Territory of Guam

Guåhån  (Chamorro)
Guam on the globe (Southeast Asia centered) (small islands magnified).svg
Location of Guam
StatusUnincorporated and organized territory
Largest cityDededo
Official languages
Ethnic groups
75% Roman Catholic
17.7% Protestant
1.7% Unaffiliated
5.6% Other religions
Sovereign stateUnited States
GovernmentTerritorial presidential constitutional republic
• President
Donald Trump (R)
• Governor
Eddie Baza Calvo (R)
Ray Tenorio (R)
• Delegate
Madeleine Bordallo (D)
LegislatureLegislature of Guam
Unincorporated and organized territory of the United States
• Part of Spanish East Indies
April 27, 1565
June 20, 1898
December 8, 1941
• Part of Empire of Japan
December 11, 1941
July 21, 1944
• Total
210 sq mi (540 km2) (n/a)
• Water (%)
• 2016 estimate
162,742[1] (n/a)
• 2010 census
• Density
775/sq mi (299.2/km2) (n/a)
GDP (PPP)2013 estimate
• Total
$4.88 billion[1] (n/a)
• Per capita
$30,500[1] (n/a)
HDI (2008)Increase 0.901[3]
very high
CurrencyUnited States dollar (USD)
Time zoneUTC+10 (Chamorro Time Zone)
Date formatMM/DD/YYYY
Driving sideright
Calling code+1-671
ISO 3166 codeGU

Guam (m/ (About this soundlisten); Chamorro: Guåhån Chamorro pronunciation: [ˈɡʷɑhɑn]) is an unincorporated and organized territory of the United States in Micronesia in the western Pacific Ocean.[4][5] It is the easternmost point and territory of the United States, along with the Northern Mariana Islands. The capital city of Guam is Hagåtña and the most populous city is Dededo. The inhabitants of Guam are called Guamanians, and they are American citizens by birth. Indigenous Guamanians are the Chamorros, who are related to other Austronesian natives to the west in the Philippines and Taiwan.

In 2016, 162,742 people resided on Guam. Guam has an area of 210 square miles (540 km2; 130,000 acres) and a population density of 775 per square mile (299/km2). In Oceania, it is the largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands and the largest island in Micronesia. Among its municipalities, Mongmong-Toto-Maite has the highest population density at 3,691 per square mile (1,425/km2), whereas Inarajan and Umatac have the lowest density at 119 per square mile (46/km2). The highest point is Mount Lamlam at 1,332 feet (406 m) above sea level. Since the 1960s, the economy has been supported by two industries: tourism and the United States Armed Forces.[6]

The indigenous Chamorros settled the island approximately 4,000 years ago. Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, while in the service of Spain, was the first European to visit the island, on March 6, 1521. Guam was colonized by Spain in 1668 with settlers, including Diego Luis de San Vitores, a Catholic Jesuit missionary. Between the 16th century and the 18th century, Guam was an important stopover for the Spanish Manila Galleons. During the Spanish–American War, the United States captured Guam on June 21, 1898. Under the Treaty of Paris, Spain ceded Guam to the United States on December 10, 1898. Guam is among the seventeen non-self-governing territories listed by the United Nations.[7]

Before World War II, there were five American jurisdictions in the Pacific Ocean: Guam and Wake Island in Micronesia, American Samoa and Hawaii in Polynesia, and the Philippines.

On December 7, 1941, hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Guam was captured by the Japanese, who occupied the island for two and a half years. During the occupation, Guamanians were subjected to beheadings, forced labor, rape, and torture.[8][9][10] American forces recaptured the island on July 21, 1944; Liberation Day commemorates the victory.[11]

An unofficial but frequently used territorial motto is "Where America's Day Begins", which refers to the island's close proximity to the international date line.[12][13]


Ferdinand Magellan, Portuguese navigator who was the first European to visit Guam (March 6, 1521) while commanding the fleet that circumnavigated the globe.

