Secretary of the Interior Names War Claims Commissioners
(September 11, 2003, Washington, D.C.) Former Guam Speaker Antonio Unpingco, former Guam Supreme Court Justice Benjamin J. Cruz and former U.S. Congressman Robert J. Lagomarsino were among five persons appointed by Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton to serve on the Guam War Claims Review Commission, the Department of the Interior announced today. Norton also appointed to the Commission former acting Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Territorial and International Affairs Ruth Van Cleve and Mauricio Tamargo, chairman of the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission.
Secretary Norton's appointments were announced at the Department of the Interior's Office of Insular Affairs with Guam Governor Felix P. Camacho and Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo in attendance. The Commission was authorized by legislation authored by former Congressman Robert Underwood, and Congresswoman Bordallo worked to secure funding for it. In July, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior David B. Cohen announced that the Office of Insular Affairs would provide a grant of $300,000 to fund the Commission.
The Commission will review the facts and circumstances surrounding the implementation and administration of the Guam Meritorious Claims Act to determine whether that measure fairly and effectively addressed the war claims of American nationals residing on Guam between December 8, 1941, and July 21, 1944. In particular, the Commission will seek to determine whether claimants under the Guam Meritorious Claims Act were treated in parity with other U.S. citizens and nationals who were in territory occupied by the Japanese military during World War II.
Within nine months, the Commission must submit a report to the Secretary of the Interior, the Committee on Resources and the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate.
On December 8, 1941, Japanese armed forces invaded Guam and seized control of the island
from the United States. Japanese forces occupied Guam for nearly three years. Guam is the only current part of the United States that was occupied by the Japanese armed forces during World War II. On July 21, 1944, the United States armed forces liberated Guam from Japanese occupation.