World War II History, Stunning Beaches in Faraway Guam

Day 46, 2024 Grand World Voyage

Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024; Guam

After eight days at sea, many on the Zuiderdam were happy to set foot on land today in Hagåtña, Guam. We’ve crossed the International Date Line and set our clocks back repeatedly, an hour at a time. So now we are 15 hours ahead of Dallas (U.S. central time).

We signed up for the only tour available, a half-day overview of the island. Many passengers took the shuttle bus for the 30-minute drive into the main city from the pier in an industrial port, while others hired taxis. The daughter of a friend lived in Guam for a few years, so I had a detailed email with lots of tourist tips. But our visit was shortened by a mandatory U.S. immigration face-to-face inspection. It seemed odd, as our last port was in Hawaii, and Guam is a U.S. territory.

Guam and tomorrow’s port, Saipan, are the sites of pivotal battles in World War II, and our tour today illustrated how little I knew about the conflict in the Pacific. My lack of basic knowledge reminded me of a visit to the World War II Museum in New Orleans with my nephew Colton, who was 11 at the time. As we stood in the entrance to one large room, he identified every weapon by name, country of manufacture, and purpose. I was amazed, but he simply said he used them all while playing video games.

11-year-old Colton at New Orleans’ WWII Museum

We started our tour today overlooking Anan Bay, where U.S. Marines landed in July 1944 and fought their way from the beach up the rugged hills. After weeks of fighting, the Japanese surrendered the island. As a footnote to history, a handful of Japanese soldiers held out in the jungle, and the last of them was discovered living in a cave in 1972.

Anan Beach

In a memorial a bit reminiscent of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., Guam has a wall featuring the names of the Guam survivors of the war. Our guide’s parents’ names are among those listed.

Back in the city, we walked through the Latte Stone Park, with its stone remnants of the earlier Chamorro culture. The stones are believed to be part of the foundations of important structures. Nearby are some of the many caves used by the Japanese during their occupation.

A statue commemorates the visit by Pope John Paul II to the predominantly Catholic Guam in 1981. It stands at the place he held his outdoor mass before a crowd of 20,000 people – immensely large by Guam standards. As a result of his visit, the nearby cathedral became a basilica. Today being Sunday, a mass was in progress inside.

Our next stop was at Two Lovers Point, a seaside cliff that legend has it was the site where two Chamorro lovers — tied together by their hair – leapt to their death rather than be separated. We couldn’t see the famous statue marking the point, as apparently it is under repair.

Signs on the fencing around the point barred tourists from attaching the “love locks” that have spread to bridges and fences around the world. Instead, tourists are invited to attach foam hearts to a designated wall.

The views from the observation deck are spectacular. Below is an upscale hotel, shopping, restaurant and beach area. Much of Guam’s beaches lie protected behind reefs (but making our ship’s entry into and exit from the port challenging due to the winds).

We had the option of leaving the tour there to return to the ship via the shuttle. A scan of the area showed mostly American chain restaurants (TGI Fridays, Hard Rock Café, Tony Roma’s Steakhouse), so I decided to pass on the stop.

Some ports send us off with music or dancers. Guam lined up its police cars and serenaded our exit with their sirens blasting.