(NOTE: See the update at the end of the post about the flag situation.)
I went to Saipan a couple of weeks ago on business. Finding myself with a spare half hour between meetings, I decided to check out the American Memorial Park.
Saipan was the site of a bloody and important battle during the Pacific Campaign of World War Two. It was the first battle on Japanese territory and the Americans first encounter with large numbers of Japanese civilians, many of whom unfortunately jumped to their deaths rather than allow themselves to be captured.
The nearby island of Tinian was launching point for the planes which dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I was happy to see that a new visitor's center had been built since my last visit two years ago . The inside was tastefully done but I am not sure what to make of the 'battle sound' tape they had running which fill the hall with the sounds of rifles firing and men shouting (including the shouts of a banzai charge. I have no idea what effect hearing that had on the Japanese couple that was in the hall at the time (most tourist to Saipan are Japanese and the signs were in Japanese as well as English and Chomoro).
American Memorial Park visitor's center
Another feature of the park is the Court of Honor and Flag Circle. It features granite plates inscribed with the names of the over 5,000 American who died in the fighting for Saipan and Tinian and in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
One thing that disappointed me was the state of the flags in the Court of Honor. The American flag was torn, not just in one place, but at almost every seem between stripes. A couple of the service flags were also in bad shape. Since they had the funds to build a new visitor's center, I'm sure they have a little money on hand to get some new flags.
I should have gone back to talk with the lady at the visitor's center about it but I found myself in a hurry to get to my next meeting and forgot about it until I saw the pictures after my return to Korea. I certainly hope someone in charge there can get some new flags.
The Court of Honor
Old Glory is in pretty bad shape. Where is Betsy Ross when you need her? (Click for a larger view.)
UPDATE (October 27): I have just received the following email from Chuck Sayon at American Memorial Park:
Thanks for your visit to American Memorial Park and your concern regarding the condition of the flags at Flag Circle and the Court of Honor.
The flags are replaced 4 times a year. Usually those dates are around Nov. 11 (Veterans Day) which obviously is done in time for the ceremonies that we have at the Court of Honor for Veterans Day, around Presidents Day (mid-February), Memorial Day (end of May) & Labor Day (beginning of September). The American Flag is a specialty flag of 48 stars, which represents the time of the Battles. Annually, along with other flags in the park, these flags cost American Memorial Park approximately $6,000 to replace. This year we have been having unseasonably above average number of typhoons forming in this region and passing Saipan. Thus the flags were taking more of a beating than is usually the case. Rest assured though, we will change them as soon as our special 48-star American flag is received.
That means the flag that I saw was getting near the end of its rotation and that its replacement will be up in another week or so. I am glad to know that the park is being well taken care of.
BTW, I had not noticed that it was a 48-star flag until Sayon mentioned it. Nice.