World War II Guam: The Chamorros (1941-45)

Figure 1.--The Chamorros were jubilant over the arrival of the Americans after 2 1/2 years of brutal Japanese occupation. There was military equipment scattered all over the island, especially Japanese equipment, which of course the boys picked up on. The photo was taken on the Guam immediatly after the Americams liberated the island (July 1945). Notice the one boy wearing a Japanese helmet. We are not sure why the Japanese had gas masks at this stage of the War. Perhaps they were delivered earlier or perhaps they were useful when their underground empacements filled with smoke. .

The indigenous population of the Marianas were the Chomorros, Very little is know about their early history. Some sourxe estimate that the pre-colonial population exceeded 100,000 people, but this is difficult to confirm. As a result of European diseases and Spanish mistreatment, yhe population was only about 10,000. To mpre efeectively control the population, most of th Chomorros were relocated to Guam where most lioved ar the time of World War II. The Northern Mariana Islands had become a Japanese protectorate as a result of World War I. Most of the native population, the Chamorros, lived on Guam. The Japanese brought some of the Chamorros from the Northern Marianas to Guam to serve as interpreters and in various other capacities to support for the occupation authorities. The Guamanian Chamorros spoke English and were generally sympathetic toward the Americans. The Japanese military thus viewed the Guamanian Chamorros as an occupied enemy population. And because the Northern Marianas Chamorros were treated differently, ill will grew between the two groups of Chmorros. Guaman Chamorros believed that their northern brethren should have been compassionate towards them. The Northern Mariana Chamorros after living under Japanese rule for 30 years were loyal to the Japanese. The Japanese as with other occupied people, subjected the Guamamian Chamorros to forced labor, family separation, incarceration, execution, concentration camps, and legalized rape (forced prostitution) for the occupying soldiers. At least 1,000 Chamorros were killed or other wise died of abuse and mistreatment. The U.S. Congress held hearings in 2004 to investigate the abuses. Other sources report mortalities of up to 2,000 Chamorros. That would be 10 percent of the population. [Gruhl] Needless to say, the Chomorros were jubilant to see the Americans returning to drive out the Japanese. The Chomorros served as guides and helped the Americans located Japanese emplacenents throughout the island. Guam is today the only U.S. territory with a substantial population occupied by a foreign power. We do not know at this time to wht extent Japanese soldiers were procecuted for war crimes. The U.S. Congress after the war passed the Guam Organic Act of 1950 which established Guam as an unincorporated organized territory of the United States. The law provided for the structure of the island's civilian government, and granted the the Chomorro people U.S. citizenship. Guam is not a U.S. state, thus U.S. citizens residing on Guam are not allowed to vote for president and their congressional representative is a non-voting member.


Gruhl, Werner. Imperial Japan's World War Two, 19311945 (Transaction Publishers, 2007).


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Created: 11:05 PM 8/11/2008
Last updated: 5:02 PM 12/29/2012