By Zita Y. Taitano
The date July 21, 1944 is a time Chamorros—the indigenous people of the island of Guam—can never forget. On this particular day, United States Armed Forces set foot on Guam to liberate the Chamorros from two-and-a-half years of occupation by the Japanese Empire.
Many of the native islanders suffered greatly Read More
READ LIKE A WRITER, a teaching blog
By Zita Y. Taitano
On December 7, 1941, Hawaii was not the only U.S. territory to be attacked. Hours after Japanese pilots attacked Pearl Harbor, Oahu, on Dec. 7/Dec. 8 (Asian side of International Dateline), 1941, Japanese forces attacked Guam and the Philippines, which were also United States possessions like Hawaii. (Simultaneously the Japanese attacked British colonies Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaya.) Within days Japan occupied Guam and the Philippines.
WHY SHOULD AMERICANS CARE?
My intent in this brief overview is not to debate the merits or evils of colonialism. Historically it happened. There is no turning back the clock with 20-20 hindsight. The facts are that the U.S. government acquired and U.S. military protected and governed Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines at the end of the Spanish-American war in 1898-9. (For more information on exact political status in 1941 see Guampedia
for Guam, University of Alberta for the Philippines, U.S. Dept. of State for Hawaii.
During the occupation of Guam and the Philippines, many Japanese soldiers committed atrocities against the people. Even if these two islands had not been U.S. possessions for about 42 years, it’s impossible for us as a free people to stand back and not intervene when defenseless people are raped, tortured, enslaved, and murdered. Our burden to liberate the Guamanians and Filipinos was doubly so because of the nearly half a century of colonialism that caused them to be defenseless and dependent on U.S. military protection.
U.S. Marines liberated Guam July 4, 1944. U.S. military invaded the Philippines Oct. 1944. The Philippines is much larger and very rugged mountainous terrain so the battles were long and fierce. Germany surrendered May 7, 1945. Japan surrendered August 14, 1945. The Philippines became an independent nation after WWII ended. After WWII Japan lay down its weapons and the U.S. military took over its military bases. To this day the U.S. continues to provide military protection for post-war Japan, which re-directed its energies into economic development, technology, and political stability.
HOW I LEARNED TO CARE
I graduated from the University of Hawaii journalism school in 1985. Several of my professors were former war correspondents from WWII through Vietnam. When I was a reporter for the Pacific Daily News (Gannett), based on Guam, I covered political status issues such as Commonwealth hearings in Guam’s quest for self-determination and U.S.-Philippine military base negotiations. (Guam is still a U.S. Territory. Read Guampedia for political status history. The Philippines did not renew agreements for the U.S. military to use base facilities so the U.S. military only acts in an advisory capacity to Filipino military forces.)
On a personal level, I loved Guam, the Philippines, and Japan, where I also lived. My children were educated in Hawaii, Japan, and Guam and studied the history, culture, and language of these Pacific Islands. Most of all, I loved the people.
It was out of my newfound understanding of WWII history in the Pacific that I researched and wrote the novel NO SURRENDER SOLDIER. It was out of my love for the people of all these islands that I created sympathetic realistic characters in Kiko Chargalauf, a 15-year-old Chamorro boy, and his family; Kiko’s best friend, Tomas Tanaka, and his family; and even Isamu Seto, the WWII Japanese soldier modeled after the real “no surrender soldier” Shoichi Yokoi. It is my hope that this novel will raise awareness of the history and political status of these lovely Pacific islands and people. So when you remember Pearl Harbor, you will also remember Guam, the Philippines, and Japan.
[Note: This brief general primer is not intended for use as a scholarly source.] Read More