LIBERATION Guam Remembers
A Golden Salute for the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of Guam
During the occupation of Guam by Japan,
officials inspect a rice paddy in Inarajan. Rice paddies were located in
Piti, Inarajan and Merizo as part of the agricultural program
established by occupation authorities.
Rising Sun dawns on Guam
By TONY PALOMO
Saburu Kurusu, diplomatic pouch in hand, stepped off the Pan American
Airways Clipper at Sumay while rumors persisted in Guam that war with
Japan was imminent.
But news reports elsewhere were saying that the Washington-bound
Kurusu, special envoy for Emperor Hirohito appointed by the Japanese
imperial government, was enroute to peace talks with high American
It was November 1941. Japan's imperial soldiers were administering
Japanese influence in Manchuria and aggressively expanding south into
more of China. Adolf Hitler had grabbed much of Europe and his forces
locked in battle with the Russians.
Then, a month later, it happened. Guam was struck by disaster on
December 8, 1941. Out of the east that morning came nine Japanese planes
flying high at first, then swooping down like vultures, their guns
spitting death and destruction.
Just four hours earlier, Pearl Harbor was attacked
with more than 2,500 Americans killed and America's proud Pacific Fleet
In Washington, Kurusu was still talking peace; he was
unaware of the Japanese military's plan to strike at Pearl Harbor.
In Guam, terror gripped the people as the warplanes,
flying in formation of threes, bombed Sumay and later strafed Piti,
Agana and other populated areas.
8 December 1941
Across the dateline and shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack,
Japanese dive bombers
- from bases in Saipan, the Marshalls and Formosa - strike Guam,
Wake Island, and the Philippines. * On this day in the U.S.
mainland, President Roosevelt, elected Nov. 5, describes the attack on
Pearl Harbor as "a date which will live in infamy." U.S. formally
declares war on Japan as do Canada and Great Britain.
Omiya Jima, the Great Shrine Island (Guam, In the
1942 Japanese view)
Population: in early 1942, 22,000 Chamorros
(indigenous populace); 14,000 Imperial Army and Navy forces; about 500
members of the white race, the Americans, are to be exiled to camps in
Japan on Jan, 10, 1942
Capital: Akashi (Red, or Bright, City), formerly
Agana or Hagatna
Other villages: Asama Mura, formerly
Asan; Showa Mura, formerly Agat; Sumay, now military headquarters.
Government: Administered by the Japanese Imperial
army and navy as a part of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere,
the concept which will bring together in unity the Asiatic peoples.
The date was the feast of the Immaculate Conception
and many families were still in church when the planes struck. The city
of Agana, the hub of the island, was instantly transformed into a city
of shocked people. Mothers and children wept and wailed. Fathers sought
missing members of their families in efforts to flee from the town.
Among the first victims of the attack were Teddy Cruz
and Larry Pangelinan, young Chamorro kitchen workers who perished when
a bomb hit the Pan American hotel at Orote Point. Also killed was Ensign
Robert White, who manned an anti-aircraft gun aboard the USS Penguin.
The vessel, the only seaworthy ship in Guam at the time, fought the
Japanese aircraft off Orote Point, but to no avail. The Penguin
commander then decided to scuttle the ship.
By the end of the day, the feast that was to be was
transformed into the beginning of one of the most tragic periods in the
history of Guam.
A day later, the planes returned for more, again
striking military facilities and the Pan American Airways station.
Then, on Dec. 10, Japanese forces invaded Guam, and
they were more than fully prepared for the undertaking. By mid-October,
the Japanese 18th Air Unit, a small force of reconnaissance seaplanes, had
begun survey flights over and near Guam. By November, the unit was
flying secret photo reconnaissance missions over the island at altitudes
of 3,000 meters or higher.
Assigned to capture Guam was the South Seas
Detachment, a unit of about 5,500 army troops under the command of Major
General Tomitara Hori, and a special navy land force of about 400 men
led by Commander Hiroshi Hayashi and drawn from the 5th Defense Force
stationed in Saipan.
