LIBERATION Guam Remembers
A Golden Salute for the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of Guam
Exchanging salutes and smiles, Chamorro
children and Navy Lt. Sheldon Dietz have some fun in Agat.
Liberators meet the liberated
By PAUL J. BORJA
The Liberation of Guam was a matter of military
necessity. Its people and their suffering aside, Guam was seen as a
naval and air base from which to bomb Japan and supply the force needed
to subdue the enemy.
But in Guam, the Marine in the jungle and the soldier
in the trenches discovered something very special - that his effort was
recognized and that he actually made a difference in people's lives.
Marine Cpl. Maury T. Williams, Jr., a reconnaissance
scout for the 21st Marines, and Wesley T. Bush, of the 22nd Marines,
both recall their experience in meeting Guamanians during the battle to
For Bush, who wrote to the Guam Veterans Affairs
Office asking for information on 50th anniversary activities, he first
met with local people when his unit was relieved and he and his fellow
Marines were moving back toward more secure areas.
"We had battled continuously for 14 days, then got a
rest. As we marched to the rear, we went through an area where the
lovely people of Guam had been gathered. The youngsters ran alongside of
us holding on to our rifles. Old men held our hands and the women cried
and cheered and patted our backs. All the hardship and misery
and wounds we had suffered melted away at that moment
and I said to myself, 'It has been worth it all.' I will never forget
how grateful the people were."
19 February - 16 March 1944
The siege of Iwo Jima nearly takes a month to complete. The
volcanic isle leaves behind a legacy written in blood by the 3rd,
4th, and 5th Marine Divisions: U.S. casualties are 6,800 dead,
20,000 wounded, There are practically no survivors of the
21,000 Japanese defenders.
As the battle for Guam advanced from the
beachheads and the concentration camps liberated, people began traveling
from the camps or their jungle hideouts to safety behind the front
lines. Above, boys on carabaos and on foot are part of the stream of
people fleeing the fighting between the Japanese and American
Bush's unit was to fight in Okinawa but would return
to Guam, where he would meet and befriend a local family. Invited to a
party by the family, Bush would experience something he never experienced
before - tuba, the fermented, and yes, alcoholic product of the
coconut tree. The aftermath of the party was predictable.
"I made friends with a family named Cruz. They did my
laundry and once, graciously invited us to their humble home, where the
father plied us with something called TUBA and we tried to find our way
back to camp."
Williams was also affected by the emotions of the
people as they passed his unit in Agana where he and his comrades had
been assigned positions. Moving to the rear of the battle,
Chamorros would walk past the positions held by Williams and other
"They (the people) were understandably quite
emotional as they approached, considering their months of oppression
under the Japanese, and nearly all had tears streaming down their faces.
Many were on foot but some came in the trucks that had been dispatched
to a pickup point a short distance ahead."
"But one large group, being brought through the lines
in the back end of a six-by-six truck, were singing a song that must
have been composed during the occupation. Their words expressed their
love of America and Americans, including a line that said something
like, 'Thank you, Uncle Sam.' I noticed that those people were not the
only ones having tears streaming down their cheeks that day," wrote
Williams, the Marine from Memphis.
1 April - 22 June 1944
With American forces nearing the Japanese home islands, the Japanese
up the ante at Okinawa. Kamikazes spearhead the defense of the homeland,
and nearly 2,000 soar to attack the U.S. fleet supporting the invasion
force. It is bloody at battle's end: 12,500 American troops and 110,000