LIBERATION Guam Remembers
A Golden Salute for the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of Guam
Death's aftermath: A sobering realization
In war, taking another's life is simply a
requirement, a necessity. The emotional consequences of killing another
person are overlooked.
Simply stated, it's a matter of kill or be killed;
think about the experience only after the killing has stopped.
Marine Cpl. Maury T. Williams, Jr., a reconnaissance
scout in the 21st Marines, did just that.
An American soldier gives water to
youthful-looking Japanese prisoners of war. In the fury and rage of
battle, men often forgot that those they were killing were in most
respects just like them. As the old saying goes, "All men bleed
In an excellent recollection of his participation in
the Liberation of Guam, the Marine from Memphis, Tenn., wrote of his
one face-to-face meeting with the enemy.
The chance meeting occurred while Williams was
waiting for another Marine as they were to be on sentry duty together to
protect their unit's position:
I was growing impatient with waiting for the other
sentry to arrive, and at the same time becoming apprehensive at being
completely alone out there, when I became aware of the sounds and
movement of something or somebody up ahead. The tree limbs that hung
over the trail were being moved around by something, but I could not
make just what. Then I caught a fleeting glimpse of someone approaching.
I could not tell whether there was more than one, and that troubled me
most of all.
The only thing I was sure of was that it was a man in
uniform. I also knew it was not a Marine patrol, as all our company had
returned to the compound before that time.
With my carbine leveled at the source of the
disturbance I suddenly found myself looking at a man wearing a
butternut-colored uniform and a cap bearing the insignia of the
Royal Japanese Imperial Marines.
The face, which I could now clearly see, was
distinguished by dark slanting eyes, with a goatee at its chin.
Straining to see beyond the approaching figure, I detected further
movement among the branches and a rustling sound that made me believe
more soldiers followed behind. I knew I could be mistaken, and there
was no way of knowing if there was a larger group on the trail. In any
event, there was a possibility of a larger enemy force, and I was
As the Jap rounded a turn in the trail, and I could
see his entire body for the first time, I pulled the trigger two times.
He went down immediately and I emptied my clip into the trees beyond. I
quickly pulled the empty clip and inserted a new one, ducking for cover
as I fully expected return fire from up ahead.
When nothing further happened, I remained at my post
until Sgt. Wojner came up with a squad of men. Although I'd heard no
further sounds from up ahead we moved in a skirmish line up the trail,
expecting to encounter more of the enemy. When we had moved past the
body and along the trail for some distance, we gave it up and returned
to the dead Jap, who lay on the trail some 50 feet in front of my
I removed his cap, which had his name stitched on the
inside of the lining, and we buried him beside the trail. I later sent
the cap home with some other things I'd picked up.
I did not sleep that night.
This was my first and only one-on-one confrontation
with an armed Japanese soldier, and I would never know if he were alone,
or leading others. This was quite different from other similar
incidents, when more than two people had been involved.
My sleeplessness did not come about as a result of
excitement or fear. I had killed a human being. I had seen his face. I
would never forget.
15 September 1944
U.S. forces hit another Japanese stronghold, this time Palau. There,
the 1st Marine Division invades Peleliu and the 81st Infantry Division
strikes at Angaur. But the battle at Peleliu continues for weeks and is
reminiscent of Tarawa's heavy fortifications but with a twist - Peleliu
possesses caves, At battle's end, the dead: nearly 1,300 Marines and
almost 300 soldiers from units called in to relieve the worn and ragged
men of the Corps.