Japanese > Old Jail

The old Japanese jail is perhaps the biggest mystery in Saipan's history. It is rumored that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were kept prisoners here for the last months of their lives. This Jail was used by the Japanese from its construction in 1929 up to the day the Battle of Saipan began. Then all prisoners were released so the guards could take shelter in the hills outside of Garapan. Part of the wall surrounding the jail still stands. The wall shows the scars of countless bullet holes and bigger blasts, perhaps from American tanks. Inside the walls are two jail blocks. The larger of the two is on the right with 16 cells and was used for the male prisoners. The smaller cell row on the left with 4 cells was possibly for the women. Between the cellblocks are the quarters and offices for the guards. You can still walk through the hallway connecting the jail cells and imagine how terrible the living conditions must have been for the prisoners.

Click the thumbnails for the larger pictures and comments.

I've spent years looking for pictures of the outside of this jail prior to WWII with no luck. I took all the pictures below in recent years. If you have any photos of this jail during or before WWII please send me a scan.

Japanese writing prisoners counted down the days on the inside cell walls.

U.S. soldiers scratched their names on the hallway walls outside the cells during the Battle of Saipan. I think a marine platoon spent the night in the hallways during the battle. The jail was a safe and easy to guard location.

Back: Japanese: 1914-1944

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I have lived in Saipan since 1996 and enjoy learning about the amazing history of this island. This is a collection photographs that I believe to be public domain. If you have rights to a photograph on this website and wish for me to remove it or if you would like to add a photograph to the collection, please let me know. Thank you. ewjohnson@pticom.com