The guns are locked and loaded, the F-16 fighter jets line up along the runway ready to scramble at a moment’s notice and the military, as their motto proudly proclaims, are ‘Ready to fight tonight’.
Yesterday, The Mail on Sunday became the first newspaper to visit both major military bases on Guam, the tiny Pacific island in the crosshairs of the growing crisis between North Korea and the US that could lead to the terrifying prospect of thermonuclear war.
In the latest round of a series of escalating and terrifying threats, North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Un’s Stalinist regime has vowed to fire four ballistic missiles at the island.
As President Trump ratcheted up his bellicose rhetoric, promising ‘fire and fury like the world has never seen’, the 7,000 US military personnel on the island calmly prepared for battle.
President Trump has ratcheted up his bellicose rhetoric, promising ‘fire and fury like the world has never seen’, the 7,000 US military personnel on the island calmly prepared for battle
Two SSN 688-class submarines and their supply ship, the USS Emory S Land, in Apra Harbour. The subs are equipped with 12 Vertical Launch System tubes for firing Tomahawk cruise missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. At 360ft and 6,927 tons submerged, they are powered by nuclear reactors and are perfect for strike warfare
‘We are constantly in a high state of readiness,’ said military spokesman Greg Kuntz. ‘The systems are here, we are in place and we are ready to go.’
The Mail on Sunday visited Naval Base Guam and Andersen Air Force Base on the US territory and vital strategic outpost, population 162,000, just 2,000 miles from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, from where Jong Un has threatened to launch his weapons, possibly as early as next week, to create a ‘historic enveloping fire’ around the tropical isle.
We witnessed first-hand the extraordinary, multi-billion-pound military might the world’s greatest superpower has amassed on Guam.
They include £1.7 billion nuclear-powered attack submarines, B-1B Lancer bombers capable of ‘obliterating’ North Korea’s underground missile bunkers, littoral combat ships designed for a sea- to-land invasion and the biggest weapons cache in the Pacific, 7,500 tons of explosives and munitions, stored in dozens of igloo-shaped reinforced concrete bunkers.
The collection of firepower nestling under swaying palm trees and languishing in crystal-clear tropical waters was a breathtaking – if surreal – sight.
Naval Base Guam is a 15-minute drive from the tourist centre of Tumon, a bustling area filled with shops selling trinkets emblazoned with the stars and stripes and Guam’s motto: ‘Where America’s Day Begins’ (because of its geographical location, Guam is the first US land mass to see sunrise).
The Mail on Sunday's Caroline Graham: We witnessed first-hand the extraordinary, multi-billion-pound military might the world’s greatest superpower has amassed on Guam
Guam became a US territory in 1898 during the Spanish-American war. Residents do not pay American taxes or vote in presidential elections but are US citizens by birth. The moist tropical air is thick and causes everyone, especially those in uniform, to sweat profusely within seconds of leaving an air-conditioned car or building.
At Shamrock’s Irish bar, manager and former soldier Sean Hale, 37, whose mother is from Tipperary, said business has slumped since the crisis escalated in recent days. He said: ‘Normally we’re packed on Friday and Saturday nights but it’s dead this week. The guys are staying on base.
‘They are not drinking. They are hanging in their dorms, going to the gym. They know they have to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.’
Driving past postcard-perfect beaches filled with tourists, mostly from South Korea and Japan, stray chickens run along the grass verges outside ubiquitous American staples like McDonald’s and KFC.
In the latest round of a series of escalating and terrifying threats, North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Un’s Stalinist regime has vowed to fire four ballistic missiles at the island
The BL-1B carries the largest payload in the USAF and holds almost 50 world records for speed and range.
The BI-1B Lancer is the backbone of America's long-range bomber force.
It carries the largest payload in the USAF and holds almost 50 world records for speed and range.
The views of the Pacific, azure blue and dotted with surfers and snorkellers, give way to military signs touting ‘Marine Drive’ before you reach the stone-arched gateway to the naval base. Inside lies a sprawling collection of buildings and jetties around Apra Harbor, home to the elite Naval Special Warfare Unit One and Submarine Squadron 15 and the US Coast Guard.
Two of the four 688-class SSN submarines based at the station are tied up in the harbour.
Alongside is the USS Emory S. Land, a submarine tender and support vessel whose claim to fame