Japanese Search U.S. Archives For WWII MIA Info

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) -
U.S. Army troops making an amphibious landing on the coral reef at Saipan beach, in July of 1944. (AP Photo)
U.S. Army troops making an amphibious landing on the coral reef at Saipan beach, in July of 1944. (AP Photo)

Racing against time, members of a Japanese organization are combing a New York military museum’s World War II records for information they hope will lead to the graves of American servicemen still listed as missing in action on Saipan.

The reason for the urgency: A developer plans to begin construction in the fall on a condominium near the beach where scores of Americans were killed on July 7, 1944, during Japan’s largest “banzai” attack of the war.

Kuentai-USA, a nonprofit group that searches Pacific islands for Japan’s war dead, found the remains of at least two American fighting men near the construction site in 2011 and 2013, and believes as many as 16 others are buried nearby.

“This is urgent,” said Kuentai-USA founder Usan Kurata, a 58-year-old journalist who is visiting the New York State Military Museum this week with another group leader, both from Kyoto.

The Pentagon agency in charge of searching foreign battlefields for America’s dead says about 20 U.S. servicemen are unaccounted for on Saipan, part of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth in the Pacific.

Maj. Jamie Dobson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command, said that the Russian developers must follow Saipan’s stringent historic preservation laws and that if a probable burial site is found to be in imminent danger, the U.S. will send a team.

The researchers’ visit to the U.S. comes exactly 70 years after more than 3,000 Japanese troops launched the assault that killed or wounded more than 900 American soldiers, many of them from New York state. The museum holds many of the 27th Division’s records, including enlistment cards, yearbooks, photographs and other documents.