Wednesday, July 27, 2016
TINIAN'S LAST STRAGGLER
The changing tides of history.
In the photo above, Saipan Chamorro guards have custody over a Japanese. Six years prior to this, a Japanese would have had the power over the Chamorros.
On February 16, 1953, more than eight years after Tinian's capture by the United States, a Japanese straggler was discovered on that island.
Susumu Murata was not a soldier but rather a civilian employee for the NKK, the largest sugar company in the Marianas. Murata was a long-time resident of the Marianas, having worked for the NKK first on Rota in 1934. But it was on Tinian where Murata found himself running for his life during the American invasion.
Even though he knew from pamphlets dropped by the Americans that the war was over, Murata decided to hide. He built a well-hidden shack near Tinian's lake or hagoi in Chamorro. It is not the best of fresh water but it is potable. Murata's downfall was the vegetable patch he grew not far from his shack. When the little garden was discovered, it was enough to raise suspicions and a security detachment, including Cristino de la Cruz, went out to investigate. They followed a barely visible trail that lead them to the shack.
Murata was quite resourceful. Besides fishing and bird hunting, he would take from American supplies under the cover of darkness. As far as he knew, there were no other Japanese holdouts hiding on Tinian.
The three Chamorro guards in the photo are (left to right) : Jesus "Kumoi" Guerrero, Pedro Attao and Manuel "Kiyu" Villagomez. These men surely could speak Japanese with Murata.