Battle of Guam
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|Battle of Guam|
|Part of World War II, Pacific War|
Bombardment of Guam, 14 July 1944.
|Roy S. Geiger,
The Battle of Guam was a battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II, fought on the island of Guam in the Mariana Islands from 21 July 1944 to 10 August 1944.
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 from the Spanish-American War of 1898 until it was captured by the Japanese on 11 December 1941. 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 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 towards 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 B-29 Superfortress bombers.
The invasion of Saipan was scheduled for 15 June 1944, with landings on Guam tentatively set for 18 June. The original timetable was wildly optimistic. Stubborn resistance by the unexpectedly large garrison on Saipan, and a large
Japanese carrier attack (Operation A-Go) led to the invasion of Guam being postponed for a month.
Guam, ringed by reefs, cliffs, and heavy surf, presents a formidable challenge for an attacker. On 21 July the Americans landed on both sides of the Orote peninsula on the west 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 but by 09:00 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.
By nightfall on 21 July the Americans had established beachheads about 2 km deep. Japanese counter-attacks 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 Takashima was killed on 28 July and Lieutenant General Hideyoshi Obata took over the command of the defenders.
Supply was very difficult for the Americans in the first days of the battle. Landing ships could not come closer than the
reef, several hundred metres from the beach, and amphibious vehicles were scarce. However, the two beachheads were joined
up on 28 July and the Orote airfield and Apra harbor were captured by 30 July.
The counterattacks around the American beachheads 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 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 August 2 to August 4 the Japanese line collapsed and 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.
A few Japanese soldiers held out in the jungle. On 8 December 1945 three U.S. marines were ambushed and killed. On 24 January 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.