The Guam defending force was woefully undergunned: 274 Navy personnel,
more than half of them non-combative personnel; 153 Marines; and about
120 Insular Force Guards, whose military training was minimal at
The Guam defenders' total arsenal were three machine
guns, four Thompson submachine guns, six Browning automatic pistols,
fifty .30 caliber pistols, a dozen .22 caliber regulation rifles, and 85
Springfield rifles. Most of the weapons were of World War I vintage.
Imprinted on the Springfield rifles were labels with the following
notation: "Do not shoot. For training only."
In terms of firepower, the outcome of the invasion
was certain, the scenario in the early morning of December 10, 1941, was
this: a 400 strong, a well-trained and well-disciplined Japanese invasion
force landed on Tamuning's Dungca's Beach; the larger invasion force of
5,500 made beach landings around the island - in Tumon, in Yona at Togcha,
between Facpi Point and Merizo. This group in southern Guam, finding no
road to Agat, was forced to re-board their supporting craft and re-landed
The invaders at Dungca's Beach, after regrouping,
made their way to Agana, through the jungles and barrios (neighborhoods)
along the way to the town. Somewhere in between, the troops ran
into a group of Chamorro families, fleeing the area in a small bus. The
troops fired their weapons - the shots were heard in the Plaza de Espana
in Agana where a defending force had mustered and established its fields
of fire. Those not killed were
bayoneted; 13 men, women and children perish. Still
other chance meetings with local people result in deaths; an unknown
number of people were killed.
At the plaza, a small contingent of Insular
Guardsmen, a few sailors and Marines had taken their assigned positions
and awaited the invaders. (The bulk of the Marines were assigned a
defensive position at Orote peninsula near their firing range.)
In spite of the odds, the defenders in the plaza
seemed spirited. Pedro Cruz, one of the three platoon leaders who manned
the machine guns, perhaps best expressed the sentiments of Guam's
defenders: "The only thought in my mind was: If I must die, I hope
to God I kill some Japanese."
Guam children learn Katakana, one of the
three Japanese alphabets used in writing. Children's attendance was
mandatory at occupation era schools, but of 5,000 children attending
pre-war schools, only 600 took part in schools opened by the
The battle lasted less than an hour, and ends only
after Governor George McMillin realized the futility of the situation.
So, at 7 a.m. on Dec. 10, 1941, Guam was surrendered. Dead in the
fighting at the plaza and in small incidents around the island were 21
U.S. military personnel and civilians. The Japanese, though superior in
force, apparently suffered more casualties.
With the surrender, Guam, Wake Island and two isles
in the western part of the Aleutian Islands chain, Kiska and Attu, would
be the only parts of the United States to be occupied by enemy forces in
World War II. (The Alaskan isles are taken by the Japanese in mid-1942
and recaptured by U.S. forces a year later.)
Japanese officials immediately issued a proclamation
informing the populace that their seizure of Guam was "for the purpose
of restoring liberty and rescuing the whole Asiatic people and creating
the permanent peace in Asia. Thus our intention is to establish the New
Order of the World." The local population also were assured that "you
good citizens need not worry anything under the regulations of our
Japanese authorities and my (sic) enjoy your daily life as we guarantee
your lives and never distress nor plunder your property..."
For three months after the Japanese invasion, Guam
was a veritable military camp. Soldiers and other military
personnel traveled to Guam, coming primarily from Saipan and
Palau, both islands occupied by Japan since the end of World War
I. Under the Minseisho, the civilian affairs division of the South Seas
Detachment, some 14,000 Japanese army and navy forces took over all
government buildings and seized many private homes.
