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

The Chamorro: Caught in the Middle

During the Japanese occupation of Guam, the Chamorros were subject to two and one-half years of fear, humiliation, and hardships imposed upon them by militaristic invaders. Their courage, faith, patience, and spirit was to prevail, however. Chamorros had adopted many Spanish and Western traits, including clothing styles. Attending mass on December 8, a woman would have worn the "mestiza" style of dress, covering her head with a veil. She would carry a crucifix and Bible, symbolic of the Roman Catholic faith predominant among Chamorros.

Caught in a war not of their making the Chamorros were to endure a sometimes brutal military occupation which lasted from December 10, 1941, until July 21, 1944. One of the first lessons to be taught by the Japanese was the custom of bowing. It was not uncommon to see signs placed throughout the island that read, "You Must Stop Here and Bow to Us." Failure to bow, bowing too low, or too slight was punishable by slapping, kicking, or hitting. The Japanese also took control of most privately-owned real estate, agricultural produce, and livestock. During the occupation, Japanese controlled the rice production in the rich Inarajan fields.


One month after the invasion, special schools were opened by the Japanese. The pre-war principal of George Washington High School, Mrs. Agueda I. Johnston, the teachers, as well as students, were all required to attend the first classes in basic Japanese language and indoctrination. English was quickly recognized as a forbidden language. Later, these programs were expanded to other schools; children attended day classes and adults in the evening. The Japanese school system never had more than 600 students, compared to the pre-war 5,000-student enrollment. The Dai Ichi Gakko (Number 1 School) was used to train teachers, interpreters, and assistants for the newly established Japanese government.

For the first few months the island was controlled by army troops called the minseisho, who were housed in schools and in government buildings around the Plaza in Agana. The minseisho issued cloth passes as a form of identification to the Chamorros and were pinned on the chests of all civilians for about one year. Japanese yen became the island's currency. Cars, radios, and cameras were confiscated; food was rationed until supplies became exhausted.

The island was renamed "Omiyajima" (Great Shine Island).

Chamorro women
Two Chamorro women pass a Japanese sentry at the Plaza de Espana in this wartime photograph.