World War Two: Marines Surrender; China -Guam December 1941

Despite American fears, the Japanese had no intention of landing on Hawaii. They had gobbled up enough of the Pacific and Southeast Asia to choke a python and would need months to digest their kill.

U.S. Marines met the Japanese face to face on the ground only in four places: China, Wake Guam and the Philippines. The encounters in China and on Guam were quickly finished; Wake and the Philippines took longer.

That morning (December 8 in China) 2nd Lieutenant Richard M. Huizenga was supervising the loading of Marine Corps supplies aboard President Harrison on the docks of Chinwangtao, northeast of Tientsin. The raid on Pearl Harbor was already over when a truck brought him word of the attack. The lieutenant rushed back to his men at the railhead. He found the 21 marines surrounded by Japanese soldiers. Chief Marine Gunner William A. Lee, who had won three Navy Crosses in Nicaragua, was organizing a strong point and had broken out two machine guns and Thompson submachine guns and BAR’s. Their situation was hopeless but they were ready to fight. The Japanese captain allowed 2nd Lieutenant Huizenga to communicate to Major Luther A. Brown at Tientsin, who ordered him not to resist.

In Both Tientsin and Peking, the Japanese surrounded the Marine Barracks and demanded that the Marines surrender. Colonel William W. Ashurst, the senior Marine officer at the U.S. Embassy, was given to till noon to decide whether to fight or surrender. After communicating with the commander of the U. S. Asiatic Fleet in Manila and with Major Brown at Tientsin, Colonel Ashurst ordered his men, fewer than 200 Marines to lay down their arms. He hoped that as embassy guards they would be repatriated with the diplomatic personnel. But it was not to be. The Marines were imprisoned in Shanghai.


On the island of Guam, the garrison of 153 Marines was as helpless as the handful of Marines in China. The Inland lay among the Japanese held Mariana Islands and had been neutralized by the 12 disarmament treaty. The 1941 American war plan, RAINBOW 5, conceded Guam’s capture.

In addition to the Marines, Guam had 271 Navy personnel and a native force of 326 armed with obsolete rifle. Lieutenant Colonel William K. McNulty commanded the Marines. 122 of them were at Sumay barracks on the south side of Apra Harbor; the rest were stationed in villages around the island.

At 0545 December 8, Guam time, the garrison commander and governor, Captain George J. McMillin, USN, was informed of the attack on Pearl harbor. At 0827, Japanese bombers from Saipan hit. They immediately sank the minesweeper Penguin in Apra harbor. Her guns were Guam’s only weapons larger than .30 caliber machine guns. Plames bombed and strafed the island the rest of that day and the next. There was no effective defense.

At 0400 on December 10, 400 Japanese sailors landed at Dungeas Beach, just north of the town of Agaña on Guam’s west coast. And 5,500 soldiers landed at Tumon Bay north of of the beach and on the southwest coast. When the first enemy sailors reached Agaña, a detachment of native troops commanded by Marine 1st Lieutenant Charles S. Todd met them in the plaza with rifle and machine gun fire. They pushed the invaders back twice and lost 17 men, but they could not hold out for long.

Captain McMillin saw that the situation was futile. Shortly after 0600, he surrendered to the Japanese naval commander. He sent orders to the Marines at Sumay not to resist, but scattered fighting continued the rest of the day as the Japanese spread over the island. Nineteen of the garrison were killed and 42 wounded, including foru Marines killed and 12 wounded. The surviving Americans were shipped to prison camps in Japan. It would be two and a half years before the Marines returned to Guam.

SOURCE: U.S. Marine Corps Story; By J. Robert Moskin

World War Two: Philippines (Prewar Part 1-1; 2); Enter MacArthur

World War Two: Fall of Wake Island, 11-23 December 1941

World War Two: Retaking Guam (4-15); Plans and Preparations


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