After another 5 days of crossing the Pacific we made landfall off the island of Guam during the early morning of February 7th. Dawn was breaking as we made our approach to the pilot boarding point and we were ‘cleared’ by the US Coast Guard control to enter this largely naval port.
An overview of the island and our track
It is of course one of the ‘island hopping’ islands of the Pacific and it received its baptism of fire during July of 1944. I didn’t know what to expect, it was my first call, although not the “Amsterdam”, she was in familiar waters. Approaching the entrance, we were escorted by 2 Coast guard vessels, their .50 calibre machine guns in the bow, providing comfort. Within the harbour, one comes in on ‘leading lights’, these give you a path between the shoals in the harbour and safe water for us. Having negotiated most of the harbour, it is then necessary to do a ‘wheelie’, swing round through 180° and then back in towards the berth. Alongside and, being U.S. territory, it is necessary to go through a CBP inspection before we are allowed ashore. Hazel, Karen and I had hired a car to take us around and our driver, Kevin, took us to places of interest. The Pacific National Historical Park has several places of interest and we started at the Visitors Center (sic), outside, a Japanese 2-man submarine which ran aground while attempting to infiltrate the harbour.
There were 2 invasion beaches, both heavily defended by the Japanese and the ensuing battle took the lives of 7,000 Americans and 17,000 Japanese, a hard, bloody slog. There are still signs of the battle and the pounding that it received both before and during the invasion. We went to Asan beach, heavily fortified in the hills above, it took a week for the Marines to gain control and on Asan ridge, there are still gun mounts, pillboxes and tunnels, heaven knows what those men went through.
The ladies want to try to find a market, (nothing new 😕 ) and while they do so, I take a wander around the small harbour of Hagatna. Even here there is a crumbling pillbox, used long ago to guard the harbour entrance.
More peaceful times and rows of racing canoes are lining the grass, while nearby a decrepit boat-building hut in which the occupants appear to be sleeping.
On towards Saipan as I write, however it looks as if I won’t make ashore, having a few hours away from my ship means the emails are mounting and need dealing with……