Operation FORAGER: Expanding Documentation and Research of WWII Maritime Heritage in the Mariana Islands

By Dr. Jennifer McKinnon

A photo of an Aichi E13A Japanese floatplane (code name JAKE) sunk upside down in 20ft of water (Photo by Brett Seymour, National Park Service).

Hafa Adai and welcome to the Operation FORAGER project! Thanks for joining us as we kick off our fourth National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program grant project on the islands of Saipan and Tinian. Ships of Discovery has been working in Saipan for nearly ten years investigating, recording, and interpreting Saipan's WWII underwater heritage ranging from Japanese and US planes, to amphibious vehicles, to shipwrecks. Early projects focused on the development of a WWII underwater heritage trail, a video guide of the trail, and conservation and management surveys of the sites on the trail. It's been five years (2012) since we collected data on these heritage sites and a lot has happened since then; specifically, a large super typhoon Soudelor hit the island in 2015. This project hopes to pick up where we left off and begin to collect what is called "longitudinal data" on the sites, which can be used to compare how the sites are holding up over time. So one of the key aims will be to collect new conservation data (i.e. corrosion measurements) as well as use a cutting edge technology, photogrammetry, to record the sites and create new 3D models. Both of these sets of data will be used to compare the sites over time and give us a good sense of how the sites are degrading.

Click on the image for a closer look. Gun turret and gun on Kawanishi H8K Japanese seaplane (code name EMILY) (Photo
by Brett Seymour, National Park Service).

We are also expanding our understanding of the WWII Pacific Theater from Saipan to the neighboring island of Tinian. We will spend some time surveying sites along the invasion beaches used in the Battle for Tinian. This will be exciting because it might turn up some new discoveries. So join us in the western Pacific and follow the Operation FORAGER blog. We hope to have posts up every other day.

Read more about the Battle of Saipan here.

Check out a previous blog on Saipan research here.