Pre-World War II teacher

Established in 1971, Harmon Loop Elementary School in Dededo was renamed and rededicated as Juan Mendiola Guerrero Elementary School, commonly referred to as JM Guerrero Elementary School, in March 1999. Guerrero was a teacher who was killed by Japanese soldiers in the waning hours of World War II.

Although the island was recaptured by American armed forces on 21 July 1944 battles still ensued in the coming months. On 28 July 1944, while tending his family’s ranch at the existing school site in Harmon in the village of Dededo, Guerrero was decapitated by Japanese Imperial soldiers who were moving further south after the battle of Yigo. According to eyewitness Jose Cruz, Japanese soldiers may have mistaken Guerrero for an American soldier. According to an incomplete certificate of death, the Chief Commissioner of Guam reported on 17 May 1945, that Juan Guerrero died as a result of Japanese non-combat activities, being shot and beheaded by the Japanese.

Juan Mendiola Guerrero was born in Hagåtña in 1905. He was the son of Juan Pangelinan Guerrero and Dolores Mendiola Guerrero. At a young age, Guerrero proved to be a promising student who excelled in math and history, the two subjects he went on to teach. After attending the first through fourth grades in Dededo, Guerrero went to Hagåtña to complete his education. After finishing sixth grade, which was all the schooling available at the time, Guerrero was appointed by the government of Guam to teach in Guam schools.

Juan Mendiola Guerrero was married to Emiliana Perez Franquez. Together they raised two sons, Vicente and Jesus. To his fellow CHamorus, Guerrero impressed the value of education in the enrichment of their lives. In addition to being a history and math teacher at George Washington High School in Hagåtña, Guerrero was also a tutor. He also taught at schools in Dededo and Inalåhan. He served as an educator for more than 17 years until his death in 1944.

While there is no annual founder’s day celebration in honor of Guerrero, a color portrait and biography are prominently displayed in the main office of the school.

By Patricia Long Diego

For further reading

Sablan, Joaquin F. My Mental Odyssey: Memoirs of the First Guamanian Protestant Minister. Poplar Bluff: Stinson Press, 1990.