WW2 American Anti-Aircraft site

The other day I was riding north of the NCTS antenna field. Here, cut through the jungle, as a wide path that’s kept mowed. This is actually the northern end of the old abandoned road that I have been spending so much time exploring. Here, the path was used for buried cables between the WW2 airfield (Northwest Field) and NCTS, so it is maintained today.

Looking south toward the NASA tracking facility at NCTS. The mowed trail heads south, in the right of the photo

I certainly was not expecting to go exploring – I was actually looking for a safe off-road access to Ritidian Point where I could go cycling. At the northern end of the path, not far from Northwest Field, I noticed an overgrown clearing off to the side of the path, with some rusty oil drums. After taking a closer look, it turns out that I stumbled across an old American anti aircraft position!

These rusted drums make up a circular gun position

The ground on Northern Guam is made up of limestone, and is impossible to dig into without heavy equipment. It was much easier to fill drums, which were plentiful, with rocks to provide protection. This is the same thing that was done at the other anti aircraft site located at Hilaan Point.

This was definitely an American position. The drums are marked “US” and I found quite a few American shell casings lying around.

50 caliber shell casings laying in one of the gun pits. These were all stamped “42” (1942)
50 caliber shell casing
Another gun pit where you can still see some barrels and how they were lined up to provide protection

I walked the wood line surrounding the clearing and found tons of bottles – all from the wartime era.

Old “hobbleskirt” coke bottles, both colored and clear, are laying all over the place
Interestingly, I also found some M14 blank cartridges dated 1962. This site must have been re-used for training during the Vietnam era (Northwest Field was used as a training site)

Ultimately, I ended up finding only one Japanese beer bottle, but it was one of the rare smaller, green Dai-Nippon type. More interestingly, in an old burn pit filled with melted bottles, I found a Japanese 47mm anti-tank shell casing that had been apparently cut down into an ash tray.

Japanese Dai-Nippon beer bottle, a small Listerine bottle (1944), two small medicine bottles, and the Japanese 47mm shell casing that had been cut short into an ash tray
When soaked in vinegar, the casing cleaned up nicely. The circle symbol indicates the shell was manufactured by the Nagoya armory. The smaller “X” on the primer is actually crossed cannons – signifying Osaka armory. The other marks signify the date of manufacture – 1941 for the shell, 1943 for the primer.
When soaked in vinegar, the casing cleaned up nicely. The circle symbol indicates the shell was manufactured by the Nagoya armory. The smaller “X” on the primer is actually crossed cannons – signifying Osaka armory. The other marks signify the date of manufacture – 1941 for the shell, 1943 for the primer.

It turned out to be a fun exploration! The jungle is very beautiful in this area, due to the restricted access being on military property. Unfortunately, other areas of Guam accessible to anyone have turned into dumping grounds for people who either can not afford trash service or are otherwise culturally un-bothered by littering.

The view from the cliff line along NW Guam.

 

The hidden path

Early this year, when I relocated my NA Beverage, I stumbled across some old bottles and live ammunition from WW2.

For several months afterwards, I questioned myself, why there? When reading online and looking at old WW2 maps, I discovered why. On the night of 06 August 1944, during the Liberation of Guam, the 3rd Marine division had set up defensive positions along their line of advance. This line followed a path that passed through the area where my Beverage receive antennas are located. Better yet, the map even shows the unit: The 3rd Battalion of the 3rd Marine Division.

This map shows the location of the unit that was located near me on 06 August, 1944.

This explains perfectly why these bottles were here – as well as the M1 carbine ammunition I found. The map also showed a dirt path along this defensive line – meaning there could be a gold mine of relics just waiting to be found!

Starting from the location where I found the bottles, I headed in the general direction of the path according to the map. I quickly realized this would not be easy!

Dense vegetation blocks the route – making for tough going

The ground was very rocky, certainly not conductive to a path that would have been used with carabao driven carts. Even if there was stuff here, I’d never find it.

Heavy growth on the ground would hide anything that’s laying there
Pigs can be helpful – I often find stuff in areas where they’ve rooted, knocking down the underbrush

I followed my compass until reaching a clearing that was used in the 1960s by the Navy for antennas, and knew that there was no path along the route I took. Then the light went on in my head – just south of where I had gone, was an area of jungle that was flat, with no rocks, and relatively clear. Could that have been the path?

I headed back along this route, but again, undergrowth hid anything underfoot. I did find a few bottles, but nothing much of interest.

A couple American beer bottles, along with a 1944 clear patent coke bottle that was in good condition (clear, not hazed glass)
Hunting is allowed in this area, and I believe I stumbled across a neighbor’s hunting blind with deer feeder
He even has a motion triggered camera set up – too bad I don’t have a bear costume or I could really play a joke on him!!