Troops were stationed in various parts of the island,
a dusk-to-dawn curfew initiated; cars, radios, and cameras
In Sumay, which was the island's commercial center,
all of the 2,000 residents were evicted from their homes. Some,
however, were given permission to dismantle their homes and many people
built temporary shelters at nearby Apra and other farm areas. But still,
the small, bustling community adjacent to Apra Harbor vanished almost
On Jan. 10, 1942, on Guam, more than 400
American military and civilian personnel, and others are taken aboard
the vessel Argentina Maru. The people are taken to Japan and put in
prisoner-of-war camps near the city of Kobe.
In many instances, Japanese soldiers moved into
private homes without notice or formality. Members of the family of Juan
Cruz, a carpenter, were having lunch in their kitchen when armed
Japanese soldiers ordered them to get out of the house. The family
members gathered the food on the table and collected whatever utensils
they could carry, and moved to an unoccupied house nearby where they
finished their meal. Leon Gumataotao and his family were forced to
surrender their concrete house, and had to build a wooden-framed house
nearby. There were also abuses of the people; as the Japanese moved to
take Sumay, soldiers raped five young women.
To impress upon all that they meant business,
Japanese authorities executed two young Chamorro men before a group of
stunned residents of Agana. Killed were Alfred Flores, who was accused
of delivering a secret message to an American internee, and Frank
Won Pat, an employee of an American company, from whose warehouse he
helped himself with some goods, after obtaining permission from his
American supervisor. Flores' message sought advice on what to do with a
batch of dynamite at a worksite at the harbor.
About one-fourth of Agana's residents returned from
hiding but the great majority chose to stay away from the village. The
historic Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral was converted into a propaganda
and entertainment center, and a church building in Santa Cruz became a
workshop and stable for the Japanese's Siberian stallions. The island's
Baptist church, also in Agana, was also seized; Japanese officials used
the first floor of the church as a storage area for food, and the second
floor was utilized as a Shinto shrine.
All local residents were required to obtain passes -
a piece of cloth with Japanese characters - in order to move about the
island. All local officials, including municipal and village
commissioners and policemen, were ordered to return to work.
Dozens of men, particularly members of the Insular
Force Guard, were interrogated and beaten during the first few weeks of
occupation. Many were suspected of either hiding machine guns or other
weapons, or of harboring American fugitives.
Japanese military officials were intent on erasing
from Guam the influence of the United States and thus immediately
imprisoned Governor McMillin, other U.S. citizens, as well as some
Spanish clergy, notably Bishop Miguel Olano, head of the Catholic church
in the island.
The prisoners were exiled to camps in Kobe, Japan.
When the Argentina Maru sailed from Guam on January 10, 1942, aboard
were over 400 people - military personnel, five nurses and a number of
civilians. All Americans prior to the invasion were accounted for except
six Navy sailors:
Al Tyson and George Tweed, both radiomen first
class; A. Yablonsky, yeoman first class; L.W. Jones, chief
aerographer; L.L. Krump, chief machinist mate; and C.B. Johnston,
machinist mate first class.
Without exception, the six sailors believed the war
would not last more than three months and they felt they could survive
in the dense jungles of Guam until the Americans returned to the
Only Tweed survived the war, thanks to the dozens of
people who harbored him during the 30-month occupation period. Krump,
Jones and Yablonsky were discovered in the Manengon area in September
1942 and were beheaded by the Japanese. Two months later, Tyson and
Johnston were found and shot in Machananao.
The Japanese government, besides its troops, also
dispatched "comfort girls" to the island. Five homes were selected to
house the women, three in Agana, one in Anigua, and one in Sasa, a
farming area near Piti.
9 December 1941
Japanese aircraft return to Guam to bomb and strafe Agana, Piti,
Sumay and other villages.
The invasion detachment departed Guam January 14,
1942, sailing to Truk (now Chuuk) with carriers and other ships of
Japan's 4th Fleet; this force would later take Rabaul and make it one of
the empire's major military bases in the Pacific.
