Battle of Guam (1944)

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Second Battle of Guam
Part of World War II, Pacific War
First flag on Guam
Two U.S. servicemen plant the American flag on Guam eight minutes after U.S. Marines and Army assault troops landed
Date 21 July-10 August 1944
Location Guam, Mariana Islands
Result American Victory
Belligerents
 United States  Empire of Japan
Commanders and leaders
United States Roy Geiger Empire of Japan Takeshi Takashina 
Empire of Japan Hideyoshi Obata 
Strength
36,000 22,000
Casualties and losses
1,747 killed,
6,053 wounded
18,040+ killed,
485 POWs

The Second Battle of Guam (21 July-10 August 1944) was the American capture of the Japanese held island of Guam, a United States territory (in the Mariana Islands) during the Pacific campaign of World War II.

Background[edit]

Guam is the largest of the Marianas, 30 miles (48 km) long and 9 miles (14 km) wide. It had been a United States possession since its capture from Spain in 1898 until it was captured by the Japanese on 10 December 1941, following the Attack on Pearl Harbor. It was not as heavily fortified as the other Mariana Islands such as Saipan that had been Japanese possessions since the end of World War I, but by 1944 it had a large Japanese garrison.

The Allied plan for the invasion of the Marianas called for heavy preliminary bombardment, first by carrier aircraft and planes based in the Marshall Islands to the east, then once air superiority was gained, close bombardment by battleships. Guam was chosen as a target because its large size made it suitable as a base for supporting the next stage of operations toward the Philippines, Taiwan and the Ryukyu Islands; the deep-water harbor at Apra was suitable for the largest ships; and the two airfields would be suitable for Boeing B-29 Superfortresses.

The invasion of Saipan was scheduled for 15 June 1944, with landings on Guam tentatively set for 18 June. The original timetable was optimistic, however. A large Japanese carrier attack and stubborn resistance by the unexpectedly large garrison on Saipan led to the invasion of Guam being postponed for a month.

Battle[edit]

Bombardment of Guam on 14 July 1944 before the battle, as seen from New Mexico.
Map showing the progress of the Guam campaign.

Guam, ringed by reefs, cliffs, and heavy surf, presents a formidable challenge for an attacker. But despite the obstacles, on 21 July, the Americans landed on both sides of the Orote peninsula on the western side of Guam, planning to cut off the airfield. The 3rd Marine Division landed near Agana to the north of Orote at 08:28, and the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade landed near Agat to the south. Japanese artillery sank 20 LVTs, and inflicted heavy casualties on the Americans, especially on the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, but by 09:00 men and tanks were ashore at both beaches. The 77th Infantry Division had a more difficult landing. Lacking amphibious vehicles, they had to wade ashore from the edge of the reef where they were dropped by their landing craft. The men stationed in the two beachheads were pinned down by vicious Japanese fire, making initial progress inland quite slow.

US Marines move inland.

By nightfall, the Americans had established beachheads about 6,600 feet (2,000 m) deep.[1] Japanese counterattacks were made throughout the first few days of the battle, mostly at night, using infiltration tactics. Several times, they penetrated the American defenses and were driven back with heavy loss of men and equipment. Lieutenant General Takeshi Takashina was killed on 28 July, and Lieutenant General Hideyoshi Obata took over the command of the defenders.

Supply was very difficult[2] for the Americans in the first days of the battle. Landing ships could not come closer than the reef, several hundred yards from the beach, and amphibious vehicles were scarce. However, the two beachheads were joined up on 25 July, and the Orote airfield and Apra harbor were captured by 30 July.

The counterattacks against the American beachheads, as well as the fierce fighting, had exhausted the Japanese. At the start of August, they were running out of food and ammunition and had only a handful of tanks left. Obata withdrew his troops from the south of Guam, planning to make a stand in the mountainous central and northern part of the island. But with resupply and reinforcement impossible because of American control of the sea and air around Guam, he could hope to do no more than delay the inevitable defeat for a few days.

Rain and thick jungle made conditions difficult for the Americans, but after an engagement at Mount Barrigada from 2-4 August, the Japanese line collapsed; the rest of the battle was a pursuit to the north. As in other battles of the Pacific War, the Japanese refused to surrender, and almost all were killed. On 10 August, after three weeks of combat, organized Japanese resistance ended, and Guam was declared secure. The next day, Obata committed ritual suicide.

Three Marine amphibian tractor battalion officers that played an important role in the invasion of Guam. From left to right, Maj. Erwin F. Wann, Maj. W.W. Butler and Lt. Col. Sylvester Stephens.

Aftermath[edit]

US Marines show their appreciation to the Coast Guard.

A few Japanese soldiers held out in the jungle. On 8 December 1945, three U.S. Marines were ambushed and killed. On January 24, 1972, Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi was discovered by hunters. He had lived alone in a cave for 27 years.

After the battle, Guam was turned into a base for Allied operations. Five large airfields were built by the Seabees, and B-29 bombers flew from the island to attack targets in the Western Pacific and on mainland Japan.

Four U.S. Marines were awarded the Medal of Honor for their heroic actions during the Battle of Guam: PFC Luther Skaggs Jr., PFC Frank Witek (posthumously), PFC Leonard F. Mason (posthumously) and Captain (later General) Louis H. Wilson, Jr..

Liberation Day continues to be celebrated on Guam every 21 July.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gailey (1988), pp.90-112.
  2. ^ Video: Allies Study Post-War Security Etc. (1944). Universal Newsreel. 1944. Retrieved February 21, 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]