Guam was under Spanish control until it was ceded to the US in 1898. Japan occupied the island during World War II, which resulted in deaths of many Guamanians. The US took over the territory in 1944, and now Guam is highly important for American strategies.
During the Vietnam War in the 1970s, the Americans flew B-52 bombers from the Andersen Air Force Base, the biggest military installation on the island. American has nuclear submarines on Guam, whose nearby waters host major US navy wargames. In order to realign its forces across its various bases, the US plans to move 8,000 Marines and 10,000 dependents from the Japanese island of Okinawa to Guam by 2014.
The US military presence and tourism are the main forces behind Guam’s economy. The island sees many visitors from Japan who are attracted to its natural beauty, including the coral reefs and waterfalls.
Guam’s population includes a diverse group of people, including Japanese, Chinese and migrants from other Pacific islands. The local Chamorro are of mixed Micronesian, Spanish and Filipino descent. Spanish influence is still strong among the Chamorro and expressed in their language, food and annual fiestas. Guam is often hit with typhoons. In 2002, a series of typhoons left nearly 35,000 people homeless.
Sources: BBC, International Crisis Group, CIA World Factbook.
Territory of Guam
Form of Government:
US overseas territory
Year of Independence:
Roman Catholic 85%, other 15% (1999 est.)
541 sq km (209 sq miles)
English, Chamorro (both official), Philippine, other Pacific island languages and Asian languages
75 years (men), 81 years (women) (2009 est.)
1 US dollar = 100 cents
Re-exports of petroleum-based products, construction materials, fish, food and beverage products
GDP - Per Capita (PPP):
$15,000 (2005 est.)
International Dialing Code: