Guam Under Japanese Boots

Not a bad model for any minor Imperial world, occupied by another empire for a few years: the race-based Empire of Japan in this case, or the race-based Solomani Confederation in Traveller terms.

Note that there are degrees of racism: the Japanese certainly believed that all their enemies were subhuman, and gleefully acted on this basis. However, they were not committed to the 100% extermination policy as the Germans were.

From Scholar Space, extracted from An Island in Agony, by Tony Palomo

Guam is the southernmost island in the Mariana archipelago, a little over 200 square miles at about 14 degrees north of the equator. During 1941 there were some 20,000 people living in Guam; no less than 90 percent were of Chamorro ancestry. The other 10 percent were Americans, mostly military personnel and their dependents, Filipinos, Japanese, Chinese, some Micro-nesians, and a few persons of Spanish, German, and English ancestry. About half of the population was then living in the city of Agana. A good number were living in the seaport town of Sumay, and the villages of Agat, Umatac, Merizo, and Inarajan. Most people, including those in Agana, derived their livelihood from the farms, which were strewn throughout the 30-mile long island.

Twenty thousand people? Yes, there are Imperial worlds (and continents, and large islands) with that population. It would fit a small neighbourhood of a massive city or orbital station, too.

In 1941 Guam had been under American naval administration for four decades, or since 1898 when naval Captain Henry Glass seized the Spanish-owned island while en route to Manila to assist Admiral Dewey to subdue the Spaniards-.;and later the Filipinos–during the Spanish-American War. Believe it or not, not a drop of blood was spilled during the American takeover. In fact, the Spanish garrison of some fifty soldiers thought the booming sound coming from the USS Charleston’s cannon was a salute rather than an act of war. Needless to say, the Spaniards surrendered meekly in the face of some two thousand armed troops aboard the American naval fleet close to the reef and bound for the Philippines.

An interesting incident: empires rise and fall. Fortunately, this particular conquest didn’t involve any deaths, or even major injuries. Overwhelming force does have some ethical advantages, if the enemy can see it as such….

Several things must be understood before we dwell on the Pacific War itself. First of all, although they were mere wards of the United States, the Guamanians were very loyal to America. For more than thirty years, they sought US citizenship status, but they were consistently turned down. They remained loyal nonetheless. The Guamanians strongly believed in the greatness of America, both as a freedom-loving country and as a military power. Second, the neighboring islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota, the latter being only 45 miles north of Guam, were Japanese-mandated islands and were virtually closed ports during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Native inhabitants of these islands were also Chamorros, all related to the Chamorros in Guam. Their loyalty, however, was to Japan.

One people, two empires.

And yes, it is perfectly possible for the Solomani over there to be loyal to the Imperium, and the Solomani over here to be loyal to the Confederation.

What’s passing strange, though is that a substantial percentage of the Vilani within the Solomani Confederation are also loyal to a government that looks down on them, at best. The Need to Obey, the Love of Conformity and Respect for Authority can takes some odd twists and turns: especially if the ruling authorities puts a fair amount of resources into teaching the subjects on the rightness of their rule.

People prefer oppressive tyranny over lawless anarchy: and there are good reasons for doing so. But those are not the only choices available.

Two days later, in the early morning of Wednesday, 10 December 1941, some five thousand fully armed Japanese soldiers invaded Guam or, as the Japanese historian preferred, “advanced” into the island. The only resistance took place at the historic Plaza de Espana in Agana where about one hundred local defenders, mostly Insular Guardsmen, navymen and a few Marines fought the invaders for perhaps thirty minutes before accepting the inevitable. No one has ever established the number of people killed during the Japanese invasion. I would say one hundred, more or less. My father helped bury about thirty bodies in a mass grave along the beach in east Agana. And there were, of course, dead soldiers and sailors at the Plaza de Espana. No one seems to know how many Japanese soldiers were killed during the brief encounter. My guess is few, if any.

It ain’t easy for a small island garrison force to fight off an invasion, as the Royal Marines of the Falkland Islands could tell you in April 1982.

I bet that would be also true for a small battalion of Imperial Marines facing a full-on Solomani invasion. Even if they can get some support from loyal local units (who will have their own problems).

Guam thus became the first and only American territory conquered by a foreign power. Some people may argue that the Philippines also fell to the enemy, but it must be remembered that the US Congress passed legislation in 1934 granting independence to the Philippines, and it was during a transitional period that war broke out. Philippine independence was slated for 1944.

Well, that’s a matter for debate.

In surrendering Guam to the Japanese, Naval Governor George McMillin poignantly said:

“Captain George J. McMillin, United States Navy, Governor of Guam and Commandant, United States Naval Station, Guam, by authority of my commission from the President of the United States, do, as a result of superior military forces landed in Guam this date, as an act of war, surrender this post to you (Captain HayaShi) as the representative of the Imperial Japanese Government.

The responsibility of the civil government of Guam becomes yours as of the time of signing of this document.

I have been assured by you that the civil rights of the population of Guam will be respected and that the military forces surrendered to you will be accorded all the rights stipulated by international law and the laws of humanity. (Palomo 1984, 31)”

Shortly afterward the Japanese commandant issued the following proclamation:

We proclaim herewith that our Japanese Army has occupied this island of Guam by the order of the Great Emperor of Japan. It is for the purpose of restoring liberty and rescuing the whole Asiatic people and creating the permanent peace in Asia. Thus our intention is to establish the New Order of the World.

You all good citizens need not worry anything under the regulations of our Japanese authorities and my [sic] enjoy your daily life as we guarantee your lives and never distress nor plunder your property. In case, however, when use demand you [sic] accommodations necessary for our quarters and lodgings, you shall meet promptly with our requirements. In that case our Army shall not fail to pay you in our currency.

Those who conduct any defiance and who act spy [sic] against our enterprise, shall be court-martialled and the Army shall take strict care to execute said criminals by shooting!

Dated this 10th day of December 2601 in Japanese calendar or by this 10th day of December, 1941. By order of the Japanese Commander-in-Chief. (Palomo 1984, 31)

I wonder what a Chinese military commander would announce… and who would be his audience.

Of more interest in Traveller, would be the words of Imperial or Solomani officers to the conquered, or even the Zhodani (if the Referee puts the Zhos into an expansionary mood.)

I doubt that the Vargr would spend a lot of time talking, as it would cut into precious stealing time. But they also love-loveLOVE the spotlight, so they may well say something memorable for the cameras.

Everyone was required to report and register with the Japanese authorities. The Japanese issued orders banning possession of firearms, radios, and cameras. Those found to possess any of these instruments were subject to stiff penalties, including death. To impress the local citizenry of their seriousness about criminal or treasonable behavior, the Japanese executed two young Chamorro men by firing squad early in 1942. Shot to death–before a captive audience of Chamorros near the Catholic cemetery–were Francisco Won Pat for allegedly stealing goods at a warehouse owned by an American company, and Alfred Flores for sneaking a message to an Amer­ican friend being interned. The message allegedly sought the American’s advice on what to do with a stack of dynamite at a worksite.

“Firearms, Radios and Cameras.”

Just to remind the crew of the kind of cargo to stash in the hidden holds and cameras.

“Stacks of dynamite wouldn’t hurt, either.”

“Better know how to store them right.”

“That’s rather old-fashioned. What’s wrong with Semtex or C-4?”

“I still think some smartphones, a tutorial on how to use them well, and some tiny memory chips can inflict more damage than any amount on explosives. Extra points if you can break into the enemy commo system and silently copy over some emails and video meetings…”

All American personnel–except six navymen–were later shipped to prisoner of war camps in Japan. The six sailors fled into the jungles of Guam to await the return of American forces, which they confidently estimated would take no more than three months at the most. Only one–George Tweed–survived the war, thanks to the courageous and surreptitious assistance of dozens of Guamanians, including Antonio Artero and his family who fed and kept him in hiding for eighteen months. The others were eventually tracked down and executed by Japanese search teams. None was given a chance to surrender.

You can be sure that nothing good happened to the POWs shipped to Japan. Assuming they even made it that far, which was possible at this early stage of the war.

Also: it’s good to have some local friends, when you’re on the run.

Agana became a virtual ghost town during the occupation period. Most of its residents left the city and eked out their living in the farming areas in the outlying districts. For hundreds of years Guam’s economy had been agricultural. So the people had no difficulty making the adjustment, including my father who was a carpenter by vocation and a part-time storekeeper. When our family moved to my maternal grandparents’ ranch in Mogfog, some ten miles east of Agana, my father simply swapped the many cans of groceries and other goods in our small store for hogs, chickens, and a couple of heads of cattle, and we all became full-time farmers. We even purchased our first and only horse, Peggy by name. The soil and the farm animals became our salvation, as they did for hundreds of other city folk.

The civilians can be smarter than you think… IF they are still close to the land, and can switch over at need.

Having options is a good thing.

Although there were no underground saboteurs as we see depicted in European cities and towns, we had some pretty brave and daring souls on our little island. During the first year of the war there were at least six radio receivers operating on the island, and information on the changing tides of war was passed on, secretly of course, to key island residents–sometimes right under the noses of the Japanese. Those in-the-know learned of the fall of Bataan, Singapore, and Malaysia. They later learned of the victories at Midway, the Coral Sea, and Guadalcanal. So by the time the last of the radio receivers burned itself out the outcome of the war was a certainty.

Accurate information is as gold, in times of war.

In the meantime, the folks back at in Japan were learning of magnificent Japanese victories… which were always being won closer and closer to the Main Islands.


There were many heroes during the war, but I shall name only two because they were giants in their hearts and convictions–one was a man of God, the other a true earthly patriot.

A real country – as opposed to some thuggish tyranny – needs both.

Father Jesus Baza Duenas was a constant thorn to the Japanese, including the military and civil authorities as wen as the Japanese Catholic prelates who were brought to Guam to help sell the goodness of the Japanese Empire. Stubborn as a mule, Father Duenas refused to accept temporal orders and insisted that he was answerable only to God. “And the Japanese are not God,” he asserted many times. At a meeting called by the Japanese, Father Duenas sat at the back of the meeting room and was heard to sing–quietly–“God Bless America.” It is said that at one time a frustrated Japanese leader threatened to have the padre exiled to nearby Rota but decided not to do so for fear of an uprising by the natives. As is the destiny of most heroes, Father Duenas was executed nine days before American forces returned to Guam.

A priest worthy of respect.


PCs who wish to be heroes – a worthy cause – should remember that last line. Somebody must be the point man, for anything to get done. But you can be certain that there is a price to be paid for it.

And you may well pay that price, nine days before you get your earthly reward.

Life ain’t fair, as Father Duenas would be the first to recognize. But we must get to work, whether life is fair or not.

The other hero was Joaquin Limtiaco, an unassuming man who operated a fleet of taxicabs prior to the war. Limty, as all persons by that name are called, was recruited by Japanese intelligence to track down the American fugitives. Limtiaco did such an excellent job that he pretty much knew where the Americans were most of the time and was able to forewarn them when-ever the Japanese searchers planned a stake out at any of their many hiding places. Because of their frustrations the Japanese took it out on Limtiaco, torturing him on eight different occasions, and not once did Limty give away the Americans.

Like information, transportation (logistics) is key to even moderately successful resistance. And as always, the human element is the weak point.

Well, not always.

