US passport Guam officer

The U.S. Territories refer to a group of geographical areas in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. These territories fall under the jurisdiction of the United States federal government but do not hold the same status as the 50 states of the U.S. (e.g. they are not represented in the U.S. Congress). With varied histories, these territories often reflect a mix of American culture and different local cultures, providing a unique experience for international exchange participants. Inter Exchange programs provide an opportunity for international participants to live and work in some U.S. territories, most notably Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Each island in the U.S. territories boasts unique geography, history, sites, and customs, and offers experiences that are distinct from the other states. Outdoor activities, museums, and historical attractions can be found throughout the U.S. territories, and international visitors will find no shortage of recreational activities.

Learn more about U.S. territories

GUAM

The tiny western Pacific island of Guam has been a U.S. territory for over a century and is considered a strategically important link between the U.S. and Asia. Yet given its significance, the story of how an island 6,000 miles from California become an American territory is surprisingly short. US passport Guam officer

The only reason America annexed Guam and its Chamorro inhabitants all those years ago was that the U.S. was at war with Spain. When the Spanish-American War broke out in April of 1898, Guam was under Spanish control (as it had been since the 1600s). The U.S. was actually more interested in conquering the Spanish Philippines, but it figured it needed to take Guam to secure the larger territory. The Philippines and Guam are only 1,500 miles apart.

In June of that year, the U.S. sent the second USS Charleston (C-2) to capture the island. When the ship arrived, the Americans on board sent up warning signals to let the Spanish know they were there, says Dr. Diana L. Ahmad, a professor of history and political science at Missouri University of Science and Technology. “They, of course, expected the Spanish to respond in some sort of war-like manner, defending their island and so forth,” she says. “But there was no response from them at all.” The Americans were confused because they didn’t know what was going on. Why wasn’t anyone responding to the declaration that they were there to attack?

In a couple of hours, a boat of Spanish authorities sailed over to the Charleston to talk with the Americans. When they reached the ship, the Spanish apologized for not responding to what they’d perceived as a salute or greeting from the Americans—in other words, the Spanish thought the Americans’ signals had been a polite knock on the door.

“The Americans just looked at them and said, ‘No, we’re at war,’” Ahmad says. Turns out, the Spanish stationed on the remote island hadn’t known they were two months into the Spanish-American War. Once the parties established that they were enemies, the Americans sent a letter to the Spanish governor of Guam giving him 30 minutes to surrender.

“A couple of the documents I’ve read said he took until the 29th minute to respond,” Ahmad says. However long he took, “the island of Guam surrendered and it became American. It was that simple.” Afterward, the Americans “stayed for about 24 to 36 hours” before sailing away again, she says. “They left no Americans in charge of the island and even took the flag [they’d raised] with them.” It was the first and last event in the Spanish-American War that ever took place in Guam, and it was completely bloodless. US passport Guam officer

When the U.S. won the war, it made Guam an official U.S. territory. Guamanians, as the U.S. government calls them, are now U.S. citizens by birth. However, unlike citizens in America’s 50 states, they cannot vote for president. And just like citizens of Washington D.C. and the other U.S. territories—Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa—Guam’s 162,000 people have no voting representatives in Congress.

Though political movements have sought to either incorporate Guam as a state or liberate it from the U.S., Ahmad doesn’t see that happening in the near future. But she thinks that if the U.S. is going to keep Guam as a nebulous non-state in order to benefit from its strategic location, it should play more of a role in improving the island’s strained infrastructure.

THE PASSPORT

Issued to a USAF officer from Wisconsin in 1956 when he was just 23 years old. US territory passports are very difficult to find, especially early versions like this one.

US passport guam officer
From the cover, you can’t differentiate US territory passports, and the cover always looks the same. Only a low passport number could be an indicator.
US passport guam officer
Passport number 8835
US passport guam officer
Bio page with detail zoom

 

US passport guam officer
Meet USAF navigator Jerome Charles Janick

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Governor of Guam stamp