Manenggon Memorial Foundation holds ceremony

Wreaths were presented at the Manenggon Memorial during this year's ceremony. (PNC video capture)

The Manenggon Memorial Foundation held a ceremony today in memory of one of the worst atrocities to happen in Guam during World War II.

This is the anniversary of the march to the Manenggon concentration camp and other smaller camps around the island during WWII.

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Manenggon is a valley located between the villages of Yona and Talofofo.

Thousands of people from infants to the elderly were forced to march to the camp coming as far north as Yigo and far west as Agat.

The people were herded along by soldiers wielding bayonets who were noted for their many accounts of cruelty.

Among the thousands of CHamorus held at the camp, 45 men were taken and forced to carry supplies to an Imperial Japanese Army command post and were later killed in order to prevent them from providing information to the American forces.

The foundation aims to instill an appreciation of the sacrifices, hardships, and stories of the CHamoru people during the Japanese occupation in WWII.

Yona mayor Bill Quenga said: “Today we gather here to commemorate and honor those who experienced one of the worst atrocities that took place at the end of the Japanese occupation of Guam during WWII. Manenggon Valley was one of the largest camps that held many men, women, and children. The memories of those atrocities suffered here, endure in the hearts of the people of Guam. The stories and memories of those who lived through this will never be forgotten.”

Thousands of CHamorus and other inhabitants of Guam were forced to march to these camps… after the Japanese caught the news that American forces were moving in.

The camps were catalysts for heinous acts such as rape, beheadings, executions, and disappearances.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said: “Every year, we come here to honor, memorialize, pray and recognize those who have died here, those who have suffered here, and those who have survived the most atrocious war ever experienced in the lives of our CHamoru people. We remember how our people were forced to march to this place. We remember the many who have died on the way. Our manamko who were frail and could not make the march. Our babies who were born, and died and were left on the side of the road. The mothers who cried out for the safety of their children. The fathers who were forced to work and beaten.”

The governor further stated that these experiences have taught the people of Guam to become stronger, more resilient, more innovative, and better people.

Leon Guerrero expressed thanks to the American military that helped liberate the CHamorus and the people of Guam during the war.