THE GUAM GARANDS
In all military conflicts, the price of an objective is paid with the lives of combatants. Historically it has been considered that the force armed with superior weapons incurs fewer casualties and has a greater chance of victory. For this reason tacticians and military historians have studied small arms for centuries. As the appreciation for the development of small arms grew, and people began to accumulate these pieces of history into collections, so did the interest in where and how they may have been used. As the conflict or event passes further into history, and we begin to rely more upon what is written in the history books rather than eyewitness accounts, greater appreciation is given to a weapon or artifact which is factually tied to the event. It is with great pride that Scott A. Duff offers 30 pieces of authenticated military history: The Guam Garands!
When the Japanese struck in the Pacific, previously unheard of islands such as Oahu, Corregidor, Wake, and Guam became part of news headlines announcing swift and terrible Japanese aggression.
Guam is the largest and most southerly of the Mariana Islands in the western Pacific Ocean. It was ceded to the United States in 1898 among the terms of the Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish-American War. In the autumn of 1941, 153 lightly armed U.S. Marines, 271 U.S. Navy personnel, and an 80-member Insular Patrol Force manned the garrison of the U.S. territorial island of Guam. On 10 December 1941, Guam was attacked by Japanese naval forces launched from the neighboring island of Saipan. After a heroic but futile defense, during which they sustained 19 killed and 42 wounded, U.S. forces surrendered. Such was the fate of many of the small islands in the central and western Pacific during the closing days of 1941 and early 1942.
By the summer of 1942, combined U.S. forces, under the commands of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (Central Pacific) and General Douglas A. McArthur (Western Pacific), had organized an offensive designed to progress from island to island until Japan was in striking range. It began on 7 August 1942, when the 1st Marine Division effected landings on the northern coast of the island of Guadalcanal in the Solomons. This was the first stepping stone in what became known as the “Island Hopping Campaign.” Marine Corps and Army units continued up the Solomons taking the islands of New Georgia (July 1943) and Bougainville (November 1943). While the U.S. Army carried out their campaign up the north coast of New Guinea, Central Pacific forces breached the Japanese outer defenses in November 1943 with the invasion of the Gilbert Islands (Tarawa, Betio, and Makin). In December 1943, Cape Gloucester on New Britain fell. By mid-February 1944, Kwajalein and Eniwetok Atolls in the Marshalls had been seized. The next step was the Marianas (Guam, Saipan, and Tinian) which would serve a three-fold purpose:
- Eliminate Japanese aviation assets which could be used to interfere with MacArthur’s drive on the Philippines.
- Give the Americans air bases for the new B‑29, which could range the Japanese home islands, and provide a staging area for further operations.
- The recapture of Guam would be a morale booster, as it was the first American territory to fall to the Japanese.
On 21 July 1944, the IIIrd Amphibious Corps (3rd Marine Division, 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, and the Army’s 77th Infantry Division) landed on Guam. The island is 30-miles long, 8-miles wide at its widest point, mountainous, and covered with dense jungle. In the high ground were numerous limestone caves that the Japanese had fortified. Fierce resistance from the 18,000 Japanese soldiers coupled with the rough terrain exacted a high price in American casualties. On 10 August 1944, organized resistance ceased and Guam was, from a military operational standpoint, declared secure. In reality, thousands of Japanese soldiers, dedicated to the emperor, refused to surrender. They retreated into the thick foliage of the hills to continue the resistance.
In late August 1944, Admiral Nimitz directed that a Local Security Patrol Force be organized to hunt down and capture or kill the Japanese holdouts. The unit was comprised of U.S. Marines and Guamanians, many of whom had served in the Insular Patrol Force prior to the war. Within a month, patrols were credited with killing up to 80 Japanese soldiers per day. Guamanian members of the patrols performed with distinction. One man was awarded the Silver Star and 28 others were awarded the Bronze Star.
Except for several weeks in February-March 1945, when they left to participate in the invasion of Iwo Jima, the 3rd Marine Division remained on Guam. They were an integral part of the island’s military security and participated in the patrols through the end of the war in the Pacific. By September 1945, most Japanese soldiers had laid down their arms and surrendered. The 3rd Marine Division Unit History records the last shooting conflict between Marines and Japanese soldiers occurred on Guam between 10-15 December 1945, when the Security Patrol Force engaged a group of holdouts. During this incident, six Japanese soldiers were killed and 20 were captured. The dedication of the Japanese soldier was evidenced as late as 1960 when two holdouts surrendered and again on 24 January 1972, when the last Japanese soldier on Guam was captured.
After liberation in 1944, Guam and Tinian served as bases for American B-29 bombing raids on the Japanese home islands. The proximity of these two islands from Japan served to shorten and eventually win the war, saving countless American lives. The B-29 Enola Gay, which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, flew from an airstrip on Tinian. The B-29 Bock’s Car, which dropped the atomic bomb nicknamed “Fat Boy” on Nagasaki also flew from an airstrip on Tinian.
