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

Glory or Oblivion: Japan's Pacific Gamble

The war in the Pacific involved one-third of the earth's surface. It is important to note that Japan possessed the Northern Marianas, Marshall, and Caroline islands since World War I. Japan's search for raw materials lead to the advancement against Malaya, a British colony which had vast amounts of rubber, and to Singapore, a major British base in Asia. The Dutch East Indies and Borneo had large sources of oil; the Philippines, an American colony, was the location of several important military installations.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor utilized revolutionary tactics in naval warfare, including a task force centered around aircraft carriers. The Japanese achieved a complete surprise on the morning of December 7, 1941. Over 90 American warships were anchored at Pearl Harbor; 21 were sunk or sustained heavy damage by skilled Japanese aviators. The Japanese pilots wore either a lightweight or fur-lined constructed uniform. Samurai swords, symbols of their ancient warrior heritage, were carried by some pilots.

Japanese Proclamation

We proclaim herewith that our Japanese Army has occupied this island of Guam by the order of the Great Emperor of Japan. It is for the purpose of restoring liberty and rescuing the Whole Asiatic people and creating the permanent peace in Asia. Thus our intention is to establish the New Order in the World.

You all good citizens need not worry anything under the regulations of our Japanese authorities and my (sic) enjoy your daily life as we guarantee your lives and never distress nor plunder your property. In case, however, when we demand you (sic) accommodations necessary for our quarters and lodgings, you shall meet promptly with our requirements. In that case our Army shall not fail to pay you in our own currency.

Those who conduct any defiance and who act spy (sic) against our enterprises, shall be court martialled and the Army shall take strict cause to execute such criminals by shooting!

Dated this 10th day of December 2601 in Japanese calendar or by this 10th day of December 1941.

By Order of the Japanese Commander-in-Chief

American Surrender of Guam

Government House Guam

10 December 1941

From: Governor of Guam

To: Senior Officer Present, Commanding Imperial Japanese Forces in Guam.

Subject: Surrender

Captain George J. McMillin
Captain George J. McMillin was Naval Governor of Guam between 1940 and the time of the Japanese invasion.

1. I, Captain George J. McMillin, United States Navy, Governor of Guam and Commandant, United States Naval Station, Guam by authority of my commission from the President of the United States, do, as a result of superior military forces landed in Guam this date, as an act of war, surrender this post to you as the representative of the Imperial Japanese Government.

2. The responsibility of the civil government of Guam becomes yours as of the time of signing this document.

3. I have been assured by you that the civil rights of the population of Guam will be respected and that the military forces surrendered to you will be accorded all the rights stipulated by International Law and the laws of humanity.

(s) G.J. McMillin

Realizing that the news of the Pearl Harbor attack would reach American forces in the Philippines, the Japanese planned aerial attacks by dawn of December 8. The Army's 5th Air Division was assigned the task of attacking airfields in northern Luzon, while the Navy's 21st and 23rd Air Flotillas were to bomb Clark Field near Manila. Arriving much later than planned, Japanese pilots were amazed to find U.S. aircraft parked close together in rows. The attack on Clark Field destroyed over 100 bombers and fighters. Two days later, the Japanese XIV Army began landing troops in the Philippine Islands. Despite American and Filipino resistance the islands were overrun by superior Japanese forces.

Simultaneously, Japanese bombers attacked Wake Island. Seven American fighters were destroyed on the ground. The Pan American Airways' facilities were also destroyed, and 55 civilians were killed.

On December 11, the Japanese tried to land on the Pacific atoll, but the Marine defenders sank two Japanese destroyers and thwarted any take-over. Japanese forces finally invaded 12 days later and forced the island to capitulate. Eight hundred twenty Japanese died and 333 were wounded in the battle for Wake Island; American losses totaled 120 killed, 49 wounded, and 2 missing.

On the Malaya Peninsula, Japanese troops used bicycles to make rapid advances. General Yamashita's offensive overwhelmed the British defenders at Kuala Lumpur, earning him the nickname, "Tiger of Malaya".

Hirihito and Japanese pilot
Japan's Emperor Hirohito was regarded as a god. His subjects swore absolute loyalty to him. (left) A Japanese pilot sets out on a mission during the early part of World War II. (right)