LIBERATION: Marines in the Recapture of Guam
by Cyril J. O'Brien
Coming Back to Guam
Guam, along with the Philippines, became a
territorial possession of the United States with the signing of the
Treaty of Paris in 1899, ending the Spanish-American War. Earlier, on 21
June 1898, First Lieutenant John Twiggs "Handsome Jack" Myers had led a
party of Marines ashore from the protected cruiser Charleston to
accept the surrender of the Spanish authorities, who didn't know that a
state of war then existed between Spain and the United States. Thus
began a long Marine presence on Guam. The island, southernmost of the
Marianas chain, was discovered by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, but not
occupied until 1688 when a small mission was established there by a
Spanish priest and soldiers. When control of the rest of the Mariana
Islands, including Saipan and Tinian, all once German possessions, was
given to Japan as a mandate power in 1919, Guam became an isolated and
highly vulnerable American outpost in a Japanese sea.
This American territory, 35 miles long, nine miles at
its widest and four at its narrowest, shaped like a peanut, with a
year-long mean temperature of 79 degrees, fell quickly and easily in the
early morning of 10 December 1941. Much of the Japanese attack on Guam
came from her sister island of Saipan, 150 miles to the north.
Richard L. Conolly, Southern Attack Force commander for the Guam
landings, confers on Guadalcanal with the commanders of the Northern
Attack Group during rehearsals prior to the departure for the Marianas
target. From left to right: BGen Alfred H. Noble, assistant division
commander, 3d Marine Division; Cdr Patrick Buchanan, USN, commander,
Northern Transport Group; Adm Conolly; MajGen Allen Turnage, commanding
general, 3d Marine Division. Department of Defense Photo (USMC)
The governor of Guam, Captain George J. McMillan (the
island governor was always a U.S. Navy officer), aware that he could
expect no reinforcement or relief, decided to surrender the territory to
Japanese naval forces. Foremost in his mind was the fate of the 20,000
Guamanians, all American nationals, who would inevitably suffer if a
strong defense was mounted. He felt "the situation was simply hopeless."
He sent word to the 153 Marines of the barracks detachment at Sumay on
Orote Peninsula and the 80-man Insular Guard to lay down their arms.
Even so, in two days of bombing and fighting, the garrison lost 19 men
killed and 42 wounded, including four Marines killed and 12 wounded.
General Allan H. Turnage
Allan R. Turnage was commissioned in 1913, and went
to France as commanding officer of the 5th Machine Gun Battalion, 5th
Brigade of Marines. In the interwar period, Turnage had an assortment of
assignments to sea duty and to duty overseas, and in 1935 he reported as
director of The Basic School, then at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. At the
outset of World War II, he commanded Camp Lejeune and its training
center, which was responsible for the organization and training of two
regimental combat teams slated for duty with the 3d Marine Division. In
October 1942 he became assistant division commander of the 3d Marine
Division and its commander the next September. General Turnage led the
division in the landing on Bougainville and the liberation of Guam.
Following the end of the war, he became Assistant Commandant of the
Marine Corps. Lieutenant General Turnage's final assignment was command
of Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, at Pearl Harbor. Upon his retirement in
1948, because he was decorated in combat, he received a fourth star. He
died in October 1971.