Looking back at Ga'an Point

Bronze Relief at Asan Bay Overlook (NPS Photo)
Bronze Relief at Asan Bay Overlook (NPS Photo)

Looking back at Ga'an Point

by: National Park Service | .
published: July 20, 2018

War in the Pacific National Historical Park was established to commemorate the bravery, courage, and sacrifice of those participating in the campaigns of the Pacific Theater of World War II.  At War in the Pacific National Historical Park, the former battlefields, gun emplacements, trenches, and historic structures all serve as silent reminders of the bloody World War II battles.

Agat Beach Unit and Ga’an Point

Ga'an Point in Agat was part of the southern landing site of the United States forces in the liberation of Guam on July 21, 1944. The southern landing area encompassed from Bangi Island to Apaca Point. This area was strategically chosen in order to help secure Orote Peninsula to the north. Orote Peninsula was important because of the airfield and entrance to Apra Harbor as a supply port. The plan was to overtake Ga'an Point, where the entire beach front at Agat could be used to offload supplies and equipment that were critical for the inland advance. The Japanese 38th Regimental Combat Team had command post headquarters at Mt. Alifan and the Japanese forces heavily fortified the area from Facpi Point to Agat Bay. The Japanese defense weapons placed at Ga'an Point included a single-barrel, Japanese, dual purpose 25 mm machine cannon and a 200mm short barrel naval gun, a 25mm machine cannon, and a double-barreled anti-aircraft gun. The Japanese also had extensive defenses consisting of numerous pillboxes built in coral outcroppings, and concrete blockhouses that held a 75mm and 37mm gun to fire upon the beaches. A Japanese inscription can be seen today in the concrete blockhouse.

On July 21, 1944, the first wave of the Southern Landing Force invaded Guam in Agat. The young men in the assault were part of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, which consisted of the 4th and 22nd Marine Regiments. The 4th Marines were to storm onto beaches designated White 1 and 2, establish a beachhead, protect the flank of the brigade, and then proceed to secure Mt. Alifan. The 22nd Marines, after landing at beaches designated Yellow 1 and 2, were to secure Agat Village and drive north and cut off Orote Peninsula. In 1944 Agat was centered more to the north and no buildings remain from the original village. The next wave of soldiers were the 305th Regimental Combat Team, part of the 77th Army Infantry Division, but temporarily attached to the 1st Marine Brigade for the initial assault. The 305th Regimental Combat Team landed later that day at 1400. They waded ashore because there were no LVT's (Landing Vehicle Tractors) available. The 305th Regimental Combat Team was to make a passage of lines of the 4th Marine Regiment and protect that sector of the beachhead. The fighting at Agat was severe, particularly during the first night as the Japanese 38th Regiment launched a major counterattack. Ultimately, it took 3 days to firmly establish the southern beachhead. On July 24, 1944, the reported losses of US forces numbered near 1,000. The island itself was not declared secure until August 10, 1944. The total casualties for the Japanese forces from July 21 - August 10 were estimated over 10,900.

The historic resources that remain intact at Ga'an Point include the stronghold. This stronghold was built into the rock outcropping and was heavily camouflaged and was the reason so many U.S. soldiers lost their lives. The concrete blockhouse consists of the casemates for a 75mm gun and a 37mm gun. The interior of the 75mm casemate has internal damage indicating it was fired upon from the rear. The pillbox located just north of the stronghold also housed a 75mm gun. This structure also has an observation post on top of it. There are two guns on display near the beach. One is a 25mm anti-aircraft gun. This gun used high explosive ammunition and could fire 300 rounds a minute. This gun is typical of the type of gun used by the Japanese throughout the island. The second gun is a 200mm coastal defense gun. These guns were used to fire at troopships and landing craft. Approximately 20 other guns like this were found in Japanese defensive positions after the recapture of Guam.

