The Liberation of Guam

by Hannah Gutierrez


This year, 1994, the Guamanians will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Guam. July 21, 1944 is a significant day in the history of the Guamanians and numerous special events are being planned this year. The liberation of Guam can be argued from opposite sides and the difference between the two sides is evident in Guam's land issue and the celebration of the 50th anniversary. Many Guamanians, especially those alive during the war, see the liberation of Guam as a positive event and are very thankful to the United States for liberating them. However, not all Guamanians see the liberation of Guam as a positive event, namely the post-war generation. They think it is time that the United States government give back what they took. Right now, the United States military possesses excess land on Guam, and it is this issue that is of heated debate today.

The Liberation

The American air raid on February 23, 1944, signaled the return of the Americans on Guam.1 [a number at end of sentence refers to the endnotes] This sign was what the Guamanians had been waiting for. The Japanese Americans, but the Japanese insisted to the Guamanians that the Americans would not come back. The Japanese also told the Guamanians that the Japanese were actually winning the war. July 21, 1944 marks the day the liberation forces landed on Asan and Agat beaches to free Guam from the more than two years of Japanese occupation. Three hundred planes dropped 124 tons of bombs over the 14-mile coastline from Agana to Bangi Point. 2 The island was burning from one end to the other, and the flames were non-stop. The invasion of Guam was the most symbolic step yet taken in the Central Pacific campaign up to this date; it was also the largest land they had yet set out to conquer. 3 Guam's recapture was significant because it would return an important possession to American hands and provide a forward supply base for future operations in the Pacific.4 The Americans also felt a moral obligation because of their earlier hold on Guam and the Guamanian loyalty towards them.

Opposing views

The Guamanians (the elders) who experienced the Japanese occupation were grateful for the liberation of their island by the Americans. During the time of the occupation Guamanians endured many hardships. The Japanese came in and completely rearranged the Guamanians' lives. The Japanese forced the people of Guam to follow Japanese customs. They had to learn the Japanese language, attend their schools, use their currency and learn the custom of bowing. Many times Guamanians were forced by the use of violence. The people punished were those accused of committing crimes such as stealing and aiding the Americans in hiding from the Japanese. Sometimes Guamanians were harassed or beaten for no reason. In one such incident Ana F. Duenas, a survivor of the war, told the story of how her family was almost killed during the war. She said, "One day we encountered some Japanese soldiers. We were scared because we couldn't speak Japanese. As they were about to kill us, a family friend who spoke Japanese convinced the soldiers not to kill us." 5 Here, one can see how fearful the Guamanians were of the Japanese.They had total control over the people's lives and they could do whatever they wanted. During World War II, Guam was occupied as no other American community was occupied. When the Japanese attacked Guam, there were a few hundred U.S. enlisted men and officers. Upon the Japanese occupation of Guam, all but one American man were taken as prisoners. This one remaining man, by the name of George Tweed, served as a symbol to the Guamanians that the Americans were still on Guam. All that the Guamanians cared about was being saved from the harsh treatment of the Japanese so when the Americans came, the Guamanians willingly gave up many of their possessions. The Guamanians viewed the United States as their hero. As Delores Paulino said, "The time when the Marines came --my God-- we were so excited. Some young girls started singing 'God Bless America.' Those people saved our lives! The Japanese had plans to kill us."6 They were so patriotic and loyal to the United States that when they gave up their possessions, they asked no questions, nor were they concerned about any kind of repayment. To this day, Guamanians who experienced the war stand up for the United States. Some believe so much in the United States that they disapprove of Chamorro (Guamanian) rights groups, people who are fighting for Chamorro rights. Instead, the Guamanian elders say for that the people of Guam should be grateful to the Americans liberating Guam. The post-war generation's view of the liberation is completely different. Many of these Guamanians are thankful for the liberation of Guam, but they believe that the United States government took advantage of Guamanians' vulnerability. Angel Santos, a Chamorro rights activist, said, "Here on Guam, the U.S. controls the lives of the people, dictates the operation of our local government, controls one-third of the land, has jurisdiction over Guam's 200-mile exclusive economic zone and allows the influx of immigrants into Guam to become U.S. citizens, making Chamorros minorities in their land." 7 These are the main reasons the post-war generation feels the way they do about the liberation. This generation was around during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. During the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the United States used Guam to launch many activities. A quarter of a million Vietnamese refugees were processed through Guam. Even in the Persian Gulf War, the island fulfilled logistics and communications needs. Yet, the Guamanians were always there, remaining loyal to the United States. The post-war generation sees how the United States took advantage of the Guamanians, and used Guam because of its strategic location. They are weary of the United States's domination. Another reason they feel the way they do is they were not alive during the war, so they were not there to experience the horrors of war. They do not understand the pain their ancestors went through, but what the post-war generation does understand is the pain the United States has put Guam through.