I followed this path back to my antennas without finding anything of interest. Coincidentally, my EU Beverage follows along this path for some distance. I suspect, without proof, that I did find this path as it’s the only area clear of rocks, and because of some coconut trees I found along the route. It would make sense that the Marines would have set up camp north of this road on 6 August, to deny the Japanese from ambushing them the next morning as they crossed the road. The stuff I found was on a high spot in the surrounding terrain, so it was likely used as a scout camp after the liberation, as the Americans patrolled the area to clear out the 7-8 thousand Japanese troops that were still hiding out in the jungle.

More road explorations

Last week I was able to hike the abandoned road from what is now called FAA road (that was used to access the old FAA housing area) all the way south to Two Lovers Point. The further south I went, the more things I found dumped in the jungle. Not coincidentally, General LeMay’s HQ was supposedly near where Micronesia Mall is located today, so it would not be crazy to assume that trash generated from his HQ was dumped along this road.

The road itself is not very difficult to follow. In this area, it runs straight as an arrow in a heading of 030/210 degrees. Also, you can tell that the road was graded regularly following the liberation. There is a very obvious berm of rocks and dirt that can be seen in many locations that clearly mark where the road was located.

The photo does not do justice, but in person it is pretty obvious where the road was located. Unfortunately the road bed itself is heavily overgrown, unlike the old growth areas away from the road where trees shade the ground to help keep it clear of growth.
A compass is very helpful in areas of heavy growth where it is difficult to pick out the road edge

The further south I went, the more I began to find. It was not long until I found my first Japanese bottle for the day – a type I’d not found before!

A green Kirin Beer bottle embossed in English – different from the others I’ve found that were taller and made of brown glass.

A little further, and I stumbled across a large pile of Coco Cola bottles and some old truck tires. There are easily a couple hundred bottles here, and they are all dated 1944. I even found a couple green bottles marked San Francisco and Portland Ore. – but with the same 1944 date code.

Large pile of wartime Coke bottles

I did not have to walk far to start finding Japanese Dai Nippon beer bottles

Japanese Dai Nippon beer bottle, speckled with rain drops – the first of many I found this day
Here is a large pile of American beer bottles – all dated 1944 (easy to determine by the Duraglass date coding system on the base)
Three Dai Nippon beer bottles, a Coke bottle, and two broken Army plates found further down the road
Even found was a large area where hundreds of old vacuum tubes were dumped – did these come from B29 aircraft serviced at Harmon Field a couple miles south from here?

Eventually, I found where this abandoned road merged with a modern off road vehicle trail. I had now entered the area where the Air Force communications site was located. Here, dozens of acres of jungle were bulldozed, so nothing remains. Somewhat surprising, the merge point is close to a large dump site with bottles from WW2 up into the early 1950s. This dump is where i found some of my first Japanese beer bottles, far back into the jungle where the oldest bottles were located.

It turned out to be a very productive day! I still have additional sections of this road to explore, further north on NCTS property. I’m already trying to make time to get back out into the jungle. I am driven by not knowing what I might find around the next corner!

Very unusual but pretty wildflowers were growing in clearing along the road

 

The forgotten road – revisited

Following the CQWW DX CW contest, I was quite busy with work that prevented any trips back into the jungle. If you read back in my blog, in mid November I discovered an abandoned road that passed through the jungle to my west. This road was marked on WW2 maps showing the liberation of Guam, but mostly does not exist today.

This map image, from the US Marines, shows the road layout in Northern Guam including the road I rediscovered

This road was used before and during the war, but was abandoned shortly afterwards. During my last explorations in November, I found some more recent dumps with bottles from 1951, but nothing more recent than then. This coincides with the construction of the Air Force and Navy communication sites in Northwestern Guam. This was probably when the road was ultimately abandoned.

This 1964 aerial photo (from http://www.navycthistory.com/guam_intro.html) shows all the construction that occured in the 1950s. The road can still be seen, but you can tell it’s already been abandoned.

Sections of this road still exist. When driving to Two Lovers Point and Tanguissan Beach, you are following this road, until it bends sharply to the left just past the sewage treatment plant. There is an abandoned paved road that continues along the route for another 1/2 mile until it too turns, to the right. From here, the old road disappears, destroyed when the Air Force built large Rhombic antenna farms. Only further north, where undisturbed jungle remains, can you once again find this road.

The treeline that follows the road can barely be seen today

I already explored the section of road in the northern part of the above image. I found a number of bottles, including a couple which were Japanese. What I wanted to do is to explore the southern section of this road, and follow it into the old Air Force antenna fields, which are overgrown with grass and scrub trees, along with numerous off-road vehicle paths.

