Sea-faring people who migrate from southeastern Indonesia, the Chamorro are the first settlers on Guam.
The Latte Stones, the stone pillars of ancient Chamorro houses, are erected around this time. Unlike anything else in the world, the original Latte Stones are comprised of two pieces: a supporting column made of coral limestone and a capstone made from coral heads. Customarily, the bones of the ancient Chamorro, along with their possessions, are buried beneath the stones.
When Europeans first arrive, Chamorro society is divided into three classes: matao (upper class), achaot (middle class), and mana’chang (lower class). The matao live in the coastal villages with access to the best fishing grounds while themana’chang live inland. Early Europeans also note the Chamarros fast sailing vessels, used for trading with other islands in Micronesia.
1521–1800 EUROPEAN EXPLORATION AND EARLY SETTLEMENT
(March 6) Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrives and anchors his three-ship fleet in Umatac Bay. Not sharing the European concept of ownership, the native Chamorro help themselves to everything on the ship. Magellan brands them as thieves as names Guam "Isla de los Ladrones" ("Island of Thieves").
Miguel Lopez de Legazpi claims Guam, the Marianas, and the Philippines for Spain. However, Guam is not colonized until the 17th century.
Jesuit missionaries led by Padre Diego Luis de San Vitores arrive and rename the islands "Marianas." The Spanish establish a permanent settlement on the island and force the Chamorro to convert to Catholicism. They also teach the Chamorro to cultivate maize, raise cattle, and to wear western-style clothing.
A garrison is established at La Hagatna after Spain places Guam under military control. Guam becomes a regular port-of-call for Spanish galleons crossing the Pacific Ocean from Mexico to the Philippines.
(April) Chief Mata’pang of Tomhom kills Jesuit priest Padre Diego Luis de San Vitores after San Vitores baptizes the chief’s baby girl without his consent. The death of Padre San Vitores leads to war with Spain, nearly extinguishing the Chamorro race. Chamorro casualties from fighting and disease reduce the population from 200,000 to roughly 5,000 by 1741.
The Spanish quash Chamorro resistance and forcibly evacuate all Chamorro on Saipan and the other Northern Marianas to Guam. Spanish soldiers and Filipinos relocate to the area in order to restock the island’s population, marking the end of the pure Chamorro bloodline.
A number of scientists, voyagers, and whalers from Russia, France, and England visit the island, providing detailed accounts of the daily life on Guam under Spanish rule to those back home.
Preying upon Spanish galleons, English pirates raid Guam, taking supplies and provisions.
1800–1900 COLONIAL GUAM
A typhoon devastates the Caroline Islands. The survivors sail to Guam, but only half make it through the journey. Once they arrive, Spanish authorities send the Carolinians to Saipan and Tinian to manage the Spanish cattle herds.
(January 25) Preceded by a loud subterranean noise, a strong earthquake with both vertical and horizontal movements hits Guam. From January 25 to March 11, 150 aftershocks result in the island being inundated with tsunamis.
(June 20) En route to the Philippines to fight the Spanish during the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Navy CruiserCharleston seizes the island of Guam.
(December 10) The Treaty of Paris officially ends the Spanish-American War. The U.S. pays Spain $20 million to gain possession of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Guam serves as a way station for American ships traveling to and from the Philippines.
1900–1930 THE TERRITORY OF GUAM
The U.S. defines Guam as an "unincorporated territory," which mean the U.S. Constitution does not fully apply to its citizens.
(July 3) The Pacific Cable telegraph opens, connecting San Francisco, Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines. President Theodore Roosevelt is the first to send a message, wishing "a happy Independence Day to the U.S., its territories, and properties." It takes nine minutes for the message to travel worldwide.
The people of Guam, including schoolchildren who donate a penny each, collect $703.92 to have a ship’s bell and commemorative plaque manufactured in Shanghai. They present the bell to the Navy, and the bell has since served on each of the three USS Guam Naval vessels.
After a single operator is transferred from a site in Shanghai, a U.S. intercept station is established on Guam. The need for an intermediate site in the Pacific to receive and process Japanese communications spurs its opening.
1930–1950 WORLD WAR II AND JAPANESE OCCUPATION
(December 10) Fifty five hundred Japanese Special Forces invade and capture the island. They occupy Guam for two and a half years, during which the people suffer terrible atrocities. They endure torture, beheadings, and rape for attempting to aid American servicemen. Japanese forces find and execute all American servicemen, except for Navy radioman George Tweed, who is hidden by the Chamorro community.
(July 21) U.S. forces invade Japanese-occupied Guam after a naval bombardment in which thousands of Japanese and Chamorro lose their lives. Seven thousand Americans and 11,000 Japanese are killed before U.S. troops defeat the Japanese and recapture Guam on August 10.
