When the Japanese invaded Guam on December 10, 1941 , six American navy men chose to strike out into the jungle instead of surrendering. Their names were A. Yablonsky, L.W. Jones, Michael Krump, C.B. Johnston, Al Tyson, and George Tweed. These men believed with all their heart that they would be rescued by a returning force of American military before February of the new year. Unfortunately for them, the United States had other intentions, and those did not include the immediate recapture of Guam. It would be more than 2 ½ years before American forces would return. By then, only one of the six would still be alive.
Meanwhile, the fugitive soldiers and the island’s residents, the Chamoru, would find themselves sucked into a dangerous orbit with the soldiers fleeing for their life and the island residents shielding, sheltering, harboring, moving them on in a desperate game of cat and mouse played with an increasingly agitated and frequently brutal Japanese occupying force. Often these courageous Chamoru protectors were only one step ahead of their pursuers. Often, they were able to pass on their precious cargo but were themselves caught. The price for their espionage was high—beatings with clubs, whippings with hoses, torture with the water treatment, suspension from jail ceilings by thumbs and ankles, and execution.
Their saga of underground resistance could more aptly be called jungle or lanchero resistance (rancher resistance), since many of the primary protectors owned farms called lanchos out beyond the main town of Hagatna, which served as the hiding places for the men. These lanchos might be as small as a few acres or as large as thousands of acres. They were scattered across the island from Yona and Manengon in southern Guam to Toguac in the far north. The names of the protectors encompassed just as broad a scope of family names: from the Ogos, Cruzes, Quituguas, Mesas, and Aguons of the Yona area, to the Tanakas, Johnstons, Lujans, Calvos, Limtiacos, Balajadias of central Guam, to the Pangelinans, Perezes, Torreses, and Arteros of the north. These men and women came from all walks of life. There were prosperous businessmen, educators, priests, farmers, and civic leaders among them. Asked, years after the painful events, why they did it, their answer, variously stated, was most often, “How could we not? He was a man needing help. He was a symbol of our hope that the United States would return.”
Ordinary men and women, otherwise, they took extraordinary risks in the name of God, honor, country, and what the Chamoru term ina`fa`maolek, which calls on community members to do good to each other as part of a perpetuating cycle of good multiplying on good. Their spirit of sacrifice is not exceptional but instead representative of the loyalty to America and resistance to its enemy that made Guam for the Japanese a treacherous place to be. The brutal treatment of the Chamoru of Guam, as opposed to the easy familiarity with the Chamoru of Saipan to the north, reflected the enemy’s understanding of the danger inherent in the people of Guam’s strong affiliation with the United States.
After the war, the surviving serviceman of the six, George Tweed, was decorated as a hero, given the Legion of Merit Medal, made guest appearances as a hero on the television favorite, To Tell the Truth, wrote a book, Robinson Crusoe USN and had a movie made based on his story. The last of his protectors, Antonio Artero, was awarded the Medal of Freedom, now known as the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The remainder of the rescuers, however, disappeared into one word in the accounts of history, “the Chamorros,” despite Tweed ’s specific naming of many of them in his book. Their loyalty and sacrifice have yet to be honored by the country the Chamoru claimed as their own, to which they were loyal and for which too many of them died. Where other islands and peoples who suffered the atrocities of World War II have been compensated, Guam’s people continue to seek acknowledgement for the suffering they endured because they were loyal to America.
Evelyn San Miguel Flores, Ph.D