The US captured one of its most important military outposts from an enemy who didn’t even know it was at war

US troops plant US flag on Guam during WWII
US officers plant the American flag on Guam eight minutes after Marines and soldiers landed on the island, July 20, 1944.

  • In June 1898, the US Navy sailed to Guam to capture the island from the Spanish.
  • The Spanish, who didn’t know they were fighting the US, surrendered the island without a fight.
  • Guam is still a US territory, and it now hosts some of the US’s most important military bases.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In eight months of fighting in 1898, the US secured its status as a global power by defeating Spain in the Spanish-American War.

Fought on two continents, the war had a number of important moments for the US military. It led to the independence of Cuba (with the US as the dominant power there) and to US control of Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam.

While there were battles in both Puerto Rico and the Philippines, Guam was taken without a fight. Indeed, the Spanish on the island had no idea they were even at war.

An important stop

Map of Guam in the Pacific
Guam was an important stopover point between the Americas and the Philippines.

In the 1898, the big prize for Spain and the US in the Pacific was the Philippines. Guam was an important stop between the Americas and the Philippines, but neither Spain nor the US paid much attention to it.

The Americans had already positioned Commodore George Dewey’s Asiatic Squadron off China in anticipation of striking the Spanish fleet at Manila. But after a May 9 meeting of the US Navy War Board, which was formed to develop a strategy for the war, it was decided that Guam should also be taken to support operations in the Philippines.

To seize it, Secretary of the Navy John Long issued sealed orders to Capt. Henry Glass of the USS Charleston, a protected cruiser en route from California to Manila.

In Honolulu, Charleston was joined by three troop transports. As instructed, Glass only read his orders after leaving Hawaii on June 4.

“You are hereby directed to stop at the Spanish Island of Guam,” the orders read. “You will use such force as may be necessary to capture the port of Guam, making prisoners of the Governor and other officials, and any armed force that may be there.”

Glass was also ordered to destroy any Spanish fortifications or naval vessels he encountered.

Complete surprise

Navy cruiser Charleston in harbor at Agana Guam
USS Charleston at the entrance to the harbor of Agana, Guam, June 20-21, 1898.

Though the orders said the operation “should not occupy more than one or two days,” Guam’s defenses were not entirely known, so while en route Charleston’s crew spent days firing on practice targets in the ocean.

Charleston arrived off Guam on the morning of June 20. Encountering only an abandoned fort and no Spanish ships in Agana, the capital city, Glass ordered his ship to sail to Apra Harbor.

To the crew’s disappointment, the only vessel there was a Japanese trading ship. Charleston fired several shots at Fort Santa Cruz to see if it was occupied, but it was also abandoned.

Spanish officials soon sailed out to meet Charleston in two small boats, one of which had a US flag on its topsail.

Upon boarding the Charleston, the Spaniards apologized. They had interpreted Charleston’s gunfire as a salute, and they told the Americans they could not respond in kind because of a lack of gunpowder.

The Capt. Henry Glass monument on Guam
The Capt. Henry Glass monument on Guam.

It turned out the island hadn’t communicated with Manila since April 14 – 11 days before the US declared war on Spain – and no Spanish Navy vessel had visited Guam in 18 months.

Glass told the Spaniards that their countries were at war and that he was taking over the island. He demanded Guam’s governor, Don Juan Marina, surrender the island in person aboard Charleston.

The delegation returned, and Marina requested to speak to Glass on the island instead, as he was not legally allowed to board a foreign warship.

The next day, Glass sent an envoy to demand the Spanish surrender and gave them a half-hour to comply. Twenty-nine minutes later, Marina surrendered.

The island’s garrison, which had fewer than 60 men, was disarmed and taken as prisoners aboard one of the transport ships, as were Marina and other Spanish officials.

The Americans then set sail for Manila, where they assisted Dewey for the rest of the war.

