LIBERATION Guam Remembers
A Golden Salute for the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of Guam
As a 40 mm crew aboard the cruiser
Honolulu waits on alert, Asan Point is rocked when a storage dump
explodes after taking a direct hit. Smoke on the shore is from bombs
from attacking planes and naval gunfire. Seen above left are a variety
of vessels a gunboat, a transport vessel; tougher to discern are
planes flying over the beach (at left).
By DAVE LOTZ and ROSE S.N. MANIBUSAN
By early 1944, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was
preparing for Operation Forager the capture, occupation, and
defense of the Mariana Islands. Targeted were the islands of Saipan,
Tinian, and Guam. The United States Pacific forces under Nimitz's
command commenced the broad Pacific sweep of island-hopping that would
by mid-summer 1944 result in the Liberation of Guam.
American naval forces were hard at work as the war
moved west. America and Japan both considered the Mariana Islands
important because of their strategic location. From Guam, airstrips
would be built, where B-29s could make bombing runs to Japan. Apra
Harbor, because of its deep water port, would serve as an excellent
fleet anchorage in the Western Pacific. Outside the continental United
States, Guam would become one of the largest naval bases in the Pacific.
As a former U. S. possession, America had a moral obligation to liberate
the Chamorro people.
American fast carriers attacked the Marianas Islands
on Feb. 23, 1944. At the same time, American submarines concentrated on
sinking Japanese ships. Both tactical elements would thus disrupt
reinforcement of the islands. Ultimately the submarines sank at least 30
enemy ships at the cost of two submarines and prevented troops and
equipment from reaching Guam and the other Marianas Islands.
"Times were getting worse because the Americans had
already bombed Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. That was what the Japanese told
me in Yona, the one that knew English ..." Francisco Kelly Acfalle
Unaware of the Japanese defense situation, the
Americans' next step was the reconnaissance of the islands. In April
1944, for 27 days the submarine USS Greenling photographed possible
invasion beaches. Shortly thereafter, the Navy and Army Air Force B-24s
took daring low level photos up until June.
By the end of May the invasion forces had assembled
at Pearl Harbor and Guadalcanal to commence their long voyages to the
Marianas. The invasion fleet for Guam sailed initially to Kwajalein and
then sorted on June 9-12 only to return later to Eniwetok.
Shot down by anti-aircraft fire, a
Japanese warplane crashes into the ocean, narrowly missing the USS
Cabot. With Japanese air capabilities destroyed, U.S. pilots ruled the
skies above Guam prior to and through the battle for the island.
The invasion of Saipan began on June 15, 1944,
following massive shore bombardment. For the Americans, Saipan was the
most costly Pacific battle to that time. Saipan was not secured until
July 9, due to heavy determined Japanese resistance including desperate
battles and banzai charges in such places as Death Valley and Tanapag.
The cost for Saipan was high. American losses totalled almost 3,100
dead, about 11,000 wounded, and 128 missing. More than 24,000 Japanese
defenders died and 300 civilians.
The date for the invasion of Guam was postponed from
June 16 due to stiff Japanese resistance on Saipan and the approach of a
Japanese fleet attempting to reach Saipan to help its defenders.
"The ships (U.S. troop transports) steamed in aimless
circles, while tropical sun beat upon them, the quality of food
deteriorated and the swindling cigarette supply had
to be rationed meagerly. No one who has never traveled to combat aboard
an overcrowded assault transport in the tropics can
comprehend what those men went through during the forty-eight to
fifty-two days the various elements were at sea.". . . The Island War,
by Frank O. Hough
On July 15, the invasion fleet finally left Eniwetok
The American fleet's presence around the Mariana
Islands brought a response from the Japanese navy to prevent another
loss to the Empire. Approaching from the west, the Japanese aircraft
earners launched massive raids to attack the American aircraft earners
on June 19, 1944. When the greatest carrier air battle of the war ended,
known as the "Marianas Turkey Shoot," the Japanese lost nearly 400
aircraft. Following its defeat, the Japanese fleet retreated. Plans to
re-inforce the Marianas were no longer possible.
