Monthly Archives: July 2005

War Diary Postscript

I thought I should include the background material on W.G. Johnston that ran in a sidebar to the Pacific Daily News series. For those interested in the invasion and occupation of Guam during World War II, I recommend the National Park Service 50th Liberation Anniversary site documenting the capture, occupation and liberation of Guam.

WHO WAS WILLIAM G. JOHNSTON?
W.G. Johnston

  • William Gautier Johnston was a Tennessee-born Marine who came to Guam in the first part of the 20th century. Johnston met and fell desperately in love with his future wife, the young and brilliant — and later famous — Agueda Iglesias Johnston. After being discharged from the military, he found his way back to Guam and married his love in 1911. The couple eventually had seven children.
  • Both William and Agueda Johnston were devoted educators and successful businesspeople. However, the life they built together fell apart in December 1941, when Japanese forces invaded the island.
  • Because William Johnston was American-born, he was imprisoned with other civilian and military Americans and sent to a prison camp in Kobe, Japan. Nearly two years after being sent to Japan, Johnston would die in a hospital near the camp.
  • Though he died without ever seeing his family again, William Johnston left behind a treasure: A diary in which he meticulously documents the invasion of Guam and his time in the prison camp. Though the 180-page diary is too long to publish in its entirety, here we present excerpts that describe the invasion and taking of the island.
  • At the time of invasion, five of the Johnstons’ seven children were on island: the oldest was Cynthia, married to Joe Torres; bachelor Herbert; Marian, who was 20 at the time; teenager Tom; and the baby of the family, 9-year-old Eloise.

Here are the four posts in the War Diary series: War Diary I, War Diary II, War Diary III, and War Diary IV.

War Diary IV

This is the final installment of Guam resident William G. Johnston’s World War II diaries published in the Pacific Daily News. The first three detailed the capture and surrender of the island to Japanese forces in December 1941; this final article follows Johnston’s capture and imprisonment in Kobe, Japan. W.G. Johnston died in prison on October 1943. The first three segments of his diary are available here: War Diary I, War Diary II and War Diary III.

‘No flowers from my camp, No. 3, yet’

By William G. Johnston
Excerpts “U.S.-Japanese War, Personal Experiences,” W.G. Johnston”
Written from 1941 to 1943

Editor’s note: This is the last installment in a 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.

Epilogue

What has been related in the last three days’ installments was taken from the first 50 pages of Johnston’s 180-page diary, which covers the next two years of his life. A few weeks after first being imprisoned in Agana, Johnston and the rest of the Americans on Guam were taken to a prison camp in Kobe, Japan. There, Johnston’s health deteriorated. The 6-foot-1-inch man went from a sturdy 185 pounds to a frail 135 pounds at the end of his life. He was ultimately hospitalized in the International Hotel near the prison camp, and there his life ended on Oct. 11, 1943. His ashes and personal items — including his diary — were brought back to Guam by his friend and fellow prisoner James Underwood.

December 1941, shortly after Johnston’s imprisonment, while he was still on Guam.

Saturday, I had a few minutes talk with my wife, in which she (said she) had been requested by Mrs. Dejima and Mrs. Takano to help entertain the higher Japanese officers at the officers club.

My daughter Marian was a fine hula dancer, and my two boys Herbert and Tom could play the piano very well and could do the “Ponope stick dance” and other stunts. The Underwood girls would participate if my wife would let our children take part.

Naturally, we did not want to do anything to welcome our conquerors, but we were absolutely at their mercy, and any opposition or any show of a “superiority complex” was likely to result in slaps of the face or search of the house and destruction of property and clothing. And besides, the Japanese officer who had protected our house the first day, through Mrs. Dejima as interpreter, said the general would appreciate it very much if my wife would help to entertain them.

As much as we both hated to do anything for our enemy, Agueda reluctantly agreed to do as requested. I was in no position to tell her what to do.

January 1942, upon arriving in Kobe, Japan

Our group was mustered in front of the dock buildings, standing in about two inches of snow, with snow still falling. After about half an hour of this, we were turned over to the Army.

