KOSRAEANS CELEBRATE WWII LIBERATION

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By Tammy Anderson

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Sept. 11) – Eleanora Wilson remembers the first time she saw an American serviceman step ashore on her island home of Kosrae.

She was 7 years old, and the Japanese had been occupying Kosrae and enforcing harsh living conditions with even harsher labor sentences. At the time, Wilson was living with her parents and four brothers in a village near the shore.

She said she felt "joyous" as she watched American ships pull in closer to land. Sailors and soldiers made their way to solid ground, she recalled, and finally erected the Stars and Stripes that declared Kosrae liberated Sept. 8, the same day Japanese had planned to kill the Kosraean people.

"We were hoping that they would come," the now-69-year-old said as she sat at the Mangilao Eagle Field yesterday afternoon. She was one of the many members of the Kosraean Association of Guam that took part in the 61st anniversary liberation celebration.

Wilson's nephew, Aren Palik, 46, sat by her left side. He said the celebration was focused on keeping stories like his aunt's alive in the Kosraean youth.

"Every year this is one of the opportunities we get to impact the younger generations," he said.

Kosraean Association of Guam President Ittu Alik, 39, said the celebration lasts for days and is similar to the Liberation Day activities on Guam. The fact that Guam and Kosrae celebrate being liberated, he said, unites the island communities and generations.

Part of yesterday's events included a retelling of the liberation story of Kosrae over the loud speaker, Alik said. Everyone, including the children running around the field clutching cans of soda or cups full of colorful crushed ice, would gather and listen to the story of Sept. 8.

"We hope that someday (the children) will be picking it up," he said of the celebration.

Nearby, mothers and wives laughed and shouted encouraging words in hopes that their favorite softball player on the field would hear their screams over the loudspeaker.

A group of middle-schoolers standing on the sidelines agreed that of all the Kosrae gatherings, yesterday's was by far the best of the year because people from all villages attended.

They all said they loved hearing their grandparents' stories about the war and agreed it did not sound very easy to live through.

"They didn't have any food," 11-year-old Gigi Langu said.

"They had no shoes," her friend Shrue Robert, 12, chimed in.

"Their houses got broken into," Kemilyn Tilfas, 10, added. "It was scary."

When asked why they thought celebrating the liberation of Kosrae was important, the group had many answers but all agreed on the largest significance of the party -- to honor their elders who lived through the liberation.

"We ask them about it," 11-year-old Nikita Tolenoa said, "to see the difference from life then, to life now."

September 12, 2005

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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