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No longer forgotten: U.S. service members, Japanese dignitaries, Chamorros observe Chaguian Massacre Memorial in Yigo

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jake M. Barreiro
  • 36 Wing Public Affairs

Military members around Guam took part in the Chaguian massacre memorial August 8, 2018, in Yigo.

The ceremony is observed annually to honor the memory of 45 Chamorro men who lost their lives at the site in 1944, where defeated occupational forces from Japan bound and decapitated the civilian prisoners after forcing them to haul goods and supplies to a military outpost in Yigo.

Often referred to as the “Forgotten Massacre”, both due to its occurrence after the July 21 liberation of Guam and relative obscurity compared to other annual observances in Manenggon, Asan, Faha and Tinta, Fena Cave, and Sumay, the ceremony has taken on greater significance in recent years due to discoveries shining light on the tragedy’s dark details.

Illuminating the wounds of the past and working together towards healing them was the message echoed by all at the memorial.

“This ceremony today is about commemoration, this ceremony is about consolation, this ceremony is about forgiveness,” said Mayor of Yigo Rudy Matanane. “Most importantly, and more than anything else in the world, this ceremony is about peace.”

The memorial held a special significance this year after students and academics at the University of Guam discovered hand-written journals recorded in the 1940s by U.S. Marines detailing seven additional men decapitated in a previously unknown slaughter at Salisbury.

John Blas, Yigo resident and Chairman of the Chaguian Massacre Committee, hopes to continue the discoveries in order to bring closure to the people of Guam.

“We keep looking into this because I hope if I keep passing on this information there are more people who will come forward,” said Blas during the memorial. “We’ve had names brought to light, but there are still unknowns. We commemorate them hoping one day to have unknowns no more.”

Gregorio Calvo, born in Yigo on March 9, 1947, was one of many relatives of the deceased who attended the ceremony. Calvo has four relatives on the memorial wall stemming from his mother and father’s lineages. The continued public support and honoring of these victims is important, he said.  

“Growing up, my dad was always telling me about what happened in the war,” said Calvo, whose father narrowly survived an execution march to Yigo himself. “It means a lot to me that we have these commemorative ceremonies because through this the names of the people we loved can live on.”

Continuing on through progress and unity was the message that Brig. Gen. Gentry Boswell, 36th Wing commander and guest speaker at the ceremony, spoke of during his speech.  

“While the world we live in today is still imperfect, it is a far better one than was witnessed by these men,” said Boswell in his speech. “We have grown in healing and forgiveness, and those that were former enemies are now allies. We all stand together as friends and family. It is side by side that we remember.”

Calvo, who no longer lives in Yigo but attends the memorial annually, said he appreciates the outpouring of support from both military and Japanese representatives. Remembering the past gives him a sense of restoration through truth and forgiveness.

“We have so much appreciation and gratitude for everyone that works on and observes these memorials,” he said. “We are a grateful people. This gives us a sense of closure and hope.”

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