The War in the Pacific
Table of Contents

A grateful Guam remembers


Guam in midst of Japan's ocean empire

The Land of the Rising Sun seizes Guam

Symbol of hope, controversy

The strength of Agueda Johnston

In Tai, the death of a hero

"Uncle Sam, won't you please come back to Guam?"

The Pastor Sablan and his flock

Chamorros caught in Wake invasion

Captain endures POW camp

The march to Manengon

A witness to tragedy

A voyage to freedom

List of liberating forces

Liberating Guam

Maps of invasion beaches

The way of the Japanese warrior

The beachhead the night of the banzai

50 years later, a liberator is remembered

"He gallantly gave his life"

The high command

Guam scouts assist liberators

All men bleed red

Old Glory sways proudly once again

Liberators meet the liberated

Combat Patrol hunts for stragglers

The Last Soldier

Adolfo C. Sgambelluri's secret life

War crimes and justice

Military buildup on Guam

Chamorros still yearn for freedom

The War in the Pacific ends

Thank You

LIBERATION — Guam Remembers
A Golden Salute for the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of Guam
As a 40 mm crew aboard the cruiser Honolulu waits on alert, Asan Point is rocked when a storage dump explodes after taking a direct hit. Smoke on the shore is from bombs from attacking planes and naval gunfire. Seen above left are a variety of vessels — a gunboat, a transport vessel; tougher to discern are planes flying over the beach (at left).

Liberating Guam

By early 1944, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was preparing for Operation Forager — the capture, occupation, and defense of the Mariana Islands. Targeted were the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. The United States Pacific forces under Nimitz's command commenced the broad Pacific sweep of island-hopping that would by mid-summer 1944 result in the Liberation of Guam.

American naval forces were hard at work as the war moved west. America and Japan both considered the Mariana Islands important because of their strategic location. From Guam, airstrips would be built, where B-29s could make bombing runs to Japan. Apra Harbor, because of its deep water port, would serve as an excellent fleet anchorage in the Western Pacific. Outside the continental United States, Guam would become one of the largest naval bases in the Pacific. As a former U. S. possession, America had a moral obligation to liberate the Chamorro people.

American fast carriers attacked the Marianas Islands on Feb. 23, 1944. At the same time, American submarines concentrated on sinking Japanese ships. Both tactical elements would thus disrupt reinforcement of the islands. Ultimately the submarines sank at least 30 enemy ships at the cost of two submarines and prevented troops and equipment from reaching Guam and the other Marianas Islands.

"Times were getting worse because the Americans had already bombed Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. That was what the Japanese told me in Yona, the one that knew English ..." Francisco Kelly Acfalle

Unaware of the Japanese defense situation, the Americans' next step was the reconnaissance of the islands. In April 1944, for 27 days the submarine USS Greenling photographed possible invasion beaches. Shortly thereafter, the Navy and Army Air Force B-24s took daring low level photos up until June.

By the end of May the invasion forces had assembled at Pearl Harbor and Guadalcanal to commence their long voyages to the Marianas. The invasion fleet for Guam sailed initially to Kwajalein and then sorted on June 9-12 only to return later to Eniwetok.

warplane crashing in ocean
Shot down by anti-aircraft fire, a Japanese warplane crashes into the ocean, narrowly missing the USS Cabot. With Japanese air capabilities destroyed, U.S. pilots ruled the skies above Guam prior to and through the battle for the island.

The invasion of Saipan began on June 15, 1944, following massive shore bombardment. For the Americans, Saipan was the most costly Pacific battle to that time. Saipan was not secured until July 9, due to heavy determined Japanese resistance including desperate battles and banzai charges in such places as Death Valley and Tanapag. The cost for Saipan was high. American losses totalled almost 3,100 dead, about 11,000 wounded, and 128 missing. More than 24,000 Japanese defenders died and 300 civilians.

The date for the invasion of Guam was postponed from June 16 due to stiff Japanese resistance on Saipan and the approach of a Japanese fleet attempting to reach Saipan to help its defenders.

"The ships (U.S. troop transports) steamed in aimless circles, while tropical sun beat upon them, the quality of food deteriorated and the swindling cigarette supply had to be rationed meagerly. No one who has never traveled to combat aboard an overcrowded assault transport in the tropics can comprehend what those men went through during the forty-eight to fifty-two days the various elements were at sea.". . . The Island War, by Frank O. Hough

On July 15, the invasion fleet finally left Eniwetok for Guam.

