LIBERATION Guam Remembers
A Golden Salute for the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of Guam
On July 21, a Japanese mortar tallies a
direct hit on a Marine amphibious tractor nearing the beach. Survivors
of other blasted amtracks are swimming toward shore. Despite heavy
pre-invasion shelling, defenders' fire was intense.
In Asan, banzai and bravery
By PAUL J. BORJA
In Asan on July 21, 1944 and the days afterward,
there was plenty of courage and a bit of confusion, all of which added
to the American victory in Guam and the defeat of the Japanese.
But the victory was not easy, the defeat not conceded
- everything at stake cost the lives of many, many men.
On that day, onto those beaches in Asan came waves -
not the stuff of surfers' dreams but waves and waves of men and steel.
Facing enemy fire of all types, coming ashore were the men of the Marine
Corps' 3rd Marine Division.
On the shore waiting for the inevitable invasion were
Japanese forces defending the island which they themselves had invaded
and captured on Dec. 10, 1941.
It was, as the saying goes, the irresistible force
meeting the immovable object.
Jack Eddy was there that day, and so was Frank
Chuisano, both of them now Guam residents and both then apart of that
irresistible force on July 21, 1944.
Eddy, then a 23-year-old Marine lieutenant in the 9th
Marine Regiment of the 3rd Marine Division, recalled his platoon members
expressing their nervousness in different ways as they approached the
Asan fringing reef aboard their chugging Higgins boat. "Some guys were
on the bottom of the boat on their hands and knees throwing up; and then
there are other guys cracking jokes," said the St. Louis native.
The Higgins boats would travel to about 1,000 yards
from the beach, which was out of range of all but the biggest of guns.
At that point, the men would climb down into the amphibious tractors,
the vehicles that would take the men ashore.
1 February 1944
The drive by U.S. forces through Micronesia and the central Pacific
continues, In the Marshall Islands, the 4th Marine Division and the
Army's 7th Infantry Division attack Japanese forces on Kwajalein and on
Roi Namur. Also invaded and captured is Majuro, the atoll which is the
present-day capital of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The costly
lessons of Tarawa pay off: only 334 men are killed in the landings.
The action - in front of them, near them, all around
them - was furious, Eddy said. "There were tractors being hit, being
swamped. We had some near misses with some big stuff ... there were
explosions in the water around us, but we made it to shore without being
hit," he said about the harrowing trip from the reef to shore.
His platoon of 50 men was to take its initial
position on Green Beach, but they ended up north of that, on Red Beach 2
where the 21st Marine Regiment was landing. Where that spot is today is
east of where the Asan River meets the park area of the War in the
Pacific National Historical Park.
A bottle-neck of Marines and equipment on Green Beach
forced a change in plan. "There was real intense fire - we were in real
harm's way. There were troops in front of us (on Green Beach), and we
couldn't fire, so they slid us off to the left onto Red Beach where the
21st Marines were. We had to make our way back to the right spot, get
back to the flank of the 9th Marines," he said.
Eddy and Chuisano could have bumped into each other
in the initial confusion on shore - Chuisano also landed at Red Beach 2
but with the 21st. He was a Marine private on that day, all of 16 years
old. "I lied about my age when I signed up," the New York City native
Chuisano said that the ride aboard his unit's Higgins
boat seemed to be extraordinarily quiet. "I got up once to look, but
someone yelled, 'Get your ass down.' I didn't say that much. I guess we
were scared - I know I was scared."
"Boy I remember my mouth was dry - you know
something? It's dry right now," Chuisano said in an interview.
He said that the atmosphere changed fearfully when
his unit's amphibious tractor reached the interior section of the reef.
There, "All hell broke loose. I remember telling a buddy, 'I'll see you
when it's all over,'," Chuisano said about what he blurted out to
fellow Marine Jimmy Barrett, also of New York City.
Explosions around them, machine gun fire challenging
them, the unit was landed, but in the wrong place, possibly because of
the bottleneck on the beach.
Chuisano's unit took cover, digging in, but then ...
a great explosion or a series of blasts right after the other - he
couldn't distinguish whether it was artillery or mortars that hit their
position. "Maybe it was mortars, but so many people ... it caught
everybody at once."
