Friday, July 1, 2016


On December 8, 1941, when Japan attacked Guam from the air, the American Naval Government prepared for the imminent invasion.

Part of the plan was to set free the civilian prisoners serving time in the capital city's jail. That way, they wouldn't all perish at the same time if a Japanese bomb made a direct hit on the jail. In fact, a Japanese bomb did land close enough to the jail to damage a corner of it. But it was quickly repaired.

When the Japanese were securely the masters of the island, Saipan Chamorro interpreters helped round up the prisoners released by the Americans. The Japanese word for "interpreter" is tsuuyaku.

A man named Takeshi Shimada was a police investigator whom Saipan interpreters said was police chief during the Occupation, or at least acted as one. Helping him were fifteen or so Saipan interpreters who did more than translating. They also supplied the muscle in performing police work and in physically punishing civilians under police custody.

Some Guam Chamorro inmates continued to be a source of irritation to the Japanese police.

Juan T. was arrested for stealing a fusiños (hoe) and was thrown into the city jail and beaten.

Jose M., Enrique R. and Jose C. made the daring move to escape from the Hagåtña jail. They claimed hunger drove them to do it. They roamed around looking for food and were finally caught by the Japanese in Ordot. They were taken back to the jail and beaten.

Some inmates were caught playing dice late at night on New Year's Eve and were punished with beatings.

One Saipan police interpreter got drunk and started berating the Guam Chamorro inmates, telling them that they longed for the return of the Americans, but that they would never eat "bacon and ham" again. He then started beating them in his drunken state.

A Guam inmate testified that, during his entire time jailed in Hagåtña, he witnessed around 50 separate beatings of other inmates. Some were serious enough that the victim died as a result of the beating.

In their defense, some Saipan interpreters said that they had to be hard on their fellow Chamorros from Guam because the Japanese were watching. The last thing they wanted was to be accused by the Japanese for being soft on the Guam Chamorros. The Japanese expected total loyalty from the Saipan Chamorros, since they had grown up under the Japanese since 1914. They would have gotten a worse beating from the Japanese, they said, had they not satisfied the Japanese.

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