This road actually continues north of NCTS all the way to Northwest Field on Andersen AFB. Here, the road is still visible, and is grass covered and mowed frequently. Communications cables are buried along the route. This is on military property, belonging to the Navy and Air Force.

It is easy to see that this road was used during the construction of Northwest Field, at least until Marine Corps Drive was completed.

I found a ton of stuff along the southern section of this road, but I will save that for my next post!

The hidden road

Last night, while reading about the Liberation of Guam on the internet, I stumbled across a Marine map of northern Guam, showing the lines of advance during 1944. One thing caught my eye – a road was shown on the map, along the northwestern side of Guam, in between my house and Hilaan point! Was this the old road I had found the other day? I looked on Google Earth and found a line of trees that looked larger and older than the rest – lined up generally N/S – this might be it!

The arrow points to a dirt road that apparently existed during the war, but does not exist today

I headed back into the jungle to explore. First, I went back to the dump I found next to the sink hole, to see if I could find any whole watch mugs. Unfortunately, they were all broken, but I found a few other things, including a US Navy fork.

Broken watch mug and a Horlicks malted milk jar
Old coke bottles everywhere – all dated 1945
Some old radio parts, including old batteries and part of a variable capacitor

I headed deeper into the jungle, to intersect the old 4WD path which I suspected was the old road. I soon came across it, and headed north. Not more than 50ft I started finding old bottles.

I think this was a Japanese sake bottle. I found one of these whole before, however they have no embossing, and the paper label is long gone, so there is no way to know for sure.

I walk a little further – and bingo! I find a Japanese beer bottle, sitting next to an old military truck tire.

Japanese Dai Nippon beer bottle, as I found it laying next to an WW2 truck tire.

In some places, it was very easy to follow the old road. Apparently, it had been graded, and you could still see the dirt piled on on either side. Other places it was impossible to follow, heavily overgrown. I continued north, portaging around these heavily overgrown areas.

Another Japanese beer bottle, found off the side of the old road. This is how they lay – generally uncovered on the rocky limestone ground.
The road is very difficult to follow in some places
And very easy to follow in others

I headed as far north as possible, until I lost track of the road in the overgrowth. I was near the old FAA property, which had been cleared in the 1950s. These areas are now heavily overgrown with low bushes and trees, unlike the old growth in the jungle that is generally more wide open under the canopy of leaves. I made it back to the house, where I cleaned up my finds. Next – to head south on this road, and see where it takes me…

My finds – two DaiNippon beer bottles, a USN fork, and a coke bottle

 

Jungle hike

Prior to the 2nd World War, northern Guam was sparsely inhabited. Most people lived further south, in Agana, Sumay, and elsewhere. Northern Guam, being on a plateau surrounded by 300ft high cliffs that drop to the sea, do not offer access to the ocean that is available further south on the island. There were a number of ranches and farms spread throughout the area.

Following the Liberation of Guam in 1944, many Japanese soldiers went into hiding in these northern tropical forests. Over the months that followed, Guam was transformed into a huge military base and became the hub for operations in Okinawa, and the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands that never occurred due to surrender. Japanese stragglers were hunted and captured in the months leading up to the end of the war in 1945.

Much of the area surrounding my housing area has been untouched since the early 1950s. Pre-war farms and copra plantations disappeared into the jungle. Wartime roads and camp areas also faded away. Several roads still exist, however these are primarily left from the former Naval Communications Station between 1948 and the early 1950s, when operations were consolidated further north.

I decided to head into the jungle to do some exploring, using a compass to leapfrog from coconut grove to coconut grove, knowing that these were former areas of habitation.

One of many farms, reclaimed by the jungle. The coconut trees were grown to harvest copra in the pre-war years.

After only a few hundred feet of hiking, I stumbled across a real neat formation – an old sink hole, perhaps 35ft deep and 200 feet across. The ground here is mostly flat, so this was unexpected.

One wall of the sink hole is undercut, but no real signs of life other than the ground that has been rooted by pigs
Another look at the sinkhole wall, from the bottom
Pig skull found on the sink hole floor
I date this Olympia beer can to the mid 1960’s – most likely left here by a hunter

I decided to hike around the rim of the sink hole, knowing that Humans like to fill holes with garbage. About 3/4 of the way around, I proved myself right…

Many Coke and beer bottles scattered about, muddied by pigs who have a trail that passes right through the old dump.

I found a large area with bottles scattered about. All were WW2 style American beer bottles and old Coca Cola bottles dated 1945. I also found a number of white ceramic shards, which I later determined were broken US Navy watch mugs – handle-less coffee cups.

This is the underside of a watch mug, showing the Corning name and logo.

