Decades After Abuses by the Japanese, Guam Hopes the U.S. Will Make Amends
In July 1944, American warships were bobbing on the Pacific horizon when a squad of Japanese soldiers swept through this old Spanish fishing port. Jogging down sandy alleys and bursting into stucco homes, they rounded up 30 villagers, all known for their ties to the United States.
With the 60th anniversary of Japan's World War II surrender on Monday, elderly Guam residents hope American politicians will go beyond solemn speeches and act to compensate them for abuses they suffered under Japan's 32-month occupation.
Often overshadowed by the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan's occupation of this American island started Dec. 10 and continued until American soldiers returned to Guam on July 21, 1944, a date celebrated as Liberation Day.
With 83 Congressional sponsors supporting the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act, a House bill introduced in April, momentum for compensation is building.
Guam officials have asked the State Department to ask Japan for a formal apology. They did not include the request in the bill for fear of creating diplomatic problems.
After Japan's surrender, the Navy Department, which had administered Guam before the war, started to judge damage claims filed under the Guam Meritorious Claims Act of 1945.
At a time of high illiteracy rates, no newspapers or telephones, and a language barrier between Navy administrators and the largely Chamorro-speaking population, many claimants missed what amounted to a six-month window to file claims. In the testimony, many older residents said they were never aware in 1946 of the claims system.
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