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On Walkabout At: The War in the Pacific National Historical Park Visitor Center

Basic Information

  • What: War in the Pacific National Historical Park Visitor Center
  • Where: Asan, Guam
  • Cost: Free
  • Hours: 9AM-4PM Daily
  • More Information: National Park Service

Picture from War In the Pacific National Historic Park

Narrative

Out of the many battles fought in the Pacific during World War II for some reason the Battle of Guam is not remembered by most Americans.  It should be remembered though considering it was the only battle in all of World War II where the liberation of an island full of Americans was at stake.  That is one of the lessons I learned at the War in the Pacific National Historical Park T. Stell Newman Visitor Center located in Asan, Guam:


The Visitor Center is very easy to spot since it is located just before the entrance to Naval Base Guam.  Just look for the flag poles and the Japanese midget submarine that can be seen just off of the road:

Picture from War In the Pacific National Historic Park

This little two man submarine was interesting to checkout.  It ran aground on Togcha Beach on Guam back in August 1944.  The Battle of Guam had ended just a week before it ran aground. Japan had built more than 2,000 of these midget submarines between 1934-1945:

Picture from War In the Pacific National Historic Park

As I walked towards the entrance of the visitor center I made sure to note their hours of operations which is daily from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM:

Picture from War In the Pacific National Historic Park

Also on the front of the visitor center was this National Park Service marker which explains the different sections of the park that can be explored by visitors:

Picture from War In the Pacific National Historic Park

Once I got inside of the visitor center I was quite impressed by how nice and informative everything was:

Picture from War In the Pacific National Historic Park

The visitor center’s displays begin by explaining the early history of Guam and its Spanish colonial legacy which began with Ferdinand Magellan landing on the island all the way back in 1521:

Picture from War In the Pacific National Historic Park

As a result of the US defeat of Spain during the Spanish-American War in 1898 the United States would take control of Guam.  During this time Guam was a sleepy American backwater until December 10, 1944 when just hours after bombing Pearl Harbor the Japanese invaded Guam from the island of Saipan:

Picture from War In the Pacific National Historic Park

At the Plaza de Espana in Hagatna the final battle and ultimate surrender of Guam by the Governor, US Navy Captain George J. McMillin happened.  This display provided a timeline of events during the invasion of Guam by the Japanese who easily defeated all resistance due to outnumbering the US and their Chamorro allies 10-1:

Picture from War In the Pacific National Historic Park

The surrender would lead to a brutal two and half year occupation of Guam by the Japanese who kept Chamorros in concentration camps and beheaded those of misbehaved.  The US military would rebound after its initial defeat by the Japanese and would return to Guam with a vengeance.  US Marines backed by soldiers from the US Army’s 77th Infantry Division fought the battle to free Guam between July 21 – August 10, 1944.  A nice electronic display at the visitor center shows how the US Marines landed at both Asan and Agat Beach in order to cut off the Orote Peninsula which was the site of the former US Marine barracks that the Japanese now occupied:

Picture from War In the Pacific National Historic Park

With the successful beach landings the Marines held the beachhead from Japanese counterattacks while the US Army’s 77th Division moved inland to take a Japanese command and control headquarters on Mt. Tenjo overlooking the beaches.  With Mt. Tenjo in the hands of the US Army the Marines moved on the Orote peninsula and slaughtered thousands of Japanese who drank all the alcohol they could find and launched one final drunken banzai charge against the Marines.  They stood no chance sober much less drunk.  With the peninsula and its military base and corresponding airfield in American hands the battle turned towards rooting out the Japanese from the rest of the island.  It took nearly a month, but the US Marines and the US Army systematically cleared the island of Japanese forces and freed Chamorros from concentration camps.

On August 10, 1944 they declared Guam free of the Japanese.  However, small bands of Japanese soldiers over the years would not give up and would hide out in the jungles of Guam.  It wasn’t until 1972 when Shoichi Yokoi became the last Japanese soldier to be found and captured by local Guamanians in the jungle.

Conclusion

Visiting the World War II sites should be part of any tour to Guam and the best place to get oriented to the park is at the T. Stell Newman Visitor Center.  The Park Rangers are helpful and the displays are informative.  There is also plenty of books for sale as well for those who want to learn more about the World War II history of Guam.  After stopping by this visitor center I was well prepared to visit the various World War II sites that can be found on Guam.

 

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