LIBERATION Guam Remembers
A Golden Salute for the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of Guam
Agueda Iglesias Johnston: Patriot
In February 1942, two months after Guam was invaded
and captured, Japanese officials introduced classes to educate island
children and adults about the Japanese culture and language as well as
mathematics and reading.
The first classes were held at George Washington High
School, then located in Agana and just five years old. And chosen to
lead the school was someone eminently qualified to do so - the high
school's principal and perhaps the island's leading educator, Agueda
Mrs. Johnston was the wife of William G. Johnston,
who was sent to a prisoner-of-war camp in Japan in January 1942 along
with about 500 other Americans living on the island at the time; she was
left to alone care for their children. The tragic events of the time
made her a single parent, decades before the term was even in use.
But the young woman also took on another
responsibility - as an island leader, as a patriot.
As the occupation continued, Mrs. Johnston helped
raise the morale of Chamorros through her communication of the progress
of the war. Much of the information was obtained by radios, kept hidden
from the Japanese military occupying forces. Messages were sometimes
passed inside the wrappers around the bars of soap made by her family.
The soap was given to Chamorros, sometimes under the very eyes of
She was also involved in the efforts to help Navy
radioman George Tweed evade capture by the Japanese. Mrs. Johnston
provided food, clothing, and reading materials for Tweed. When the
Japanese began to suspect her involvement, she was interrogated about
his hiding place. She was beaten and whipped before she was freed.
During the occupation, she received a note from
Japanese authorities. Written in Chamorro, the note informed her of the
death of her husband William in a POW camp in Kobe, Japan. A part of her
life gone and her heartbroken, Mrs. Johnston continued on, caring for
her family and eventually helping them safely reach Manengon, a
concentration camp for Chamorros established by the Japanese prior to
Mrs. Johnston, her family, and the others in the
Manengon camp were freed by American forces. A year later, she was back
to being a principal, the head of the new George Washington High School,
a school made of canvas and tin and running on materials - paper, chalk,
and pencils - donated by the U.S. military.
Born in 1892, the lifelong educator passed away in
1977. But her place in Guam history, as an educator, as a community
leader, as a patriot lives on. To recognize her memory and her courage,
the people of Guam renamed George Washington Junior High School in Ordot
in her honor. The school is now Agueda I. Johnston Middle School.