Without being asked, Chuisano began an informal roll
call of the men who were wounded and died from that blast "Jimmy
(Barrett); Ed Kenzell from North Dakota - God, he was a big
son-of-a-bitch, but he was a terrific man; Tom Muir; Jimmy Carroll, he's
from Brooklyn, ya know," said Chuisano, his voice retaining a bit of a
Nuh Yawker accent.
"Ya know, Jimmy Barrett, he had both legs shot, and
the chaplain came around, and he told the Father, "I'm OK, Father. Take
care of the other boys first," said Chuisano.
Eddy also remembered the deaths on that first day of
many Marines, many of those officers, some of them his close friends. As
he began to get wrapped up in the details of the landing and a little of
some of the deaths he witnessed, he then hesitated, then stated he
didn't want to talk about death. "You know, families, wives, brothers
always want to know what happened. They'll visit soon and they'll want
"Things happen...that's it...things happen, and
there's nothing you can do about it. People should look at it and say,
realize it's supposed to happen. It's war. People kill each other in
Though the 3d Marines Regiment would be strongly
challenged by Japanese defenders on Chorito Cliff and Bundschu Ridge, both
Eddy's and Chuisano's regiments would achieve their missions for that
first invasion day.
The 9th, of which Eddy was a part, raced 1,500 yards
inland, crossing the area's rice paddies, and took the high ground of
Asan Point. The area of the rice paddies was the site planners had
targeted to place Marine artillery batteries to support enlarging the
The 21st, Chuisano's regiment was apart, would find
fighting less difficult and rush forward and upward. Regimental units
that first day would reach the clifftops where the Top O' The Mar
restaurant is today.
As Chuisano was digging in atop the beachhead, Eddy
and his platoon were called upon to help the efforts off of Red Beach 1,
the landing beach on the east end of Asan, toward Adelup Point. "On the
left flank, the 3rd Marines is just having a terrible time," Eddy said.
Eddy's platoon was being sent into a situation becoming more and more
desperate - the battle line along Chorito Cliff and the ridge that would
be named after Capt. Geary Bundschu. "You know, the Marines are always
doing things like that, moving units. So ... we are detached from F
Company of the 2nd Battalion of the 9th Marines
- we take the place of A Company of the 1st
Battalion, 3d Marines, - we take the place of the unit of Capt. Bundschu,"
While the entire 3d Marines met stifling opposition
on and near Red Beach 1, Bundschu and the rest of Company A were particularly
mauled by the enemy. Caught in the ridge by machine gun fire from
above, the unit could not move forward or backward.
Bundschu would lose his life on the ridge, becoming
one of the 3d's 615 men killed, missing, or wounded in the first two
days of fighting. As a unit, A Company was barely hanging on.
Eddy's unit was sent to help secure the area off and
above Red Beach 1. "There were no reserves - the reserves were the Army
but they were down in Agat with the 1st Brigade. They hadn't been in
combat before, and they felt that they couldn't send them to Bundschu.
For us, this was our second campaign and we had a bit more experience
for the situation," said Eddy, whose unit had fought in
Harassed by well-placed and hidden machine guns atop
the cliff and above on the ridge, the 3d managed to scale the cliff
about noon of July 21, reach beyond the ridge later, and onto Fonte
Plateau by July 25. But its frontline by July 25 still did not solidly
contact with that of the 21st; a gap also existed between the 21st and
Those facts would be discerned by Japanese patrols
the night of July 25 and seized upon by Lt. General Takashina
Takashina, the commander of the Imperial Army's 29th
Division and Southern Marianas Army Group, was the officer responsible
for the defense of Guam. He followed the Japanese standard of battle on
islands: repel landing forces from the beaches; failing that,
counterattack at the opportune time.
On that day, the 25th, the Japanese commander had
reluctantly given his approval for a counterattack by the defenders at
Orote Peninsula. The defenders were annihilated in the attempt.
7 February - 7 March 1944
U.S. campaign seizes the Admiralty islands north of Papua New
Guinea. U.S. forces now greatly hinder Japanese supply lines from Rabaul
in the south Pacific to Truk, Japan's major naval base in the central
Pacific. The path is clear for the capture of the Marianas.
