Battle of Saipan

This National WWII Museum photograph shows a platoon of the U.S. Army's 27th Infantry Division on Saipan.

ON July 7, 1944, during the Battle of Saipan, Japan unleashed the largest Banzai attack on the invading U.S. forces, resulting in the death of over 4,000 Japanese troops. American dead and wounded numbered nearly 1,000.

In the next five days, 406 bodies of American soldiers with the 27th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army's 105th Infantry Regiment, and 4,311 Japanese soldiers were recovered from the battleground near the beach in Tanapag and buried in a nearby common grave, designated as "the 27th Division Cemetery."

On Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, several sets of human bones along with World War II artifacts were unearthed in the area by the Japan Association for the Collection and Repatriation of Remains of the War Dead with assistance from the CNMI Historic Preservation Office.

The site was located and initially dug in November 2015 by Kuentai-USA, a non-profit organization whose goal is to bring back the remains of American servicemen who died in the Pacific theater of World War II.

Old U.S. military documents and historical photos led Kuentai-USA to the site.

Kuentai-USA Secretary General Yukari Akatsuka said, "One of our roles here on Saipan is to make people aware of the presence of missing American servicemen."

Akatsuka and Kuentai-USA Chairman Usan Kurata returned to Saipan after seven years, to bring the Japanese government mission team to the exact location of a WWII mass grave they discovered in November 2015.

During the 2015 excavation, Kuentai-USA found human remains and World War II artifacts, which included a leather shoe, unfired carbine shells, an American hand grenade, and a helmet (it was not known if it was American or Japanese made).

Since it was on the last day of the excavation when they found these items, Akatsuka said they had no choice but to put up a marker post and rebury them. They then informed the Japanese and U.S. governments of their discovery and encouraged them to come and retrieve the remains of the fallen soldiers, "but this did not happen."

Since then, she said, no excavation has been conducted by any group or individual in the last seven years.

This time, Akatsuka said, "a Japanese government mission team was formed to conduct the recovery work, and we decided to go to the site and tell them where the burial took place."

Among the remains unearthed on Friday morning were fragments of a human skull and a corroded helmet. About six meters away, human bones and a WWII military water canteen were dug up.

Akatsuka said, "More than 300 Americans are still missing on this island." She said although they were at the excavation site for only two days last week, several sets of human bones were unearthed along with WWII artifacts. They will continue excavating through Aug. 27.


A bachelor of arts in journalism graduate, he started his career as a police beat reporter. Loves to cook. Eats death threats for breakfast.

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