Asan Beach Unit

Asan Beach has a very rich history. Guam was a Spanish Colony from 1668-1898. Then as a result of the Spanish-American War, the Treaty of Paris granted Guam a colony of the United States. Asan Beach had many uses prior to World War II.

In 1892, Asan Beach was the site of a Leper Colony, which was utilized for eight years until it was destroyed by a typhoon. Then in 1901 this land turned into a prison camp for exiled Filipino insurrectionists. They believed the United States should not take over the Philippines. Apolonario Mabini was the most famous of the 42 imprisoned and is still considered a Philippine hero. The monument you see today honors their sacrifice. In 1917 the U.S. declared war on Germany. A German cruiser, the SMS Cormoran had been docked in Apra Harbor for 3 years and subsequently the U.S. Naval authorities demanded surrender and imprisoned the enlisted men of the ship here at Asan Point. In 1922, Asan Point became a U.S. Marine Corp Camp with a quartermaster depot, a small arms range, and barracks.

In 1931 the Navy was ordered to have the island demilitarized. Before WWII Congress determined that due in part to its remote location, Guam was indefensible. Strategically, Guam held little importance to the United States. In October of 1941 the 18th Air Unit of the Japanese Navy started flying reconnaissance missions over Guam. On Dec 4, 1941 the 144th Infantry Division known as the South Seas Detachment of the Japanese Army picked up the 5th Defense Force in Rota and headed to Guam. On Dec. 8 & 9, the 18th Air Unit bombed Guam. On Dec. 10, 1941, a gallant but futile stand was put up by US Marines and members of the Insular Force Guard of Guam. The small garrison of US and Chamorro military personnel was no match for the massive invasion force. The island was surrendered to the Japanese. The intent was to cut off the U.S. from the Philippines and to use Guam as an alternate airfield. However, the primary objective for occupying Guam was for the Japanese to protect the vital sea route. During the Japanese occupation, the Chamorro population suffered from work camps which demanded that they repair airfields, built and paved roads, dug hillside caves, trenches and tank traps. The Chamorros were forced to learn and speak Japanese, grow food for Japanese soldiers, and built structures such as tank barriers, pillboxes and gun emplacements.

In June of 1944, the United States Armed Forces were ready to retake the island of Guam. The Japanese also knew of this plan. Most of the permanent and elaborate defense installations were placed at Tumon Bay. On June 16, 1944 US cruisers, battleships, and aircraft bombed and shelled Asan and Agat beaches. The Japanese now knew where they planned to attack. The US attack was supposed to take place on June 18, 1944 but was delayed because of the battle for Saipan and the naval battle of the Philippine Sea, known as the Marianas Turkey Shoot. The new invasion date was scheduled for July 21, 1944. This decision also allowed preparation for an Army division to be part of the invasion. Japanese defensive positions were placed on top and on both sides of Asan and Adelup Points. But the previous defenses in Tumon Bay were left because there was not time to move them. The fortifications of Japanese beach defenses were extensive.

Obstacles and mines were placed on the fringing reef. The beaches and immediately inland were filled with obstacles and tank traps. Further inland were machine gun positions, pillboxes, heavy weapons, artillery and coastal defense guns. And higher inland to shoot down on the beaches were machine guns, heavy weapons, and artillery.

The code name for the Guam operation was "Stevedore". United States Navy support included 4 battleships, 3 cruisers, and 3 destroyers just off of Asan. Underwater Demolition Teams came in to destroy obstacles before the US Marines landed. There were 12 troop transports containing the 3rd Marine Division and 16 Landing Ships Tank. The bombardment of the island began at 0530 am on July 21, 1944. Over 18,000 various sized shells were expended and nine thousand rockets launched over the island. Then at 7 am on July 21, the LST's moved toward shore in Asan to unload 180 armored landing vehicles full of assault troops. The Japanese had perfect observation and firing points from high ground. But the mission included securing those high positions to make the beachhead secure for US Marines and Army soldiers to live, sleep, eat, and stockpile supplies.

