Multiple cultures have left their mark on this point of the island. But none as dramatic and demanding as the U.S. Our time on the island is far more extensive than I imagined. From 1901-1903 the U.S. government in the Philippines banished Filipino rebels to a prison camp on Asan Beach. In 1917 after the U.S. declared war on Germany, a crew from a German auxiliary ship were taken captive by American troops and held here.
The main event on the beach occurred on July 21, 1944. Mortar shells bombarded thousands of U.S. Marines riding ashore on amphtracks and trudging through the loose coral and crashing wave. The Japanese swept the beach with unending fire from camouflaged pillboxes. Landing crafts shuttled dead and wounded back to the ships.
could it be the remains of a Japanese pillbox?
The beach head was hard-won but it was not the final objective. Heavy fire continued to rain down as U.S. troops used Asan as a staging point to continue their assaults on Japanese strong holds. This land remained home to the U.S. Navy civilian employees from 1945-1967. In 1975 the abandoned camp became a welcoming area for thousands of Vietnamese refugees.
"The years have dimmed the sight but not the memory. There is a special flavor to life for those who fought on the beach of Asan that cannot be shared... Nowhere else does the brotherhood of battle extend so fully between the liberators and the liberated Chamorros because nowhere else were the experiences so mutually identifiable... we have felt each other's pain... and we are grateful for a precious turning point in our lives."~Ben G. Blaz Brigadier General U.S. Marines
To walk the coast line stretching no longer than 2 miles and think of what took place on that seemingly peaceful land is breath taking. I found myself standing on a rock in the middle of the ocean with goose bumps. As eerie as it sounds, it was nearly impossible to not think of the fallen Marines being tossed by the waves. Even Ryan made a comment that it is so strange to be standing on the very place where Marines battled the Japanese so many years ago.
We hiked up a hill which over looks the beach. The Japanese hid in the brush and in barricaded pillboxes silently waiting for the troops to come into range. Looking over the beach it is easy to see why the Japanese chose that spot. The ability to pour fire down the hill would seemingly ensure a victory over the unexpecting troops. The parks quiet terrain is haunted by violent struggle. Asan beach drastically changed the lives of the Chamorro people, the outcome of the war, and, as petty as it sounds in comparison, where life in the military brought Ryan and I.
The view from the top of the hill.
On a somewhat comical note one park sign warned, "Dangerous Explosives: unexloped ammunition can be deadly. It can still be found anywhere on the island and in the waters offshore. During the pre-assult bombardment in July 1944 , tons of bombs and naval shells fell on Guam. After battle, the Americans disposed of the ordnances... Fifty years later, despite cleanup efforts, live ammo can still be found eroding from hillside caves the ocean floor." We heard that a construction crew uncovered an ordnance a few block away just last month. That would make for an interesting job site.
Stay tuned for more adventures and discoveries from our rock in the Pacific.