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Saito, General Yoshitsugu, 1890-1944

Saito led the defense of Saipan when 127,600 American troops invaded the island on 15-17 June 1944. Although the official Commander in Chief was Admiral NAGUMO, it was General Obata who built the defenses and Saito who commanded the 32,000 strong garrison. He was not an able commander nor did he have much experience of combat. By the 22 June the Marines had cut the island in half and though there was much intense fighting it was essentially a clearing operation. On 6 July Nagumo and Saito both committed suicide in order to encourage their troops to fight to the last, which they did in two suicidal counterattacks. Likewise, thousands of civilians killed themselves en masse. Only 1000 Japanese soldiers survived; 22,000 civilians died; and the Americans suffered 14,000 casualties of which 3500 were deaths.

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