Suicide Cliff and Banzai Cliff, Saipan – a terrible history 2


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.

Why?

Lies, misinformation, and propaganda.

Suicide Cliff

Suicide Cliff, Saipan. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

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.

Suicide Cliff Memorial Park. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

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.

WWII bunker. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

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.

Banzai Cliff

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

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.

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Suicide Cliff and Banzai Cliff are now listed as historical landmarks.


Practical information and how to reach Suicide Cliff:

Direct flights to Saipan are possible from Tokyo, Seoul, and Hong Kong. Most flights will require a transfer in Guam. More transport info here.


More on Saipan:

Kilili Beach – swim with WWII tanks


More on the Pacific:

Guam:

Keen to see the green flash? Try Tumon Beach

Papua New Guinea:

PoM Nature Park – dorcopsis, bird of paradise, tree kangaroo, and more

Rabaul – Jewel of the South Pacific, buried by volcanic ash

Little Pigeon Island, East New Britain – tiny, uninhabited, sand cay with view of volcanos

Samoa:

Apia – small and sleepy capital, perfect for Robert Louis Stevenson

Lalomanu – is it Samoa’s finest beach? is it the beach from Moana?

To Sua Ocean Trench, the Ma Tree, & Sopo’aga Falls

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2 thoughts on “Suicide Cliff and Banzai Cliff, Saipan – a terrible history

  • Karen White

    What a terrible decision for the locals to have to make – suicide – propaganda works, which is such a shame.
    It looks a lovely island though, it looks like the cliffs are beautiful limestone.
    Kazzieandkitty