War in the Pacific
Administrative History
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Chapter 3:
AMERICA ON GUAM — 1898-1950 (continued)

Life After War

After the war ended, life on Guam followed a predictable pattern similar to the first two decades under United States administration; each governor and naval base commandant exercised hia own particular style of administration and set of priorities that influenced the lives of Guam residents in subtle and sometimes profound ways. The autocratic, racist Captain William W. Gilmer (November 15, 1918-July 7, 1920) issued over fifty rigid orders in less than two years, ranging from edicts against whistling and the fandango dance in public to prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages, barring interracial marriages, and instituting the death penalty for serious crimes. Life on the island was humorless and grim until the U.S. Navy relieved Gilmer and replaced him with an intelligent, fun-loving man, Captain Ivan C. Wettengel (July 7, 1920-October 28, 1921). Wettengel immediately rescinded some of Gilmer's most outrageous orders. Acting Governor Captain Adelbert Althouse (February 7, 1922-August 4, 1923), favored the continued acculturation of Guam residents to American ways through education. He reorganized the Guam public school system, patterning it after the California system, and encouraged the organization of a new monthly, the Guam Recorder, which, over the next two decades, featured many articles, English language publication, on the history of Guam by Lieutenant Commander P. J. Searles. [71]

Commander Willis W. Bradley, Jr., who served as Guam's governor from June 11, 1929 to May 15, 1931, was militarily accomplished (graduated first in his class at Annapolis Naval Academy and received the congressional Medal of Honor in World War I) and a civil libertarian. He made a greater impact on local political conditions than any American governor before him. Soon after arriving on Guam, he recommended that U.S. citizenship be granted by federal legislation to all native residents; he immediately followed up by issuing his own proclamation that established Guam citizenship and naturalization procedures. Bradley also recommended that Guam citizens be granted a bill of rights, protecting them from any arbitrary and capricious decrees ordered by future naval governors. He also established the "Second Guam Congress" (purely advisory, like the First Guam Congress), consisting of two legislative houses (Assembly and Council), and he implemented the election of village commissioners. Finally, Willis Bradley initiated ambitious efforts to improve Guam's decrepit roads, overcrowded schools, construct all new public buildings of concrete, and to establish a library. As poignant testimony to Bradley's high regard by the locals, Guam residents asked the secretary of the navy to allow Bradley to represent them in the United States when the navy replaced him in May 1931, just as the Great Depression plunged to its greatest depths. [72]

Following Governor Bradley's departure, political and economic conditions deteriorated under subsequent American governors as the bleak realty of depression settled over the island in the 1930s. The Great Depression crushed economic activity on the island, most noticeably by depressing copra prices and diminishing its exports, and it retarded education by limiting the number of teachers that could be hired. By 1941, there were only eighty-five miles of paved roads on the island. Most governors of Guam rejected the resolutions passed by the new Second Guam Congress. Island residents still had no right to protection by grand jury, and there were still no trials by jury. Education remained inadequate. Racial discrimination permeated the navy's administration of the island. The majority of the population depended on government support to survive during the 1930s. Navy governors squelched additional efforts (in 1933 and 1936-37) to obtain American citizenship. Congress continued to support the navy view that Guamanian residents had not improved their economic condition enough to deserve citizenship. The U.S. Navy failed to improve local civil liberties and enlarge the responsibility for self-government. The U.S. Congress perpetuated the military colonialism on Guam practiced by the navy. [73]

Only in the area of public health did the U.S. Navy markedly upgrade conditions for the residents of Guam. Greatly improved sanitation and medical services nearly eliminated leprosy and gangosa on the island. The death rate dropped dramatically between 1905 and 1940. The population of local Guamanians had increased 128 percent during forty years of American naval administration, from 9,630 in 1901 to 21,502 in 1940. The failure of U.S. Navy administration of Guam is, perhaps, understandable, even if not excusable. The primary mission of the naval governors was military defense and not civil development. [74]

Figure 3-2. Original map courtesy of the Micronesian Area Research Center, University of Guam. Map modifications by Evans-Hatch.

