On December 7, 1941 (December 8th for territories and countries on the other side of the International Date Line) twelve US Navy Sailors from Guam perished in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Sixty-two years later, the Arizona Museum Memorial Association and the National Park Service honored these men with a memorial, ceremony, and commemoration, which was the focal point of the islands activities and events.
On Saturday, December 6th, 2003, the Sons of Guam Pearl Harbor Memorial ceremony took place at the scenic Asan Bay Overlook on Nimitz Hill. Underneath a beautiful sky, veterans, dignitaries, historians, Arizona Museum Memorial Association and Park Service employees, friends of the park, active members of the armed forces, and most importantly friends and family members of those to be honored gathered to recognize and memorialize those Chamorros who lost their lives in Pearl Harbor. The ceremony began with Cindy Rapadas, Regional Director for the Arizona Memorial Museum Association, giving her opening remarks. Rapadas gave a warm welcome and thanked all for attending. Rapadas stressed that this monument would finally pay tribute to those Chamorros who were bravely serving our country when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. Rapadas also reminded the audience of over 200 people that while many lives were lost in Guam during WWII, the first Chamorros to fall victim to WWII in the Pacific were those who were far from their homeland: “the bombing of Pearl Harbor happened hours before the bombing of Guam, and there were Chamorro men in different battleships at Pearl Harbor. They weren’t even US citizens at the time, but they pledged their allegiance to a country that wasn’t even theirs”. After Rapadas welcomed the attendees, the Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps color guard from FatherDuenasMemorialSchool presented the colors.
Once the American and Guam flags were presented, the St. Francis School Honor Choir sang both the National Anthem and Fanohge Chamorro (the Guam Hymn). The children wore beautiful costumes of green and white flowers and their harmonious voices resonated throughout the scenic overlook. After the singing concluded, Eric Brunnemann, Superintendent of War in the PacificNationalHistoricalPark and AmericanMemorial Park, introduced the distinguished guests in the audience. Within the audience were the families of the deceased, Chamorro survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor, US Congresswoman Madeline Bordallo, former US Congressman Robert Underwood, Senator Jesse Lujan, Senator Dr. Carmen Fernandez, Senator Tina Munez Barnes, Navy Commanders, Brig. General Cockey, Asan Mayor San Nicolas, and the Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron of the Archdiocese of Agana. Brunnemann stressed what a privilege it was for the US National Park Service to honor these men and he reminded everyone that this year will mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Guam by US forces.
After Brunnemann’s address, Toni Ramirez, the Historian for the Guam Historic Preservation Office, addressed the audience in both English and Chamorro. In his speech, Ramirez recognized the Pearl Harbor survivors. Ramirez emphasized the importance of remembering these men’s sacrifices and encouraged the audience to reflect on the contributions they made. Ramirez emphasized how these men bravely served and how they survived a devastating attack while aboard various ships in Pearl Harbor. Ramirez thanked these men who were in the audience. Ramirez then introduced the honored Guest Speaker, Mr. Jorge E. Cristobal.
Mr. Jorge Cristobal was born in 1918 and was serving aboard the USS California when it was bombed in Pearl Harbor. He shared his memories and his experiences with the audience and all those in attendance were touched and honored to hear his oral account of that fateful day. Cristobal provided words of wisdom and a look back in time. His words touched all members in the audience regardless of age, race, or heritage. Cristobal’s speech concluded that portion of the ceremony and it was at this point that Rapadas invited the family members to retrieve a candle that would be lit at the memorial in honor of each Chamorro man’s sacrifice. The family members accepted their candles and then they, the Archbishop, the distinguished guests, and all those in attendance followed the flags to the Memorial Wall portion of the Asan Bay Overlook unit. While the guests and audience were following the path to the new monument, St Francis School Choir lined the way and sang "Where is the Peace?".
Once everyone was gathered at the memorial site, the monument was unveiled by members of the Navy ROTC. It was very clear that all were impressed with the elegance and beauty of the monument. The monument was over seven feet long and was in the shape of a semi-circle. The monument is of black granite and on it is engraved "Sons of Guam- Pearl Harbor Memorial". The memorial shows the USS Arizona Memorial and lists the date December 7, 1941. Underneath this inscription are the names of the men who gave their lives for the country and the names of the battleships on which they perished. Family members and people in the audience were speechless when the monument was unveiled.
The JROTC then placed a commemorative wreath at the base on the monument and the Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron blessed the monument. Once the wreath was laid and the monument blessed, four Navy men gave a 21 gun salute from the hill behind the monument. These men’s backs were to the ocean and they fired their rifles overhead the memorial for all to see. This salute was immediately followed by the playing of “Taps”. During this solemn musical score, many eyes in the audience began to fill with tears. After "Taps", the colors were retired and the audience was invited to sing along with Ruby Aquininoc Santos and the St. Francis Choir as they sang “Let There Be Peace on Earth”. With the words provided in the program, many people sang the lyrics to the song as they gazed on the beautiful monument which would commemorate those men who were unable to return home from the war. For those men who went down with their ships, this is the sole place that marks their contribution and their ultimate sacrifice. At the conclusion of this song, doves representing peace were released and they flew above the heads of the two hundred attendees at the ceremony.
Once the formalized aspects of the ceremony were concluded, families and their guests, elected officials, Park Service and Arizona Museum Memorial Association employees, Navy officials, representatives of the Government of Guam’s Historic Preservation Office and the Guam Museum, historians and professors from the University of Guam, and people from the Guam and Navy community, all joined to reflect on the ceremony, share stories of rembrance, and partake in refreshments and local food.
As people left the area, the twelve candles were flickering beneath the flowers, wreaths, and newly carved memorial. The memorial, and the ceremony that dedicated it, will serve to honor those Chamorro men who gave their lives in Pearl Harbor. Sixty-two years after these men’s ultimate sacrifice, the Arizona Memorial Museum Memorial Association, the National Park Service, and the family and friends have not forgotten these men’s contributions. December 6th, 2003, was a day to stop, reflect, honor, and pay tribute. It was the Arizona Memorial Museum Memorial Association and the National Park Service’s goal to dedicate the Son’s of Guam Pearl Harbor Memorial and it was our joint mission to show that, indeed, a grateful island remembers the Sons of Guam.
This ceremony was the first of many events to occur during War in the PacificNationalHistoricalPark’s and American Memorial Park’s “Year of Remembrance”. This dedication ceremony saught to raise awareness and remembrance about the history and events leading up to July 21st, 1941, the Liberation of Guam. July 21, 2004, will mark the 60th anniversary of the Liberation of Guam by American Forces. Throughout this year, War in the Pacific NHP, American Memorial Park, and the Arizona Museum Memorial Association has worked together to commemorate and honor the bravery and sacrifice that occurred during the occupation and liberation of Guam.
SONS OF GUAM
MA 1C Gregorio S.N. Aguon
MA 2C Nicholas S.N. Fegurgur
MA 2C Francisco Reyes Mafnas
MA 2C Vincente Gogue Meno
MA 2C Jose Sanchez Quinata
MA 2C Francisco Unpingco Rivera
MA 1C Andres F. Mafnas
MA 1C Ignacio C. Farfan
MA 2C Jesus F. Garcia
USS West Virginia
MA 2C Jose S.N. Flores
MA 1C Jesus M. Mata
MA 1C Enrique C. Mendiola
Sons of Guam Pearl Harbor Memorial