Tuesday, December 6, 2016


Jose Mesa Cruz, circled, aboard the USS Henderson in 1943 during WW2
There are other Chamorro Navy men in this group photo
(Picture courtesy of Jose Mesa Cruz)

Even before I knew much about Guam history, I already heard the name the USS Henderson from my older relatives talking at the dinner table when I was a kid.

It was the name of a ship and it visited Guam a lot. That's as far as I could gather at the time.

The Henderson was indeed a US Navy ship launched in 1916 to transport Marines wherever needed. In the 1920s and 30s, she sailed all over the Pacific, making stops in Japan, China, the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii and a few other places.

Since there were no private companies providing transportation to and from Guam for civilian passengers, the US Navy allowed civilians who could pay their way to sail on Navy ships, and the Henderson was one of them. Chamorros would take the Henderson to Manila, Honolulu, Shanghai and Tokyo, among other ports.

One of her most famous passengers was L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, who spent some of his childhood on Guam in the late 1920s because of his father's work on the island.


In the late 1930s, the US Navy allowed the recruitment of Chamorro men as mess attendants. A maximum number of recruits was set at 700 men. Just before war broke out in December of 1941, this cap was almost reached as the number of Chamorro mess attendants was well into the 600s.

One Chamorro mess attendant on the Henderson was Fructuoso San Miguel Aflague, better known by his boxing nickname Rocky.

Boxing bouts between the Henderson men, including the Chamorro Rocky Aflague
Matt1c means "Mess attendant 1st class"

The Henderson had just left Pearl Harbor when it was bombed by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. For the rest of the war, the Henderson transported troops all over the Pacific and then served as a hospital ship towards the very end of the war. Many Chamorro men served on the Henderson during this time. Many never returned to live on Guam but settled elsewhere instead.

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