Suicide Cliff, a well-known landmark on the tiny island of Saipan, in the Northern Mariana Islands, commemorates the spot where thousands of citizens and Japanese soldiers [estimates number it closer to 22,000] jumped to their death many feet below.
In 1944, Saipan was one of many battlegrounds in the Pacific, where Japan and the United States fought a horrific and bloody battle. Other places included Guam, the Philippines, Palau, and the Solomon Islands, to name a few. The United States started north and made their way south.
In testimony from United States soldiers that fought on Saipan, they described efforts to persuade the enemy through load speakers, to stand away from the cliff edge, however, with no effective result. Many citizens and Japanese soldiers jumped over the cliff, while others were thrown by Japanese soldiers themselves. It was described that the number of those Japanese soldiers and citizens were in the tens of thousands, with all but about 1,000 Japanese soldiers left.
On Saipan, the battle was ferocious, and while the Japanese fought hard, they retreated into the mountains against the American soldiers. It was told that the Japanese convinced the citizens that the Americans were barbarians, and as a result took part in committing suicide.
Some estimates have put the battle of Saipan the costliest to date for the Americans as over 14 thousand causalities resulted. As for the Japanese, practically the whole garrison was killed, amounting to over 31,000, including Lt. General Yoshitsugu Saito, their leader on the island, who committed suicide.
After the Saipan battle, it was Japan’s end of a dynasty. It was told that Premier Hideko Tojo of Japan, declared that they were dealing with a national crisis that was unprecedented in its history. What followed would be the full resignation of his war cabinet. This was a major turning point in the war, because up until about this time, the military was essentially running the government.
The illustration of Suicide Cliff in Saipan has much history and bloodshed behind it, however, today, if you were to visit this site, it not only holds memorials to those that perished, it presents itself as a World War II park looking over the majestic ocean, with rugged limestone cliffs, nestled in an open grassy area with Flame trees that dot this island landscape.
Details of this illustration can be found at on the Gerard Aflague Collection online.