For someone who loves military history and hiking, Guam is a paradise found. My second full day on the island highlighted those famous draws of Guam. I began with a bucket list item: I went scuba diving for the first time. We then went on a tour of the military history and World War II battlefields. It was an another awesome day spent again with Karen Quitlong, Law Clerk to Chief Judge Frances Marie Tydingco-Gatewood, and Senator and attorney Therese Terlaje.
We began the day with a dive off Gab Gab on the Naval Base in Guam. We were met by Rodney J. Jacob of Calvo Fisher & Jacob LLP who is an experienced diver and someone who shares my love for military history. Jacob is typical of people in Guam who cannot do enough for visitors to show them Guam. We were also met by Michelle Gay of Two Tanked Divers. Michele certifies divers and is not just a wonderful instructor but someone who knows everything there is to know about diving. I have never dived and it was an overwhelming experience. At first, it was a bit unnerving but Michele took me through a series of lessons on the use of the equipment and dealing with a variety of mishaps. She then accompanied me as we dove on the beautiful coral off Gab Gab. We saw schools of different fish among the radiant coral. It was an extraordinary experience diving with Karen Rod, and Michele.
After another great lunch supplied by Karen, we set off for a tour of the military museum and battlefields by David Lots. Dave is an institution on the island. He wrote the only in depth book on hiking trails on the island and has served as a historian for the National Park Service. He has written a variety of books on the military sites and history of Guam. It was an honor just to meet him and an incredible opportunity to be actually shown the island by Dave.
While not as famous as other battles in the area like Okinawa, Saipan, and Iwo Jima, the battles for Guam and Japanese occupation of the Island were horrific in their cost to our military and the local Chamorro people. The Japanese enslaved the Chamorro and carried out their common execution and massacres on the island. All of the well-known atrocities of the Japanese were committed on the Chamorros from forced prostitution to mass killings. A powerful memorial shows the losses from the Japanese attack and occupation. A small American force resisted the landing but, as shown by the memorial, the retaking of the island cost thousands of lives. The small number of names in the upper left hand corner were lost when the island was taken by the Japanese shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. They rest are the names of Americans killed in retaking the island.
The Second Battle of Guam occurred from July 21 to August 1944. The Japanese knew the beaches that would be used due to their accessible beaches and shallow approaches. That meant that Army and Marine forces had to wade to shore while being racked by Japanese gunners. Once beachheads were established, the Japanese fought for every foot of land with elaborate tunnels and trenches. Three thousand Americans were killed and 7,122 were wounded. The Japanese lost 18, 337 with only 1,250 taken prisoner.
Dave took us through the war museum and then we went and visited the landing areas. The museum includes a well preserved two-man Japanese submarine. Despite some 200o built, the minisubs produced only one sunken ship. The bunkers, gun emplacements (both on the beach and the jungle), and pill boxes are still visible. We then went on a hike into the interior through the saw grass to see the tunnels and trenches where some of the heaviest fighting unfolded. The Japanese fought to the death, including banzai charges that broke through our lines and was only repulsed at huge costs. (In looking for tunnels, I did surprise a nest of Guam hornets and received some memorable stings on the battlefield). Walking through this rough terrain, you get a chilling idea of how terrible the fighting must have been as defenders suddenly appeared both in front and behind your lines.
Here are some of the pictures from today: