Rising from the horrors of war without fear

AUGUST 1944: On the back of this photo is a sticker showing the name of the news organization, International News Photo, San Francisco Bureau, and what may be the initials of the photographer following the caption’s date: “Guam Island Major General Roy S. Geiger, Commanding General of the Third Marine Amphibious Corps is shown in this picture surrounded by cheerful Guam children after their rescue from the (Japanese) at Agana, Capital City of Guam. ... Sent 'AC' 8/10/44 EWH.” Photo courtesy of Robert Sargee

It's been 75 years.

For the Guamanians who survived the brutal Japanese occupation of World War II, and the descendants of those who died during or in the aftermath of the war, today marks another milestone.

Three-quarters of a century have passed since U.S. troops launched an invasion to free Guam from Japanese occupiers.

About 14,721 Guam civilians endured war atrocities.

Seventy-five years ago, U.S. troops stormed Guam to free the captive locals who were forced to march to labor camps, killed with bayonets, tortured and subjected to other horrors.

The death toll was heavy. Based on a U.S. government count, 1,170 Guam civilians and 1,880 American servicemen were killed. And the Japanese deaths totaled as many as 18,000.

Today, we continue to hear more voices from people who witnessed the war and lived to tell their stories.

There will be mixed feelings today as the island marks its 75th Liberation Day. Many will celebrate the freedom that cost so many lives. Some will reflect and remember those who were lost.

For the living survivors, closure awaits – pending the payment of war reparations.

Throughout their struggles, Guamanians remained strong in their belief that one day they would be freed from the horrors of war and their faith never wavered.

"Ti apmam! Na'i animu" or "It won't be long. Take courage" became a common greeting among the Guamanians who were counting on the Americans to return, according to the National Park Service War in the Pacific: The First Year.

It was only a matter of time.

After having been under the Japanese occupation from 1941 to early 1944, Guam's liberation came in July 1944.

Some have used their lessons of pain to become stronger.

As war survivor Edna Mae Leon Guerrero said: "I am fearless."

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