Pacific War Museum, Guam -- During World War II, United States Marines were instrumental in liberating the Pacific islands. Guam, the largest island in the Northern Mariana island chain, was taken by Imperial Japanese forces after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In July of 1944, the Marines landed to liberate the island, eventually retaking Guam at a cost of 1,700 lives.
Over 64 years later, in effort to commemorate the fallen, John Gerber, a prior sergeant in the Marine Corps, built the Pacific War Museum to showcase the Marines’ sacrifice during WWII. But Gerber passed away in 2010, only two years in to his project. Without Gerber’s passion and dedication to his project, the state of the museum began to deteriorate.
When the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit was looking to lend a hand in Guam, the members of Joint Region Marianas pointed them to Gerber’s museum. When they arrived Sept. 28, the Marines and Sailors set out to rejuvenate the exterior of the museum.
“Because John Gerber passed away, there is not anyone around to do the outside work,” said Lance Cpl. Jerek Janorschke, a data network specialist with the 31st MEU and a native of Euclio, Minn. “(Gerber) worked incredibly hard to put this place together, keeping the traditions and the history around, so we have to make sure this museum continues to show that.”
Gerber was born in Guam and served in the Marine Corps from 1961 to 1975. Returning to Guam after his service, Gerber started to acquire historic pieces for the museum through radio announcements requesting WWII pieces.
“John Gerber was truly a great guy, he was a one of a kind,” said Roy Moore, Gerber’s friend and current curator of the museum. “The museum always came first, then his wife and kids. All he thought about was his Marine Corps museum; it was his life.”
To honor Gerber’s dedication and the Marines the museum is dedicated to, the 31st MEU volunteers set out to help restore the facility, according to Religious Program Specialist 3rd Class Andrew Madonia, a native of Hamilton Square, N.J.
Fifteen volunteers were split into two groups, one tasked with repairing the doors of a WWII-era shed and the other with removing a dead tree looming above the building.
The shed was found by Gerber himself and was placed outside of the museum, showing off its olive drab skin. The doors were falling apart, showing the wear and tear from years of tropical storms.
The dead tree hung over the roof of the museum, a growing threat to collapse on the building with each passing day. To prevent inevitable damage, the volunteers cut the tree down to a stump.
“With all the history of the Marine Corps in Guam, this was an easy choice for a project,” said Madonia. “It was a good opportunity for the Marines to give back to the museum and the Marines lost during the Battle of Guam.”
The 31st MEU recently completed regularly scheduled readiness training in Guam and is now continuing their Fall Patrol with U.S. Navy Amphibious Squadron 11.
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.