That day 72 years ago


June 15, 1944, was the day (72 years ago yesterday) when the invasion of Saipan started by the American armed forces. On June 10, 1944 Saipan and Tinian were heavily bombarded by the planes from Aircraft Carrier TASK FORCE 58. The bombardment continued night and day for five days followed by the landing of the American forces.

It was an experience that I shall never forget as a 12-year-old boy. Two days after the continued bombing, our dad, Elias P. Sablan, decided to take refuge in a cave about two miles southwest of Mt. Tapochao, right above the farm of the Chargualaf family in Kanad Tabla. The Guerrero and Crisostimo families also joined us in the cave.

Two days after we moved into the cave, the grass and trees outside, on top of the cave were all burning causing an intense heat inside the cave. Dad decided to move out of the cave and find our way down to the Guerrero’s ranch down from the cave. Shells from the offshore American battleships continued to explode around us and branches of breadfruit trees were falling on the ranch house. After we finished praying the Rosary, Dad decided we better return to the cave. Some of the elder members of the group decided to remain at the ranch house and “let the Lord decide their fate.”

During the three weeks we were hiding in the cave, all we had as nourishment was sugarcane. Three or four able men would go down to the sugar cane field and would return to the cave with sugarcane for our “meal.” We had no water, no food to eat; all we had was sugarcane as our food. One morning thee men left the cave early morning to get sugarcane. The three men detected a group of Japanese soldiers and hid in the cane field for about 30 minutes until the Japanese soldiers were out of sight.

The three men immediately cut canes and proceeded back to the cave. By then the sun was up and obviously, the American battleships offshore detected people crawling on side of the hill. So the ships began shooting at the site where they saw stragglers crawling. Bombs were exploding right in front of our cave. My sister Maria led us in Rosary prayer and to ask our Creator to protect all of us in the cave.

Few hours after the explosion of bombs at the mouth of the cave, we heard people talking in front of the entrance of the cave. We did not understand what they were saying. While the people outside the cave were talking, a baby cried in the cave. The people outside were then able to pinpoint the direction from where the baby was crying. As the people outside approached the entrance of the cave, they saw a crucifix/cross on top of the cave entrance. That further gave away the entrance of the cave.

The three U.S. Marines who risked their lives to save us from the ugliness of war were very friendly. One of them was wearing a Rosary with cross around his neck. That gained our confidence that they are friendly and will not harm us.

I remain in touch with the family of the three Marines until today to express our most sincere appreciation for liberating us. We are forever thankful to the families of John Sullivan of Ottawa, Illinois; George Prevost of Joppa Towne, Maryland; and Gene Engel of El Cajon, California.


David M. Sablan

Contributing Author

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