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Magellan, the first European to visit Micronesia, landed on Guam in 1521. Spain held the island for the next 300 years. The Treaty of Paris, at the end of the Spanish-American war in 1898, made Guam a U.S. possession. Administration of the island was assigned to the U.S. Navy, and it became primarily a coaling station and later a naval base in the western Pacific.
The island fell to the Japanese military forces shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was a Japanese military installation until the U.S. took possession on July 21, 1944 (Liberation Day) during World War II. From 1945 until 1950, Guam continued under Navy jurisdiction when President Truman signed the Organic Act, making Guam a U.S. Territory. A civil governor was appointed in 1950 and military jurisdiction ended.
In 1962 the United Nations officially gave the U.S. the mandate to govern the islands as a trust territory. The first governor and lieutenant governor were elected by the people of Guam in 1970. Today Guam has a unicameral legislature elected by the people. United States currency is used, and U.S. citizens do not require a passport.
As a U.S. Territory since 1898, Guam's predominant language is English and the currency, postal services, and most banking facilities are an extension of United States services. And, while the local people are United States citizens and becoming more Americanized in their lifestyle, they still proudly retain many of the old island and Spanish traditions which reflect three centuries of Spanish rule in the area.