Date: Tue, 17 Jul 2001 19:37:46 -0400
From: "John Dodge" email@example.com
To: "Bob Ross"
Jose Torres sent this to me and I am passing on to you. About escape from Guam.
Maybe you can use it on the website.
So near, yet so far.
In July 1944, the ships of the U.S. Navy could be seen off Merizo, almost as close as the waves rushing over the reefs that fringe the southern village.
For Juan Atoigue Cruz, just 16 years old then, those ships were the stuff of dreams.
"I would think about, make this idea for mvsel, for me to swim out to the ships, maybe go out there in the dark. Then I'd think. they'd never see me in the dark if I swam out...."He said in a recent interview. At that time in the occupation, Cruz was a salve laborer for the Japanese troops in Merizo preparing defenses against an American invasion force.
Little did he know that his wish to be aboard one of the ships would come true. On July 21, 1944, led by the late Jesus Barcinas Cruz would be in a canoe paddling to one of the Navy ships off Merizo. With them were Jose Mata Torres, who is still living, Juan Meno Garrido, Joaquin Manalisay, and Antonio L.G.. Cruz.
The men were escaping from Japanese soldiers who were becoming more and more brutal to the people of Merizo - Imperial Army troops all around the island were brutalizing Chamorros as the American forces prepared to retake the island. Women were being taken from villages and raped; beatings were more frequent.
But the soldiers, their brutality turned more evil. In Yigo, 51 men were killed in two different incidents; at Fena in the in the interior of southern Guam, a dozen Chamorros were executed at Tai, in early July, three men were beheaded, soon to be followed by the Rev. Jesus Baza Duenas and his cousin Edward.
Merizo was not spared its share of tragedy - On July 15 at Tinta, 13 men and three Women were massacred by Japanese soldier; 14 people survived but only because soldiers who were tasked to kill the wounded were caught in a heavy downpour in the hilly area and they decided to return to their encampment. They were chosen for death because they were former members of the Insular Guard Force, or considered pro-American or rebellious to the Japanese.
A day later at Faha, 30 Merizo villagers were massacred by Japanese soldiers using grenades, machine guns and bayonets. There were no survivors.
The Faha victims, Cruz said, were chosen solely because of their physical size. He remembers one of them quite well: Vicente Acfalle Champaco who was 6 foot, 7 inches tall or more. "They called him 'Carabao'," he said. Champaco was the owner of the canoe that would Cruz. Torres. and other Merizo men to freedom.
Meanwhile hundreds of villagers were ordered to march to Manegon Where the Japanese were incarcerating Chamorros to prevent tbem from assisting U.S. forces. In Merizo people gathered their belongings and the Japanese made them leave food and other items at Tintinghanom. After about three day's march villagers were encamped for the night at Atate, up Geus River valley.
Torres, Cruz and other boys earlier that day were sent back to Merizo to forage farms for chickens, pigs and vegetables; whatever they found, they were t0 bring them to Atate, Torres said.
Meanwhile, Jose Soriano Reyes and other men were ordered to go to Tintinghanom to also retrieve some food for the people at Atate. But at Atate was a large pit that villagers were earlier forced to dig. "My God. it was big -50 feet by 50 feet square." said Cruz. I was forced to work there one day and I helped dig some of that Hole."
Reyes, who had heard through the grapevine the massacres at Tinta and Faha, was convinced that the pit was for the Merizo people now at Atate. He recruited about five men, some of whom were very scared, to attack their guards at Tintinghanom.
Despite being unarmed, they succeeded in killing the guards and taking their weapons. Shortly afterward. arriving at Tintinghanom were Cruz, Torres and other boys carrying food from the village's farms. "When we arrived there, we saw a guard they had killed, killed by Joe Reyes, and then Joe shot and killed the one guarding us. He was a big man, that guard," Tones said.
Killed by the same shot was 16-year-old Gregorio Santiago. "The bullet that hit the Japanese went right through him and hit Gregorio," Cruz said. Injured in the brief fight was Jose Garrido, Who received a slight bullet wound on one of his elbows.
Return to Contributors Index Page
Return to WADSWORTH Home Page