The Japanese were, of course, aware of the need to convert the Chamorros, recognizing that they had been under the spell of the Americans for four decades. By the middle of 1942 elementary schools were reestablished throughout the island, manned by Japanese teachers brought in from Japan. Established also was a special school geared toward training local young men and women to become interpreters and teaching assistants. In other efforts to Japanize the island, the names of Guam as well as the various municipalities were changed. Guam became “Omiya Jima,” which means “the Great Shrine Island.” The city of Agana became” Akashi” or “Red City.” The various villages were similarly renamed.

Propagandists were also utilized. Among arguments used were the potential benefits that could be derived by the Chamorros as partners in the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, which, in effect, would be the Japanese Empire comprising Japan, a big chunk of China, Indochina, Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines, and the Marianas. The empire would then be the greatest in the world, possessing everything needed to prevail, and would need nothing from outside these perimeters.

The Japanese had the propaganda tools – the media and the public school system – to solidify their rule, given enough decades.

They just didn’t have enough time. And they picked the wrong enemy.

Also: note that the Empire of Japan – like the Soviet Union and the Third Reich – was more interested in autarky (and military conquest) than in trade. Cutting themselves off from outside economic challenges, rather than facing them head-on.

Note that both modern Germans, and modern Japanese, are prospering far more with trade than with autarky and conquest.

And the occasional defeat in a trade war is far less punishing than a defeat in a shooting war.

To some extent, such propaganda worked. A story is told of a woman who, prior to the war, lived with an American navy man, and not long after the Japanese came, she commenced living with a Japanese officer. Some of her girlfriends began berating her for catering to the Japanese. Her friends, you see, had been either married to or living with Americans. The woman became so mad at her so-called friends that she lambasted them thus:

Why is it that when I have an affair with a Chamorro, it’s perfectly all right. If I have an affair with an American, it’s also all right. But now that I’m having an affair with a Japanese, you people look down on me. I have read the Ten Commandments, and the Sixth Commandment said: “Thou shall not commit adultery.” Period. It did not say “Thou shall not commit adultery with a Japanese!” They are winning the war. So they must be okay. Anyway, should the Americans return, I will have an affair with an American. (Palomo 1984, 88)

The Vilani are not the only ones with pragmatic Vilani attitudes and moral codes.

One of the most difficult things for the Chamorros to accept was the edict that the Japanese Emperor was both the temporal and spiritual leader of the empire. This was contrary to their religious upbringing because at least 95 percent of the people of Guam were Christians, the great majority Catholics.

Pagans, ancient and modern, intensely hate the idea of an authority above the State.

They really, really do.

If Guam was ever self-sufficient it was during the occupation period. Not only were we able to feed ourselves with natural food, but by late 1943 Guam began feeding thousands of Japanese troops who were returning from the war zones in the central Pacific–the Marshalls, the Solomons, Gilbert and Ellice, Papua New Guinea, and other exotic places.

When you’re hungry, you find a way to get your food.

By middle and late 1943 the Japanese demanded–and got–two things: laborers forced to help construct airstrips at several parts of the island, and more laborers forced to work at rice and vegetable plantations in various parts of the island. Thousands of people, from youngsters in their early teens to elders in their sixties and seventies, were required to toil under the hot sun at the airstrips and at the plantations. Compensation was nil.

Empires do love their slave labour.

I remember one man who loved smoking cigarettes and didn’t mind working at one of the airstrips, because at the end of the day the workers would be given a pack of cigarettes. Usually, however, the men would form a line and before each received his pack from the Japanese leader, each worker had to bow to the Japanese and say arigato (thank you). To impress the Japanese, this worker made a fanciful and elaborate bow but in his nervousness forgot the Japanese word for “thank you.” For showing off and for being forgetful the Japanese slapped him and denied him his pack of cigarettes.

Brown nosing ain’t always easy.

It was about this time that the animalistic nature of the Japanese soldiers began to emerge. The American forces were closing in, having taken the Marshalls, Gilbert and Ellice, the New Hebrides, the Solomons, and the eastern Caroline Islands. Reports from afar were all bad. Nazi Germany was on the verge of collapse. EI Duce, Benito Mussolini, was hanged by his own people. The war in China was turning from bad to worse, and the mighty Japanese Pacific fleet was in disarray.

