Thursday, December 8, 2011


Ritidian Beach
Five Saipanese Interpreters landed here on December 8, 1941

On December 6, 1941, ten Saipanese men, mostly in their 20s, were sent by the Japanese to secretly land on Guam in order to act as interpreters between the Japanese and the Chamorros of Guam.  One group of five men landed at Ritidian, and a second group of another five landed in Inarajan, in the dark pre-dawn hours on December 8.  Of the Ritidian group, three were arrested by the Americans and were put in the Hagåtña jail until they were liberated by the Japanese on December 10.

Different sources have slightly different details, but one list, composed by a Saipanese interpreter himself, gives us the names of the first group of Saipanese interpreters sent to Guam :

Martin F. Borja
Jose P. Villagomez
Jose SN Cabrera
Segundo T. Sablan
Jose C. Cabrera
Juan SM Manibusan
Francisco P. Sablan
Jose S. de Leon Guerrero
Antonio A. Camacho
Silvestre Torres

These interpreters did not volunteer for this extremely problematic mission.  They knew that they would be caught between their Japanese masters, and their fellow Chamorros - even relatives - on Guam.  In many cases, the Saipanese (and a few Rotanese) interpreters actually helped the Guam Chamorros when that was possible; tipping them off with valuable information, turning a blind eye to infractions, warning others of impending dangers.  At other times, the Saipanese interpreter faced the choice either to inflict punishment on a Guam Chamorro or be punished himself with greater severity.  As with any group of people, there were a small handful who seemed to enjoy their position and flexed their muscles.  Some of them were tried after the war and served their sentences; some went "missing" during the American invasion and were never found. 

One Saipanese interpreter, after the war, related how he was "recruited" by the Japanese to be an interpreter on Guam.  A few weeks before the war, the Japanese police started to pay him a lot of attention that made him nervous; asking him questions about his activities and movements, as if they suspected him of wrongdoing.  On December 6, he was summoned to police headquarters.  Other Saipanese recruits were there.  They were told they could not refuse what they were being asked to do, which was still not clear to them.  It was understood that to refuse would be considered treason, which was usually punishable by death.  They were put on a boat and were told they were to land on Guam to warn the civilians to stay away from the fighting.  They were given arm bands that read "Navy Interpreter" and a flashlight.

The Inarajan group successfully evaded detection and hid in caves until a few days after the Japanese had already secured the island.  One of them was actually driven to Hagåtña by none other than Pale' Jesus Dueñas, beheaded by the Japanese two and a half years later.

No comments:

Post a Comment