Go Offshore: War in the Pacific National Historical Park
War in the Pacific National Historical Park offers sun-drenched celebration and somber remembrance in equal measures. Located on the tropical island of Guam, this park is a reminder of the bloody World War II battles that were once fought in this pacific paradise.
A tropical getaway
For those looking for a place to escape both the winter cold of home and the crowded beaches of more well-known tropical destinations like Hawaii, War in the Pacific National Historical Park is the perfect answer. The park's white sand beaches, verdant jungles, and colorful coral reefs are all ripe for exploration this time of year.
The Asan Bay Overlook offers beautiful panoramic views where you can gaze across the vast Pacific Ocean on one side and the outstretched island of Guam on the other. Sunsets at Asan Beach are spectacular, and local fishermen are a common sight along the shoreline.
The turquoise waters around Asan Beach support a pristine reef ecosystem with a wide array of sea life, making this park an unmatched destination for snorkelers and scuba divers. The scuba and snorkeling areas of the park harbor 3,500 marine species, including the threatened green sea turtle and the endangered hawksbill sea turtle.
A complex history
War in the Pacific National Historical Park was established in 1978 in honor of all who fought in the Pacific Theater of World War II. The battles encompassed a vast area of the Pacific Ocean and involved not just the United States and Japan but also Canada, Great Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, China, the Netherlands, and the Soviet Union.
Guam had been administered by the United States since 1898, when it was captured from Spain during a bloodless battle in the Spanish American War. Japanese forces invaded on December 10, 1941 — just days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor — and took control of the island. For three years, Guam served as a strategic military stronghold for Japan.
Aiming to retake the island, American forces landed on July 21, 1944, at Asan Beach. The Battle of Guam ensued throughout the following weeks, as American forces gradually drove the Japanese inland from the well-fortified hills above the coast. On Aug. 10, the Japanese resistance ended and Guam was declared secure.
Today, the Memorial Wall at Guam’s Asan Beach commemorates the 17,771 American casualties and native Chamorro people who were killed or wounded during the war.
A haven for history buffs
Hiking trails meander throughout War in the Pacific National Historical Park, leading to a variety of on- and off-the-beaten-path historical sites. More than 100 are intact and visible to the public, including gun emplacements, former battlefields, caves, bunkers, pill boxes, latrine foundations, plaques, and other structures. For detailed information on the park's history, stop in at the T. Stell Newman Visitor Center upon arrival.
This island paradise promises warmer weather and a chance for visitors to look back on a complicated chapter in our nation's history. Whatever your reason for visiting Guam, War in the Pacific National Historical Park is surely a hidden jewel in the National Park System.
Photo Credits: National Park Service, Daderot/Wikimedia Commons