A QUICK drive following the side roads leading to the AARF at the Saipan International Airport the other afternoon with buddy Alexie introduced me to another World War 11 relic that I have heard about several times but haven’t been to before—another rusty yet sturdy JapaneseWW11 tank sitting amid tall bushes.
Parking on the rough roadside, Alexie and I fished out our cameras and inspected the tank that still seemed complete despite being exposed to the elements for so many decades.
The tank was just one of the many other WW2 tanks and relics lying around the island as grim reminders of the war but this was the first tank that I had the chance to really go near. This tank was conveniently situated under the shade of a canopy of leaves and surrounded by tall bushes but the area surrounding the tank was clean and well- maintained, making it convenient for visitors to go around.
The sturdy piece of steel did not look like it was going to fall into pieces soon.
The Japanese World War 2 tank was just among the grim reminders of the bloody war among all others, including several buildings and features associated with the American and Japanese use of the area.
Information on the interpretive sign erected near the tank narrates that the construction of As Lito Airfield began in 1934 and it was developed into the principal Japanese air base in the Marianas as the threat of war increased. American aircraft of Task Force 58 attacked As Lito Airfield on June 11 before the June 15 landings on Saipan’s southwest coast beaches to capture it and convert it to an American base that would put land-based bombers within reach of Japan.
The airfield became the home of Bomber Wing 73 and was renamed Isely Field in honor of an officer whose plane was shot down during one of the air raids. Isely Field was deactivated in 1940 and the construction on Saipan International Airport began in October 1973.
The modern airport buildings, concrete parking areas and landscaped grounds cannot hide the grim reminders of war that lay scattered all over the area.
Drive around the airport and you will see remains of the power station building, an oxygen generating building, a hospital, repair shops, the Japanese headquarters building, several Japanese navy design air raid shelters, a bomb storage bunker that lies under an artificial mound, and several bunkers and air raid shelters along the Flame Tree Drive.