Left to administer Guam was the keibitai, the
Japanese naval militia with less than 500 men. Directly managing the
people were the minseibu, the keibitai's cadre of policemen and
investigators. Under the minseibu, life on island was relatively
However, there were still attempts to convince the
Chamorro populace of Japan's superiority over the Americans. After every
Japanese conquest in the Pacific or Far East, military parades were held
through the streets of Agana. When Singapore fell on February 15, 1942,
sabers rattled through the narrow streets of the barrios of San Ignacio
and San Nicolas; the march of soldiers would end at a Buddhist shrine on
a hillside above Agana. Other shows of might by the Japanese military
were given when General Douglas MacArthur fled to Australia from the
Philippines and later when General Jonathan Wainwright surrendered that
archipelago on May 6, 1942.
In these parades, invariably at least one float
showed a young boy attired in Japanese army uniform pointing an
over-sized rifle at the heart of another youngster wearing an American
naval uniform. Spread on the floor of the float was an American flag,
and one foot of the Japanese-clad youngster was stepping on it. And to
make the occasions even more festive, at least for the occupation
forces, sake was made available afterward to those in the parades.
While many Chamorros believed the war would last no
longer than 100 days, the Japanese came to stay at least 100
years. Accordingly, the new rulers brought school teachers, along with
their families by the middle of 1942, and on the following November,
two Japanese Catholic priests came to the island to help pacify the
Soon after the invasion, the Japanese authorities
acted to battle a shortage of medical personnel. Training began and
Chamorros did assist Japanese nurses and doctors, but eventually, the
language difference and other factors lessened the program's
Among the first things the new rulers imposed was the
renaming of the island and all municipal districts. Guam became "Omiya
Jima" (The Great Shrine Island). Agana became "Akashi" (the Red City).
Asan was "Asama Mura" and Agat became "Showa Mura."
The practice of bowing as a sign of respect was
instituted and strictly enforced. Essentially, bowing was a sign of
respect to another person, an institution or the supreme ruler of the
land, the emperor. Bowing to a friend required only a slight nod of the
head. Bowing to an officer or to an institution, like a police station,
required the bending of the head and body at a forty-five degree angle.
The supreme bow, which was reserved only to the Japanese emperor and
members of his family. This required a person to face north and then
bend his entire body forward and down to a ninety degree angle. And in
doing so, the person must bow slowly and solemnly.
By mid-1942, all public schools were reopened and the
young students were required to bow to the emperor before classes
commenced in the morning. In the classroom, they learned the Japanese
language and culture, and mathematics. Children
attended school during the week for four hours daily; adults were
required to attend two evenings a week. But attendance was less than
spectacular; over the occupation period, perhaps only 600 children and
adults participated in the Japanese-run schools.
In the occupation, Japanese authorities,
facing a shortage of medical personnel, instituted a program to train
students to become nurses. The program faltered because of language
As part of the educational program, Chamorros were
also taught songs, some of them Japanese patriotic songs, but there was
one very popular song that the occupying authorities detested and even
punished people for singing.
Though forbidden, both children and adults learned
and sang the song throughout the occupation period - it was a ditty
urging the return of the Americans. One version went like this:
"Eighth of December 1941
People went crazy
right here in Guam.
Oh, Mr. Sam, Sam
My dear Uncle Sam,
won't you please
come back to Guam."
Although possession of a radio was strictly
prohibited, a number of Chamorros were daring enough to operate radio
receivers throughout most of the occupation perioduntil about
late in 1943 when American forces were pummeling the Japanese in the
south and central Pacific.
Members of the underground radio network included
Jose Gutierrez, Augusto Gutierrez, Frank T. Flores and Atanacio
Blas; Adolfo Sgambelluri, Mrs. Ignacia Butler, Ralph
Pellicani, Carlos Bordallo, Juan and Agueda Roberto, Manuel F. L.
