Today in History: Saipan

77 years ago today, June 15th 1944, The Battle of Saipan began. A part of the larger Operation Forager it saw the 2nd Marine Division, 4th Marine Division and the 27th Infantry Division involved. The Japanese opposition of the 43rd Division put up a fierce resistance to the initial landings with preregistered artillery and barbed wire and machine gun emplacements on the beach. Once the beach was secured the main resistance was centered around Mount Topotchau. The battle was finally declared over after a final mass banzai charge that managed to actually over run US lines for a while. Due to the large size of the island though guerrilla style resistance lasted until December 1st 1945.

For more history on the battle check out some of these links from the indispensable Hyperwar/
Saipan: The Beginning of the End
Breaching the Marianas: The Battle for Saipan

Now, let’s get geared up.

Saipan has some pretty varied terrain for the Pacific Theater. Dense jungle, open fields, steep mountains and even towns. So it makes for some really interesting fights and for us today, photos. This was also the last major use of the famous P42 camo uniforms. So all in all a pretty quintessential WWII Pacific/Marine battle.

This time instead of a mannequin I opted to do the full uniform on location. I’m wearing what would be representative of a 2nd Marine Division Automatic Rifleman. As far as I can tell only the 2nd Marine Division (and 3rd for Bougainville) was issued camouflage uniforms en masse. I could be wrong but that is my theory from photos of different battles. Unfortunately most photos I find from the Marianas Campaign don’t label the unit in the photo, just simply says “Marines on Saipan/Tinian/Guam.” If your lucky there will be a location that you can use to narrow it down. So with that assumption and the fact that the P42 is classic I have a P42 top with P41 pants. The half and half seems to be fairly common in this battle. I have a vague memory of reading somewhere years ago that they were issued one set of camouflage utilities and one set of regular sage utilities. So as the first, camo one, wore out it would be replaced by the plain one. And as the pants would take the most abuse it would explain why we see a good amount of camo tops and plain pants as they were usually replaced first.

Another characteristic of Saipan is the use of the M6 gas mask bag as an equipment bag or knapsack. Something not seen much in other battles. As well, the habit of carrying the M1910/T-Handle shovel on the suspenders. I don’t really see this method used much elsewhere. I’m not sure how the Marines on Saipan did it but I will show some of what I tried in another post.

Leggings are seen a bit more in the Marianas than in earlier periods. Likely due to the drier environment compared to the Solomons. Wearing the pants unbloused over the the leggings is popular as it allows airflow to help cool you down but the leggings still kept debris out of the boondockers. But wearing the normally or not at all are common too. As will most of the war two canteens are the norm. The second pattern USMC cover and Army M1910 being the the most common in that order.

Being an older division a fair amount of non-standard knives show up being used by the 2nd MarDiv. Here I used a Cattaraugus 225Q but a variety pop up in photos.

The Jungle First Aid Kit with M1924 First Aid Pouch below was a common set up as well. Although not the only. Some Marines had just one or the other. So any combination is appropriate.

US Marines setting up communication, Saipan, 1944 | The Digital Collections  of the National WWII Museum : Oral Histories

Some good shots of camouflage combinations and legging wear. The officer in the center even looks to have paramarine boots on.

Marines advancing through the jungle, Saipan, 24 June 1944 | Online  Collection | National Army Museum, London
Marines on Saipan battle Japanese in open terrain Stock Photo - Alamy

Some examples of M6 bags being used and shovels on the suspenders.

US Marine Convinces Japanese to Surrender at Battle of Saipan in WWII
Trench gun peaking out on the right.
US Marine Convinces Japanese to Surrender at Battle of Saipan in WWII
Battle of Saipan, 1944: Photographs Capture a Grueling Fight
Camo P44s being worn.
US Marines advancing through Garapan, Saipan, 1944 | The Digital  Collections of the National WWII Museum : Oral Histories
Wounded US Marines falling onto a beach, Saipan, 1944 | The Digital  Collections of the National WWII Museum : Oral Histories
World War II photographs show American soldiers' fight for survival in  brutal Battle of Saipan | Daily Mail Online

Good shot of the M6 bag and canteens. These two both have the Jungle First Aid Kits by themselves. The machine gunner has his helmet cover untucked in the back to cover his neck as well.

The foreground marine is likely an Assistant Automatic Rifleman as he is wear a BAR belt but is armed with an M1 Carbine. Early in the war BAR bandoliers were usually seen in this roll but as time went on the assistants just wear a regular BAR belt. A much simpler method than the bandoliers really and easier to carry. Also has an M8 grenade launcher on it too.

Banzai at the Battle of Saipan | Battle of saipan, Saipan, War veterans

Always loved this Tank Photo. It was the main inspiration for this set up as well. A lot of interesting details in here as well. I tried to recreate it below, Although I am lacking an M4.

This picture is of some men from the 1st Battalion 24th Marines on Saipan and it is the only one I’ve seen of Marines using the GP bag.

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