The original inhabitants of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands were the Chamorro people, who are believed to be descendants of Austronesian people originating from Southeast Asia as early as 2000 BC.[14]:16

The ancient Chamorro society had four classes: chamorri (chiefs), matua (upper class), achaot (middle class), and mana'chang (lower class).[14]:20–21 The matua were located in the coastal villages, which meant they had the best access to fishing grounds, whereas the mana'chang were located in the interior of the island. Matua and mana'chang rarely communicated with each other, and matua often used achaot as intermediaries. There were also "makåhna" or "kakahna", shamans with magical powers and "Suruhånu" or "Suruhåna" healers who use different kinds of plants and natural materials to make medicine. Belief in spirits of ancient Chamorros called "Taotao mo'na" still persists as a remnant of pre-European culture. It is believed that "Suruhånu" or "Suruhåna" are the only ones who can safely harvest plants and other natural materials from their homes or "hålomtåno'" without incurring the wrath of the "Taotao mo'na". Their society was organized along matrilineal clans.[14]:21

Latte stones are stone pillars that are found only in the Mariana Islands; they are a recent development in Pre-Contact Chamorro society. The latte-stone was used as a foundation on which thatched huts were built.[14]:26 Latte stones consist of a base shaped from limestone called the haligi and with a capstone, or tåsa, made either from a large brain coral or limestone, placed on top.[14]:27–28 A possible source for these stones, the Rota Latte Stone Quarry, was discovered in 1925 on Rota.[14]:28

Magellan's travel to Guam

The first European to travel to Guam was Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan, sailing for the King of Spain, when he sighted the island on March 6, 1521, during his fleet's circumnavigation of the globe.[14]:41–42 When Magellan arrived on Guam, he was greeted by hundreds of small outrigger canoes that appeared to be flying over the water, due to their considerable speed. These outrigger canoes were called Proas, and resulted in Magellan naming Guam Islas de las Velas Latinas ("Islands of the Lateen sails"). Antonio Pigafetta (one of Magellan's original 18) said that the name was "Island of Sails", but he also writes that the inhabitants "entered the ships and stole whatever they could lay their hands on", including "the small boat that was fastened to the poop of the flagship."[15]:129 "Those people are poor, but ingenious and very thievish, on account of which we called those three islands Islas de los Ladrones ("Islands of thieves")."[15]:131

Spanish colonization and the Manila galleons

Despite Magellan's visit, Guam was not officially claimed by Spain until January 26, 1565, by General Miguel López de Legazpi.[14]:46 From 1565 to 1815, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, the only Spanish outposts in the Pacific Ocean east of the Philippines, were an important resting stop for the Manila galleons, a fleet that covered the Pacific trade route between Acapulco and Manila.[14]:51 To protect these Pacific fleets, Spain built several defensive structures that still stand today, such as Fort Nuestra Señora de la Soledad in Umatac. Guam is the biggest single segment of Micronesia, the largest islands between the island of Kyushu (Japan), New Guinea, the Philippines, and the Hawaiian Islands.

Spanish colonization commenced on June 15, 1668, with the arrival of Diego Luis de San Vitores and Pedro Calungsod, who established the first Catholic church.[14]:64 The islands were part of the Spanish East Indies governed from the Philippines, which were in turn part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain based in Mexico City. Other reminders of colonial times include the old Governor's Palace in Plaza de España and the Spanish Bridge, both in Hagatña. Guam's Cathedral Dulce Nombre de Maria was formally opened on February 2, 1669, as was the Royal College of San Juan de Letran.[14]:68 Guam, along with the rest of the Mariana and Caroline Islands, were treated as part of Spain's colony in the Philippines. While the island's Chamorro culture has indigenous roots, the cultures of both Guam and the Northern Marianas have many similarities with Spanish culture due to three centuries of Spanish rule.[6]

