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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“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

################################################################################################################

Military Humor – 

‘Howitzers at dawn.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

################################################################################################################

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

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GP 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. 149 Comments.

  1. How very interesting! I only remember Guam as the place we changed planes coming back from Taiwan, rolling green hills and deep blue ocean… but what an impression that little island made for those few hours!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Whoever wrote that for Stars and Stripes had a way with words.

    Like

  3. The movie No Man Is An Island was made in 1962, with H’wood heartthrob Jeffrey Hunter as Tweed. In 1960 Hunter also made the war film Hell To Eternity, the true story of a white man raised by Japanese-Americans who convinced 100’s of Japanese soldiers on Saipan to surrender rather than commit suicide. And in 1961, he played Jesus! So if H’wood made another version of Tweed’s story, it would be relying on a re-make! Meanwhile, war movies continue to be the biggest money-making genre ever (after the death of the classic Western) only today they are much more grittier and realistic, including more graphic blood shed. And sex. And no battle has been ignored in dozens of books devoted to the war in the Pacific, although the Pacific war itself is usually given only minimal coverage in books devoted to the whole war, the war in Europe usually the main focus.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This needs to be a movie 🍿

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you, Ned!

    Like

  1. Pingback: Guam | Pacific Paratrooper – WWII | Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: