred Zavda (second from left). The crew is posed with other marines and are displaying captured Japanese weapons, a Type 92 heavy machine gun and a rifle.

M3A1 Satan D-33 of D Company, 4th Marine Division escorting a LVT-4 amtrac near Tanapag on 7 July 1944.

This is a color photo of M3A1 Satan D-33. The front hull machine gun port was plated over since the gun was removed to provide more internal space. Note the white star on the turret roof.

M5A1 named “Nannie” (foreground) and another M5A1 Stuart tank of Company D, 4th Marine Tank battalion escorts a M3A1 Satan during the fighting against Japanese infantry holed up in caves in the cliffs at Marpi Point.

On June 24, the main objectives were Mount Tapotchan, Death Valley, Purple Heart Ridge, and the Kagman Peninsula. The 2nd Marine Division attacked towards Garapan and repelled two Japanese counterattacks. In an unequal armor duel near Garapan, M4A2 tanks of Company C, 2nd Marine Tank battalion engaged 7 Japanese tanks where only one Japanese tank managed to escape.

Marines are passing a knocked out M4A2 tank. Before the war on Saipan, the Japanese used the narrow gauge railroad tracks for transporting sugarcane, during the war they were used for transporting troops, ammunition and supplies.

US forces found this abandoned early M3 Stuart tank on Saipan which the Japanese captured during the fall of the Philippines in 1942. The lower rear hull engine hatch is open indicating some engine problem. Note the Japanese flag on the hull side.

This Type 97 Chi-ha medium tank of the 5th Company, 9th Tank Regiment, survived the night attack and was later knocked out probably by M5A1(s) of the 762nd Tank Battalion. Note that the 57mm gun is missing which might indicate that it was a command tank.

This is my close up of the Type 97 tank above. One platoon of the 5th Company carried a Kikusui (crysanthemum over flowing water) insignia on the turret side. The design was associated with Kusunoki Masashige, a 14th century samurai of the Kamakura period who became a legend in Japan representing loyalty and virtue, and associated with the phrase “Would that I had seven lives to give for my country!” Two 37mm shell hits are immediately below and to the left of the gun mantlet. Another two 37mm hits are to the left of the driver’s view port on the hull side.

A M4A2 named “Jenny Lee” of the 4th Marine Tank Battalion advances forward near Magicienne Bay in early July. This tank has wooden plank armor (an American equivalent of German Zimmerit) on the hull sides for protection against hand-placed Japanese Type 99 (Hako-Baku-Rai) anti-tank mines. There is also a thin coating of concrete applied over the glacis plate instead of wood for the same purpose.

This is my close up of the M4A2 “Jenny Lee”. The name is painted across the two fabricated drivers’ hoods front armor plates, “Jenny” on front of the co-driver’s hatch on the left and “Lee” on front of the driver’s hatch on the right.

B10 “BOOTS” is a M4A2(75) Dry. It has a large hatch hull but does not have the hull-side door props of the similar M4A3. Note the spare road wheels and track on the front hull.

My close up of “BOOTS”. The Jerry can on the engine deck has “WATER” painted on it. Note the rivet pattern on the armor plates on the hull side.

M4A2 named “KING KONG” of C Company, 4th marine Tank Battalion is supporting Marines during the fighting near Marpi Point on 8 July 1944. Behind the wading trunk on the engine deck is a water tank. This tank also has wooden plank armor on the hull sides and has an irregular camouflage pattern on the turret and hull sides.

This is my close up of the rear hull of “KING KONG”. To the left of the wading trunk is a field fabricated telephone box which allowed the accompanying marines to communication with the crew of tank.

A jeep carrying marines drive pass two knocked out Japanese Type 95 Ha-Go tanks. One of the tanks is on its side. To the right of the Jeep driver is the flexible exhaust pipe of the Deep Water Fording Kit WV-6.

The most disturbing and tragic event occurred near the end of the campaign. For years, the Japanese civilians on the island had been overwhelmed with Japanese propaganda about the American’s brutality and that they would be tortured. While the US force advanced north on the island, many of the civilians fled northward. Rather than surrender to American forces, many of them chose to commit suicide by leaping off the high cliffs at Marpi Point at the most northern end of the island.

The island of Saipan was declared secured on 9 July 1944.

Film: Colored Combat Footage of Marines at Saipan, 1944



In 1933, the site was a sugarcane field before the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS) constructed a temporary landing field. The landing field was used for training purposes and had two runways configured in an “L” pattern. In 1937, the Japanese Navy began upgrading the airfield for full military use, despite an international law ban on constructing military facilities within the South Seas Mandate. After the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, the field was named Aslito Field (アスリート飛行場), based on the indigenous Chamoru name for the area of its location, As Lito. In early 1944, two squadrons of Mitsubishi A6M5a-52 Zero fighters were based at the airfield.

On 18 June 1944. the airfield was captured by the US Army 27th Infantry Division. A Zero fighter from Guam actually landed at Aslito Airfield, the pilot being unaware that the field was in US hands. As it landed, the aircraft was fired at and damaged, crashing at the end of the runway. The pilot survived and the plane were captured.

The airfield was renamed Isely Field after US Navy Commander Robert Henry Isely, CO of VT-16 (Torpedo Squadron) aboard the carrier USS Lexington (CV-16). On 13 June 1944, Isely led his squadron on a pre-invasion bombing attack against Aslito airfield. While carrying out a low altitude bombing run, Isely’s Grumman TBF Avenger was hit by Japanese anti-aircraft fire and crashed in flames at the south edge of the runway. Isely was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Navy Cross.

Twelve A6M5 Zeros were captured by US Forces on Aslito Airfield and were shipped to the USA for evaluation. In front of the damaged hangers are A6M5 Reisen 61-197, 8-07, 8-33 and 8-36 of the 261st Kokutai (Naval Air Group).

Isely Field was quickly repaired and expanded by the Seabees (Construction Battalions) to become Naval Advance Base Saipan with the first Republic P-47D Thunderbolts of the Pacific Air Forces’ (PACAF) 19th Fighter Squadron, 318th Fighter Group from the escort carrier USS Natoma Bay (CVE–62) landing on the June 20th. For three months, the 19th Fighter Squadron flew close air support missions over Saipan, Tinian, and Guam islands. The airfield was then used by the USAAF 20th Air Force for B-29 Superfortress operations until the end of the war.

After the end of the war, the bomber groups returned to the USA. The airfield was returned to civil control and it reverted back to being called Aslito Field. Construction of the Saipan International Airport, as Isely Field was renamed, began in October of 1973. Saipan International Airport commenced operations on 25 July 1976. On 13 June 1994, 50 years after his crash, a Commemorative Plaque for Commander Robert H. Isely was dedicated at Saipan International Airport.


Windtalkers (2002)

Director: John Woo
Writers: John Rice, Joe Batteer
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Christian Slater

The movie tells the story of two Navajo (Native Americans) young men who enlisted in the US Marines and were trained to become Navajo code talkers. Their combat debut was the invasion of Saipan. Two veteran sergeants (Cage and Slater) were assigned to protect the Navajo code talkers with special orders to shoot their charge if they were at risk of being captured. The movie has plenty of thrills and combat action. The events take place on the landing beaches, nearby the village of Tanapag, and on Mount Tapotchan. An epilogue states that the Navajo code was crucial to America’s victory against Japan and that, during the war, unlike all other Native American codes that were used, the Navajo code was never broken.

Video: Windtalkers (5/10) Movie CLIP – Saipan, June ’44

This is a realistic mock up of a Japanese Type 95 Ha-Go tank built in the US for the movie. After filming, it resided in a California collection until 2013, when it was bought by two dealers for £40,000 (Pound Sterling) and they sold it to a Californian AFV collector for £45,000. The guns were gas operated and it is in full running condition with a top speed of 35 MP/H (56.35 KM/H). Note the tracks and the suspension. It is based on the chassis of a US M5 High Speed Artillery Tractor.

