Symbol of hope
George R. Tweed (1902 – 1989) – was an American Navy man who was able to escape capture from the Japanese during their occupation of Guam in World War II, and the only American to survive the entire occupation in hiding.
Tweed became a figure of controversy, both during and after the war. Historian Pedro C. Sanchez, writing about Tweed in later years, called him the lone “symbol of hope” for many Chamorros during the war. But at the same time, Tweed was held responsible by some for the torture and deaths of a number of Chamorros by the Japanese, who made strong attempts to locate Tweed throughout the war.
Tweed was hidden and aided by many Chamorros during his years of being a fugitive, and throughout the war, the Japanese tortured Chamorros if they suspected they had knowledge of Tweed’s whereabouts. Tweed refused to give himself up to Japanese authorities, despite a number of Chamorros calling for him to do so.
He managed to stay alive and escape the Japanese searching for him by moving to the homes and ranches of sympathetic Chamorros. He came out of the war a hero…as well as a controversial figure. Tweed remains a legend of the World War II era on Guam, a man who held out against the Japanese and evaded their desperate search for him for two and a half years.
When the Japanese invaded Guam in December 1941, six Americans were able to escape capture as they fled inland into hiding: L.L. Krump and C.B. Johnson of the U.S.S. Penguin; and A. Yabolonsky, Al J. Tyson, L.W. Jones and Tweed of the Communications Office in Hagåtña.
The morning of the Japanese invasion, Tweed and Al Tyson, along with Chamorro Navyman Vicente Guevara who worked at the Communications Office, headed up San Ramon Hill to Sinajana in Tweed’s car while avoiding Japanese fire. Guevara got off in Ordot to join his family while Tweed and Tyson went on to Yona, abandoned the car and headed into the jungle.
There they were helped by Yona farmer Francisco Ogo, and Tweed and Tyson met the four other Americans in hiding on the farm of another Yona farmer, Manuel Aguon. They were able to stay there for several days, with several Chamorros visiting them in the jungle and bringing them food, water and other supplies.
Tweed and the five other American refugees believed the American forces would rescue Guam from the Japanese within a matter of six weeks at the most, and figured they could hold out in hiding for that long. It would be more than two and a half years before American forces returned.
Aided by Chamorros
Soon so many Chamorros knew about the Americans’ hiding spot that the Japanese authorities caught wind of the information. They organized a search party of up to 200 Chamorros, forming a long line to comb the search area as Japanese troops marched behind them. However, the Americans easily escaped the search party as the Chamorros deliberately made so much noise the Americans could hear them from a distance.
The Japanese came close to finding the Americans by forcing bits of information out of Chamorros by torture, but the Americans barely missed capture and decided to split up as it would be easier to move in stealth in small groups than in one large group.
Tweed and Tyson left the other four. Manuel Aguon, who had helped the six fugitives at his ranch, was arrested and tortured by the Japanese, but refused to divulge any information. His brother, Vicente, met up with Tweed and Tyson, who at this point were growing weary of hiding and considered turning themselves in. Vicente Aguon, however, told them that he learned that it was too late to turn themselves in – the Japanese were planning on killing them no matter what.
Tweed and Tyson soon after split up themselves. Tweed went to the ranch of Juan Cruz, an acquaintance, and stayed there for several days. There he received a .45 caliber pistol from Hagåtña businessman Joaquin Limtiaco.
Tweed then lived for several days in a cave on the property of Manuel Cruz in Yona, where he received food from many Chamorros who risked being caught by the Japanese. While there, Tweed received a radio and a generator from two Chamorros, and used news from the radio to compile a typed one-page version of The Guam Eagle, the Navy newspaper, over the next four months. He made five copies and circulated them among Chamorros. One of the Chamorros who helped circulate this copy of The Guam Eagle, Ben Pangelinan, was nearly caught while showing a copy to others at the home of Joaquin Limtiaco in Hagåtña. The Japanese raided Limtiaco’s home, and Pangelinan, who had helped the six American refugees by supplying them with clothes and other necessary goods, escaped capture by flushing the newspaper down the toilet.
During the rest of his time in hiding, Tweed was aided by many Chamorros, including several he came to count as close friends. He moved around the island, hiding on the property of a number of people.
The long search
In Upper Tumon, he was helped by brothers Juan and Joaquin Flores, who were among many who fed him, including future senator Tomas Tanaka, Mrs. T. Dejima, and local businessmen and brothers Felix and Jose Torres. The Flores brothers were later arrested and tortured when the Japanese suspected them of hiding Tweed, but they never gave away his location.
Tweed was also aided by Joaquin Limtiaco, who had taken him to the Flores brothers’ property. When the brothers were being tortured, Limtiaco took Tweed to Chalan Pago to Jesus Reyes, a pre-war agriculture instructor. Reyes took Tweed to stay with the Santos family in Ta’i, and one of the Santos sons, Wen Santos, became Tweed’s “most trusted friend” in Tweed’s words, because he never let on that he knew Tweed’s whereabouts during the war.
Tweed later moved to Toto, at the ranch of Jose Lujan, with the help of Tommy Tanaka. Not long after, when Lujan met a man who asked to meet the American, Tweed moved back in with Wen Santos in Ta’i.
