The Japanese Attack on Guam

This site, the Guampedia, has an account of Japan’s attack on Guam, on Dec. 8, 1941. (It was the same day as Pearl Harbor, but on the other side of the International Date Line. So it was Monday there.) It goes on to relate huge amounts of history about the island’s sufferings during WWII.

I am sorry to say that I didn’t know any of this history. That Guampedia page is a long page, but I urge everybody to go read it. These things should not be forgotten. There are also many subsidiary pages dealing with various WWII matters on the island.

In Guam, terror gripped the people as the warplanes, flying in formation of threes, bombed Sumay and later strafed Piti, Hagåtña and other populated areas.

The date was the Catholic Feast of the Immaculate Conception and many families were still in church when the planes struck. The city of Hagåtña, the hub of the island, was instantly transformed into a city of shocked people. Mothers and children wept and wailed. Fathers sought missing members of their families in efforts to flee from the town.

Among the first victims of the attack were Teddy Cruz and Larry Pangelinan, young Chamorro kitchen workers who perished when a bomb hit the Pan American hotel at Sumay. Also killed was Ensign Robert White, who manned an anti-aircraft gun aboard the USS Penguin. [A minesweeper.] The vessel, the only seaworthy ship in Guam at the time, fought the Japanese aircraft off Orote Point, but to no avail. The Penguin commander then decided to scuttle the ship.

…A day later, the planes returned for more, again striking military facilities and the Pan American Airways station.

Then, on 10 Dec., Japanese forces invaded Guam by shore….

…The Guam defending force was woefully undergunned: 274 Navy personnel, more than half of them non-combative personnel; 153 Marines; and about 120 Insular Force Guards, whose military training was minimal at best.

The Guam defenders’ total arsenal were three machine guns, four Thompson submachine guns, six Browning automatic pistols, fifty .30 caliber pistols, a dozen .22 caliber regulation rifles, and 85 Springfield rifles. Most of the weapons were of World War I vintage. Imprinted on the Springfield rifles were labels with the following notation: “Do not shoot. For training only.”

… The invaders at Dungca’s Beach… made their way to Hagåtña, through the jungles and barrios (neighborhoods) along the way to the town. Somewhere in between, the troops ran into a group of Chamorro families, fleeing the area in a small bus. The troops fired their weapons… Those not killed were bayoneted; 13 men, women and children perish.

Various unarmed civilians were killed by the Japanese. The American military personnel and the Insular Force Guards made their stand in the town square of the capital. 21 military and civilians were killed in the fighting, and slightly more Japanese. After an hour of fighting, Governor George McMillin realized how outgunned they were and surrendered the island. Islanders were assured by official Japanese proclamations that their lives and property would be safe in the Japanese Empire. This turned out not to be true.

In Sumay, the island’s commercial center, all of the 2,000 residents were evicted from their homes.

…In many instances, Japanese soldiers moved into private homes without notice or formality. Members of the family of Juan Cruz, a carpenter, were having lunch in their kitchen when armed Japanese soldiers ordered them to get out of the house…

[In Sumay, Japanese] … soldiers raped five young women.

…The historic Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral was converted into a propaganda and entertainment center, and a church building in Santa Cruz became a workshop and stable for the Japanese’s Siberian stallions. The island’s Baptist church, also in Hagåtña, was also seized; Japanese officials used the first floor of the church as a storage area for food, and the second floor was utilized as a Shinto shrine.

…Japanese military officials were intent on erasing from Guam the influence of the United States and thus immediately imprisoned Governor McMillin, other US citizens, as well as some Spanish clergy, notably Bishop Miguel Olano, head of the Catholic church in the island.

The prisoners were exiled to camps in Kobe, Japan.

Only two priests were left on the island: the first two local priests that had ever been ordained. Fr. Jesus Baza Duenas would be executed by the Japanese on July 12, 1944. Fr. Oscar Lujan Calvo, appointed Pro-Vicar by the bishop before he was shipped off, survived the war. (Calvo apparently played “good cop” to the Japanese, while Duenas was “bad cop.”)

There was only one Protestant minister left on the island – another local, the Rev. Joaquin Flores Sablan. He was a Baptist.