For the invasion of the Mariana Islands, command of
the United States Fifth Fleet was vested in Admiral Raymond A. Spruance
with Vice Admiral Richmond K. Turner in command of
the Joint Expeditionary Force. Lt. General Holland M.
Smith, United States Marine Corps (USMC) was in tactical command of all
troops ashore in the Mariana Islands.
9 April 1942
American and Filipino forces on Bataan surrender to the Japanese
army under General Homnia Masaharu. The "Bataan Death March" begins.
About 76,000 American and Filipino survivors are forced to march 60
miles to POW camps. As so many are in a weakened and starved state,
5,000 perish; still more die in the camps.
Smoke from explosions mar the airfield
on Orote Peninsula after an attack by Navy planes prior to the July 21
invasion. The airfield's destruction was a priority for Admiral Nimitz
and Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher, who is shown at right, in order to
disable the ability of the Japanese to challenge the invasion force by
air. Mitscher commanded the task force that defeated an Imperial Navy
fleet in the Battle off the Philippine Sea, a battle that effectively
nullified the Japanese navy and its aircraft fro the rest of the war.
Above, Avenger torpedo bombers, launched from carriers of Task Force 53,
fly support on Liberation Day, soaring high above landing craft
maneuvering to rush ashore.
The battleship Pennsylvania
unleashes the thunder of its 14-inch guns as it shells shore
fortifications south of Orote Point. By invasion day, July 21, 1944, a
total of six battleships - the New Mexico, Idaho, Pennsylvania,
Colorado, California and the Tennessee - nine cruisers and
their destroyer escorts were pulverizing Japanese defense positions.
Pre-invasion bombardment lasted for 13 days, not including July 21, the
longest such action in the war.
Rear Admiral Richard L. Conolly was in command of the
Southern attack force for Guam's recapture. The assault troops, III
Amphibious Corps, were under the command of Maj. General Roy S. Geiger,
USMC. The III Amphibious Corps was composed of the Third Marine Division
commanded by Maj. General Allen H. Turnage, USMC, to land at Asan and
the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade under the command of Brig. General
Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., USMC, to land at Agat.
The opposing Japanese on Guam were under the command
of Lt. General Takashina Takeshi, Imperial Japanese Army (UA),
commanding the 29th Infantry Division and Southern Marianas Army Group.
His superior, General Obata Hideyoshi, UA, commander of the 31st Army,
was present on Guam - his headquarters was in Saipan but was unable to
travel to that island for its defense
- but he did not exercise local command until the
death of Takashina. Thus, the United States returned to liberate Guam,
to liberate the Chamorros. W-Day was scheduled for July 21, 1944.
But before that date, for 13 consecutive days, the skies thundered with
naval and air bombardment. Targeted were the villages of Agana, Asan,
Agat, and Sumay, along with Orote Peninsula.
"That evening, we ran away from the camp because the
Americans started shooting at the island from ships. During the day, the
incendiary bombs were constantly fired and at night, the cannon from the
ships. The incendiary bombs were dropped from airplanes... Agana was
completely destroyed... Engracio Damian
In preparation of the American landings, on July 14,
for three days and two nights, and under the cover of naval gun fire,
Navy underwater demolition teams conducted reconnaissance of the
invasion beaches and removed over 900 obstacles from Guam's reefs. These
frogmen proved to be effective.
18 April 1942
Launched from the carrier Hornet, 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers,
commanded by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, attack military facilities in
several Japanese cities. The air strike uplifts America from coast to
coast, as the nation is still in shock from Pearl Harbor and the reality
Troop ships sail for Guam, carrying more
than 50,000 Marines and Army infantry for the operation to recapture the
island (top). Marines aboard amphibious tractors head for the beachhead
(bottom, left). Two Marines say "Thanks" to the men of the Coast Guard
for their contribution to the invasion of Guam (bottom, right). The
Coast Guard was responsible for the ferrying and transfer of troops from
ship to shore, the helmsmen and crew of the landing craft undergoing the
same intense fire as their Marine passengers.