An important base

B-29 over runway at Harmon Field Guam during WWII
A B-29 bomber over the runway at Harmon Field, Guam, April 13, 1945.

After the surrender, Glass personally examined Fort Santa Cruz, where he raised the American flag.

The fort itself “was entirely useless as a defensive work, with no guns and in a partly ruinous condition,” Glass wrote in a report to Long.

Glass described the other forts on the island as having “no value,” and that the only guns that could be found were obsolete cast-iron guns used for saluting “but now condemned as unsafe even for that purpose.”

While the Spanish had neglected Guam, the US turned it into an important base.

The Japanese captured it on December 10, 1941, but the US retook it in a bloody 21-day battle in summer 1944, and used it as a base for B-29 bombing missions for the rest of the war.

Air Force Cope North Guam
An eight-plane formation over Guam during exercise Cope North 21, February 9, 2021.

Guam is now home to roughly 170,000 people, and its importance for the US military has only increased.

It is now the US’s “most critical operating location west of the international dateline,” Adm. Philip Davidson said before retiring as head of US Indo-Pacific Command earlier this year.

The major bases on Guam are Andersen Air Force Base, which often hosts US long-range bombers, and Naval Base Guam, which is home to a submarine squadron and is frequently visited by other warships.

It also hosts some 7,000 US military personnel, with more arriving as the Marine Corps relocates 5,000 Marines from Okinawa as part of a realignment plan. Their new home, Camp Blaz, is the Corps’ first new base in 68 years.

US Navy 7th Fleet USS Blue Ridge Guam
US, Australian, Japanese, and South Korean naval ships in Apra Harbor at US Naval Base Guam, May 22, 2019.

Guam is an unincorporated US territory, meaning people born there are US citizens but have limited political rights while they live there.

The US presence there has often irritated the local population, as when thousands of US sailors were quarantined there after a COVID-19 outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in spring 2020.

The US military presence also makes Guam a target.

North Korea has threatened it specifically in the past, and the island is believed to be a focal point of Chinese plans to neutralize US bases in the region in case of conflict.

China’s DF-26, its first conventionally armed ballistic missile capable of reaching Guam, has been dubbed the “Guam Killer.”

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Plans for undersea communications cables are at a stalemate after the US warned of China’s involvement, report says

kiribati
The island nation of Kiribati

  • Plans for undersea communications cables have been shelved after security concerns over China.
  • Reuters reported the US warned of a security threat with the cables connecting Pacific island nations.
  • No contract was awarded as a result, and next steps for the project aren’t yet clear.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The future of plans for undersea communications cables between Pacific Island nations are unclear after the US warned a Chinese company that was bidding for the project could pose a security threat, Reuters reported.

The $72.6 million project, which is backed by the World Bank, is designed to better connect the island nations of Nauru, Kiribati and Federated States of Micronesia, Reuters said.

But two sources told Reuters no contract was awarded after the US raised concerns over the involvement of a Chinese company.

HMN Technologies, formerly known as Huawei Marine Networks, was one of three companies that submitted bids, the sources told Reuters.

Under the current plan, the cable would connect to Guam, a US territory that is home to key military facilities and it was this factor that raised concerns over the security of the project.

One source told Reuters no contract had been awarded because there was no other way to remove HMN as one of the bidders.

“Given there was no tangible way to remove Huawei as one of the bidders, all three bids were deemed non-compliant,” Reuters quoted the unnamed sources as saying.

The World Bank told Reuters that it was working with the nations’ governments to figure out what to do next.

It added: “The process has concluded without an award due to non-responsiveness to the requirements of the bidding documents.”

And a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson told Reuters: “As a matter of principle, I want to emphasise that Chinese companies have always maintained an excellent record in cyber security.”

HMN Technologies did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

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Guam delivered on its promise to gift Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene cookies after she falsely said the territory is a foreign country

marjorie taylor greene.JPG
U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) addresses a news conference on Capitol Hill on February 5, 2021.