Internal conflicts

Intermittent warfare lasting from July 23, 1670, until July 1695, plus the typhoons of 1671 and 1693, and in particular the smallpox epidemic of 1688, reduced the Chamorro population from 50,000 to 10,000, finally to less than 5,000.[14]:86 Precipitated by the death of Quipuha, and the murder of Father San Vitores and Pedro Calungsod by local rebel chief Matapang, tensions led to a number of conflicts. Captain Juan de Santiago started a campaign to conquer the island, which was continued by the successive commanders of the Spanish forces.[14]:68–74

After his arrival in 1674, Captain Damian de Esplana ordered the arrest of rebels who attacked the population of certain towns. Hostilities eventually led to the destruction of villages such as Chochogo, Pepura, Tumon, Sidia-Aty, Sagua, Nagan and Ninca.[14]:74–75 Starting in June 1676, the first Spanish Governor of Guam, Capt. Francisco de Irrisarri y Vinar, controlled internal affairs more strictly than his predecessors in order to curb tensions. He also ordered the construction of schools, roads and other infrastructure.[14]:75–76 Later, Capt. Jose de Quiroga arrived in 1680 and continued some of the development projects started by his predecessors. He also continued the search for the rebels who had assassinated Father San Vitores, resulting in campaigns against the rebels which were hiding out in some islands, eventually leading to the death of Matapang, Hurao and Aguarin.[14]:77–78 Quiroga brought some natives from the northern islands to Guam, ordering the population to live in a few large villages.[14]:78–79 These included Jinapsan, Umatac, Pago, Agat and Inarajan, where he built a number of churches.[14]:79 By July 1695, Quiroga had completed the conquest of Guam, Rota, Tinian and Aguigan.[14]:85

Expulsion of the Jesuits

On February 26, 1767, Charles III of Spain issued a decree confiscating the property of the Jesuits and banishing them from Spain and her possessions.[14]:101 As a consequence, the Jesuit fathers on Guam departed on November 2, 1769, on the schooner Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, abandoning their churches, rectories and ranches.[14]:102–103

The arrival of Governor Don Mariano Tobias, on September 15, 1771, brought agricultural reforms, including making land available to the islanders for cultivation, encouraged the development of cattle raising, imported deer and water buffalo from Manila, donkeys and mules from Acapulco, established cotton mills and salt pans, free public schools, and the first Guam militia.[14]:107–109 Later, he was transferred to Manila in June 1774.[14]:113

Post-Napoleonic era

Following the Napoleonic Wars, many Spanish colonies in the Western Hemisphere had become independent, shifting the economic dependence of Guam from Mexico to the Philippines.[14]:144 Don Francisco Ramon de Villalobos, who became governor in 1831, improved economic conditions including the promotion of rice cultivation and the establishment of a leper hospital.[14]:148–149

Otto von Kotzebue visited the island in November 1817,[14]:127 and Louis de Freycinet in March 1819.[14]:134 Jules Dumont d'Urville made two visits, the first in May 1828.[14]:139 The island became a rest stop for whalers starting in 1823.[14]:145

A devastating typhoon struck the island on August 10, 1848, followed by a severe earthquake on January 25, 1849, which resulted in many refugees from the Caroline Islands, victims of the resultant tsunami.[14]:151 After a smallpox epidemic killed 3,644 Guamanians in 1856, Carolinians and Japanese were permitted to settle in the Marianas.[14]:157 Guam received nineteen Filipino prisoners after their failed 1872 Cavite mutiny.[14]:160

Spanish–American War and World War II

Three U.S. Marines and their machine gun lay heavy fire on a Japanese sniper nest (July 28, 1944).
U.S. Marines laying machine gun fire on a Japanese sniper nest during the liberation battle on Guam, (July 28, 1944)

