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75 Years Ago Today

PostPosted: Sat Jun 15, 2019 1:46 pm
by Red Dave
Everybody remembers the Normandy invasion of June 6, 1944, and rightfully so, it was a huge undertaking against an entrenched, well armed, well trained and motivated enemy. 4 1/2 divisions were landed in the initial assault, backed up by all the material and supplies brought across the English Channel that they would need to fight the battle.

But few remember that in the same month, on June 15, 1944, 75 years ago today, on the other side of the world from Normandy, the US Navy invaded the Marianas Islands at Saipan. 2 1/2 divisions of Marines and Army Soldiers were landed in the assault, backed up by all the material and supplies needed to fight the battle.

But, there were significant other differences:
At Normandy, the transport and supply ships came from ports all around the British islands, some hundreds of miles away.
At Saipan, the Navy had to bring everything with them they could possibly need, the nearest Navel base was at Hawaii 3,500 miles away. Rapid resupply or reinforcements was not an option.

At Normandy, the allies controlled the air from air bases in England.
At Saipan, the Navy had to bring their air cover with them in the form of a fleet of carriers.

At Normandy, there were a few Battleships, Cruisers and Destroyers for bombardment support. There was no longer a viable naval threat from the Germans apart from a few U Boats.
At Saipan, The entire 5th fleet with all it's Battleships, Cruisers, Destroyers, Oilers and other support ships surrounded Saipan to protect the invasion forces from the still potent and dangerous Japanese Fleet.

At Normandy, planning for the operation had been started in 1942 and it included input, advice and forces from the US, Britain, Canada, and other allied powers.
At Saipan, the invasion was proposed in December 1943 and substantive planning began in March of 1944. It was all US Navy, planning was by Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz's staff, execution of the plan was by The US Navy and Marines Corps and one US Army division.

At Normandy, the German army had access to resupply and also had the ability to execute a tactical retreat.
At Saipan, the Japanese defenders had no hope of either relief or resupply, were urged to fight to the death and take at least 3 Americans with them.

At Normandy, most of the naval support ships retired back to England when the invasion got established and fighting was mostly beyond the reach of their naval guns.
At Saipan, the Japanese Naval threat was real, potent and moving to intervene and attack the invasion forces. During the fighting on the island, the 5th Fleet under Admiral Raymond Spruance placed itself between Saipan and the approaching Japanese Fleet to protect those invasion troops. The ensuing battle of the Philippine Sea was one of the largest and most significant naval engagements of the entire war and was fought to protect the vulnerable invasion forces from the Japanese Navy. It had far-reaching ramifications that lasted the rest of the war because of large numbers of irreplaceable Japanese pilots that were killed. Their carriers were intact, but they had very few pilots to fly from them. It was the last time that the vaunted Japanese "Kido Butai", or "Mobile Force" of carriers seriously threatened US forces.

This is not intended to diminish or minimize the efforts and sacrifice of the Overlord Invasion, but to remind us that they were not the only US armed forces engaged in battle during June of 1944.