During his stay with Jose Lujan in Toto, Tweed heard rumors that the Japanese had captured and killed three Americans. He later confirmed from Agueda Johnston, through his friend Wen Santos, that the Japanese had found Jones, Yablosnsky, and Krump in Manenggon and beheaded them.
With the capture of the first three Americans, the Japanese intensified their search for the remaining three: Tweed, Johnson and Tyson. A large number of Chamorros in the central part of the island were accused and tortured for several weeks, and during this time Tweed decided to move once again. Wen Santos moved him to a cave in Fadian and told no one, but finally had to tell the owner of the property (Francisco Pangelinan of the Abin family) because people began to get suspicious when Wen would bring food to Tweed. Pangelinan relieved Wen of this duty to avoid suspicion.
Not long after, Tweed narrowly avoided escape from a Japanese search party with the help of a coded message from Perez. With the help of his friend Joaquin Flores and a retired Navyman, Juan Pangelinan, Tweed went north to the home of Antonio Artero, son of Don Pascual, a Spanish businessman who was one of Guam’s largest landholders. It was here that Tweed would hide until the Americans returned a year and a half later.
Artero’s Yigo ranch
With the approval of his father, Antonio Artero took Tweed to a cave on a cliff on their property, overlooking the ocean, in October 1942. Three days after arriving at the cave, Tweed received the news from Artero that the two other remaining Americans, Tyson and Johnston, were caught and killed by the Japanese only two miles from where he was hiding.
Tweed was now the lone American holdout. Artero supplied him with food and other necessities, and except for one trip that he took to Barrigada to look for his radio, Tweed remained in that hiding spot until his rescue on July 10, 1944. Japanese search parties continued to search for him every day the entire time he was in hiding. And while many Chamorros were tortured during this search, only a few people knew of his actual whereabouts, thanks to Artero’s discreteness – he told his father, his wife, and his brother Jose, but no other family members or friends.
Just a few days before the Marines landed in Asan and Agat on July 21, 1944, Japanese authorities sent Joaquin Limtiaco, Tweed’s friend to fetch Artero or any member of his family, and Limtiaco brought along Juan Flores. They found Artero at his ranch in what is now known as the NCS area of Dededo, and told Artero that the Japanese knew he was helping Tweed and wanted to punish him. Artero and his family decided to hide until the Americans recaptured the island, and Limtiaco went back to the Japanese authorities in Agana Heights and reported that Artero and his family had left their ranch.
Artero and his wife and eight children hid in Tweed’s cave, but Tweed had gone, leaving behind a note that said that a destroyer was sending a boat to take him on board.
Tweed had made two signal flags himself, and earlier, when he saw two American destroyers off the northwestern coast of Guam, he grabbed the signal flags and a pocket mirror, climbed to the top of a cliff, and signaled one of the boats. He sent them messages, giving them information about Japanese guns at Adelup Point, and asking them to take him aboard. Within five minutes, a boat dropped into the water next to the destroyer, and Tweed left the note for Artero and headed down the cliff to the beach to his rescue.
He had spent thirty-one months in hiding in the jungles of Guam.
When Tweed first heard about the torture of people suspected by the Japanese of knowing the whereabouts of the Americans, early on in the war, he considered turning himself in to save further punishment of the Chamorros. He told this to Agueda I. Johnston, the Chamorro educator and the island’s most respected woman, during a get-together at her ranch in mid-1942. Tweed reported in his book that Johnston told him not to turn himself in because he was a symbol of hope to the Chamorros.
Later in the war, as more people were tortured because of him, Johnston pleaded with Tweed to turn himself in, but he ignored her plea. Japanese Catholic priest Father Komatsu also wrote a letter asking Tweed to give himself up, and several copies were distributed, although it is not known whether Tweed actually saw the letter. Komatsu promised, in the letter, that Tweed would not be killed by the Japanese but would be treated well as a prisoner. He added:
“As a priest, I ask you in the name of the natives here, to give yourself up and thus relieve the suffering and anguish of the Chamorros.”
One of the most celebrated Chamorros to help Tweed was Father Jesus Baza Duenas. While Tweed was being rescued by the Americans at Urunao, Duenas was being brutalized by the Japanese in Inarajan for a number of crimes, among them helping Tweed. Duenas was another of the war’s heroes, and was beheaded at the end of the war at Ta’i in Mangilao along with Vicente Baza and Juan (Mali) Pangelinan who were also suspected of helping Tweed. To this day, Father Duenas is seen as a martyr by most Chamorros.
The question of whether Tweed should have turned himself in to save the suffering and deaths of Chamorros was a controversy for most of the war, as well as after the war.
Post-World War II
Tweed survived the war and was promoted in rank, later retiring from the Navy. Not long after leaving Guam, Tweed published a book entitled, “Robinson Crusoe, USN” that recounted his time in refuge on Guam.
He returned to Guam in 1945, bringing a Chevrolet sedan as a gift to Artero as a gift from the president of General Motors.
On arriving on Guam, however, Tweed was greeted by protesters (the first ever such protest on Guam), denouncing him for controversial statements he had written in his book.
In a newspaper interview at the time, Limtiaco explained why he and other Chamorros were willing to undergo torture to aid and protect Tweed:
“Tweed was a symbol of the United States which was fighting in the war for a great cause. We were determined to fight, too, in our own way, and to die if necessary.”
Note: This story was originally posted on Stripes Guam Website, July 17, 2013.