Chamorros Remember Being Freed from Japanese Concentration Camps

During World War II, the entire native Chamorro population of Guam, the United States Territory , were marched to a few of the the concentration camps on Guam by the Japanese military which had taken over Guam for over 2 and 1 1/2 years in World War II.  The purpose of gathering the Chamorros to the camps was in response to the Japanese’s knowledge that the United States Armed Forces were closing in on Guam. Reports of those events include purported plans by the Japanese to execute the entire population if they knew the Americans were going to be successful in recapturing the island.  One small group was actually killed and it was the quickness of the U.S. military in securing the island that saved the remaining natives.

My mother, who was a little girl at the time and who was in one of the camps with her family,  wrote the following article.

Ask Joyce: What happened to those Chamorros who survived…

July 21, 1944 was like coming out of darkness into the light for those Chamorros who survived concentration camps from different parts of Guam.Some were taken to Agat and some to Anigua near Agana. According to accounts written by Guam historians, a refugee camp was set up In Anigua (where Pigo Cemetery is now) by Civil Affairs officials. The people stayed at their designated refugee camp until villages were set up.
Dispensaries were put together, where Navy doctors and corpsmen worked tirelessly under primitive conditions to tend to the Chamorros. Malnutrition among the Chamorros was prevalent. Sanitary inspections throughout the camps were conducted daily to fight against serious illness and contamination.
Chamorro stewards’ mates and cooks who had experience from when they served in the Navy helped with the preparation of the meager food supplies.
Every meal consisted of mass feedings which became a challenge as the days went by. The Chamorros were fed salvaged Japanese food, including rice, and American’s excess C and D rations. Spam, corned beef and hash, powdered eggs and Navy issue coffee with cream and sugar became the diet of the Chamorros and was like manna from heaven. Only those who have known real hunger could say, “si yu’us ma’ase,” which translates as “to God and ate with gusto.” Dessert was chocolate bars in those days.
In spite of the circumstances, the Chamorros, with the help of Catholic chaplains attended Mass at their camps. They took care of each and put themselves in the hands of God.
Some Marines were guarding the camps and the Chamorros were grateful. Somewhere within the camp, someone will start singing “Uncle Sam, please come back…” written by Uncle Pete Rosario, as a sign of thanking America.
The words of the song are as follows:
“Uncle Sam, Please Come Back to Guam”
“Early Monday morning
The Action came to Guam,
Eighth of December
Nineteen forty-one
Oh, Mr. Sam, Sam, my dear Uncle Sam
Won’t you please come back to Guam?
Our lives are in danger
You better come
And kill all the enemies
Right here on Guam
Oh, Mr. Sam, Sam, my dear Uncle Sam
Won’t you please come back to Guam”
The constant check on the perimeter of the camps was to ensure protection from the enemies. There were several occasions where snipers took potshots from the hillside. The Chamorros were often heard singing the “Uncle Sam’s Song” and “America.”
Guam started rebuilding. Family homes in Agana were destroyed; American military felt Agana and the invasion route must be completely demolished. Many of its former residents moved to different villages to settle. My family settled in the village of Mongmong right next to Agana. As each village started rebuilding, the Chamorros practiced the Inafa’maolek (helping each other) spirit. They helped each other in building shelters with whatever materials are available.
From 1944, the Chamorros began their journey in rebuilding, ready to defend the United States Flag and the Guam Flag. In the present year, the Chamorros continue their quest to become first-class Americans. They stand tall in keeping the torch of freedom and peace from ever extinguishing … many have already given the ultimate sacrifice in the current war against terrorism.

si Joyce I. Martratt



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