Kampånan Guåhan

A bronze ship's bell -- Guam's gift to the Navy 70 years ago -- has returned home -- again, after having traveled all over the world, from the ancient rivers of China to the turbulent waters of the western Pacific, the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic waters and the Caribbean Sea.

The bell, along with a commemorative bronze plaque, has been returned to Guam after the decommissioning of the USS Guam, an amphibious assault ship (LPH-9), on August 25, 1998 at the Norfolk, Virginia, Naval Base. The USS Guam is the third Navy vessel named after Guam.

Guam Bell returns to Guahan
Guam Bell with plaque.
Top of Guam Bell
Presented by the People of Guam. 1927.

In 1927, the Guam Chamber of Commerce spearheaded a fundraising drive to have a ship's bell and a commemorative plaque manufactured in Shanghai, China. Virtually everyone in Guam participated in the campaign, including school children who were asked to donate a penny each. A total of $703.92 was collected (In today's dollar terms, this is about $22,000).

The original USS Guam was a 159-foot gunboat built in Shanghai and was launched in 1928. Her main mission was to protect American interests in China and traveled through the hazardous waters of the upper Yangtze River. She was later re-christened Wake and was captured by the Japanese during the early days of World War II.

In Feb 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced that a cruiser will be constructed and will be named USS Guam. The vessel (CB-2) was launched on November 12, 1943, by the New York Shipbuilding Corp., in Camden, N.J., and was sponsored by Mrs. George McMillin, wife of the naval governor of Guam who was then a prisoner of war in Japan. Captain McMillin was naval governor of Guam when Japanese forces seized Guam on December 10, 1941.

The first USS Guam.
The First USS Guam Gunboat. Image obtained from USS Guam Decommissioning Page
before it was removed from the official US Navy Webpage. Once we find the USS Guam Webpage again, we will point to it rather than showing the ship images here.

The second USS Guam was part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet which engaged Japanese naval and ground forces in the waters near Ulithi, Leyte, Okinawa and Japan proper. Some of the most venerable American ships were part of the fleet, including the Yorktown, the Intrepid, the Missouri and the Wisconsin. The USS Guam became the flagship of Cruiser Task Force 95. She received two battle stars for World War II service. She was decommissioned on February 17, 1947.

The second 
USS Guam.
The second USS Guam Cruiser 806'6". Engaged in a battle with 5 waves of kamikaze planes in the vicinity of Kyushu and Shikoku. It splashed 1 plane. At that battle, carriers ENTERPRISE took a bomb hit and the INTREPID took a suicide plane crash on its deck. Image obtained from USS Guam Decommissioning Page before it was removed from the official US Navy Webpage. Once we find the USS Guam Webpage again, we will point to it rather than showing the ship images here.

The third USS Guam, built by the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, was launched on August 22, 1964. She became the flagship for Amphibious Squadron 12 and devoted most of her time plying in the Caribbean Sea and around the waters of Central America. Among here distinctions was having deen designated the primary recovery ship for the Gemini 11 space flight. On September 18, 1966, the USS Guam recovered Astronauts Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon 710 miles east of Cape Kennedy.

The ship also has the distinction of having been a "Federal District Court" in 1976, the bicentenniel year, when 200 new U.S. citizens were naturalized in the ship's hangar deck. She participated in the evacuation of 600 Lebanese, Americans and third country nationals from Juniyah, Lebanon, during the war between Israeli, Palestinian, and Syrian forces, and in 1982 landed Marines in Beirut as part of the multi-national peacekeeping force. In 1983, the USS Guam assisted in the rescue of nearly 200 Americans in Grenada.

The ship's bell and commermorative plaque were aboard the first USS Guam but sometime during the war, the bell and plaque disappeared. Then in 1954, it was learned that the bell and plaque were at the Marine Barracks in Guam. Captain Peter C. Siguenza turned over the historic items to Navy Rear Admiral M.E. Murphy on behalf of Marine Col. J.S. Cook. Admiral Murphy then turned over the bell and plaque to then Guam Governor Ford Q. Elvidge, who in turn gave them to the Guam Public Library and Museum for public display and safekeeping.

The third USS Guam.
The Third USS Guam. The Mighty Nine LPH9 christened to commemorate the battle and U.S. recapture of Guam.
It supported the amphibious force Operations of Desert Storm, the 1991 Somalia American personnel evacuation, 1983 logistic support of Grenada Invasion, and Jan/Feb 1986 recovery of Challenger's booster rockets nose cones .
Once we find the USS Guam Webpage again, we will point to it rather than showing the ship images here.

Some 30 years later, Bill Banning, a former Marine, sought the return of the bell and plaque to the Navy and conducted a campaign of letter-writing, dispatching correspondence to various Congressman Antonio B. Won Pat and then Governor Ricardo J. Bordallo.

Governor Bordallo initially declined to have the bell and plaque leave the island, saying: "I regret to inform you that the request cannot be accommodated. Admittedly, it would be an honor to have these artifacts displayed on the USS Guam, as a symbol of the great Guamanian people. However, it is equally important that such artifacts be maintained on Guam for the education, inspiration, pleasure and enrichment of the residents of this territory."

Sometime later, Governor Bordallo had a change of heart and informed the Navy: "I have reached a decision regarding Guam's bell. I have decided to approve the loan of the bell to the ship."

On March 2, 1985, a ceremony was held at the Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia, during which Governor Bordallo turned over the bell and plaque and was a guest speaker at the ceremony aboard the USS Guam. In his speech, Governor Bordallo said: "The dedication of the bell gives the present ship Guam a link to the valor of the Navy of the past. Let the bell be a constant and shining reminder that we, who stood with you in war, now stand behind you in your mission of peace." Antonio M. Palomo


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