War in the Pacific: The First Year
A Guide to
the War in
the Pacific
History of Outbreak

Pre-War Guam: 1941

The Insular Force Guard

Japan's Pacific Gamble

The Chamorro

Sailors and Ships


War in the Pacific: Outbreak of the War

Pre-War Guam: 1941

One could imagine Guam truly being an idyllic paradise in a by-gone era, complete with thick, lush coconut groves, clear blue skies, crystal clear aqua ocean waters, and white sandy beaches. Life on pre-war Guam mirrored this idyllic setting: family, church, and village life styles were vital components in Guam's Chamorro society.

Family ties were strong and parents instilled discipline among their children; respect was inherent between members of the immediate family and was extended to elders within the community. The prosperity of a man's family, before the war, depended literally on the fruits of his labors. There was no form of work he was ashamed to do, and he encouraged this in his children the same attitudes.

Chamorro women
Three Chamorro women pose tor the camera in this pre-war photograph.

Guam's 1940 population was over 22,000 people. Guam's capital, Agana, was a beehive of social and political activity. People lived in thatch-roofed houses alongside important political buildings, lending a close-knit atmosphere. Families would form together, cultivating such staple foods as coconut, breadfruit, kapok, lime and mango. Supplementing produce were chickens, pigs, cattle, and carabao.

Guam Insular Force Band and Militia
The Guam Insular Force Band and the Guam Militia parade through Agana.

Chamorros were not only farmers, but like their ancient ancestors, were excellent navigators and fishermen. Fishing was a community activity and the catch of the day was shared within the villages. There were over 200 outrigger canoes, called proa, a sleek designed ship considered very efficient by the envious Spanish explorers who first plied the Pacific waters in the sixteenth century.

A US. Marine stands in front of the Pan American Airways office in this 1938 photograph.

Pan American Airways clipper
Pan American Airways clipper, flying to various locations throughout the Pacific, flew into Sumay's searamp.

Chamorro farmers and fishermen knew not of the increasing political tensions between the United States and Japan as the dusk of 1941 approached. The increased volatility between the two nations eventually leads to the evacuation of all U.S. dependents and civilians on Guam. By October 17, the evacuation was completed with the exception of an officer's wife who was confined for childbirth. After receiving warning messages on December 6, the Navy Department ordered all classified materials destroyed.

On December 7, 1941, the USS Goldstar was preparing to leave the Philippines enroute to Guam but was delayed by the Commander in Chief, Asiatic Fleet because of the intensified international situation between the United States and Japan. The Goldstar never arrived on Guam.

Plaza de Espana and Dulce de Nombre Maria cathedral
This pre-war photograph of Agana shows the Plaza de Espana (center) and the Dulce de Nombre Maria cathedral (right).