Book Review: Guam 1941 & 1944

Guam 1941 & 1944: Loss And Reconquest, by Gordon L Rottman

One would not normally think of Guam as one of the most obvious military strongpoints of the world, but it has indeed proven to be so in the 20th century and beyond, and World War II is the most obvious situation where this has been the case. Guam was the place for two battles during World War II and this book explores both of them. And, although this book does not explore it in detail, Guam remains to this day an important military base for American plans in the Pacific Ocean region, and it is not surprising at all that the island would be an initial target for the Japanese and how the island would be seen as important for the Americans to regain after the conquest of the Pacific proceeded far enough to do so. It is interesting that as obvious as the importance of Guam might appear to us, it was not obvious to those who, like General Macarthur, were focused so much on other areas of war that it was not obvious to them how Guam could be important in the larger concerns of winning World War II, unfortunately.

This book is a short one at less than 100 pages. It begins with an introduction that discusses the origins of the campaign and the Mariana Islands themselves. After that there is a chronology, which is followed by a very brief discussion of the fall of Guam to the Japanese in December 1941. After that there is a much longer discussion of the recapture of Guam that takes the remainder of the book. This includes a look at the opposing plans between the Americans and Japanese, the opposing commanders on both sides, as well as the opposing forces available to both sides. This is followed by look at the Guam assault itself, including W-day, the expansion of the bridgehead, the drive north, and the final push, as well as the aftermath. The concluding sections of the book include a look at the orders of battle, the battlefield today, a bibliography, and an index. The contents of the book discuss the battle well, but one would have wished for some more information about the initial attempts to defend Guam to make the account bit more balanced.

One thing that this book does well is discuss the problematic nature that both the United States and Japan had in defending Guam from assault. Although the book spends vastly more time talking about the American reconquest of Guam than the original Japanese conquest, the two stories are very similar in a great many ways. In both cases an island garrison was attacked by overwhelming force by an enemy which had control of the air and the sea before engaging in the amphibious assault. The results were therefore somewhat unsurprising in that the assaults succeeded, despite the spirited fighting of the garrisons on both occasions. Indeed, one of the more notable aspects of the Guam reconquest in 1944 was that some Japanese were able to survive for a great many years on a small island after the battle had been one, before coming in out of the cold, so to speak. It is also telling that the battle of Guam is not one of the more notable battles of World War II in most histories, being in a period between the famous battles for Guadalcanal and more famous battles in places like Iwo Jima that occurred after the battle. Of interest is the fact that this battle represented a redemption for an admiral who was previously bested during the Guadalcanal campaign as well.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, Book Reviews, History, Military History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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