Celebration Held for 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Guam

Credit: U.S. Coast Guard
Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

By The Maritime Executive 07-22-2019 08:40:43

Sunday marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Guam, and the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy joined the local community to honor those involved.

Shortly after the famous attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941, Japanese forces began their assault on Guam, shelling the island and invading with over 6,000 soldiers. After a short resistance, they overran the under-supplied and out-numbered defenders forcing them to surrender to spare further losses.

By 1944 the garrison grew to over 18,000 Japanese troops. On July 21, 1944, after 31 months of occupation, U.S. forces began the liberation of the island, Operation Forager. Following weeks of bombardment, units from both the Marine Corps and Army, with support from the Navy and Coast Guard, began their counter-assault. After 19 days of fierce fighting and thousands of casualties and wounded on both sides, Maj. Gen. Geiger, the commanding general of the III Marine Amphibious Group, declared the island secure on August 10, 1944.

Following liberation, Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, established the island as his headquarters for the remainder of the war. The strategic location of Guam and the rest of the Mariana Islands allowed, for the first time, U.S. land-based bomber crews to make round-trip strikes directly at Japanese home islands.

Since World War II, the bond between the people of Guam and the Coast Guard remains strong. The first civilian governor of the island, Carlton Skinner, was appointed after serving as a Coast Guard officer during the war. His legacy was one of civil rights and equality. He purposed and implemented a policy of desegregation during an unprecedented experiment aboard the USS Sea Cloud (IX-99) and even after leaving office supported greater self-rule for Pacific islands under the U.S. jurisdiction.

Shortly after liberation, work began on the Mariana Islands Long Range Navigation (LORAN) system with stations on Guam, Saipan, and the Ulithi Islands. The LORAN system was developed during World War II and was the most dependable form of navigation before the development of GPS. After the war, the LORAN stations were turned over to Coast Guard service members who continued to operate them for many years.

Guam is now home to Coast Guard Sector Guam, Station Apra Harbor, the Coast Guard Cutter Sequoia (WLB 215) and the two 110-foot Island Class patrol boats Washington (WPB 1331) and Kiska (WPB 1336). Soon, three newly built Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) will arrive to replace the two aging patrol boats as the Coast Guard continues to modernize its fleet to deal with the increasingly complex global maritime transportation system and the demand for forces to counter Chinese influence.

More than 50 Sailors from Commander, Submarine Squadron Fifteen (CSS-15) joined the Coast Guard and local community to celebrate the anniversary. CSS-15 is located at Polaris Point, Naval Base Guam in Santa Rita, Guam, and includes four Los Angeles-class attack submarines. Also based out of Naval Base Guam are submarine tenders USS Frank Cable and USS Emory S. Land. The submarines and tenders are maintained as part of the U.S. Navy's forward-deployed submarine force.