SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.
Even after seven decades, Wilfred “Spike” Mailloux won’t talk about surviving a bloody World War II battle unless longtime friend John Sidur is by his side.
It was Sidur who found the severely wounded Mailloux hours after both survived Japan’s largest mass-suicide attack in the Pacific. The pre-dawn assault launched 70 years ago today on the Japan-held island of Saipan nearly wiped out two former New York National Guard battalions fighting alongside U.S. Marines.
“He found me in the mud,” Mailloux recounted during a visit to the New York State Military Museum to attend a presentation on the battle’s 70th anniversary.
Mailloux and Sidur are among the dwindling ranks of WWII veterans of the Army’s 27th Infantry Division, which endured some of the bloodiest fighting in the Pacific, only to have its reputation besmirched by a volatile Marine general in one of the war’s biggest controversies.
In the Mariana Islands, 1,400 miles south of Tokyo, Saipan was sought by the Americans as a base for bombing raids against Japan. U.S. forces landed on Saipan on June 15, 1944, with two Marine divisions, the 2nd and the 4th, making initial beach assaults and losing 2,000 men on the first day.
A few days later, the inexperienced 27th Division joined the fight. On July 7, after three weeks of fighting, two battalions of the 105th Regiment were positioned across a plain along Saipan’s western shore. With the island’s 30,000 defenders down to a few thousand starving, ill-equipped soldiers and sailors, Japanese commanders ordered one last charge.
The battalions’ 1,100 soldiers bore the brunt of what became known as the banzai attack. U.S. military officials said 3,000 Japanese charged the American lines; others said it was closer to 5,000. Many attackers were armed with samurai swords and bayonets.
When it was over, 4,300 enemy dead were found on the battlefield. The 105th Regiment saw 406 killed and 512 wounded.