WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Tuesday, July 15, 2008, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo of Guam and Resident Representative Pedro A. Tenorio of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana commemorated the historic World War II battles that liberated Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands in a wreath laying ceremony at Arlington Cemetery.
The wreath laying ceremony marking the 64th anniversary of the Liberation of Guam and the Battle for the Northern Marianas was held at the Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns at 8 a.m. today. The ceremony is a tribute to the Sailors, Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen who fought in the War in the Pacific and the people of Guam who endured wartime occupation.
Guam Liberation Day marks the historic July 21, 1944 landing of U.S. troops on Guam to begin the recapture of the island from entrenched Japanese forces -- a milestone in the island’s history and a significant U.S. military campaign that had earlier secured Saipan and Tinian in the Northern Marianas.
U.S. forces suffered 1,700 killed and 6,000 wounded in retaking Guam. More than 18,000 Japanese were killed in the battle. For Guam’s indigenous Chamorro people, the return of the Americans ended two-and-a-half years of occupation by Japanese forces, who had captured Guam on Dec. 11, 1941. About 700 Chamorros lost their lives during the war years.
Special tribute was made at the wreath laying ceremony for the two Guam Army National Guard members who were killed in action last week while on deployment in Afghanistan. A third Guam soldier was seriously injured in the same attack. The Guam Army National Guard identified the two casualties as 34-year-old Sergeant Brian S. Leon Guerrero of Tamuning and 28-year-old Specialist Samson A. Mora from Dededo. The two died on July 10 from injuries sustained after their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device in Babo Kheyl, Afghanistan. The third Guard member, 25-year-old Specialist Kalani Echang from Mangilao, was seriously injured from the incident. All three soldiers were assigned to the 294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard, Barrigada, Guam.