World War Two - Day of Days
In this fifth instalment of this landmark series of what life was like on the frontlines during World War 2, America is on the offensive, but fighting on the Normandy beaches is ferocious and victory will not come quickly.
Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands, Central Pacific
6th June 1944
The U.S. Army are preparing for the forthcoming landings on Saipan in the Marianna Islands, a volcanic archipeligo located 1,300 miles south of Japan. The capture of these islands will enable the army to construct airfields within striking range of Tokyo. Flying from these airstrips B-29 heavy bombers will be able to wage an unrelenting and intense campaign of strategic bombing that they hope will shorten the war. However, nearly 40,000 Japanese troops are dug in and ready to defend Saipan and the U.S. military planners are expecting a hard and bloody battle on the 12 mile long island.
Off Utah Beach, Normandy
June 8th, 1944
Just two days after the initial Normandy landings, the men of the 39th Infantry Regiment are on a transport ship in the English Channel along with 250,000 troops scheduled to land in the 48 hours since the invasion began. Their mission is to re-inforce the beachhead and push inland.
June 11th, 1944
An armada of 800 ships, nearly 1,000 planes and 127,000 marines and army ground troops are headed for Saipan. The assault force is nearly as large as that sent into Normandy only days earlier.
Off Saipan - June 15th, 1944- Invasion Day
At 0545hrs, to the minute, the battleships, cruisers and destroyers already at work for 2 days, begin their final softening up of the island's beaches. Wave upon wave of fighter planes continue to swoop down upon the island and loose their bombs. At 0745hrs, the 6th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Division climb down into their landing craft and prepare to head for shore.
June 16th, 1944
As the marines struggle to make decent headway on land, 450 miles north in the Philippine Sea, a Japanese armada including 9 carriers armed with 450 planes steam towards Saipan. They are spotted by American submarines which alert the U.S. fleet who are stationed just off Saipan.
The American force of 15 carriers and 900 warplanes go to meet the Japanese head-on, this is to be the largest aircraft carrier battle in history. At 0830hrs Japanese aircraft begin launching for a strike on the U.S. carriers. At 1023hrs, 220 American F6F Hellcats are airborne within 14 minutes. By 1107hrs, 70 Japanese aircraft have been shot down before they can reach the American carriers. At 1624hrs the Navy launches 240 aircraft, the Japanese can only launch 75. By 2100hrs, after 8 hours of combat the Japanese have lost 373 aircraft, the Americans have lost just 30 in stark comparison.
American fighter pilots nickname the one sided air battle 'The Great Marianna's Turkey Shoot'. The following day American forces shoot down a further 65 Japanese planes and by the end of the battle 3 Japanese carriers are sunk, what remains of the Japanese fleet turns, and flees, the battle of the Philippine Sea is a resounding American success.
July 7th, 1944
Back on Saipan however, a grim scene of carnage is all around, until this morning the battle had been mainly cave warfare, but this had since changed. Ordered to sacrifice themselves for the 'glory of the Emperor', 3,000 Japanese soldiers charged the American lines in the night. This savage, primitive charge almost worked until a marine artillery unit fired point-blank into their ranks. Two days after this suicidal charge, American commanders declare the island of Saipan secured.
Now with the airfields under control, American B-29 heavy bombers are within striking distance of Tokyo, but the cost of taking Saipan is staggering. There are over 14,000 American casualties, more than any other previous Pacific battle. Of the nearly 40, 000 Japanese troops, less than 1,000 surrender, 39,000 die either in battle or by their own hand.
Saipan - July 12th, 1944
On the northern tip of the island 3 days after the island is declared secure, marines are attempting to clear out the remnants of the Japanese military and round up nearly 4,000 panick-stricken civilians who have fled the American advance. However, what should have been a routine operation has taken a desperate and unexpected turn.
Hundreds of Japanese civilians, men, women and children have jumped off the cliffs to their deaths. At the bottom of the 200 ft cliffs at Marpi Point there are bodies littering the beach. The marines have come to expect anything in the way of self destruction from the Japanese soldiers, but none are prepared for this self-slaughter amongst civilians.
The mass civilian suicide at Marpi Point was a direct result of fear instilled in them by the Japanese military. Fear that the American troops are monsters who will rape, torture and murder every man, woman and child. The civilians have been conditioned to believe that taking their own lives is the only way to escape brutality. An estimated 1,000 civilians comitted suicide at Saipan's Marpi Point.
Normandy , France
July 24th, 1944
The 39th Infantry Regiment are moving through Normandy's streets near Saint.Lo. Despite fighting for almost 7 weeks, the Allies have only managed to advance 10 miles inland from the beaches. They are bogged down in an area known as the Boccage, a network of fields and pastures bordered by high hedgerows of vegetation.
Allied troops must fight field by field through the heavily defended hedgerows at a painfully slow and perilous pace, with the enemy within earshot in the distance. Allied Command then launches an operation designed to allow their tanks to break out of the Boccage. 18,000 planes are ordered to bomb the German positions and create a breach in the enemies' defences.
The formation of bombers fly overhead and release their bombs...too early! The ground shakes under the barrage, approaching the target area from behind the American positions, some of the bombers in later waves, confused by the billowing smoke below had unloaded their cargo too soon, right on top of their own men. Over 100 American soldiers were killed and another 500 wounded , craters cover the area as the scene is of utter destruction.
Dave Harris Art
- World War 2 pictures
Three new World War 2 pictures by Dave Harris available as limited edition giclee prints. El Alamein "Rats Against the Fox", RAF Dambusters mission in May 1943 and Band of Brothers night before D-Day.