Guam, USA

Guam is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the Marianas Islands in the western Pacific Ocean.  The island’s capital is Hagatña. Guam is the largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands, part of Micronesia. The Chamorros, Guam’s indigenous people, first populated the island about 4,000 years ago. After years of European colonialism, the island was under the control of Spain until 1898, when it was surrendered to the United States as part of the Treaty of Paris following the Spanish-American War. Guam was captured by the Japanese on December 8, 1941, hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, and was occupied for two and a half years during which the people suffered acts that included torture, beheadings, and rape. Guam was subject to fierce fighting when US troops recaptured the island on July 21, 1944, a date commemorated every year as Liberation Day. Today, Guam’s economy is supported by its principal industry, tourism, which is composed primarily of visitors from Japan. Guam’s second-largest source of income is the United States military. The population is estimated at 175,000. The official languages of the island are English and Chamorro.

Today I took two tours. In the case of both tours some changes were made because of the shutdown of the US government which manages the National Parks on the island. In the morning in a heavy rain, we started out on a tour of the southern part of the island. We passed by Asan Bay which was the location where American soldiers stormed the beach to reclaim the island and shortly after the Spanish Bridge, a double arched Talifak Bridge which is a prime example of Spanish architecture from 1785. It was raining too hard to get suitable pictures of either.  We then went to Utamic Bay to see the Monument to Magellan who discovered Guam in 1521 (photo).  Utamic Bay was also where American troops stormed the island. We then went to Fort Soledad to see the stunning views and the ancient cannons pointing toward Magellan’s landing point (photos). We then passed by a Spanish era bell tower (photo). Lastly, we stopped at Jeff’s Pirate’s Cove, a favourite beach hangout. The location is home to a small museum in memory of a Japanese soldier, Sergeant Shoichi Yokai, who hid out in the jungles of Guam for nearly thirty years after the war (photo).  The grounds also contain some Japanese bunkers (photo).

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In the afternoon, we went to a public lookout over Asan Bay, the official one being closed (photo). We then proceeded to the centre of the capital Hagatna, to visit the Latte stone Park (photo). Latte stones are found in most Marianas islands but their origins and use are unknown. They are thought to have formed the underpinnings of houses of members of the upper echelons of ancient societies on the islands.  Many were destroyed by the American bombing of the island before the 1944 invasion and thereafter by the extensive development by both the American Military and private development. Those in the park were moved there for preservation.  Like the stones at Easter Island, it is unknown what technology was used to erect these large structures.  Some Japanese caves are located nearby and are open for viewing.  Across the street is found the old Spanish colonial centre, Plaza Espana. Most of it was bombed by the Americans but a few structures remain (photos).  The plaza is also home to the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral, built in 1669, destroyed in the war and rebuilt in 1955 (photo). Lastly, our tour had to be changed somewhat and we visited the South Pacific Memorial Park, a memorial to the Japanese, instead of the American War in the Pacific Museum (photos). This was a disappointment to Americans who had come on this cruise to visit sites commemorating the American War in the Pacific. The route to the park and the return to the ship passed by a cemetery for American War dogs (photo).

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