I’d like to tell you about my father first.
We were living in Maite, when the Japanese started working on the airfield, which is NAS Agana International or Guam International Airport. Somehow the Japanese found out that he was a mechanic, could fix equipment. He was working there day and night practically. I recall telling me some of the nights he didn't have any rest. But, some nights he would sit under coconut tree, 2:00, 3:00 in the morning, sleep. When the Japanese would find him sleeping, they would hit him in the head with a stick. "Get going. Go to work."
Soon after, the airfield, I believe, was operational. Around our house in Maite, under breadfruit trees, the Japanese were storing their torpedo bombs. My mother was always so frightened. We eventually moved to Maimai, below the DOC right now. Before we moved to Maimai, somehow I got to the Japanese school, the Jalaguak School.
We were supposed to be going to school, I believe we only had maybe two or three hours of ichi, ni, san, shi, go (1, 2, 3, 4), we were being taught Japanese. The rest of the time, we were weeding the fields for them to plant radishes. Incidentally, we used to go to school without anything to eat, just like my dad. He was never fed, that I recall his telling me.
One day, we were all standing facing the East. I didn't even know what we were doing. But, we were supposed to bow to the East, to the Emperor, the god of Japan, and the world, supposedly. I didn't bow quickly enough. I'll never forget. Nakase Sensei kicked me, slapped me first and then kicked me. Kicked my feet and I fell down. Needless to say, I was kind of afraid to go to school.
Eventually, we moved to Maimai, because there were too many bombs around our little farm, farmhouse. At Maimai, we were informed that any able bodied person had to go to work at Tai, present Father Duenas school. My sister and I, we leave early in the morning, climb up the hill over to Tai. We'd go to the Kaikuntai headquarters.
Kaikuntai is Japanese marines. From there, we were apportioned to various parts of the Ta'i, Mangilao and Maga area, Chalan Pago, crossroads to Yona, Agana and over, what is it now? Veterans Highway? From there, all the way to Lalo, Mangilao. We would clean, pull grass, pull weeds, whatever. Bare hands. We had to feed ourselves with whatever we could bring from home.
Later on, of course, I recall that they had a night shift. I don't recall what the night shift was for. But, we were all asked to bring our dogs to Tai. Later on, I found out that the Japanese were cooking dogs for the night shift. Needless to say, if there was any offer to eat, I don't like dog meat. I probably would never have eaten, even if I were hungry, starving.
At any rate, one morning, coming to work, we saw three men under the mango tree. Mango tree's not at Father Duenas any more. Somehow it's been bulldozed away. But, there were three men digging. I said, doing something. We were all gathered and then we were apportioned to different areas to work. In the afternoon, around 1:30, 2:00 in the afternoon, we were all called. "Itsumari," that's a Japanese word for gather, and brought to the mango tree. We circle around the mango tree.
Japanese Kaikuntai holding rifles with bayonets fixed. The officers had handguns. We were told to watch, or if we didn't watch, we would be next to suffer the fate of these three men, who, found out at that time, that they were digging their graves. Their hands behind their back, tied. The Japanese, all handguns, looking at us. I couldn't see anything. Everything was dark, black. I felt so hot. All I could see was these three men. I was so scared.
One of them was allowed to speak. He said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we're going to be executed. We have not committed any crime, any crime. But, if we have offended or hurt any of you, please forgive us." He started to say the "Our Father, who art in heaven ... " in Chamorro. Then they were pushed down to kneel. Three Japanese men, officers, with Samurai swords, each had water poured on the sword. Pushed the men down. Then he cut their heads off. It's my sister. She saw it too. I heard later that one of the Japanese officers took one of the heads and was giving it to the neighbors to cook it. I don't recall. But, I went back to work.
Soon after, one morning, people were gathered around our place in Maimai. A lot of people were gathered there. Japanese guards allover That evening, we're all told to get ready to leave. We marched over to the crossroads in Chalan Pago. Down in the valley, we were all gathered. People from Yigo, Dededo, Mangilao, allover, all gathered there.
In the early morning, before then, my father sat beside me and said, "Son, I don't know what' going to happen, but you're the oldest." I was barely 11 years old. "If anything happens to me," he said, "you take care of the family."
That morning, we were all marched towards Pago Bay, Pago River, all the way up Yona and Manenggon, the concentration camp. We barely brought enough food for the family. Could only bring so much. We had no place to go. My father dug into the riverbank. That's where we stayed. No food. At night, my father would steal away to Yona and forage for food at his uncle, Tun Ramon Tito Baza. That's what fed us, whatever he could get from his uncle's place in Yona, leaving at night. Or, I would swim across the river, climb coconut trees, bring coconuts. That's what we eat.
I don't want to say how my mother would cook in the morning. If there is too much smoke, Japanese would come. I remember one time, Japanese had his sword. I thought he was going to cut my mother's head off. I had seen them cut heads off.
Then, after that, bombardments continued. Sometimes a plane would come down. I think they were trying to tell us, "We're going to take over the island soon." Because the planes would turn up and shoot machine guns into the air. Soon after that, Japanese soldiers all left.
The military, U.S. forces came to the camp. They killed the only guard. I saw that because, my dad used to hit me in the head, "You could get killed." But, I went up and I saw them shoot at a coconut tree behind which was the guard, Japanese guard. Shot. I went to look. It was the guard, killed. From there, we were marched to Bradley Park, Pigo Cemetery.
Real People. Real Stories. A weekly testimonial series provided by the Office of Senator Frank F. Blas, Jr. The testimony of Juan U. Baza is recorded in the Guam War Claims Review Commission public hearings held in Hagåtña, Guam on December 9, 2003. This story sponsored by the community involvement of Younex Enterprises Corporation. Photo courtesy of Expressions Studio.