Huerfano County, Colorado
Lovdjieff Collection

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Chapter III



The principal island of the Marianas is Guam, "ceded by Spain to the United States December 10, 1898, is 5200 miles from San Francisco and 1500 miles from Manilla." It is about 32 miles long, four to eight miles wide, 206 square miles in area, and 100 miles in circumference. The 1940 census enumerated a population of 22,290. The island's maximum elevation is 1334 feet (Mt. Lamlam). The arable soil is fertile, with abundant timber where it is less suited to cultivation. There are several good harbors. "Exports include(d) copra and coconut oil. Other products are corn, rice, sweet potatoes, coffee, bananas, pineapples, citrus fruits, limes, mangoes, papayas, breadfruit, cocoa, yams, tobacco, cassava, kapok, alligator pears, sugar cane, and timber. The 4,300 head of cattle include 1,432 water buffaloes.”

" . . . Coral is a special feature of Guam and is found chiefly in the northern half of the island, and at Orote Peninsula, just south of Apra Harbor. The northern part of the island is really a large upraised, tropically forested coral reef and with the passage of centuries the reef has been leeched out into brittle spongy limestones full of treacherous holes with razored edges. Coral cuts can be brutally painful.

"The southern half of Guam offers an equally disagreeable item in the nature of sword (or saw) grass. This usually grows about chest-high and can give a very nasty cut."

Guam's principal town, Agana, "before the war . . . had 12,000 people." This constitutes half the island's population. "The inhabitants call themselves Chamorros, but the present generation is a mixed race, with the Malay strain predominating." Agama "was an attractive place, with comfortable homes, prosperous stores, and clean streets. The architecture was a mixture of Spanish and American. The buildings were mostly white, with a few rather sickly yellows and greens mixed in. Some were strikingly Old World in appearance, with Alhambra balustrades and barred windows. Agana had bars, movie theaters, drug stores, and even a soda fountain. There were few sidewalks and because there isn't much level ground at Agana the town looked rather overcrowded, with no lawns and few gardens. But there was a good sewage system, an abundant water system, an electric plant, and in general all the conveniences of an American town of the same size." Guam has never been under Military Government, but under the administration of the Navy Department. It has served as an important "naval station with a powerful radio. Recently cable service through Hawaii to the U. S. has been restored. "The port of entry is Apra."


About 130 miles northward lies Saipan, second largest of the Marianas. It is 18 miles long, 5½ miles wide, with a total area of 71 square miles. Its highest point is 1554 feet, Mt. Tapotchau, in the center of the island. Like the rest of the Marianas except Guam, this island was under Japanese administration. Prior to that it belonged to Germany, but this peep into history we shall take up in the next chapter. Saipan's principal town, Garapan, had a population of some 10,000 before the War, and in appearance is said to have looked like any town of similar size in Japan. Like Agana it is today a heap of rubble and. charred ruins. It might be worthwhile to note here that, according to a newspaper clipping I have before me, servicemen on Saipan are contributing to a fund to rebuild the Catholic Church in the town. Father Jose Maria Tardios, S. J., is the sole priest, and reports that $6000 has been collected.


Next in size is Tinian, separated from Saipan by the 3-mile Saipan Channel. It is nearly 11 miles long, 4½ miles wide, and 38 square miles in area. Manhattan Island, with which this island is frequently compared, is 33½ square miles. Tinian's maximum elevation in its north-central part is 564 feet. Thus it is one of the lowest and flattest islands in the Marianas. Manhattan's highest point is 276 feet at Washington Heights. Although a thick forest growth covers its more rugged area, Tinian is the best suited of the Marianas for agriculture, and we might as well add airfields. "Cane fields and truck gardens criss-crossed by fine coral roads" are evidence of this farming value. As long as the Japs controlled it, they cultivated it with as modern methods as they possessed. The principal locality, Tinian Town, included a large sugar mill for the refining of cane sugar, as well as numerous and picturesque concrete dwellings and stores. It was destroyed during the fighting.


