5th Marianas History Conference Day 4 - 6

Page 23

Panel: New Perspectives

From Coaling Station to the Tip of the Spear

The United States Militarization of the Mariana Islands

By Dave Lotz

Author and Historian

davelotz@ite.net

Abstract: The increasing military presence in the Mariana Islands by the United States continues to dominate the people of the Mariana Islands. This presentation provides a chronology of the events and resulting United States military use and development of the islands from 1898 to today with pre-World War II on Guam, World War II base developments, Cold War, Post-Cold War downsizing, and continuing to today’s military buildup including proposal that never occurred, were abandoned, and might occur in the future. This presentation provides a cumulative framework for continuing discussion on the consequences on our island’s environment, economy, sustainability, dependency, and especially the people of the Mariana Islands and the broader trend of militarization of the islands into the future.

My presentation of this paper on contemporary history is motivated by the need to keep our current times focused on what is occurring today and in the recent times that impacts our lives on the Mariana Islands. Already one generation has come of age since the United States decided to focus their military in the island and turn us into the “Tip of the Spear”.

Back in 1898 the USS Charleston, Captain Henry Glass USN commanding, entered Apra Harbor, Guam on June 21, 1898 and obtained the surrender of the island from Spain during the Spanish-American War as he had orders, while on his way escorting reinforcements to the Philippines, to secure an island for the use of the United States. Guam was needed for a coaling station for the U.S. Navy on the route from the mainland United States to the Philippines and the Orient as the United States expanded their influence and power across the vast Pacific Ocean. Guam was to remain a United States colony for over the next 120 years with the exception of the Japanese occupation during World War II. The coaling station never materialized as warships soon converted from coal to oil as fuel.