Guam, a territory of the United States, is the largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands in the north-western Pacific Ocean. It is located approximately 3,300 miles west of Hawaii, 1,500 miles east of the Philippines and 1,550 miles South of Japan. The only good anchorage is Apra Harbour, on the western coast and the capital, Agana, is just to the north. Although located in the Northern Pacific, Guam is truly a tropical island paradise. Approximately 30 (48km) miles long and 4 to 9 miles (14km) wide, the northern end of Guam is a plateau of rolling hills and cliffs rising to 600 feet above sea level. Waterfalls, rivers and bays abound throughout Guam's central and southern areas. The beaches of Tumon Bay offer gleaming white sand and crystal clear, calm waters for swimming, snorkeling.
Guam is one of the principal US defence fortifications in the western Pacific Ocean and is the site of extensive naval, army, and air force installations. Sights on the island include the ancient Latte Stone pillars of the Chamorro people, Spanish churches and shrines and several Spanish forts. Asan Bay was one of the main landing points for the American invasion to recapture Guam from the Japanese in 1944. Asan Beach is one of six units comprising the War in the Pacific National Historical Park, the other sites being Asan Village, Piti, Mount Chacho, Alifan, and Agat. Visitors to these sites can still see Japanese costal guns, pillboxes, caves and other relics.
The original inhabitants of Guam, the ancient Chamorro, are widely believed to have been of Indo-Malaya descent with linguistic and cultural similarities to Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. The first known contact with West occurred with the visit of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 and Guam was formally claimed by Spain in 1565. Jesuit missionaries arrived in 1668 to establish their brand of European civilization, Christianity and trade. During the Spanish period, the Catholic Church became the focal point for village activities and Guam became a regular port-of-call for the Spanish treasure galleons that crisscrossed the Pacific Ocean from Mexico to the Philippines. Guam was ceded to the United States following the Spanish American War in 1898 and formally purchased from Spain in 1899. The Japanese captured Guam in December 1941, during World War II, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Guam remained under Japanese control until reclaimed by American forces in July of 1944. In 1950 US citizenship was conferred on the people of Guam.
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