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The U.S. Citizenship Question for the Guamanians, 1899-1939
Although Guam was annexed to the United States in 1899, the people residing on Guam were not granted United States citizenship until after World War II (WW II) in 1950 under the Guam Organic Act. The question to be addressed is, "Why did it take half a century for the Guamanians to be granted citizenship of the United States?"
Investigation into the question of Guam in the context of the United States - Japan relationships in the Far East offers the key to an understanding of the citizenship questions for the Guamanian people. Pursuing an Open Door Policy in China from around the end of the nineteenth century in order to protect commercial activities of the U.S. citizens there, the United States made every diplomatic effort to secure political balance with Japan by making several treaties to maintain the status quo in China and western Pacific. Under these circumstances, it was thought that once Guam and the Philippines fell in the hands of Japan, the United States' interests in China would be disturbed. Therefore, the United States tried to avoid any circumstances under which Japan would find a cause to attack their interests in the Western Pacific region. The question arising to the status of the Guamanian people was also a part of this reasoning.
The United States deliberately did not deal with the question of citizenship for the Guamanian people, so that it would not provoke Japanese military actions over Guam. The Department of the Navy and President as well argued that if the United States changed the status of the Guamanian people, it would make the island vulnerable to Japanese attack.
According to them, Guam should be under complete control of the Navy, otherwise Japan would be tempted to attack, since granting citizenship meant that Guam as a navy base would be under civilian control as well. It is important to note that it was thought that once citizenship was granted to the Guamanian people by the United States, Japan would not regard Guam as being under the Navy's complete jurisdiction any more. Therefore, the Navy and President took the attitude not to admit, or not even to take up the issue of citizenship so that Guam was assumed to be defendable.
Strong Guam protected by the United States Navy allowed them to secure their interests in the Far East, in particular, with China. In this connection, before WWII, Guam status was a military symbol in the United States - Japan relationships, by which the American citizens' free commercial activities in China were guaranteed.