Guam

Guam

In a lot of Pacific War histories, Guam is swept aside and banished as insignificant.  How soon they forget, many might say.

In Tokyo, soundtrucks festooned with World War II colors still extol those lost in a gallant defeat. In America, elders like Louis H. Wilson Jr. and George Tweed would never forget.

Masashi Ito and Bunzo Minagawa spent young manhood into middle age in the tropical underside of an island that tourists now praise as a paradise. They were holdouts, soldiers who refused to surrender and would forage for
survival for 16 years.

Soichi Yokoi, before and after

The last known Japanese survivor, Shoichi Yokoi, held out until 1972, captured by chance as he ventured out to empty a fish trap. Yokoi had never crept out of dense cover to hear the happy shouts of Japanese tourists and honeymooners. Nor had he walked the lobby of the Hilton or the Cliffside.

Luxury hotels swarm over the beachfront and jungle growth has covered the faint traces of war, and Guam gets only a passing nod as a battlefield beside Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Okinawa and Leyte. Thirty-six years ago [now it is 76 ½ years ago]  shellfire plowed across Guam. Some 18,500 Japanese were trying to pry loose the fingerhold that many more thousands of American soldiers and Marines had fastened on beaches and cliffsides.

Many of the Americans barely had a respite between battles, having first seized Saipan to pull the keystone of the Marianas archway. Guam was almost a point-of-honor afterthought. The island was an American possession until a handful of Marines, soldiers and Guamanian militia made a no-choice surrender only three days after Japanese bombers pounded Hawaii.

The III Amphibious Corps and the 77th Infantry Division are not going in blindfolded that July 21, 1944. Eleven days before the landing, as American warships savage Guam’s coastal defenses, a tall figure sprints down a beach and plunges into the surf, swimming with desperate strength until he is within hailing distance of a destroyer.

George Tweed

George Tweed is pulled aboard and tells an astonishing story. He was one of the 288 men on the island as 5,000 Japanese surged ashore, ignoring the flea-bite firepower of a few .30 cal. machine guns as they overwhelmed the thin garrison and forced the Naval Governor, Capt. George J. McMillin, into quick submission.

Tweed and five others slipped away, hunted by Japanese who probed the underbrush with bayonets. Only Tweed survived, living on land crabs and coconuts, warily evading the patrols that shook every palm tree and banyan for him. Tweed saw his pursuers far more often than they saw him, and his sketchpad mind has taken it all down — every gun emplacement, trenchline and fortified cave. The Japanese failure to capture or kill this ragged stray will cost them dearly.

Exacting naval gunfire singles out visible and concealed coastal guns – all but a few. As the 3rd Marine Division and the 1st Marine Brigade board barges that cut paint-stroke wakes toward the western side of Guam, sharp flashes burst along the coastline. Barges turn over like crumpled buckets.

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“You never get it for free,” an older Marine mutters as the barges push ashore — the division between Adelup and Asan Points and the brigade wedging between Point Bangi and the town of Agat. Beachheads are “tightly fastened and the coastal guns erased.

There are already wolfish shouts from the jungle along the coastline. Fierce counterattacks tear into the Marine lines and one lunge rips through the brigade. It is contained after a desperate brawl with bullets, blades and even fists.

The Marines begin moving inland, slowly closing a gap between division and brigade as hey crush across Apra Harbor and Orote Peninsula, squeezing
the defenders between them. But the Japanese put no markdown price tags on anything, heaping fallen defenses with Marine dead. As the two Marine forces grasp .hands, another enemy rush pours forth — the futile bravery of 500 Japanese sailors who die in an inferno of shellfire.

Capt. Louis H. Wilson Jr. is a company commander in the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines. He thrusts ahead of the others to take high and important ground, holding it against human-avalanche counterattacks.

His Medal of Honor citation will stiffly relate that Wilson “contributed essentially” to the success of the assault, passing over the fact that he was wounded three times and fought aside agonized delirium to rally his Marines.

Capt. Louis H. Wilson Jr., USMC

Soldiers of the 77th, fed slowly into the advance, must do the deadly, mop-and-dustpan work in southern Guam as the Marine advance lunges on. The suicidal determined Japanese will tear tiny leaks and large gaps in the line, and the effort to repulse them will often get down to hand-to-hand piecework.

The advance will spider all over the island, with Guam declared secure as Marines reach the northernmost tip on Ritidian Point. Everything is back under American colors by Aug. 10.

The past will be wiped away over the years. Wreckage will be swept aside. Foundations for posh hotels will be sunk along the beachfront. Andersen AFB and Agana NAS will assure a stronger military presence than those unfortunate few of late 1941.

Strangers will be strafed by stiff expense but nothing else.

“Robinson Crusoe, USN” by: George Tweed

Tweed will write a book, “Robinson Crusoe, USN.”

Wilson will become Marine Corps Commandant.

Battle histories will little note nor long remember Guam.

But Wilson, Tweed, many Americans and a few Japanese, will always share a thin fund of private memories.

From the Archives of the Stars & Stripes,  August 10, 1980

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Military Humor – 

‘Howitzers at dawn.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Howard Buescher – Cleveland, OH; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Andrew Caneza – New Orleans, LA; US Army, WWII, PTO

Mead Clark – Joliet, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 17th Airborne Division

George Fry – St. Paul, MN; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Ed Guthrie (102) Omaha, NE; US Navy, WWII, electrician’s mate 2nd Class, USS Banner, last known Pearl Harbor survivor

John Harris – NY & FL; US Navy, WWII, Korea & Vietnam (Ret. 28 y.)

