Tuesday, March 12, 2019


They say that love makes you do crazy things.

Case in point. Two American Marines, stationed on Guam in 1920, decided to grab a boat and hit the high seas with their newlywed brides.

First Sergeant Everett E. Clifton, 25, and Corporal William V. Dawson, 22, were both in love with Chamorro girls. Clifton fell in love with Tita León Guerrero Palomo, the daughter of Joaquín Blas Palomo and Rita Acosta de León Guerrero of Hagåtña. Their Palomo family nickname was Palolo. Dawson's belle was Rosa Cruz Lizama, the daughter of Ezequiel Fejarang Lizama and Candelaria Ulloa Cruz of Sumay.

The problem was that the Navy Governor at the time, Captain William Gilmer, disapproved of interracial marriages on Guam between military personnel and Chamorro civilians, so he outlawed it. His Executive Order forbidding interracial marriage was not scrapped till June 30, 1920, after enough voices in protest were heard in Washington, DC. By this higher authority, Gilmer was told to rescind his prohibition of interracial marriages on Guam and Gilmer was soon replaced as Governor.

Well, the two couples were not going to wait. With Gilmer's prohibition was still in force, what to do? They decided to escape Guam (and military duty) by finding a boat, loading it with supplies and head towards Australia, away from American jurisdiction. Then, free from Gilmer's laws, they could find someone to marry them. They set out on April 22.

But, problems soon came. First, they started to run out of food. Then, the fuel got desperately low. Finally, a storm obscured vision and posed a danger. Fortunately, they saw a small island and made for it. Sadly, the island had little to offer. The two couples subsisted on shell fish and what meager vegetation the island provided. But then, a Japanese trading vessel passed by and saw their distress signals. The ship picked them up and took them to Yap.

We know that the four left Guam and ended up in Yap, and somewhere along the way they stayed for a while on an unpopulated island with very few resources. Maybe it was Gaferut, but who knows?

In Yap, the Japanese authorities held them in custody. Then, the four were sent to Yokohama and then put under American supervision while there. The two Marines were made to live on a stationary Japanese ship while the two Chamorro ladies were housed at the local YWCA. Eventually, the four were sent back to Guam, where they celebrated their nuptials with the government's blessing since Gilmer was now gone. Both pairs got married on the same day - September 19, 1920. Dawson and Lizama got married in Sumay by Påle' León de Alzo, the future Bishop Olano. Clifton and Palomo got married at the Hagåtña Cathedral, officiated by Påle' Román de Vera.

There remained one problem. The two Marines faced trial for desertion.

Clifton and Dawson were sentenced to three years in prison and after that to be dishonorably discharged. They did their time in California.

Talk about broken dreams. They married, but they never got to enjoy their matrimony for long, since the two husbands were sent to be incarcerated in the US mainland. Rosa remained on Guam, and so did her son that she had with Dawson, George Lizama Dawson. They appear in the 1930 Guam census. But, in the 1940 census, Rosa Dawson is identified as being divorced and George is no longer with her. George had enlisted in the US Navy in 1939 and was off on his own. I suppose when Dawson was released from prison, he decided against returning to Guam and chose instead to find a new wife and remain in the US. By the early 1930s he already had a son with a new wife.

Clifton's marriage to Tita also did not last as he appears in the 1930 US census having a new wife, living in the US mainland.

Serving time in San Quentin

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