Today, the Guam Territorial Quarter Coin remembers the bombardment of that island with record tonnage on July 21, 1944.
The Waycross [GA] Journal-Herald printed the following article 71 years ago describing the efforts to take back the island.
U.S. Pacific Fleet Headquarters, Pearl Harbor, July 21.
United States Marines and infantry are pouring ashore on Guam, first American territory seized by the Japanese, and fighting their way inland under cover of a pulverizing aerial and warship bombardment, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz announced today.
The landings, a quick follow-up to the great victory on Saipan, started yesterday morning and “are continuing against moderate ground opposition,” Nimitz’s communiqué said.
“United States Marines and army assault troops established beachheads on Guam Island on July 20 (west longitude—U.S. time) with support of carrier aircraft and surface combat units of the Fifth Fleet,” the early-morning communiqué continued.
“Enemy defenses are being heavily bombed and shelled at close range.”
Guam is the southernmost and largest of the Marianas group of islands. In American hands it will greatly strengthen Saipan’s position as a base from which Japan can be mortally assaulted. Guam is 130 miles southwest of Saipan and both islands are within easy Super Fortress range of Tokyo and the whole of Japan.
The Philippines, lying some 1,500 miles west of Guam and Saipan, likewise are vulnerable to the mighty forces Nimitz is hurling across the Pacific.
The Guam landings came after 17 days of the most terrific warship-plane blasting given any invaded Pacific island with battleships adding their heavy shells to the torrent of explosives poured from cruisers, destroyers and planes.
Guam, seized December 10, 1941—two days after Pearl Harbor (December 8, east longitude time)—presumably will offer the same bitter, bloody resistance the Marines and army troops encountered on Saipan in 25 days of fighting. It was believed the Guam garrison was as strong as Saipan’s, which consisted of more than 20,000 troops on D-Day, June 14. The Americans had to kill 95 percent of that force before gaining victory.
No indication was given as to the landing places. A fleet spokesman merely said: “All landings were effected in all areas as programmed.” This suggested the landings were not as difficult as at Saipan, where many Marines dies on the reef-girt beaches.
But in the interior the Americans will encounter the same hills, caves and crevices which gave Saipan’s defenders a tremendous edge over the attackers.
Guam, 32 miles long and four to ten miles wide, was overrun by 8,000 Japanese troops who stormed ashore against 200 Marines in the early days of the war. All the other Marianas islands to the north were Japanese who thus had all the advantages against the isolated American garrison.
The island has one of the Pacific’s finest harbors, Apra, and formerly served as a way-station on the trans-Pacific air route to the East. It supports a native population of nearly 22,000. Its area is about 225 square mile, the southern half containing fertile valleys broken by low hills, the northern half mainly a 500-foot plateau.
The steady, daily bombardment, which established a record tonnage, apparently knocked out many Japanese shore defenses and drove the enemy from the beaches.
The Guam Territorial Quarter Coin shows against an image of a B-29 Super Fortress, circa 1944.