Japanese Arrive on Guam

During the 1930s, the U.S. Navy became increasingly absorbed by its mission of military defense. Japan, which had been given control of most of Micronesia [75] after World War I by a 1920 League of Nations mandate, and her activities in Micronesia became a growing distraction and cause for concern. Worried about Japan's efforts to consolidate its control over Micronesia in the late 1910s and the early 1920s, [76] the U.S. Navy once again revised its "Plan Orange" in 1927 and 1928 for an assumed Japanese invasion of Guam. It began to intercept and decode Japanese radio signals by 1929. A year later, President Herbert Hoover prohibited civil aircraft from flying over Guam (as well as Pearl Harbor, Guantanamo, and Subic Bay) in a feeble attempt to prevent foreign surveillance of the island. After Japan reneged on its obligations under existing arms treaties and closed off most of Micronesia to outsiders, and after Americans found and began monitoring patriotic Japanese nationals living on or routinely visiting Guam, who were part of the Japanese intelligence system, a board of naval officers recommended, in the 1938 Hepburn Report, that Guam be developed as a major air and submarine base. (The Navy General Board and Congress later rejected this large-scale fortification.) [77]

By the late 1930s, Japan began to build up its military on Micronesian islands, until then used primarily to fuel the Japanese civilian economy. The Japanese built a constellation of military facilities: airfields, harbors, ammunition depots, gun emplacements, barracks, and fuel storage facilities. Micronesia was to be a major staging area for planned offensive air and naval operations. Kwajalein (Marshall Islands) would later be used to support an attack on Hawaii and Wake Island. The Palau Islands were being prepared to provide support for a campaign in the Philippines. Truk (now Chuuk, Caroline Islands) was being readied as a base for amphibious landings on Tarawa and Makin (Gilbert Islands). Majuro (Marshall Islands) would be used for air strikes against Howland Island. Jaluit (Marshall Islands was being prepared for the seizure of Nauru and Ocean Island. Finally, the Japanese were making military preparations on Saipan to support a naval and air attack on Guam. [78]

The eyes of the world shifted abruptly toward Europe when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, an event marking the outbreak of World War II. Immediately, the American high command made preparations for possible military campaigns in the Atlantic Ocean and Europe against the Nazi regime in Germany the top priority. Preparations for a war in the Pacific became secondary. In late 1939 and early 1940, when the United States formulated its global military strategic plans called "Rainbow War Plans," the U.S. Navy put Guam in the lowest priority defense category, an acknowledgement that Guam could not be defended. [79]

Despite this, the United States, over the next two years, used Guam for wartime preparations against Japan and, as Japanese-American relations became increasingly strained, to defend Guam against a long-predicted Japanese attack. After Japan joined the Axis Pact with Germany and Italy in September 1940, the United States sped up its efforts to decode Japanese encrypted communications. In July 1940, the U.S. and Great Britain imposed a trade embargo on aviation gasoline and strategic metals produced for sale to Japan. Then, in mid-February 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt declared Guam off-limits to all foreign and domestic nonmilitary sea and air traffic. In February and March, Congress appropriated a total of $4,700,000 for last-minute defense projects to improve Guam's Apra Harbor, to construct new oil storage tanks at Cabras Island, and to prepare for the construction of airfields on Orote Peninsula. In July 1941, President Roosevelt froze all Japanese assets in the United States. On October 17, 1941, the last American military dependents left Guam on the USS Henderson. The last issue of the Guam Recorder was published in November. Everyone on Guam expected war to break out in the Pacific. The only unanswered questions were "where" and "when." [80]

Guam residents did not have long to wait. Shortly after 8 a.m. on the clear morning of December 8, 1941, the drone of aircraft flying over Hagatna could be heard as residents prepared to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception or began their work day as fishers, merchants, or government workers. Captain George J. McMillin, governor of Guam and commandant of the U.S. Navy on the island, had learned, two hours earlier, of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was planning to evacuate people from the capitol of Hagatna when he heard the aircraft overhead and craned his neck to look skyward. A few minutes later, war planes, with round red markings on their wings, swooped down over Sumay, on Orote Peninsula, and dropped a series of bombs, one of which hit a big Standard Oil Company tank; it immediately burst into flames and sent up black billowy clouds of smoke, obscuring the clear blue sky. Over the next few hours, Japanese airplanes bombed military targets at Piti navy yard, the Libugon radio towers, vessels in Apra Harbor, and the mine sweeper Penguin, about one mile off of the Agat beaches. The Japanese began to bomb Hagatna the afternoon of December 8. The next day, the Japanese resumed their bombing of Guam, once again, striking the Libugon radio towers again and downtown Hagatna. They also strafed [81] villages scattered throughout the island. [82]

On December 10, Japanese troops landed at widely scattered locations around Guam–Tumon Bay, Apruguan-Dungcas Beach (north of Hagatna), Bile Bay (north of Merizo on the southwest coast), Talofofo Bay (on the southeast coast), Agat beaches, and Hagatna Bay. In a short time, Japanese soldiers converged on the Plaza de Espana in Hagatna, where Governor McMillan had assembled three platoons of the Insular Force Guard (with a total of about eighty-five Guamanian men), along with a handful of U.S. Marines and sailors to defend the governor's family and American staff personnel. In the dim light of the early morning, gunfire erupted across the Plaza de Espana. Japanese soldiers closed in on the Insular Force Guard and American solders and sailors in what Governor McMillan later described as a "hopeless" situation. [83] Around 7 a.m. on December 10, McMillin signed a letter of surrender, less than six hours after the Japanese stepped foot on Guam. The flag of the Rising Sun was immediately raised on the flagpole in the plaza, just as the sun rose over Guam. [84]

By the end of December 1941, Japan completed its conquest of Micronesia. On December 23, Americans on Wake Island, about 2,000 miles to the east of Guam, surrendered to Japan after endless air strikes over a two-week period. Japanese control of Micronesia extended from Wake Island and the Mariana Islands in the north to Palau in the far southwest and the Gilbert Islands in the southeast. The Japanese used these Micronesian islands for offensive operations until September 1943.

Guam remained under Japanese control for the next two and one-half years. Immediately after the United States surrendered, the Japanese rounded up all Americans and foreigners and shipped them to Japan as prisoners of war. (Six American sailors remained loose on the island for several weeks before all but one, George Tweed, were found and executed by the Japanese.) Many Guamanians, including those in the Insular Force Guard and nurses, were treated as prisoners during the day and forced to work involuntarily as unpaid field workers, planting and harvesting crops, stevedores who unloaded ships, miners at a manganese mine at Libugon, and as nurses. The Imperial Japanese Army soon created the "Minseisho," a section of the military responsible for civil government on the island. The Minseisho performed many functions, including issuing an identification pass, or "dog tag," for every Guamanian, issuing money, rationing food and other commodities through coupons, and establishing quotas for the monthly production of food for the Japanese troops. As the supply of food dwindled, more and more Guamanians, who scattered into the countryside during and after the invasion, began harvesting their own food from the sea and the land. A shortage of money gave rise to bartering among the Guamanians and the 6,000 Japanese troops, who were garrisoned at Sumay on Orote Peninsula. Although Japanese administration of Guam was harsh at first, Japanese rule relaxed after January 14, 1942, when the Japanese naval guard force took over the administration of Guam. The Japanese did not confiscate the islanders' property, even though marshal law was in effect. Most islanders did not experience extreme hardship until the last few months of Japanese occupation. According to historian Robert Rogers, "the islanders adopted an attitude of guarded submissive neutrality toward the Japanese while hoping for the return of the Americans." [85]

When the return of Americans did seem imminent, the Japanese imposed much harsher security measures, and drafted nearly everyone to raise food crops for the Japanese soldiers or build defensive structures. After American bombing of Guam became sustained in the late spring and summer of 1944, the Japanese moved Guamanians to internment camps in the interior and eastern coastal areas at Maima, Tai, Manengon, Talofofo, Inarajan, and several other places, where although food was often scarce, shelter temporary, and living conditions impoverished, they were away from areas where fighting later occurred. [86]

