LIBERATION 2019: A Legacy of Peace and Friendship

I’d consider liberation of Guam a rebirth for all its people, and all those who showed delinquencies should be forgiven and given another chance to really live again.

Agueda Iglesias Johnston, 1944

A year after World War II ended in Guam in 1945, community leader Agueda Iglesias Johnston convinced US military leaders to support an official commemoration of Guam’s liberation. Johnston, whose American husband had died as a prisoner of war in Japan, envisioned this as a day to highlight Guam’s loyalty to America and as a new beginning for the CHamoru people.

Liberation Day, as it was called, was initially commemorated as a religious holiday, with Catholic Mass to pray for the dead and processions with the iconic Santa Marian Kamalen.

By the 1950s, Liberation Day became more of a civic holiday, complete with carnivals, parades and a Liberation Day Queen contest. The first contest was held in 1948. Beatrice Blas Calvo Perez (1926 – 2017) was the first Liberation Day Queen.

The overwhelming emotions in a time of war and the dramatic arrival of the Americans after numerous deaths and suffering at Japanese hands largely compelled the CHamoru people into feeling a deep sense of obligation and loyalty to the United States. Remembering with nostalgia the time of peace under the US naval administration, before “I tiempon gera,”the CHamoru people, once again, felt connected to the American nation.

Liberation Day and its commemorations present an important arena for understanding CHamoru experiences and memories of the war. Through storytelling, songs, art and other expressions, CHamorus have attempted to reclaim the narrative of liberation in ways that promote CHamoru perspectives and reveal the complexities of Guam’s World War II history.

Indeed, stories from the perspective of Guam’s survivors bring a certain power to the larger narrative of the history of World War II in the Marianas. Caught up in a war not of their making, we hear the painful stories of hardship, violence and tragedy at the hands of the Japanese, and the destruction of land, homes and lives during Liberation. But in survivors’ stories are also moments of ingenuity, resilience and strength — of neighbors helping each other, of friendly relations with enemy soldiers, of strong religious faith, of sharing songs and music. There is no one story of the war, no single interpretation that captures the entire range of experiences and memory in this shared past.

There are contradictions, too, in many of the memories of Guam’s survivors — a sense of loyalty and gratitude to the US, tempered by the tension of continued loss of political sovereignty, uncompensated land takings, and unfulfilled war claims. There are survivors who enjoy the Liberation Day holiday and commemorations, and others wanting so much to forget they cannot bring themselves to share their stories with their children.

The common thread, though, that runs through most memories of Guam’s survivors are the fear and uncertainty prevalent during the last three weeks when the island was bombed, the long march to the concentration camps, and the sense of relief that prayers had been answered with the return of American forces. 

Over the years, Liberation Day has come to mean different things to different people. For many, it is a time to remember.

Our generation has been using the freedom handed to us by the sacrifices of others to express our concerns regarding the many grievances we have with the federal government. We demonstrate, we argue, we confront and we decry the vestiges of colonialism, which continue to survive to the present. Some argue that these expressions run counter to our commemoration of the liberation of Guam. It does not. Quite to the contrary, the desire to be free and to confront injustice whatever its origins exemplifies the very spirit of liberation and freedom which was planted on our shores by the blood of so many in the years 1941-1944.

