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Invasion of Guam

8 Dec 1941 - 10 Dec 1941

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:

Government House, Guam
10 December 1941
From: Governor of Guam
To: Senior Officer Present, Commanding Imperial Japanese Forces in Guam

Subject: Surrender.

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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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. ajv says:
    6 Mar 2007 01:33:08 PM

    maybe a little more info?
  2. Bob Johnson says:
    30 Sep 2008 08:22:05 PM

    I am giving my ribbons, uniform, dog tags and a copy of your article to my son for his two young boys. I went into Guam after the island was taken with the 177th Coast Artillery Btn and for the next year went on patrols into the jungle. Thanks for your article - it brought back many memories.
  3. Sharie says:
    29 Jan 2009 09:32:19 PM

    It's not very helpful, you know, you should put more main ideas in this information, not minors. Nobody will read it. By the way, your website's boring.
  4. Jason Coper says:
    29 Jan 2009 09:35:25 PM

    I actually printed out the pictures but it came out all fuzzy. Do you know what's wrong with it? I really need those. But thanks for your article. I really got something. By the way, I live in Canada.
  5. Jankin kenderoff says:
    26 May 2009 06:45:43 PM

    man sharie is out of her mind, this info is great, keep doin ya thing bro
  6. Eugene Pearson says:
    8 Dec 2009 03:38:27 AM

    My uncle was part of the Marine Barracks there.
    MUCCIACCIARO JOHN D 299705 {Wisconsin} {UNITED STATES MARINES} {MARINE CORPS}
  7. Me says:
    8 Jan 2010 07:56:35 PM

    There is a famous picture taken on the beach during the invasion of guam, which is my grandfather holding the American Flag. Still trying to get more information on him. Every bit of information helps, Thank You! Thank you to all the people who gave up so much for so little.
  8. Anonymous says:
    18 Jan 2011 11:26:36 PM

    My mother is from Guam and my dad is from Kansas. I grew up in texas but stories from the period of the Japan occupation of Guam are apart of history and apart of me. I am in my twenties my grandmother was a teenager during this time.....and has stories I hope to one day share. My grandfathers dad lost his.life in a heroic way after being forced into a cave. I have been.to guam many times on liberation day. I am so thankful for the heroic American soldiers for their dedication, love and strength. Hafa adai, and until we meet again.
    -Nichole
  9. Anonymous says:
    23 Jan 2011 04:49:46 PM

    Nice... It was really interesting!!!!
  10. Bev Sherman says:
    26 Jan 2011 10:09:32 AM

    I lived on Guam in the late 80s for two years. It was a truly wonderful experience. The people of Guam are very good people! The island is beautiful. The article is very good but does not mention how mean, cruel, and vicious the Japanese were to the US military and the civilians. They thought nothing of assembling teenage boys in caves and machinegunning them. They gathered teenage girls into a happy house. They made young kids clean the airport runways everyday. The civilians were very strong and worked together during the occupation. They all deserved the Medal of Honor.
  11. Anonymous says:
    2 Mar 2011 03:59:25 PM

    My father was a us navy radioman in the hills on Guam. He was captured by the Japanese. A guamanian found my dad's good condauct medal and it was eventually returned to my mother.I hope to visit
    Guam. It is on my bucket list.
  12. Anonymous says:
    26 May 2011 07:00:03 PM

    My husband home was by the beach where the Japanese bombed and come to shore. He was 6 years old, he remembers his mother carrying his sister and had him by the hand and they ran into the boonies. He surpressed the ordeal, because he witnessed the death of his grandmother on the march to the Japenese camp. We finally went back to Guam in 1970 and saw family that he had not saw since 1948. But he was not able to deal with the past and was depressed, he drank nights, and his boss understood and kept him grounded in order to perform his job. We got transfered to back to the states, and he came out of it because we lived close to my parents and that was the only time he felt happy. But as it came close to retirement and his mother was talking to him to come back home he started his depression again. (his mother was very selfish). He left and I guess seeing his mother again put him back into what he was surpressing. He still to this day surpresses the past, He is old now and he just is waiting to die, he does not want to do anything but sit and watch TV, sleep and & eat. He watchs war movies, he never says anything about the past anymore. (He only done that when he used to drink in the past).
  13. Mike says:
    30 May 2011 05:40:22 PM

    My dad was a pharmacist's mate in the Navy and was with the 3rd Marines on Guam during WW II according to his service record. Unfortunately, he is gone and never spoke much about what his experiences were.
  14. Frank Toves says:
    15 Apr 2012 04:01:22 AM

    A warm Hafa Adai from Guam...googled looking for the date of Invasion of Guam and clicked here. Nice factual data. 71 years later we still celebrate LIBERATION DAY as a holiday with a weeks of carnival, education and ending with a parade. We're proud to be AMERICAN...but still struggle without a vote in Congress and remember with saddness that we were left in a lurch with no defense and no arms because of geo-politics ...& I agree with Bev Sherman...the Chamorros of Guam suffered starvation, forced labor and cruel torture not to mention death by sword and gun...yet, most is forgiven with the million Japanese tourists that visit annualy...my daugther-inlaw is Japanese and I'm partners with a Japanese company who's President and Vice President pray several times a year at a Peace Memorial here. NO MORE WAR! Peace every1!
  15. Castro from Tali says:
    21 May 2012 05:03:45 PM

    @frank toves, what do you think guams political status should be?
  16. Frank Toves says:
    26 May 2012 05:39:38 AM

    @ Castro from Tali:
    Guam is one of the remaining 16 U.N. listed "non-self-governing territories"...I served at one time on a task force (out of 3) that was exploring STATEHOOD. That's my preference...isn't going to happen! I believe the other choices are independance or "defined" status. As a US unincorportated territory...we're defined as the US has no plans for changing our status. We're a possesion pure and simple. There's been a bill in Congress for years that would "define" our status as "Commonwealth"...but due to politics and the not quite politically correct status of our brothers in the CNMI..."commonwealth" is dead in the water. US politics (consider our dysfunctional Congress) will not allow us a vote in Congress. We're "too small" for such a "powerful" vote of 1...(let alone 2 votes in the Senate)Democrats & Republicans can't chance that singular vote! Absolutely "colonialist" attitudes! As long as Congress stingyly doles out the island in Federal $...we'll calmly accept the "status quo" and nothing will change. I believe that one of the problems is an arrogance that it's "unamerican" to allow a "Chamoru Only" vote. BUT - that's the whole issue isn't it? Chamorros are the indigenous people of Guam, deprived of Sovereignty for over 400 years! There's a fear amongst immigrants to Guam of being disenfranchised. Pure mis-information! A Chamoru only vote is to decide the issue of Sovereignty. My opinion is that we would overwhelmingly vote for "a defined commonwealth" that would officially have the Chamoru People GIVE UP SOVEREIGNTY to JOIN THE US IN A DEFINED STATUS as approved by the Chamoru People and Congress. Of course the US wouldn't accept an agreement that would strip any US Citizen of equal rights/vote. My family is a prime example of the "blending" of cultures: I'm Chamoru/American, the wife is Dutch/American and our children have married: Japanese-Filipino-Samoan-Tongan-American and I'm sure there's a ton of Spanish mixed up in there! The current Commonwealth Bill defines the status...but it's not palatable to Congress for several reasons: a. congress won't change the agreement unilaterally...I'm not stating that correctly...but in essense...the language calls for MUTUAL-EQUAL STANDING- CONSULTATION on any changes either side wish to make after the initial agreement. Too often Congress or Federal Agencies make rules & regulations that severely impact our lives our here 7,927 miles away! We're not consulted and when we raise objections, who will consider our objections when we have NO VOTE?!! b. The CNMI and the US agreed to a Commonwealth Status that allowed for CNMI control of immigration...well Congress eventually tired of that and stripped them of that power. Let me pose it this way...if a Saudi immigrates to the US but needs to re-charge/immerse themselves in their cultural identity...they can always fly back to Saudi Arabia where their culture is dominant. On Guam...where will us Chamorus go? Due to unrestricted US Immigration policies...we Chamorus are now a minority on our homeland...btw that's 32miles long by 8miles wide...209 square miles! The Feds control 2/3rds of the land area...not much left for us natives or locals or immigrants?! The
    We are as American as apple pie & coca cola (btw - Pepsi rules here/lol!)...but the issue of sovereignty needs to be solved now...not in another 20 years when Chamorus will only comprise 10% or less of the population. BUT...perhaps that's Congress' intent...wait long enough and the issue will resolve itself when the Chamoru identity has been diluted to irrelevance?!! c. due to the lack of a vote in Congress...the military is arrogant and treats our locally elected leaders like dirt! Don't get me wrong...I'm extremely grateful for the military that stands guard so I can live my civilain life...I share that with military guests of my restaurant and offer them my hospitality and even my cell # should they be stranded somewhere and need help. But I've seen first hand the lack of protocol/respect given to our elected Governor by the admiral and general of the Navy/AF posted here. Consider President Nixon's retort to a miltary officer that crossed him..."send him to Guam!" Last thought: "what Congress giveth, Congress can taketh away"...that's the current status...Organic Act of Guam...US Citizens of Guam may be stripped of citizenship at the whim of Congress at anytime...can Congress do that to a US Citizen of New York?
    with thanks of being a "part" of the greatest Nation on Earth,
    frankt
  17. Anonymous says:
    21 Jun 2012 07:17:05 PM