The officer in command mercifully marched us into an unheated sort of waiting room, where we were out of the snow and were a little warmer. Here we were given half a loaf of cold bread, the first food since the meager breakfast aboard ship. I was so cold I could eat only the crust of mine.

After another delay we were marched half a mile, where we took electric cars, which took us to the prison camp of Zentsuji, where we were again lined up, counted and marched into a large-frame two-story barracks, which was divided into rooms holding 16 men.

I was in a room with 15 other Guam men. These rooms were heated by charcoal-burning braziers, which diffused little heat unless one stood very close to the brazier. Our “beds” were made by a 1-by-6-inch piece of lumber running lengthwise (through) the room with “accommodations” for eight men to a side. …

We had just about finished making down our beds when a guard appeared with a bucket of hot soup, which to us half-frozen beings was most welcome. It was about 11 p.m. before we got to sleep and most of us got a fairly comfortable night’s rest, after the coldest day I think, bar none, I ever experienced.

April 1942, after being transferred to another prison camp with better accommodations.

The 18th was the day of the big thrill! It was a warm, sunny afternoon and most of us were outside the building. Some were sitting on the terrace overlooking the waterfront. I was on the sun porch. About 2:30 p.m. we heard the sound of a large airplane approaching, but we had been seeing so many Japanese planes that, though we watched it casually, no special attention was given it.

Suddenly, it dived as it got over the Kobe Navy yard, and we saw bombs fall and heard five distinct explosions. The pilot shot up and was gone before the Japanese realized it was one of our planes, and that they were being bombed.

The anti-aircraft guns went into action, and raid alarm sirens were sounded after our plane, undamaged, was out of sight. We could see several fires break out, and a large oil tank was hit and set on fire. We could see big billowy clouds of black smoke streaked with lurid red flames. We had a grandstand seat to view this remarkable airplane attack made by one of our own. Later, our Japanese guards told us that Tokyo, Yokohama and Nagoya had been bombed at the same time, and an interpreter said the damage done “was plenty.” …

June 1943, after a year and a half in the camp.

The 14th was our Flag Day, and I lay awake at night thinking of past Flag Days in happier days, and the dance that followed, and I could see, in my mind’s eye, my wife and the girls in their pretty new dresses, and (sons) Herbert and Tom at the bar.

When will we be together again?

Sept. 16, 1943, hospitalized at the International Hospital in Kobe.

Feel myself growing weaker. Cannot walk up steps without difficulty and shortness of breath. Stopped going down to meals and have meals brought to my room, generally by Wolford.

Friday, Flaherty said I needed medical attention and went and called up Dr. Kenito, who came right away to the camp. He gave me a hurried examination and went and phoned for authority to put me in the hospital. Obtaining same, he called the hospital for the ambulance. Flaherty packed my suitcase. Feary and Sachers carried me downstairs and out to the street to the ambulance, and in a half-hour I was on my way. I was made a stretcher case and carried to my bed and rolled into it. …

This International Hospital compares favorably with the Susana in Guam. A Swiss-trained nurse is in charge, a German-trained nurse is her assistance, and three experienced Japanese nurses are on duty. They are very capable and accommodating. All speak English.

On the 12th I was surprised to get a letter from my wife in Guam — the first one. It was cheerful and optimistic. They are living well but working hard. Herbert and Tom are running the soap factory. Marian is running the beauty shop and Cynthia and Joe are on his father’s ranch on Barrigada Road. Eloise is going to a Japanese school. All shows are closed. Lack of films, I supposed.

By comparing letters Butler, Underwood and others received, it seems the Japanese government is encouraging things to get back to normal, and to have the people satisfied. Of course, they expect to keep Guam.

September 30, 1943

I have been in the hospital in bed now for almost two weeks. My doctor gave me an examination today and said (I) was stronger and my pulse almost normal. All I needed was care, medication and rest, which I could not (get) at the camp. Also, freedom from worry, now that I have heard from my family in Guam.

October 5, 1943, Johnston’s final entry, six days before his death.