Robert A. Underwood, 1994
The Liberation of Guam, Across the Generations

By Dominica Tolentino
Guam Museum Director

Survivors stories

  1. Oral Histories of the CHamoru People
  2. Agnes Duenas Unpingco
  3. Agueda Iglesias Johnston
  4. Amanda Guzman Shelton
  5. Ana Atoigue Muna
  6. Ana Sablan Palomo
  7. Ana San Nicolas Gogue
  8. Antonio Adriano Arriola
  9. Asuncion Camacho Lazaro Cruz
  10. Beatrice Flores Emsley
  11. Cecilia Cruz Bamba
  12. Cecilia Taitano Yanger
  13. Cleotilde Mendiola Bamba
  14. Concepcion Castro Camacho
  15. Congressman Vicente “Ben” Garrido Blaz
  16. Cynthia Tenorio Terlaje
  17. Dr. Ramon Manalisay Sablan
  18. E. Grace Sablan Viegas
  19. Fidel Toves Blas
  20. Forrest Mendiola Harris
  21. Francisca Quintanilla Franquez
  22. George Tweed
  23. Grace Sablan Viegas
  24. Helena James Aflague Crisostomo
  25. Ignacia Bordallo Butler
  26. Ignacio “Buck” Cruz
  27. Ignacio Mendiola Reyes
  28. Irene Perez Ploke Sgambelluri
  29. Jesus Camacho Babauta
  30. Joaquin Flores Lujan
  31. Jose Rosario Alvarez
  32. Jose Santos Torres
  33. Josefa Cruz Baza
  34. Juan Quintanilla Guzman
  35. Justo Leon Guerrero
  36. Lillian Tenorio Dimla
  37. Maria Meno Barcinas
  38. Maria Taitague Escalera
  39. Marie Rapolla Matanane
  40. Mary Taitano San Agustin Lujan
  41. Msgr. David Ignacio Arceo Quitugua
  42. Msgr. Oscar Lujan Calvo
  43. Patricia Taitano Guerrero
  44. Rev. Joaquin Flores Sablan
  45. Robert O’Brien: US Prisoner of War
  46. Rosa Champaco Quitano
  47. Rosa Payne Murer
  48. Rosanne Santos Ada
  49. Rosario Flores Leon Guerrero
  50. Rosita Duenas Diaz
  51. Sgt. Shoichi Yokoi, Last Straggler on Guam
  52. Sylvia Iglesias San Nicolas Punzalan
  53. Sr. Bernard Unpingco
  54. Vicente and Jesusa Arceo

Overviews of WWII

  1. From Occupation to Liberation
  2. Guam an Obstacle to Japan’s Ocean Empire
  3. Pacific World War II Timeline
  4. Sumay
  5. WWII List of CHamoru Deaths and Survivors in Guam
  6. WWII Monuments and Sites Map
  7. WWII Profiles of Officers in Command
  8. WWII: Prisoners of War sent to Japan

Invasion stories

  1. 45 CHamorus Caught in Wake Invasion
  2. CHamorus Die in Pearl Harbor Bombing
  3. Guam Insular Guard
  4. Prisoners of War sent to Japan

Occupation stories

  1. CHamorus Forced into War Effort
  2. Comfort Women on Guam
  3. Health Services During WWII
  4. Impact of Japanese Military Occupation of Guam
  5. Japanese Military Administration of Guam
  6. Japanese Occupation of Guam
  7. Låncho: Ranch
  8. Land Ownership on Guam
  9. Religious Life during the Japanese Occupation
  10. Rising Sun Dawns on Guam
  11. Role of Education in the Preservation of Guam’s Indigenous Language
  12. Song of Hope, Song of Faith

American retaking stories

  1. Father Jesus Baza Duenas
  2. Fena Massacre
  3. Manenggon Concentration Camp
  4. Nightmare in Merizo at War’s End
  5. Tinta and Faha Cave Massacres
  6. War Atrocities on Guam

Post war stories

  1. Guam Combat Patrol Hunted Japanese Stragglers
  2. Guam War Claims: A Legislative History
  3. History of Liberation Day Parade
  4. History of Liberation Day Queen Contest
  5. Interpretive Essay: CHamorus Yearn for Freedom
  6. Japanese Stragglers on Guam
  7. Rebuilding from the Ashes of War
  8. US Navy War Crimes Trials on Guam

Multimedia stories

Vignettes

  1. Hasso’ Sumay
  2. Taotao Sumay

Photos

  1. Don Farrell Collection
  2. Gerald Keedwell Wyman Collection
  3. WWII-Japanese Era Gallery

e-Publications

  1. 2010 Memorial Service for Tinta and Faha
  2. Fanhasso I Taotao Sumay: Displacement, Dispossession, and Survival in Guam
  3. Guam Museum, 1979
  4. Guam Recorder Vol. 02, No. 02-03
  5. Guam Recorder Vol. 03, No. 03
  6. Guam Recorder Vol. 05, No. 01
  7. Guam Recorder Vol. 05, No. 02
  8. Guam World War II: Monuments and Parks
  9. I Hinanao-ta
  10. List of Guam POW
  11. MHC1: Late Colonial History
  12. MHC1: World War II History
  13. MHC3: 3rd Marianas History Conference, 2016
  14. MHC3: World War II, Recent History, and Genealogy, 2017
  15. Sumay Park
  16. The Liberation of Guam Across the Generations
  17. Uncle Sam, Sam My Dear Old Uncle Sam, Won’t You Please Be Kind To Guam?