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Mass Civilian Suicides on Saipan a myth?

Discussions on all aspects of the Japanese Empire, from the capture of Taiwan until the end of the Second World War.
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Mass Civilian Suicides on Saipan a myth?

Postby Deterance on 29 Oct 2007 20:33

I have read several accounts by U.S. forces that describe thousands of Japanese civiilans (inlcuding whole families) committing mass suicide by jumping from a cliff into the sea.

Yet the book Oba, the Last Samurai by Don Jones makes no reference to any mass civilian suicides. Instead he repeatedly states that over 90% (12,000) of Japanese civilians on Saipan were captured alive and interned by U.S. forces. Furthermore, Jones implies that a relatively large number of Japanese military personnel were captured alive as well (by Pacific war standards).

Jones served on Saipan. Are the accounts of mass suicides by thousands a hugely exagerrated myth?
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Postby Akira Takizawa on 30 Oct 2007 02:34

8,000 to 10,000 civilians were killed on Saipan, while 14, 949 men were interned. So, about 40% of civilians died. It is unknown how many of them committed suicide, but it is said that 1,000 - 1,500 men jumped from Banzai cliff.

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Postby Peter H on 30 Oct 2007 03:01

Its said that some were murdered by Japanese troops but this finding denies this:

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USMC/US ... pan-6.html

...often mentioned is that Japanese soldiers would not permit the civilians to surrender and killed those who weakened. This was not borne out, however, by an atrocity investigation which was conducted by five officers from the NTLF G-2 Section. Approximately 150 Japanese and Chamorro civilians were interrogated on this point, and none testified that they were threatened or used as shields by Japanese soldiers. There is a strong possibility, however, that those who would have testified differently are dead.
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Postby Deterance on 30 Oct 2007 04:59

Akira Takizawa wrote:8,000 to 10,000 civilians were killed on Saipan, while 14, 949 men were interned. So, about 40% of civilians died. It is unknown how many of them committed suicide, but it is said that 1,000 - 1,500 men jumped from Banzai cliff.
Taki


Thank you for the statistics. Are they reliable numbers from the Japanese government? They are such a contrast to Jones. He gives 12,000 (plus) Japanese civilians and 3,000 Chamorros interned. According to Jones, the total number of Japanese civilian deaths was only about 1,300. He implies that the rapid U.S. advance and the poorly conceived Japanese Banzai charge (no phased retreat to a last stand area) limited civilian deaths.

Also....

Jones also implied that many Japanese units quickly collapsed and that a relatively large number of POWS were captured. Were the Japanese conscripts on Saipan older reservists and less indoctrinated towards suicide etc.?
Peter H wrote:Its said that some were murdered by Japanese troops but this finding denies this:


To me, that sounds like allied propaganda. I can see zealous Japanese troops pressuring suicides, but not out right murdering Japanese civilians to prevent their capture. Of course, Taiwanese, Korean, Chamorro and even Okinawan civilians are a different story.
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Postby Akira Takizawa on 30 Oct 2007 06:24

> Are they reliable numbers from the Japanese government?

Japanese Government does not have the data about the civilians on Saipan. They are from a book published by Japanese newspaper.

> They are such a contrast to Jones. He gives 12,000 (plus) Japanese civilians and 3,000 Chamorros interned. According to Jones, the total number of Japanese civilian deaths was only about 1,300.

There were more than 20,000 Japanese immigrants on Saipan. It is impossible that the death of them were only 1,300 men.

> Jones also implied that many Japanese units quickly collapsed and that a relatively large number of POWS were captured. Were the Japanese conscripts on Saipan older reservists and less indoctrinated towards suicide etc.?

According to Senshi Sosho (Japanese official history of WWII), there were 43,000 troops on Saipan and 41,000 were killed. Survivors were only 2,300 men (5%).

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Postby Peter H on 30 Oct 2007 07:27

Gordon Rottman's Saipan & Tinian 1944: Piercing the Japanese Empire gives 26,000 civilians on Saipan in 1944.

A minimum of 8,000 civilian deaths resulted--an estimated half through suicide,the other half victims of the fighting.

The following civilians were interned in camps on Saipan in 1945---13,954 Japanese, 1,411 Koreans, 2,966 Chamorros and 1,025 Carolinians,total around 18,000.
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Postby ChristopherPerrien on 30 Oct 2007 10:35

Yet the book Oba, the Last Samurai by Don Jones makes no reference to any mass civilian suicides. Instead he repeatedly states that over 90% (12,000) of Japanese civilians on Saipan were captured alive and interned by U.S. forces. Furthermore, Jones implies that a relatively large number of Japanese military personnel were captured alive as well (by Pacific war standards).

