The largest and southernmost island in the Marianas.
Largest of the Mariana Islands in the W Pacific, an unincorporated territory of the US
area 540 sq km/208 sq mi
towns and cities Apra (port), Tamuning
features major US air and naval base, much used in the Vietnam War; tropical, with much rain
industries sweet potatoes, fish; tourism is important
currency US dollar
language English, Chamorro (basically Malay-Polynesian)
religion 96% Roman Catholic
government popularly elected governor (Ricardo Bordallo from 1985) and single-chamber legislature.
history claimed by Magellan for Spain 1521. The indigenous population of Chamorros dwindled from 80,000 in 1668 to 1,500 in 1783, partly as a result of infectious disease, partly as a result of Spanish brutality. Guam was captured by the US 1898 in the Spanish-American War. It became the headquarters of the US Pacific Strategic Air Command 1954 and is also central command for all US naval operations in the W Pacific, with 21,000 US military personnel (1991) and storage of nuclear weapons. The Pentagon spends $750 million a year on its presence in Guam.
recent history ceded by Spain to the US 1898; occupied by Japan as an air and naval base 1941–44. Guam achieved full US citizenship and self-government from 1950. A referendum 1982 favored the status of a commonwealth, in association with the US.