A private Japanese institution that discovered the remains of World War II soldiers on Saipan is returning to the Pacific island with the hopes of uncovering more unmarked graves, including the graves of the American servicemen who remain listed as missing in action (MIA) for over 70 years.
The heads of the Kuentai-USA stated that a group of approximately twelve American and Japanese volunteers intends to search the area of Saipan where the 27th Infantry Division of the United States was hit by the biggest suicide attack of the Pacific ground war. Hundreds of casualties were suffered by the New York National Guard Unit, and many of them were New Yorkers.
The 105 regiment of the division suffered nearly 1,000 wounded and killed on July 7, 1944, during what became known as the ‘banzai attack’.
A great many New Yorkers were among the casualties. A minimum of 5 New Yorkers, including three men from the Albany area, remain listed as missing in action. A couple of years ago, while searching for the remains of Japanese soldiers, Kuentai uncovered the skeletal remains of five America soldiers. All of these Americans were from the 105th Regiment, and four of them have been identified and returned to America for reburial. The remains of the 5th soldier are still being examined.
In September 2014, Kuentai went back to Saipan to continue search of the MIAs. Included in the team’s volunteers was Mackenzie Waterston, a college student from New York. Two months earlier; she had met Kuentai’s leaders, Yukari Akatsuka and Usan Kurata when they visited the New York State Military Museum in order to examine its records on the 27th Division at Saipan.
Waterston is returning to Saipan once again.
Excavations are expected to continue until November 8.