The lead elements of the 3rd Marine Division crossed the reef from 200 to 500 yards offshore and landed on Asan Beach, which was defended by the Japanese 320th Independent Infantry Battalion and naval troops manning the coastal defense guns. The plan was to fight between Adelup and Asan Points, referred to as "the devil's horns". From east to west, two battalions of the 3rd US Marine Regiment landed on Beach Red 1, one battalion of the 3rd US Marine Regiment landed on Beach Red 2, three battalions of the 21st US Marines came ashore on Beach Green, in the middle, and three battalions of the 9th US Marines landed on Beach Blue adjacent to Asan Point.

The 3rd Marine Division operation order called for the three regiments to land abreast, capture the high ground immediately inland, and prepare for further operations to the east and southeast. Marines assaulted beaches, took Orote Peninsula, and the land behind Asan and the Force Beachhead Line from Adelup Point to Mt. Chachao/Mt. Tenjo. The Army's 77th Infantry Division fought in Agat, and took Mt. Alifan and the Force Beachhead Line from Facpi Point to Mt. Tenjo. The Asan area was secured on July 28th, but it took until August 10, 1941 to eliminate all organized resistance on the rest of Guam.

About 55,000 young Marines and Army soldiers participated in the battle for Guam. 1,866 American servicemen were killed in action or died of wounds during twenty one days of combat. Because of their sacrifice we now enjoy freedom on Guam today.

After WWII was over, Asan Beach became known as Camp Asan until 1947.This was used as headquarters and barracks for the US Navy Seabees who helped to reconstruct the island. Then from 1948-1967 it was the "Civil Service Camp". In essence, it was a small military base with housing, outdoor theater, tennis courts and fire station. In 1968 the Navy converted the buildings into a hospital annex for use during the Vietnam War. This was utilized for 7 years until in 1975 the area was turned into a Vietnamese Refugee Camp. There were a total of 111,000 refugees that came through Guam. In 1976 Supertyphoon Pamela destroyed all of the remaining buildings, and the area was cleared of the debris by the Navy. Then the National Park Service acquired the area in 1978, and War in the Pacific National Historical Park was established.

The Asan Beach Unit contains many historic resources preserved from the war. There are numerous Japanese pillboxes located at Adelup Point. At Asan Beach, on the backside of the point two Japanese gun emplacements have been reinforced with metal beams. These gun emplacements housed 20 cm coastal guns, of which one gun base remains today. At the tip of the point is the Liberator's Memorial. This structure was erected in 1994, to honor all US forces involved in the recapture of Guam. The Liberator's Memorial was dedicated by the National Association of Uniformed Services and the Third Marine Division Association, Guam Branch on the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of Guam. Along the beach there are two Mabini monuments honoring the exiled Filipinos. Next is the Monument for the 3rd Marine Division erected on site by the Third Marine Division Association. The US Landing Monument is also along the beach and is dedicated to the men who fought here. The Asan Ridge contains numerous pillboxes, caves and tunnels.

Asan Bay Overlook

Completed in 1994 in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary commemoration of the Liberation of Guam, Asan Bay Overlook serves as a memorial to those that lost their lives or suffered atrocities during the war. This unit features beautiful views of the sea-side villages of Asan and Piti and a perspective of the landing beaches used by Marines during the battle. The Asan Bay Overlook includes landscaped walkways, established view sheds, and several commemorative bronze sculptures which depict the events on Guam during the World War II Japanese occupation and battle in 1944.

The Memorial Wall of Names

Often monuments and memorials contain the names of the leaders of nations or high ranking military officials and rightfully so. This memorial wall of honor, sacrifice, and remembrance, however, includes the etched names of ordinary men who fought with extraordinary bravery on the front lines and the names of the civilians; the men, women and children, who as neighbors, friends, and families, suffered the consequences of nations at war, many paying the ultimate sacrifice.

