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
mortar strike
On July 21, a Japanese mortar tallies a direct hit on a Marine amphibious tractor nearing the beach. Survivors of other blasted amtracks are swimming toward shore. Despite heavy pre-invasion shelling, defenders' fire was intense.

In Asan, banzai and bravery

In Asan on July 21, 1944 and the days afterward, there was plenty of courage and a bit of confusion, all of which added to the American victory in Guam and the defeat of the Japanese.

But the victory was not easy, the defeat not conceded - everything at stake cost the lives of many, many men.

On that day, onto those beaches in Asan came waves - not the stuff of surfers' dreams but waves and waves of men and steel. Facing enemy fire of all types, coming ashore were the men of the Marine Corps' 3rd Marine Division.

On the shore waiting for the inevitable invasion were Japanese forces defending the island which they themselves had invaded and captured on Dec. 10, 1941.

It was, as the saying goes, the irresistible force meeting the immovable object.

Jack Eddy was there that day, and so was Frank Chuisano, both of them now Guam residents and both then apart of that irresistible force on July 21, 1944.

Eddy, then a 23-year-old Marine lieutenant in the 9th Marine Regiment of the 3rd Marine Division, recalled his platoon members expressing their nervousness in different ways as they approached the Asan fringing reef aboard their chugging Higgins boat. "Some guys were on the bottom of the boat on their hands and knees throwing up; and then there are other guys cracking jokes," said the St. Louis native.

The Higgins boats would travel to about 1,000 yards from the beach, which was out of range of all but the biggest of guns. At that point, the men would climb down into the amphibious tractors, the vehicles that would take the men ashore.

1 February 1944

The drive by U.S. forces through Micronesia and the central Pacific continues, In the Marshall Islands, the 4th Marine Division and the Army's 7th Infantry Division attack Japanese forces on Kwajalein and on Roi Namur. Also invaded and captured is Majuro, the atoll which is the present-day capital of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The costly lessons of Tarawa pay off: only 334 men are killed in the landings.

The action - in front of them, near them, all around them - was furious, Eddy said. "There were tractors being hit, being swamped. We had some near misses with some big stuff ... there were explosions in the water around us, but we made it to shore without being hit," he said about the harrowing trip from the reef to shore.

His platoon of 50 men was to take its initial position on Green Beach, but they ended up north of that, on Red Beach 2 where the 21st Marine Regiment was landing. Where that spot is today is east of where the Asan River meets the park area of the War in the Pacific National Historical Park.

A bottle-neck of Marines and equipment on Green Beach forced a change in plan. "There was real intense fire - we were in real harm's way. There were troops in front of us (on Green Beach), and we couldn't fire, so they slid us off to the left onto Red Beach where the 21st Marines were. We had to make our way back to the right spot, get back to the flank of the 9th Marines," he said.

Eddy and Chuisano could have bumped into each other in the initial confusion on shore - Chuisano also landed at Red Beach 2 but with the 21st. He was a Marine private on that day, all of 16 years old. "I lied about my age when I signed up," the New York City native said.

Chuisano said that the ride aboard his unit's Higgins boat seemed to be extraordinarily quiet. "I got up once to look, but someone yelled, 'Get your ass down.' I didn't say that much. I guess we were scared - I know I was scared."

"Boy I remember my mouth was dry - you know something? It's dry right now," Chuisano said in an interview.

He said that the atmosphere changed fearfully when his unit's amphibious tractor reached the interior section of the reef. There, "All hell broke loose. I remember telling a buddy, 'I'll see you when it's all over,'," Chuisano said about what he blurted out to fellow Marine Jimmy Barrett, also of New York City.

Explosions around them, machine gun fire challenging them, the unit was landed, but in the wrong place, possibly because of the bottleneck on the beach.

Chuisano's unit took cover, digging in, but then ... a great explosion or a series of blasts right after the other - he couldn't distinguish whether it was artillery or mortars that hit their position. "Maybe it was mortars, but so many people ... it caught everybody at once."

Without being asked, Chuisano began an informal roll call of the men who were wounded and died from that blast "Jimmy (Barrett); Ed Kenzell from North Dakota - God, he was a big son-of-a-bitch, but he was a terrific man; Tom Muir; Jimmy Carroll, he's from Brooklyn, ya know," said Chuisano, his voice retaining a bit of a Nuh Yawker accent.

"Ya know, Jimmy Barrett, he had both legs shot, and the chaplain came around, and he told the Father, "I'm OK, Father. Take care of the other boys first," said Chuisano.

Eddy also remembered the deaths on that first day of many Marines, many of those officers, some of them his close friends. As he began to get wrapped up in the details of the landing and a little of some of the deaths he witnessed, he then hesitated, then stated he didn't want to talk about death. "You know, families, wives, brothers always want to know what happened. They'll visit soon and they'll want to know."

"Things happen...that's it...things happen, and there's nothing you can do about it. People should look at it and say, realize it's supposed to happen. It's war. People kill each other in war."

Though the 3d Marines Regiment would be strongly challenged by Japanese defenders on Chorito Cliff and Bundschu Ridge, both Eddy's and Chuisano's regiments would achieve their missions for that first invasion day.