Guerrero, James Butler, Joe Torres and Herbert Johnston; Agueda Iglesias
Johnston; Frank D. Perez, the Rev. Jesus Baza Duenas, E.T. Calvo; Luis
P. Untalan, Jose and Herman Ada, and Pedro M. Ada. The radio receivers
had to be destroyed or abandoned after Japanese officials obtained
copies of news reports, including the following:
"Rabaol, (sic) New Guinea Japanese forces
are being hammered in their positions by American Flying Fortresses from
Australia, enemy losses: planes 17 downed."
"Burma Flying Fortresses heavily bombed
Japanese positions along the Burma Route causing heavy damage, killing
many Japanese soldiers. 21 Japanese planes shot down. 2 of our planes
returned slightly damaged."
Most of the radio reports received originated from
KGEI, a radio station located at the top of the Fairmont Hotel in San
Francisco. Newscasters included Bob Goodman and Merrill Phillips.
While Japanese forces were being defeated everywhere
in the Pacific - the Solomons, New Guinea, the Marshalls, New Hebrides
and the Gilbert Islands - a Japanese freighter at Apra Harbor was sunk
by an American submarine, and a second Japanese ship off Talofofo was
struck by another American submarine. The vessel was aflame after the
attack. Adrift and useless, the vessel settled at the mouth of the bay, a
sign of the attack to Guam.
There were other signs that American forces were
nearing Guam. Cristobal Paulino, an Insular Force musician, and
fellow Chamorro workers were laboring at the Orote air strip
on February 23, 1944, nine American fighter planes swooped onto the
runway and blasted away, killing four Japanese and damaging at least
four aircraft. By the time Japanese pilots boarded their Zeroes, the
American planes were gone.
10 December 1941
In the darkness of early morning, troops of Japan's South Seas
Detachment invade Guam; one group of 400 soldiers lands at Dungca's
Beach in Tamuning; other units, totaling 5,500, come ashore south of
Agat village, at Togcha, and at Tumon. After a brief but futile
firefight at the Plaza de Espana between the Guam Insular Guard and the
detachment, Capt. George McMillin, naval governor of Guam, surrenders
the island to the Japanese about 7 a.m.
With the twin American offensives - the MacArthur and
Halsey drives through the Solomons and Papua New Guinea and the Nimitz
thrust through the central Pacific
- moving into high gear, the Japanese empire was
crumbling. Japanese major bases, as those in Truk (now Chuuk) and in
Rabaul, were neutralized and its airpower superiority vanquished; with
the loss of airpower, its surface ships were doomed in any part of the
central Pacific and in vast areas of the south west Pacific.
Their empire shrinking and the battle lines moving
closer and closer to Japan, military leaders acted to enhance the
defensive capabilities of Guam.
Part of the preparation for the island's defense was
the massive influx of Japanese troops from Asian battle zones, including
Manchuria, from where a huge troopship brought more than 5,000 war
veterans, fully equipped and ready for Japan's last stand on Guam. By
the time U.S. forces invaded Guam in July 1944 the island was being
defended by about 20,000 men.
Part of the strategy for Guam's defense was to make
the island self-supporting through agriculture. The Japanese plan was to
accelerate agricultural production so that it could support as many as
30,000 troops for as long as necessary in defense of Japan's periphery.
Brought to Guam were the members of the Kaikontai, a quasi-military
group specializing in agriculture; they came with mechanized farm
equipment, including about 20 small tractors, a number of plows and
cultivators to realize this defensive strategy.
By early 1944, the Chamorros were mere tools to be
utilized without regard to their safety or well-being. Most of the male
population were used either at the two operational air strips at Orote
and Jalaguac, or at a new one being developed at Ague in the
northeastern corner of the island.
Some of the younger males were utilized to help
construct pillboxes and man made caves. Still others were used to
install real and dummy cannons at several coastal areas, and to
transport food and ammunition to key defense outposts. The women were
used primarily to plant and harvest farm crops.
