At least once a year, World War II survivor Juan T. Guzman returns home. He was born in Sumay and like all other Sumay residents was forced to leave the village behind after the war.
He was able to visit what remains of the village on Tuesday, to pay homage to those that didn’t survive through the war during a memorial ceremony.
Sumay cemetery, along with the cross from the old church, and the ruins of some homes, long-since taken over by the jungle, are all that's left of the village, which the U.S. Navy took over.
Visiting the Sumay cemetery on Naval Base Guam brought back Guzman’s memories of life in the village.
“Growing up in Sumay with the people that I love and the village I love, it was the most economical village on island,” Guzman said.
Sumay was a port of entry prior to the war, the Marines had barracks there and other Naval shipping operations were situated along the coastal village. The Trans-Pacific Cable Company anchored its station at Sumay in 1903, linking Guam with both Asia and the United States, according to Guampedia. Pan American Airways landed its China Clipper at Sumay in 1935, and built Guam’s first hotel there.
It was the second most populated village on the island after Hagåtña.
Guzman was just a boy during World War II. At the age of 10 he had to work for the Japanese during the occupation.
Fit and young, Guzman was given a cow and a cart which he used to move weapons for Japanese soldiers.
At the end of the war, Guzman was marched from Sumay to Manenggon in Yona.
“But we’ve been moving around so much since the occupation. But I thank God the we survived, that everyone survived. We pray for those that didn’t survive as well,” Guzman said.
By the time U.S. Marines and soldiers arrived in July 1944, Guzman had seen a friend shot and killed by Japanese forces.
After the war, Guzman was happy he survived but found himself without a home.
“When they recaptured Guam in 1944, we were evicted. We can not return back home to review our village. Instead, they relocated us up to the mountains in Santa Rita, that was our final destination,” Guzman said.
Now 87-years old, he calls Santa Rita home, but Guzman said he will never forget his real home.
War survivor Rosa Perez Diaz Damian, although young, also remembered being marched to a concentration camp.
“I was only 2 years old when the war broke in. We had to climb the mountain to go to Manenggon and at 2 years old that’s very hard,” Damian said.
Six months before the war started her father died. While she didn’t speak of her mother she did share that she had two brothers, one was 6 months old and the other 4 years old at the onset of the war.
While she did not recall all the atrocities of the war, she did remember a memory that brought a smile to her face.
“After the war when the Americans came in we lived in a tent, a big tent, a military tent, and my brother would go to the galley and bring back slush ice with orange and apple," Damian said.
On Tuesday, Naval Base Guam granted entry to the Sumay Cemetery allowing former residents and dignitaries to participate in a blessing and wreath-laying ceremony as part of Liberation festivities to celebrate 77 years since the end of the Japanese occupation.