July-August, 1944: Battle of Tinian Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

After the fall of the Marshall Islands in January, 1944, the next phase of the American Central Pacific Campaign focused on the taking of the Marianas from Japanese forces, led by Colonel Kiyochi Ogata. Saipan fell in early July; American designs then turned to Tinian, only three miles south of Saipan.

After the fall of the Marshall Islands in January, 1944, the next phase of the American Central Pacific Campaign focused on the taking of the Marianas from Japanese forces, led by Colonel Kiyochi Ogata. Saipan fell in early July; American designs then turned to Tinian, only three miles south of Saipan.

American landings on July 24, led by Major General Harry Schmidt, surprised the Japanese because they arrived on the small beaches to the north of the island rather than on the large beaches to the south. Taken by surprise, unable to make effective use of gun emplacements directed toward the southern beaches, greatly outnumbered, and hampered by poor communication between military units, Japanese resistance was quickly overcome. The island was declared secure on August 1, though small pockets of Japanese troops held out in caves for nearly three more months.

An amphibious vehicle known as a “Water Buffalo” carries Marines to the beaches of Tinian Island during the Battle of Tinian. (National Archives)

The Americans suffered 389 dead and 1,816 wounded compared with more than 5,000 Japanese dead and 252 prisoners. The unaccounted-for Japanese most likely perished in their cavernous hiding places.

The world’s longest runways were built on Tinian and became the launching sites of numerous B-29 bombing raids against the Japanese main islands, including the planes that dropped the atomic bombs against Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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