Park offers heroic history, recreation in single package

Park offers heroic history, recreation in single package

by David Hurwitz
Stripes Guam

Established in 1978 to commemorate those who participated in battles on Guam and throughout the Pacific in World War II, War in the Pacific National Historical Park also offers visitors recreational opportunities and the chance to experience the island’s natural beauty.

“Our mission is twofold. To commemorate the stories and people involved in the Battle of Guam and other battles in the Pacific and to protect the amazing diversity of species found in the park,” said park ranger Dan Brown.

To help them carry out this mission, Stripes Guam will be publishing biweekly articles written by rangers and other staff starting in this issue.

“The Battle of Guam is symbolic of all the other battles in the Pacific and typical of the battles of U.S. troops: days of naval bombardment, an amphibious assault by Marines, and ferocious fighting by the Japanese. The Visitor Center shows how the battles played out, not only on Guam but throughout the Pacific,” Brown said.

Of the Americans who come to the Visitor Center, 75 percent are from the nearby air and naval bases, according to Brown.  “They know there was a battle and most likely will know how their specialty performed, though many are surprised at how much there is to learn,” he added.

Unfortunately, they are not aware of what the park has to offer. A common lament Brown said he hears is: “This is my first time in the Visitor Center even though I drive by it every day. I’m PCSing in a few weeks and had to see (the park) before I go. I’m sorry I didn’t come sooner.”

About 60 percent of the people who come to the Visitor Center are Japanese, who come in large tour buses and spend only about 10 to 15 minutes there, said Brown. But some Japanese come on their own and are interested in the movie, laser light show on the battle map of Guam and digital timeline of events exhibited at the center.

“It is a rare day for a Japanese veteran or a widow of a veteran to come. And that is always chilling,” he said.

Asan Bay Overlook is one of the most popular of the park’s seven units, according to Brown. It offers a beautiful view of the northern coastline of Guam and on good days people can see the island of Rota, about 40 miles away. The site features bronze sculptures depicting events on Guam during the Japanese

Occupation of 1941 to 1944 and commemorating the bravery and sacrifice seen during the island’s liberation.

It also has a wall listing the names of the 1,857 U.S. troops who died during the Battle of Guam, the 1,122 people of Guam who died as a result of the 2 1/2 –year Japanese occupation of the island, and the over 13,000 who suffered injury, forced labor, forced marches or internment as a result of the occupation.

Many local Chamorros visit the Overlook to see the names of family members inscribed there, said Brown. “In Guam, there are several large family trees.

Seventy years is not that long ago for direct descendants of people who lived under Japanese occupation.”

Spread out over 2,000 acres, the park enjoys a greater diversity of plant and animal life than any other U.S. national park, according to Brown.

Half of the park is on land and the other half is a marine area containing some historic wrecks from the 1944 Battle of Guam.

“To (protect the diversity of species) on a small island with limited acreage and a large population is difficult,” Brown said.

To achieve this goal, the park employs two full-time rangers and 1 part-timer as well as a curator and staff to take care of over 10,000 artifacts, four plant and marine biologists, and volunteers in various specialties.

“People don’t take full advantage of the park. We are trying to create a greater awareness of how spectacular the park is and the extent of the resources (it has),” said Brown.

But on a daily basis throughout the park, one can see people jogging, snorkeling, hiking, and picnicking, according to Brown. 

Read about the audio tour at NHP on Stripes Guam website.

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