The American fleet's presence around the Mariana Islands brought a response from the Japanese navy to prevent another loss to the Empire. Approaching from the west, the Japanese aircraft earners launched massive raids to attack the American aircraft earners on June 19, 1944. When the greatest carrier air battle of the war ended, known as the "Marianas Turkey Shoot," the Japanese lost nearly 400 aircraft. Following its defeat, the Japanese fleet retreated. Plans to re-inforce the Marianas were no longer possible.

For the invasion of the Mariana Islands, command of the United States Fifth Fleet was vested in Admiral Raymond A. Spruance with Vice Admiral Richmond K. Turner in command of the Joint Expeditionary Force. Lt. General Holland M. Smith, United States Marine Corps (USMC) was in tactical command of all troops ashore in the Mariana Islands.

9 April 1942

American and Filipino forces on Bataan surrender to the Japanese army under General Homnia Masaharu. The "Bataan Death March" begins. About 76,000 American and Filipino survivors are forced to march 60 miles to POW camps. As so many are in a weakened and starved state, 5,000 perish; still more die in the camps.

Smoke from explosions mar the airfield on Orote Peninsula after an attack by Navy planes prior to the July 21 invasion. The airfield's destruction was a priority for Admiral Nimitz and Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher, who is shown at right, in order to disable the ability of the Japanese to challenge the invasion force by air. Mitscher commanded the task force that defeated an Imperial Navy fleet in the Battle off the Philippine Sea, a battle that effectively nullified the Japanese navy and its aircraft fro the rest of the war. Above, Avenger torpedo bombers, launched from carriers of Task Force 53, fly support on Liberation Day, soaring high above landing craft maneuvering to rush ashore.

aerial view of battleship
The battleship Pennsylvania unleashes the thunder of its 14-inch guns as it shells shore fortifications south of Orote Point. By invasion day, July 21, 1944, a total of six battleships - the New Mexico, Idaho, Pennsylvania, Colorado, California and the Tennessee - nine cruisers and their destroyer escorts were pulverizing Japanese defense positions. Pre-invasion bombardment lasted for 13 days, not including July 21, the longest such action in the war.

Rear Admiral Richard L. Conolly was in command of the Southern attack force for Guam's recapture. The assault troops, III Amphibious Corps, were under the command of Maj. General Roy S. Geiger, USMC. The III Amphibious Corps was composed of the Third Marine Division commanded by Maj. General Allen H. Turnage, USMC, to land at Asan and the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade under the command of Brig. General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., USMC, to land at Agat.

The opposing Japanese on Guam were under the command of Lt. General Takashina Takeshi, Imperial Japanese Army (UA), commanding the 29th Infantry Division and Southern Marianas Army Group. His superior, General Obata Hideyoshi, UA, commander of the 31st Army, was present on Guam - his headquarters was in Saipan but was unable to travel to that island for its defense - but he did not exercise local command until the death of Takashina. Thus, the United States returned to liberate Guam, to liberate the Chamorros. W-Day was scheduled for July 21, 1944. But before that date, for 13 consecutive days, the skies thundered with naval and air bombardment. Targeted were the villages of Agana, Asan, Agat, and Sumay, along with Orote Peninsula.

"That evening, we ran away from the camp because the Americans started shooting at the island from ships. During the day, the incendiary bombs were constantly fired and at night, the cannon from the ships. The incendiary bombs were dropped from airplanes... Agana was completely destroyed... Engracio Damian

In preparation of the American landings, on July 14, for three days and two nights, and under the cover of naval gun fire, Navy underwater demolition teams conducted reconnaissance of the invasion beaches and removed over 900 obstacles from Guam's reefs. These frogmen proved to be effective.

18 April 1942

Launched from the carrier Hornet, 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers, commanded by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, attack military facilities in several Japanese cities. The air strike uplifts America from coast to coast, as the nation is still in shock from Pearl Harbor and the reality of war.

battleships, amphibious craft, Marines
Troop ships sail for Guam, carrying more than 50,000 Marines and Army infantry for the operation to recapture the island (top). Marines aboard amphibious tractors head for the beachhead (bottom, left). Two Marines say "Thanks" to the men of the Coast Guard for their contribution to the invasion of Guam (bottom, right). The Coast Guard was responsible for the ferrying and transfer of troops from ship to shore, the helmsmen and crew of the landing craft undergoing the same intense fire as their Marine passengers.

Admiral Conolly stated that "positively, landings could not have been made on either Agat or Asan beaches nor any other suitable beaches without these elaborate but successfully prosecuted clearance operations."

During the night of July 20, the invasion fleet reached their assigned positions off Guam's western shore.

"The weather conditions on Guam on the morning of 21 July 1944 should have been perfect. According to the record, there was a clear, tropical, sunny sky without any clouds. However, no one should have enjoyed such a beautiful bright day. The island of Guam which soldiers saw on the 21st was entirely covered by cannon smoke. The sky, ocean and mountains were smoke covered. The U.S. landing had begun." ... Masao Hiratsuka, Guam Fighting

"With the first gray of dawn and the sun showing its figure on the horizon, the ocean scene shook the Japanese defenders. In addition to large enemy battleships, over one hundred war vessels and over two hundred transport ships covered the early morning seaface." ... Masao Hiratsuka, Guam Fighting

On July 21, 1944, beginning at 0530, for three hours the beaches off Asan and Agat were shelled and bombed.

"The Americans that we had been longing to come, came and dropped their bombs . . . Every time the bombs dropped, my brother and I would go into a shallow hole up a dokdok tree." . . . Francisco K. Acfalle

Off the reefs, to the horizon, American battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and landing craft, along with over 50,000 U.S. troops, prepared to retake Guam. At 0819, in Asan, the Marines, loaded into their amphibious Landing Vehicles, Tracked (LVT) for the assault, reached the line of departure. The first waves of LVTs hit the beach at 0829 in Asan and at 0832 in Agat.

"The traces of crafts' wakes were really beautiful, Like floating threads of a loom. ... Then I realized the enemy would soon be invading the beach..." 2nd Lt. Yasuhiro Yamashita, Third Battalion of the 18th Regiment

Explosions on the coast spout water and toss debris high in the air in this photo taken from the battleship New Mexico.


At Asan, the 3rd Marine Division landed between Asan Point on the west and Adelup Point on the east. Nearly 2,500 yards of beach rested between these two points, known as the "devil's horns." From the west to the east, the 9th Marine Regiment landed on Blue Beach, the 21st Marine Regiment on Green Beach, and the 3d Marine Regiment on Red Beaches 1 and 2. The Marine division's goal was to capture the rugged cliffs and high grounds inland.

The Japanese 320th Independent Infantry Battalion, along with Naval personnel hid in complex caves and bunkers, ready to man coastal defense guns as the Americans landed on the shores below.


At Agat, the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade landed between Bangi Point to the south and the village of Agat to the north. The 4th Marines landed to the south on White Beaches 1 and 2 to establish the beachhead and protect the right flank. The 22nd Marines to the north landed in Yellow Beaches 1 and 2 to occupy Agat and drive north to seal off Orote Peninsula. The 305th Regimental Combat Team of the Army's 77th Infantry Division would later land to protect the southern sector of the beachhead.

As wave after wave of LVTs crossed the reef, the Japanese 38th Infantry Regiment fired heavy mortar and artillery shells on the approaching Marines.

4-8 May 1942

The significance of air power on the sea is highlighted in the first naval battle in history pitting aircraft carriers against aircraft carriers, Although each side loses a carrier (the Lexington and the Shoho), the U.S. Navy defeats the Japanese navy in the Battle of the Coral Sea, The U.S. notches a strategic victory in the battle in the sea southeast of New Guinea and northeast of Australia, Japan is flustered in its drive to extend battlelines southward toward Australia.

explosions, as seen from the air
This aerial photo shows Agana in ruins, the result of naval bombardment and strikes from carrier aircraft.

6 May 1942

With the island fortress of Corregidor succumbing to the siege by the Japanese Imperial army, General Jonathan Wainwright, commander of the U.S. and Filipino soldiers in the place of MacArthur, surrenders. The Philipines fall.

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