Photos From the Liberation of Guam

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The United States acquired the island of Guam from the Spanish in 1898 during the Spanish American War. It was handed over to the U.S. by the Spanish governor without a shot fired. The reality was that the condition of the colonial Spanish garrison on Guam was so decrepit that they had no ammunition to defend it.

The U.S. maintained a small force on the island for the first four decades of the Twentieth Century until storm clouds began to gather over the Pacific in 1941. In the fall of that year, non military dependents were sent back to the States and the small contingent of about 300 Marines and local Chamorro Insular Guard began to prepare for war.

It came on the same day as the attack on Pearl Harbor. On December 8th, (Guam is on the other side of the international date line) the Japanese began overflights of the island. On December 10th, Japanese planes began strafing and bombing the island. Up to 5,000 Japanese troops waded ashore that night and began a coordinated attack at Sumay and at the capitol, Hagatna. The Marines and the Chamorro militia put up a valiant defense but were quickly overwhelmed.

The U.S. Naval governor was forced to appear on the parade field in Hagatna without trousers to sign the surrender. He, his staff and the surviving Marines were placed on ships to serve out the war as the first and longest held American prisoners of war of the Japanese.

The local Chamorro islanders were to face their own hell. The Japanese treated them as virtual slaves, occupied their homes, used them for forced labor and raped and killed them by the hundreds. The Japanese occupation began with brutality and grew progressively worse until, in the summer of 1944, the Chamorros of Guam were forced into a hasty concentration camp on the east side of the island. It is was pure horror: filth, disease, hunger and death.

On July 21, 1944 – two and a half years after the Japanese invasion – the United States Army and Marines staged a massive assault and invasion of the island. Landings took place at Asan and, farther to the south, at Agat. The Japanese were overwhelmed and defeated in a manner of a few weeks.

These photos were taken in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion and liberation of Guam. The original prints were given to me to scan by the niece of a citizen of Guam who lived on the island during the two and a half year Japanese occupation; December 1941 to July 1944. They have never been published before.

Warning: The photos are graphic.

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There are still many reminders of the Japanese invasion, occupation and defense of Guam to be seen around the island.

Japanese Coastal Defense Gun at Piti Japanese Bunker on the Beach at AgatMarker at site of Obata's death in Yigo, Guam

Today the people of Guam celebrate Liberation Day each July 21 with a giant parade, fiestas across the island and fireworks. Guam boasts the highest per-capita participation in the U.S. Military of any region. In this photo, members of the Guam National Guard take part in the 2005 Guam Liberation Day parade in Hagatna.

Liberation Day Parade, 2005

9 Responses to Photos From the Liberation of Guam

  1. Paul D. Massey says:

    I spent 20Mo. on Guam. US Naval Base. 1955-1956. Enjoyed it. Good old DuvaDiva.

    • esteban escobar says:

      Dear Mr. Massey: Would you happen by any chance happen to have known another Navy man stationed in Guam around that time, by the name of Roy Ryder? Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  2. Bob Corbett says:

    This was my Father’s first landing –he was with the 77th !
    he went on to land on Leyte, and then Okinawa .

  3. Martino says:

    According to an English professor who lives in Barack’s neighborhood, this “liberation” was nothing more than an act of terrorist aggression.

    Paul: Thanks for your service!
    Bob: God bless your Pop.

  4. Tina Wright says:

    My Grandfather was part of the contingent of 254 local Chamorros who formed the Insular Security Guard and assisted in the defense of Guam prior to the occupation of the Japanese Imperial Guard. His name was Joaquin G Lujan, NSC2. Thanks for this website.

  5. Bennette Camacho Sanner says:

    My father was a civilian helping the Navy, giving their coordinates, when he got caught, tortured, lived, lost his 1st wife, 2 sons, baby daughter lived.

    He kept all this horror to himself, until the glint of the sun brought back horrific water torture, he started to talk about it, caught himself and stopped.

    I wish he could have shared, but as an after thought maybe it was better he didn’t.

    God bless my dad, miss him so.

  6. Teresa Taitingfong says:

    my parents were both Chamorro natives and as children were held in the Japanese concentration camps and told us horrific accounts of the time they and their families were tortured and enslaved by the Japanese. Amazing that the Chamorro people are characteristically so warm, loving and welcoming, always then and through to the generations today. They have been through so much and I am so proud to be Guamanian and American. My father went on to serve 28 years in the United States Navy and then in the Civil service. So proud of my parents and the resilient Chamorro people. Glad I came upon this website, not enough is told about the atrocities that were faced by the people of Guam. God Bless the United States.

  7. Joseph I.Concepcion says:

    I am proud Chamorro,both Guaminian/Saipanese,my dad was part of merchant marine during the Japanese era,little was known because we were small when passed away.My grandfather was the interpreter for the U.S. military,when the U.S. took control of Saipan.I have relatives that were killed during the conflict.Now I am proud military veteran.Excellent information posted.Alot of states and individuals have less knowledge of our heritage.

  8. John Adams says:

    trying to find any soldier that was with the 501st Ordnance Army on North end of Guam 1946-1948. Thank you.

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