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

Japanese soldiers: Death before dishonor

The Japanese defender of Guam on July 21, 1944, was certainly fighting not only the enemy U.S. forces but also tremendous odds.

The Japanese defenders of Guam, numbering perhaps 17-18,000, would be engaging in battle more than 50,000 Marines and Army infantry. There would also be no relief from the strikes and strafing of U.S. warplanes; likewise, there would be no respite for the soldier from Japan from the shattering support of the guns aboard the U.S. ships cruising so close to shore. And there would be no resupply of his rapidly-dwindling resources.

Strategy, though of course vital, was not complex for the Japanese defending force. To perhaps oversimplify, the strategy on July 21, 1944 was this: defend on the shores the weakest points of the lines of defense, destroy the enemy on those beachheads, and deny him progress from beyond that battle line.

The trouble for the Japanese defender was that the American attacker would be ready to thrust himself onto those same beaches with massive effort to establish a beach head for continued attack.

"It seems evident that both we and the Japanese have been thinking along the same lines, that is, the beaches that we find best for landings are those the Japs find most dangerous to them and have fortified the most," wrote the intelligence staff of Marine Maj. Gen. Roy S. Geiger in making their conclusion of strategy prior to the invasion day.

U.S. planners and strategists also would be handed a tactical advantage by their foes. Although the physical geography of the Gilberts and the Marshalls — thin but long atolls — are quite different than the geography of Guam and Saipan — high islands, that is with mountains, hills, ravines — the Japanese doctrine of defense never changed. The Japanese standard greatly emphasized defending the beaches and consequently placed less significance on defenses beyond those areas.

American forces, with their superiority in the air and on the sea unchallenged, would capitalize on the Japanese failure to adapt their defenses to the terrain of Saipan or Guam.

So, the Japanese defender in July 1944 was stripped of support, without hope of relief, his strategy and alternatives fairly estimated by the enemy. But surrender even in the face of tremendous obstacles was not even a consideration. And the reason for that is stated in one word: Bushido.

The one characteristic of the World War II Japanese soldier that would never fail to amaze, confound, arouse fear in his foe was his dedication to the code of Bushido, the way of the warrior.

The code was Japanese chivalry in practice, with members of the Japanese army and navy its greatest followers, particularly officers. Emphasizing discipline, loyalty, courage and death before dishonor, the Bushido ethic of the samurai of feudal Japan was entrenched in the mind and in the soul of the 20th century Japanese soldier. So many would give their lives in suicidal charges thought to be honorable, their lives given in sacrifice for the Emperor and Japan.

To Marines and soldiers who experienced a banzai charge, it was fearful. "Unbelievable. Just unbelievable. It was the most traumatic experience I ever had," said retired Marine Capt. Jack Eddy, a veteran of the battles of Bougainville, Guam, and Iwo Jima. On the night of July 25, in Guam, Eddy and his platoon repulsed the charge of not one, not two, but seven banzai attempts.

Eddy had settled his platoon of the 3rd Marine Regiment, of the 3rd Marine Division, on the frontlines, near the present day Commander Naval Forces Marianas headquarters. Marines had fought their way all day from the ridges overlooking Asan to the top, near Fonte Plateau. As the Marines dug in, Japanese Lt. General Takashina was preparing a counter-attack in a gap that his patrols had detected between the 3rd Marines and 21st Marines. At 0300, the counterattack erupted; the Japanese were trying to roll down the gap and onto the beach to cut off Marines from supplies and reinforcements.

"I had expected to be in battle, but never anything like this. When you think about fighting, you think that you're 100 yards away, but this was pretty gruesome, fighting them from 20 feet away and they're running all around you and screaming.

"They were of a different culture. They did things that Marines wouldn't do - yelling, screaming. They didn't give a shit if they got killed, they just wanted to make sure that you got killed. That was what got to you - they wanted to die. They were willing to sacrifice themselves.

"It was a nightmare, truly a nightmare. I can still remember the flares, the eerie green light (of illumination) over the battlefield. And it was like the lights in ... in a disco, and all the people are jumping around, slow motion. It was completely eerie," said Eddy, who won a Silver Star for bravery during that night.

The next day, where Eddy's platoon and others were, Marines counted about 900 dead; through the gap and down to the beachhead 3,500 Japanese dead were found. "The numbers are no exaggeration," Eddy said. One of his machine gun section sergeants, Dale Whaley, received the Navy Cross for gallantry on that midsummer's night. "He was credited with 80 Japanese that night. I saw stacks of them in front of his machine gun."

Those soldiers, under their code, in the center of their mind and soul was tremendous loyalty to the Emperor, who was the symbol of Japan, and a reverence for authority.

With Bushido at the heart of Japanese culture - in the home, in the schools, in the military, in general society - the Japanese soldier was a tremendous and fearsome opponent no matter the odds, the superiority of force brought up to face him, no matter the enemy to go before him.

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