The U.S. defines Guam as a "non-self-governing territory."
(May 30) the U.S. Naval Government is re-established on Guam.
(July 15) U.S. Representative Robert A. Grant of Indiana introduces a Congressional bill that would provide Guam with the semi-autonomous status of "organized territory," which includes the privilege of sending a delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill never makes it out of committee.
The brown tree snake arrives on Guam and begins to feed on the native bird population. By 1998, an estimated 9 out of 11 native bird species have been eliminated. In 1994, Guam begins to use Jack Russell terriers to check cargo for brown tree snakes in an attempt to quell the population.
President Harry Truman appoints Carlton Skinner as the first civilian governor of Guam. Skinner establishes the island’s first university and writes its first constitution.
(February–March) The Guam Assembly Walkout occurs. The Guam Assembly subpoenas Abe Goldstein, a civil service employee of the U.S. Navy, for violations of local business laws. With backing from Governor Charles Alan Pownall, Goldstein refuses to testify. The assembly issues a warrant for his arrest, but the governor cancels it. In protest, the entire assembly walks out on March 6 and is summarily fired by Pownall (they are later reinstated). The event helps generate popular support for increased Guamanian self-rule, directly leading to the Guam Organic Act.
1950–PRESENT MODERN GUAM
The Guam Organic Act gives Guamanians American citizenship. It gives the island status as an unincorporated organized territory and provides for a civilian government. It also transfers Federal jurisdiction from the United States Navy to the Department of the Interior.
The Boy Scouts of America construct a replica of the Statue of Liberty observance of their 40th anniversary. It stands in the Paseo de Susana at the entrance of Hagatna harbor and is visible to boats approaching the harbor.
President Truman authorizes the shipment of nuclear capsules to Guam during the Korean War. Starting in 1956, a wide variety of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems are sent to the Pacific Island territory as a first line of defense for the U.S.
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 expands the definition of the "United States" for nationality purposes to add Guam.
Guam becomes a strategically located military base during the Vietnam War.
President John F. Kennedy lifts the Naval Clearing Act, which opens Guam’s ports to domestic and foreign visitors. This allows for the development of a tourism industry on Guam. Today Guam is a popular destination for Japanese tourists, as well as travelers from South Korea, the U.S., the Philippines, and Taiwan.
The Elective Governor Act gives Guamanians the right to vote for their own governor for the first time.
(July 25) The Nixon Doctrine is unveiled at a press conference in Guam. In it, President Richard Nixon states that the U.S. expects its allies to take care of their own military defense, but that they will be aided in defense as requested. The doctrine helps set the stage for subsequent direct U.S. military involvement in the Persian Gulf region with military aid to Iran and Saudi Arabia.
(January 24) The last Japanese World War II fighter, Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi, is found hiding in a cave in the Guamanian jungle. He has been hiding since his unit was scattered by advancing Americans in July 1944, in adherence with his army’s code of never surrendering. He returns to Japan as a national hero.
Guam begins to elect a non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives to serve a two-year term.
Following the fall of South Vietnam, over 100,000 refugees are air-lifted to Guam before being sent to the U.S.
(August 18) The War in the Pacific National Historic Park-Guam is established to commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of those participating in World War II. Visitors can still see Japanese coastal guns, pillboxes, caves, and other remnants from the Japanese occupation of Guam.
Guam’s population increases with the immigration of more than 6,000 Kurdish refugees from Iraq.
(August 6) Korean Air Flight 801 from Seoul crashes into a hillside a short distance from Guam’s Agana International Airport. Two hundred twenty-eight people are killed; 26 survive.
(December 8) Typhoon Pongsona, a Category 4 typhoon, becomes the costliest U.S. disaster in 2002. It passes through Guam and the Northern Marianas with peak wind gusts of 173 mph, leaving Guam without power and destroying 1,300 homes. Damage on the island totals over $700 million.
(February 23) A B-2 Spirit of the U.S. Air Force crashes at Guam. The crew survives, but the 1.2 billion dollar aircraft is destroyed, making it the most expensive air crash in history.
Click to enlarge an image
1000: Depiction of latte stones
1500: Chamarros Chief
1521: Umatac Bay
1565: Statue of López de Legazpi in Zumárraga
1672: Artist depection of Diego Luis de San Vitores
1898: The Charleston entering Agana, the main port of Guam
1927: USS Guam
1941: George Tweed
1946: Brown tree snake
1949: Charles Alan Pownall
1962: John F. Kennedy, 35th president of the United States
1969: Richard Nixon, 37th president of the United States
1972: Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi's Cave
1997: Wreckage of Korean Air Flight 801 at the Sasa Valley crash site