Guam Liberation: The hunt for Japanese stragglers
Guam Liberation: The hunt for Japanese stragglers
Although Guam was liberated from Japan by the US military on 21 July 1944, and declared secured on 10 August, efforts continued until 1948 to ferret Japanese troops who were hiding out. Too proud to dishonor their country or their emperor, some Japanese soldivers chose not to surrender but instead took to the caves, jungles and swamps of Guam.
They left trails of footprints, broken brush and other evidence of life as they roamed the island. They scrounged military dumps for ammunition and other weapons. They stole and them dressed themselves in GI fatigues, khaki shirts and trousers to camouflage their appearance.
On 13 Nov. 1944, four months after the liberation of the island, Police Chief Jon Wigg, a Navy lieutenant and part of the command responsible for Guam’s administration, issued a memorandum ordering the formation of patrols, which stated:
“All information reaching any member of the (police) department relating to the location or hideouts of the Japanese will be used to the end that they will be tracked and captured or destroyed. Patrols will be formed for this purpose in Agana and all out-stations. Reports of all Japanese captured, wounded or killed by members of the police department will be forwarded to headquarters immediately. Records of all known killings of Japanese by others in each area shall be kept and forwarded to the headquarters in the tri-monthly reports.”
Also, the tri-monthly report shall include the number of patrols sent out from each station. Each time a hideout is found it shall be searched for evidence which shall be taken to the station: food, clothing, provisions and any type of shelter shall be destroyed. The job of cleaning up the Japanese on this island is a big one. General (Henry) Larson has placed his confidence in the department and results will provide that it was properly placed.
As part of the “mop-up” operation of the American liberation forces, the Guam Combat Patrol was formed to scout out the hundreds of Japanese who had taken to Guam’s jungles. They moved on foot, combing jungle areas, and questioned islanders in their efforts to track, capture and kill Japanese holdouts and destroy locations and hideouts. The Patrol’s mission was considered one of the most dangerous military combat duties in Guam after the invasion. They were considered “manhunters,” killing more than 117 Japanese stragglers, and capturing five.
The original members of the Guam Combat Patrol were Juan U. Aguon, Joaquin S. Aguon, Vicente L. Borja, Jose S. Bukikosa, Francisco J. Cruz, George G. Flores, Roman N. Ignacio, Antonio P. Pangelinan, Agapito S. Perez, Pedro A. Perez, Ignacio R. Rivera, Jose P. Salas, Pedro R. San Nicolas, Jose S. Tenorio and Felix C. Wusstig. The Combat Patrol’s efforts, however, were not without casualties. Two members were killed in action — Antonio P. Manibusan and Pedro R. San Nicolas — and two others — Juan L. Lujan and Vicente L. Borja — were wounded. Guam Combat Patrol member George Flores, of Yigo, distinctly remembered:
”I was walking ahead of Antonio Manibusan when he signaled me. I turned and joined him. Next thing I knew, shots were fired from a cave and Manibusan was shot in the chest area right into the heart.”
Flores was a platoon sergeant then. Vicente Borja, Joaquin S. Aguon and Flores were wounded while on patrol duty in Talofofo on 1 May 1945, when a Japanese soldier, who was believed dead, hurled a hand grenade at them. Borja and Flores were hospitalized as a result of the incident. Juan Lujan was wounded on 8 January 1945, when he was shot through the leg by a Japanese straggler in Dededo.
Guam police recruited
As members of the Guam police, these Chamorro volunteers functioned as regular patrol members during the first two years after the recapture of the island. The original 15 members were recruited from the police department, augmented later by other volunteers and were later attached to the Marine Corps.
The Guam Combat Patrol was led by Police Staff Sergeant Juan U. Aguon, who received many citations and endorsements from Naval Government officials for his “long hours, tireless efforts, faithful services, and excellent record of leadership.”
Of particular significance, Aguon was awarded the Silver Star by President Harry S. Truman for his participation in the Combat Patrol. The presidential citation states:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity as a Member of the Loyal Security Patrol Force of Guam, Marianas Islands, from 4 November 1944, until the cessation of hostilities. Organizing and training a special patrol consisting of fifteen native members of the local Police Force, Staff Sergeant Aguon led his men into every section of Guam in order to rid the island of all Japanese remaining after the main force had been destroyed or taken prisoner. A fearless and inspiring leader, he calmly directed his unit in trailing and ambushing the enemy soldiers, killing 117, capturing five and probably killing 20 of the hostile armed forces on Guam throughout this period. Remaining in a forward position on April 4 when his patrol was fired upon by approximately 25 enemy troops, Staff Sergeant Aguon led his men in fighting the numerically superior Japanese group, mortally wounding five of the enemy, forcing 12 over a steep cliff to probable death below and routing others into the jungles. Under his direction, the patrol then destroyed two months’ provisions in the hostile camp and returned to headquarters without a casualty. By his perseverance, indomitable spirit and outstanding courage at grave personal risk, Staff Sergeant Aguon strengthened the bonds of friendship between the peoples of Guam and the United States and rendered valiant service in combating a common enemy.”
Fourteen other police officers later joined the Patrol. They were Edward G. Aflague, Joaquin M. Camacho, Felix T. Cruz, Jose D. Cruz, Mariano C. Cruz, Vicente Q. Duenas, Francisco C. Leon Guerrero, David L. Lujan, Juan L. Lujan, Charles H. McDonald, Antonio C. Perez, Juan A. Quinata, Pedro C. Santos, and Henry F. Taitano. All members of the Patrol received the Bronze Star. George Flores also received a Purple Heart for wounds he received on his right hand when a hand grenade was thrown at him in Fena in 1946. Flores said:
“I take pride in saving lives, defending and serving the people of Guam, and for still being alive.”
The Combat Patrol was disbanded in November 1948.
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