The War in the Pacific
Table of Contents

A grateful Guam remembers


Guam in midst of Japan's ocean empire

The Land of the Rising Sun seizes Guam

Symbol of hope, controversy

The strength of Agueda Johnston

In Tai, the death of a hero

"Uncle Sam, won't you please come back to Guam?"

The Pastor Sablan and his flock

Chamorros caught in Wake invasion

Captain endures POW camp

The march to Manengon

A witness to tragedy

A voyage to freedom

List of liberating forces

Liberating Guam

Maps of invasion beaches

The way of the Japanese warrior

The beachhead the night of the banzai

50 years later, a liberator is remembered

"He gallantly gave his life"

The high command

Guam scouts assist liberators

All men bleed red

Old Glory sways proudly once again

Liberators meet the liberated

Combat Patrol hunts for stragglers

The Last Soldier

Adolfo C. Sgambelluri's secret life

War crimes and justice

Military buildup on Guam

Chamorros still yearn for freedom

The War in the Pacific ends

Thank You

LIBERATION — Guam Remembers
A Golden Salute for the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of Guam

The lasting legacy of a liberator

Written about something that happened fifty years ago, the letter certainly looked as if it could have been written in 1944.

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 Jerdonek
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 anniversary activities.

Without great emotion but filled with the feeling of a man who loves and misses his brother, William provided details about his brother:

"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 letter.

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 Cleveland."

"Please remember the great sacrifices made by these valiant men."

Thank you.

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 aircraft.

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 Guam.

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 call.

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.

previous next