Rota, the next in size, lies about midway between Tinian and Guam. It is about 11 miles long, 4 miles wide, and 28 square miles in area, reaching 1612 feet above sea level, higher than any point on the three larger islands. This island and all the small ones are still held by Japs, but surrounded as they are, they are ineffective and completely neutralized. Some 5000 Japanese civilians are presumed to be living here. What are they doing? Probably working on their farms, and gazing at the Superfortresses and fighter planes which practice bombing and strafing here. Ernie Pyle wrote recently how planes flying between Guam and Tinian have to make a "dog leg" around Rota, "for Japs there with .50 caliber machine guns shoot at American planes."

Across 5-mile-wide Tinian Channel to the southwest is the little island of Aguijan, "a small, flat, volcanic island surrounded on all sides by rough walls of sheer rock." Its highest point is 584 feet. A few Japanese farmers are believed to be living here. Like Rota, this island serves as a target area for our bombers and fighters.

All the rest of the Marianas are north of Saipan. We shall take them up in their order from south to north. "Farrallon de Medinilla is a narrow raised coral island a mile and a half long, and 266 feet high. No civilians. Anathan is an extinct volcano with two peaks, reaching 2585 feet above sea level. A few civilians. Sarigan is an extinct volcano, 1801 feet above sea level, cut by a number of ravines and valleys. Dense tropical vegetation fills the valleys, some of which are long and broad, and there are many coconut palms. The island is surrounded, by sheer cliffs. A few civilians. Guguan is a small, round island with two volcanic peaks, 244l feet high, one active, the other extinct. Between the two are deep ravines. Smoke sometimes comes out of the active volcano, as well as sulphur which looks like snow from a distance. No civilians. Alamagan is a small island with a dormant volcano. It has steep slopes and deep gorges. Along the coast are gable-shaped ridges which cave in when they are undermined by the sea. In the southwest there is a deep valley with caves used by the few inhabitants as shelters against storms. Pagan is the largest of the northern volcanic isles, 8½ miles long and 3½ miles wide, and 1883 feet at its highest point. It has three volcanoes, separated by a narrow plain. From a distance Pagan looks like two islands. Two of the volcanoes are active, the southern one steaming, the northern smoking, but neither has erupted since 1922. The whole island is rocky and barren, except for some savanna grass and a few trees. Steep cliffs cut the island in two, and make travel from one part to the other very difficult. The coastline is rocky and unfriendly. A few civilians, (Incidentally, the volcanic peaks on Saipan, Tinian, and Guam have been dead a long time. Agrihan is about 6 miles long and 3½ miles wide, covering some 13 square miles. It has two volcanic peaks, one of them the highest in the Marianas: 3,166 feet. The island has steep slopes, deep gorges, luxuriant vegetation. A few civilians, mostly Chamorros. Asuncion is an almost perfect volcanic cone rising steeply to a height of 2923 feet. The crater hasn't been active for many years, except for a little white smoke that seeps out occasionally. No civilians. Maug is really three small islands surrounding a deep lagoon. Its highest point is 748 feet. It is bordered by steep cliffs and has a few bushes and palm trees. No civilians. Farrallon de Pajaros, the northernmost of the Marianas, is an active volcano about a mile across, and 1047 feet high. It has steep slopes kept smooth by the flow of lava and ashes. There are always dense clouds of yellowish smoke and fire coming from the cone. No inhabitants."

Love the Sea?

There are some places on this island from which one can get magnificent views of the ocean, and these never fail to give me a thrill in gazing at the Pacific's majestic sweep. On clear days the panorama is one of pinks dignity, haunting by its overwhelming vastness. On partly cloudy days the sea is gray. At sunset and at sunrise it turns purple, and on a moonlit night it is black and silver. There are days, like today, when the sky is overcast with thick, heavy clouds, and a stiff gale is blowing from the east. At such times the ocean is a frightening spectacle, a mass of boiling lead. Between the calm pinks and the turbulent gray are a thousand variations, hues, each succeeding the other for fleeting instances of breath-taking loveliness, each alive for only a twinkling in the constant parade of hours and wind, of clouds and shadows.

