Invasion of Guam
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Guam, the lone American base in the otherwise Japanese-controlled Marianas, was part of Japan's "Outline Plan for the Execution of the Empire's National Policy". The plan's intension was to expand the outer perimeter so wide that Japan would not be threatened by aerial attacks against the home islands, meanwhile include sources of raw materials to feed her growing Imperialistic goals. This perimeter extends from the Kuril Islands down to Wake, Guam, the East Indies, Borneo, Malaya, and around to Burma. In Washington, Franklin Roosevelt recognized the Japanese threat to Guam, and knew that the people of Guam were fiercely loyal to the United States. He attempted to arm the people of Guam against a potential invasion, but legislators led by Joseph Martin of Massachusetts argued against the notion, alarmed that it would provoke war with Japan. Roosevelt's notion died in a vote in Congress after a 205-168 vote favoring to maintain the status quo.
On 4 Dec, the military governor of Guam US Navy Captain George J. McMillin was ordered to destroy all classified materials except those essential for current options based on the suspicion that the Japanese military was being mobilized for war. The order was carried out on 6 Dec. All but one of the civilian dependents of the American personnel at Guam were evacuated more than a month prior, starting on 17 Oct 1941.
At 0545 on 8 Dec, McMillin received the report from the Asiatic Fleet that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. McMillin ordered public places such as churches and banks closed and all navigation lights turned off in preparation of the Japanese attack. The first Japanese attack on Guam began at 0827 when nine Japanese aircraft from Saipan dropped bombs that destroyed fuel tanks at American Marine Barracks; the Pan Air Hotel was hit by stray bombs, killing two kitchen workers. The aircraft went on to strafe Piti Navy Yard, causing heavy material damage, and then pursued USS Penguin off Orote Point; USS Penguin was eventually scuttled after suffering damage. Japanese aircraft continued to attack throughout the day until 1700, attacking the radio station at Libugon, residential districts at Agaña, and various military installations including the docked ship USS Robert L. Barnes and the naval hospital. McMillin issued the order to arrest all Japanese nationals to prevent espionage. Three out of eight infiltrators sent by the Japanese were caught and jailed during the day. The three arrested were from Saipan, sent in advance to act as interpreters when the Japanese invasion force arrived. During interrogation, the three men shared that the Japanese invasion was to take place in the following morning, but as things turned out, the invasion would not take place until 10 Dec.
On 9 Dec, the bombing resumed at 0830. Heavy bombing drove residents out of cities, and by the end of the day Agaña and Sumay were nearly empty of civilians. Throughout the bombing which damaged many buildings in Agaña, the jailed Japanese civilians begged to be freed, but the Americans refused. They were protected by the thick concrete of the jail house, and would survive the bombing.
At 0100 on 10 Dec 1941, McMillin deployed his defense against the impending Japanese invasion. The American force at Guam was small: 274 sailors and 153 Marines supported by about 80 Insular Force Guard Chamorro militiamen. Most of them were deployed to Orote as the 153rd Marine Contingent, while a handful remained at Agaña. Not all defenders were armed, and only about 12 automatic weapons were available. At 0400, Rear Admiral Aritomo Goto landed the invaders at Apurguan in the Agaña Bay, consisted of 5,000 men of Major General Tomitara Hori's South Seas Detachment and 400 men from the Special Naval Landing Force of the 5th Defense Force from Saipan. On the way to Agaña, the invasion force encountered no resistance during landing. The first shot were exchanged at about 0445 in the San Antonio district of Agaña. The few civilians encountered by the Japanese were killed. At 0545, after the Japanese sounded the horn of an automobile three times amidst fighting at the Plaza de España, firing stopped as men on both sides curiously tried to figure out the meaning of them. A Japanese officer shouted "send over your captain", asking McMillin to surrender. The negotiation party consisted of Chief Boatswain's Mate Robert Bruce Lane and Commander Donald T. Giles marched through the San Antonio district to make contact with the Japanese. Half hour later, they returned to Plaza de España with the Japanese commander, Commander Hayashi. At about 0550, McMillin was detained by the Japanese. Shortly after, the commanding officers on either side met at the Government House. Because none of the Japanese spoke English, jailed Japanese civilian named Shinahara was freed to act as the interpreter. The instrument of surrender was signed at about 0600. The text of the surrender document is as follows:
10 December 1941
From: Governor of Guam
To: Senior Officer Present, Commanding Imperial Japanese Forces in Guam
1. I, Captain George J. McMillin, United States Navy, Governor of Guam and Commandant, United States Naval Station, Guam, by authority of my commission from the President of the United States, do, as a result of superior military forces landed in Guam this date, as an act of war, surrender this post to you as the representative of the Imperial Japanese Government.
2. The responsibility of the civil government of Guam becomes yours as of the time of signing this document.
3. I have been assured by you that the civil rights of the population of Guam will be respected and that the military forces surrendered to you will be accorded all the rights stipulated by International Law and the laws of humanity.
(Signed) G. J. McMillin
Some historians later noted that the initial resistance by McMillin was hopeless, but was conducted for a short time before surrendering so that it could not be said that his men did not attempt to hold their ground. As Guam fell, it became the first American possession to be occupied by the Japanese during the Pacific War.
Some of the prisoners captured by the Japanese were sent to Kobe, Japan, while others, including McMillin, were imprisoned in Manchuria, China. After the war, in the report McMillin submitted to the Secretary of the United States Navy on 11 Sep 1945, he noted that the native militia bravely "stood their ground in their short action in the Plaza, until they were called back. I consider that these fine natives are entitled to recognition for the showing they made on this occasion."
Sources: Goodbye Darkness, the McMillin Report, the Pacific Campaign, United States National Parks Service.
Invasion of Guam Timeline
|17 Oct 1941||The US began evacuating non-essential personnel from Guam, Mariana Islands.|
|8 Dec 1941||In the Mariana Islands, Japanese land-based aircraft from Saipan attacked Guam, damaging various facilities and sinking minesweeper USS Penguin in Apra Harbor (1 killed, 60 wounded).|
|9 Dec 1941||Japanese aircraft bombarded American defensive positions at Guam, Mariana Islands.|
|10 Dec 1941||In the Mariana Islands, 1,400-strong landing party of the Japanese Navy 5th Defense Force from Saipan landed on Dungcas Beach at Guam. At the same time, 5,500 men of the Japanese South Seas Detached Force landed at Tumon Bay, near Merizo, and at Talafofo Bay. US military governor of Guam, Captain McMillin, surrendered the island to the Japanese Navy commanding officer. Two patrol craft, thirteen lighters, one dredge, three barges, and one auxiliary vessel at Guam were turned over to the Japanese.|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945