Thursday, May 01, 2008

New WWII Monument on Guam

Japan peace groups to unveil WWII monument in Guam
Kyodo News
May 2 02:38 AM US/Eastern

TOKYO, May 2 (AP) - (Kyodo) — Japanese peace groups are set to unveil a cenotaph in Guam on May 18 to honor the more than 20,000 Japanese and U.S. soldiers as well as islanders who lost their lives in the Battle of Guam in 1944.

Peace Ring of Guam, a Guam-based nonprofit organization, and its Japanese arm have erected the monument by the sea in Agat Village, one of two locations on the western coast where U.S. forces landed and fought with Japanese troops.

Kensuke Haga, vice president of the Guam group, said he hopes many Japanese tourists will visit the Agat WWII Peace Memorial Monument and learn about wartime incidents on the resort island including massacres by Japanese soldiers of members of the local Chamorro ethnic group.

"We want to share the pain Japan inflicted on the Chamorro people during the war to create true friendship between Japan and Guam," Haga, 59, said.

Guam, a popular tropical resort for Japanese tourists, is known as the site where some 8,000 Marines based in the southern Japan prefecture of Okinawa will be relocated in line with a 2006 Japan-U.S. agreement on the realignment of the U.S. military.

"But the number of people who know about Guam's war history is very limited" and it was this reality that prompted the peace group to build the cenotaph, Haga said.

The Chinese "kanji" character for the Japanese word "wa" (harmony) is engraved in the center of the marble cenotaph, which is 2.4 meters wide and 1.7 meters high and cost 3.6 million yen.

The character is based on calligraphy by former Imperial Japanese Army soldier Shoichi Yokoi who was found in a jungle in Guam in 1972 believing that Japan and the United States were still at war.

The village of Agat has provided a site for a planned tourist center where the cenotaph stands.

Agat Mayor Carol Tayama told Kyodo News that she welcomes the project as she has worked hard to "encourage harmony between the Japanese and Chamorros." She also said, "I am very proud we can have the monument to signify the feeling we have."

The old imperial Japanese military invaded Guam, a U.S. possession since 1898, in December 1941 and the U.S. military reoccupied the 550- square-kilometer island after landings July 21, 1944 on the western coast at Agat and Asan. It is believed that nearly 20,000 Japanese soldiers and more than 1,000 U.S. soldiers as well as some 700 islanders were killed in the battle, according to Haga and the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

Peace Ring of Guam Japan, based in Tokyo, plans to send a delegate to the ceremony. The group comprises former Japanese soldiers and people who lost their relatives in the fighting in Guam as well as their supporters.

Heitaro Matsumoto, a 67-year-old corporate executive who heads the Tokyo group, said, "We should not let the history of the Battle of Guam fade with time."

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