WWII wrecks endorsed for listing on nat’l history register

Posted on May 21 2020


Photo shows a sunken Sherman tank off the Saipan lagoon. (VALEO FILMS 4)

A multiple property National Register of Historic Places nomination for 12 World War II Japanese and U.S. sunken ships, aircraft, and assault vehicles from the battle for Saipan was written by archaeologists and historians under a National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program grant. These sites are expected to be listed among some of the nation’s most treasured historical and cultural resources worthy of preservation.

The National Register is a program of the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. In the CNMI, the Historic Preservation Office administers the program.

The CNMI has close to 40 National Register listings including such diverse historic properties as rock art, Japanese WWII defensive buildings and fortifications, latte stone quarry and sites, and landing beaches.

Acknowledging the significant role of World War II and its associated heritage globally and its importance and impact to Pacific Islanders locally, Ships of Exploration and Discovery Research and East Carolina University archaeologists and historians are nominating the 12 sites to the National Register, which included a detailed analysis of the sites’ history and significance. It was determined after this analysis that the sites qualify for the National Register under two criteria: they are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history, and they have yielded or may be likely to yield information important in history in the areas of engineering, historical archaeology, maritime history, military, and transportation. Special attention was paid to Pacific Islander experiences of World War II and their own words associated with the event and these sites.

Photo shows a sunken Aichi-E13A aircraft on Saipan that is recommended to be listed among some of the nation’s most treasured historical and cultural resources worthy of preservation. (BRETT SEYMOUR/NATIONAL PARK SERVICE)

The nomination was submitted to the CNMI Historic Preservation Office for review in early May. The process involves a review by the Commonwealth Historic Preservation review board who will make a recommendation to the CNMI Historic Preservation officer, Rita Chong, to accept the nominations. Chong will then make a recommendation to the National Park Service, which makes the final decision on the properties’ listing.

There are both social and economic benefits associated with having the submerged sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. By being included among the listing of resources that have been researched and documented as significant to the national, state, or community, listed properties are given special consideration when the federal government is planning or giving aid to projects. Listing gives the community and public officials credibility when attempting to protect these resources. For the CNMI, these sites are a heritage tourism asset—stimulating the economy through water-related tourism activities—and their protection will ensure they are a sustainable asset over time.

The World War II submerged sites listed are part of the WWII Maritime Heritage Trail: Battle of Saipan (http://blog.ecu.edu/sites/pmht/) and include a Japanese Aichi13A “Jake” floatplane, a Japanese Kawanishi H8K “Emily” seaplane, a U.S. TBM Avenger torpedo bomber plane, a U.S. Martin PBM Mariner seaplane, the Japanese freighter known as “Chinsen,” two Japanese Daihatsu landing craft, a possible Japanese submarine chaser, three U.S. Sherman tanks, and a U.S. LVT.

The listings can be accessed for public review at:https://www.dropbox.com/sh/y9d3v63ipfupieuAADu59oFtgOf4o9lQWSmXDWUa?dl=0. Public input is not required, but is welcome and appreciated and can be submitted via the comments box on the WWII Maritime Heritage Trail website here: http://blog.ecu.edu/sites/pmht/visit-the-trail/. If you have thoughts or stories about the sites, feel free to share them and we will incorporate them into the listing where possible. For more information contact: Jennifer McKinnon mckinnonje@ecu.edu. (PR)

Press Release
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