Daily Archives: 07/22/2005

War Diary II

Continuing the diary of William G. Johnston, as published in the Guam Pacific Daily News:

‘Planes flew over us and dropped bombs…’

By William G. Johnston
Excerpts “U.S.-Japanese War, Personal Experiences,” W.G. Johnston

Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series. It is the first-person account of the invasion and capture of Guam, written by William G. Johnston, taken from his diary. The content is edited for spelling, punctuation and space, but otherwise is published as written more than 60 years ago. The scene of today’s installment opens in the early morning of Dec. 10, 1941, the day the Japanese officially captured the island.

Written from 1941 to 1943.

At 2 a.m., a messenger from the governor came out to the ranch and informed us that it was the orders for everyone to get out of Agana by 4 a.m. as Japanese ships were off the island, and that it would be taken at daylight.

My wife, (sons) Herbert (and) Tom, and I came into town with Pedro Martinez.

Herbert went to the Plaza and took a government light truck. We loaded it with bedding, canned food, a sack of rice, some clothing, etc., for we had decided to go to our ranch or farm at Machanao in the northern end of the island, and to have the others join us there, for we thought it would be safer, as it was farther out from Agana. …

(When we arrived), we unloaded Herbert’s truck at the Machanao Schoolhouse, which is on our land, and I told him to hurry back to the Torres ranch and get (my daughters Marian and Eloise) and to tell (my daughter) Cynthia where we were. But when he tried to start the truck, he found it was out of gas.

Tom said a truck ahead of him had turned off on the road to the Ritidian lighthouse about one-and-a-half miles away and that he would run. Before we could say anything, he was gone. We then started to move the stuff we had brought out into the schoolhouse. Two native men we knew stopped to talk and said their truck nearby had a full tank of gas and gave Herbert enough gas to get him to Torres’s.

It was now after 4 a.m. and the full moon was up.

He was told not to go to town, but only to Torres’s ranch. After he had left, Tom showed up in a jitney driven by Williams, a yeoman. It was now good daylight so we asked Williams to follow Herbert and, if he had not started back, to remain at Torres’s where we were reasonably sure all there would be safe. I don’t know why we did not keep them with us.

White flag

So all day Wednesday, Dec. 10, my wife and I remained at Machanao. Although none of the children came to join us, we were not worried very much about them being safe.

Several Japanese planes flew over us and dropped bombs on Ritidian lookout station and on the new military road. We also heard heavy gunfire at sea.

We thought it possible that the attack had been driven off by our cruisers, but at noon a patrolman, hurrying by, told us Guam had been captured that morning at 6 o’clock, that thousands of Japanese troops had been landed, many Guam people had been killed, the Japanese were now at Dededo stopping and questioning everyone that passed and that the road from Dededo to Agana was filled with troops.

Having no transportation, there was nothing we could do but hang out a white flag at the schoolhouse all the afternoon, but no Japanese came.

Naturally, we were very much worried about the other members of our family.

About 5 p.m. a car drove up, in which was Cynthia, Joe Torres and the native Catholic priest, Father Calvo.

Cynthia was all excited — said that Marian had left Torres’s about noon in a large truck, driven by a native, presumably to join us at Machanao. But as she had never arrived there, we all feared that she had been captured by the Japanese.

My wife went all to pieces — a young girl alone in the hands of troops who, according to all reports, had shown no mercy to women in China.

But Father Calvo calmed us somewhat by saying that after the island had been surrendered, the people had been treated very well, and he was sure that even if Marian had been taken prisoner, she was safe and had not been harmed.

Then Cynthia continued that Herbert and Eloise were safe at Torres’s ranch, but that Tom was missing and it was reported that he had been seen that morning with his shirt covered with blood. We feared the worst — that he had been shot and wounded and perhaps killed.

Back to Agana

We started for Agana and ran into the first of the invading forces at Dededo. They stopped us and a Japanese officer, who spoke a little English, got on the running board of the car and passed us on from guard station to guard station until we got to Agana.

I told them I was on my way to surrender and we were permitted to go to our home without a guard. We found that our house had not been entered and everything was as we had left it. Cynthia and Joe’s home had been entered and occupied.

Shortly after we arrived home, Cintero (Okada), a Japanese who had worked for me since 1915, came to see if we were all right and if he could do anything for us.

He said Marian was all right. She had been stopped at Dededo and the truck she was in had been confiscated, but a Japanese officer had brought her to the guard room or registration station in Agana.

There, Mrs. Sawada, a prominent Japanese woman, said to her, “So Marian, yesterday I was a prisoner and now you are a prisoner, but I will fix it all right for you.”

