Just outside the entrance to the naval base is the headquarters of the War in the Pacific National Historical Park. And in front of that, resting on keel blocks, is a rare sight: a Japanese Type C midget submarine, possibly the only surviving one of its type. The 78-foot-long sub ran aground in August 1944, was captured, and was displayed on the base until last spring, when the navy donated it to the National Park Service. Outfitted with two torpedoes and crewed by only two men, it was a formidable weapon. Submarines have been a professional focus of mine for more than 30 years, so I found this especially thrilling.

But the highlight of my visit came at the end of a long and very muddy trek through a savanna on the east side of the island. For more than two miles, my colleagues and I hiked along deeply rutted red clay roads, which were fiercely sticky from a persistent downpour. Every hundred yards or so, we would come across the strange spectacle of yet another abandoned shoe left in the grip of the muddy road.

But when we finally reached the Tank Farm in Yona, it was worth the trip. There, the remains of two Sherman tanks and three amtracs used for Allied target practice have been rusting away since the end of the war. The vehicles were of limited utility during the battle for Guam because, I wasn’t surprised to learn, the sticky red clay soil was so difficult to negotiate. Being able to examine the old vehicles up close and in a natural setting was a moving experience that made me gladly overlook the large blue spiders that seemed to share my affinity for the tanks.

Something with wider appeal to the average tourist is the park at Talofofo Falls. Here, gondolas carry tourists over a series of waterfalls, the occasional pig meanders about, and a monorail system offers grand jungle views. Here is where the last Japanese holdout of the war, a sergeant named Shoichi Yokoi, chose to hunker down and hide until local farmers found and captured him in 1972. He went back to Japan a hero, married—and returned to Guam for his honeymoon.

The latter, at least, is something I understand, because having once been a reluctant traveler to Guam, I’m now hoping the navy will send me back.

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5 Responses

  1. tara Simpson

    I am so disappointed to find that you did not mention another treasure trove of historical artifacts from World War II. You would have driven straight by the Pacific War Museum on your way up Nimitz Hill. This is a privately owned war museum. The owner, a Marine and Vietnam veteran has dedicated his life to preserving the history of the Pacific War on Guam and educating others about the experience. Included in the amazing collection, 22 fully restored and operable military vehicles, WWII era, and a 500 year old samurai sword belonging to Gen. Obata (the final Japanese commander on Guam, who died on the final day of battle for the liberation of Guam, 10 August 1944).

    The man who owns and operates the Pacific War museum is the same who walked and pulled a cart from the gates of Andersen AFB to the Navy base (22 miles) in an attempt to bring public attention and support to have the name of US 1 changed from “Marine Drive” to “Marine Corps Drive.” Too many people were forgetting the meaning of the road’s name, thinking it referred to marine life, rather than honoring the Seabees who built the road shortly after the liberation of Guam. The publicized walk was worth it- the following day the governor of Guam signed the new name into law.

    There is an incredible amount of history packed into the tiny Pacific island.

    • scott henderson

      War on GUAM is my favorate topic. I had served in the navy on the uss san jose afs-7 1984-1987. Ive studied alot about the ww2 exp. between the imperial japaneese army and the u.s. marines. Can you teach me more? I would enjoy to share some info. with tou please contact me. scott henderson.

      • James Oelke

        Hafa adai Scott,

        As an Operations Specialist aboard the “Happy Jose” from 1987-1990, I must have taken up where you left off…

        I made a decision to stay on Guam and have now been here 25 years. It is an amazing island and the weather, people, and culture have made the decision a very rewarding one. Today I serve with the National Park Service’s War in the Pacific National Historical Park on Guam and the American Memorial Park on Saipan.

        Our museum opens July 20, 2012 to the public with new displays and interactives that I think will really enliven the discussion of the battles within the Pacific. It took a long time to put it all together – yet the result is very well done.

        Try out

        Go to the history and culture page and look at the in-depth web page – tons of information and photos there – should keep you busy for a while!


  2. MSgt Foster

    Did you visit the Air Force base and Northwest Field ? I was stationed on Guam for ten years during the Vietnam War with the biggest bombing missions since WWII. I handled and handsprayed Agent Orange herbicides on Guam for ten years which i personally hand sprayed a few million gallons of it on and off base Guam. take a look at the evidence and the cancer rate on Guam in the highest rate in the world. the tab personal stories has many government documents for proof of what I did there with eye witnesses.

  3. guammanian

    guam is fascinating to live in since i live here it rains alot not that much sun when it is sunny it is super hot.


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