Kevin Donahue  WWII Traveler & Saipan Relics

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Pillobox and Japanese engine & prop on Saipan

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H8K Emily Wreckage

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Japanese Type 97 Tanks

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Drowned Sherman Tank

by Kevin Donahue. A professional artist. He engages in writing, photography, directing and 3D modeling.

It takes a special person to love a wreck. For me I like the mystery and intrigue that they represent. The wrecks of World War II all have a story to tell and the intrigue is finding out what that story is. Wrecks tell the tale of the men who braved the madness of war. People that love a wreck feel an obligation to find and tell that story.

My lastest adventure involved an exploration into the WWII remants on Saipan and Tinian. It was a moving experience for this American to see where US Marines have faced the Japanese forces on Saipan and Tinian. Seeing the machine gun nests and pillboxes pointed at the areas where the Marines had landed at Chalan Kanoa firsthand was moving to say the least. It made me take a step back and appreciate the sacrifice they made several years ago that made my recent trip to Saipan and Tinian possible.

But I have yet to find the story that will come out this adventure. I was initially intrigued by the four Sherman tanks that lie in the shallow water of Saipan Lagoon. That is what drew me to the mysteries in the Pacific in the first place. I have always hoped to hear from a survivor how they came to rest there. I managed to wreck dive an H8K Emily in Tanapag Lagoon. The little investigating I did on the island points to the possibility that the plane was downed by a mine that it hit in the Tanapag Lagoon. Im currently investigating that mystery and hope to hear from someone who knows how it came to rest at the bottom at Tanapag.

I have three rules for wrecks: either leave it where it came to rest or restore it to some respectable condition. Lastly preserve it with photographs and research its history. This was my inspiration in investigating the Type 97 Chi Ha tanks on Saipan.

One Tyoe 97 Chi Ha sits on top of a pillbox on the beach road. Two others which now rest on what was the old Japanese Aslito Airfield. One tank is painted "house paint white". A Type 95 Ha-Go Light Tank rests on the northern end of Saipan that is in too bad a shape to restore. The tanks are left rusting away with their treads removed and little done to preserve them.

Seeing that these remnants served more as eye sores instead of proper war memorials I set out to do something about it. I contacted a professional tank restorer and negotiated with the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianna Islands to restore the tank to some reasonable condition. I am currently mediating between both parties to make this happen. My hope is that this restored tank would better preserve the Battle of Saipan.

So I am inquiring about info on the Sherman tanks drowned out on Saipan, the Emily that lies in the waters off of Tanapag and the Japanese tanks on Saipan. I hope to tell the tale of these vehicles for future generations. Having their tale rust away or lie at the bottom of the lagoon forever would be a shame. If you have any information on them, or know of any survivors.

 


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