After almost four centuries as part of the Kingdom of Spain, the United States occupied the island following Spain's defeat in the 1898 Spanish–American War, as part of the Treaty of Paris of 1898. Guam was transferred to the United States Navy control on December 23, 1898, by Executive Order 108-A from 25th President William McKinley. Guam came to serve as a station for American merchant and warships traveling to and from the Philippines (another American acquisition from Spain) while the Northern Mariana Islands were sold by Spain to Germany for part of its rapidly expanding German Empire, then following the German defeat in World War I (1914-1918) became a League of Nations Mandate in 1919 with the nearby Empire of Japan as the mandatory ("trustee") as a member nation of the victorious Allies in the "Great War".[6] A U.S. Navy yard was established at Piti in 1899, and a United States Marine Corps barracks at Sumay in 1901.[16]:13 Following the Philippine–American War (also known as the Philippine Insurrection, 1899-1902), rebel nationalist leaders Emilio Aguinaldo and Apolinario Mabini were exiled on Guam in 1901 after their capture.[17]:vi

A marine seaplane unit was stationed in Guam from 1921 to 1930, the first in the Pacific.[16]:13 Pan American World Airways established a seaplane base on the island for its trans-Pacific San Francisco-Manila-Hong Kong route, and the Commercial Pacific Cable Company had earlier built a telegraph/telephone station in 1903 for its trans-oceanic communication line.[16]:15 During World War II (1939-1945), Guam was attacked and invaded by Japan on Monday, December 8, 1941, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor's American Pacific fleet and naval/air bases in Hawaii, hours before. In addition, Japan made major military moves into Southeast Asia and the East Indies islands of the South Pacific Ocean against the British and Dutch colonies, opening a new wider Pacific phase in the Second World War. The Japanese renamed Guam Ōmiya-jima (ja.: 大宮島) or Great Shrine Island.

Battle of Guam, July 1944.

The Northern Mariana Islands had become a League of Nations mandate assigned to Japan in 1919, pursuant to the Treaty of Versailles of 1919. Chamorros indigenous island people from the Northern Marianas were brought to Guam to serve as interpreters and in other capacities for the occupying Japanese force. The Guamanian Chamorros were treated as an occupied enemy by the Japanese military. After the war, this would cause resentment between the Guamanian Chamorros and the Chamorros of the Northern Marianas. Guam's Chamorros believed their northern brethren should have been compassionate towards them, whereas having been administered by Japan for over 30 years, the Northern Mariana Chamorros were loyal to the Japanese government.

The Japanese occupation of Guam lasted for approximately thirty-one months. During this period, the indigenous people of Guam were subjected to forced labor, family separation, incarceration, execution, concentration camps and forced prostitution. Approximately one thousand people died during the occupation, according to later Congressional committee testimony in 2004. Some historians estimate that war violence killed 10% of Guam's then 20,000 population.[18]

The United States returned and fought the Battle of Guam from July 21 to August 10, 1944, to recapture the island from Japanese military occupation. More than 18,000 Japanese were killed as only 485 surrendered. Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi, who surrendered in January 1972, appears to have been the last confirmed Japanese holdout for 28 years in the forested back country on Guam.[19] The United States also captured and occupied the nearby Northern Marianas Islands.

North Field was established in 1944, and was renamed for Brigadier General James Roy Andersen (1904–1945) of the old U.S. Army Air Forces as Andersen Air Force Base.


B-52 at Andersen Air Force Base, during Operation Linebacker II in Vietnam War, 1972

After World War II, the Guam Organic Act of 1950 established Guam as an unincorporated organized territory of the United States, provided for the structure of the island's civilian government, and granted the people U.S. citizenship. The Governor of Guam was federally appointed until 1968, when the Guam Elective Governor Act provided for the office's popular election.[20]:242 Since Guam is not a U.S. state, U.S. citizens residing on Guam are not allowed to vote for president and their congressional representative is a non-voting member.[6] They do, however, get to vote for party delegates in presidential primaries.[21]

Vietnam War and later

Andersen Air Force Base played a major role in the Vietnam War. The host unit was later designated the 36th Wing (36 WG), assigned to the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) Thirteenth Air Force (13AF). In September 2012, 13 AF was deactivated and its functions merged into PACAF. The multinational Cope North military exercise is an annual event.[22]

