Suicide Cliff, and nearby Banzai Cliff, on the Pacific Island of Saipan, share a terrible history – as their names attest.
In 1944, as the Battle of Saipan came to its conclusion, hundreds and perhaps thousands of individuals hurled themselves from the top of these cliffs.
Lies, misinformation, and propaganda.
Saipan saw some of the fiercest fighting in the Pacific during World War II. Approximately 40,000 Japanese troops were killed, along with 10,000 civilians (a mix of Japanese and Pacific Islanders).
Casualties were high because the Japanese military had been ordered to fight to the death – only 900 would be captured as prisoners of war.
The Japanese military, in turn, encouraged the civilians of Saipan to commit suicide rather than surrender to the United States military.
Suicide was the best option for them, they were told, as the U.S. troops would rape and torture everyone on the island.
News of the ‘American mutilation of Japanese war dead’ (read more here) formed the core of the Japanese propaganda campaign.
Many believed the claims.
Many leapt to their deaths.
The total number of fatalities at the two sites is unknown; the number varies in different estimations between several hundred and several thousand.
Somewhere in between is probably the best guess.
Of those who leapt from Banzai Cliff, a few managed to clear the rocks below and ended up surviving the fall. They were subsequently rescued by United States troops.
Suicide Cliff and Banzai Cliff are now listed as historical landmarks.