WWII survivor remembers Guam liberation

by Sgt. Nicholas Holmes, Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington
Stripes Guam

FORT LESLEY J. MCNAIR, D.C. – Irene Perez Ploke Sgambelluri was ten years old when her father, U.S. Navy pharmacist mate John Ploke, was taken into custody by Japanese forces on the island of Guam, during the early days of America's war with Japan in 1942.

Sgambelluri was the first survivor to participate in an Army Full Honors Wreath Laying ceremony, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, July 16.

The ceremony, featuring Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and The United States Army Band "Pershing's Own", commemorated the 74th Anniversary of the Liberation of Guam, the Battle for the Northern Mariana Islands, and the War in the Pacific.

Sgambelluri’s father was captured in December 1942.

"He said he had to surrender or we would all be killed,” Sgambelluri recalled, during an interview with KUAM News. “He took off his shirt and tied it to a branch, and we walked out holding my hand. I will never forget that day, never. The Japanese soldiers took him, stripped him naked, dragged him and took him to the prison in Hagatna.”

A few days later, Sgambelluri and her family discovered that all the imprisoned men, including her father, were transferred to Zentsuji Prisoner of War camp in Osaka, Japan.

“The place was empty,” Sgambelluri continued. “We asked the interpreter where the prisoners were, he said ‘they were all shipped out to Japan’.”

It was more than three years before she would see her father again.

Following the ceremony, Sgambelluri expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to honor the memories of the brave men and women of the military who lost their lives.

Subscribe to our Stripes Pacific newsletter and receive amazing travel stories, great event info, cultural information, interesting lifestyle articles and more directly in your inbox!

Follow us on social media!

Facebook: Stars and Stripes Pacific
Flipboard: Stars and Stripes Community Sites

Looking to travel while stationed abroad? Check out our other Pacific community sites!
Stripes Japan
Stripes Okinawa
Stripes Korea

Recommended Content