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History of Guam

From Academic Kids

Guam was first discovered by sea-faring people who migrated from southeastern Indonesia a few thousand years ago.

On March 6, 1521 Ferdinand Magellan came across Guam on his expedition to circumnavigate around the globe. He and his crewmen were greeted by the Chamorros, the descendants of the ancient people of Guam. They may never have seen Europeans before, but they practiced trading with other sea-faring islanders in the vicinity and assumed these Europeans did the same. In small, fast and efficient vessels called "flying proas", they welcomed the Europeans with food and drink. According to Chamorro folk history, the Chamorros expected to be paid in return, such as with the iron that they saw on Magellan's ships. From the Europeans' point of view, they thought the islanders were a gentle and gracious people. When — having not been recompensed for the food and hospitality they had given — the Chamorros stole upon Magellan's ships and took iron for themselves, Magellan was angered and battled the Chamorros, leaving homes burned to the ground and people dead. He and his men left and continued their journey around the world. Angry at the 'larcenous' natives, he first dubbed Guam and the rest of the Mariana Islands "Las Islas de los Ladrones", (The Islands of the Thieves), but in 1668 their name was changed to "Las Marianas" after Mariana of Austria, widow of Spain's Philip IV.

In a matter of decades, Guam was colonized by Spain and for the next few centuries the island existed as such. It was an important stop along the Spanish trade route between the Philippines and Mexico for whaling ships and other industries. The original inhabitant population dwindled significantly as a result of disease and rebellion against the Spaniards. Much of the adult male population was killed. Still, a population of those who identified themselves as Chamorros remained, though the culture and bloodlines began to incorporate Spanish and other European religion, customs, and language.

On June 21, 1898, Guam was captured by the United States in the bloodless Battle of Guam during the Spanish-American War. By the Treaty of Paris, Spain officially ceded Guam to the United States. Since then, Guam served as a way station for American ships traveling to and from the Philippines.

The 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia wrote, "Guam is 32 miles long, from 3 to 10 miles broad, and about 200 sq. miles in area. Of its total population of 11,490 (11,159 natives), Agana, the capital, contains about 7,000. Possessing a good harbour, the island serves as a United States naval station, the naval commandant acting also as governor. The products of the island are maize, copra, rice, sugar, and valuable timber."

During the World War II, Guam was attacked and invaded by the Japanese armed forces shortly after December 7, 1941. Most U.S. military personnel evacuated prior to the invasion. The Japanese military occupation lasted from 1941 to 1944 and was a brutal experience for the Chamorro people, whose loyalty to the United States became a point of contention with the Japanese. Some American servicemen were still on the island and were hidden by the Chamorro people. The Battle of Guam started on July 21, 1944 with American troops landing on the island and Guam was liberated from Japanese military rule on August 10 in an Allied victory.

After liberation, the U.S. military had a heavy hand in the running of the island. This eventually led to resentment, and political pressure for greater freedom for the island in the 1950s. In the early 1960s, under President John F. Kennedy, the United States eventually granted U.S. citizenship to the Chamorro people and gradually the island obtained semi-autonomous status through the Organic Act.

The U.S. military installations on the island are some of the most strategically important bases in the Pacific Ocean. When Navy and Air Force bases in the Philippines were closed after the expiration of their leases, most of the forces stationed there were relocated to Guam.

External links

See also : Guam

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