She talked to the Japanese officers in charge. He could not talk English, but he smiled and bowed, offered (Marian) candy, pinned a cloth pass on her and motioned she was free to go.

This was about 5 p.m. She had then walked the two miles to the Torres ranch through streets full of Japanese soldiers without being at all molested. This information set our minds at rest as far as Marian was concerned, but we still had no news of Tom.

I sent word to Marian not to leave the ranch under any circumstances until the next day.

We also had some boys go to where Tom was last seen and to get some news of him. They returned and reported that they could find out nothing. …

We had a cold supper, listened to Roosevelt’s speech on the attack on Pearl Harbor at 10:30 and turned in to get some sleep.

Tom’s story

The next morning Marian came in, calm and collected as if her experience was nothing to be excited about for she was never afraid.

A few minutes later, Tom came with a badge on, having reported in and registered. Not even a scratch on him. Here’s his story:

When he and Williams, who was driving the car, arrived at Dededo, it was almost daylight and Williams drove on to Agana instead of turning off at the cutoff road. He drove very fast.

As they passed Dungca’s Beach east of Agana, they ran into Japanese troops who were landing there and who commenced to shoot at them.

They crouched on the floor board of the car, went up San Antonio Street, a distance of about a mile, at full speed, Japanese troops firing at them all the way up for Agana was full of the invading troops. Many bullets hit the car but did not hit either of them.

At the bridge across the river there (were) three wrecked cars and the street was blocked. Tom’s car piled into them and there were four wrecked cars. There was a dead woman in one, another body lay on the ground and a third lay on the street farther up. Tom and Williams jumped in different directions.

Tom crept under a porch of a nearby house and lay there until the firing stopped. He then crept along on the shady side of the street.

A wounded woman in the street asked him to help her move out of the line of fire and, in helping her, he got her blood on his shirt, which made it appear that he had been wounded. Firing commenced again and he left her on the side of the street and took shelter under a house.

When it was quiet again, he crossed the street and ran down the street by Cynthia’s house. At the Elks Club corner, he saw a lot of Japanese on the Plaza. None were looking in his direction, so he crossed that street all right.

At the next corner by the old Officer’s Club, where (he) was going to turn north to go home, he saw a squad of Japanese at Mayhew’s corner, so he kept on going until he reached the Baptist Church. There seemed no enemy in that part of town.

He climbed the steep cliff south of Agana and safely reached Gutierrez’s ranch on the plateau above where he washed his shirt, ate and slept. Early the next morning, he was told that there was no more shooting and that the people were going back to Agana and surrendering.

He and two other boys tied a handkerchief to a stick for a “flag of truce” and reported in. He was asked a few questions, given a badge as a pass and sent home.

Originally published July 20, 2005

Here is the first installment in the diaries of William Johnston

War Diary I

The Pacific Daily News ran a fascinating series of excerpts this week from the World War II diary of William G. Johnston, an American resident of Guam in the first half of the 20th century. Johnston died in a Japanese prison in 1943, but his diary of Guam’s capture and his internment survived.

Since the PDN drops their stories in a walled off archive after a week, I am going to reproduce the series here.

‘There were… no fortifications on Guam’

By William G. Johnston
Excerpts “U.S.-Japanese War, Personal Experiences, W.G. Johnston”

Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series. It is the first-person account of the invasion of Guam, written by William G. Johnston, taken from his diary. The content is edited for spelling, punctuation and space, but otherwise is published as written 61 years ago.

Written from 1941 to 1943

The tension between the two countries was gradually growing, and all the Americans in Guam felt that a break would probably occur after all endeavors for a peaceful solution had failed.

The governor had evacuated all American women and children, dependents of service personnel on the Navy transport in September, 1941, and oilers were to go to the states in January, 1942, on the USS Chaumont.

But we felt there was no immediate danger as long as the Japanese special envoy was in Washington conducting negotiations. I had decided to send my two daughters, Marian — 20 — and Eloise — 9 — back to my sister in Tennessee on The Chaumont. My wife, my two boys, Herbert and Tom, and my married daughter Cynthia, who all were employed by the government, were going to remain in Guam.

A lot of work was in progress. Government and contractors payrolls amounted to $45,000 a week. Everyone had money and all sorts of business was prospering. Our business interests, the theater, the beauty shop and the soap factory, were all doing well.

But it was too good to last and on Dec. 8th, 1941, it all came to an abrupt end.

‘Nothing to fight with’

A message from Pearl Harbor was received early Monday morning, Dec. 8, that Pearl Harbor was being bombed by Japanese planes and that hostilities had been commenced.

