In early April, 2014, there were a large number of grass fires that burned several hundred acres from Nimitz Hill where I live all the way south to Mt. Tenjo and further south to the Mt. Alutom area. Grass fires are not uncommon on Guam, in fact they occur just about every dry season in the spring. Of course you have unintentionally set fires, the result of carelessly discarded cigarettes along the roadside, but quite often these fires are set intentionally by poachers. Heavy underbrush provides cover in which pigs and deer can hide, so burning this cover eliminates hiding spots. Additionally, the new grass that grows following a fire is tender and attracts animals.
Unfortunately, these fires cause quite a bit of damage. Aside from the risk to residences, these fires often decimates endangers species which are unable to escape the burn. Additionally, the burned areas lost their grass cover which anchors the soil, so rains cause heavy erosion which blankets the coral reefs with smothering silt.
Following earlier fires that burned the summit of Mt. Tenjo, I decided to hike out to try to locate remnants of the old WW1 era Marine battery that used to be located there.
Atop Mt. Tenjo, remnants of the gun battery were easy to locate because all the grass had been burned off. What I was not expecting were foxholes – many of them – guarding the summit. It turns out that these are WW2 era and I will post about them more in depth later.
I had a chance to go exploring one of the many caves located on the south side of Nimitz Hill, formerly known as Fonte during the pre-war days. They are off the beaten path, but not hard to find if you know where to look for them. There are many caves in total, but most are small. These caves were used extensively by the Japanese during their defense of Guam following the American landings on July 21, 1944. The northern landing beach was directly below Fonte, and the Japanese had a commanding advantage being on the hilltop and were able to hold back the American advance in this sector for several days. These caves were key to there defense because they provided shelter from both naval bombardment and aerial attacks.
There is a cave located on the east side of Nimitz Hill, just along the road which is a National Park Service site. Originally, this site was said to be the command post of the Japanese army commander, General Takashina. In actuality, this cave was used as a communications station by the Japanese, and it is my belief that the caves, being on the exposed hilltop, would have been too exposed to be used as a HQ position. Any way, these caves were upgraded as fallout shelters in the post-war years for civil defense so they do not even look as they did during the war.
It is quite likely that one of the caves to the south of Nimitz Hill was used as the HQ of General Takashina. Even if they were not, they were absolutely used as shelters by Japanese troops. After five days of heavy fighting, the Marines had barely advanced up the sides of Fonte (Nimitz) Hill. Takashina believed that they were worn out and low on supplies. His plan, executed on the 5th night of the battle, was to amass six battalions (upwards of 5000 or more troops) to directly assault the Marine positions and hopefully push them back into the ocean. The attack was a frenzied one, but ultimately failed with many hundreds of attacking Japanese killed. This effectively turned the tide in the battle, and the Marines were able to capture the high ground the next day. Takashina himself was killed while trying to reposition his remaining troops in Northern Guam with plans to resist as long as possible from the jungle.
My Chemotherapy leaves me with good days and bad days. Each cycle lasts three weeks, the last week being an “off” week for recovery. During this time I feel pretty good and am able to be somewhat active. I wanted to get back into the jungle to further explore the Japanese defensive position I discovered prior to my diagnosis of cancer.
This site is not very easy to locate, being surrounded by heavy jungle growth that you have to blaze through to get to the five defensive positions. The area appears to have once been a ranch, with coconut trees for copra harvesting and cleared areas for farming, now overgrown with vegetation. It makes navigation difficult without a GPS. Once you find the location, however, there is quite a lot of evidence of WW2 activity.
Most of the artifacts are Japanese beer bottles, but there are a few American remnants as well. It appears that the 3rd Marines occupied this site for a short period during the liberation, when the front lines pushed north through this area. The lack of any sort of quantity of American refuse leads me to believe they were here for only a short period of time before moving on.
Weather was beautiful this past weekend – sunny and low humidity. Perfect for doing some exploring.
I decided to revisit the Japanese positions I had discovered last weekend in the rain (my previous post). I brought my son and his best friend along also. It is nice to have some company because it can get spooky at times when alone. The kids wanted to bring my metal detector, so we brought that along too.
First order of business was to relocate the gun pits, and mark their position with GPS.
I’m still not sure what this position was supposed to defend, since the Japanese focused their defensive efforts on the beaches. I suspect this was to be an anti-aircraft position, due to the depth of the holes and the fact that they were round (allowing 360 degree arc toward the sky). [December 2020 – there appears to have been a Japanese airstrip under construction just east and north of the old FAA housing area. This construction was not completed when the liberation took place in June 1944.]
Around the eastern most pit (number 1), which is closest to an abandoned WW2 dirt road, is evidence of American troops – notably several 75mm howitzer shell casings. The fact that there are no American bottles around tells me that this was a short-term American position, likely on the 6th or 7th of August 1944 as the American troops pushed the front lines northward.
The other gun pits are surrounded primarily with Japanese beer bottles (DaiNippon), with only a small scattering of American bottles.
The kids played around with the metal detector, and gave up after a little while. There are a number of shell craters around, from artillery hits. All the kids were finding were bits of shrapnel laying around. Later, while they took a break, I explored an old burn pit filled with broken bottles, and found some bits from a Japanese naval gas mask, but nothing exciting.