The Land Issue

The biggest issue today, concerning the United States and Guam has to do with the return of surplus land. Immediately after Guam's liberation, it was transformed into a gigantic staging area for the war effort and thousands of residents were dislocated, moved about and placed on a low priority. 8 Their land was taken for military purposes without any provisions for the people who once lived on it.9 In fact, the Guamanians were discouraged even from raising temporary shelters on land they own because the Navy might need that area later for military installations.10 Public Law 79-224 was enacted in 1945, and, together with Public Law 79-225 and Public Law 79-583 enacted in 1946, they were intended to rehabilitate the island.ll Rehabilitation efforts proceeded slowly, but several circumstances blocked the path of Guamanians. First, the war was just over and at that time, a person's concern is not reparation. A person's concern is food, clothing, and medical assistance. Second, when people have been in a concentration camp and the Americans liberate them, in the Guamanians' culture, one does not go asking for reparation from his liberators. Third, there was inadequate outreach information to educate and to encourage the people that it was all right to file a claim. In fact, many Guamanians were unaware that one could file a claim. Lastly, many Guamanians really did not speak English. Besides this, Guamanians were not eligible by some of the legislation because they were American nationals, and the reparations only applied to American citizens. Then the people of Guam became American citizens, and another legislation said it did not apply to them because they were not nationals. Guamanians were constantly left hanging in limbo. In 1977 the United States Government declared 3,200 acres of federal land excess. However, it was not until 17 years later, 1994, that this land was transferred to the government of Guam. This transfer has been repeatedly stalled by infighting among other federal agencies who wanted it and congressional demands that Guam pay for it. Finally,the military on Guam is being downsized, and the Guamanians are working to get more federal surplus land back into Guam's hands so that the Guamanians can work towards developing their island. Right now, the government of Guam owns one-third of the land of Guam. Yet the majority of this land is mountainous, rugged area. What the Federal Government owns is most of the prime property on the island --the view property, the beach property, the most beautiful property.12 Much of this property can be developed for housing, schools, recreational uses, and government facilities for Guam. Besides the fact that the federal government owns excess land, it also blocks access to two specific beachfront properties owned by two Guamanian families. The Arteros and the Castros have encountered many obstacles in the past when trying to access their land for themselves as wells as others. Only now has the federal government agreed to give the government of Guam federal land to build a public access road to the properties. The irony of the Artero story is that the family, at great risk to themselves, hid an American soldier, George Tweed, for 21 months. They hid him on their property, which today, is mostly off-limits to the Arteros. This is the kind of issue which makes many Guamanians of the post-war generation angry.

The 50th Anniversary of the Liberation

Planning for the 50th Liberation Day has been underway for months. Twenty-six committees are working to bring 1,300 veterans and their families to Guam, whose days will be filled with ceremonies on both sea and land. On July 21, Guamanian elders from village community centers will be bussed to the veterans' ceremony for an unofficial reunion. A parade, air show, fireworks, and a fiesta for 5,000 people are also planned for that day. On July 22, a quiet ceremony will be held for 100 returning Japanese. The annual liberation carnival will be larger and operate for a longer period of time. There are also a number of other events: a poster contest, an essay contest, library displays, veteran and manamko (Guamanian elders) talks, mobil displays, a Naval Station historic trail, and Naval Magazine tours. The Naval Station historic trail will be open to the public. Families will be able to drive through the base and visit a number of historic sites, a memorial park, a historical museum, and a visitors center. The Navy is also compiling a list of veterans and Guamanians who survived the war and are willing to share their experiences. Also, the month of February has been dedicated to commemoration and education for a community affected by the war. Public and school libraries are setting up displays that will encourage the reading of materials about the war. Many of the Guamanian elders will be involved in these events, as they are always involved in liberation events. This year's liberation celebration is especially being tailored to include, if not emphasize Guamanian elders as well as veterans.


