Peace | Guam's Military Museum | The
Guam's Historic Role in WWII
The Japanese invaded Guam just hours
after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 8, 1941. The Japanese 18th
Naval Air Unit based on Saipan bombed and strafed the island for two days while the island
people fled to the jungles for protection. The attack damaged the Marine Barracks at Orote
Point, the Pan American Airways Clipper Base and Hotel, the Trans Pacific Cable Station,
oil storage tanks, and the harbor village of Sumay.
JAPANESE INVASION OF GUAM
In the early morning of December 10, about 5,000 Japanese soldiers invaded from Agana
Bay and marched on the government headquarters at the Plaza de Espaņa. They met brief
resistance from brave Chamorros of the Guam Militia, who had been ordered there by the
American Naval Captain Governor. He had ordered the Marines to defend the Marine Barracks
at Orote Point. Overpowering the Chamorros at the Plaza, the Japanese forced the Governor
to surrender. Within hours, 427 American military and civilians became prisoners of war,
shippeda month later to a Japanese concentration camp near Kobe, Japan. Guam became a part
of the Japanese plans for world expansion. Guam was occupied for the next 31 months, and
the Chamorros became captives in their own land.
On July 21, 1944, the Americans returned to liberate the island. 50,000 troops stormed
across the reef at Asan and Agat, facing 18,000 entrenched Japanese. In the next 21 days
of battle, approximately 2,000 Americans and 11,000 Japanese lost their lives. Thousands
more were wounded in action. An estimated 700 Chamorros died during the occupation and
While liberation ended WWII for the Chamorros, it still raged worldwide. Guam became
the forward base from which Japan would be invaded. To support the materials and 220,000
troops needed for this invasion, Navy Seabees transformed Guam into what became known as
the Pacific Supermarket, the worlds largest supply base in WWII.
Large areas of the island and Apra Harbor were reconfigured. Engineers have compared
the massive construction to digging the Panama Canal and erecting the Great Pyramids of
Egypt. However, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war and made
the great invasion from Guam unnecessary.
The museum is located in the former village of Sumay. After the war, village residents
were resettled in Santa Rita, a new village created near Agat. The Sumay Village ruins
were then bulldozed and the land incorporated into the new Naval Station, Guam. The Sumay
cemetery and the original cross of the former Sumay church remain. If you get a chance,
ask the manamko, the elders, about pre-war Sumay. Their stories will charm you.