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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Insular Affairs
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July 14th, 2011



Statement
of
Nikolao I. Pula, Jr.
Director, Office of Insular Affairs, Department of The Interior
Before The
Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans And Insular Affairs
Committee On Natural Resources
House Of Representatives
Regarding
H.R. 44
The Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act
July 14, 2011

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs, thank you for the opportunity to discuss H. R. 44, the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act.

It has been nearly 70 years since Imperial Japanese military forces invaded and occupied the United States territory of Guam, subjecting its residents to 33 months of horrific pain and death.  Through it all however, the vast majority of the largely native population, the Chamorro, remained ever-loyal to the United States.  In prayer and song, many longed for the return of the Americans. 

In a monumental operation, United States ground forces stormed the beaches of Asan and Agat on June 21, 1944.  It took nearly two months to dislodge a well-hidden enemy, but Guam was finally secured on August 10, 1944.  Although our forces experienced fierce battles throughout the Pacific, what they found and learned of Guam's occupation by the Japanese was shocking.  Fellow Americans, innocent civilians, were subjected to summary executions, beheadings, rape, torture, beatings, forced labor, forced march and internment.  Approximately 1,000 had died due to the brutality of Imperial Japanese occupation.  No U.S. state or territory suffered as bitter a fate during World War II as did Guam.

Once Guam was secured, its residents were overwhelmingly thankful that their prayers had been answered, and conversely, our grateful nation had immense admiration for them and the pain and suffering they had endured.  Cognizant of the dire straits of the people of Guam, the United States Congress passed the Guam Meritorious Claims Act in November 1945, just after the surrender of Japan,.

The U.S. Government later granted relief to certain residents of other areas occupied by Imperial Japanese military forces.  Guam was not included in this subsequent legislation under the mistaken belief that Guam residents had already been compensated by Congress.  While the Guam relief recipients were appreciative, over the years it became evident that they may not have received treatment equivalent to that later given to Americans in other areas occupied by Japanese forces.

For nearly 30 years beginning in the 1970s, Guam Delegates to Congress introduced legislation regarding war claims.  It was not until December 10, 2002 that the Guam War Claims Review Commission Act became Public Law 107-333.  Pursuant to the Act, the Secretary of the Interior appointed the Commission's five members, all of whom had experience relevant to the task at hand.

Congress had instructed the Commission to "determine whether there was parity of war claims paid to the residents of Guam under the Guam Meritorious Claims Act as compared with awards made to other similarly affected United States citizens or nationals in territory occupied by the Imperial Japanese military forces during World War II . . . ."

The Commission met on numerous occasions, held lengthy hearings both in Guam and in Washington, and exhaustively analyzed relevant information and materials before committing its collective judgment to paper in its 2004 Report on the Implementation of the Guam Meritorious Claims Act of 1945.  The Report is indeed comprehensive.  The Commission carefully stated 32 findings and developed six recommendations for the Congress. 

Included in the recommendations are:

  • $25,000 for the eligible survivors of Guam residents who died during the Japanese occupation, which amounts to approximately $25 million for approximately 1,000 deaths;
  • $12,000 for personal injury, including rape, malnutrition, forced labor, forced march, and internment (including hiding to avoid capture), to each person who was a resident of Guam during the Japanese occupation and who personally suffered any of these harms, or to the eligible survivor(s) of such individuals, which amounts to approximately $101 million for the entire 1990 census population of Guam; and
  • Establishment of a trust fund for scholarship, medical facilities, and other public purposes for the benefit of the people of Guam and for research, education and media to memorialize the events of the occupation and the loyalty of the people of Guam.

Legislation, which drew from the report, has passed the House of Representatives on several occasions beginning with the 109th Congress.  However, it has failed to receive the support that would see it through to the enactment that we believe it deserves. 

As Congress is aware, Guam is vital to the protection of American interests in Asia and the Western Pacific.  The United States since 2000 has been building up its military forces on Guam, and has plans to move about 8,000 Marines and their dependents from Okinawa to Guam as part of a bi-lateral agreement with Japan.  Many hoped that passage of the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act would exhibit good will on the part of the Federal government and would act as reciprocity for the good will and loyalty the people of Guam have always exhibited and will exhibit by hosting a large military presence. 

The Obama Administration, through the Department of the Interior, strongly supported enactment of the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act in the 111th Congress, and we continue to offer our strong support for these provisions.  Enactment of H.R. 44 would restore the dignity lost during occupation and heal wounds bound in the spirits of those who survived.  For the thousand who passed by saber or savagery their memory remains in stories of principle, courage, and sacrifice.   

The Island of Guam has undergone tremendous change since World War II, and that change will continue as its strategic value is realized in the 21st Century.  The opportunity to reach back and provide equity, parity, and justice is manifested in the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act.