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War In The Pacific Marine troops landing on Guam
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The Occupation of Guam

Guam remained in Japanese hands for two and a half years and Chamorros were forced to endure hard ships of the military occupation in a war not of their own making. For the first four months the island was controlled by army troops, who were housed in schools and government buildings in Agana. The island was renamed Omiya Jima (Great Shrine Island) and Chamorros were required to learn the Japanese custom of bowing, Japanese yen became the island’s currency, and civilian affairs were handled by a branch of the army called the minseisho. Cars, radios, and cameras were confiscated and food was rationed until supplies became exhausted. Chamorros suspected of hiding family members wanted by Japanese, or aiding the few Americans that did not surrender, were harassed, beaten, or tortured, and, in some instances, executed by order of the authorities.

Control of the island came under the Imperial Japanese Navy in March 1942. The keibitai, as it was known, governed the populace for about 19 months. Chamorros were allowed to remain on their farms and trade for products they needed. Social activities including parties, Japanese movies, and sports competitions. Mass meetings were held in Agana to reinforce the “Nippon Seishen” (spirit of Japan). Schools were reopened and Chamorros were required to learn the Japanese language and customs. English was forbidden. Adults and children were taught reading, writing, math, and Japanese games and songs.

In early 1944, with the war going badly for Japan and an American invasion threatening, the Japanese Army returned to Guam, bringing with it a new stricter form of government- the kaikontai. Social activities were terminated, schools were closed, and Chamorro men, women, and children over the age of 12 were forced to work long hours in the fields, repair or build airstrips and defense installations, and dig hundreds of Japanese cave shelters, many of which are within the boundaries of War in the Pacific NHP on Guam. Chamorros, laboring at bayonet point, were mistreated and, in some cases, executed after completing defense installations. Without warning, 10,000-15,000 Chamorros, young, and old, were forced to march with only the belongings they could carry to concentration camps in Guam’s central and southern jungles. With inadequate shelter, little food, and no sanitary facilities, life in these camps was miserable. Despite hardships, however, incarceration proved to be a blessing in disguise. Had they not been moved, many Chamorros would have been killed by the American pre-invasion bombardment and Japanese crossfire.

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Created by Kenneth Cole