Admiral Conolly stated that "positively, landings
could not have been made on either Agat or Asan beaches nor any
other suitable beaches without these elaborate but successfully
prosecuted clearance operations."
During the night of July 20, the invasion fleet
reached their assigned positions off Guam's western shore.
"The weather conditions on Guam on the morning of 21
July 1944 should have been perfect. According to the record, there was a
clear, tropical, sunny sky without any clouds. However, no one should
have enjoyed such a beautiful bright day. The island of Guam which
soldiers saw on the 21st was entirely covered by cannon smoke. The sky,
ocean and mountains were smoke covered. The U.S. landing had begun." ...
Masao Hiratsuka, Guam Fighting
"With the first gray of dawn and the sun showing its
figure on the horizon, the ocean scene shook the Japanese defenders. In
addition to large enemy battleships, over one hundred war vessels and
over two hundred transport ships covered the early morning seaface." ...
Masao Hiratsuka, Guam Fighting
On July 21, 1944, beginning at 0530, for three
hours the beaches off Asan and Agat were shelled and
"The Americans that we had been longing to come, came
and dropped their bombs . . . Every time the bombs dropped, my brother
and I would go into a shallow hole up a dokdok tree." . . . Francisco K.
Off the reefs, to the horizon, American battleships,
cruisers, destroyers, and landing craft, along with over 50,000 U.S.
troops, prepared to retake Guam. At 0819, in Asan, the Marines, loaded
into their amphibious Landing Vehicles, Tracked (LVT) for the assault,
reached the line of departure. The first waves of LVTs hit the beach at
0829 in Asan and at 0832 in Agat.
"The traces of crafts' wakes were really beautiful,
Like floating threads of a loom. ... Then I realized the enemy would
soon be invading the beach..." 2nd Lt. Yasuhiro Yamashita, Third
Battalion of the 18th Regiment
Explosions on the coast spout water and
toss debris high in the air in this photo taken from the battleship New
THE NORTHERN BEACHHEAD
At Asan, the 3rd Marine Division landed between Asan
Point on the west and Adelup Point on the east. Nearly 2,500 yards of
beach rested between these two points, known as the "devil's horns."
From the west to the east, the 9th Marine Regiment landed on Blue Beach,
the 21st Marine Regiment on Green Beach, and the 3d Marine Regiment on
Red Beaches 1 and 2. The Marine division's goal was to capture the
rugged cliffs and high grounds inland.
The Japanese 320th Independent Infantry Battalion,
along with Naval personnel hid in complex caves and bunkers, ready to
man coastal defense guns as the Americans landed on the shores
THE SOUTHERN BEACHHEAD
At Agat, the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade landed
between Bangi Point to the south and the village of Agat to the north.
The 4th Marines landed to the south on White Beaches 1 and 2 to
establish the beachhead and protect the right flank. The 22nd Marines to
the north landed in Yellow Beaches 1 and 2 to occupy Agat and drive
north to seal off Orote Peninsula. The 305th Regimental Combat Team of
the Army's 77th Infantry Division would later land to protect the
southern sector of the beachhead.
As wave after wave of LVTs crossed the reef, the
Japanese 38th Infantry Regiment fired heavy mortar and artillery
shells on the approaching Marines.
4-8 May 1942
The significance of air power on the sea is highlighted in the first
naval battle in history pitting aircraft carriers against aircraft
carriers, Although each side loses a carrier (the Lexington and the
Shoho), the U.S. Navy defeats the Japanese navy in the Battle of the
Coral Sea, The U.S. notches a strategic victory in the battle in the sea
southeast of New Guinea and northeast of Australia, Japan is flustered
in its drive to extend battlelines southward toward Australia.
This aerial photo shows Agana in ruins,
the result of naval bombardment and strikes from carrier aircraft.
6 May 1942
With the island fortress of Corregidor succumbing to the siege by the
Japanese Imperial army, General Jonathan Wainwright, commander of the
U.S. and Filipino soldiers in the place of MacArthur, surrenders. The