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Acts of desperation in Merizo

On July 15 and 16, 1944, with the American forces approaching Guam near the end of the Japanese occupation of the island in World War II, Japanese soldiers massacred nearly fifty Chamorro men and women from Merizo in two separate confrontations in caves in the Tinta and Faha areas just outside the village of Merizo.

The massacres are significant not only because of the tragedy of the two events, but because they led directly to a rebellion of the Merizo people in which they attacked and killed nearly all the Japanese soldiers in the area, thus liberating themselves.

The Tinta and Faha massacres are two of a number of such atrocities that occurred at the very end of the Japanese occupation period. Other such events include the Fena Caves massacre, and torture and murders at Yigo, Ta’i, and Manenggon.

On July 15, 1944, the 800 or so Merizo residents were rounded up and taken by soldiers to the Geus River Valley. The Japanese commander of the area read aloud the names of the most influential citizens of the southern village, which included twenty-five men and five women who were school teachers, the village commissioner, parents of sons in the U.S. military, a mother who refused to bow to the Japanese and her two daughters, and other rebellious Chamorros.

The thirty people were told they were going to be part of a work crew and were marched to a cave in the Tinta area to rest and spend the night. Soon after they went into the cave, the soldiers tossed hand grenades through the opening, killing many of the Chamorros. The Japanese soldiers then took swords and bayonets and began stabbing anyone still alive. Still, by pretending to be dead, fourteen of the Chamorros survived.

The Chamorros at the Faha caves were not as lucky. On July 16, with almost identical circumstances, another group of men were marched to a cave in Faha. The exact details are not known, but it is speculated that the Japanese again used machine guns, grenades, and bayonets.

None of the Faha victims survived. It wasn’t until days later that the Merizo villagers learned the full extent of the massacre. Thirty men who were considered some of the tallest and strongest villagers had been killed.

Merizo men rebel

When the Merizo people learned of the massacres, they were outraged. On July 20, in broad daylight, a group of Merizo men stormed the Japanese quarters at Atate (another area of the village) and killed ten Japanese soldiers. Only one Japanese soldier escaped, fleeing towards the neighboring village of Inarajan.

In April 1948, the victims of the Tinta and Faha cave massacres were memorialized with a monument listing their names on a bronze plaque. The memorial still stands near the shore of Merizo.

By Leo Babauta

For further reading

Farrell, Don A. The Pictorial History of Guam, Liberation-1944. Tamuning, GU: Micronesian Productions, c.1984.

Guam Historic Preservation Office. “The Massacre at Faha.” National Park Service: War in the Pacific National Historical Park, Guam (accessed 18 April 2013).

Guam Historic Preservation Office. “The Massacre at Tinta.” National Park Service: War in the Pacific National Historical Park, Guam (accessed 18 April 2013).

Guam War Survivor Stories (accessed 18 April 2013).

Palomo, Tony. An Island in Agony. Annandale, VA: T. Palomo, 1984.

Rogers, Robert F. Destiny’s Landfall: A History of Guam. Honolulu: University of Hawai`i Press, 1995.

Know my island – Know my history

People killed at Tinta Cave during World War II, July 15, 1944

Acfalle, Fausto Chargualaf
Acfalle, Vicente Reyes
Aguigui, Felis Tyquiengco
Babauta, Juan Cruz
Baza, Maria Baza
Baza, Rosa Tiajeron
Champaco, Vicente Acfalle
Charfauros, Arthur Benedict Lujan
Cruz, Ramon Padilla
Garrido, Jesus
Garrido, Ramon Garrido
Lujan, Juan Espinosa
Manalisay, Prudencio Acfalle
Meno, Jose Meno
Mesa, Maria Lukban
Quitugua, Pedro Charguane

Survivors of the Tinta Cave Massacre during World War II

Acfalle, Jose B. (deceased)
Anderson, Francisco G. (deceased)
Anderson, Jesus C.
Barcinas, Joaquin C. (deceased)
Charfauros, Manuel T. (deceased)
Concepcion, Joaquina E.
Cruz, Felipe S.
Cruz, Tomas E. (deceased)
Garrido, Ramon C. (deceased)
Leon Guerrero, Jose G.
San Nicolas, Juan C. (deceased)
Santos, Luisa Baza
Soriano, Ignacio M. (deceased)
Tajalle, Tomas T. (deceased)

People killed at Faha Cave during World War II, July 16, 1944

Acfalle, Juan Champaco
Acfalle, Miguel Manalisay
Aguon, Pedro Chargualaf
Barcinas, Jose Tyquiengco
Champaco, Jose Eguiguan
Chargualaf, Cresencio Meno
Cruz, Antonio Cruz
Cruz, Cristobal Leon Guerrero
Cruz, Joaquin Reyes
Cruz, Jose Cruz
Espinosa, Jose Tyquiengco
Fegurgur, Antonio Champaco
Garrido, Ignacio Chargualaf
Garrido, Tomas Sablan
Garrido, Vicente Chargualaf
Guzman, Juan Concepcion
Manibusan, Jose Manibusan
Mansapit, Jesus Maguadog
Mansapit, Santiago Naputi
Mata, Vicente Manalisay
Meno, Dometro Quinene
Meno, Filipe Meno
Meno, Pedro Chargualaf
Quidagua, Jose Charguane
Quidagua, Vicente Charguane
Quinene, Vicente Reyes
Taijeron, Antonio Soriano
Taijeron, Juan Soriano
Topasna, Juan Inocencio
Tyquiengco, Francisco Babauta