The first time I felt this magic but untouchable beauty of the sea, was when I saw it from Rainbow Pier at Long Beach, California, It was a gray day in January some years ago. I had been in California only four weeks after a lifetime in Colorado except for the year I spent in Europe as a child of six. Of course I had vague recollections of the Atlantic, but these served only to make me all the more excited about seeing the sea again. During January the rainy season is usually drenching California, but on that Sunday afternoon there was a let-up so that sidewalks dried, and people stepped out of their homes for brief strolls in the clean-smelling air. A strong wind was blowing, and occasionally the sun shot hotly through breaks in the low clouds. As I stepped on the pier and walked out to meet the Pacific I could smell salt in the air. Flocks of seagulls sailed about, flapping their angled wings gracefully. Little waves lapped against the piles, and breakers were falling on the sandy beach on either side of the pier. Screams of delight emanated, from the roller-coaster to my right, and beyond it on the distant gray horizon I could make out shipyards and cranes at work. From a few ships in that area wisps of smoke traced circles and angles in the wind. Before me stretch the Pacific with no ship, no land, no smoke patterns to mar the vast expanse of gray sea and clouds. Along the horizon the sun pierced the clouds in long shafts of yellow light that brightened the water. How very much unlike the solid beauty of the mountains at home! How awful, how fear-instilling! Whatever beauty there might have been in the freshness of that sea and its cool clean wind was lost in the realization that it did not permit me to wander through it as I would have done through the mountains and prairies of Colorado.

Such was my first impression of the Pacific. The other day I received a letter from my sister Cathy, her first from San Francisco. She wrote, "San Francisco is a very fascinating town … My roommate and I walked to the beach. It was cold and very windy out there. The tide was corning in and great foamy green waves rushed toward us. It was magnificent!"

"For all that has been said of the love that certain natures (on shore) have professed to feel for it, for all the celebrations it has been the object of in prose and song, the sea has never been friendly to man. At most it has been the accomplice of human restlessness, and playing the part of dangerous abettor of world-wide ambitions.

"Faithful to no race after the manner of the kindly earth, receiving no impress from valour and toil and self-sacrifice, recognizing no finality of dominion, the sea has never adopted the cause of its masters like those lands lands where the victorious nations of mankind have taken root, rocking their cradles and setting up their gravestones. He—man or people—who, putting his trust in the friendship of the sea, neglects the strength and cunning of his right hand, is a fool! As if it were too great, too mighty for common virtues, the ocean has no compassion, no faith, no law, no memory. Its fickleness is to be held true to men's purposes only by an undaunted resolution and by a sleepless, armed, jealous vigilance, in which, perhaps, there has always been more hate than love. Odi et amo (hate and love) may well be the confession of those who consciously or blindly have surrendered their existence to the fascination of the sea. All the tempestuous passions of mankind's young days, the love of loot and the love of glory, the love of adventure and the love of danger, with the great love of the unknown and vast dreams of dominion and power, have passed like images reflected from a mirror, leaving no record upon the mysterious face of the sea. Impenetrable and heartless, the sea has given nothing of itself to the suitors for its precarious favours. Unlike the earth, it cannot be subjugated at any cost of patience and toil. For all its fascination that has lured many to a violent death, its immensity has never been loved as the mountains, the plains, the desert itself, have been loved. Indeed, I suspect that leaving aside the protestations and tributes of writers who, one is safe in saying, care for little else in the world than the rhythm of their lines and the cadence of their phrases, the love of the sea, to which some men and nations confess so readily, is a complex sentiment wherein pride enters for much, necessity for not a little, and the love of ships—the untiring servants of our hopes and out self-esteem—for the best and most genuine part."

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