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By Benhur C. Saladores

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (February 1, 2000 – Saipan Tribune)---After more than 50 years, a group of Chamorro and Carolinian men yesterday formally received U.S. recognition for military service during World War II, which officials described as one of the earlier links that formed the bond between the islands and the United States.

Immediately after being handed the medal and their plaque during a ceremony at the Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe, the elderly men were given their discharge papers with the rank of corporal and with promises of benefits normally extended to the nation's war veterans.

With the recognition, they now join over 70,000 Army soldiers, Air Force officers, Navy servicemen and Marines from the U.S. military who fought on Saipan and Tinian against Japanese forces during World War II.

Over a hundred of their families and friends as well as island officials attended yesterday's historic event, held during the joint session of the Legislature that also drew the presence of Brig. Gen. R.E. Parker, commanding general of the U.S. Marine Corps Base in Hawai‘i and personal representative of Marine Corps Commandant General James L. Jones.

The 50 civilian men, most of whom are now dead and unable to witness this overdue recognition, served as part of the group that helped American forces round up Japanese holdouts and snipers on Saipan and parts of the Northern Islands.

Called "scout/guide" and "native policemen," these men were enlisted in 1944 after the U.S. seized the islands from Japan. They were trained by the Marine Corps for combat and remained on active duty between June 1944 and September 1945. For years, however, they were never acknowledged as U.S. veterans.

Through efforts of CNMI Representative to Washington Juan N. Babauta and other island officials, they last year received official recognition for their military service by the U.S. Department of Defense -- a process Babauta said took seven years and 50,000 pages of military records.

"Their service became one of the first essential links between our people and the people of the United States," Mr. Babauta said in his speech. "A link unfortunately America for too long failed to recognize. A link that came perilously close to being altogether forgotten."


Twenty-one of the Marine scouts personally received their recognition during the emotional ceremony, while relatives of those who died represented the rest in the list.

"I am happy that finally the U.S. recognized the service they provided during the Second World War," said the governor after the two-hour rite that included s 15-gun salute from the Army Reserve.

Gen. Parker praised the men's "gallant and loyal service" as he cited their "greatest contribution" to the American flag during the war. "This recognition is long time coming," he said in his remarks, noting their motto of "Once a Marine, Always a Marine."

According to Mr. Babauta, processing of papers for those living veterans will be done immediately to ensure that they get the benefits provided under federal law.

"I feel so great to have completed this and having the men recognized and now designated as veterans. This was my goal and the goal of many others in the community," he told reporters in an interview after the ceremony.

Mr. Babauta formally petitioned the Air Force for veteran’s status for the men in 1997 with a 100-page application relating their story when the Marine Corps recruited them after the 1944 invasion of Saipan.

It included affidavits collected from the surviving men as well as historical documents uncovered in military archives by his office.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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