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The Conquer of Guam

The tiny country of Guam is a strategic link between the US and Asia. How did the US acquire the territory?

The Pacific Island of Guam is situated about 6000 miles east of the state of California. During the Spanish-American war in 1898, Guam was under Spanish control (as it had been since the 1600’s). Although the US was actually interested in conquering the Philippines, Guam was taken in lieu because of its proximity which are only 1500 miles apart.

The Takeover of Guam

In June of 1898, the US sent a warship to capture the island. The expectation of of defense or retaliation from the Spanish did not come quickly. To America’s surprise, the Spanish did not respond aggressively. A few hours later, Spanish officials sailed over to the American ship. When they reached, the Spanish actually apologized for not responding earlier to what they thought was a friendly greeting. The officials stationed on the remote island had no idea that a war between the two had broken out two months earlier.

Once the information of war was properly relayed, the Americans sent a letter to the Spanish governor of Guam giving him 30 minutes to surrender. 29 minutes later, the territory was surrendered to the Americans. The turnover happened without casualties or injury to any of the parties involved. After the US victory of the war, Guam became an official US territory.

Problems in Paradise

In the intermediary, various political movements have sought to incorporate the country as a state, or seek independence. Because all people born in Guam are born in an American territory, they are considered to be US citizens. Like other territories of the US such as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, these citizens cannot vote for President.

Proximity of Guam to SE Asia
Proximity of Guam to SE Asia

Today, the federal government is criticized for using Guam’s strategic location for benefit. The standards of living are much lower than that on the mainland. The island suffers from strained and outdated infrastructure, and more recently has reached out to the federal government for increased protection from threats from North Korea.

The Future of Guam

This strategic location for the USA begs the question- why are American citizens not living on the American mainland treated as less than by the government? Will the fate of Guam and the native people look up any time soon? As tensions and alliances grow between the United States and rising Asia, only time will tell.

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