Fonte Plateau Unit

Fonte Plateau Bunker
Fonte Plateau Bunker

NPS Photo

The Fonte area was that area captured by U.S. Marines July 27-29, 1944, including the Fonte Plateau as shown on the official maps. In analyzing the combat narratives and reports, it is clear that the term was used to include all the high land above Asan from the Plateau in the east to Mt. Mangan, 1,500 yards to the west, i.e., the high, fairly level area known as Nimitz Hill. At the rear of the plateau proper is a concrete bunker having two concrete-arch entrances. This feature has traditionally been called the command post of General Takeshima. The plateau itself was captured by a battalion of the 9th U.S. Marines. The 21st U.S. Marines captured the high ground west of the plateau. This report identifies the bunker as a major Japanese naval communications center, not a command post. Similar to the communications center at Agana it was still under construction when U.S. forces landed on Guam. Three radio towers were at the head of Fonte River on the rear slope of Mt. Manqan.

The climax of the fighting for the Fonte area occurred on the morning of July 29 when the 9th U.S. Marines wiped out the Japanese defenders in a bowl-shaped depression on Fonte Plateau proper, "the Fonte Bowl," which was honeycombed with caves. The marines took the bowl without a single casualty while killing from 35 to 50 Japanese. This action completed the capture of the Fonte area. Although some writers have concluded that the depression was General Takeshima's command post, this report regards it only as the site of the last Japanese resistance in the Fonte area.

Where was the general's command post? It appears he had more than one. up to July 26, he had established a command post in a natural cave about 300 meters to the "west of Fonte." When his major counterattack against U.S. forces on the night of July 25-26 ended in failure, Takeshima moved from the cave "to the Fonte command post." U. S. Marines commenced their attack on Fonte on July 27. On July 28, the 21st U.S. Marinas captured all of the high ground west of the plateau, including Mt. Mangan and the head of Fonte River to the rear (south). That same day, the commanding general of the III Amphibian Corps recorded that marines had captured a large command in Target Area 561, which area is just west of the Fonte Plateau (TA 562). He added that marines had not been able to search the area because of snipers and booby traps. Also on July 28, the Third Marine Division's Intelligence Section reported that this was the Japanese Twenty-ninth Division's command post and that it covered from three to five acres. Finally, the U.S. Marine Corps official history records that the 21st U.S. Marines, on July 28, overran the 29th Division's headquarters caves, "located near the head of the Fonte River valley close to the wrecked radio towers, and wiped out the last defenses of Mt. Mangan as well." The conclusion is that the command post of General Takeshima's, the 29th Division's, and General Obata's as well, is outside the boundaries of the Fonte Unit.

General Takeshima ordered the main defense force in the Fonte area to withdraw during the night of July 27-28 and the morning of the 28th. We oversaw this retreat until about noon on the 28th. Then, he too withdrew and about two hours later was killed near the north foot of Mt. Macagna.

Today, there is a large, abandoned quarry on the south edge of the Fonte Plateau, adjacent to the concrete Japanese communications center. It has not been determined when this quarry was first opened, but it was in operation soon after the liberation of Guam when haste was made to construct Admiral Nimitz's CINCPAC headquarters on Fonte. At the time the marines captured the Fonte area another quarry existed at Mt. Mangan.

Maj. General Kiyoski Shigematsu, commander of the 48th Independent Mixed Brigade, had his command post in this quarry and was killed there on July 26 by US. Marines.

It is not known if the U.S quarry on the Fonte Plateau destroyed the bowl-shaped depression that held out to the last until captured by the 9th U.S. Marines. Today, east of the main quarry and south of the main transmission line is a small depression on the plateau. The area is excessively overgrown with lush vegetation, prohibiting a close examination. Another depression is identified on USGS map, Sheet "Agana, Guam" immediately north of the "Borrow Pit." Whether or not the depression can be positively identified, the Fonte Unit is a significant part of the national park. A 3d Marine Division battle report for July 27, 1944, when the marines had reached the nose of the plateau, said, "the nose of FONTE RIDGE was brought under our control revealing that FONTE is the center of the main enemy defenses of the island." A marine historian described the Fonte hill mass as the strategic high ground along the entire Final Beachhead Line. It had been organized and defended by a battalion of Japanese. During the fighting, another battalion and a half had been rushed into it. Its importance may be judged by the eleven Japanese counterattacks launched to retain it and the 800 dead left on the battlefield.

In the Fonte Unit today, the prime feature is the Japanese communications center, No. 65. Park staff has determined that the concrete walls and ceiling of this large bunker were installed after the battle for Guam. Other modifications have been made, including electric lights, iron gates at the two entrances, and a plastered, wooden wall in the northeastern corner of the main room. Within the east entrance is a concrete platform that may well have been used by the Japanese as a generator platform.

Besides this feature, the Fonte Unit marks a significant phase of the battle for Guam. As a result of this action, the Japanese were in full retreat and American forces had achieved a commanding position from which to commence the final phase of the battle.

Today, Fonte Plateau provides a magnificent view of the entire Agana area and inland, looking over north-central Guam.

Last updated: January 17, 2022

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