For the past two weeks, I have been at the office conducting various tasks, but more specifically, conducting background research to help me narrow down a project topic. One of the topics I researched is the background history of the War in the Pacific National Historical Park.
The War in the Pacific National Historical Park is located on the western side of Guam and is separated into seven different sites with half the park being underwater and the other half on land. Each of the seven sites are dispersed along the western side of the island, which feature forests, wetlands, beaches, savannas, and coral reef ecosystems.
One of the sites is known as the Piti Guns Unit and features three Vickers type Model 3 140mm coastal defense guns, which were placed in that area in 1914 during the Japanese occupation. Although these guns were not used during the occupation, they were positioned to target any ships and landing craft. This site is located on a piece of land that used to be an agriculture station with mahogany tree trial growths.Today, the site is surrounded by forest which is made up of various native and introduced plant species.
The Agat Beach Unit was one of the U.S. military landing sites during the liberation of Guam. During the Japanese occupation, various guns, cannons, pillboxes and blockhouses were built in the area. Today, visitors can walk inside and still see the bullet holes lining the interior of the built structures.
The Asan Beach Unit history dates back to 1668 when it became a Spanish Colony until the Treaty of Paris of 1898 turned Guam into a U.S. colony. In 1901 the site was used as a prison camp for Filipino freedom fighters who were against the U.S. taking over the Philippines. Sixteen years later, the U.S. went to war with Germany. When a German cruiser was docked at Apra Harbor it was scuttled by its captain and the men aboard were imprisoned at Asan Point. A few years later, Asan became a U.S. military camp. However, in 1931, Guam was demilitarized and the camp was removed from Asan. Ten years later, the Japanese Navy made their way to Guam. The goal was to capture Guam and make the island part of a vital sea route. During this occupation, the Chamorros were forced to work for the Japanese soldiers. They suffered greatly and over a thousand lives were lost. On July 21, 1944 the U.S. military took back the island, but it was not without a fight. After a huge bombardment from US Navy ships and planes, US marines and soldiers landed at Asan and Agat beaches under Japanese fire. Some 1,700 American fighters died and over 6,000 were wounded; Japanese deaths totaled some 18,000.
After the war, Asan beach was used as a headquarters and barracks for the U.S. Navy Seabees in 1947, then a “Civil Service Camp” in 1948, a Naval hospital annex in 1968 during the Vietnam War, a Vietnamese Refugee Camp for seven years, and when it was destroyed in 1976 by Super typhoon Pamela, the area was cleared. Two years later, Asan Beach was obtained by the National Park Service and turned into the War in the Pacific National Historical Park.
The Asan Bay Overlook is located upland from the Asan Beach Unit. From this unit, visitors are able to overlook the Piti and Asan villages, and the landing beaches from World War II. In addition, there is a Memorial Wall of Names of soldiers and civilians who gave their lives.
During the Japanese occupation, the Fonte Plateau unit was used as a communications center. The location of this center was strategically placed upland to oversee Asan Bay. Today, the plateau is known as Nimitz Hill, after Admiral Chester Nimitz.
Mt. Alifan was used during the Japanese occupation as a command post, and the Alifan Unit features various structures of fox holes and trenches, along with bomb craters.
Another site used by the Japanese as an overlook of Asan Beach, Apra Harbor and Orote Point was Mt. Chachao/ Mt. Tenjo. This unit also features foxholes, trenches, and a pre-World War II American gun location.
According to the War in the Pacific website (2018), “[the park] was established to commemorate the bravery, courage, and sacrifice of those participating in the campaigns of the Pacific Theater of World War II. At the War in the Pacific National Historical Park, the former battlefields, gun emplacements, trenches, and historic structures all serve as silent reminders of the bloody World War II battles.” In addition to the seven sites, the T. Stell Newman Visitor Center is located in Santa Rita and features various exhibits on pre- and post-World War II life on Guam.
War In The Pacific National Historical Park (U.S. National Park Service). (2018, February 12). Retrieved from https://www.nps.gov/wapa/index.htm