In the movie, a Chrysler built M4A3 Sherman was used since a M4A2 probably was not available. It is close enough since it was only seen in short scenes. In the background of a couple of scenes, a M5A1 Stuart tank is briefly seen.


The American Memorial Park on Saipan has open air displays of WWII relics (mostly Japanese).

Video: Saipan Today

This rusting Type 97 Chi-Ha tank is the Imperial Japanese Army Medium Tank Historical landmark located northeast of the Saipan International Airport. Note that shrubs and bushes are growing inside the tank.

Three rusting M4A2 tanks are stranded offshore of Kilili Beach Park.
Today, they have a new purpose – homes for underwater marine life.

Video: Sherman Tanks | Saipan | Freediver HD

Video: USMC WWII M4 Sherman – Saipan


ASUKA Model 35-049 M4 Composite Sherman Late “Last Chance” – 2021
AFV Club AF35105 M5A1 Stuart Light Tank Early Production – 2010
Dragon 6467 M3 75mm Gun Motor Carriage – 2008
Dragon 6678 Japanese Navy Type 2 (Ka-Mi) Amphibious Tank – 2011
Dragon 6770 IJA Type 95 Light Tank “Ha-Go” Late Production – 2014
FineMolds FM25 Type 97 Chi-Ha Improved hull with 57mm cannon – 2008
Tamiya 35137 Japanese Type 97 Shinhoto Chi-Ha Late Version – 1987

Tamiya 35042 U.S. Light Tank M3 Stuart – 1988
Harper Castings HR T001 M3A1 Satan Flame Tank conversion (for Tamiya) – 200?

Armo 35415 Japanese Armor part 1 Decalset
Star Decals 35-886 Saipan ’44 DUKW, M3A1 Satan, M4A2, LVT(A)-1 – 2015

Kengi M3 Half Track 75mm SPG (Resin)
Kengi M5A1 Stuart Late Production (Resin)
Gaso.line GAS50149K Japanese light tank Type 95 “Ha-Go” (Resin)

Tamiya 32505 M4 Sherman Early Production – 2004
Tamiya 32523 U.S. Medium Tank M4A1 Sherman – 2006
Gaso.line GAS48109K Hull M4A2 Sherman Conversion (Resin)
Friendship Models WVC48014 M4A2 Welded Drivers Hoods Hull (Resin)
(includes rear hull plate and exhaust mufflers)

Company B AFV – Decal Japanese Armor 9th Tank Reg (1/56)

Armo 72100 Type 97 Shinhoto Chi-ha – 200?
Armo 72548 M4 composite hull Sherman (middle production) – 200?
Dragon 7397 IJA Type 97 “Chi-Ha” late production – 2011
Dragon 7435 IJN Type 2 (Ka-Mi) Amphibious Tank – 2012
Italeri 7510 M3 75mm Gun Motor Carriage – 2015
Mirage Hobby 726089 Light tank Stuart Mk.VI M5A1 (Late) – 2015

3 thoughts on “Saipan 1944

  1. I do not believe the Shermans that are off the coast of Susupe to be M4A2s, but rather M4A4. I am by no means a Sherman expert, but at least the closest one to the beach has only a commander’s hatch and no loader’s hatch. To my knowledge only the M4A4 has that turret.


  2. Mike,
    Really well done. I found your site while looking for information on the 662 Armor battalion that I will use for my upcoming book looking at the 165th Infantry, 24th Marines and the 47th Independent Composite Brigade.

    Only two comments…. At Saipan, Marine divisions did not have any tank destroyer units attached but instead each of the division’s regiment had a special weapons company that was equipped with a dozen M3 half-track 75mm GMCs which the Marines called SPM (Self Propelled Mounts). The Heavy Weapons battalion was reorganized into regimental companies between Roi Namur and Saipan.
    The second is that Aslito Airfield, when first captured, was named Conroy Field after the 165th commander killed on Makin.


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