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Conference held on Pacific island to mark 70th anniversary of WW2 battle

Professor Matthew Hughes, chair of Politics and History at Brunel University, London, has co-convened a one-day conference, entitled 'Cultures in War: Combatants, Islanders and Settlers in the Pacific War and Afterward', that takes place on the Pacific island of Saipan on 14 June 2014.

The conference marks the 70th anniversary of the US invasion of Japanese-occupied Saipan in 1944, and looks broadly at the Second World War in the Pacific Ocean.   

Professor Hughes' conference will bring together a range of speakers from the Pacific, the US, Japan, Canada, the UK and Australia to examine the battle for Saipan and to explore the experience of local islanders and Japanese civilians who experienced the war in the Pacific.

Thousands of indigenous islanders and Japanese settlers died in the battle for Saipan and on other islands, thousands committing suicide ostensibly on the order of the Japanese emperor, rather than surrender to the US forces.

"The suffering of the native islanders gets forgotten in the military history of the Pacific battles," said Professor Hughes.

US military forces frequently could not distinguish between civilians and soldiers in a racially charged "war without mercy" between US and Japanese forces with the local civilians caught in the middle. Scholars at the conference will also examine the devastating battle on the neighbouring island of Tinian, from which US bombers would later fly to drop the atom bombs on Japan in 1945.

Conference papers include:

  • examinations of Japanese war tourism on the islands,
  • the atomic bomb missions launched from Tinian,
  • the long-term cultural legacy of World War II American military music, which was performed before the local population, on today's music of the indigenous islanders.

For more information about Professor Hughes, please view his profile on the Brunel website.