LIBERATION Guam Remembers
A Golden Salute for the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of Guam
The lasting legacy of a liberator
By PAUL J. BORJA
Written about something that happened fifty years
ago, the letter certainly looked as if it could have been written in
Modest in thought and style, the correspondence
wasn't the glossy product of the latest laser, inkjet printer.
It was the end result of a man who sat over his
typewriter, rolled through its bail an ordinary piece of paper, and then
wrote of the extraordinary pain of fifty years ago, of the pain that
still lives today.
It was about the pain he still suffered, enough for a
man to write a stranger and tell him that he and his family continue to
miss their brother, the brother who was mortally wounded on a beach in
Guam on July 21, 1944.
Paul P. Jerdonek
William C. Jerdonek of Parma, Ohio, wrote the letter
to John Blaz, administrator of the Veterans Office on Guam on the
behalf of his brother, Paul P. Jerdonek. William wrote that he had heard
that Guam Governor Joseph F. Ada was inviting people who took part in
the capture and liberation of Guam in 1944 to participate in 50th
Without great emotion but filled with the feeling of
a man who loves and misses his brother, William provided details about
"His name was Paul P. Jerdonek, a Private First Class
in the Third Regiment, Third Division of the U.S. Marine Corps. He was
the B.A.R. man in his squad and was mortally wounded on the first day
(July 21, 1944) of the invasion of Guam. He was unable to be evacuated
until the following day and suffered greatly until he was transferred to
the "U.S.S. Solace" hospital ship, upon which he passed away from the
wounds on July 27, 1944. He was buried on Kwajalein Atoll in the
Marshall Islands until after the war ended."
The letter continued on, matter-of-factly:
"Paul Jerdonek came from Cleveland, Ohio, one of a
family of 15 children born to immigrant parents and raised through tough
years of the depression, serving in the C.C.C. camp in Idaho in the late
30's. When the war started he worked in a defense plant in Cleveland
until he enlisted in the Marine Corps in Feb. 1943. While stationed in
Virginia at an arsenal where the Marines had a Guard Duty detachment he
volunteered for overseas duty and shortly after was shipped out in a
Replacement Battalion and joined the Third Regiment in the Solomon
Islands. The rest is history."
Onto his letter, William stapled a tiny, by today's
standards, photo. Brown and faded, the image was from more than 50 years
ago and merely a glimpse of his brother, Paul. In it, Paul, his
strong-jawed face in a slight smile, has slung his rifle over his right
shoulder. Wearing his dungarees which he has cut a few inches above the
top of his boots, Paul has his left hand at his hip, his stance
confident. He looks as any Marine would look posing for a snapshot to be
sent to his family.
William also provided a copy of a July 28, 1944,
letter sent by Chaplain Edward Monchton to comfort Mrs. Christine
Jerdonek, he and Paul's mother. The Catholic chaplain wrote the mother
noting that doctors had quickly attended to her 20-year-old son when he
was transferred to the hospital ship Solace.
"Immediately our medical staff realized the
seriousness of his condition. Forthwith they endeavored to check the
ravages of the injury by supplying him with every aid that medical
science could muster. Unfortunately they were unable to save him. He
passed away peacefully at 7:30 a.m. July 27th, 1944," the chaplain wrote
in his letter of comfort, probably one of the hundreds, maybe thousands
he had to write during World War II, during that terrible time.
He wrote Mrs. Jerdonek that Paul had gone to
confession before the day of battle and received holy communion. He
noted to the mother that he had given the last rites to her son. "As he
breathed his last he held the miraculous medal in his hand as it hung
from the chain around his neck," Chaplain Monchton wrote in his
In William's letter to the veterans office, he
provided its purpose. "This letter is not intended for any other reason
than to recognize one of the "liberators" of Guam. He was one of the
1290 who gave up their lives among a total of 7083 listed as casualties
in that battle. They all deserve the unending gratitude of all the
citizens of Guam and our country.
"All of the family had been saddened by the loss of
our brother and son Paul and as the years have passed he surely has not
been forgotten. His remains lie here at Calvary cemetery in
"Please remember the great sacrifices made by these
William C. Jerdonek ...
According to the staff in the Veterans Affairs
Office, letters like William's about his brother Paul are received
occasionally. They are written by people - brothers, sisters, cousins, and friends - who possess a lingering sadness, a bit of grief that lives on
despite the passage of years.
But they admit that William's letter somehow stands
out, that William's letter is different, that William's letter is
somehow special, possessing something that touches the heart.
It is all of that, and more, so much more.
23 February 1944
U.S. carriers carry on their program of destruction, this time their
pilots unleashing their firepower in raids of the Marianas. U.S. Navy
pilots down 168 aircraft and sink two freighters while losing only six
Because without so much saying so, William has so
simply written an extraordinary letter about love and the power of love
- the enduring love of a family for one of their own, the love of a man
for his country, the love for his country that would be so strong that a
man would be willing to die for it. Simply said, it is a letter about
how love cannot be extinguished, how these kinds of love cannot fade,
cannot grow old over fifty years, not over any passage of time.
Yes, typewritten as it was, the letter appears that
it could have been written fifty years ago.
But if this can be comfort to the Jerdonek family,
the feeling that so fills William's letter - the love his family has for
their brother, the love Paul had for his country - is as fresh today as
it ever was, as fresh and sweet as it will always be.
William seems to query whether people consider his
brother, who was mortally wounded on the first day of the battle to
recapture Guam, a liberator of the island.
On the Asan beachhead, Marines take
cover behind fallen coconut trees and other debris, ready to go forward
in assaulting Japanese defensive positions. Paul P. Jerdonek of the 3rd
Marines was mortally wounded in Asan on July 21, 1944.
If this is any comfort to William and the rest of his
family, Paul is without question, without argument, a liberator of
But to be honest, recognition of Paul's sacrifice is
not easily achieved by any ceremony, by any letter from any official.
His sacrifice is honored in that democracy has sprouted, but not yet
blossomed, in the island where he received his fateful wounds.
And perhaps his life and death are best honored
through the men and women of Guam who have served and continue to serve
in America's armed services.
In the fifty years since 1944, countless thousands of
Guam's sons and daughters have faithfully served and now serve in the
armed forces. Some have given the ultimate sacrifice, as Paul P.
Jerdonek did, in serving their country.
These island sons and daughters have served in Korea,
in Vietnam, in Grenada, in Panama, in Kuwait - wherever America and duty
It can be said that each one of them has been ready
to pass on to others the torch of freedom given to them by men like Paul
P. Jerdonek, Private First Class, United States Marine Corps Reserve, a
liberator of Guam in July 1944.
15 June 1944
The 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions land on Saipan in the Marianas beginning the first battle fought in Japan's inner defense line. U.S.
forces find fighting extremely difficult against a Japanese enemy
growing desperate. Americans complete capture of Saipan on July 9.