Charles Alan Pownall

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Charles Alan Pownall
Charles A. Pownall.jpg
3rd Military Governor of Guam
In office
May 30, 1946 – September 27, 1949
Preceded by Henry Louis Larsen
Succeeded by Carlton Skinner, First Appointed Governor of Guam
Personal details
Born (1887-10-04)October 4, 1887
Atglen, Chester Country, Pennsylvania, USA
Died July 19, 1975(1975-07-19) (aged 87)
San Diego, California, USA
Resting place El Camino Memorial Park, Sorrento Valley, San Diego, CA
Nationality  United States
Spouse(s) Mary Chenoweth Pownall
Awards Navy Cross
Military service
Nickname(s) Baldy
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch United States Navy Seal United States Navy
Rank US-O8 insignia.svg Rear admiral
Commands USS Reid (DD-21)
USS Vedette (SP-163)
USS John D. Ford (DD-228)
USS Enterprise (CV-6)
USS Yorktown (CV-10)

Charles Alan Pownall (October 4, 1887 – July 19, 1975)[1] was a Rear Admiral in the United States Navy and Governor of Guam (May 30, 1946 – September 27, 1949).[2] He was the third military Governor and first naval Governor of Guam following the United States recapture of the island from the Japanese. After conflict with the Guam Congress in 1948, Pownall replaced many Congressmen with his own appointments, whom the Guamanians refused to recognize. The ensuing protest persuaded President Truman to transfer control of the island away from the Navy. As a consequence, Charles Pownall was the last military governor of Guam.[3]

Military service[edit]

Charles Pownall after the capture of Roi-Namur.

World War I[edit]

During World War I, then-Lieutenant Commander Pownall commanded the patrol vessel USS Vedette (SP-163) on convoy escort and antisubmarine operations in the Atlantic Ocean and European waters and was awarded the Navy Cross; citation as follows:

"For distinguished service in the line of his profession as commanding officer of the USS Vedette, engaged in the important exacting and hazardous duty of transporting and escorting troops and supplies through waters infested with enemy submarines and mines".[4]


During the 1920s, Lieutenant Commander Pownall served as the first commanding officer of the destroyer USS John D. Ford (DD-228). From 21 Dec. 1938 - 21 March 1941 he commanded the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6).

World War II[edit]

During World War II, Pownall commanded the fast aircraft carrier Task Group 50.1 in the Pacific Theater with the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-10) as his flagship. He was in command of Task Force 15 when it raided the Japanese positions on Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands on 18 September 1943 in preparation for the American invasion that would follow in November 1943. After a perceived lack of aggressiveness at Minami Torishima, in the Gilbert Islands, and in the Marshall Islands, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz ordered him replaced by Marc Mitscher.[5]


Pownall became military Governor of Guam on 30 May 1946. He helped organize much of the island's basic government, and also approved the flag of Guam and the seal of Guam.[6]

Congressional walkout[edit]

Pownall sitting on the Guam Island Court in 1947

In 1948, Pownall, along with the United States Secretary of the Navy, gave the Guam Congress the power to create laws, pending the governor's approval. The Secretary of the Navy had the power to override a veto from either the Guam Congress or Governor Pownall.[3] When the Guam Congress attempted to pass a law allowing them to subpoena American citizens, Pownall vetoed it.[3] Despite this, while investigating suspected abuses involving Americans owning businesses through Guamanian frontmen, the Congress subpoenaed Abe Goldstein over his involvement in a local women's clothing store. Citing Pownall's veto, Goldstein refused to testify.[3] The Guam Congress cited Goldstein for contempt and issued a warrant for his arrest, but were stopped by Pownall.[3]

When confronted, Pownall told Guam Speaker of the House Antonio Borja Won Pat to leave the matter to him. When Won Pat passed on the information to the House Assembly, they became angered at Pownall's comments.[3] Stirred by Pownall and with media support, the House resolved to pass a bill requesting citizenship for Guamanians, and decided not to reassemble until the United States Congress had addressed the bill.[7] On March 12, Pownall called a special joint session of Congress, but most Congressional members refused to attend. Pownell dismissed all those Congressmen who chose to break the law by not attending, and appointed replacements.[3]

The dismissals caused outrage among Guamanians and 12 of Guam's 19 villages voted not to recognize the replacements.[8] President Harry Truman ordered an investigation into the incident. Upon review, Truman ordered a transitional government created, and pressured Pownall to restore the former Congressmen to their seats on 2 April 1948.[3] In September 1949, administration of Guam was transferred to the United States Department of the Interior. Under the new government, the Governor of Guam was appointed by the President. Truman appointed Carlton S. Skinner as Guam's first civilian Governor, replacing Pownall. Pownall was the last military governor of Guam.[3]


  1. ^ Adm Charles Alan Pownall (1887-1975): Find-A-Grave Memorial
  2. ^ Cahoon, Ben (2000). "Guam". World Statesmen. Retrieved 1 May 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Babauta, Leo (2 May 2009). "Guam Congress Walkout". Guampedia and University of Guam. Retrieved 2 May 2009. 
  4. ^ The Navy Book of Distinguished Service: An Official Compendium of the Names and Citations of the Men of the United States Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Foreign Governments Who Were Decorated by the Navy Department for Extraordinary Gallantry and Conspicuous Service Above and Beyond the Call of Duty in the World War (editor: Harry R. Stringer, p 117, Fassett Publishing Company: Washington DC, 1921).
  5. ^ Budge, Kent (2008). "Pownall, Charles A.". The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 3 May 2009. 
  6. ^ Reynolds, Leslie; Deniz Smith (2 May 2009). "Guam Seal and Flag". Guampedia and University of Guam. Retrieved 2 May 2009. 
  7. ^ Babauta, Leo (2 May 2009). "Carlos Pangelinan Taitano". Guampedia and University of Guam. Retrieved 2 May 2009. 
  8. ^ Sanchez, Pedro (1988). Guahan Guam: The History of Our Island. Hagåtña, Guam: Sanchez Publishing House. p. 299. 


Military offices
Preceded by
Henry Louis Larsen
Governor of Guam
Succeeded by
Carlton Skinner
First Appointed Governor