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
At Agana Bay, a fisherman throws his talaya (throw net). Pre-war Guam was a society of subsistence. Farmers and fishermen secured their family's food for the day from the abundance of the sea and the fertility of the land.

Guam obstacle to Japan's ocean empire

In pre-World War II Guam, life was generally as it had been for decades. Except for the presence of those responsible for the naval administration of the island, Guam was basically a land of farmers and fishermen, the people living a simple lifestyle where they met their essential needs.

So when war came to this kind of community, this kind of society, it was devastating, bringing unstoppable change.

The first war to visit the island and its people came in the Spanish colonization. Though Ferdinand Magellan had come upon the island in 1521 and the explorer Legaspi had "claimed" Guam for the Spanish crown in 1565, it was only in 1668 that the Spanish attempted to colonize the isle.

In that year, Guam found itself the focus of Catholic missionaries, notably the padre Luis de San Vitores, and their accompanying military protectors. The effort to bring Catholicism to the island was successful - today, the great majority of the people call themselves Catholics - but the price to Guam and its native people was costly. The resistance of the indigenous people to the Spanish resulted in conflict and war with the Spanish military. So by the time the United States came unto the island in 1898 in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War, the war of colonization and disease brought by Western man reduced the native Chamorro population from a high of perhaps as many as 100,000 people in 1668 to 9,000 by 1898.

palm trees, barracks, residents
Palm trees and their reflections upon a river's tranquil surface are captured in this tropical scene (top, left). Members of the Marine barracks fire a cannon during a ceremony at the Plaza de Espana (top, right). Guam residents enjoy a parade along the streets of Agana. In the float, note the little girls making up the flower bouquet, much to the delight of the spectators (bottom).

By 1898, the people and the island were at peace, but both people and island were neglected by a Spain whose empire was fading into history. In spite of America's rise in power and influence around the world, the life of the people of Guam saw relatively little change in the transition from being one nation's colony to being a possession of another. A great part of the reason for that was the ambivalence, and ignorance, of the United States toward the Pacific and Oceania. As a result, of all the Spanish islands of the Marianas, only Guam was taken as a spoil of war under the Treaty of Paris between Spain and the United States. Spain retained the northern Mariana islands - Saipan, Tinian and others - and sold them to Germany in 1899.

26 Jul 1940

Relations between Japan and the United States deteriorate as America initiates first trade embargo on war-related goods to the Asian nation.

Because Guam was merely looked upon by the Navy as a coaling station for its ships as they sailed the Pacific, the island changed little, although the military did add to the economy by buying from farmers and fishermen and employing people.

Naval administrators of the island did initiate and sustain typical government departments such as schools, a hospital, courts and police, but overall the island's lifestyle changed little.

building house
Men build the framework of a house and prepare its roof for sections of woven palm leaves. In spite of the American presence since 1898 when the Spanish-American War ended, little had changed in the pre-war society of Guam.

Chamorros had gained in terms of democratic government; a House of Assembly served as a legislative body but it was merely advisory. Chamorro self-determination was non-existent. The naval governor still possessed absolute authority - he was legislator, chief executive, judge, all under one hat.

Japan, though, was much more active in its efforts around the Pacific islands. When the opportunity arose in World War I as Germany was reeling from its defeats in Europe, the Japanese were unfurling the flag of the Rising Sun in German-held islands above the equator. Their presence in the central and western Pacific was vast, as vast as the area of the continental United States: from the Marshall Islands in the east, to the Carolines, to the Marianas and anchoring the line of Japanese-occupied islands was the Palau archipelago. In the Treaty of Versailles which ended World War I, Japan's occupation of these islands was formalized under a mandate of the League of Nations.

Japan wasted little time in solidifying its claim to these islands. The Japanese, who had a strong economic presence in the islands even before World War I, was now sowing its influence upon the islands through schools, agricultural programs, and, what would later prove deadly to American Marines and soldiers, the fortification and buildup of the islands as military installations.

With little political or financial support coming from Congress to fortify Guam, the United States signed an agreement with Japan in 1921 at the Washington Naval Conference. The two nations along with other world powers agreed not to fortify their possessions in the Pacific.

However, Japan's designs on the islands began taking on a militaristic tone, and by 1935, the country refused inspection of the islands under the mandate and walked out of the League of Nations. The action was typical of Japan in those times as the nation, causing worry and concern for all those in Asia and in the Pacific, was growing more and more committed to a policy of aggression.

Only then did the United States begin thinking of fortifying Guam, and in 1938 a Navy study did recommend that the island's naval facilities be improved to the point where they could support a fully-equipped and operational fleet to help in the defense of the Philippines. But the price tag - possibly tens of millions of dollars - needed for such a buildup was considered too high.

It was in this atmosphere that in December 1941 the people of the United States and Guam began paying - in blood - for a war that suddenly swept the nation and the island into years of struggle, years of sadness, years of tragedy.

27 July 1940

Japan declares the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere concept, desiring to ensure its dominance in Asia and the Pacific and its ability to take raw materials from its neighbors. Japan's determination to realize the concept through a policy of expansion through aggression would lead to direct conflict with numerous nations, particularly the United States and Britain.

Governor's Palace
The Governor's Palace, adjacent to the Plaza de Espana, was the headquarters for the American naval governors responsible for the administration of the island.

China Clipper airplane
The China Clipper, a Martin flying boat of Pan American Airways, docks off Sumay in November 1935 on the first transPacific air mail flight. The aircraft, with its 130-foot wingspread, began its 16,000-mile voyage from Alameda, Calif., soared over the seas to Honolulu, Midway Island, Wake Island, Guam, and Manila, then doubled back the same way for the return (top). Marine Henry Delooff poses near the bow of the Clipper. The Pan American base and the Marine Barracks were both located in Sumay, which was devastated in the Liberation (right).

Men of the Insular Force Guard march in parade (top). Paid $30 a month, they performed duties of naval enlisted men and dressed like Navy personnel; the group was attached to the Naval Station garrison. The Insular Guard, members of which challenged the Japanese invasion force at the Plaza de Espana on Dec. 10, 1941, were part of this group. The group was established only months before the war's beginning.

At top right and bottom, members of the Guam Militia drill in formation at the Piti Navy Yard. The pre-war, quasi-military organization was manned by volunteers.

7 December 1941

Aircraft of the Japanese navy launch a surprise strike on U.S. military facilities on Oahu, Hawaii. The attack cripples the Navy at Pearl Harbor as the U.S. is thrust into World War II. Killed were more than 2,500 Americans; 21 warships were either destroyed or damaged; 169 aircraft demolished. The attack and others nearly simultaneous across the Pacific, including Guam, and Asia would eventually net Japan an empire of more than 20 million square miles.

village, families
Sumay village, in what is now the Naval Station, rivaled Agana as the island's commercial center in pre-war Guam (top). Governor George McMillin and his family in a portrait. He was the naval governor of Guam on Dec. 8, 1941 (bottom, left). Three Chamorro women pose for a photograph (bottom, right).

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