Jones served on Saipan.


IIRC Guy Gabalon, hunted this coward on Saipan and was wounded while doing so.
From what I recall, Gabalon did think much at all (i.e. despised) of Oba in that this "Samurai" ran away from the fighting and hid out until after the battle was over and then just stole food from US depots and managed to murder a few US servicemen in one incident while they were bathing in Tanapeg harbor.

Because of this, I have my doubts about the validity of any account Oba may have gave after the war. Similarly, the accuracy/honesty of Don Jones about such things is questionable given the well-known and highly documented history of the battle. Just because Jones might have been there in some capacity during or shortly after the war does not make such omissions automactically true anymore, than it makes this "Oba" character a "hero".

I'l try to dig out my book "Suicide Island", by Gabalon and check up on this in the next few days.

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Postby Deterance on 30 Oct 2007 15:47

ChristopherPerrien wrote:Because of this, I have my doubts about the validity of any account Oba may have gave after the war. Similarly, the accuracy/honesty of Don Jones about such things is questionable given the well-known and highly documented history of the battle.


This I can accept
ChristopherPerrien wrote:Gabalon did think much at all (i.e. despised) of Oba in that this "Samurai" ran away from the fighting and hid out until after the battle was over and then just stole food from US depots and managed to murder a few US servicemen in one incident while they were bathing in Tanapeg harbor.


Oba deserves far more credit than that. Many of his men lacked weapons and basic equipment even before the battle started. They were facing overwhelming numbers and firepower. Oba's goal was to keep as many of his men alive as possible and as many of the civilians in his group alive as possible until a Japanese counter attack. Just because he did not have a "Banzai mentality" does not make him a coward. In fact, his actions appear to be very similar to some US guerilla stragglers in The Phillipines. U.S. Marine officers on Saipan at the time of Oba's surrender viewed him as a warrior.

"Stole food"- Taking food from the enemy supply depots is not stealing
"Murdered U.S. Servicemen" If they were enemy Servicemen and not captured, then they were not "murdered". Of course, firing on bathers might not be the most heroic action, but U.S. troops on Saipan also had a "free fire policy" on both civilian stragglers and Japanese servicemen, armed and unarmed who were not in camps.
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Postby stulev on 31 Oct 2007 13:43

I think the Victory at Sea segment that covered the capture of Saipan had film of people jumping off the cliffs
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Postby PF on 31 Oct 2007 14:16

There are colored films of JApanese civilians jumping from Cliffs on History Channel Series. Oba-the last Sumarai-what was his full name/rank/and when did he give himself up? There were at least 3 such holdouts-one was found in the 1970's-another a decade latere in the Phillipines and a third also in the 1980's I think. On the Bob New hart show a joking reference ot such holdouts is given in an epsiode when Mrs Newhart reads a newspaper account about how missing German soldier from 1918 was found-Bob remarks about how "his" parents must have been glad to see him-a joking ereference ot the Phillippine holdout-think he went to Brazil.
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Postby Deterance on 31 Oct 2007 20:04

PF wrote:Oba-the last Sumarai-what was his full name/rank/and when did he give himself up? There were at least 3 such holdouts-one was found in the 1970's-another a decade latere in the Phillipines and a third also in the 1980's


His full name was Captain Sakae Oba. He surrendered in December 1945. His claim to fame is not being the longest hold out. Oba did, however, surrender a functioning unit and he also evaded active attempts to capture / kill him in a small area (15 square mile area on Saipan).
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Postby glenn239 on 06 Nov 2007 01:47

His full name was Captain Sakae Oba. He surrendered in December 1945. His claim to fame is not being the longest hold out. Oba did, however, surrender a functioning unit and he also evaded active attempts to capture / kill him in a small area (15 square mile area on Saipan).


If so, then this doesn't sound like a "coward" to me. I take it we can slag vets if they don't speak English?
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Postby ChristopherPerrien on 06 Nov 2007 04:48

I'l try to dig out my book "Suicide Island", by Gabaldon and check up on this in the next few days.

Chris


Another few days :oops: , there is "alotta junk" blocking my library currently.
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Postby Peter H on 06 Nov 2007 05:14

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Postby mikel on 07 Nov 2007 04:40

Having spent 4years in Special Forces studying and practicing guerrilla techniques including a 20 month live fire exerciser in VN, I must protest the concept of coward. Get real.

A hero lives to fight another day-even if he has to slink off in the bush. That "Bushido" crap and Banzai stuff was lunacy. 20th century military trying to exist in a 13th century mentality.
He preserved the lives of his troops and carried on the fight as a guerrilla does. Not throwing them away over some nonsensical myth.

That man is an inspiration.
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