An aerial view of smoke from the US artillery and naval bombardment of a Japanese seaplane base at Flores Point, near Tanapag harbor, during the US invasion of Saipan in June 1944.
W. Eugene Smith/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Scenes from the Battle of Saipan

Updated 1:53 AM ET, Wed July 3, 2019

An aerial view of smoke from the US artillery and naval bombardment of a Japanese seaplane base at Flores Point, near Tanapag harbor, during the US invasion of Saipan in June 1944.
W. Eugene Smith/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

When Allied armies were fighting their way off the Normandy beaches and into Nazi-occupied France 75 years ago, another battle raged in the Pacific that proved to be one of the pivotal US victories of World War II -- the Battle of Saipan.

The battle -- June 19 to July 9, 1944 -- saw the United States gain important airstrips that enabled the bombing of the Japanese main islands, an event some have called the "death knell" for Tokyo's war effort.

The fight for Saipan, in the Mariana Islands, took a high toll on both sides. Some 29,000 Japanese troops, almost the entire force Tokyo put on the island, were killed. Thousands of Japanese civilians also died, hundreds of them jumping to their deaths from cliffs rather than be captured by the Americans. US losses totaled almost 3,000 dead and more than 10,000 wounded.