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Reviewed by:
  • We Fought the Navy and Won: Guam's Quest for Democracy
  • James Perez Viernes
We Fought the Navy and Won: Guam's Quest for Democracy, by Doloris Coulter Cogan. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008. ISBN cloth, 978-0-8248-3089-2; paper, 978-0-8248-3216-2; xv + 244 pages, appendixes, notes, illustrations, maps, and index. Cloth, US$45.00; paper, US$24.00.

Doloris Cogan's We Fought the Navy and Won explores the battles waged at the highest levels of the federal government that preceded Guam's transition from a possession of the United States administered by the Navy to its current political status as an unincorporated, self-governing territory. Cogan focuses primarily on the period 1945–1950 when she was employed as a writer and editor for the monthly News Letter and Guam Echo at the Institute of Ethnic Affairs in Washington dc. She recounts the struggle to end military rule on Guam by both its native inhabitants and supporters on the US continent through her own experiences of chronicling and witnessing such events. Cogan concerns herself specifically with the incidents leading up to the famous Guam Congress Walkout of 1949—a central event that ultimately led to the signing of the Organic Act of Guam, which granted the island self-government and its residents US citizenship. She does so admittedly from a "Washington perspective," providing a memoir that illustrates the ways that this pivotal event in Guam's history continues to be interpreted through American lenses.

Cogan's opening chapter provides a survey of Guam's history, using the island's first contact with the West as [End Page 394] its starting point. The author relies heavily on Robert Rogers' Destiny's Landfall (1995) to chronicle the island's colonial history. She embraces the typical Western historiography, which narrates Guam's past as a successive parade of colonial regimes, with the agency of its native Chamorros a distant afterthought or absent altogether.

The fourteen chapters that follow Cogan's somewhat slanted historical survey plot the development of the Institute of Ethnic Affairs and introduce the individuals whom the author situates at the heart of the debate concerning changes to Guam's political status. These chapters prove both useful and engaging in their intimate, behind-the-scenes look at notable Washington figures and the oftentimes-heated debates that ensued between them with regard to US colonialism in the Pacific. Cogan further outlines the establishment of the Guam Echo as a means of publicizing nationally all matters relating to Guam, as well as serving as an outlet for residents of the island to engage in the discussion of their political status in far-off Washington. Perhaps most useful are chapters 6–8 in which Cogan provides a detailed glimpse into the political maneuvering among those in support of civilian government for Guam and those with interests in maintaining military control over the island. It is here that Cogan provides a fluid and remarkable account (much of it firsthand) of the various ways in which both sides combated their opponents.

Chapters 10 –12 make the transition from high-level Washington maneuvering to events centered on Guam, especially initiatives by its residents aimed at achieving organic legislation for the island. Here, Cogan discusses the 1949 Guam Congress Walkout, the national media fury that ensued, and the pressure it placed on the US Congress to enact legislative action. Cogan further explores the contributions of Guam's own Francisco B Leon Guerrero, Carlos Taitano, Concepcion Cruz Barrett, B J Bordallo, Antonio B Won Pat, and Agueda Johnston, as well as many others, who contributed to the Chamorro cause in Washington. As the author points out, many of them made the long journey to the US capital at their own expense to be present at those discussions targeting Guam's political status. Emphasizing the political agency of Chamorro, chapters 10 –12 lend a sense of balance to Cogan's Washington-based perspective. The remaining chapters focus on the signing of the Organic Act of Guam and the initial strides made toward civilian government that immediately followed.

We Fought the Navy and Won has certain shortcomings worthy of mention. Perhaps...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9464
Print ISSN
1043-898X
Pages
pp. 394-397
Launched on MUSE
2009-08-29
Open Access
No
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