I want to summarize my personal experiences in the forced labor movement; the personal witnesses that I have made in the brutalities that I have seen done to Chamorros and to one U.S. American pilot, whose plane was downed in the Machananao area; the arrest of Jose Leon Guerrero Cruz, the natural father of the late Senator Cecilia Bamba was arrested and killed, subsequently, because of his efforts in attempting to assist the U.S. pilot escape; and the hardship that I and my family members have endured as a result of the Japanese order for a forced march to a concentration camp.
My name is Francisco Leon Guerrero Castro. I am 73 years old. During the invasion of the Japanese in Guam, I was barely over 11 years old when they enforced the forced labor from 10 to 60. I was barely over 13 years old and when the Americans finally came, I was barely 14 years old.
My first assignment with the forced labor was to work on what they called the Jalaguak-Tiyan air field site. I got involved majorly in clearing sites with machetes and piling up loose rocks and whatever else that I could do. During which times, of course, I have witnessed and I have escaped death, many a times, from the attacks of the American aircrafts. I have seen Japanese as well as Chamorros get hit. Fortunately, I got out of it unscratched. Sometimes I wondered how.
My second assignment on the forced labor was to a sawmill in Fafaluk and Alakunao area, which is what is now known as the Northwest Field area, up north. There, I was assigned to pile up strip lumber and to gather feed for the cattle. Incidentally, cattle then were used to haul out the timbers that were cut down by the older men, from the jungle to the sawmill. So, that was my jobs, piling up strip lumbers and feeding the cattle.
Then, my last forced assignment was a detail to the widening of the Bullcart Trail connecting Machananao, Pigua', Chagui'an and what is now known as the Japanese Memorial Park Yigo. The Japanese Memorial Park was the last stronghold of the Japanese commanding general Guam. Obviously, at that time, they intended to widen the road from Yigo to Machananao through these areas that I had mentioned. In working in the widening of that road, there was this one day when an American aircraft was approaching our area. As it got closer to us, it keep decreasing in altitude. Finally, it went down in a coconut plantation area in Machananao.
I was close by. I was in one of the groups working close by. So, we all ran to the aircraft site. It was then when I saw Jose Cruz, better known in Guam as Josen Papa. Like I said, he was the natural father of the late Senator Cecilia Bamba. Him and another person attempted to rescue the U.S. pilot. Unfortunately, before they got to the ground, the Japanese troops came. I witnessed the brutality that that pilot went through. I witnessed also the brutality when Jose Cruz was arrested for trying to assist the pilot.
Subsequent to those days, we then had the order for a forced march to concentration camp in Manenggon. Because of my father's fear of what the Japanese might have intended ... One person that testified here, I also recollected that during the Japanese occupation, a Japanese national who was living in Guam, way before the war and during the war, had circulated the rumor when they started seeing Uncle Sam come back to Guam, she started circulating the rumor that when the Americans gets back to Guam, they won't find nothing but flies. That statement was very true.
When my father suspected what the forced march is all about, he gathered us and told us that instead of going to march to Manenggon, we will go out and hide in the jungles, which we did. We hid in an area of what is now known, the Anderson Air Force Base bomb storage area, in northern Guam. We hid there. Through those ordeals, we have come across so many times to being captured.
We have come across so many incidences of getting thirsty and hungry because of the food. We limited our trips to our venture of getting food and water because of the possibility that we might get caught.
Because of that, there are times when we went for days without too much food to eat and, of course, water was the most important. We save most of it for the little, there were six little children at that time in our family.
Several weeks went by when we finally met with the U.S. forces that pull us out of the jungle. They took us to Bradley Park which is, you heard that all over, time and time again, I guess, today and yesterday. Bradley is right by the Pigo Cemetery where they put us, some people call it concentration camp. I don't call it concentration camp. I call it they put us there for our safety until the island was secured. That is exactly what that was all about.
Real People. Real Stories. A weekly testimonial series provided by the Office of Senator Frank F. Blas, Jr. The testimony of Francisco Leon Guerrero Castro, is recorded in the Guam War Claims Review Commission public hearing held in Hagåtña, Guam on December 9, 2003. This story is sponsored by the community involvement of GTA TELEGUAM. Photo courtesy of Expressions Studio.