LIBERATION Guam Remembers
A Golden Salute for the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of Guam
As U.S. forces approached Guam in 1944,
the Japanese military began exercising their power over life and death,
and their brutality to the Chamorro people turned evil. In this photo,
which was taken in late June or early July 1944 and captured by the
American military, Japanese military officers prepare to execute three
Chamorro men. At left, barely discernible behind the fading in the
photograph is Miguel Terlaje. At center is Jesus (Kiadas) Salas, and at
right is Juan (Dondo) Perez, his hands clasped together as if he were
praying. Jesus Salas and Perez were apparently executed because they had
been members of the Insular Force Guard, a naval militia formed just
months before the Japanese invaded Guam in December 1941. Miguel Terlaje
was apparently executed for disobedience.
In Tai, a day of terror and tragedy
By JUDGE JOAQUIN V.E. MANIBUSAN
Before the American bombardment, in late June or
early July 1944, I and other members of my work battalion witnessed at
Tai one of the most appalling and tragic sights - the execution by
beheading of three Chamorro men by a Japanese taicho (head military
man, an officer).
It is a day in my life that cannot be compared to
It was that day 50 years ago when Tun Enrique White
and I were teamed up by the Japanese at a Japanese camp in Tai, across
from where Father Duenas school is now. It was late in the afternoon
when we were ordered to dig a four-foot-deep hole. We did not know what
the purpose of the hole, and others were ordered to dig two more
I was a kucho (assistant team leader) at the time,
and among members of my team were Juan Lujan Salas, Vicente (Eka) Blas,
Victoriano (Chele) Camacho, Manuel N. Lujan, Charlie Martinez, Jose
Garrido Salas, Candido San Nicolas, Enrique White, Enrique Peredo and
Juan San Nicolas. They all witnessed the execution, along with several
nurses - Mariquita Perez Howard, Concepcion Torre Tenorio (Connie
Slotnik) and Simplicia Salas. Blas, Camacho, and Candido San Nicolas
were later killed by the Japanese in Yigo; Mariquita was also killed by
I recall being there at the camp and my men being
ordered to catch about 10 dogs. The dogs were tied up and hung upside
down from a tree; the Japanese then would practice swinging their swords
by killing the dogs. The taicho would demonstrate to us what he believed
to be an art - the skill of slaying a dog. Of course, he was showing off
the power of his sharp blade of the sword.
There were several occasions where he would tie my
hands and those of others. He would then take his sword and run it
across the back of my neck. The interpreter told me that I was supposed
to have my neck slashed twice, but I escaped death.
Another fearful and agonizing moment was once when
the blade of the sword actually nicked my forehead, a threat to me to be
obedient to the Japanese commander. That scar is still on my forehead
and although in these years past I have not associated this scar with
the scars of the war, I am again reminded why that scar is there.
Again while others may have had their heads severed,
I again escaped death in that instance.
I have kept this picture for almost 50 years; it was
obtained by my father, the late Judge Jose Camacho Manibusan when he was
chairman of the War Crimes Commission.
Looking at the picture, what Tun Enrique and I dug is
the hole on the right; it is where Juan Perez was buried. In the middle
of the picture is Jesus Salas, shown kneeling, like Juan Perez, beside the hole
dug for him. Both Perez and Salas were members of the Insular Guard
Force and were from Piti.
With a man possibly laying injured
inside the canoe's hull, three men wave to a Navy pilot. Three groups of
Merizo villagers were picked up by the Navy, all fleeing Japanese
brutality. With the massacres at Tinta and Faha fresh in their minds,
the men were seeking help for families that were left behind.
The hole to the left was dug for Miguel Terlaje. He
was nearly dead because he was severely beaten in Hagatna (Agana)
because instead of going to get water, he was found doing something
I don't remember much about that man, but what I
remember was that a ceremony always occurred before a beheading.
I remember that the tallest man, the taicho, was the
Japanese in charge of slaying the men. You can see from the photo a
Japanese soldier leaning to wipe off the sword. The sword was always
cleaned before a beheading and then wiped off afterward.
One other command from the Japanese, part of their
ritual was to have the people in the camp surround the holes and
witness what would happen if anyone would be found in disobedience.
Tun Enrique White has passed away, and I am the only
one living to recall this agonizing and traumatic experience. Although I
forced myself to mentally block this memory from my mind, the scars on
my legs and on my back are constant reminders every waking moment of my
And now, as I remember this terrible day, the pain
grows stronger and the memories more vivid and I find myself reliving
the fear and torture and I am in tears
As the Chamorros honor the members of their Insular
Guard Force who died in battle and throughout the war and other Chamorros
who were beheaded or tortured to death, I want to part with this
picture, this picture I received from my father, this picture which
accounts for my painful memories of Tai.
I wish to tell stories to my children so they can
tell the same stories to their children and to their children's children
and so on.
It is time to talk about my experience during the
war, and continue to talk. Maybe by talking and sharing my experience, I
can finally let go of these painful memories and find peace - after 50
years of not telling my story - and now begin to heal.