War in the Pacific
Administrative History
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Chapter 5:


The planning that precedes the establishment of a national historical park varies significantly from park to park. Each proposed park presents unique political, social, economic, logistic, and environmental factors, and they all must be addressed by the planners. The underlying Park Service proposal must be well thought out since the service must live with their creation. [120] War in the Pacific National Historical Park on Guam was no exception. The climate, topography, rapidly changing economy and remoteness from the continental United States all combined to greatly complicate the pre-park planning, and dramatically increased the factors that had to be considered. Park concepts were discussed for almost twenty-six years. A war in the Pacific park was first mentioned in 1965; the park wasn't created until 1978. This chapter examines the events, discussions, planning, and proposals of that period.

The War in the Pacific National Historical Park was created by legislation enacted in 1978. However, federal government studies of Guam's historical significance and recreation potential officially began in 1952 when the Park Service was asked by the Office of Territories to conduct archeological and recreational studies. [121] This effort resulted in an inventory of prehistoric sites as well as evidence of Spanish influence on the island. Thirteen years later, NPS investigators again visited Guam, this time at the request of Guam's Governor Manuel M. L. Guerrero. The September 19, 1965, Territorial Sun article reported that,

An NPS study group that visited Guam in June 1964 recommended that two parks be established on Guam: A National Seashore Park, and an historical park commemorating and interpreting the war in the Pacific. The group also recommended that the Government of Guam create a territorial park system to identify and preserve historical material and develop public park areas.

This group was comprised of Glenn O. Hendrix, Chief of New Area Studies and Master Plans, Western Office of Design and Construction; Edward A. Hummel, Regional Director, Western Region; and Douglas Hubbard, Chief Park Naturalist, Yosemite National Park. [122]

This 1964 visit culminated in a proposal recommending that a Philippine Sea National Seashore Park and a War in the Pacific National Historical Park be established. The 1965 proposal identified the purpose of the historical park as being the interpretation of World War II in the Pacific with particular emphasis on the battle for Guam.

Two years later, in January 1967, Representative Richard C. White (D-Texas), who had served with the U. S. Marine Corps during the Guam landing, introduced House of Representatives Bill 2911, which would have authorized the creation of War in the Pacific National Historical Park. (See Appendix 5 of this document for Representative White's introductory remarks.) In a March 28, 1967, memorandum to the Office of the Solicitor General's Legislative Counsel, the Director of the National Park Service reported that the service was studying the possibility of a War in the Pacific Park and expected to complete a master plan in July of that year. The director also indicated that the Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings and Monuments would be considering the issue at its April 1967 meeting. [123] The possibility of an NPS park was echoed on Guam as well as within the District of Columbia. The Guam Daily News reported that,

Four NPS employees are scheduled to arrive on Guam on February 15 to prepare a preliminary report with data in support of legislation introduced by Representative Richard White (D-Tex) to establish an historical park. The report would be disseminated for public comments before being submitted for ultimate inclusion into a park master plan. The NPS group will consist of Richard Barnett; Bruce Black, naturalist; Merrill Mattes, Historian; and Ronald Mortimore, landscape architect. [124]

The master plan group explored Guam for three weeks, from February 15 through March 7. Existing Park Service records indicate that the group consisted of Richard W. Barnett, leader; Merrill J. Mattes, historian; Bruce Black, naturalist; and Mark Malik, landscape architect, with the assistance of Paul Souder, chief of the Guam Department of Land Management. The group explored landing beaches, coral reefs, Japanese caves, shelters, and fortifications using a helicopter and a forty-five-foot boat, both supplied by the navy, and a jeep supplied by the Government of Guam. The group was guided by Guam resident Jesus Lizama. While on the island, the group conferred with the Governor of Guam, the 9th Guam Legislature's Committee on Parks and Monuments, and the governor's Parks and Monuments Advisory Committee. [125]

war debris on the Agat Invasion Beach
Figure 5-1. War debris on the Agat Invasion Beach, February 1967. National Park Service photograph. Pacific Great Basin Support Office, file P6SOI-WAPA.

