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History of Guam

The first known contact between Guam and the Western world occurred on March 6, 1521, when the Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, in the employ of Spain, anchored his fleet of three remaining ships in Umatac Bay. Magellan called Guam the "Island of Lateen Sails" because they saw many boats with triangular lateen sails. They renamed it (and the Marianas islands in general), Islas de los Ladrones (Island of Thieves) because some of the fleet’s small boats were stolen by the Chamorus. Guam and the other Mariana Islands were formally claimed by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, on behalf of the Spanish crown, in 1565. In 1668, Jesuit missionaries arrived to establish their European civilization, Christianity, and trade. The Spanish taught the Chamorus to cultivate corn and raise cattle. The Catholic Church became the focal point for village activities, and Guam became a regular port-of-call for Spanish vessels crossing the Pacific Ocean between Mexico and the Philippines.

The U.S. Military liberated Guam from Japanese occupation in 1944
The U.S. Military liberated Guam from Japanese occupation in 1944

Guam remained under Spanish rule until it was ceded to the United States in 1898 after the Treaty of Paris ended the Spanish - American War.  It was formally purchased from Spain for $20 million in 1899. Guam surrendered to Japanese military forces on December 10, 1941 and was subjected to a brutal occupation administered by the Japanese military until 1944, when it was reclaimed by U.S. forces.

In 1949, U.S. President Harry S. Truman signed the Guam Organic Act of 1950, making Guam an unincorporated territory of the United States with limited self-governing authority and granting American Citizenship to the people. Guam remains a strategic western Pacific outpost for the U.S. military. In 1962, security clearance requirements for travel to Guam that had been in place since World War II were lifted, thereby permitting Guam's economy to flourish and develop a tourist industry that increased U.S. Federal government spending.

 

 

 

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