Photos From the Liberation of Guam


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.


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

25 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.

  9. Larry J. Lorence says:

    Dear Sirs:

    I’m working on a video of my father’s WW2 experience, he was a Marine Raider 6th Division. He saw battle on Guam during the July 21 – August 10th 1944 campaign. May I use the photos you posted on your web page? I would be happy to give you credits for the use of the photos. Regards, Larry J. Lorence

  10. William Leach says:

    My dad was a machine gunner 1st Battlion 9th regiment 3rd Marine Division.

  11. Ray Davies says:

    Grandpa went to the Phillipines,after he re-upped after Cuba. One of the things he brought back was a painted rice basket. Over the years the frame fell apart but the rest of it is framed on my office wall. I found out a couple years ago that he was one of “The Rough Riders”. Teddy wasted men who could ride and shoot, so he recruited cowboys out of the Indian Territories.

  12. David Dailey says:

    Could somebody please tell me the circumstances surrounding the Japanese soldiers who remained on Guam rather than surrendering and lived lives in caves and near Guam rivers for many years after the end of WWII. Are there any books on this subject? David Dailey 11/19/2014

  13. Ran M says:

    Hello! My Dad was assigned to two troop ships during 1942-43 as Gunners Mate attached to US Navy Armed Guard. He took courses and changed rating to Aviation Machinist Mate and was assigned to a Composite Squadron 43 at Agana,Guam after island was retaken. He told me He stood guard sometimes with a .30 caliber rifle at night. The Japanese had snipers taking potshots,sometimes they were taken.

  14. Paul Martin says:

    Lived on Guam 1970-73 at Anderson AFB as a an Air Force dependent, went to schools off base, didn’t understand the harassment from Guamanian kids towards “haoles” and filipinos. I recently saw a history on the land “grabs” by the military needs for bases, etc and cheaper labor brought in from the Phillipines. After 40 plus years I can finally understand the resentment. I had some wonderful friends of all races there, God bless the people of Guam, the Chamorros went thru hell

    • Daniel Franquez says:

      Håfa Adai Paul Martin, we attended school(I’m assuming JFK?) during the same time frame, I am a 72 grad, my sister is a 73. Yes, there was that resentment towards some, but not all were treated like that. I too, had wonderful friends that were military dependants, as well as filipinos, ironically, there were some locals that I cared little to hang out with because of their character, and of those issues. We(Guam), did loose quite a bit of land taking through condemnation after the war, that did hamper how some people felt, especially when they were told that their lands will be returned, that has not happened up to this day, and I’m sorry that those sentiments of some still carry. We just don’t to be the spoils of war, we want the full values of our limited U.S. citizenship. We may have lost our lands, but it will never replace the loss of freedom that was experienced by my parents, grand parents, and all who lived during those years. Today, (July 21st), we celebrate the 72nd Liberation Day of Guam and all those memories are once again remembered, and celebrated. Biba Guam! Biba Chamorro! Biba to all who serve, served, and mostly those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Biba United States of America!

  15. Rick Elushik says:

    I had an Uncle, that I never met, that was in the 21st Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division on Guam (Russell Elushik, a BAR operator) that was killed in a night time Bonsai attack on his position. His service inspired me to join the U.S Army Signal Corp.(1972-1975) during the final years of Viet Nam (came out as a SP5). A decision I will never regret.

    • Bob says:

      My Wife’s uncle PFC Joseph Basso was with your uncle. Both were captured during the night attack. Taken behind enemy lines to caves. They overpowered the guard and escaped. Your uncle was severely wounded afterwards. Joe made it back to their lines to get help. They wouldn’t let anyone else go back for Russell. Joe went back alone, found him and brought him back to their lines. He later died from his wounds. Joe was up for the MOH. Instead, was awarded the Navy Cross. Look up Joseph Guy Basso under Navy Cross and it tells what had happened that night.
      Feel free to contact me if you wish. Uncle Joe died seven yrs ago.

  16. wayne says:

    I only know that my father was a Marine sergeant in Guam in 1944 and for sometime after retaking it. He did not talk about it much.

    I want to know more about his experience.

    I have found out he was in 3rd Div. He told a story once about Japanese snipers and hold outs raiding their camp at night.

    How can I find out more about his unit, where they were on the island etc?

    • Dave Gammon says:

      Hello Wayne.
      Look on Wikipedia “Battle of Guam”, also at page bottom are external links; the historical monograph “Recapture of Guam” by Maj OR Lodge is really interesting & helpful.

      My uncle was Marine Major Laurence Gammon. Been doing research on him for several years now. His unit was 3RD Div – 3RD Infantry Regiment- Weapons Co. He was the CO.

      A terrific book is “The Long, The Short and The Tall” by Alvin M. Josephy, Jr. He covers the invasion/recapture. The chapter “Another Little Island” describes the action. My uncle was mentioned 3-4 times. This happened b/c the author was an embedded correspondent doing an audio recording and at the last minute asked to be transferred into my uncle’s landing craft (an LCVP, I believe) so a first-wave, live, first-hand-account could be recorded.
      Based on the transcripts of the recording, a book was written. So I have the book AND the actual invasion audio, which I purchased from the Library of Congress.
      Sadly, Maj. Gammon was killed months later, on St. Patrick’s Day, 1945 when a plane hit his vehicle.

  17. wayne says:

    I only know that my father was a Marine sergeant in Guam in 1944 and for sometime after retaking it. He did not talk about it much.

    I have found out he was in 3rd Div. He told a story once about Japanese snipers and hold outs raiding their camp at night.

    How can I find out more about his unit, where they were on the island etc?

  18. Tony P. Rabon says:

    My father, Francisco R. Rabon served in the Guam Combat Patrol a group of volunteer Chamoru resistance fighters who fought bravely to defend their families and island from foreign occupation pending Guam’s repatriation by its steward the United States of America. Considering then that the indigenous natives of Guam were American Nationals, (1898 Annexation of Guam by the United States from Spain), their loyalty and patriotism were unwavering. To this day, the island community continues to perpetuate the stories of the extreme inhumanities and suffering of their forebearers. To this day, the loyalty, patriotism, and service to “our” nation is treated with nonchalance and disrespect by our keepers. To this day, the people of Guam are hoping a settlement to war reparations from the United States (The US forgave Japan for war atrocities and war-crimes committed during the Japanese Occupation of Guam Dec 1941 – July 1944 to native inhabitants ) is finally attained. To this day, Guam continues to serve as a colony of the United States with the US citizenship granted by the Organic Act of Guam in peril of being rescinded by a SCOTUS ruling or a congressional act. American Samoa and other Insular possessions are also imperiled.
    To some, Guam serves as the “tip of the spear” in the defense of “our” nation. To some, Guam is an unincorporated territory of the United States. WE have No Say in Presidential elections, No Say in representation in the Senate of the United States, and We have No Say or vote on the floor of the US House of Representatives because Guam has a Non-Voting Delegate to Congress (a token title).
    Guam’s posterity demonstrated its unquestionable loyalty during WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, etc. some giving the ultimate more than any comparable community in the Contiguous United States.
    Fighting oppression should begin at home. Human rights of your citizens must come first before preaching to other nations about theirs.
    In the spirit and memories of those who died so we may live, may this message resonate Throughout “our” nation, may those who are in the position to right historical wrongs be compelled to make them right, and may the divine and supreme continue to bless our nation.
    God Bless you, and God Bless America!

  19. Rhoda Sage Marr says:

    My father saw action on Guam (I’m guessing, ppwk says Asiatic Pacific Area) on 27 July, 1944. Robert S Mackey (Robert L. Sage), in which he received a Purple Heart. Was interested in anyone who remembers stories told by your relatives that may have known my daddy. Not sure which unit he was in. Trying to narrow down, thanks to this site I’m wondering if he was in the 3rd Marine Div. Thanks and God bless.

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