Glen Kloiber – Milwaukee, WI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 791st AAA Battalion

Dallas Lehn – Elba, NE; US Army, WWII, PTO, Purple Heart

Michael D. Miller – OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII

John Rudberg – Minneapolis, MN; US Navy, V-12 Program

About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on January 14, 2021, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 91 Comments.

  1. Thank you for remembering on Guam too, GP! There are a lot of unknown heroes, we have to remember at once. Have a beautiful weekend! Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you GP for a great post, I’d never heard of Guam before. I loved reading all your comments too. Best wishes and Happy New Year, stay safe and well x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As always, very informative. Thank you! There are probably hundreds and thousands of accounts of war will never even be known.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for the terrific story, GP 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the history lesson

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A very interesting post, thank you. I knew that there were a good number of Japanese who hid away on various islands, but I hadn’t ever heard of George Tweed’s brave story. It must have taken a great deal of concentration not to give himself away.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A fascinating story of endurance and survival in the mids of death, GP!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. In 1962 a low-budget war film No Man Is An Island was made about Tweed with Jeffrey Hunter as Tweed. As to knowledge about the Pacific War, almost all general histories about WWII spend most of their time on details of the European war and usually just sum up the Pacific War in just a couple of major naval battles, with maybe a passing reference to Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo. Compared to Guam, the real killing field was Saipan, a larger island to the north of Guam. After the blood bath on Saipan (and the accompanying naval battle the “Marianna’s Turkey Shoot”), the Japanese knew they could not win the war, so they completely changed their tactics. No more honorable Banzai attacks to drive the Marines off the landing beaches. Now the Americans would have to come to them and dig them out of every cave and hole in the ground in a battle of attrition. The tactic was devised to cause so much death among the Americans that they would sue for peace in a negotiated cease fire. If that had worked, we might still be technically at war with the Empire of Japan all these years later.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow GP, another fascinating piece of history, and another piece that I knew almost nothing about, (except for a good friend from church who is from Guam- I recall her talking about the “holdout” being found, but I didn’t realize it was as late as the 70s!) Do you mind if I reblog this?
    What a shame to see that another Pearl Harbor survivor has passed- not. Thanks for always sharing the farewell salutes.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. True grit in the ultimate sense

    Liked by 2 people

  11. A fascinating account of Guam in WWII! Most people don’t realize that there were so many things that happened in those tiny islands and atolls in the Pacific that never made the history books. Glad you are doing this post. Most people only know about the big events.
    George Tweed’s story is remarkable. I read somewhere that those who were strong in mind and body, and determined to survive were most likely the one that survived the war.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Terrific story, GP. Tweed and Wilson were heroes for sure.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Just Pressed this and I am not happy that WordPress only show the title and not the body or even the URL of what you are pressing. Certainly worth reblogging.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Fascinating account, GP I’m. I love the terse story telling.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thanks for putting the spotlight on a darkened corner of the war.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. So much to like in this article. “Desperate strength”–that speaks volumes about this man.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. An excellent article, GP. Well done to Tweed for not only holding out, but getting to a ship with his records of those positions.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. That was an astounding story about Tweed….and yet another hard fought campaign that fades into the background.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. This was an incredible read, G.P. Thank you. I’m still absorbing it all. God bless them all.

    Liked by 4 people

  20. Reading this account, I recall the first news accounts of the discovery of that Japanese soldier in 1972, I was 13 at the time, and it stirred my interest in history. After a Navy career in intelligence and cryptology, the stories of these resourceful men – both sides – who evaded capture is fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. This is the most I have ever read about Guam or the battle to secure it. Were any prisoners still on the island when we regained control? I can’t imagine living under the conditions that George Tweed did. That must have taken a mental as well as a physical toll.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I was unaware of George Tweed’s story, GP. Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Very interesting post GP. It is amazing that soldiers on both sides were able to hold out for years in the jungle. Tweed’s story is intriguing.

    Desmond Doss, who won the Medal of Honor on Okinawa at Hacksaw Ridge, was one of the 77th Division soldiers on Guam. He received a Bronze Star for assisting wounded soldiers under fire. It was his first, but certainly not last, award for valor.

    I visited Guam briefly in 1983 and can confirm that Japanese tourists had “reoccupied” the island. I had a hard time finding restaurants with English menus. The Japanese holdouts from WWII should have taken a look around sooner.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Amazing Yokoi kept hidden for such a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Great post, GP.

    I have read quite a bit of history about Guam and it’s role during the war in the Pacific, but only after meeting and becoming friends with a fellow new soldier from Guam during basic at Ft. Knox, KY. Everybody remembers Pear Harbor, Leyte, Guadalcanal, or Okinawa, but Guam – not so much.

    I went on to Ft. Benning for AIT and he went somewhere else. Never heard from him again. He was a tough little guy and a good friend for those weeks of basic. Sometimes I still wonder whatever happened to him.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. The George Tweed story adds another aspect to the amazing Guam hideaway of those Japanese.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I remember the story of the last Japanese captured back when it happened. Does that mean I’m old? Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  28. This is certainly a tale of persistence.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. My cousin Judy taught in Guam and met her Marine Corps husband there.

    Liked by 1 person

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