    We lived on Guam for three years in the early 70's, my Husband was in the US Navy, our Daughter was born while stationed there. Lovely people and a lovely Island. Have always wanted to return, maybe still that might happen.

  18. Omega Recon says:
    18 Aug 2012 08:48:18 AM

    My father was stationed on Guam, after it was reclaimed by allied forces from the Japanese. He was a nurse, and attached to the U.S. Naval Fleet Hosp. #103. I'm doing a family history on my father. I found out that he had citations from General George Patton, and from Adm. Nimitz. I remember very little about my dad telling me stories how the Japanese treated the citizens of Guam. It was nice to come across your site. Keep up the great work.
  19. Anonymous says:
    12 Oct 2012 02:19:53 PM

    Such a good website. I feel for the people of Guam who don't have any say about their status. I will definitely write my Congressman about the issue.
    My dad was stationed at Andersen AFB for 2 1/2 years in the early 1960s. We kids were pretty small but have never forgotten Guam. We were attending Santa Barbara School in Dededo the year typhoon Karen struck.
    Guam made such a lasting impression on us that after 50 years we wrote a novel about it. Suitable for children ages 8 - 13. It was a labor of love. We hope to make it to Guam before we are too old to travel.
    www.createspace.com/4008187 , Guam Adventures - Mystery of the Cave.
  20. Anonymous says:
    10 Dec 2012 12:21:11 AM

    This wasn't that much information. It wasn't very helpful. It had a lot of useless information.
  21. Viuncent DiPentima says:
    8 Jan 2013 09:37:13 AM

    I participated in the recapture of Guam as a member of thE FIRST PROVISIONAL MARINE BRIGADE on July21st 1944 hit the beach near he town of Agat, just south of Orote Pennsuls. On Juyy 21 1984 revisted for the fortieth anniversity of our landing and I cannot say enough about the hospitality given us by the citizens of Guam they had tents in a large area set up with food, drinks, and aLL sorts of goodies in appreciation of returning freedom to their Island. as we prepared to return home
  22. Anonymous says:
    27 Feb 2013 11:28:50 AM

    Great info
  23. Anonymous says:
    4 Mar 2013 04:02:33 PM

    I LIVED ON GUAM FOR A YEAR AND THE JAPS WERE TERRIBLE TO THE PEOPLE AND OUR SOLDIERS DURING THE WAR
  24. Ralph Stoney Bates Sr says:
    2 Jul 2014 12:56:40 PM

    Am writing about Adolfo Camacho Sgambelluri of World War II fame. Giant deeds performed by a great man. Protected the people of Guam as best as he could during the brutal Japanese rule as occupiers. Later, provided valuable information to US authorities for trials of Japanese war criminals. He is the father of my friend A.P Sgambelluri, retired Marine. Stay tuned and enjoy my other two books at www.shortrations.com

    Major Ralph Stoney Bates Sr. USMC (Ret)
    www.shortrations.com

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