Photo Log of the March 18, 2008, Visit to Saipan by the M/S Statendam
Google Earth Images with GPS Tracks of Ship to and from Saipan and the Land Tour (turquoise)
After an overnight sail from Guam, the ship arrived at Saipan, U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

The port is located on the west central coast of the island, as the GPS track shows.

I took a Holland America tour which visited Banzai Cliff, Bird Island, the Invasion Beaches, and the American Memorial Museum.  The GPS track of the tour is also shown. The bus and guide were fine, but if I were to do it again I would rent a car. The roads are good and traffic rules are the same as in the U.S.

Docked at Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands
Local dancers performed dockside to welcome the ship.
Saipan was under German control from 1899 to 1914 and under Japanese control from 1914 to 1944.  On June 15, 1944, U.S. forces assaulted the island and in a bloody 3 week battle defeated the Japanese defenders.  In 1986 by a vote of the people the CNMI joined the U.S.
Northern Saipan from the Ship
Saipan is quite mountainous, which allowed the Japanese defenders to construct formidable defensive positions.  Most of the west coast has an off shore coral reef.
Banzai Cliff
This is the infamous location where hundreds of Japanese civilians jumped to their deaths rather than be captured and mistreated by the "barbaric American Troops".   
Banzai Cliff
There were many Japanese tourists visiting this site. Additional memorials were being constructed by the Japanese.  Some of the construction signs were in Russian, because that's where some of the workers were from.


Suicide Cliff
Directly inland (south) from Banzai Cliff was a high mountain where additional suicides occurred. The steep north face is "Suicide Cliff".
Suicide Cliff
A teleview.  The mountain has many caves which were used as defensive positions and also last refuges for Japanese civilians.  The guide said the large gouges were made by shells from American naval guns.

Bird Island Sanctuary
A large scenic area on the northeast coast of Saipan run by the CNMI Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Bird Island Sanctuary

WW2 Memorial Park and Museum
Run by the U.S. National Park Service.
Museum Exhibit

The two captions visible read:

"The minutes and hours after I surrendered were really a time of a culture shock to me. I was marveled (sic) to find American soldiers who had been the very object of fear among us now being all around me acting carefree and cheerful and yelling and joking to each other. How they looked humane! And how I felt grateful that I was a fortunate survivor of the Saipan battle. More, of the Second World War itself!"
Sergeant Takeo Yamauchi
136th Regiment, 43rd Division of the Imperial Army
"Time Heals Everything – almost."
Lieutenant Hap Halloran
B-29 Navigator, U.S. Army
Raymond "Hap" Halloran (center) shakes hands with both Isamu Kashiide (left), the Japanese ace fighter pilot who shot down his B-29 over Tokyo on January 27. 1945, and Saburu Sakai (right), a Japanese WWII ace.

Museum Exhibit
The Museum had many exhibits and a video of the U.S. invasion.  Most of the items on display would be familiar to any Korean War vet, because our  1950 equipment was the same as the WW2 equipment used here in 1944.
Landing Beaches

Landing craft had to cross the reef en route to the beach.  (The trees were planted after the war.)

Landing Beaches
Looking towards the reef from the beach.  We saw two WW2 Sherman tanks partially submerged in the shallow water.
There were 4 large supply ships anchored off shore which are loaded with equipment U.S. ground forces would need if deployed to a Pacific region. 

Saipan Street View
Reminded me of some areas of Florida, except for the mountains.  There was a Costco store on Saipan.


Departing Saipan
From the ship. Note the colorful water inside the reef!
S.S. Independence

A mile off shore we saw the S.S. Independence under tow enroute to the breaking yards in Asia.  This was until recently one of two U.S. flagged cruise ships based in Honolulu.  It was an actual steamship, not a diesel-electric like almost all cruise ships today.
The Statendam maneuvered around the Independence and sounded its horn in salute.