This has been the first week in recent months where it’s been dry, making for a perfect opportunity to hike through the jungle, exploring. I live on Northern Guam, with quite a bit of former military land just to my north and west. As a result, these areas have largely been untouched and undeveloped since the war. During the liberation of Guam in 1944, most of the heaviest fighting occurred on the landing beaches, Orote Point, and surrounding mountains. This fighting broke the back of the Japanese defense, so operations on Northern Guam were mostly limited to small skirmishes and rounding up of the thousands of Japanese soldiers who went into hiding in the jungle. In my area, I’ve found just a few areas with WW2 artifacts, generally in camp areas where patrols would be sent out to search for Japanese stragglers in the jungle.
I’ve explored the Japanese anti-aircraft site on Hilaan Point before, however never found much of anything. The site is located in an open area, covered with very tall grasses 6-8ft tall. It is easy to spot the actual emplacements, with rock filled barrels surrounding the gun positions, but I’ve been able to find nothing else in the area. I’ve looked in the jungle around the clearing, looking for signs of a Japanese encampment area, but without success. I figured the Japanese would have had a bivouac area out of the clearing area, for protection against US aircraft attack and naval barrage.
I’ve since learned a trick – Coconut trees don’t move uphill. Coconuts float, which allows the tree to populate island shores, however there is no way for the nuts to make it to the Northern Guam plateau 400ft above sea level without the help of people. There have been coconut trees located everywhere I’ve found stuff on Northern Guam. These were likely ranches before the war, where the trees were grown for copra. It would make sense that these areas should be where I looked first.
Armed with this theory, I went back to Hilaan and spotted a couple coconut trees on the edge of the clearing, not far from the gun emplacements. It did not take long to start spotting stuff.
Very little remains from the war – anything interesting was surely scooped up by American troops for souvenirs. Wood has long since rotted away, and steel has rusted away. Most of what I find are bottles, some ammunition, and a few tougher materials such as boot soles. American stuff is everywhere – the jungle is littered with American beer bottles, Coca Cola bottles, and other glassware such as medicine, talcum powder, liqueur, and other containers. Many these bottles are dated, which confirms WW2 authenticity. The coke bottles in the above image are all dated 1944, and are clear, not green. Clear glass was used during wartime, supposedly due to the shortage of copper used for coloring. There are so many of these “wartime coke” bottles laying around that I don’t even bother picking them up. Same with the beer bottles. I instead look for Japanese bottles, which are much rarer.
In addition to the coke bottles, I find a stainless steel serving tray, which struck me odd as I was not expecting to find such a thing. Thinking it was post war, left by hunters, I went to look deeper into the jungle.
There are lots of spider webs around, so I reached for a branch to use to clear my path. At the last minute, I spotted something just a few inches from my hand which made me yell out “oh snap!” and jump back…
I dispatched the wasp nest with my handy can of raid, and walked deeper into the jungle. Bingo! I find two Japanese Dai Nippon beer bottles, laying on the ground under a large hardwood tree that probably provided shade 65 years ago. These are clearly from the Japanese occupation; the Dai Nippon beer company was dissolved in 1949.
I gather up my things and head for home. While walking around, I noticed some earth piles and depressions that were probably foxholes during the war. It looks like the coconut trees led me to the right place!
When I got home, I was able to clean up the bottles and tray. The bottles are a type commonly found on islands occupied by Japanese soldiers during the war, however these are the first two I’ve found – a new one! I still have yet to find any Japanese soda bottles. I’ve found pieces, not none whole – so I need to keep looking.
The tray turned out to be very interesting! It is actually a US military serving tray used during and after the war. The date stamped on the underside confirms the age. Apparently, some GI didn’t want to be bothered with cleaning it, so it got thrown away into the jungle where it sat for 67 years. Amazingly, it cleaned up perfectly – you can even see knife marks in the tray!