The most recent datable objects were the coke and beer bottles dated 1945, and a liquor bottle dated 1943. Because of the 1945 dates, this was obviously post liberation. I found no Japanese bottles, and headed deeper into the jungle.

You can’t tell in the photo, but this is an old 4WD vehicle path
The old road is becoming more readily apparent as I followed the path
The path eventually merged into the main trail, which leads to the opening of Hilaan Point, seen here
This is Hilaan point, heavily overgrown with tall grasses. The trees in the distance mark the old Japanese anti aircraft gun positions
These coconut trees led me to the Japanese bottles and US tray I found during my last hike

While I did not find any Japanese bottles today, I did find a few things of interest. First of all, I want to re-visit the dump site to see if I can find any whole Navy watch mugs. I didn’t know what they were until I researched them online, and they seem quite interesting, especially if I can find one whole. Also, I found an old aerial photograph from the very early 1950s that shows the trail I found was formerly a road – I would like to walk it in both directions to see if I can find something along it’s length.

More World War 2 finds

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.

Old coke bottles seen scattered about

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.

Just to the left of the green bush, are some nice straight branches, perfect for clearing spider webs. But wait….

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 almost grabbed this wasp nest while reaching for the branch!

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.

Two Dai Nippon beer bottles and the metal tray I found

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!

This appears to be some sort of WW2 munition unearthed along the 4WD trail by a vehicle; I didn’t touch it!

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!

The tray cleaned up nicely – you can still see score marks left by the soldiers as they cut their food!
This engraving confirms the age of the tray

 

Hilaan Point Japanese AAA Site

I recently explored a World War Two remnant located on Hilaan Point on the northwest coast of Guam. This site holds a Japanese AAA (Anti Aircraft Artillery) position, with several gun pits remaining. The fortifications mostly consist of drums filled with limestone rock, stacked on top of each other with additional rocks piled up to form a defensive position. It is very difficult to see anything as you can see in this 360 degree panoramic shot, taken from atop one of the berms:

(warning – large photo!)

Hilaan Point panoramic photo

You really have to look close to see anything in the grass. In this photo, there appears to be nothing. But, if you look closely, you will see that the ferns in the center of the photo fill up a depression in the ground which is in fact one of the positions.

Look even closer, and you can see two barrels filled with rock on either side of the original entrance into the position.

I was able to find four such positions. Other than the drums and berms themselves, nothing else appears to remain. With the high grass and overgrowth, it would take a grass fire or typhoon to knock back the vegetation enough to see exactly what remains.

I have been able to find almost no information on the site. What type of AAA guns were located here? Was the site attacked by American aircraft or ships before or during the retaking of the island in 1944? Did any land battles take place here as the 3rd Marines moved north to secure the island? unfortunately, I have not been able to answer any of these questions yet. [December 2020 update:  There appears to have been a Japanese airstrip under construction just northeast of these defensive positions, at the time of the US landings in June 1944]

I did find a photo of a similar Japanese AAA site taken in October 1944, located on Orote Point further south. This gives an idea of what this site would have looked like then, as both seem to have been similarly constructed.

Orote gun position – photo retrieved from the National Park Service – War in the Pacific web site http://www.nps.gov/wapa/index.htm

Grandfather Family History – World War Two

My grandfathers on both sides of my family have some interesting history from the Second World War.  My Grandfather from my father’s side (Gerhard Mueller), as a German national, was conscripted into the Wehrmacht and fought on the Eastern Front front.  I believe he was with an artillery unit, and one time told me of the fear they had especially in the overnight hours while on duty in forward listening posts, fearful of Russian infiltrators.  He was hit by grenade shrapnel and injured in the foot, and captured by the Russians.  He was able to escape and move west, crossing American lines where he was recaptured.  This was a common theme as treatment was far better under the western allies.  His former family home was in Prussia, an area utterly devastated and taken over by the Russians (now part of Poland).  Eventually was able to emmigrate to Canada, and finally to the USA where he started a very successful ceramic business (Atlantic Mold Corp).

On my mother’s side, my Grandmother was a US Army nurse and served in North Africa and later Italy.  My Grandfather (LT Melvin Wiedbusch) was a P-38 fighter pilot for the Army Air Corps.  He was part of the 95th Fighter Squadron, of the 82nd Fighter Group.  His unit initially deployed to North Africa, eventually shifting to Foggia, Italy later in the war where they flew bomber escort missions.  He shot down three enemy fighters before he was killed during a B-24 bomber escort mission over southern France, on June 25, 1944.  He was last seen diving vertically and firing on a German ME-109 over southern France before disappearing into a cloud layer.  I recently found some archival information about him that’s pretty interesting.  My Grandmother actually had not seen these reports until I located them on an online genealogy research site.

The first page is from the unit monthly mission report, he is referenced on the 25th.