BOOK REVIEW: 40 Thieves on Saipan


40 Thieves on Saipan: The Elite Marine Scout-Snipers in One of WWII’s Bloodiest Battles. Joseph Tachovsky with Cynthia Kraack. Regnery History, 2020.

Those interested on the battle for Saipan will enjoy a new book from Regnery History: The Elite Marine Scout-Snipers in One of WWII’s Bloodiest Battles.

The tone for the book is set with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen.

“Thank God for the United States Marine Corps.”

The book tells the story of 40 men who were handpicked to serve in a scout-sniper unit during the invasion of Saipan, 1944. One on their talents was scrounging what they needed to stay alive and get the job done.

After the battles for Guadalcanal and Tarawa, the Second Marine Division was called upon to fight for Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands. On Jan. 11, 1944, Col. “Gentleman Jim” Riseley, who was no gentlemen, called First Lt. Frank Tachovsky into his tent at Parker Ranch, U.S. Territory of Hawaii. The seasoned lieutenant, who had just been put up for a Silver Star for taking out a bunker on Tarawa, stood at attention before the improvised desk behind which sat the commander of the 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division.

Riseley said he wanted to create a scout-sniper platoon to serve his headquarter’s battalion during the battle for Saipan. He offered the job to Tachovsky, who immediately accepted. “Alright then, welcome aboard. You can choose the men you want from the entire regiment.”

“Ski’s” son, who earned a degree from the University of Minnesota, then tells the story of how his dad personally chose each man, and then describes their amazing deeds on Saipan. I particularly enjoyed his description of the battle for Hill 500 and Mt. Tipo Pale.

The book is well illustrated with both photos and maps, and is a comfortable read. It is one of those books history buffs will want to take to the jungle and read passages right where the action took place.

Don Farrell (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Don Farrell is author of the acclaimed book Tinian and The Bomb, available on line at

Don Farrell (Special to the Saipan Tribune)

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