Of bunkers, tankers and pillboxes

FOR someone who has been here all his or her life, or have stayed for decades here, the structures that you can see scattered all over the islands are just old and buried slabs of cement piled on top of each other with steel bars sticking out, but these Japanese bunkers and pillboxes are one of the unique attractions that draws thousands of tourists each year.

Drive around this scenic island and you will see these remnants, reminders of a bloody war that took place here almost 70 years ago—from Saipan International Airport, Susupe, Beach Road, Marpi Road, Last Command Post in Marpi, Naftan Point, and everywhere else on Tinian and Rota.

I had the chance to experience what it feels to be inside one of the bunkers at the airport one afternoon, trying to imagine Japanese soldiers firing from the shelter of these sturdy concrete structures.

Situated among colorful blooms of Flame Trees, you will not think of guns being fired to and from that point, except for the large bullet holes on the sides of the bunker which serves as actual testimonies of the direct hits from the American tanks.

The nearest I got inside a Japanese Pillbox was the one in Chulu or Starsands Beach on Tinian. Like other pillboxes, it is half-buried in the sand with a rifle slit but I just peered through. Being claustrophobic, I dared not creep through the roots that have grown over part of the entrance.

One of the most popular pillboxes on Saipan is at the grassy area of the American Memorial Park. It offers easy access to anyone who wants to get a closer look. Kids play around and climb over it all the time.

The half-submerged tank at the Invasion Beach in Susupe is one of my favorites. Sitting frozen in an action for attack, this tank gets frequent visits from swimmers which I always find an interesting subject to take photos of.

These Japanese bunkers, tankers and pillboxes are just among the artifacts of war that littered the islands of Saipan, Tinian and Rota. Nestled among thick jungles, roadsides and anywhere else are other relics such as rusting hulks from aircraft, helmets, weapons and other tools of war—relics that plays an important role to remind everybody that these beautiful islands were once the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific.

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