Monday, April 9, 2018
CHAMORRO COMFORT WOMEN : TWO STORIES
It's a side of the Japanese Occupation (1941-1944) that gets talked about very rarely. The main reason is because those involved in the story don't want to talk about it. Part of that comes from shame. Part of it comes from the difficulty of thinking and talking about a horrible experience.
Two stories, however, brief as they are, came to me from family members recently. Due to the fact that other family members would likely get upset if identities became known, I won't include names. But my informants believe that, even if in general terms, the story should get out. Some Chamorro women were forced to give sexual services to the Japanese.
Before I share these two stories, let me briefly mention that there were several types of sexual workers during the Japanese Occupation on Guam. First, the Japanese brought in mainly Korean "comfort women." These Korean women catered to the average Japanese soldier.
Second, the Chamorro women who were known to cater to American sailors and Marines before the war (known as "Monday Ladies" because they visited the doctor on Mondays), were rounded up and expected to cater to Japanese officers now.
Third, some Chamorro women who never engaged in such activities in their life, but whom the Japanese thought to be desirable, were forced to become sex workers. The more attractive women, usually in their late teens and early 20s, were especially sought after by the high-ranking Japanese officers.
We know that at least one local Japanese, meaning a Japanese resident of the island long before the war, was tasked by the Japanese military to obtain some pretty Chamorro ladies for this purpose. In order to avoid such work, we hear stories of young Chamorro women making themselves dirty or pretending to be sick with tuberculosis.
LADY ONE, as I shall call her, was an innocent woman in her early 20s minding her own business when the Japanese forced her to become a comfort woman. If she had refused, she could have been killed or the Japanese could have made life unbearable for her family. After the war, she married but she was never able to become pregnant. The two and a half years she was sexually abused by Japanese soldiers was enough to mess with her reproductive system.
I knew this woman, growing up as a teenager. I saw her at Mass every day. Only now do I know this story from her life.
LADY TWO was also forced into giving sexual service to Japanese soldiers and lower-ranking officers. The experience was so bad that, as soon as the Americans returned, she married an American GI and left the island for good, moving to the US mainland with her military husband.
When her mother passed away many years later, she wondered if she could really return to the island to attend her mother's funeral. The thought of seeing the island once again, even with all the monumental changes in island terrain and landscape, filled her with horror. Memories of her time as a comfort woman would flood back, she thought. She got a plane ticket. She made it to the gate at the terminal. But she just could not get on the plane. She never made it to her mother's funeral on Guam.