Navy controlled entry and departure from Guam

August 21, 2012 marked the 50th anniversary of an unsung milestone in Guam’s post-World War II development.  On that day in 1962, President John F. Kennedy’s Executive Order 11045 rescinded the Navy’s wartime authority to refuse entry to civilian visitors for security reasons.  The action unleashed the island’s tourism potential and ushered in an era of unprecedented economic and social advancement.

An obvious obstacle to economic development, especially tourism, the security clearance program was roundly criticized by Guam’s elected leaders and the business community who believed the authority conflicted with the 1950 Organic Act that had established a civilian government for the island. Some local attorneys regarded the program as unconstitutional.

The credit for persuading Kennedy to issue his order is usually given to Bill Daniel, an eccentric and occasionally flamboyant Texas politician whom the President had appointed Governor of Guam in 1961. That appointment was generally not well received on the island because Daniel had no knowledge of Guam, let alone experience in insular territorial governance, and he displaced then Governor Joseph Flores, who had been the first CHamoru/Chamorro appointed to the position since the Organic Act. Daniel’s 16 month tenure, from May 1961 to January 1962, was also not without its local critics, some of whom accused the appointee of political favoritism in his selections for Government of Guam executive branch positions.

Yet Daniel proved to be a quick study who learned about the island, its people, their needs and aspirations. Many Guam legislators regarded him as the first non-Chamorro governor since Carlton Skinner to show real interest in their opinions. He became a strong advocate for greater self-government, increased economic development and social advancement, telling a 1961 US Governor’s Conference:

We have neglected these industrious and ambitious people….[and] it’s going to be hard to build up [Guam] with industry, new business, [and] tourism… with this wall around the island.

When it came to lobbying against the security clearance with the Washington establishment, Daniel was well-connected through his Texas family and their political allies in the Kennedy Administration. A graduate of Baylor University, Daniel, a Democrat, had served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1949 to 1953. His brother, Price, who held the same 14th District office from 1939 to 1945, had been a US Senator (1952 to 1956) and was then Governor of Texas (1957 to 1963).

The Daniel brothers were allies and supporters of Lyndon Baines Johnson, whose selection as vice-presidential running mate helped Kennedy gain Southern Democratic support during the election campaign. Kennedy also appointed a Johnson protégée, John Connolly, as Secretary of the Navy, and recruited Richard Flores Taitano, a young, dynamic leader from Guam, to head the Office of Territories in the Department of the Interior.

Bill Daniel “arbitrated” the security clearance issue with the Interior Department, which coordinated federal civilian policy for the island, and the Navy Department, which maintained it was a necessary security requirement for the bases, trying to work out an agreement for a recommendation to the President to rescind the controversial program. Daniel reportedly gained Connolly’s assent but after Connolly left office in 1962 to run for Texas governor, his successor backed away from the agreement.

Undeterred, Daniel pressed the issue directly with the White House through his Texas connections.  Fortuitously, the Kennedy administration at that time was becoming concerned about Micronesia due to mounting islander and United Nations’ criticism regarding the lack of economic and social progress in the US -administered Trust Territory.  Having served in the South Pacific during World War II, Kennedy understood and appreciated the strategic importance of Guam and Micronesia in the US defense posture in the Western Pacific.

Fearing the loss of American influence and control of this immense area, his administration was then working out a national policy and strategy for persuading Micronesians to join the American political family.  An accelerated economic and social development program, followed by a region-wide plebiscite on US commonwealth, was recommended in what came to be known as the infamous Solomon Report.

In this context, Guam was coming to be viewed, as Bill Daniel had told the US Governor’s Conference, not only as a US “bastion of defense” but also as “a showcase of Democracy and a symbol of American pride here close to the Bamboo Curtain.”  A developing Guam, which already served as the transportation and communication hub of Micronesia, would demonstrate American commitment to the region and model the benefits of US affiliation for the trust isles.

Clearance lifting in 1962 opened door for tourism

Guam leaders acted quickly on Kennedy’s order. Governor Manuel F.L Guerrero, who had been appointed to succeed Daniel, issued an executive order the following year establishing the Guam Tourism Commission within the Department of Commerce, then headed by Jose D. Leon Guerrero.  Governor Guerrero also appointed Rex Wills of Hawai’i to manage the new Guam Visitors Bureau, which promoted the island’s tropical climate and beauty in Japan.  Island businessmen such as Pete Sgro and Pete Ada, among others, worked to interest investors, including Pan Am, in the island’s tourism potential.  Charter flights tested the concept and by 1967 Pam Am had inaugurated regular service between Tokyo and Guam.

The rest, as they say, is history. While mass tourism has not been an unmixed blessing, the industry, which now hosts about 1.3 million visitors annually, has clearly provided the island with a solid private sector base, vastly expanded opportunities for local entrepreneurs and workers, and made the island a frequent destination for East Asian tourists.  Its growth also has underscored the island’s comparative advantages for commercial expansion and generated a sense of economic and political empowerment among island leaders.

The reason for the Navy’s reinstatement and continuation of the security clearance program remains unclear. The Secretary of the Navy’s power to restrict entry to Guam was based on the 1941 Executive Order 8683 from President Franklin D. Roosevelt that established the Guam Island Naval Defensive Sea Area and Guam Island Airspace Reservation. The goal of the order was to preserve the security of the island as war with Japan loomed on the horizon and Japanese air and naval bases in the Northern Marianas menaced Guam.

The order was not reinstated in the immediate post war period, after the US recapture of Guam, but the Naval government, which controlled the island and its civilian population, adopted a policy of preventing non-Guamanians from entering to establish businesses unless there were no local people able to provide the proposed products or services.  This authority was extended to prevent retired naval officers and personnel from returning to Guam to open businesses.