Americans Return to Guam

The United States began sporadic counter attacks in the Pacific not long after the Japanese invasion of Guam. The U.S. made air attacks on Tokyo in April 1942. In May and June, the American Navy halted Japanese advances by winning major victories in the Coral Sea and also near Midway Island. This was the first major turning point in the Pacific War. U.S. troops wrestled Guadalcanal from the Japanese in the summer of 1942. From then on, the United States took one Pacific island after another from the Japanese, within Micronesia and outside it, in stepping-stone fashion. As early as January 1943, American aircraft and submarines attacked a Japanese cargo carrier inside Apra Harbor. Seven months later, on August 27, 1943, the USS Snapper hit the Japanese Tokai Maru, anchored in Apra Harbor. The Tokai Maru sand, coming to rest on the bottom next to the German ship Cormoran, sunk during World War I. The first major American counter attack in Micronesia took place in November 1943, when the U.S. Pacific Fleet made landings at Tarawa (Gilbert Islands) and, then, captured Kwajalein, Wotje, Jaluit, and Maloelap (all in the Marshall Islands), 1,500 miles east of Guam, in February 1944. (This offensive thrust from the east replicated an earlier "Orange Plan" devised by the U.S. Navy.) Also in February 1944, the Americans (Admiral Raymond Spruance's Fifth Fleet) destroyed the important Japanese base at Truk [Chuuk] Lagoon (Caroline Islands) about 600 miles southeast of Guam. Then, on February 23, 1944, American aircraft carrier-based airplanes bombed the Japanese airstrip on Orote Peninsula, marking the beginning of the end of Japanese occupation of Guam. [87]

The Mariana Islands were considered the first line of defense of Japan itself. In April 1944, a U.S. submarine torpedoed a Japanese submarine tender. In May 1944, Americans began regularly bombing Guam and other islands in the Marinas. In late June and early July 1944, U.S. bombing strikes against Japanese targets in the Marianas, including Guam, increased in intensity. The U.S. Navy's Central Pacific Offensive attacked and captured, first, Saipan, then, Tinian in June and July, putting Japan within range of U.S. B-29 bombers. As the U.S. Marine Corps fought the Japanese on Saipan beaches, nearly 100 U.S. dive-bombers blasted Guam. The U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet bombarded a Japanese minelayer at Cabras Island the next day. [88]

As the U.S. offensive gradually advanced toward Japan and the American threat grew, the Japanese on Guam, just 1,350 air miles from Tokyo, built up their defenses. In October 1943, the Japanese began construction of an airstrip on Orote Peninsula (the present site of Sumay golf course). Another airstrip was begun on the island's central plateau (Jalaguac-Tiyan, the present location of the Agana Naval Air Station). Both airstrips were later bombed by the U.S.

U.S. military commanders
Figure 3-3. U.S. military commanders on Guam, December 1944. From left to right: Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, U.S.N. (front seat), Commander in Chief Pacific, and Commander in Chief Pacific Ocean Areas; Rear Admiral Forrest B. Sherman, U.S.N., (on Nimitz's staff); Vice Admiral J. H. Hoover, U.S.N., Commander Marianas Area; and Major Generall Henry L. Larsen, U.S.M.C., Island Commander (and, therefore, Governor of Guam), 1944-46.