  • Guan representatives delivered on a promise to gift Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene cookies.
  • They promised to give her cookies after she seemed to not know Guam was a US territory last month.
  • Guam’s governor also offered to send her educational resources about the US territory.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Guam Rep. Michael San Nicolas and members of the Guam National Guard delivered on a promise to gift Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene cookies after she claimed the territory was a foreign country on Monday.

During the Conservative Political Action Conference, Greene seemed to not know where Guam was or that it was a US territory.

“I’m a regular person. And I wanted to take my regular-person, normal, everyday American values, which is, we love our country. We believe our hard-earned tax dollars should just go for America, not for what? China, Russia, the Middle East, Guam, whatever, wherever,” she said in late February.

Last week, Nicholas promised to gift her cookies, and the office of Guam’s governor, Lourdes Aflague Leon Guerrero, offered books on the history of the territory.

“Congresswoman Greene is a new member, and we will be paying a visit to her and delivering delicious Chamorro Chip Cookies as part of our ongoing outreach to new members to introduce them to our wonderful island of Guam,” Nicholas told The Guam Daily Post.

On Monday, Nicholas delivered on that promise but the Congresswoman was not at her office when they visited, according to a video uploaded by The Hill.

They were met by an aide who thanked them.

“Thank you guys so much for all that you do. We really appreciate it. Thank you guys for keeping us safe,” the aide said.

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US admiral says Guam needs more defenses to stop China from knocking it out of the fight with a ‘cheap shot’

F-15E Strike Eagles and a B-2 Spirit bomber fly in formation over Andersen Air Force Base on Guam
F-15E Strike Eagles and a B-2 Spirit bomber fly in formation over Andersen Air Force Base on Guam

  • The Indo-Pacific Command chief pushed lawmakers to boost Guam’s defenses against threats from China.
  • He said that Aegis Ashore would better protect the strategic territory from missiles.
  • “Guam is a target today,” he stated, noting that Guam will face greater threats in the future.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The top US commander in the Indo-Pacific pressed lawmakers on Tuesday to support the fielding of additional air-and-missile defense capabilities for Guam given China’s growing ability to threaten the important territory.

“Guam is a target today,” US Navy Adm. Philip Davidson, the commander of US Indo-Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “It needs to be defended, and it needs to be prepared for the threats that will come in the future.”

“Guam is not just a place that we believe that we can fight from, as we have for many decades,” he said, telling the Senate panel that “we are going to have to fight for it.”

The admiral, who has made the defense of Guam a top priority, said that this strategic US territory would benefit from Aegis Ashore. He argued that the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system in place to defend Guam is incapable “of meeting the current trajectory of threats from China.”

Davidson called attention to a Chinese propaganda video that showed an H-6 bomber strike on Andersen Air Force Base on Guam as evidence of China’s strategic thinking. The video was mocked for shamelessly ripping footage from Hollywood films like ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”

The Pentagon’s most recent China military power report noted that Chinese “H-6K bomber flights into the western Pacific Ocean demonstrate China’s ability to range Guam with air-launched [land-attack cruise missiles]” while the DF-26 mid-range missile nicknamed the “Guam Express” is “capable of conducting precision conventional or nuclear strikes against ground targets, which could include US bases on Guam.”

Davidson said that Guam would be better to prepared to defend against these threats with Aegis Ashore, an air-and-missile defense system based on the system the US Navy has installed on a number of its guided-missile destroyers and cruisers.

Davidson said Tuesday that America has “to demonstrate that any ambition China might have and any threat it might put forth toward Guam would come at cost.”

“That would be really by the collection of not only this defensive capability, which I think is so critical because it prevents a cheap shot,” but also other capabilities “to let China know that the cost of what they seek to do are too high and give them doubt in their success,” he said.

The admiral told lawmakers that putting Aegis Ashore on Guam would show China that “it “can’t knock Guam out with an easy shot and keep us out of the fight to present a fait accompli” in a regional crisis, such as a conflict over Taiwan.