The 9th, of which Eddy was a part, raced 1,500 yards inland, crossing the area's rice paddies, and took the high ground of Asan Point. The area of the rice paddies was the site planners had targeted to place Marine artillery batteries to support enlarging the beach head.

The 21st, Chuisano's regiment was apart, would find fighting less difficult and rush forward and upward. Regimental units that first day would reach the clifftops where the Top O' The Mar restaurant is today.

As Chuisano was digging in atop the beachhead, Eddy and his platoon were called upon to help the efforts off of Red Beach 1, the landing beach on the east end of Asan, toward Adelup Point. "On the left flank, the 3rd Marines is just having a terrible time," Eddy said. Eddy's platoon was being sent into a situation becoming more and more desperate - the battle line along Chorito Cliff and the ridge that would be named after Capt. Geary Bundschu. "You know, the Marines are always doing things like that, moving units. So ... we are detached from F Company of the 2nd Battalion of the 9th Marines - we take the place of A Company of the 1st Battalion, 3d Marines, - we take the place of the unit of Capt. Bundschu," Eddy said.

While the entire 3d Marines met stifling opposition on and near Red Beach 1, Bundschu and the rest of Company A were particularly mauled by the enemy. Caught in the ridge by machine gun fire from above, the unit could not move forward or backward.

Bundschu would lose his life on the ridge, becoming one of the 3d's 615 men killed, missing, or wounded in the first two days of fighting. As a unit, A Company was barely hanging on.

Eddy's unit was sent to help secure the area off and above Red Beach 1. "There were no reserves - the reserves were the Army but they were down in Agat with the 1st Brigade. They hadn't been in combat before, and they felt that they couldn't send them to Bundschu. For us, this was our second campaign and we had a bit more experience for the situation," said Eddy, whose unit had fought in Bougainville.

Harassed by well-placed and hidden machine guns atop the cliff and above on the ridge, the 3d managed to scale the cliff about noon of July 21, reach beyond the ridge later, and onto Fonte Plateau by July 25. But its frontline by July 25 still did not solidly contact with that of the 21st; a gap also existed between the 21st and 9th.

Those facts would be discerned by Japanese patrols the night of July 25 and seized upon by Lt. General Takashina Takeshi.

Takashina, the commander of the Imperial Army's 29th Division and Southern Marianas Army Group, was the officer responsible for the defense of Guam. He followed the Japanese standard of battle on islands: repel landing forces from the beaches; failing that, counterattack at the opportune time.

On that day, the 25th, the Japanese commander had reluctantly given his approval for a counterattack by the defenders at Orote Peninsula. The defenders were annihilated in the attempt.

7 February - 7 March 1944

U.S. campaign seizes the Admiralty islands north of Papua New Guinea. U.S. forces now greatly hinder Japanese supply lines from Rabaul in the south Pacific to Truk, Japan's major naval base in the central Pacific. The path is clear for the capture of the Marianas.

The time for Takashina and a counterattack in Asan had come. There were gaps - 800 yards between the 3d and 21st, 1,000 yards between the 21st and the 9th - between the U.S. regiments, and the commander wanted to exploit those to their fullest. As his patrols scouted the lines, Takashina moved up reserves from Tumon, Pago and Agana for the counter.

Takashina's operation would capitalize upon the heavy rains that hindered the resupply of Marines above the beachheads and maximize one advantage inadvertently handed him by the Marines: Their lines not in contact, the Marines' predicament was heightened by a lack of manpower. Units already undermanned were now strung out along a defensive line, itself broken in three, across the top ridges of what is now called Nimitz Hill.

After three hours of probes by his patrols, about 3 a.m. on July 26, onto a battlefield of muck and mire, Takashina committed his troops in counterattack. At four different places along the line, three above Asan and one on the eastern ridge above Piti, Japanese soldiers thrust their attack.

It couldn't have come at a worse time for Eddy's unit. They had just fought all day, uphill the whole way, and were readying their positions at the top of Fonte Plateau. They were preparing to defend their newly-achieved position, but also taking advantage of the situation to rest. "There we were, pretty beaten up and exhausted," he said. "We were at the top of Fonte Plateau - just about where ComNavMar is now - by late afternoon ...and that night, well, that's when, as they say, the stuff hit the fan.

"...They came," Eddy said, struggling to find a description of the events. "... and ... they just blasted their way through."

Takashina's counterattack was unlike the banzai charges experienced before by the Marines in the Pacific. This one was well-planned and coordinated; the objective defined - to thunder through the gaps, down the ravines (between ComNavMar and Top O' the Mar restaurant) and onto the beachheads. There, troops of the Rising Sun would be able to put the Americans into disarray by disrupting their communications as well as halt resupply of Marines above, thus isolating them.

Through the night, Takashina sent thousands of his soldiers into the gaps, hoping that his counterattack force would reach the beachheads. The force was comprised of seven battalions funneling into four columns through the 3rd Marine Division's frontline.

Eddy, who had fought in Bougainville and Iwo Jima and in other battles, said the night of July 25-26 in Guam was a living nightmare. He and his men repulsed not one, not two but seven banzai charges that night.

"It was the most traumatic experience I ever had, it will live in my memory forever," he said. Fighting was at close quarters. "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.

Japanese weapons
After the July 25-26 counterattack, the Japanese lost 3,500 men, including 90 percent of the officers involved in the attack, and much of their weaponry.

"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," Eddy said.

"They were screaming at us. There was 'Marine, you die,' - they were screaming all that kind of BS, and we'd return it. I remember George Tuthill - he was one of my machine gun section leaders - and he had a loud voice, extremely loud. He'd be shooting, yelling, just things that you couldn't print.

"It's all silly, like little kids yelling at each other, but it's all desperation too."

Along the line but on the western end, toward the present-day restaurant, Chuisano and his comrades watched illumination flares launched several times that night by the Japanese. Dug in with the rest of H Company of the 2nd Battalion, he was next to Anthony Abbetamarco - the New York City men enlisted together; Abbetamarco also survived the war.

The men along the front line were told that the enemy was 2,000 yards ahead. "We were beat - we were all trying to get some rest. Then a flare went up again, and like all of a sudden, I saw them. They were there, in front of us."

"Thousands ... they were like ants. Oh man, they kicked the shit out of us. They just kept coming, coming."

"Tony kept saying, 'We're gonna get it, we're gonna die, we're gonna get it,' and all I could say was 'Keep shooting. Keep shooting!'"

17-18 February 1944

Borne by carriers of the fleet of Admiral Marc Mitscher, Navy aircraft conduct a series of raids on Truk (now Chuuk of the Federated States of Micronesia), a major Japanese naval installation in the western Pacific. One raid was the first nighttime bombing mission by the Navy. Japanese losses from the raids are heavy: 275 aircraft, 10 ships and 31 merchant ships. Ship tonnage lost - 200,000 tons - was the highest in the war for a single action.

Chuisano said the night was simply incredible, with enemy soldiers fighting, clawing, grabbing, anything to go forward. "They crawled, they climbed over their dead. They were all on top of each other, two, three high," Chuisano said.

He said Marines were shooting the Japanese wounded because all through the night they would rise from where they had fallen and continue their rush into the Marine line. "We were yelling at each other, 'Keep spraying, keep spraying. Kill them all,' because they would get up and start shooting us again."

The banzai charges and the battle lasted through the early morning and despite the carnage all along the front line, Japanese attackers were able to reach the beachheads. Enemy soldiers threatened the divisional command post as well as that of the 21st. They also managed to get so far behind the line to roar toward the division's hospital. There, doctors, who had already evacuated the seriously wounded to the beach, joined corpsmen and less seriously wounded Marines to repulse the attack.

Trying to establish their beachhead, Marines dig in on the beach, a familiar scene in Asan and Agat on Liberation Day.

The charges were so furious and the Japanese so penetrating into the west end of the sector that cooks, communication personnel, headquarters staff, engineers - many kinds of non-combat staff were all pressed into hand-to-hand fighting.

But the Japanese troops who were to reach far down the ravines and onto the beachheads were without leaders, and the counterattack would fail; later, it was discovered that the attack had cost the Japanese 95 percent of its officers for that sector.

Where Eddy's platoon and others were, Marines counted about 900 dead; through the gaps and down to the beachhead a total of 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."

Eddy did not offer the information that he had been awarded the Silver Star for bravery on that night so long ago - he had to be asked. Eddy was hesitant in answering, finally saying, "I was just a platoon leader. I was doing what I was supposed to be doing - I kept my men together and we stayed in the battle.

"There were other platoon leaders who were casualties, and those men and other units, they were all split apart, and they gravitated and joined us.

"Our problem was that there weren't that many of us. They came in a big group and we were spread out. A group of 50 would hit a spot where there were only seven or eight people - you're convinced that they're going to run right over you," he said.

Nevertheless, the Marine line, though seriously challenged, held its ground. Aided by naval gun support, which prevented the Japanese from receiving reinforcements, the Marines retained their foothold on Asan.

The counterattack cost the Marines 166 of their comrades' lives and 645 wounded but the Corps had preserved its beachheads; from those the Marines could base their attack to recapture Guam. Though they did not know it then, the Marines had broken the main strength of Japanese resistance on Guam.

Japanese survivors of the counterattack were to flee north, undermanned and disorganized, poorly armed and lacking supplies, and without officers to lead them. Takeshina himself was killed on July 28 by Marines as he was leading the retreat of his forces from Fonte Plateau.

There are images of that night that Eddy clearly remembers, some which he would clearly love to forget - all of it adding up to a gruesome experience. "It was a nightmare, truly a nightmare. I can still remember the flares, the eerie green light (of illumination flares) over the battlefield. And it was like the lights in ... in a disco, and all the people are jumping around, in slow motion, in a battle. It was completely eerie."

19 February 1944

U.S forces under Nimitz continue westward through Micronesia toward Japan. Another atoll is taken when Eniwetok is invaded and taken by the 2nd Marine Division. Over 250 men are killed, light when compared to Tarawa.

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