Brunton and McNulty sent me a basket of beautiful flowers — two kinds of carnations, purple and yellow chrysanthemums, and three large red dahlias. They are in Camp 4. No flowers from my camp, No. 3, yet.

Originally published July 22, 2005

Open Season

Am I the only one disturbed by this incident of the London police gunning a man down on the Tube? It seems awfully egregious to pin a man to the ground and then fire five shots into him.

He ran onto the train; he was hotly pursued by three plainclothes officers. One of them was wielding a black handgun. He half-tripped. They pushed him to the floor and basically unloaded five shots into him.

And now this morning comes the news that the poor unfortunate was unconnected to the bombings and was in fact a Brazilian electrician. However, British police reiterated their ‘shoot to kill‘ policy for suspected suicide bombers. I certainly wouldn’t want to be a dark-skinned man riding around on London’s mass transit system. It seems the terrorists have succeeded in planting the seeds of discord and fear into British society.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Set For Liftoff

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is in the final stages of preparation for liftoff. This NASA probe will be the largest space vehicle ever sent to Mars, and it will orbit closer to the red planet than the currently operating probes. New Scientist has a good overview of the upcoming Mars mission.

In a related note, a BBC article cites research into Martian meteorites that indicates the surface of Mars never experienced any significant warming. Perhaps this new spacecraft can shed some light on this new mystery.

Thank You eBay

The MiniStar 2 LED Replacement bulb from TerraLuxPicked up a nifty new toy at the post office today: The MiniStar2 LED bulb for my maglite flashlight from TerraLux. It is a super bright, white LED bulb replacement for my Mini Maglite. And it is blindingly bright. I am really impressed. It was pretty darn expensive, but I got a pretty good deal on eBay for the kit. It cost me over $20 for a little lightbulb, which is certainly not cheap, but the thing will last me forever and I won’t be burning through the batteries every typhoon now because the LED is very energy efficient. And did I mention it’s really, really bright? I can’t wait for the next power outage now.

War Diary III

In the third installment of the World War II diaries of Guam resident William G. Johnston, he recounts the surrender of the island to the Japanese. These were originally printed in the Pacific Daily News from July 19 to July 22, 2005.

Here are the first two installments: War Diary I and War Diary II.

Naval governor surrendered island

By William G. Johnston

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series. It is the first-person account of the invasion and capture of Guam, written by William G. Johnston and taken from his diary. The content is edited for spelling, punctuation and space, but otherwise is published as written more than 60 years ago. At the start of this entry, of Thursday, Dec. 11, 1941, Johnston has just left his family and walked to the guard station to surrender — which the Japanese were requiring all island residents to do.

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

Written from 1941 to 1943

(I) surrendered and was put in the Insular Guard quarters where I found most of the other civilians. I was fortunate enough to be given a cell facing the entrance or lobby.

Here, by talking with others, I got the details of the capture of the island the day before.

At Dungca’s Beach and at Agana, a large force in the dark after midnight left the ships in sampans, which were run up on the outlying reef.

By the light of the full moon, they waded into the shore, for it was low tide.

This landing party were veterans called “Marines” who were killers, for they started shooting at everything that moved as soon as they landed. If they did not stop, they used the bayonet.

Many natives trying to get out of town too late were killed.

Antonio Limtiaco’s jitney filled with women and children was fired upon and all five massacred. Another native had his wife and three children in his car with him. He did not stop in time. They were all killed but him, who was taken prisoner and marched away, leaving his dead family in the car alongside the road.

Bill Hughes was coming into the city from Barrigada. At the foot of the hill he was fired upon. Two boys in his car were killed, and he and his wife were wounded. A Japanese Marine ran up and slashed his back open with a knife bayonet. He let in the clutch of his car, starting up suddenly, ran down two soldiers and drove unconsciously to the hospital where (he) collapsed in a pool of blood. Both recovered.

Four children of a Japanese resident who had married a Chamorro woman were shot down.

There were many others killed — in all, between 60 and 75, most of them being killed at Dungca’s Beach and in San Antonio.

