WWII HEROICS REMEMBERED AT GUAM’S ASAN BAY

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Somber ceremony marks battle for liberation

By Zita Y. Taitano

HAGATNA, Guam (Marianas Variety, July 15, 2009) – It was a somber moment at the Asan Bay Overlook Memorial National Park as dignitaries, members of the military, residents and veterans honored the soldiers and Chamorros who lost their lives to bring Guam back its freedom. Staff Sgt. Cyzy Leonen and Tech Sgt. Ed Biacan carry the wreath during yesterday’s commemoration ceremony at the Asan Bay Overlook Memorial National Park. Photo by Paul Blas

During a wreath laying ceremony at the overlook, keynote speaker Piti Mayor Ben Gumataotao touched on his teenage years when the island was invaded and taken over by the Japanese for nearly three years.

Gumataotao was only 14 and living with his family in Sumay village, now Naval Station, when World War II broke out.

"This peaceful village life we enjoyed turned chaotic overnight. I was working at the Marine Barracks when the bombs and shooting started. I ran for cover and got hit by a stray bullet fired from machine guns above. Luckily I survived the ordeal," he said.

He went on to recall how right before the liberation of the island, Japanese Imperial Forces had planned to eradicate the entire Chamorro population.

"That plan failed because the United States Armed Forces came and took the Japanese by surprise. Yes, we were liberated by enemy occupation and for that, we will be forever grateful," said Gumataotao.

Acting Governor Mike Cruz reminded the audience of the price of freedom. "There is a huge and heavy price to pay for freedom. That price is paid for by everybody. To those who have lost it such as our people on Guam through the multiple years of living under the heavy heal of tyranny, to those that came to help us gain it, as it was with the Marines and the soldiers and the sailors that stormed these very beaches," he said.

"But then there’s a heavy price to even those who took away those freedoms because remember there were thousands and thousands of Japanese that died on these very grounds, and unfortunately (a) very heavy price to keep it, to maintain it and that is continuing today in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in the Horn of Africa, in the Philippines, by the men and women of our owned armed forces who are sitting with us today. Let us give us tribute."

Following Cruz’s speech, the acting governor, along with Gumataotao, First Lady Joann Camacho and two Guam National Guardsmen, placed the wreath on the World War II memorial wall. A rifle volley was conducted by soldiers and Taps echoed in the background nearby.

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