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US Flag raising

"First flag on Guam on boat hook mast. Two U.S. officers plant the American flag on Guam eight minutes after U.S. Marines and Army assault troops landed on the Central Pacific island on July 20, 1944."


“The Americanization process is one of the big changes in my lifetime,” Bill asserts. The return of American rule to Guam had impacts that were island-wide, and even reached to the remote corner that is Inarajan.

“From 1898 until when the Japanese invaded, the entire island of Guam was the naval station” Anne says. “It was mostly communications people. We didn’t actually have naval bases — the whole island was one big base. The navy had a few structures, but they were leasing land. They built a barracks for the Marines, but the Navy guys were renting locals’ houses. It was such a small naval outpost, they really didn’t have a large number, just a couple hundred when the Japanese attacked.

"They were actually living in the villages. Of course they had segregated schools and segregated facilities. It was Jim Crow on Guam actually; they even had separate pay scales for state-siders versus locals."



“Right after Guam was liberated in 1944, World War II was still being fought. So Guam became what they called a ‘forward base.’ Approximately 200,000 soldiers were on Guam and the Marianas from 1944 to 1945. Guam was heavily militarized in the very short time, from 1944 to 1948 or '49.”

One major and lasting impact was the acquisition of land by the U.S. military. This was accompanied by the displacement of many Guamanians. “The two largest villages were destroyed in World War II,” Anne says. “About half the island was displaced, and a lot of people moved to their ranches or just had to move in with family and find someone to live with. There was a lot of trauma — a lot of land being taken, people being physically moved."




Federal Lands

Map of federally controlled land on Guam. Click here to view full-sized image.


“After the War there were huge land takings,” Larry adds. “There were Navy people doing it: Navy judges, Navy attorneys, so the only appeal was to the Secretary of the Navy! And people, well, they didn’t mind, they were just so grateful to be liberated from the Japanese, they wanted the military to use their land, but they wanted it back when they were done.

“By about 1947 the Navy began to condemn land for recreational purposes — beaches, golf courses — and that was a little hard to take. We had one guy who stayed with a gun, wouldn’t let them take his beach. He did save his land. Another woman had a shotgun, but she lost anyway. Some of that land hasn’t been used in 50 years. One family decided to reoccupy their land, and then suddenly at 5:00 am the military started having guys with guns march on the land.”

“By 1948, the military control of the land was up to around 70%,” Anne says. “And most of the lands they were taking were coastal areas because of the ports, or the plateau areas for their air fields. A lot of those had been ranch areas."



“People are very critical today about that, but in the immediate postwar years there wasn’t a lot of choice. By 1950, 1955, the military started giving back land, so their land holdings decreased from 70% in 1947-48 to now around 33%, but people weren’t counting on having that ranch, because they just didn’t know. People were all very concerned: 'When am I getting my ranch? How am I going to feed my family, this is all I know.'"



"Before the war, no one bought their food. The Navy had a public market so the military could have access to fresh fruits and vegetables and fresh eggs. But for the locals, it was 100% subsistence food production from local farms.

"During the War, especially in the last month under the Japanese, it had been really extreme hardship for Chamorros, including a very high level of malnutrition. The Japanese had about 20,000 soldiers here, and they were taking food from Chamorros. You hear a lot of stories from during the war, bitterness over people hiding food, particularly from the Japanese but even from each other, a lot of tension over food sources. People were hiding food and hoarding food."



U.S. Marines pose with a bullcart shortly after the takeover of Guam.


Rehabilitation Camp

Rainwater filling a bomb crater serves the needs of this makeshift rehabilitation camp.



"Then the U.S. military set up these rehabilitation camps and they started passing out canned food because that was immediate, they could immediately feed all these Chamorros. So canned food enters the diet right at the war’s end as a quick way to feed these malnourished people.

"In the immediate post war years, for many people it was life and death, because they couldn’t farm. A lot of land had been so devastated. Malnutrition was a major problem. So for a lot of families, when the U.S. returned, just trying to find an immediate way to feed the family in some ways forced them into the cash economy.

"I think a lot of them were happy about it because they had a job and they had a way to feed their family, but between 1945 and 1950, you see a total switch from being almost an entirely farming community before the war, until now when you have very little farming."



“The main change is that after World War II, the island in a very short period of time radically switched to a cash economy. The military was building up so much that there were a lot of jobs around, primarily construction but they were also hiring clerks, secretaries. So a lot of people just immediately switched from being farmers to having these cash jobs.

“I see that it changed somewhat the lifestyle,” Bill says, “where it is almost a threat to the culture of the people. Like the chenchule’ system, for instance, because it is something that is learned in education, somehow subconsciously people began to change and decide that this culture, we need to do away with these things because of the things that we learned from the books."



Other changes in the United States largely bypassed Guam. Therese states, "I think a lot of the things that were happening in the States, as far as the different changes, like the Civil Rights movement, in the sixties, they weren’t too much of an influence here. We saw things that were happening, people knew what was going on in the States but, because it was such a close-knit community here, the changes came as far as technology and as far as transportation and the people, but not the fads."

But a significant recent development has been the movement of residents out of Inarajan village and up to a new settlement at Malojloj.



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