Saturday, April 19, 2014

Blas Recounts the Suffering of War Survivors Who Have Passed Away in Support of Guam War Claims Act

Guam News - Guam News

Guam -  Senator Frank Blas Jr. recounts the suffering of a number of victims of the occupation in his testimony supporting the Guam war claims bill.

Oral testimony was heard by the House Insular Affairs subcommittee last Thursday in Washington but written testimony is still being accepted.

In his testimony, Senator Blas, who President of the Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation, recounts some of the harrowing stories of  abuse told to the War Claims Review Commission in 2003.

Each person cited by the Senator, who gave testimony to that Commission 8 years ago, has now died.

In his testimony Blas states: "The  tragedy in their passing is that they were never  recognized for their loyalty to the United States or for the suffering they endured because the enemy saw them as Americans. lt is in their honor that I plead their case for recognition and  ask that you look favorably  on and support the passage of the Guam World War ll Loyalty Recognition Act.

READ Senator Blas' testimony in FULL below:


Hafa Adai (Greetings)

Mr. Chairman and members of the House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and lnsular Affairs.

I am Frank F. Blas, Jr., Minority Leader for the 31st Guam Legislature and also President of the Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation, and I want to thank you for the opportunity to submit written testimony in support of H.R. 44 (the Guam World War ll Loyalty Recognition Act).

ln December 8th and 9th of 2003, a War Claims Review Commission (a panel created by Public Law l-07-333, L16 Stat. 2873, known as the Guam
War Claims Review Commission Act) held hearings on Guam to receive oral testimony from survivors of the World War ll Japanese occupation of the
island. ln the two- day period, the Commission heard from over 90 individuals who testified about the brutality, the fear, the agony, and the pain that
was endured by the people of Guam from December, L94L to July of 7944.

During those hearings, the Commission received testimony from Dr. Rosa Palomo Carter, who stated that she was twelve when Guam was first  ccupied by Japanese lmperial  Forces. She told of the squalid conditions she and her family were forced to live in.

She told of the forced labor and interrogation she was subjected to as a child. And she also told of having to forage for food and fearing many
times that she would starve to death.

The Commission also heard from Mr. Edward L.G. Aguon, who stated that he was fifteen when Guam was invaded. Mr. Aguon testified that
during the occupation, he and others were forced to watch as people were brutalized, tortured and killed. He had agonizing memories of seeing
people's faces as the final stab of the bayonet pierced their flesh, and hearing their cries as their last breath left their bodies.

Mr. Aguon ended his testimony by stating that he was77 years old, and if he was asked again to testify in another ten years, he may not be able
to testify.

Mrs. Delores Cruz Meno also testified before the Commission in 2003. Mrs. Meno provided that she was ten years old and the youngest in a family
of ten children when Guam was occupied. She told of the  farm labor she was forced to perform in order to feed the Japanese occupiers. She
also told of a forced march that she and others feared would lead them to their deaths. Mrs. Meno testified that while the march was unexplainably halted,
she later learned that her two oldest brothers were killed by Japanese soldiers at the place she was supposed to march to.

Mr. Cristobal Reyes was also given the opportunity to testify before the War Claims Review Commission in December 2003. While there, Mr.
Reyes testified that although he was just an infant  during the occupation, he was informed of the atrocities by his father and wanted to share
his father's information.

Mr. Reyes stated that because of his father's complexion and build, the Japanese soldiers suspected that he was part American and subjected him to
brutal beatings.

Mr. Reyes' father feared  that he was going to be killed but an old Japanese friend and pre-war Guam resident convinced the Japanese soldiers
that Mr. Reyes' father was not American, but was of  Chinese ancestry. Another survivor that was allowed to testify in the 2003 hearings was Mr.
Jesus Perez Sablan. Mr. Sablan said that he was fourteen when Guam was thrust into the war, and throughout the occupation, was he
was subjected to continuous forced labor.