The authors of the 1967 Master Plan identified the "Management Category" of the Guam sites as "Historical," and Theme XXI, "Political and Military Affairs Since 1865," as the relevant classification under the National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings. They justified suspending the fifty-year rule on the grounds that the tropical climate and other factors were resulting in a rapid loss of the island's historic sites and artifacts.

The 1967 planners advocated that the park should consist of two major units — the Asan Unit and the Agat Unit. The park would also include the Mount Tenjo approach and overlook. Most of the land in both landing beaches was part of the navy reservation; however, the NPS group expressed optimism that they could work with the navy and obtain access as well as rights sufficient to allow for interpretation. They proposed that the headquarters for the future park be on Asan Ridge, providing an overlook of the Asan landing area. A one-way interpretive road would permit vehicular traffic between park headquarters and an Apra Harbor overlook. Circulation for the Agat Unit would be by spur road connections.

Agat Beach
Figure 5-2. Agat Beach in February 1967. Net fishermen in foreground. Houses along shoreline were within proposed park boundary. National Park Service photograph. Pacific Great Basin Support Office, file P6SO1-WAPA.

While on the island, the group also investigated land ownership. They discovered that Asan Point was administered by the navy as a hospital annex; Apaca Point was used as a civilian recreation area by the navy; and various strips of seashore land were owned by the Government of Guam and were undeveloped. The upland areas were also owned by the Government of Guam and were steep, wooded, or grassy and used for limited grazing or cultivation. There was a public school on Adelup Point. Approximately one-quarter of the Agat Unit was wooded; the rest had a few residences or was being used for grazing or agriculture. Similarly, the upland areas in the Asan-Piti area were predominately undeveloped and being used for limited grazing or cultivation. There were limited commercial uses on lowlands near the coast. The planners concluded that, "Present agricultural and grazing uses are considered compatible with the purposes of the park. However, changes in intensity or methods could change the situation." [126]

Toward the end of the 1967 master plan, procedural steps were delineated which were to be implemented when and if enabling legislation were enacted authorizing a park's creation. The plan identified two phases of the proposed park's development: Phase I was identified as the "Planning and Initialing Action," phase. The objective of this phase was to ensure that, "developments are well conceived, and that human relations get off to a good start in an atmosphere of trust and understanding with park neighbors." [127] Phase I was also identified as the time to continue work on the master plan, the time to formulate and initiate "action plans," and a time to commence interim operations. Phase II was to be a time of development, a time of construction. The planners included language under Phase II regarding staffing that is enlightening: "Because of severely limited housing on Guam, housing for the superintendent and historian should be provided first." [128] Therefore, the 1967 planners planned on both a superintendent and a historian to be immediately assigned to the new park.

U.S. Navy facilities on Asan Point
Figure 5-3. U.S. Navy facilities on Asan Point in February 1967. National Park Service photograph. Pacific Great Basin Support Office, file P6SO1-WAPA.

Not everyone within the Park Service agreed that Guam was the most appropriate location for a War in the Pacific Park. In August 1967, Robert Utley, the service's chief historian sent a memorandum to the Chief, Division of New Area Studies and Master Planning. The Utley memorandum served as the cover, transmittal sheet for two other memoranda: one from Roy Appleman, Chief of Park History Studies, and the second from Ed Bearss, then a research historian for the service. Both Appleman and Bearss argued strongly that Guam was not the best location for a war in the Pacific park, and, further, that if the park was located on Guam, the proposed park location on the island was historically inappropriate. Utley expressed agreement with Appleman and Bearss in his transmitting memorandum. Utley noted that Appleman had been a combat historian in the Pacific during World War II, and Bearss had served with the Marines in the Pacific. Utley concluded that these experiences made both men particularly well qualified to comment on the master plan for the proposed park.

The Bearss memorandum that Utley forwarded argues that the battle for Guam was not the turning point for the war in the Pacific, nor was it even the most important battle in the Marianas — Saipan probably was. Bearss stated that Midway, Wake, and Attu probably had greater claim to importance in the Pacific theater than did Guam. He also mentioned that Guam was not the only American soil lost to the Japanese; they also took some Aleutian Islands (Attu, Agattu, and Kiska) and Wake. Additionally, he argued, there were other islands within the Trust Territories-Pacific that were of equal or even greater importance than was Guam, including Kwajalein and Eniwetok in the Marshalls and Palau in the Carolinas. Furthermore, Bearss argued, if the Park Service were to establish a visitor center where it would tell the story of the war in the Pacific, it should be built on Oahu on or adjacent to Pearl Harbor. Not only was Hawaii more historically correct, he argued, its statehood and proximity to the United States mainland would result in more American visitors. Bearss suggested that if the service created a park on Guam, it should more appropriately be called "Battle of Guam National Historical Park."

Bearss concluded his three-page memorandum by arguing that not only is Guam an inappropriate location for such a park, the proposed park boundaries were historically unsound. With few exceptions, he argued, the Japanese rarely contested the beaches. Japanese beach defenses were usually eliminated by pre-landing naval and air bombardment; therefore, the Japanese established their main defenses on high ground overlooking the beaches and fired mortars and artillery from there. Consequently, Bearss would have the park service locate the visitor center on one of the high points — Mt. Alifan, Mt. Chachao, or Mt. Tenjo. As to the rest of the park, Bearss proposed the following boundaries in his memo:

Agat: A relatively small portion of the beach connected to a strip of land extending inland to the Force Beachhead Line, excluding the towns of Agat and Santa Rita.

Asan-Piti: Again, only a small, limited amount of beach should be included together with access to Fonte Plateau. The park, Bearss argued, should include both Fonte Plateau and Orote Peninsula.

Mt. Tenjo and Mt. Alifon: This unit should be expanded to include the ridge stretching from Mt. Alifan in the south to Fonte Plateau in the north. A one-way road should be constructed which would link the Agat Unit with the Asan-Piti Unit.

In addition to the Bearss memorandum, the Utley memo transmitted comments by Roy Appleman. Appleman reported that both the Secretary of the Interior and the Director, Office of Territories, were exploring the idea of a war in the Pacific park being located on Wake Island. If they concluded that Wake was not an appropriate location, Appleman stated, Oahu would certainly be more appropriate than Guam. Appleman also agreed with Bearss regarding the proposed park boundaries. Appleman stated that if the park were to be located on Guam, the high ground would be more historically appropriate for the park, not the beaches. The ridgeline connecting Mt. Alifan and Fonte Plateau should be the principal park area, he argued. He suggested that the park should include limited areas at the northern and southern beaches, both connected to the ridgeline by a road that went from the southern beach over Hill 40 to Mt. Alifan. The road would then continue north along the ridgeline to Mt. Chachao, then down to the northern beach, passing Fonte Plateau as closely as possible. Appleman also noted that the visitor center that was proposed in the master plan (on Asan Ridge) was considerably below the elevation of the Force Beachhead Line, and it should be located on this line. Appleman continued:

A battlefield park along the lines indicated [in this memo] would need to pre-empt only a small part of the 6 miles of beaches now proposed. This would free the remainder for other uses, which one can feel confident will be pressed for in any event. The present plan apparently contemplates that the beaches should be used for swimming, bathing, and related water sports. I do not think this use should be part of an historical battlefield park. Let that development take place outside the park and let it be operated by other officials or persons for that expressed purpose if it is to be done. [129]

Although a thorough search was conducted at several NPS archives as well as at the park itself, no documentation could be located that represented a continuation of this dialogue. The paper trail simply vanishes as if the siting issues raised by Utley, Bearss, and Appleman were never addressed. And, this is entirely possible since ultimately the presence of the park on Guam was strongly advocated within the United States Congress. The park was created from the top down. Legislation creating the park was introduced and supported by representatives who were either personally involved in the battle for Guam, or were involved in the Pacific Theater.

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Last Updated: 08-May-2005