LIBERATION Guam Remembers
A Golden Salute for the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of Guam
After the capture of the Marianas,
Japanese cites became targets of B-29 bombers. A March 9-10 raid was the
war's most destructive air attack - the fire bombs of 334 B-29s killed
83,793 people, wounded 41,000 and destroyed 267,171 buildings.
Investigators view occupation
By RAJ SOOD
Aside from continuing to press the war against Japan
and helping the civilian community of Guam get back on its feet,
military officials also began to investigate the occupation of Guam
under the Japanese.
Helping with that task was Capt. Nicholas Savage, who
was in the headquarters of the 3rd Marine Amphibious Corps. His duties
involved counter-intelligence and the responsibility for identifying
collaborators and subversives.
"I was assigned essentially to bring some rhyme and
reason to this very, very motley crowd of Saipanese, Chamorros, Japanese,
petty officials that had to do with civilian operations, Okinawan
fishermen, part Japanese and those suspected of being Japanese
collaborators, most of whom had accumulated in stockades during the
actual landing. Most of them had turned themselves in voluntarily,
along with women and children."
"We had essentially the civilian elements of the
Japanese occupation from Japan, Saipan, and those members of the local
people who were thought to have been possibly implicated (for
collaboration with the enemy)," Savage said. "We had a cumbersome,
awkward and slow procedure but finally they were released. Only a very
few were shipped back to Saipan."
Others imprisoned in U.S. stockades were captured or
surrendered Japanese military personnel.
"There were also a number of women, the so-called
comfort troops. They were a pathetic lot, totally unaware of what their
rights were. They were later sent to Hawaii prisoner-of-war camps," he
According to Savage, investigating these cases,
gathering information and evidence of war crimes, collecting
intelligence, these activities were most demanding and vital. "This is
where Sgamby (Adolfo C. Sgambelluri, late father of the current
Chief of Police A.P. Sgambelluri) played an absolutely
As part of his job, Adolfo C. Sgambelluri requested to
be put in the stockade with the POW's where he was treated
as just another prisoner, subject to all the indignities, so that he
could gather information and intelligence.
"His role was entirely in keeping with his work
during the occupation, risking his life in the service of his people,"
It was not until 40 years later, in 1985, that
Sgambelluri's dedication to duty could be openly recognized and his
undercover work freely discussed. All those years, he stoically bore the
undeserved stigma of being labeled as a Japanese sympathizer. His work
cleared many. And others received appropriate measures of justice at
the hands of the War Crimes Tribunal because of evidence collected by
There were interesting moments for Savage and his
staff, moments of history for Guam and the world. For example, Savage's
unit maintained a well-equipped darkroom. One day, a military
photographer came in from Iwo Jima requesting permission to process a
few rolls of film. One of the prints he produced was one of the most
famous photographs of World War II - Marines raising the Stars and
Stripes on Mt. Surabachi in Iwo Jima.
And then there were other moments that were very
satisfying for him. Savage recalled one regarding the Dejima family, a
Nisei family who had called Guam home for many years.
The family, realizing in late 1941 that the Japanese
attack was imminent, had collected all their cash and buried it. This
location was known only to them and Mr. Thomas Tanaka (Sr.), family
friend and associate. In due course, Savage, Tanaka Sr., and a colleague
dug out the money and deposited back into the Dejima bank account. "That
was very satisfying, knowing that it is safe and back in the hands of
its rightful owners."
After the Liberation, the Seabees took
to heart their unofficial motto, "Can Do." The sailors built a
devastated island into a staging area from which U.S. forces could
continue the war against Japan. In one 90-day period, the men of the
Navy's construction battalions took a short look at the island's coral
and soil, then proceeded to carve out and surface 100 miles of road. A
year after the Liberation, Marine Drive is just a baby (above).
Below, at left, a humorous soul poses
near a sign by the Seabees dedicating Guam's leeward coastal road to the
Marines. Below, right, the Marines return the favor and thank the
Seabees for paving the way to Tokyo.
One can see the massive military buildup
of Guam in this 1945 photo of Apra Harbor and what is now the Naval
Station. By August 1945, more than 220,000 people called Guam home, but
only 22,000 or so of those were Guamanians. The rest - 65,000 Army,
78,000 sailors, 59,000 Marines. The code name for the Liberation of Guam
was Operation Stevedore, a clue to the island's future role in the war.
Apra Harbor became one of the world's busiest parts, operating as a
major conduit in the supply of U.S. forces pressing the attack on the
outlying and home islands of Japan.
Bombers approach North
Field, now called Andersen Air Force Base, to land. The airfield and
those in Tinian and in Saipan were home to more than 1,000 B-29 bombers,
all of them setting their bombsights on targets in Japan. In Tinian, the
Seabees' mark was indelible. The Navy construction battalions built the
world's largest bomber base comprised of six mile-and-a-half airstrips
and support facilities. In the process, the Seabees moved more than 11
million cubic yards of soil, rock and coral.