To the Japanese, life became meaningless and worthless in Guam, particularly when the American armada began bombarding the island early in June 1944. People were killed without reason. A forty-year-old man found in a ranch in Agat was forced to kneel and slashed on the neck with a sword and . left for dead. A group of young people found in Agana during the height of the bombardment were forced to dig their own grave, beaten and stabbed, and buried alive. Rapes were frequent. Beheadings at Tai and Fonte and other places more so.

A grim irony, how the Pureblooded Master Race – the Japanese, in this case, and the Solomani in Traveller – are so very eager to rape the genetically inferior.

In victory or in defeat.

By then the Chamorros were taking it from both sides. While the Japanese were brutalizing the people on land, the American bombardment was taking its toll from the sea. Bombardment commenced as early as 8 June but was sporadic. However, beginning on 8 July and continuing day and night for thirteen consecutive days, hundreds of ships blasted Guam. And on 20 July 1944, the day preceding the landings, American carrier planes pummeled the island with 627 tons of bombs and 147 rocket shells, the most shattering weight of explosives expended in prelanding operations in the Pacific war up to that point. Of 3826 buildings throughout the island, 2631 were destroyed. And of 665 dwellings that escaped destruction, the great majority were located in the southern and south-central part of the island.

Among bombardment casualties were Tomas DeGracia Santos, struck by shrapnel on 12 July, died; Rosalia Cruz Roberto, fatally struck by an American missile on 19 June (she was six months pregnant and hiding in a cave near Sumay); Magdalena Nora L G. Shimizu, a girl who died when her head was struck by shrapnel; Frank Brown, killed during bombardment on 11 July.

Among casualties at the hands of the Japanese during the bombardment were Jose (Papa) Cruz, executed for attempting to save a downed American pilot; Gaily Camacho and Vicente Munoz Borja, among thirty victims of a massacre at Fena on 23 July; Asuncion and Maria Rabago Castro, sisters shot to death on 22 July; Diana and Josefina Sablan Leon Guerero, sisters, bayoneted to death on 18 July; Hannah Chance Torres, beaten to death on 15 July. By

Bombs don’t care who they kill.

But soldiers have their preferences.

I had wondered why the most popular song during the occupation was “Uncle Sam, Please Come Back to Guam.” The little ditty went this way: “O Mr Sam, Sam, my dear Uncle Sam, won’t you please comeback to Guam … Eighth of December, 1941, the people went crazy, right here in Guam. a Mr Sam, Sam, my dear Uncle Sam, won’t you please come back to Guam.” It was sung, indeed, but not within earshot of a Japanese. To me it meant deep love for the values that America was known to espouse. I sometimes felt it was unrequited love, but love nonetheless.

Did the war do us any good? No and yes.

No, for several reasons: First of all, we became pawns in an international conflict. We became victims of a war we had no part in causing. Second, we lost friends and relations dear to us, losses that can never be compensated. And finally, our life-styles have been changed completely–from a tranquil, parochial, and family-oriented existence to a fast-track, multicultural, and oftentimes cynical existence.

But also, yes, the war did us some good: The abiding loyalty that the Chamorros displayed during the war gave America the only rationale it needed to grant the Guamanians US citizenship and a civil government. Unfortunately, the American Congress did not grant full rights of congressional representation and voting participation in presidential elections. These latter rights would have completed the circle. America has yet to do so. And the war also made us aware of our own vulnerability in any Pacific conflict, then, now, and in the future.

One good thing about liberty: small peoples are allowed to speak up, and think for themselves.

Better to be a Chamorros in Guam than a Uighur in China.

By a country mile.

About Alvin Plummer

I'm working to build a better world, a world that blesses Christ and is blessed by Him. I hope that you're doing the same!
This entry was posted in Jumpspace Transmission. Bookmark the permalink.