World War II still hangs over Saipan like a spirit. It probably always will. If you’ve ever poked your nose into the war’s history, you’ll have noted that the great battle of Midway (1942) is often considered the turning point of the Pacific theater, since it thwarted the menacing momentum of the Japanese fleet. Had it not been for the American victory in that case, there may never have been a battle of Saipan (1944).
A big deal with the battle of Midway is the fact that U.S. had broken the Japanese radio code (known as JN-25), and thus knew what the Japanese were up to. Just as levers move levers, it’s possible that the code-breakers won the Pacific theater, in a sense, given that breaking JN-25 might have meant the difference between whipping the Japanese at Midway, or succumbing to their momentum.
Meanwhile, I guess that code-breaking isn’t a glamorous cinematic draw, so pop-culture doesn’t seem to have given these guys their due. Or, if it did, I missed it.
A veteran of WWII, a naval officer who saw action in proximate waters and who was wounded in the battle of Okinawa, sent me a DVD titled At the Interface: The WWII Recollections of Donald M. Showers. It’s basically an interview/documentary, it’s 41 minutes long, and was produced by Shoestring Productions.
Shoestring can describe it better than I can, so here’s a quote from their web site:
"Ensign Donald M. Showers was assigned to the top secret Naval Intelligence Center station in Hawaii (codenamed Station HYPO) that was tasked with breaking the Japanese operational codes. Here he relates his first hand experiences as part of the team that intercepted and decrypted the Japanese messages leading to a strategic victory in the Battle of the Coral Sea and a decisive rout of the Japanese at Midway Island a month later. Showers was also involved in planning the air mission in which Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was killed and describes the decision making that led to this mission.
“Showers describes the personalities and roles of the important players: Chester Nimitz, Edwin Layton, Joseph Rochefort and Jasper Holmes. He provides a first hand account of the development of the deception, devised by Holmes, that revealed that the secret location for the major Japanese offensive in June 1942 was Midway Island!”
It’s a fascinating video, very well-produced, and a great first-hand account of one of history’s most important, and intriguing, events. Though you know who won the war, of course, there’s a bit of a surprise ending to the video, namely, how these heroes were treated by the higher-ups in Washington.
And, yes, Saipan is mentioned a time or two in the video, which also has some historical highlights beyond the Midway battle.
Shoestring advises me that their price is $20.25 including shipping. Their address is 5873 Menorca Drive, San Diego, CA 92124. Phone: (858) 405-6038. I’ll also post a web link at SaipanBlog.com.
* * *
While we’re in the audio-video mode, I’ll mention a gutsy young lady, "Miss Emily Anne," who cast caution aside, followed her dream, and thus went to the big city (San Francisco) to become a professional singer. Long odds, those. But she formed her own jazz band, has a growing following, and is a budding success story. She’s got an interesting sound which can be tasted at her web site, which I’ll also link to at SaipanBlog.com.
Though she has no ties to Saipan, her web presence is a perfect example of the theme covered by The Long Tail, a book I reviewed in this space on May 23.
Ed is a pilot, economist, and writer. He holds a degree in economics from UCLA and is a former U.S. naval officer. His column runs every Friday. Visit Ed at TropicalEd.com and SaipanBlog.com.