The time for Takashina and a counterattack in Asan
had come. There were gaps - 800 yards between the 3d and 21st, 1,000
yards between the 21st and the 9th - between the U.S. regiments, and
the commander wanted to exploit those to their fullest. As his patrols
scouted the lines, Takashina moved up reserves from Tumon, Pago and
Agana for the counter.
Takashina's operation would capitalize upon the heavy
rains that hindered the resupply of Marines above the beachheads and
maximize one advantage inadvertently handed him by the Marines: Their
lines not in contact, the Marines' predicament was heightened by a lack
of manpower. Units already undermanned were now strung out along a
defensive line, itself broken in three, across the top ridges of what is
now called Nimitz Hill.
After three hours of probes by his patrols, about 3
a.m. on July 26, onto a battlefield of muck and mire, Takashina
committed his troops in counterattack. At four different places along
the line, three above Asan and one on the eastern ridge above Piti,
Japanese soldiers thrust their attack.
It couldn't have come at a worse time for Eddy's unit. They had just
fought all day, uphill the whole way, and
were readying their positions at the top of Fonte
Plateau. They were preparing to defend their newly-achieved position,
but also taking advantage of the situation to rest. "There we were,
pretty beaten up and exhausted," he said. "We were at the top of Fonte
Plateau - just about where ComNavMar is now - by late afternoon ...and
that night, well, that's when, as they say, the stuff hit the fan.
"...They came," Eddy said, struggling to find a
description of the events. "... and ... they just blasted their way
Takashina's counterattack was unlike the banzai
charges experienced before by the Marines in the Pacific. This one was
well-planned and coordinated; the objective defined - to thunder
through the gaps, down the ravines (between ComNavMar and Top O' the Mar
restaurant) and onto the beachheads. There, troops of the Rising Sun
would be able to put the Americans into disarray by disrupting their
communications as well as halt resupply of Marines above, thus isolating
Through the night, Takashina sent thousands of his
soldiers into the gaps, hoping that his counterattack force would reach
the beachheads. The force was comprised of seven battalions funneling
into four columns through the 3rd Marine Division's frontline.
Eddy, who had fought in Bougainville and Iwo Jima and
in other battles, said the night of July 25-26 in Guam was a living
nightmare. He and his men repulsed not one, not two but seven banzai
charges that night.
"It was the most traumatic experience I ever had, it
will live in my memory forever," he said. Fighting was at close
quarters. "I had expected to be in battle, but never anything like this.
When you think about fighting, you think that you're 100 yards away, but
this was pretty gruesome, fighting them from 20 feet away and
they're running all around you and screaming.
After the July 25-26 counterattack, the
Japanese lost 3,500 men, including 90 percent of the officers involved
in the attack, and much of their weaponry.
"They were of a different culture. They did things
that Marines wouldn't do - yelling, screaming. They didn't give a shit
if they got killed; they just wanted to make sure that you got killed.
That was what got to you - they wanted to die. They were willing to
sacrifice themselves," Eddy said.
"They were screaming at us. There was 'Marine, you
die,' - they were screaming all that kind of BS, and we'd return it. I
remember George Tuthill - he was one of my machine gun section leaders -
and he had a loud voice, extremely loud. He'd be shooting, yelling, just
things that you couldn't print.
"It's all silly, like little kids yelling at each
other, but it's all desperation too."
Along the line but on the western end, toward the
present-day restaurant, Chuisano and his comrades watched illumination
flares launched several times that night by the Japanese. Dug in with
the rest of H Company of the 2nd Battalion, he was next to Anthony
Abbetamarco - the New York City men enlisted together; Abbetamarco also
survived the war.
The men along the front line were told that the enemy
was 2,000 yards ahead. "We were beat - we were all trying to get some
rest. Then a flare went up again, and like all of a sudden, I saw them.
They were there, in front of us."
"Thousands ... they were like ants. Oh man, they kicked
the shit out of us. They just kept coming, coming."