On August 6, 1997, Guam was the site of the Korean Air Flight 801 aircraft accident. The Boeing 747–300 jetliner was preparing to land when it crashed into a hill, killing 228 of the 254 people on board. Since 1974, about 124 historic sites in Guam have been recognized under the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Guam temporarily hosted 100,000 Vietnamese refugees in 1975, and 6,600 Kurdish refugees in 1996.[16]:17

In August 2017, North Korea warned that it might launch mid-range ballistic missiles into waters within 18 to 24 miles (29 to 39 km) of Guam, following an exchange of threats[23][24] between the governments of North Korea and the United States.

Other Languages
Acèh: Guam
Afrikaans: Guam
Alemannisch: Guam
አማርኛ: ጓም
العربية: غوام
aragonés: Guam
arpetan: Goam
asturianu: Guam
azərbaycanca: Quam
تۆرکجه: گوام
বাংলা: গুয়াম
Bân-lâm-gú: Guam
башҡортса: Гуам
беларуская: Гуам
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Гуам
Bikol Central: Guam
български: Гуам
Boarisch: Guam
bosanski: Guam
brezhoneg: Guam
català: Guam
čeština: Guam
Chamoru: Guåhån
chiShona: Guam
Cymraeg: Gwam
dansk: Guam
Deutsch: Guam
ދިވެހިބަސް: ގުއާމު
eesti: Guam
Ελληνικά: Γκουάμ
español: Guam
Esperanto: Gvamo
estremeñu: Guam
euskara: Guam
فارسی: گوآم
Fiji Hindi: Guam
føroyskt: Guam
français: Guam
Frysk: Gûam
Gaeilge: Guam
Gagauz: Guam
galego: Guam
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Guam
հայերեն: Գուամ
हिन्दी: गुआम
hrvatski: Guam
Ido: Guam
Ilokano: Guam
বিষ্ণুপ্রিয়া মণিপুরী: গুৱাম
Bahasa Indonesia: Guam
Ирон: Гуам
íslenska: Gvam
italiano: Guam
עברית: גואם
Basa Jawa: Guam
Kapampangan: Guam
ქართული: გუამი
қазақша: Гуам
kernowek: Guam
Kinyarwanda: Gwami
Kiswahili: Guam
لۊری شومالی: گوآم
Latina: Guama
latviešu: Guama
Lëtzebuergesch: Guam
lietuvių: Guamas
Ligure: Guam
Limburgs: Guam
Lingua Franca Nova: Guam
magyar: Guam
македонски: Гуам
മലയാളം: ഗുവാം
मराठी: ग्वॉम
მარგალური: გუამი
مصرى: جوام
مازِرونی: گوام
Bahasa Melayu: Guam
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Guam
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ဂူအမ်ကျွန်း
Nederlands: Guam
नेपाली: ग्वाम
日本語: グアム
нохчийн: Гуам
norsk: Guam
norsk nynorsk: Guam
occitan: Guam
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Guam
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਗੁਆਮ
پنجابی: گوام
polski: Guam
português: Guam
Qaraqalpaqsha: Guam
română: Guam
Runa Simi: Guam
русский: Гуам
Gagana Samoa: Guam
sardu: Guam
Scots: Guam
sicilianu: Guam
සිංහල: ගුආම්
Simple English: Guam
slovenčina: Guam
slovenščina: Gvam
ślůnski: Guam
کوردی: گوام
српски / srpski: Гвам
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Guam
Basa Sunda: Guam
suomi: Guam
svenska: Guam
Tagalog: Guam
தமிழ்: குவாம்
татарча/tatarça: Гуам
ไทย: กวม
тоҷикӣ: Гуам
Türkçe: Guam
Türkmençe: Guam
українська: Гуам
اردو: گوام
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: Guam Aril
Tiếng Việt: Guam
Võro: Guam
Winaray: Guam
Wolof: Guam
Yorùbá: Guam
粵語: 關島
Zazaki: Guam
中文: 關島