Saturday, 30 July 2011

67th Liberation Day

On December 10, 1941, Guam surrendered to the Japanese South Seas detachment forces after a valiant defensive struggle by the island's Insular Force Guard and a limited number of U.S. marines. Guam became the only populated U.S. soil to be occupied by another country in World War II. Guam was renamed "Omiya Jima" and for 31 months, her people of were forcibly subjected to intolerable hardships administered by the Japanese military. Although some measure of religious practice and business activities were permitted, atrocities, grenade slaughters and rapes were common. Concentration camps were established by the 29th Division of Japan's Kwantung Army and approximately 600 Chamorro's were executed. Some Chamorro's were beheaded when the Japanese learned of the 3-year humanitarian effort to successfully feed and hide U.S. Navy radioman George Tweed who escaped in the initial invasion. 

On the morning of July 21, 1944, after one of the longest and heaviest pre-assault naval bombardments of the war, the American recapture of Guam began, with simultaneous landings at Asan and Agat. About 55,000 men of the 3rd Marine Division, 1st Provisional Marine Brigade and 305th Regimental Combat Team of the 77th Army Infantry Division, storm the beaches. By day's end, both beaches are secured.In the three weeks that followed, Americans cleared Orote Peninsula and secured Fonte Plateau. They then move north toward Hagania, Barrigada, Mount Santa Rosa and on to Ritidian Point, at which point the island is declared secure. 

The island made of flowers.
Liberation day is a holiday unique to Guam. It is the most celebrated day of the year and is framed by a series of fiestas, carnivals, memorials and tributes to honor those who gave their all during the Japanese occupation. To culminate the month long celebration, the annual parade closes down Marine Drive and invites families to camp out in attempt to secure the best seat. Chamorro families often set up tents, haul coolers and bbqs, cook food and celebrate, often for days after the parade, in recognition of Guam's liberation during World War II. 

Guam's Rockettes
With the days leading up to the parade we heard over and over, "you have to go once". So we did. With the parade as an "alternative duty location" for Ryan, we packed our backpack with sunscreen, water, snacks, and a towel to sit on and ventured down to the parade route. Arriving at 8:00 we tracked down our friend Ann Marie, staked out our spots and settled in for a day at the parade. Directly across the street was the grand stand. I was thrilled, thinking "if this is anything like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, we have perfect seats. The rockettes will perform right there, the music acts are with in arms reach. Where else would we want to sit?" Okay, it wasn't the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, but we were entertained. 

About an hour and half after our arrival the parade kicked off with a brigade of motorcycles. The roar was deafening. Quickly there after was a fly over by a B-52 and 2 helicopters. 19 classic cars followed delivering the 19 grand marshalls, all of whom were survivors of WWII. Troops from the Guam National Guard, Navy fleets, Guam Air Guard, Air Force, and Army marched. The Marine Corps Band played the Guam Hymn and National Anthem. Floats representing everything Miss Guam to the Corrections Department followed. Ann Marie's husband, Nate, was on the REDHORSE float so our plan was to wait for his arrival before leaving. We waited and waited, at 12:40 the REDHORSE crew finally made it. 

You do the math, that was 4 hours and 40 minutes that we 'watched' the parade. One might think, "You're only sitting there" but that was not the case. About 5 minutes into the parade, Ann Marie and I realized we are going to be running from our curb to the median over and over to get the best pictures. (We were sitting on the south bound curb, the parade was in the north bound lanes.) To solve the problem, we moved. Ann Marie, Ryan and myself hunkered down on the grassy median along with the half dozen other media personnel. With our perfect vantage point, the parade passed just inches from our feet. 

With every brilliant idea there was a down fall, we were in the middle of the road, with ABSOLUTELY NO cover from the inevitable Guam rain. We are laughing, waving at the parade participants and enjoying the candy that was tossed out when Ryan looks north up the road and barely has time to say, "we are about to get wet" before the sky opens up. The three of us grab our stuff, run back to our original side of the road and find an over hang to stand under. 

If you ever visit Guam, the first thing you notice is the rain comes and goes quicker than you thought possible. With the sun back out we reclaim our spot and continue the celebration. Not 20 minutes later the next rain cloud ventures towards us. We decide to stay in our spot and wait it out. Great idea, we thought. As we are dripping wet, and the 10 minute rain is not even starting to let up, the media people begin to laugh. As we look around we realize we are the only ones with out an umbrella. One photographer walked towards us and while chuckling he asked 'is this your first liberation day?" "Yes" we responded. He smiled and simply advised us, "bring an umbrella next year, it always rains". Awesome. We're the new kids on the block.... you live and learn. Before we dried from the rain, a seemingly random chamorro

I'll post a few picture and the best explanation I can just to give you a taste of the celebration and gratitude the chamorro people still have for the sacrifice of the men who delivered their land from Japanese occupation. 
need we say more?

transformer car (maybe)

They were really cooking the pig.

Random Bag Piper

The crowds cheer as every formation of service personnel passed.
The pride is something I have never seen in the States. 

The Chammoros are very proud of their land of the US Troops.

For all our Asheville friends we hope you enjoyed Bele Cher weekend. Have a great rest of your summer. See you next time from our rock in the middle of the Pacific.

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