After the first American air raids on Guam began in February 1944, the Japanese ordered Guamanians and Koreans, who had been brought to Guam as laborers, to build shelters, usually dugouts topped with coconut logs and tunnels dug into hillsides and cliffs. The Japanese ordered the construction of new roads, pillboxes, and gun emplacements on the beaches and elsewhere. As U.S. bombing intensified in the early summer of 1944, the Japanese supervised the continued construction of ground defenses, mostly on the western side of the island. Barbed wire, mines, and obstacles were put underwater along the reefs and lagoons. Dummy cannons were mounted all around the coasts and on Cocos Island. Guamanian and Korean laborers dug tunnels in the hills overlooking possible American landing sites, particularly in the ridges above Asan, later named Bundschu Ridge and Nimitz Hill (central portion of Bundschu Ridge) and behind Agat Beach on Mount Alifan. [89]

Final preparations for the American ground invasion of Guam began in early July 1944. On July 8, United States aircraft and ships attacked the island day and night for thirteen days in a systematic "softening" of Japanese defenses on Guam. On July 14, the Navy's underwater demolition teams swam in toward the beaches, checked Japanese barriers, and, three days later, destroyed obstacles on the planned assault beaches, including tank traps, cribs filled with coral, and wire barriers. By July 20, Navy frogmen had blown 640 obstacles off Asan Beach and 300 off Agat, making the actual landing of troops on these beaches possible. "The American bombardment of Guam," Robert Rogers emphasized, "had gathered momentum from 18 July on to become, by the morning of 21 July, the most intense crescendo of conventional firepower ever inflicted on any locality in the Pacific war." [90] The U.S. fleet assembled off Guam's western shore on the morning of July 21 was enormous: eleven battleships, twenty-four aircraft carriers, and 390 support ships. [91]

Throughout the night and early morning of July 21, 1944, all American assault units moved to their assigned positions off Asan and Agat beaches. A total of 54,891 men poised for attack. [92] On the morning of July 21, two major American forces landed northeast and southwest of Apra Harbor. The 20,328 men of the Marine Division (under Major General Allen H. Turnage) landed on Asan beach, the northern invasion sector. In a three-pronged attack, the marines slowly advanced toward Adelup Point (in the northeast), central Asan beach, and Asan Point (in the southwest) under heavy mortar, artillery, and small arms fire from Japanese defensive positions. At the end of the day, the marines had taken Adelup Point and had dug in on the ridges behind Asan Point and Asan Village. On July 22, after surviving a Japanese counter attack, the marines moved up the steep hills toward Mt. Chachao. Serious Japanese counter attacks that followed during the next three days were eventually beaten back during bitter fighting and the loss of 3,500 Japanese soldiers. [93]

The Americans' second major force landed on beaches at Agat, south of Apra Harbor, in the southern sector operation. The 9,886 men of the First Provisional Marine Brigade (led by Brigadier General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr.) were the first to land on the beach, under intense Japanese defensive fire. The next day, the 17,958 men in the Seventy-seventh Infantry Division (led by Major General Andrew D. Bruce) lent support to the marines in holding their beachhead. On July 25, a combined American force of 34,563 men secured the Agat area, between Agat Bay and Apra Harbor. The First Provisional Marine Brigade then turned northward to meet the Third Marine Division, heading south from Asan, to cut off the eight-square-mile Orote Peninsula, where 3,100 Japanese troops were trapped. The two groups met on July 27, thus securing an area extending from Adelup Point in the northeast to Facpi Point, south of Agat. [94]

Once the Americans had taken most of the land between the beaches and the "Force Beachhead Line" (a north-south line extending from Asan to Agat behind the coastal peaks of Mt. Chachao, Mt. Tenjo, and Mt. Alifan), two major military objectives remained: Orote Peninsula and the interior of Guam. After a three-day push to destroy the weary but resistant Japanese on the peninsula, the First Provisional Marine Brigade, preceded by U.S. air attacks and naval artillery, captured the Orote airstrip and swept to the tip of the peninsula on July 29. At the same time, the Third Marine Division and the Seventy-seventh Infantry pushed the remaining Japanese to the east and north, through mountain terrain. The two forces merged in early August and together made the final push toward Ritidian Point in an eventually successful effort to drive the Japanese off of Guam on August 8. [95] One last stronghold of Japanese resistance, Mt. Santa Rosa, was attacked by the army's Seventy-seventh Division. After two days bitter battling, the army gained the summit. On August 12, 1944, army troops stormed and captured the last Japanese stronghold near Mt. Mataguac. Once again, Guam was in American hands. [96]

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Last Updated: 08-May-2005