Mr. Sablan testified that although his family was originally from Sumay (a village that was once located near the south of Guam), the family was forced
to move  to different villages around the island, and when they thought that they could finally settle in Yigo (the northern-most village on the island), they
were forced to march to a concentration camp in Mannenggon. To sum up his experience, Mr. Sablan stated in his presentation, "Believe me, war is hell."

Lastly, the War Claims Review Commission received testimony from Mr. Juan Unpingco who stated then that he was seventeen when the war started
on Guam and that throughout the occupation, he witnessed so many horrible incidents that he now suffers from nightmares. Mr. Unpingco testified that
his aunt was raped, his parents were brutally beaten, and he and his siblings were forced into labor.

ln his testimony, Mr. Unpingco told of a time when he, his father, and his brother were rounded up with other individuals to carry munitions for the Japanese  soldiers.  His father and brother were sent with a group that headed to the south of the island, and he was to carry munitions with others
to the north.

Mr. Unpingco stated that during the trek he found an opportunity to flee and was grateful that he did so because he later learned that all the
individuals in his group were beheaded after delivering their supplies. ln the lntroduction of his book, "Bisita Guam: Let Us Remember (NihiTa
Hasso),"  former Guam Delegate to the U.S. Congress and retired Marine Brigadier General Ben Blaz wrote the following: "For the People of
Guam, World War ll was as personal as war could get. That is not to say that for people throughout the country, the war did not strike directly into
their homes. From loved ones going  off to battle, to rationing, to the makeup of the workforce, every American was deeply affected. But no
Americans could say  that the cities or towns where they had been born were invaded, none could say they lived under the harsh dictates of
an occupying force, no one in  the United States could say he or she suffered unique privations simply for being American - except the people of
Guam. The only other  American territory occupied by hostile forces was the Aleutian lslands off Alaska, but they had no permanent population. Among Americans, only  the people of Guam know what it means to live under the hostile yoke of  a foreign conqueror.

Each of the 22,000 people who lived on the island  through the occupation has his or her tale to tell.  As must happen, however, those who experienced
the occupation  first hand  are inexorably growing fewer and fewer. lt will not be too many more years before those of us who were  there will be gone, and there will be no one left to attest to the facts of  life under the control of a foreign military that viewed Guamanians as potential, if not outright
enemies - a people who  had to  be subjugated by iron, totalitarian rule  to keep us in line."

General Blaz  himself  is a survivor of the Japanese occupation of Guam. During the House Hearing held on this measure on July L5, 2OtL, it
was obvious that  members of the subcommittee were concerned  that passage of this bill could result in additional war claims and there was
further concern of where the funding would come from to pay such compensation.

I submit that the testimony and answers provided by Mr. Mauricio Tamargo and  Brigadier GeneralVicente  G.  Blaz, USMC (ret) adequately
addressed the concerns expressed by the Honorable Jeff Landry. I further submit that there exists no reasonable or logical explanation to continue
to deny the  people of Guam who endured the cruelty and agony of the Japanese occupation their rightful recognition and compensation.

Mr. Chair and members of the subcommittee, I  began my testimony by  giving you excerpts of previous testimonies because had Dr. Carter,
Mr. Aguon, Mrs. Meno, Mr. Reyes, Mr. Sablan, or Mr. Unpingco been given the opportunity to testify before you, I am sure that they would have
provided you the same. But I submit to you  that their chance to again relive their experiences would not be possible, because they have all since
passed away. These survivors, along with almost twenty thousand (20,000) of the twenty-one thousand (21,000) people of Guam who were "liberated" from enemy occupation  sixty- seven (67) years ago have since left their earthly dwellings. The  tragedy in their passing is that they were never  recognized for their loyalty to the United States or for the suffering they endured because the enemy saw them as Americans.  lt is in their honor that
I plead their case for recognition and  ask that you look favorably  on and support the passage of the Guam World War ll Loyalty Recognition Act.

Thank You.