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Saipan & the Northern Mariana Islands
Saipan is one of the islands that comprises the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. There are 14 islands in the archipelago that lies to the east of the Philippines, to the south of Japan, and north of Papua New Guinea. Saipan is the largest of the Islands. The Northern Mariana Islands have a total population of approximately 60,000 people. The official languages are English, Chamorro, and Carolinian. The US Dollar is the official currency in the Northern Mariana Islands and Roman Catholicism is the main religion.
Saipan and it's neighbouring islands were settled by the Spanish who maintained control of the Northern Mariana from 1521 to 1899. The Spanish sold the islands to Germany in 1899 and the Germans retained control until 1914 when they were forced out by the Japanese.
World War II
In June 1944 US armed forces began a campaign to drive the Japanese off the islands during World War II. The Americans needed to secure Saipan as a base for a land invasion of Japan. The Japanese put up very strong resistance. Of the 31,629 Japanese on Saipan approximately 29,500 Japanese died as a result of the fighting. Only 2,100 Japanese prisoners survived.Many Japanese families committed suicide rather than be taken prisoner. The fierce defence by the Japanese, including their willingness to fight to the death, convinced the Americans that any invasion of Japan would involve an unacceptable number of American deaths.
The battle for Saipan led directly to the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The B-29 American bomber Enola Gay, carrying the atomic bomb, took off from Saipan neighbouring island, Tinian, on 6 August 1945. Saipan and it's Mariana neighbours have been under the control of the USA in one form or another since World War II.
Irish 2002 World Cup Soccer Squad
On the 18th May 2002 the Republic of Ireland World Cup soccer squad flew to Saipan from Tokyo airport on NorthWest flight 0076. The squad and FAI officials stayed in the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the Garapan area of Saipan.
The 311 room hotel lies in 14 acres of lush, tropical gardens, lagoons and the magnificent Micro Beach. The Irish trained each day at the Susupe Sports complex which included, "the newly rejuvenated soccer field just north of the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium."
The Commonwealth of the the Northern Mariana Islands had spent $20,000 to upgrade Oleai field in preparation for the arrival of the Irish team. (Saipan Tribune - 20 May 2007).
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