posted in History Up Close on June 18, 2014
Earlier this month dignitaries, heads of state, and an ever dwindling number of veterans descended upon the beaches of Normandy to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the most famous D-Day ever executed, the invasion of Western Europe on June 6, 1944.
June 2014, also marks the seventieth anniversary of another epic battle that was vitally significant in the Pacific Theater. While the landings in Normandy opened a second-front in the European Theater, the invasion of Saipan in the Marianas on June 15, 1944, marked the first penetration of Japan’s inner defenses, its capture and that of Guam and Tinian providing the United States bases from which B-29 Superfortresses could begin a sustained strategic bombing effort against the Japanese Home Islands. As with all of the D-Days of the island-hopping campaigns in the Pacific, naval aviation played an important role, the Battle of the Philippine Sea that occurred in the waters around the Marianas on June 19–20, 1944, representing the last of five great carrier-vs.-carrier battles between the U.S. Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy.
While the rows of crosses overlooking Omaha Beach and the remains of concrete bunkers carved into the landscape serve as reminders of the events of June 6th, in blue water naval engagements, battle lines drawn on ocean waters by the wakes of ships disappeared quickly and the physical wreckage of battle is largely hidden deep beneath ocean waters. To this end, the events of the Battle of the Philippine Sea live in grainy black and white images and the writings and memories of those who were there.