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

The Chaguian Massacre Memorial is held Aug. 8, 2018, in Yigo, Guam. The ceremony honored the lives of Chamorro men who were slain at the site in the wake of World War II. U.S. service members, Japanese dignitaries, local Chamorros, and descendants of the victims all attended to pay their respects. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jake M. Barreiro)

The Chaguian Massacre Memorial is held Aug. 8, 2018, in Yigo, Guam. The ceremony honored the lives of Chamorro men who were slain at the site in the wake of World War II. U.S. service members, Japanese dignitaries, local Chamorros, and descendants of the victims all attended to pay their respects. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jake M. Barreiro)

Gregorio Calvo, Yigo native, observes a moment of silence during the Chaguian Massacre Memorial in Yigo, Guam. Calvo, born March 9, 1947, has four relatives who were lost in the 1944 massacre: Jose Cruz Borja, Alberto Salas Cruz, Juan Salas Leon Guerrero, and Juan Blas Salas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jake M. Barreiro)

Gregorio Calvo, Yigo native, observes a moment of silence during the Chaguian Massacre Memorial in Yigo, Guam. Calvo, born March 9, 1947, has four relatives who were lost in the 1944 massacre: Jose Cruz Borja, Alberto Salas Cruz, Juan Salas Leon Guerrero, and Juan Blas Salas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jake M. Barreiro)

The "Our Lady of Lourdes" Heritage Choir sings during mass before the Chaguian Massacre Memorial Ceremony August 8, 2018, in Yigo, Guam. The ceremony is observed each year in order to honor the memory of the Chamorro men who lost their lives in the massacre. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jake M. Barreiro)

The "Our Lady of Lourdes" Heritage Choir sings during mass before the Chaguian Massacre Memorial Ceremony August 8, 2018, in Yigo, Guam. The ceremony is observed each year in order to honor the memory of the Chamorro men who lost their lives in the massacre. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jake M. Barreiro)

The Chaguian Massacre Memorial is observed every year on August 8 in Yigo, Guam. The names on the wall are displayed to honor the history of the 45 Chamorro men who were executed at this site in on August 8, 1944, in Yigo, Guam. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jake M. Barreiro)

The Chaguian Massacre Memorial is observed every year on August 8 in Yigo, Guam. The names on the wall are displayed to honor the history of the 45 Chamorro men who were executed at this site in on August 8, 1944, in Yigo, Guam. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jake M. Barreiro)

John Blas, Yigo resident and Chairman of the Chaguian Massacre Committee, speaks on the history of the Chaguian massacre during a memorial Aug. 8, 2018, in Yigo, Guam. Blas, alongside students and academics from the University of Guam, have labored to discover more information on the previously obscure massacre. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jake M. Barreiro)

John Blas, Yigo resident and Chairman of the Chaguian Massacre Committee, speaks on the history of the Chaguian massacre during a memorial Aug. 8, 2018, in Yigo, Guam. Blas, alongside students and academics from the University of Guam, have labored to discover more information on the previously obscure massacre. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jake M. Barreiro)

The Andersen Air Force Base Honor Guard posts the colors during the Chaguian Massacre Memorial August 8, 2018, in Yigo, Guam. The memorial commemorated the lives of 45 Chamorro men who were executed at the site in the wake of World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jake M. Barreiro)

The Andersen Air Force Base Honor Guard posts the colors during the Chaguian Massacre Memorial August 8, 2018, in Yigo, Guam. The memorial commemorated the lives of 45 Chamorro men who were executed at the site in the wake of World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jake M. Barreiro)

Brig. Gen. Gentry Boswell, 36th Wing commander, delivers a speech at the Chaguian Massacre Memorial August 8, 2018, in Yigo, Guam. Boswell spoke at the ceremony which was attended by service members from all around Guam as well as locals of the island and Japanese dignitaries. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jake M. Barreiro)

Brig. Gen. Gentry Boswell, 36th Wing commander, delivers a speech at the Chaguian Massacre Memorial August 8, 2018, in Yigo, Guam. Boswell spoke at the ceremony which was attended by service members from all around Guam as well as locals of the island and Japanese dignitaries. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jake M. Barreiro)

Candles are lit in honor of victims of the Chaguian massacre as part of the Chaguian Massacre Memorial August 8, 2018, in Yigo, Guam. The candles are lit by service members, Japanese dignitaries, and relatives of the deceased. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jake M. Barreiro)

Candles are lit in honor of victims of the Chaguian massacre as part of the Chaguian Massacre Memorial August 8, 2018, in Yigo, Guam. The candles are lit by service members, Japanese dignitaries, and relatives of the deceased. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jake M. Barreiro)

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam --

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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