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Tinian, in the Marianas, is twelve miles long, two-thirds the size of Saipan, and lies 3 miles off the southern tip of Saipan. When Army artillery units were established on Saipan, about five days after the Saipan invasion on 20 June 1944, barrages from 155mm guns were directed at Tinian to soften it up for invasion. Air and naval bombardment continued up to the time of landing. In the first combat use of napalm, Republic P-47 Thunderbolts dropped tanks of the new "fire bomb" to clear cane fields on Tinian.
Invasion of Tinian, 24 July 1944
On the morning of 24 July 1944 two Marine divisions commanded by Marine Major General Harry Schmidt landed on Tinian, opposed by 9,162 Japanese. 415 amphibious vehicles were used to bring the troops ashore. A diversionary feint landing at Tinian Town fooled the Japanese and split their forces while the Marines actually came ashore in mass at White Beach. Against light opposition, the Marines established a beachhead two miles wide and a mile deep by the end of the first day. A Japanese counterattack failed, costing them 1,241 men in an attempt to push the Marines off the beach.
Tinian's unusually flat, rolling terrain was favorable to a rapid advance by infantry and tanks, and the disorganized Japanese did not manage to solidify a defense line. Gains continued, including capture of Mt. Lasso, the islands highest point, until the arrival of a typhoon on 29 July disrupted the advance and stopped supplies coming from Saipan for a few days.
During the night of 31 July, with only the southern tip of Tinian still controlled by the Japanese, their survivors mounted a suicidal counterattack. The Japanese rushed the Marine lines three times during the night but did not break through. At dawn over one hundred enemy dead were discovered. On the evening of 1 August, General Schmidt declared the island secure. 542 more Japanese soldiers were flushed out of hiding on Tinian by the end of 1944.
The relatively mild nine-day battle for Tinian cost the Marine Corps infantry and Army artillery units 328 killed and 1,571 wounded. The island proved to be the best air base in the Pacific and soon B-29 Superfortress bombers commenced raids of the Japanese home islands from new airstrips on Tinian. In August of 1945, the B-29s of the 509th Composite Group that dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were based at North Field on Tinian.
Recommended Books about the Invasion of Tinian
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