First Battle of Guam

The First Battle of Guam, was an engagement during the Pacific War in World War II, and took place on December 8, 1941 on Guam in the Mariana Islands between the Empire of Japan and American forces.

Japanese Special Forces landed about 5,500 men on Guam on December 10, 1941. The bulk of the Japanese forces belonged to the 4,886-strong 55th Infantry Group. But the 370-man 5th Company, 2nd Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF), based at Saipan, was the only unit to engage in combat during the operation.

U.S. forces on Guam comprised about 547 Marines, Insular Force guardsmen, and navy personnel but they only had about 160 weapons including three .30 caliber Mk6 machine guns and four Thompson submachine guns. Among the American units were 271 U.S. Navy personnel, mostly unarmed, including Guamanian messman and four Navy nurses. Guam's station ship with a 137-man crew was also present. The U.S. Marine Barracks had only 153 Marines assigned under Lieutenant Colonel William K. MacNulty. This was just a company armed with only a few M1918AI BAR rifles and M1903 Springfield rifles. The unarmed and unpaid Guam Militia was mostly a ceremonial marching unit, and played no part in the defense of Guam.

At 04:45 hours, on December 8, the Governor of the island, George J. McMillin was informed about the attack on Pearl Harbor. At 08:27 hours, Japanese aircraft from Saipan attacked the Marine Barracks, the Piti Navy Yard, Libugon radio station, Standard Oil Company, and the Pan American Hotel. During the airstrike, the USS Penguin was scuttled after shooting down a Japanese plane. One officer was killed and several men wounded. The air raids all over Guam continued into the morning and afternoon before subsiding at 17:00 hours.

The next day at 08:30 hours, Japanese air attacks resumed with no more than nine aircraft attacking at a time. Previous targets mentioned were attacked as well as the Government House in Agana and several villages as well. That evening, a Japanese invasion fleet, making up of four heavy cruisers, four destroyers, two gunboats, and six submarine chasers, two minesweepers, and two tenders, left Saipan for Guam.

At 02:15 hours on December 10, the 370-man 5th Company, Maizuri 2nd SNLF landed on Dungcas Beach on Agana Bay north of Agana and attacked and quickly captured the Insular Force Guard in Agana. It then advanced on Piti moving toward Sumay and the Marine Barracks. The South Seas Detachment began landing on the north flank ot Tumon Bay on the upper northwest coast and moved towards Agana. The principal engagement took place on Agana's Plaza de Espana at 04:45 hours when a few Marines and Insuler Force Guardsmen fought with the 5th Company. After token resistance, the Marines surrendered at 05:45 hours. Governor McMillin officially surrendered at 06:00. No further fighting took place, but a few skirmishes took place all over the island before news of the surrender spread and the rest of the island forces surrendered as well.

Marine losses were five killed and 13 wounded. The U.S. Navy lost eight killed, The Guam Insular Force Guards lost 4, and a total of 22 wounded. Only one Japanese Marine was killed and six wounded, all of them from the 5th Company, 2nd SNLF.

On December 7, 1941, the USS Goldstar was preparing to leave the Philippines enroute to Guam but was delayed by the Commander in Chief, Asiatic Fleet because of the intensified international situation between the United States and Japan. The Goldstar never arrived on Guam.