by Clynt Ridgell, KUAM News
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Today was indeed a very important and happy day for those Guamanians who lived during the Japanese invasion and occupation of Guam during the Second World War, as the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act (HR 1595) was passed by the House of Representatives. Guam Congressional delegate Madeleine Bordallo fought hard to get the bill on the House floor suspend the rules and have a vote cast on it all in a short matter of time.
She referred to two separate federal review commissions who recommended that Guamanians who lived during the war be compensated for death personal injury forced labor forced march and internment under the Japanese occupation. Announced Bordallo, “The Review Commission finds that there is a moral obligation on the part of our national government to pay compensation for war damages in order to insure to the extent possible that no single individual or group of individuals bears more than a just part of the overall burden of war.”
To pass the bill, the congresswoman had a lot of help from supporting representatives. Passionate speeches were given by several of her colleagues including California democrat representative Hilda L. Solis, who said, “Two federal commissions have underscored that the that patriotism of people of Guam during their occupation was unquestionable two federal commissions recommended we make additional reparations to give them justice and parody it is past time that congress heeds the recommendations of both federal commissions to recognize their loyalty and patriotism. I urge my colleagues today to vote in favor of HR 1595.”
This is the farthest Guam has ever got in its attempts to get war reparations. It’s compensation that would affect survivors of the war like Marian Johnston Taitano, the daughter of retired U.S. Marine William Johnston and educator Agueda Johnston. “That day everything was topsy-turvy we didn’t know whether we were coming or going everybody was running all different directions I was just walking around just numb,” said Taitano.
Taitano lost both her father and her fiancee at the hands of the Japanese, but even those weren’t the worst experiences she had during the war. Her mother was among the Chamorros who helped hide George Tweed. Because of this their entire family was brought into custody and her mother tortured. She didn’t give up Tweed and was eventually released. “The first thing she said was get some vinegar and let’s go into the bedroom and her whole back was scratched from being whipped and the only medication we had at that time was vinegar. That was one of the worst times of my life to see my mother tortured like that,” Taitano continued.
People like Taitano are ecstatic that the bill has made it this far, saying, “To think of the people who got killed just think of us marching to the concentration camp drinking water where the animals and the people’s waste.” And for those who don’t believe that Taitano and others like her are deserving of war reparations, she said, “The United States Government cannot produce a more loyal bunch of people than we Guamanians and a lot of them got killed because they floated their crazy flags that they made themselves and the ones that fought and argued against the Japanese were executed. A lot of them to the very minute they were being executed vowed that they were Americans.
“And whether you give me your money or not, I remain an American.”
But Taitano says it’s not about the money because she’s already found her treasure, noting, “I’ve been on top of the rainbow and I walked until I found my pot of gold and I did the word freedom how could anything be better than that, huh?”
As far as the provisions for HR 1595, included are the following:
– $25,000 for death, payable to heirs
– $15,000 for rape or severe injury (like a loss of a limb)
– $12,000 for forced labor and other personal injury
– $10,000 for forced march or internment
– $7,000 to all heirs of those persons who survived the war but have since passed away, payable to spouse, children or parents
Governor Felix Camacho is in Washington, DC and prior to the vote he sent a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives urging them to support HR 1595.