By August 1950 the Guam Organic Act had established civilian government for the island and transferred administration of non-military affairs from the Navy to the Interior Department.  While many island leaders assumed Executive Order 8683 was then a dead letter, less than three months after the Organic Act took effect, the Chief of Naval Operations re-instituted the security clearance entry program (on December 5, 1950). The Korean War had begun five months earlier.

Under the program, any non-Guamanian, whether a US citizen or alien, wanting to come to Guam had to apply for a security clearance from the Secretary of the Navy or his designated agents.  Non-Guamanian residents of Guam desiring to leave and return had to file a re-entry permit application with the Commander, Naval Forces Marianas.  Civilian airlines and shipping lines were required to ask for these documents before allowing prospective passengers to purchase tickets.

Guamanians – defined as people born on Guam or those who became US citizens under the Guam Organic Act – could enter and leave without a clearance. Military personnel and civilian employees of the Navy also were exempted from the requirement.

Many US citizens and foreign nationals objected to the program, including some who had been denied entry, and numerous complaints were filed.  Some US government officials also were angered by the requirement.  A notable example, according to Guam historian Tony Palomo, was Ford Q. Elvidge, a Seattle lawyer.

While enroute to Guam with his wife, he was challenged by a US immigration officer in Honolulu who demanded the couple’s Navy security clearance, in addition to their passports and tickets. After a lengthy argument challenging such a requirement, a still obstinate Elvidge told the official it was nonsense that a US citizen would not be allowed to visit a US territory, especially since President Eisenhower had just appointed Elvidge the new governor of Guam.

Reasons for the order were varied

In response to complaints, naval officers provided a spectrum of justifications, including:

  1. it was necessary as long as the Korean War lasted;
  2. to exclude civilians whose only aim was to make as much money as possible from servicemen and government employees;
  3. to effectively use Guam for its primary mission of defense and protect important naval and air bases on the island;
  4. to limit entry to persons who contribute to the “strategic development” of the island; and
  5. to assist the local government in keeping “riff-raff” out of Guam.

The security clearance program was not foolproof and many non-Guamanians found ways around it, took up residence and worked on the island.  Yet some local leaders and attorneys were convinced the program was a violation of civil rights and due process and probably unconstitutional.  They sought to bring the issue to court.  Two local attorneys, W. Scott Barrett and Walt Ferenz, wrote a lengthy analysis, Peacetime Martial Law in Guam, published in the California Law Review in 1962, presenting their case against the security clearance requirement. That article remains the most detailed and authoritative study of the issue publicly available.

But it was often difficult to find a plaintiff to legally challenge the program, as the Navy usually issued security clearances to visitors who had somehow made their way onto the island without one, thus removing a cause for complaint and lawsuit.  And people who had entered and taken up residence without a clearance were not prosecuted or deported, though many were known to naval officials.  Some attorneys felt this was a deliberate attempt to avoid a court test of the program. By July 1962, however, those same two attorneys, W. Scott Barrett and Walt Ferenz, were able to file a lawsuit against the security requirement, representing as plaintiff the Dizon’s, a Filipino family that had been denied entry.  The case was before the federal court when Kennedy issued his executive order.

The Navy could also revoke the security clearance of non-Guamanians working on the island and direct their employer to repatriate them.  Some of these cases became quite controversial when it was learned that the ostensible reason for some revocations was that the aliens had married US citizens, placing themselves “out of status.”

In one celebrated case of a Filipina nurse who lost her security clearance because she married a US citizen, a naval spokesperson explained that “Navy policy is to keep Guam for Guamanians, therefore, it does not look with favor on the entry of any foreigner to Guam for the purpose of settling permanently.”   Ironically, that rationale foreshadowed a complaint of contemporary indigenous rights groups, who accuse the US Government of allowing excessive immigration into the island, causing Chamorros to be outnumbered in their homeland by a settler population.

The ultimate motive for reinstituting the security clearance program remains unknown because most of the documentation is still classified. Some critics see the program as a necessary wartime restriction during the Korean Conflict that was continued long after the need for it had passed.  As such, some argued, it can be viewed as an attempt to maintain administrative power the Navy had lost under the Truman Administration.  As the authors of Peacetime Martial Law in Guam suggested, “The Navy once ruled Guam with an iron hand, and the enforcement of Executive Order 8683 may be an attempt to retain as much of that rule as possible.”

Others, however, speculate that the continuance of the program was due to a combination of national security factors, including escalating Cold War tensions and increased security concerns for the air and naval bases on Guam and the new CIA base on Saipan, a facility for training Chinese Nationalists from Taiwan to infiltrate Mainland China.  The reinstitution of the security clearance coincided not only with the outbreak of the Korean War but also with the establishment of the highly classified CIA base. Kennedy’s order ending the security clearance program also coincided with his decision to close that CIA facility and transfer the Trust Territory’s headquarters from Guam to the Saipan base’s housing and administration buildings.

By Frank Quimby

For further reading

Barrett, W. Scott, and Walter S. Ferenz. “Peacetime Martial Law on Guam.” California Law Review 48, no. 1 (March 1960): 1-30.

Carter, Lee D., William L. Wuerch, and Rosa Roberto Carter, eds. Guam History: Perspectives. Volume Two. Mangilao: Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center, University of Guam, 2005.

Murphy, Joe. “Guam Tourism Has Done Well Over the Years.” Pacific Daily News, 22 October 2007.

Palomo, Tony. An Island in Agony. Self-published, 1984.