Davidson’s Aegis Ashore proposal is part of the broader Pacific Defense Initiative expected to require an estimated $4.6 billion in defense funds in fiscal year 2022 and $27 billion over the next five years as the Pentagon makes competition with China a priority.

Department of Defense leadership has repeatedly identified China as the “pacing threat,” and the Biden administration has singled China out as America’s most challenging competitor.

In this competition, Guam is a vital territorial holding. Not only is it home to more than 170,000 US citizens and service members, but it also offers access to a deepwater port, fuel and munition storage, and an airfield that for US power projection. A submarine squadron and a ship that performs maintenance on them are based there.

“America’s day begins in Guam, and it is not only a location we must fight-from, but one we must also fight-for given the threats we face in the near term and the foreseeable future,” Davidson told lawmakers Tuesday.

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The US Air Force’s plan to dodge Chinese missiles means new jobs for airmen who keep fighters flying

Air Force Cope North Guam
An eight-plane formation over Guam during exercise Cope North 21, February 9, 2021.

The US Air Force’s efforts to disperse its forces have gained new urgency as the Chinese military grows in size and reach, but operating from far-flung, often austere airfields creates new logistical challenges. To overcome them, the service is asking its airmen take on new tasks.

Expeditionary operations are getting special attention in the Pacific, where important facilities, like Anderson Air Force Base on Guam, are within range of Chinese missiles.

The Air Force has spent more time refining a concept known as Agile Combat Employment, which pairs bases like Anderson, or hubs, with remote airfields, called spokes. To support operations at those spokes, the service is looking to “multi-capable airmen,” who have been trained do tasks outside their assigned specialties.

Both concepts were on display during Cope North 21, an exercise conducted with Japanese and Australian forces in the Pacific between February 3 and February 19.

“Every year, we try to expand the envelope of what we can do,” Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, head of US Pacific Air Forces, said of Cope North during the Air Force Association air-warfare symposium last week.

Air Force F-35 C-130J Guam
Two F-35s wait to refuel from a C-130J at Northwest Field in Guam as part of Agile Combat Employment multi-capable airmen training during Cope North 21, February 16, 2021.

During the exercise, F-35s from Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska flew to Guam. During the drills, the F-35s landed in the island nation of Palau, refueled without shutting down their engines, and, after less than an hour, took off again to continue training, Wilsbach said.

That demonstrated “the ability to get back and forth to Palau, which is a very long distance, and the ability to refuel on the ground,” which requires multi-capable airmen, Wilsbach added.

“One of the things that we were doing at Cope North was expanding this notion of multi-capable airman,” Wilsbach said. “We train airman in generally one specific area, like, for example, a security forces member … but what if a security forces member could also refuel an aircraft or reload an aircraft or work on communications gear at those outstations?”

In addition to airfields on Palau, US and Japanese airmen conducted training at the rugged Northwest Field on Guam.

Pacific Air Forces is implementing a syllabus to teach airmen skills from outside their assigned career fields, Wilsbach said. “This gets us more capability with fewer people, which reduces the logistics requirements at some of those spoke locations.”

Able to pick up a weapon

Air Force C-130J Palau
A US Air Force C-130J lands at Angaur in Palau during Cope North 21, February 11, 2021.

Air Force personnel around the world, including in the US and Europe, are practicing ACE and related concepts, and Pacific Air Forces includes an ACE component in most exercises, Wilsbach has said.

In the days after Cope North, the 18th Wing, the host unit at Kadena Air Force Base in Japan, held its first multi-capable airman training course.

“Prior to this – or even historically – some airmen made it through their whole career without really touching an aircraft,” Senior Master Sgt. Frank Uecker, ACE superintendent for the 18th Wing, said in a release.

The service’s Advanced Maintenance and Munitions Operations School, based at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, is also trying to spread lessons from airmen who have led development of ACE among the maintenance, munitions, and logistics experts it trains.