After a couple hours of exploring, we headed home. Not much to see other than a few Japanese beer bottles and the positions themselves, but it is so heavily overgrown in this area, it is worth revisiting and exploring more closely in the future.
I have been taking a break from radio – at least the antenna building aspect – and other than DXing on 160 and 80m I have been playing around with other hobbies. I absolutely love exploring the jungle and looking for WW2 remnants, and since it is now the dry season, the weather is ideal for it.
Of course today it was rainy but I still went out anyway. Bringing my Nexus tablet and its GPS functionality, I can record my tracks and hike to waypoints I have made with Google Earth. This allows me to explore areas deeper in the jungle than I’ve been to before.
Today’s trip was to an area I’ve visited many times before, but this time I went further back into an area that looked promising on Google Earth. First I wanted to locate a piece of UXO (unexploded ordnance) and mark it’s position so it can be properly disposed of by the Navy’s EOD.
Once I had marked the position of the UXO, I headed deeper into the jungle, into new territory for me. It did not take long to start finding stuff.
Interestingly, I did not find any other American WW2 debris around – no American bottles or anything else for that matter. Likely this was an artillery position set up quickly during the liberation of Guam in early August as the front lines pushed northwards.
Further in, I started finding Japanese bottles.
I also found a number of dug out areas in the ground. About 20ft in diameter and 4-5 feet deep, these looked to be Japanese defensive positions. They were too neat to be bomb craters, and were not dug by American bulldozers. This was probably to be a Japanese anti aircraft position.
All around these positions are scattered Japanese beer bottles.
The fact that I found only Japanese and no American bottles tells me this was a Japanese position. It is quite likely that these defensive positions were dug for 25MM anti aircraft cannon, based on the size and depth of the pits. Whether or not cannon were ever empaced here, I don’t know. I looked in some of the pits but found nothing. Due to the heavy growth, it’s difficult to see more than 10 or 15ft in any direction. I’ll definitely have to come back out here and explore some more!
While running down my list of new places to explore, I was not having much success. Lots of sweat and mosquito bites for little reward. Then… bingo! I’ll let the pictures tell the story.
While exploring this area, I stumbled across two locals apparently camping in the jungle. Not sure if they were hunting, or collecting coconut crabs, but either way they startled me greatly. Since most of the birds are gone, the jungle is absolutely silent if there is no wind. All day I had heard sounds like breaking branches – like I was being watched. Very unnerving. I wrote it off as pigs. Then, while pushing through some dense overgrowth, pretty dark under the canopy, I see these two locals sitting on a log, watching me. Really startled me! They turned out to be friendly, but I left them alone and headed for home. I should have asked if they were staying in the area or if they were leaving shortly… but I didn’t want to pry (I imagine there are places in the jungle where people grow marijuana – I’ve never found any but it’s logical). Anyway, I still would love to explore this area further but the thought of being watched makes me uneasy.
I make lots of noise in the jungle on purpose, to let man and pig know I’m around as not to startle them. I wear bright clothing also, in case there are hunters around. I have run across hunters before and have found them very responsible and friendly… but every time I do it startles me because I’m usually way off the beaten path away from places where I expect to find people.
I’ve been really bad about updating my site – sorry about that! Things have been busy for me at work and home.
A couple months ago, my son and I went exploring on NCTS in an attempt to connect the northern and southern ends of the hidden road I’ve documented previously. The section on NCTS was the only piece of road I’ve not walked. We parked the car and started out along what appeared to be the road, but we were only finding more recent trash, probably from the 1970’s and early 80’s.
We kept going, looking around, until I came across a piece of broken Japanese beer bottle. Bingo! It turned out that we were following a newer road, and this was the point where the older WW2 era road crossed. We finally re-found the old road – and immediately started coming across WW2 era finds.
As we continued north, we ran into what clearly was a former Japanese site, later occupied by the Americans. There were literally hundreds of Japanese beer bottles scattered about, among other items.
Near this site, my son and I found an area with depressions in the floor of the limestone forest. I thought these were small sink holes or perhaps foxholes. My son picked up something and started hitting the trees with it – I took a look at what he had found and was amazed to see it was a piece of shrapnel. It turns out these holes were actually shell craters! We looked and found quite a bit more shrapnel laying around. Had the Japanese been here during the barrage, they would have had a real rough time.
It turned out that the very last section of road to be explored had the neatest finds! To me, this seemed to be a special place with some historical significance. Other than saying it is on NCTS property, I feel it’s best not to identify the location as I’ve done with previous sites. As another note – I left everything as found, including the gas mask cartridge which I returned to it’s original location after I took the photos. Removing artifacts from Federal Property is prohibited. Take photos only and leave it for the next person to discover! There are plenty of placed on Guam where you can find WW2 era bottles and other items – such as in the vicinity of Two Lovers Point. These areas have been heavily disturbed since the war and bottles can still be found literally just off the side of the road, mixed with modern day roadside trash that unfortunately is very prevalent due to illegal dumping.