"Tony kept saying, 'We're gonna get it, we're gonna
die, we're gonna get it,' and all I could say was 'Keep shooting. Keep
17-18 February 1944
Borne by carriers of the fleet of Admiral Marc Mitscher, Navy
aircraft conduct a series of raids on Truk (now Chuuk of the Federated
States of Micronesia), a major Japanese naval installation in the
western Pacific. One raid was the first nighttime bombing mission by the
Navy. Japanese losses from the raids are heavy: 275 aircraft, 10 ships
and 31 merchant ships. Ship tonnage lost - 200,000 tons -
was the highest in the war for a single action.
Chuisano said the night was simply incredible, with
enemy soldiers fighting, clawing, grabbing, anything to go forward.
"They crawled, they climbed over their dead. They were all on top of
each other, two, three high," Chuisano said.
He said Marines were shooting the Japanese wounded
because all through the night they would rise from where they had fallen
and continue their rush into the Marine line. "We were yelling at each
other, 'Keep spraying, keep spraying. Kill them all,' because they would
get up and start shooting us again."
The banzai charges and the battle lasted through the
early morning and despite the carnage all along the front line, Japanese
attackers were able to reach the beachheads. Enemy soldiers threatened
the divisional command post as well as that of the 21st. They also
managed to get so far behind the line to roar toward the division's
hospital. There, doctors, who had already evacuated the seriously
wounded to the beach, joined corpsmen and less seriously wounded Marines
to repulse the attack.
Trying to establish their beachhead,
Marines dig in on the beach, a familiar scene in Asan and Agat on
The charges were so furious and the Japanese so
penetrating into the west end of the sector that cooks, communication
personnel, headquarters staff, engineers - many kinds of non-combat staff
were all pressed into hand-to-hand fighting.
But the Japanese troops who were to reach far down
the ravines and onto the beachheads were without leaders, and the
counterattack would fail; later, it was discovered that the attack had
cost the Japanese 95 percent of its officers for that sector.
Where Eddy's platoon and others were, Marines counted
about 900 dead; through the gaps and down to the beachhead a total
of 3,500 Japanese dead were found.
"The numbers are no exaggeration," Eddy said. One of
his machine gun section sergeants, Dale Whaley, received the Navy Cross
for gallantry on that midsummer's night. "He was credited with 80
Japanese that night. I saw stacks of them in front of his machine
Eddy did not offer the information that he had been
awarded the Silver Star for bravery on that night so long ago - he had
to be asked. Eddy was hesitant in answering, finally saying, "I was just
a platoon leader. I was doing what I was supposed to be doing - I kept
my men together and we stayed in the battle.
"There were other platoon leaders who were
casualties, and those men and other units, they were all split apart,
and they gravitated and joined us.
"Our problem was that there weren't that many of us.
They came in a big group and we were spread out. A group of 50 would hit
a spot where there were only seven or eight people - you're convinced
that they're going to run right over you," he said.
Nevertheless, the Marine line, though seriously
challenged, held its ground. Aided by naval gun support, which prevented
the Japanese from receiving reinforcements, the Marines retained their
foothold on Asan.
The counterattack cost the Marines 166 of their
comrades' lives and 645 wounded but the Corps had preserved its
beachheads; from those the Marines could base their attack to recapture
Guam. Though they did not know it then, the Marines had broken the main
strength of Japanese resistance on Guam.
Japanese survivors of the counterattack were to flee
north, undermanned and disorganized, poorly armed and lacking supplies,
and without officers to lead them. Takeshina himself was killed on July
28 by Marines as he was leading the retreat of his forces from Fonte
There are images of that night that Eddy clearly
remembers, some which he would clearly love to forget - all of it adding
up to a gruesome experience. "It was a nightmare, truly a nightmare. I
can still remember the flares, the eerie green light (of illumination
flares) over the battlefield. And it was like the lights in ... in a
disco, and all the people are jumping around, in slow motion, in a
battle. It was completely eerie."
19 February 1944
U.S forces under Nimitz continue westward through Micronesia toward
Japan. Another atoll is taken when Eniwetok is invaded and taken by the
2nd Marine Division. Over 250 men are killed, light when compared to