WAR IN THE PACIFIC NATIONAL HISTORIC PARK, Guam --
Marines with Marine Strike Fighter Attack Squadron 115 took a tour at the War in the Pacific National Historical Park here Saturday.
The purpose of the tour was to reintroduce Marines to their roots, build camaraderie and unit cohesion.
“The Park was created by Congress in 1978 to commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of everyone who participated in Pacific theater of World War II and to preserve and protect the natural, cultural and historical resources of Guam for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations,” said Ben Hayes, a Park ranger with the National Park Service and tour guide for the event.
Hayes provided photographs and recordings from the battles, which gave Marines a different look at history and took them back in time.
“It’s really cool the park ranger supplied photos, which gave us a unique perspective to see what that Marine was looking at back when the event was happening,” said Capt. Taylor Shenkman, VMFA -115 Section One officer-in-charge and a pilot.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese captured Guam. December 10, 1941: Guam had been in U.S. possession since its capture from Spain in 1898.
“Seventy years ago Guam became the first American soil captured by a foreign power since the war of 1812,” said Hayes.
Guam, the largest of the Mariana Islands, was not as heavily fortified as other Marianas but Japanese had built up a large garrison by 1944.
Guam was chosen as a target because its large size made it a suitable base to support the next stage of operations towards the Philippines, Taiwan and the Ryukyu Islands. The deep-water harbor would also be able to accommodate the largest ships and the two airfields would be suitable for B-29 Superfortress bombers.
Despite the natural obstacles of cliffs, reefs and heavy surf, American troops landed on both sides of the Orote peninsula on the west coast of Guam, July 21, with a plan to take over the airfield. The 3rd Marine Division landed near Agana to the north of Orote, and the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade landed near Agat to the south.
Hayes narrated the history as Marines stood on top of a hill overlooking the beach where 20,000 troops landed. Through Hayes’ narration and photographs, the Marines imagined the scene as it was when the battle for Guam began.
Japanese artillery sank 20 Landing Vehicles Tracked, and caused heavy casualties to Marine troops, but troops and tanks still made it ashore.
The U.S. Army 77th Infantry Division had a more difficult landing. They lacked amphibious vehicles and had to wade ashore from the edge of the reef where they were dropped by their landing craft.
Marines moved inland and by nightfall had established beachheads approximately 2,000 meters deep. Throughout the first few days of the battle, Japanese counter-attacks were made using infiltration tactics. American troop defenses were penetrated several times and were driven back with heavy casualties and equipment loss.
Imperial Japanese Army Lt. Gen. Takeshi Takashina, commanding general of all military units in Guam’s defense, was killed July 28, and Lt. Gen. Hideyoshi Obata, Japanese 31st Army commanding general, assumed command.
The two beachheads were joined July 25, and the Orote airfield and Apra Harbor were captured by July 30.
At the start of August, Japanese troops were running out of food and ammunition and had few tanks left. Obata withdrew his troops from the south of Guam. He planned to make a stand in the mountains of the central and northern part of the island.
Resupply and reinforcement became impossible because American troops now had control of the sea and air around Guam. Obata could do no more than delay defeat for a few days.
August 10, 1944, after three weeks of fierce and bloody fighting, organized Japanese resistance ended. Guam was declared secure after two and a half years of Japanese occupation.
The last stop on the tour was the memorial dedicated to all those who lost their lives and fought in the war.
Once the tour ended, Marines were invited to the Pacific War Museum to enjoy the historical relics from the war and to enjoy a hearty dinner provided by some veterans and locals of Guam.
“We’re here to look at history, cherish it and see how we came to be the Marine Corps we are today through World War II and previous wars,” said Cpl. Clayton Kavenaugh, a VMFA- 115 fixed-wing aircraft mechanic, F/A- 18. “Through tours like this, we can see where everything, which was instilled in us through all our training, came from and how the Marine Corps came to be the way it is today.”
Kavenaugh encourages all Marines who pass through Guam to take the tour, citing that taking a look back in time will help everyone support fallen service members and cherish the world we live in today.