I finally had a chance to take my metal detector back into the jungle. One of my receive antennas transects a WW2 era site where I’ve found Japanese and American bottles, GI boot soles, and even a fully loaded M1 carbine magazine. This time, I brought my son with me.
I have an inexpensive metal detector I bought from Harbor Freight. It does the trick, but soon after we got into the jungle, I snapped the plastic piece that holds the coil to the rest of the unit. It’s something I can easily fix, however it made searching for things difficult, so we didn’t spend much time looking.
It did not take long to start finding stuff. We uncovered a lot of random iron pieces, as well as some rock breaking tools – a heavy chisel and a breaker bar. Shortly later, we dug up a silver plated fork. I am pretty sure this site was a ranch during the prewar years.
We found a few more M1 carbine rounds – live. These are all definitively from WW2. Just before we left, Justin found the most interesting thing – a 7.7mm shell casing. This is a Japanese rifle round, fired in an Arisaka type 99 rifle. Wow! This is the first Japanese rifle shell casing I’ve ever found – was there a skirmish here during the war? Who knows – but I will definitely have to dig around some more!
Several times a week, I ride my bike along the road that provides access to Two Lover’s Point and Tanguisson Beach. I know that this road is the only section of the WW2 road I’ve explored that is still in use. Until recently, I never even thought to look for war remnants along it’s length. The whole area was called the “Harmon Annex”, used by the Army Air Corps as a base following the liberation of Guam in 1944. I have read that General LeMay’s headquarters was in this area. Today, however, the whole area is overgrown with tall grases, formerly abandoned clearings from the 50’s and 60’s when the Air Force occupied the site.
Along both sides of the road is an easement for utilities. There are underground fuel and power lines running from the Tanguisson power plant to the distribution station along Marine Drive. As a result of all these disturbances, I figured it was pointless to look for anything remaining from the war along this stretch of road.
A couple months ago, the power company did some maintenance along the easement, pushing the grass and scrub growth back into the jungle with a bulldozer. Following this work, I noticed some bottles laying in the clearing. Figuring they were modern trash, I disregarded them.
Recently, I got a flat tire on my bike in this area, so I pulled off the road to change the tube. It was an opportunity to look closer at the bottles laying in the new clearing, literally within sight of the Two Lover’s Point sign. Amazingly, one of the first bottles I find is a WW2 Japanese Kirin Beer Bottle!
The next weekend, my youngest son and I decided to explore the area more closely.
When we were done exploring, we had rescued seven WW2 era Japanese beer bottles from sure breakage by lawn mowers. There is no telling how many bottles remain buried in the dirt banks. Time will tell as the rain washes away the soil. It is apparent that this was a roadside dump site following the liberation in 1944. Scattered amongst recent trash and beer bottles from the 1950’s until today are countless fragments of broken beer and soda bottles dated 1944 and 1945.
My son had a great time also and he has started a WW2 botttle collection of his own. Usually, I can’t bring him with me into the jungle because of the growth – sharp plant spines, rocks, spiders, and mosquitoes. This was a great opportunity to take him somewhere safe and to show him some history first hand.
I’ve been really too busy to update the blog until now, but I’ve still had a couple opportunities to head back into the jungle for some exploration. A couple weeks ago I was able to explore the stretch of abandoned WW2 road from the FAA property up to NCTS. I was not expecting to find much, but I was surprised to stumble across some nice stuff from the war.
What is called “FAA property” is a parcel land that bisects NCTS to the north and the South Finegayan housing area to the south. There was a Federal Aviation Administration facility here until about 10-15 years ago, when the buildings were taken down. I knew my abandoned road had to pass through this area, however the edges of the jungle are heavily overgrown with dense brush and Google Maps didn’t show much of anything where I thought the road should be. I wrote down some coordinates, grabbed my GPS, and headed off into the jungle.
It was really hard going for the first couple hundred yards. I just had to push my way through the growth and cut the vines that would otherwise trip me. I find it easier to traverse the jungle this way as opposed to hacking a path with a machete. It is less tiring and is much less obtrusive. I wear heavy long sleeve coveralls with gloves so it’s not too difficult to push through this way.
I was not too far from my GPS location when I started finding bottles and other old trash.
I finally broke through the heavy growth and into the primary forest. The area was absolutely beautiful and looked almost Jurassic. I chose my GPS coordinates wisely – they put me right on the old road and a WW2 era dump site – bottles and other trash was everywhere!
There is no telling how much I overlooked due to the heavy tropical growth. The area was obviously a bivouac area due to the number of bottles and other metal trash. The most recent datable objects found were 1945 bottles, so this is most definitely a WW2 dump.
I followed the road north, trying to intersect Haputo Beach road on NCTS, however the road disappeared into a dense jungle area I could not push or cut my way through.
So, now I have explored this abandoned road almost in it’s entirety. I’ve walked almost the entire length, from where the road is first abandoned just north of Two Lover’s Point, all the way to Northwest Field. There are only a few areas I’ve not yet explored, on NCTS just east of Haputo Beach, and a few areas that are all but impenetrable. All along this road I have found literally thousands of bottles and other relics left along the road as debris from the time during and following the liberation of Guam in August, 1944.