Although the Guamanians are putting much energy into celebrating the 50th Anniversary, there is still tension because of the opposing views about the effects of the liberation of Guam. However, most Guamanians are willing to put aside their differences and celebrate the fact that they are not living in a state of war. The two views, no doubt, result from the experience of each group, and both have very convincing arguments. The task for Guam's youth today is to find a way to incorporate both views so that Guam can grow and develop to fulfill its potential.


l. Paul Carano and Pedro C. Sanchez, A Complete History of Guam. (vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc., 1964) 294.

2. Barbara Ray, "The Invasion Begins," Pacific Daily News, February 10, 1994, 7.

3. Edwin P. Hoyt, To the Marianas. (New York: Litton Educational Publishing, Inc., 1980) 237-238.

4. Major O.R. Lodge, The Recapture of Guam. (United States: U.S.Government Printing Office, 1953) 2.

5. Ana F. Duenas, Personal Interview, March 14 1994.

6. Ray, 7.

7. Dana Williams, "What They've Said About Military and Civilian Relations," Pacific Daily News, March 7 1994, 10.

8. United States Congress, To Establish a Commission on War Reparations for Guam, H.R. 3191, 100th Congress, 1st session. (Washington: GPO, 1988) 21.

9. Ibid, 21.

10. Ibid, 21.

11. Ibid, 8.

12. Ibid, 134.


Guam Visitors Bureau. Hafa Adai, A Visit to the Villages. (Guam: The Palms Press, 1988)

Pacific Daily News, 30 January 1994, 10.

Crisostomo, Manny. Legacy of Guam. (Guam: Legacy Publications, 1991)


Brooks, Donovan. "Historic Trail, Displays Mark Golden Salute." Pacific DailY News 30 January 1994.

Carano, Paul and Pedro C. Sanchez. A Complete HistorY of Guam. Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1964.

Crisostomo, Manny. Leqacy of Guam. Guam: Legacy Publications, 1 9 9 1 .

Duenas, Ana F. Personal Interview. 14 March 1994.

Guam. Chamber of Commerce. America's Economic Challenqe in Asia: Guam's Strateqic Business Role. Guam: 1985.

Guam Visitors Bureau. Hafa Adai, A Visit to the Villaqes. Guam: The Palms Press, 1988.

Hoyt, Edwin P. To the Marianas. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1980.

Lodge, Major O.R. The RecaPture of Guam. Ed. Frank O. Hough. Operational History of the Marine Corps in World War II 12. United States: U.S. Government printing office, 1953.

Judson, David. "Senate Hears Favorable Testimony on Land Return." Pacific Daily News 5 February 1994.

Ray, Barbara. "Big Plans for 50th." Pacific Daily News 10 February 1994.

---. "The Invasion Begins." Pacific Daily News 10 February 1994.

Rinquist, Pam. "Guam, Feds Agree to Access to Ritidian Lands." Pacific Daily News 16 March 1994.

---. "Through the Eyes of a 6-year-old." Pacific Daily News 10 March 1994.

United States. Congress. Challenqe in Asia: Guam's Strateqic Business Role. 99th Congress, 1st session. Washington: GPO, 1985.

Congress. To Establish a Commission on War Reparations for Guam. 100th Congress, 1st session. Washington: GPO, 1988.

Williams, Dana. "What They've Said About Military and Civilian Relations." Pacific DailY News 7 March 1994.

This paper was written by Hannah Gutierrez May 6, 1994, on the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Guam, for American Civilization 18 taught by Dr. Steven Schoenherr