Seventy-five years after the invasion of Guam during
World War II, the island's residents who suffered wartime atrocities are one signature away from getting compensated by the United States.
War reparations were included as part of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which was approved by the Senate on Thursday. The House of Representatives approved it last week. Now the defense bill heads to the White House, where
President Obama is expected to sign it into law.
The bill states the surviving spouse or children of a Guam resident who died during the Japanese occupation, or while Guam was being liberated by the U.S. military, can claim $25,000.
The bill spells out other claims available to those who suffered the following during wartime:
- Rape or severe personal injury such as loss of a limb, dismemberment or paralysis, $15,000.
- Forced labor or a personal injury not specified above, such as disfigurement, scarring or burns, $12,000.
- Forced march, internment, or hiding to evade internment, $10,000.
“The United States recognizes that, as described by the Guam War Claims Review Commission, the residents of Guam, on account of their United States nationality, suffered unspeakable harm as a result of the occupation of Guam by
Imperial Japanese military forces during World War II, by being subjected to death, rape, severe personal injury, personal injury, forced labor, forced march, or internment,” the bill states.
“The United States forever will be grateful to the residents of Guam for their steadfast loyalty to the United States, as demonstrated by the countless acts of courage they performed despite the threat of Imperial Japanese military forces that occupied Guam during World War II,” the bill states.
The bill also fully funds about $170 million in military construction projects for Guam, including projects related to a proposed Marine Corps base.
Madeleine Bordallo, who represents Guam in Congress, called the milestone “a historic day for the island.”
Bordallo said she also will work with Sen. Frank Blas Jr. and the Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation to see if they can help the local community be prepared for the claims program once it is established.
Blas said he broke down in tears when he heard the news.
“It is the recognition by the
United States government that there was a population, a group of loyal citizens, individuals who really had no say, as far as the war, and they were basically left to fend for themselves,” Blas said.
“We waited for 75 years for this, and you constantly prayed, and you hoped, and then you persevered, and it has not fallen to the wayside. And that’s what this is all about.”
Blas and his father, the late Lt. Gov. Frank Blas, were among those at the forefront of efforts to press the U.S. government to officially acknowledge the suffering of Guam residents at the hands of Japanese occupiers. Blas said there are about 2,000 wartime survivors left on the island.
In effect, the war claims will be paid by diverting tax money that otherwise would go to government of Guam coffers.The funding source for the war reparations would come from part of what's called "Section 30 funds," according to Bordallo’s office. Section 30 funds come from income taxes paid by U.S. military service members and federal employees who work in Guam.
The bill states if Guam receives more than $70 million a year in Section 30 funds, any amount over the $70 million will be used to pay war reparations, until all payments are made.
The Section 30 funding mechanism would continue every year until all claims are paid, according to Bordallo's office.
The proposed war reparations needed another funding source to offset federal government spending elsewhere in its budget, in order for the legislation to get Congress’ support, Bordallo's office stated.
"We intend to work with (Guam) Gov. (Eddie Baza) Calvo to seek appropriations from the Trump Administration that would hold our local treasury harmless," Bordallo's office stated.