That link has a lot of info about island religious conditions. All the clergy were ordered to start services and Masses by having the congregation bow to the Emperor. (Probably handled by having the bowing count as taking place right before the start.) All sermons had to be submitted to the Japanese governor a week beforehand, for approval. There were other onerous regulations, and the Baptist church had its organ confiscated for the Japanese soldiers’ entertainment. The local governor threatened to “erase” the “American influence” of the entire Baptist denomination on the island, and attempted to force cancellation of all Catholic saints’ days and holidays as an “austerity” measure.

… All Americans prior to the invasion were accounted for except six Navy sailors: Al Tyson and George Tweed, both radiomen first class; A. Yablonsky, yeoman first class; L.W. Jones, chief areographer; L.L. Krump, chief machinist mate; and C.B. Johnston, machinist mate first class. Without exception, the six sailors believed the war would not last more than three months and they felt they could survive in the dense jungles of Guam until the Americans returned to the island.

Only Tweed survived the war….

The others were discovered by the Japanese, then beheaded or shot. There were also concentration camps on the island itself, mostly holding non-US Westerners.

…The Japanese government, besides its troops, also dispatched “comfort girls” to the island. Five homes were selected to house the women, three in Hagåtña, one in Anigua, and one in Sasa, a farming area near Piti.

The invasion detachment departed Guam 14 Jan. 1942… Left to administer Guam was the Keibitai, the Japanese naval militia with less than 500 men. Directly managing the people were the Minseibu, the Keibitai’s cadre of policemen and investigators…

…the new rulers brought schoolteachers, along with their families by the middle of 1942, and on the following November, two Japanese Catholic priests came to the island….

The one bright spot was a Japanese attempt to give locals medical training.

…Among the first things the new rulers imposed was the renaming of the island and all municipal districts. Guam became Ômiyajima (Ômiyatô) or “the island of the Imperial Court” by the Japanese Navy. Hagåtña became “Akashi” (the Red City). Asan was “Asama Mura” and Agat became “Showa Mura.”

The practice of bowing as a sign of respect was instituted and strictly enforced… Bowing to an officer or to an institution, like a police station, required the bending of the head and body at a forty-five degree angle. The supreme bow, which was reserved only to the Japanese emperor and members of his family. This required a person to face north and then bend his entire body forward and down to a ninety degree angle. And in doing so, the person must bow slowly and solemnly…

…By mid-1942, all public schools were reopened and the young students were required to bow to the emperor before classes commenced in the morning.

… there was one very popular song that the occupying authorities detested and even punished people for singing.

Though forbidden, both children and adults learned and sang the song throughout the occupation period – it was a ditty urging the return of the Americans. One version went like this:

“Eighth of December 1941
People went crazy
right here in Guam.
Oh, Mr. Sam, Sam
My dear Uncle Sam,
won’t you please
come back to Guam.”

There’s a lot of talk about how bad things got as the US got closer to retaking the island – forced labor for the men, numerous rapes of women, massacres of both sexes, and even an order to kill every dog on the island in case their barking gave away Japanese positions!

This didn’t make the locals happy.

When the other Merizo residents learned of the massacres, they decided to attack the Japanese. In broad daylight, about 20 Merizo men stormed the Japanese quarters, seized whatever weapons they could lay their hands on, and killed every soldier in sight. A hefty Merizo man killed a Japanese soldier with his bare hands.

Sadly, a fair number of residents also died in American bombing raids on Japanese positions. Guam had it pretty bad.

Here’s another article about Guam policemen who hunted down Japanese stragglers from 1944-1948.

Here’s a history book all about Guam.

George Tweed was a hero to many on the island. But then he wrote the book Robinson Crusoe, USN, about his war experiences. In his book he accused Fr. Duenas of violating the Seal of Confession and betraying him to the Japanese, and he accused Fr. Calvo of revealing private discussions to other people. Apparently people on Guam don’t think highly on these slurs on their priests’ character. Fr. Duenas is considered a martyr by many (and he was executed for not giving Tweed away, so there’s gratitude), and Fr. Calvo was made a monsignor by Bl. Pope Pius XII for his heroic services to the Catholic Church. Another priest from their ordination class ended up dying heroically in the Philippines. So yeah, it doesn’t seem likely.

Btw, here’s info about the first missionary on Guam, Bl. Diego Luis de San Vitores, S.J. He was martyred after a rumor spread that holy water and anointing oils killed people. (He combatted the rumor by a public debate with its originator, but of course lies spread faster than truth.)


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