The Asan Bay Overlook Memorial Wall contains the names of 1,880 U.S. servicemen who died in the 1941 defense of Guam against the attacking Japanese armed forces and those who died retaking the island from Japan in 1944 along with the names of the 1,170 people of Guam who died and 14,721 who suffered atrocities of war from 1941-1944.

To download a PDF document with the complete listing of the 17,771 names featured at the Asan Bay Overlook Memorial Wall, click here.

To download a PDF document detailing the history of the wall, the original construction, theft in 2007, and restoration, as well as answers to frequently asked questions, click here.

Fonte Plateau Unit

Once a Japanese naval communications center, Fonte Plateau unit is located on Nimitz Hill, overlooking Asan Bay. Site of one of the more bitter battles between the U.S. Marines and the Japanese, the high land of Fonte Plateau, later renamed to Nimitz Hill, was once the CINCPAC headquarters for Admiral Chester Nimitz.

Mt. Chachao/ Mt. Tenjo Unit

The Mt. Chachao/Mt. Tenjo Unit provided the Japanese defenders with a view of United States troops landing at Asan Beach and a scenic overview of Apra Harbor and Orote Point. The unimproved trail leads to foxholes, trenches, and a World War I American gun emplacement.

Mt. Alifan Unit

The Mt. Alifan Unit, site of a former Japanese command post, contains the remains of bomb craters, fox holes, and trenches. The slopes of these hills saw intense battles between United States Marines and the defending Japanese forces. This area is undeveloped, making access difficult.

Piti Guns Unit

The Piti Guns unit is the site of three Vickers type Model 3 140mm coastal defense guns. The Japanese manufactured these Model 3 coastal defense guns in 1914. During the Japanese Occupation from 1941-1944, the Japanese built up defensive positions on Guam. The Chamorro population was forced to work in building up these defenses, and did so here at Piti Guns. Imagine if you can the dense vegetation that existed here at the time and how hard it would have been to not only hike up the side of this steep terrain but also carry thousands of pounds of steel.

These guns were strategically placed in what was in 1944 a village consisting mostly of rice paddies. This area was chosen with consideration to the firing range of the guns. These guns have a firing range of close to 10 miles and were intended for use against ships and landing craft. When the United States Armed Forces came to retake the island on July 21, 1944 these guns were not fully operational. Consequently, not one of the three coastal defense guns was ever fired. But, these guns are representative of the type of weapons used by the Japanese on Guam for the fortification efforts.

This same area was used as an Experimental Agricultural Station. The station was established in 1909 and funded by the USDA. An area of 30 acres on the main road between the towns of Piti and Agana was selected because of its accessibility. The Chamorros had small ranches located away from the villages. The methods of cultivation were primitive, and accomplished by hand. Many of the coconut palm ranches were leased to Japanese traders and there was a tendency to not farm but work for the Navy Department on various public improvements. This tendency was proving detrimental to economic conditions and the general welfare. The station helped the people by distributing seeds and plants. The extension activities were mainly concerned with adult demonstrations, boys’ and girls’ work, and school gardens. The boys’ and girls’ club work proved to be the most popular and effective. The children were eager to learn and were willing to put into practice the things they were taught. School gardens proved effective not only in teaching boys and girls better methods, but in serving as convincing demonstrations to older people and as an organized means of distributing seeds and plants that had been found to be adapted to local conditions. In 1915 about 5000 cuttings and several hundred seeds of ornamental plants were started. This included hibiscus, which can be seen growing wild in this area. The first mention of the introduction of Mahogany was in 1917. This grove that stands here was started with 208 Mahogany plants in 1928. Sweitenia macrophylla is native to central and South America. In 1929 it was noted that the native hardwoods of Guam were becoming exhausted. The introduction of Teak and Mahogany were introduced to replace native hardwoods. These two tree species seemed to be well suited for Guam conditions. The Guam Agricultural Experiment Station was closed June 30, 1932 and was transferred to the island government, to be used as an agricultural school. The school was open until 1940.

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