War in the Pacific
Historic Resource Study
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F. Other Significant World War II Sites on Guam

I. Camp Manengon

On the eve of the American invasion of Guam, the Japanese military, on July 10, 1944, ordered Guamanians to evacuate the west coast immediately and move to designated areas on the eastern side of the mountains. This was a hurried evacuation, involving the old, young, lame, and sick, and creating great hardship on the people. Many chamorros then believed (some still do) the Japanese were rounding them up to massacre them. Many atrocities had already occurred. More likely, the Japanese were deliberately removing them from the expected scenes of combat, as they did with the inhabitants of some other islands under seige during World War II. In Guam's case, this probably was not solely a humanitarian measure; the Japanese were aware that Guamanians would be sympathetic to the Americans when they landed and could provide valuable information concerning defense plans. Regardless of the motivations these forced marches over jungle trails and mountains were marked with great hardship, terror, even death. In the end, however, the evacuation saved many people from death on the battlefield. The concentration camps were located at Maimai, Tai, Manengon, Talafofo, Inarajan, and other places. The largest camp was at Manengon where more than 10,000 Guamanians, about half the island's population, were concentrated.

Manengon today is a peaceful, rural valley through which the Ylig River flows. Open areas are bordered by lush jungle. A scattering of residences line the lone, dead-end road that parallels the river. The area is privately owned. It is not possible to imagine the conditions of 1944, when 10,000 people camped on both sides of the river in a sea of mud. Palm leaves were the principal means of shelter from the incessant rains. People farther up the river polluted the water for those below because even the most primitive means of sanitation were unavailable. Japanese guards harassed the people over the slightest infraction of arbitrary rules. Food consisted of what people had succeeded in bringing in and the fruit of jungle trees. Fires were permitted only at night.

After the battle began, men and older boys at the camp were rounded up and taken away to carry ammunition and dig tunnels for the Japanese. Finally, when the Japanese guards were forced to leave because of American advances, they took 40 more men with them to carry provisions. In northern Guam, the Japanese tied these men's hands behind their backs and shot them. These bodies and other murdered men were discovered by U.S. forces in the final drive north. [13]

Several of the internees recorded their experiences at Manengon. Catalina G. Baza: "We were camped at Manengon, the men were gathered and he [friend] was included to carry some cargo for the Japanese." "When we got to Manengon, we camped there. We could not build a fire again, to cook our food, so the people could eat. Yes, we could build a fire but if the [American] airplane was coming we had to put out the fire." [14] She and some other women crossed the river against orders to get some clean drinking water in the Japanese guards' area. The Japanese took the women into custody but let them go later because it was their first offense.

Jose Baga: "When we came to Manengon, the Japanese ordered us to dig our holes, but I did not dig a hole because I thought to myself, 'My goodness, if have to dig my own grave. . .'" He said that the Japanese ordered all dogs killed. Other accounts said the Japanese ate the dogs.

Rosa Baza recorded of Manengon: "The Japanese camped us because it was their intention to kill us all."

Rosa Roberta Carter recalled that the Japanese ordered her parents and the eight children to march to Manengon, they traveled at night with the children in a cart pulled by a cow. Her father built a small shack with coconut leaves. The family survived on local fruit. Later, the Japanese rounded up the men and took them away.

Rosario M. Mafnas said that at Manengon each group had to dig a hole, "We were told that it was for hiding, but probably it was to bury us." Carlos K. Martinez remembered that the Japanese had three machine guns on a hillside at Manengon which were to be used to kill the people in the camp. The Guamanians, however, removed the "pins" from the guns.

Jesus Meno: The Japanese already knew that the Americans were going to land on Guam so they told all the Chamorros through written notices to clear the front area because the Americans were heading to bomb the beach areas." Juan Pangelinan: "I can't say that the Japanese were bad. Well, the only thing is that our communication [was poor?] of course, some Japanese were mean, some were just mean in the heart, some were just soft-hearted. Everywhere in the nation, some are good, some are mean, some have heart."

Regardless of Japanese intentions, Manengon was a hellhole. Medical supplies were limited or non-existent. Sanitation was unbearable. Inadequate food resulted in malnutrition. And people died.

The first Americans to reach the camp were a patrol of eight men led by Chamorros. By then, the Japanese guards had fled. When the patrol left to return to the Agat area, "the people just followed, one family, two families, three families, and then everybody started following. Well, some didn't follow, some just stayed behind in Manengon, but very few stayed." [15] At Agat, the Americans established a tent city for the refugees. It soon was overflowing and other refugee camps were set up, including one at Manengon.

Camp Manengon, 1984.

Camp Manengon, 1984.

Manengon Valley.

Ylig River.

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Last Updated: 07-Mar-2005