At the southern end of the island, the Japanese - in
desperation - ordered groups of Chamorro men to lay coconut tree trunks
across the road, ostensibly to stop American
tanks. In Asan, forced labor constructed a tank trap
consisting of trunks buried vertically and arranged in a maze-like
pattern. Laborers also piled huge mounts of rocks along the beach, and
dug massive holes in the sand in an attempt to block and disable
Early in the occupation era, men of the
Japanese naval militia charged with the island's administration stroll
Some local men were directed to hunt and kill all
dogs they could find, the rationale being that dogs gave away the
presence of people.
In these last days, the Japanese forces were hostile,
cruel to the people. Men were beaten at best; at worst, they were
executed. Women fared no better and there were numerous rapes reported
throughout the island.
While American forces were bombarding the island
from off-shore in July in preparation for the eventual invasion, whole-sale
massacres were taking place in the
island at Fena, Merizo and Yigo.
A group of about 30 young men and women from Agat and
Sumay were packed into a large cave in Fena and massacred. According to
John Ulloa, 22, of Sumay, he and six other young men were sleeping in a
cave when he and others were awakened by ones coming from a second cave
nearby. They were utterly shocked when they discovered that all their
friends were murdered.
Six days before American forces hit the beaches of
Guam, 46 men and women in Merizo were massacred. Two groups of 30 men
and women each were forced into two separate caves - Tinta and Faha, now
names forever associated with death, tragedy and sadness - located on
the outskirts of the southern village. At Tinta, 16 of the first 30 were
killed; a rainstorm erupted after soldiers had initially fired into the
cave and prevented them from finishing their task. All of the second
group perished when they were victims of grenades and those surviving
When the other Merizo residents learned of the
massacres, they decided to attack the Japanese. In broad daylight, about
20 Merizo men stormed the Japanese quarters, seized whatever weapons
they could lay their hands on, and killed every soldier in sight. A
hefty Merizo man killed a Japanese soldier with his bare hands.
The number of Chamorro deaths in Yigo was never
accurately determined but the mutilated bodies of 51 Chamorros were
found by American patrols. The beheaded bodies of 30 men were found
stacked in a truck near Chaquina, and the bodies of 21 others were found
in the jungle near Mount Mataguac.
The besieged Japanese killed virtually everyone in
sight during the occupation's last days. Three teen-agers in the jungle
looking for food in Yona were grabbed by soldiers, tied to coconut trees
and then beheaded. Many others perished in similar situations.
Another danger late in the occupation was the
American bombardment of Guam. Many people, their number unknown were
killed, victims of naval or aerial bombing.
Brutality took its toll as the Japanese were becoming
more and more desperate with the Americans approaching Guam. Hannah
Chance Torres, after having been beaten and berated
by Japanese soldiers while she and others were enroute to the Manengon
concentration camp, seemed to lose the will to live after the incident.
She would later pass away in the night at the camp as relatives sought
her husband, Felix. The two had been separated from each other in the
hysteria of the forced march to the camp.
There were victims of the intensifying American
shelling and bombing of the island as well. Elderly Jose Delgado and two
young women were saying the rosary in a makeshift shelter in Agana
Heights when a missile blasted the shelter, killing all three people. No
one ever knew definitely whether the missile came from Japanese
anti-aircraft guns at Jalaguac some three miles away, or from an
American plane. Both were trying to destroy each other at the time the
elderly man and the two women were killed.
Don Pascual Artero described Guam as a veritable
hell: "So green is vegetation and so pretty a sight had Guam always
been, now it was all burned. It had neither a tree nor a coconut with
leaves. All now was burned or destroyed by bullets and bombs."
With the coming of the American invasion forces on
July 21, for the Japanese defenders responsible for repelling the
Americans, Guam would indeed become a hell on earth.
11 December 1941
Germany and Italy, partners with Japan since the signing of the
Tripartite Pact in September 1940, declare war on the United States. The
United States answers in kind.