Caves In Saipan



Caves in Saipan have me fascinated. All caves were occupied and defended by the Japanese soldiers in WWII and their artifacts and even their bones are still there.






Japanese hand grenade. Watch out!

American hand grenades.

Still has the pin.

Ancient cave drawings.

People and turtles?

This cave drawing appears to be a map of the cave itself, but I don't know what those dots are.

Wire cutters.

Coconut crab.





This monitor lizard was protecting a cave entrance. I have been in this cave a few times before but never noticed this resident. I climbed down into the cave with my video camera rolling expecting to get a video of him running away. He didn't and I got this picture instead. You can watch the "Cave Lizard" video near the bottom of this page.

Cave moth or butterfly? He sure got lost.

WWII combat boot.

Other Japanese artifacts.

Last thoughts from a WWII Japanese soldier named Kozo found in a cave in Saipan. Decades ago a friend found some Japanese writing in a cave and he brought a Japanese translator to read it. He said that the translator was in tears as he read the last thoughts of the soldiers, moments before they pulled in pin. My cave partner and I tried to locate that same writing and found this instead.


The below bullet was shot into a cave during the Battle of Saipan in WWII and lodged itself into the cave wall where it still is today. The American military learned (the hard way) not to enter the caves in Saipan. Instead, grenades and flamethrowers were used. This area of Saipan has numerous caves with bullet marks on the cave walls but this is the only bullet we found still stuck in the wall.



Last meal for this Japanese soldier. One of the skeleton pictures above was found in this cave.

My exploring buddy Stewie stands watch over some WWII artifacts found in a cave on Mt. Tapachao. Caves in this area were not only occupied by Japanese soldiers but Japanese civilians and locals as well. When the American naval shelling of the town of Garapan started everyone ran to the hills with what they could carry. This looks like their best dishes. They lived in these caves for three weeks until the intense battle ended.

55 gallon drum probably used to catch rain water dripping from the ceiling of the cave.



My cave partner.


It's sad when you stop and think about it. The above picture was of a very stylish and expensive shoe before WWII. Its owner would have wore it with pride and when it came time to leave his house forever, this is what he decided to wear. He and his family and friends and other Japanese civilians were led in groups north from the town of Garapan in Saipan by Japanese soldiers to hide from the battle. This group found this cave and waited weeks for the swift victory that the Japanese had promised. By the time U.S. troops approached this part of Saipan, the battle was nearing its end. The last survivng Japanese general gave his final order and after a very bloody night the three week battle was over. Now this shoe is the only surviving evidence that this person ever existed.

Inside this cave near the Last Command Post are numerous WWII Japanese bottles, soles of shoes, and live mortar rounds.



23 comments:

dexdah said...

Enjoyed your photos of your Saipan explorations.
I visited Tinian's caves and military refuse several years ago.
I would like to do the same on Saipan someday.

EW Johnson said...

Thanks dexdah. I would like to see Tinian's caves someday too. Even though Tinian is only two miles from Saipan I rarely get a chance to go there.

Skye Salganek said...

Amazing! I am in Saipan for a few more days..could you give me directions on getting to the caves you have photographed here??

EW Johnson said...

Hi Skye. I count pictures from 7 or 8 caves on this page. All are in Marpi except one on Mt. Tapochao. Which cave looks best?

Adam said...

Where is the Tapochao cave? Is it the one over by the water tank?

EW Johnson said...

Hi Adam. The Tapochao cave has no familiar landmarks near by. From the nearest road it is a 1 to 3 hour hike, depending on how many times you get lost.

David W. said...

Great footage, Eric! Absolutely unbelievable to me that that stuff is still laying there. The mortar rounds at the cave entrance appear to be in good enough shape to actually use! I noticed that in your "WWII Cave Artifacts" video, just inside the cave opening, there are soles to the Japanese split toe shoes that I've read about. They're mentioned quite often in personal accounts of marines who fought in the island battles of the pacific. Fascinating stuff, Eric!

EW Johnson said...

Thanks David. I too find these caves fascinating and I can't wait to see what turns up next.

Koji said...

Since you have experienced the climbs and humidity, you can more appreciate the Marines who scaled those same climbs under fire, loaded down with weapons and exhausted, can you not?

EW Johnson said...

I am amazed at some of the things the Marines and Army accomplished in Saipan. They were super heroes.

Anonymous said...

Hello:

Have hiked a few caves in Marpi Naftan and, surprisingly, Kagman as well. I will be back on Island for at least 6 months at the beginning of March and would welcome hiking and climbing with you. I have full rappelling gear, GPS and metal detector to avoid those rather nasty party favors the Japanese left in many caves. I share your passion for conservation. You can contact me at coralisland@hotmail.com

EW Johnson said...

Sounds good. Look me up when you get here.

Anonymous said...

I'll be in Saipan next week. My grandfather was a USMC Officer who fought and was seriously wounded there. Anybody else going to be there? Scott

EW Johnson said...

I'm always here.

curtfam said...

Will you still be there next Jan? I'll be there 8 weeks for an internship and would love to see some of these caves. I've repelled a few on the mainland and can't get enough!

EW Johnson said...

I'm always here.

MyLyn said...

Hi! We have really been enjoying your posts. We are huge history lovers and just moved to Saipan about 2 months ago. We have only been out hiking a few times but would love to go with you sometime. You seem to really find some neat locations!

EW Johnson said...

Hi MyLyn. Thanks, I'm glad you like my site.I use to be able to find partners for my hikes but, for some reason, they never wanted to go a second time :-) My hikes tend to be to the extreme. What place did you see on my site that you would like to go to?

curtfam said...

Commenting on your last post...the more intense the better. I'd love to join you on your hikes. Do any of the caves require ascending gear?

J P Homan said...

EW, you have done an admirable job documenting the caves related to the WWII battle history of Saipan. I have been intrigued watching your jungle and cave exploration videos. Keep em coming! BTW, do Japan authorities have any interest in recovering their soldiers remains or do the Saipan authorities have any program to recover and return them.

EW Johnson said...

Thanks JP. The Japanese bone collectors use to come to Saipan on a regular basis 20 years ago until they got in trouble with the FBI. A few months ago they came back and I showed them around but then they got in trouble with their Banzai Trench dig and may not be allowed back for 20 more years. You can see my "WWII Banzai Trench" video on this page:
http://saipanpictures.blogspot.com/2009/05/saipan-map.html

mary ann miller said...

I love your pictures and videos truly great work the mystery of the tank in the cave melted it would take huge amounts of energy to melt many tons of steel any ideas on how. This happened ? Thanks I enjoyed your other videos and pictures

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