In 1950 the people of Guam were granted non-voting U.S. citizenship. They send one non-voting delegate to the United States House of Representatives. Guam is presently the major U.S. owned military base in the western Pacific. Included are a Naval and Air Force presence. The airstrips were used in B-52 bombing operations carried out against Vietnam in the 1960s and early 1970s. In 1991, B-52 bombers took off from bases on Guam to attack Iraq during the Persian Gulf War and again as late as September 1996.
In December 1994, the Guam Police Department found itself armed with a wide variety of small arms. Their weapons ranged from 30 World War II era M1 rifles to modern Smith & Wesson stainless steel revolvers. Desiring to update and standardize their small arms inventory, they negotiated a trade agreement with a licensed firearms dealer in the United States. The deal was simple: in exchange for their mixed small arms inventory, the department would receive new firearms. Guam’s outdated small arms inventory was shipped to the United States in July 1996. Copies of the Guam Police Department Purchase Order and Armory Unit inventory are provided. Confidential information has been edited out of the purchase order.
The 30 M1 Garands of the Local Security Patrol Force of Guam give the historian and arms collector a unique opportunity to own a weapon which is linked to a specific World War II campaign. These Garands are the only known group of M1 rifles documented to a World War II battle. Aside from minor parts replacement at field service level, they remain in circa 1944 configuration. As Guam is a United States territory, the rifles bear no “import stamps.” For the collector who appreciates provenance, it doesn’t get any better.
The origin of the rifles and who used them may be deduced from research of the battle and its aftermath. During World War II, Springfield Armory shipped M1 rifles in roughly the order of assembly, test firing, and ordnance acceptance. Not in exact serial number sequence, but generally close. The quantities shipped and their destination was at the instruction of the Ordnance Department. Several factors contribute to validation of the theory that the 30 Guam Garands were initially in the hands of the Marine Corps.
The rifles fit mostly into three serial number groups: 1.14/1.15 million (January 1943 production), 1.55/1.56 million (May 1943 production), and 1.74/1.75 million (July 1943 production). In most cases the serial numbers are from several hundred to less than 2,000 numbers apart. In two instances they are less than 100 numbers apart!
A book by Springfield Research Service (a private enterprise – not associated with Springfield Armory), Serial Numbers of U.S. Martial Arms – Volume 4, lists tens of thousands of serial numbers, dates, and locations of various types of military small arms. The author of that document has spent many years gathering this information from various government archival sources. The following is from the referenced book and cites examples supporting the theory of Marine Corps provenance of the Guam Garands.
Serial Number Date Location
1144142 – Guam Garand
1144194 4-3-95 USMC Trophy Rifle
1464371 – Guam Garand
1464413 8-29-47 USMC Pensacola
1563887 – Guam Garand
1563872 6-10-51 USMC Hq Co FMF-PAC
1566859 – Guam Garand
1566860 10-12-43 USMC MCAD MIRMAR
1749041 – Guam Garand
1749124 3-9-49 USMC Camp Lejeune
1749218 – Guam Garand
1749300 9-19-45 USMC Camp Lejeune
1749457 7-2-47 USMC 1st MAW
1749766 6-10-51 USMC Hq Co FMF-PAC
1752234 – Guam Garand
1752388 7-21-48 USMC Camp Pendleton
1752885 9-19-45 USMC Camp Lejeune
2124330 – Guam Garand
2121414 4-19-45 USMC Camp Pendleton
2123284 5-31-50 USMC NOB 128
While a Marine provenance cannot be proven, it is a strong possibility. The odds heavily favor Marine Corps usage, probably 3rd Marine Division. The M1s may have been battlefield recovery weapons. Depending upon which area of operation from which they were recovered, it is also within the realm of possibility that some may have been used by the Army’s 77th Infantry Division.
Several books document that the Local Security Patrol Force of Guam was formed following the battle to join with Marines in sweeps seeking out remaining Japanese soldiers. These Guamanians were armed with U.S. surplus small arms and equipment. The following quotation is from The Liberation of Guam by Harry Gailey, Presidio Press, copyright 1988, page 193.
The thousands of remaining Japanese on the island presented a constant hazard to the many Guamanians who were returning to their home areas as well as to the Marines and men of the construction battalions. Long before the arrival of General Erskine, patrols of Army and Marines pushed out into the bush seeking those Japanese still alive. After 26 August the Marines were left to comb the interior with their major zone of operations in the far north. Guamanians had played an important role as guides to Army and Marine units from the earliest period of fighting. They continued to help ferret out Japanese during the many patrol sweeps in the north and south during August and September. Supplied with arms and equipment, the Guamanian volunteers acted as regular members of the patrols. In August, Admiral Nimitz authorized the creation of the Local Security Patrol Force, a combination of Marines and Guamanians, many of whom had been members of the Insular Patrol Force which had existed before war. The head of this organization was a Marine officer from the police detachment. In addition to their normal policing functions, members of the Patrol Force were involved during the remainder of the war in anti-Japanese patrols.
