On Dec. 10, 1898, Guam was ceded to the United States from Spain by the Treaty of Paris. The following February, U.S. Navy Cmdr. E.R. Taussig officially took possession of the island for the United States. U.S. Naval Station, Guam was established Aug. 7 of the same year with the entire island designated as a Naval Station and Capt. R.P. Leary designated as commanding officer and governor of Guam.
The S.M.S. Cormoran, a Russian passenger liner captured by the Germans and converted into a commerce raider, was in port in Apra Harbor on April 7th, 1917 when the U.S. entered World War I. Navy Captain Roy C. Smith, the military governor on Guam, sent two officers to tell the German ship’s captain that a state of war now existed between the two countries, that he and his men were to be taken prisoners-of-war, and that Cormoran must be given up to the Americans. Simultaneously, USS Supply moved into position to block the harbor and prevent Cormoran from departing.
The crew of Cormoran, anticipating the development, had already placed explosives in the ship’s coal bunker. Sailors at Guam saw the German crew preparing to scuttle the ship and shots were fired in an attempt to influence the actions of Cormoran and one of her small boats. Mere minutes after the notification, the explosion sent the crew of approximately 370 scrambling overboard. Several crewmembers died during Cormoran’s sinking while most were saved by small boats and USS Supply. This engagement in Guam represents the first shots fired between the U.S. and Germany, as well as the first German prisoners of war captured by the United States forces.
Naval Station controlled Guam until it surrendered to the Japanese on Dec. 10, 1941. The island remained under Japanese rule until July 21, 1944, when U.S. forces landed to begin the liberation. This day is annually celebrated as Liberation Day. In 1944, Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz came to Guam as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and defeated the Japanese imperial forces on the island, aiding American efforts to bring the World War II to a close.
From 1944 to 1949, an era of military government, the officers who served as Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Marianas were respectively charged with civil responsibilities as governor of the Marshalls-Gilberts; deputy military governor, Pacific Ocean Areas; and deputy military governor, Bonin-Volcano Islands.
From 1944 until March 29, 1952, Naval Station served as a Naval Operations Base, providing a huge portion of every type of fleet service. In September 1956, the Naval Base was disestablished and the Naval Station was reassigned to the military command of Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Marianas.
In 1998, the Navy embarked on a new era in shore management. As the Navy reduced its operational forces, it became essential for the shore establishment supporting those forces to be realigned.
On Feb. 6, 2009, the Navy and Air Force on Guam held a groundbreaking ceremony for a combined headquarters at Nimitz Hill, signaling the beginning of Joint Region Marianas. Joint Region Marianas began initial operational capability on Jan. 31, 2009, and reached full operational capability on Oct. 1, 2009.
Under Joint Region Marianas, U.S. Naval Base Guam and Andersen Air Force Base will each maintain commanding officers, who will oversee their respective mission requirements and operations. Joint Region Marianas will oversee support services, policies, and resources. Joint Region Marianas is symbolic of the historic partnership between the Navy and Air Force on Guam, bridging the approximately 30 miles between U.S. Naval Base Guam and Andersen Air Force Base.
The commander of Joint Region Marianas also serves as Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Marianas and U.S. Defense Representative to Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Republic of Palau, and Federated States of Micronesia.