Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Southern Guam: Umatac

 

 

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Guam Veteran’s Memorial
Overlooking the  hillsides of Umatac is a memorial dedicated to the seventy-four Chamorro men who died in the Vietnam War (a per capita rate three times the national average).  The park was developed by the Guam Women’s Club in 1971 and is a popular stop for tourists. A special Mass is held at the site each Memorial Day.

Nearly 4,000 of Guam’s young men served in Vietnam, earning an extraordinarily high number of medals for their heroism under fire and wounds received in action. Pacific Islanders have served willingly and with great patriotism in American wars. Most were not even born U.S. citizens, a designation bestowed upon the people of Guam only by virtue of the 1950 Organic Act.

Guam also played a significant role throughout the Vietnam War by providing a medivac station for the critically wounded; serving as a forward attack base for B-52 bombers; a processing center for more than 100,000 refugees after the fall of Saigon in 1975; as the first U.S. soil reached by flights repatriating remains of MIAs and as a “Rest and Recuperation” area.

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This is Umatac Bridge, constructed with two towers reminiscent of London Bridge. The bridge dates not back to the Spanish times, as visitors often assume, but to the 1980s under the helm of Governor Ricardo J. Bordallo. (Source: Guampedia) The gate to the stairs for the bridge is locked and cannot be used. Behind the bridge I saw some carabao grazing and this one was taking a bath. Hello!

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After the bridge, the road runs uphill, where visitors can turn off into a small park to see the ruins of Fort Nuestra Senora de la Soledad (commonly referred to as Fort Soledad),constructed to protect the bay from pirates and other European explorers. This is a wonderful place to watch the sunset and sometimes carabao rides are offered.  Mt. Lam Lam can also be viewed from the ruins. South of Umatac is the village of Merizo.

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