Attacks on Marines and Guamanians continued after the surrender of Japan in September 1945. It is highly likely that M1 rifles used by the Local Security Patrol Force were transferred to the new Guam Police to support continued anti-Japanese activity.
Why do some of the Guam Garands appear to be in original configuration, as shipped from Springfield Armory, and others not? Interviews with World War II veterans indicate that once rifles were in the hands of troops for any period of time, parts got changed. Wear and breakage were the result of training and combat. That is the purpose of Ordnance Field Service armorers. Examples: A stock breaks in a fall during a training exercise. Ordnance may cannibalize another damaged rifle, using a period stock (with different cartouche) or perhaps a new one from stores (without cartouche). During a rifle cleaning session you end up with your buddy’s trigger group in your rifle and his in yours. Do these circumstances make your M1 any less historically relevant? Of course not.
The Guam Garands are not in mint condition. They were likely used in training, went ashore across a hostile beach, fought the Japanese, were issued to the Local Security Patrol Force, continued to fight the Japanese, were used by the Guam police, and stored in a humid environment for 52 years. Indications of neglect are obvious. They are well used, but that is what gives them character and makes them interesting.
All of the Guam Garands are of Springfield Armory manufacture. One was made in July 1942, one in September 1942, one in November 1943, and the remainder were produced between January and July 1943. Twenty stocks bear the EMcF cartouche, two are stamped SA/GAW, one is a GHS without visible cartouche, and two marked WRA/GHD. The remaining five are unmarked or the cartouche is no longer visible. A few of the stocks are cracked. Three stocks have words or initials carved into them. It is unknown if this was done by U.S. troops or Guamanians. Twelve have the often seen “bullet tip dings” on them from tapping the cartridge clip of ammunition prior to insertion in the rifle. The wood is in the condition you would expect on rifles having seen hard usage.
Several of the rifles are in what appears to be their original combination of parts. Others have obviously had components traded among this group and other rifles. One rifle has a Winchester operating rod, two rifles have Winchester safeties.
The climate on Guam is hostile to firearms. It is tropical with an average annual temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit and high humidity is common. All of the rifles have their original finish. The only parts changes would have been performed by unit armorers. Some rifles have surface rust, especially on the operating rods, trigger guards, and trigger housing floor plates. Others exhibit some pitting of metal surfaces above or below the wood line. The bore on most of the rifles is in poor condition. The ammo fired through them during the war was corrosive. Inadequate cleaning appears to have been the norm. The inhospitable climate was of no help.
All rifles are equipped with un-modified operating rods and locking bar rear sights. One rifle has the “poppet valve” gas cylinder lock screw used in grenade launching. The other 29 have the solid, single-slot gas cylinder lock screw. All but one rifle has the narrow sight base gas cylinder. Seven rifles contain front sight screw seals. Eight rifles are equipped with the short-fork riveted follower rod. The remaining 22 have the long-fork type which came into use in late 1943 or early 1944. It is not known whether these rods were added prior to or after the battle. Two rifles have had the barrels changed. All of the other components are typical to the era of a World War II battle in the late summer of 1944.
A few World War II components, which were not available prior to the battle, are found on the rifles. Two rifles have revision 19 (SA) bolts, one has a revision 18 (SA) trigger housing. As the rifles remained in action months after the wars end, this is not surprising. The later parts give the appearance of “period” replacement.
Collectors should carefully examine the colors of the finishes on individual components of the Guam Garands. Not all parts are “matching colors” the way most collectors think they should be. The opportunity to perform this type of examination on substantially original circa 1944 battle rifles makes these Garands extremely valuable as research objects.
The exterior metal surfaces of two rifles have been carefully painted with a thin layer of flat black paint. They are otherwise indistinguishable from the others. A heavy coat of paint is present on the exterior metal surfaces of two other rifles. Their stocks have been sanded and shellacked. These two M1s were placed in this condition by the Guam Police for use as ceremonial rifles. They are the only two rifles with bright and shiny bores.
The butt plates, rear hand guard clips, lower bands, and front ends from the front hand guard ferrules forward are painted black on all rifles. The front and rear sling swivels on all of the rifles are painted white. The finger engagement area of the safeties on some rifles are painted red. It is assumed this paint was applied by the Guam Police, but this is unconfirmed.
Should the paint be removed or left intact? The rifles have not been excessively cleaned. Should you clean them? Each owner will have to decide for himself. As each of the Guam Garands is a unique artifact of World War II, reconditioning and stabilizing the rifle against deterioration should be considered. Advice on restoration and preservation is presented in the next section.
This monograph was prepared to establish the provenance of the Guam Garands. It is also intended to further the collector’s knowledge of M1 rifles of the World War II era and the battle of Guam. Data Sheets on all 30 rifles have been included to allow collectors to judge how rifles in the hands of the troops appeared as opposed to the way they left Springfield Armory.
Scott A. Duff
David C. Clark
Paul B. Miller
31 October 1996