What the school “is really trying to codify is what is the supply chain, what’s the logistics look like for that, what capabilities do you need in a multi-capable airman to be able to minimize the footprint and stay agile,” 57th Wing commander Brig. Gen. Michael Drowley, who oversees the school, said last month.

Air Force airman fuel F-16 Guam
A US Air Force airman pulls fuel lines to an F-16 during an agile combat employment scenario at Northwest Field during exercise Cope North 21, February 15, 2021.

“Right now, they’re really in the tabletop exercise, red-teaming aspect of looking at some of those operations and what the requirements would be and then what do they need to train their instructors to be able to do, so that way [instructors] can go back out to the units and now provide that training,” Drowley added.

The new tasks for airmen aren’t limited to the maintenance and logistical support. They may also have to help defend the base from missiles, enemy aircraft, and other incoming threats.

“We’re looking at acquiring some additional light capability to go out primarily to the spokes, because our hubs are pretty well protected with things like” Patriot missiles and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense weapon system, Wilsbach said.

“Who’s at the base and what they can do to help you defend the base goes back to that multi-capable airman,” Wilsbach added. “There will be expectations that they will be able to add to the defense of the base, regardless of whether they’re a security forces member or not. They’ve got to be able to pick up a weapon that can help defend that location until you leave or until such time as the threat has been abated.”

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The Marine Corps just set up its first new base in 68 years

Marine Corps camp blaz guam
US Marines assigned to Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz conduct the first flag raising of the new command, marking the initial operation capability of the base in Dededo, Guam, October 1, 2020.

  • Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz was activated on October 1, 2020, on the island of Guam.
  • The base is the Corps’ first new base since 1952, and it will eventually host roughly 5,000 Marines of III Marine Expeditionary Force.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

On October 1, 2020, the United States Marine Corps activated its first new base since 1952.

Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz will host roughly 5,000 Marines of III Marine Expeditionary Force on the island of Guam. The Marines will relocate from their current station in Okinawa, Japan, over the next five years. 1,300 Marines will be permanently stationed at Camp Blaz while the remaining 3,700 Marines will serve as a rotational force.

The new Marine Corps strategy in the Pacific calls for a smaller, more agile and lethal force.

“We have to spread out,” said the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger. “We have to factor in Guam.” Camp Blaz will allow the United States to distribute its premiere amphibious fighting force across the Pacific. Operating from Guam, the Marine Corps will be able to respond to a wider array of aggressive actions from China.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (yes, that’s actually what it’s called) is officially the largest navy in the world. While the United States more than doubles the PLAN in tonnage and outclasses it in quality, the threat of numbers cannot be ignored.

Camp Blaz is named for the late Brig. Gen. Vicente Tomas Garrido Blaz, the first Chamorro Marine to reach the rank of general officer. Blaz was born on Guam on February 14, 1928 and lived through the Japanese occupation of the island during WWII. After the war, he attended the University of Notre Dame on a scholarship and commissioned as a Marine officer in 1951.

Over his 29 years of service, Blaz earned the Legion of Merit, a Bronze Star Medal with a Combat “V” for valor, and the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross for his service in Vietnam.

Following his retirement from the Corps in 1980, Blaz worked as a professor at the University of Guam. In 1984, he was elected to the House of Representatives as the delegate from Guam. He served in Congress until 1983 when he retired. Blaz died in 2014 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The new base that bears this Marine’s name solidifies the union between the Corps and the people of Guam.

“As the Marine Corps presence on Guam grows, I am confident that we will live up to our motto of honor, courage, and commitment,” said Col. Bradley M. Magrath, Camp Blaz’s first base commander. “We will honor the history of the island of Guam, we will have the courage to defend it, and we will remain committed to preserving its cultural and environmental resources.”

The Marine Corps plans to hold a formal activation ceremony in spring 2021.

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