I was notified as I was eating breakfast and I left the table and hurried to my office. I joined a group of officers who were discussing the possibility of Guam being attacked.

While we were talking in front of the office, nine Japanese planes in a V-formation in groups of three passed to the south of Agana, heading toward Sumay, where the Marines Reservation, the contractors’ camp, the cable station and the Pan American Airways were situated.

It was also in the direction of the harbor, where the minelayer (USS) Penguin and the oil tanker Barnes were at anchor.

There were absolutely no fortifications on Guam.

Only 125 Marines who had only rifles and a dozen machine guns of small caliber, about 200 natives in the Insular Guard — but recently organized and poorly trained and similarly armed — and the “Penguin”, which had but two 50-caliber machine guns and two 5-inch anti-aircraft guns. There were no artillery or coast defense guns, no planes and no submarines.

We had nothing to fight with.

The first attack

Those nine planes passed Agana about 8:30 a.m.

At 9 a.m., a phone message was received that Sumay was being bombed and that two Standard Oil Co. tanks had been hit and were burning, also that the Penguin was trying to get out of the harbor, but it was being bombed.

Later, a messenger arrived all excited and described the first attack:

The first bomb fell in the Pan American area and killed two native employees. The hotel was demolished and on fire and another building had been destroyed. The cable station was being bombed, as was the Marine Reservation.

Everyone there was panic-stricken and leaving for the woods and the hills. The Penguin had been sunk at the entrance to the harbor. Ensign Bob White had been killed, as had been two enlisted men and several had been wounded. … White was only 21, was Marian’s boyfriend and had had dinner with us only the night before. …

The captain, it was afterwards revealed, had scuttled his ship, swimming ashore with his crew and bringing his dead and wounded with him on a raft.

The aftermath

After dropping all their bombs, the planes left for the island of Saipan, their base, two miles to the north of Guam. That afternoon, the Marines, the contractors and others returned to Sumay, loaded cars and jitneys and provisions, etc., and “went to the hills,” some making their camp in the tunnels on the Alamagordo Water System, back of Agat.

No bombs were dropped in Agana on Monday. I directed and supervised the burning of all confidential papers and maps.

That afternoon, I went to Torres’s ranch, where I found all my family and about 100 other people. There, I was told that three Chamorros … had landed on the northern end of the island from Rota with a message to the natives from the Japanese army, saying the island would be bombed Monday and Tuesday and would be taken Wednesday and the Guam natives would not be harmed if they made no resistance.

Those three were captured, taken before the governor, and then locked up in jail, where all the Japanese nationals that could be located were confined.

Later that afternoon I returned to town with the two boys and we slept that night in our house in Anigua, locking up our house in Agana, returning there the next morning. My wife came from the ranch about 7:30 a.m.

While we were making plans as to what to do, the Japanese planes returned, flew over Agana and commenced bombing the radio stations at Libugan. Over 30 bombs were dropped without hitting a single building.

Next, they started bombing Agana. Four bombs were dropped. One fell in the governor’s garden and exploded without doing any harm. Another fell in San Ramon, blowing off the porch of a house.

The third hit a small house on the hill and the fourth fell in the street back of the jail. It blew to pieces the upper story of the patting house where Mrs. Mesa had her shell purse factory, and fragments of the building were blown through the window of the cell where the Japanese residents of Guam were confined.

The Japanese planes also machine-gunned the streets of the city as they flew over it. My wife, Cynthia, and her husband, Joe Torres, were starting out with food for the Torres ranch when they saw a plane coming toward them.

They stopped the car and took shelter under a porch behind some sheets of roofing iron and an old iron range. Bullets and gravel struck all around them. When the plane had passed they got back in the car and got out of town in a hurry.

I remained around the office. We heard that the Marines had become disorganized and, led by their colonel, had scattered. The barracks had been bombed and two Marines had been killed and several wounded. One cable station man had been shot through the back and was in a critical condition. The wounded had been brought to the hospital.

That night, (Tuesday, Dec. 9) we all slept at the Torres ranch, as there was a possibility that the city might be bombed and burnt.

Transcribed by Pacific Daily News reporter Katie Worth.

Originally published July 19, 2005

Rainy Rainy Rainy

After a day of solid rain, last night the wind picked up. And I mean gusts of wind with sheets of rain. A quick look at the satellite loop confirmed my suspicions; a tropical storm developed right on top of us yesterday. It’s still hanging around this morning, and the weather is just plain nasty. A good day to curl up and read a book beside the fire. Oh wait, I don’t have a fireplace. Well at least I got plenty books.