Friday, July 21, 2006

liberation day ...

July 21 is the anniversary of the liberation of Guam, a local holiday marking the day, back in 1944, that U.S. forces landed on the island to retake the island from the Japanese.

Most people in America know almost nothing of Guam's role in World War II. They know all about D-Day and other aspects of the "war to end all wars" in Europe, and they know about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Midway, Iwo Jima and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It's always been puzzling to me why the liberation of Guam is so overlooked and underknown.

Guam was the ONLY civilian-populated territory to be invaded and occupied by the Japanese. Yes, I know all about the Aleutian Islands. But those were mostly Navy and Army Air Corps bases and weather stations. The few Inuits that were there were, first, few in number, and, second, didn't have prosperous towns set up. There was some fishing and stuff, but that's about it.

Guam was very different. We had been an American territory since the ceding of the island to the United States by Spain following the Spanish-American War in 1898. We had a naval governor, who was the top-ranking officer of the Naval detachment. We had a bucolic but busting island, with a population in the tens of thousands.

We were bombed on Dec. 8, 1941, just hours later on the same day that Pearl Harbor was bombed (International Dateline, remember?). The Japanese held on in a brutal occupation for more than 2-1/2 years, raping, starving, beating, beheading and killing of the populace. There was forced labor to build airfields and other infrastructure. There were forced marches to concentration camps.

Several families helped hide a holdout U.S. Navy radioman, George Tweed, for years, giving up their limited food and suffering torture to keep him hidden. They kept U.S. flags of all sizes hidden, facing certain death if they were found.

The people of Guam never gave up hope that the U.S. would come back. And they did.

But we have never really been acknowledged for our courage, our sacrifices, our suffering.

When the U.S. signed off on the treaty to end the war with Japan, it obsolved the enemy of any war reparations. Now, it's 62 years later, and most of the people who survived the brutal occupation still haven't received any real compensation, from the United States or otherwise. Every new congressional term, we try to get a bill through Congress for war reparations. It never gets through. There's one there now and the people have hope, but it's a kind of hopeless hope. We're not asking for hundreds of millions. But we still, in the back of our minds, don't think the U.S. government will come through. All they have to do is continue to postpone it, and wait for more and more people to die off.

And yet the people of Guam love our country. Men and women have gratefully and dutily served in the U.S. Armed Forces since before World War II. In Vietnam, Korea, the Persian Gulf War, we have the highest per capita number of citizens killed in action. Our military recruiters never have a problem meeting quota, not even in the middle of wars. Recruiters often win awards for the number of people who annually sign up for military service.

All we ask for is just a little bit of justice.

Happy Liberation Day.


TheMissouriSavage said...

And what about reparations from Japan as well?

Kristen said...

Happy Liberation Day to you!!!

Have a great weekend

Knight said...

DZ... first, I think "1994" was a typo... right?

I have a question: Exactly what is it the people of Gaum feel it is owed by the United States?

DZER said...

Mark: they were absolved by the treaty.

kristen: thanks darlin' ...

knight: yes; thanks, I fixed it. And we just want just reparations for the time of occupation and brutality. We can't go after Japan for them, because the U.S. absolved Japan of reparations; therefore, the U.S. assumed the responsibility. They paid reparations to Japanese Americans in interred in camps during the war; we just feel there is some degree of reparations owed. And, truthfully, it's more about the U.S. acknowledging it than it is about the money.

Mimi said...

Thanks for that history lesson, I never really knew that. How did you come to be there?

Pyrhonik said...

I've learned some interesting things from you Dzer. Thank you for this nugget. I hope that one day Guam gets it's due.

Hell I may even visit the place as well. That golf course with the hole that requires driving over the ocean is very appealing.

DZER said...

Mimi: My dad was a native of Guam, a Chamorro. He was born about 11 months before Guam was invaded. My grandparents and their children lived through it, save for one of my uncles, who died in infancy.

Pyrhonik: glad I could inform and educate. And we do have some very picturesque golf courses here ... you're welcome anytime!

Madame X said...

Thank you D.
I knew that Guam was bombed after Pearl Harbor but that was where my education ended.

This was a well written and moving post.

YOu constantly impress me.

ell said...

just wanted to say hi, d.

have a nice weekend.


Jon said...

I know of some involvement with Guam, but this shows a very different picture. Thanks for the info. I'll try to find a space in my tiny brain to fit this.

My dad was in the Navy during WWII in the Pacific. Most of the time on submarines. I remember him mentioning going to Guam a few times, but I am sure it was after it was liberated.

factory_peasant said...

excellent post DZER.

TheMissouriSavage said...

Umm... Which uncle, Dz? I hadn't heard about that...

ArtfulDodger said...

Dman, I think this requires some action on our part, I'm fully prepared to write some emails to my Senators and Congressmen. You say there is something before the government now, do you know any details about that? I'll do some digging on line.

terry said...

why don't we know about guam's role?

because we know very little history, period.

i'm often guilty of that myself.

Grace said...

I've never been a big history buff... I wouldn't even be able to tell you how I wore my hair yesterday. I also don't remember dates, unless they're between me and a hot/sexy man.

But Happy Liberation Day to you Dzer!