Column of troops

In the meantime, Japanese troops were pouring in at the Agana Navy Yard, Sumay, Umatac, Talofofo and Pago, but they were not as savage as the murderous “Marines” who did most of the killing, and few if any were killed at other points in the capture of the island on that fateful Wednesday, December 10, 1941.

Minimal defense

The column of troops from San Antonio and Pago moved on Agana and headed for the Plaza, where the governor and most of the officers were.

There was really no defense put up. … There (were) a few machine guns of small caliber, but none of 50 caliber, no cannon or any form of artillery, no planes and no submarines — nothing to fight with.

Yet the governor had given orders to the chief boatswain’s mate Lane, who was in command of the Insular Guard, to post four machine guns so that these guns would command approaches from the sea and to man them with native guardsmen. …

The first column to appear came up the street from San Antonio to the Catholic Church. As it reached the corner, our machine guns opened up on them.

They were driven back — this was at 5:10 a.m. The Japanese troops reformed and again advanced and were again driven back, although their rifle fire had by now killed or wounded several.

Another column was now coming up Pasos Street by Leary School, and a third from Pago was in San Ramon and also approaching.

Lane said, “We must surrender at once to save lives. It is no longer possible to resist further.”

The governor had gone upstairs to his quarters to change from civilian clothes to uniform, so Commander Giles, second in command, stepped out with Lane waving a white handkerchief from the Palace or Government House. (Giles) ran to an automobile parked in front and blew the horn several times.

A Japanese officer blew a whistle and firing ceased. A voice called out for the senior officers, under a flag of truce, to come across the Plaza to the Parochial Schoolhouse and surrender. …

When Giles and Lane reached the schoolhouse, the Japanese officer there placed them under arrest as prisoners of war and marched them to the Agana Navy Yard on the waterfront for them to surrender to the Japanese general in command of the enemy expedition.

They were returned to the Plaza with the general, who demanded the formal surrender of the island by the governor, Capt. McMillin.

The governor had been taken prisoner and was sitting on the grass in front of the Government House in his shorts only; partially “dressed” and in this “uniform,” he surrendered the island of Guam.

The taking of prisoners and disarming them immediately followed. … All prisoners were compelled to bow to their captors, but one of these Marines would not bow and called the Japanese “yellow bellied bastards.” Those were his last words, for they disemboweled him with a knife, bayonet and he died in his tracks in ranks. I believe this was the last man killed. …

Japanese officers were frank in stating that they expected more resistance and came prepared to overcome it. The island was to be captured at any cost. …

Looting

Looting broke out in the city. Some stores were cleaned out and others not touched.

The worse sufferers were the Calvo Bros, who lost practically all their merchandise, even what they thought was safely hidden in the country; Pedro Martinez lost 900 sacks of rice, several cars, warehouses of building materials and most of a herd of about 500 cattle; and AK and Co. importers and wholesalers, who had a large well-stocked store and two warehouses.

On the other hand Butlers, with the exception of 300 cases of whiskey and about the same amount of beer, lost little with the exception of jewelry, watches and trinkets.

Most of the stuff taken was paid for in yen (an article marked $1 being bought for one yen.)

One of the first things the Japanese officers did the morning of the capture was to collect all liquor, beer, etc. from wholesalers, clubs and saloons, to keep it from falling into the hands of the Japanese soldiers.

It would be too terrible a thing to imagine what would have happened if all those 7,000 soldiers had gotten drunk, flushed, as they were, with the excitement of victory.

Private homes were, in most cases, not looted, the exception being that houses whose occupants were evidently officers or servicemen as indicated by uniforms there, were cleaned out, trunks broken open and drawers emptied. What the Japanese soldiers could use or wanted was taken, the other things, especially uniforms, being destroyed.

Only a few other private homes were molested and, in each case, the occupants did not show Japanese officers “proper respect” when they called to look over the place.

One case will suffice to show this. Don Perez, a well-to-do old native, was asleep taking his siesta one afternoon when a party of Japanese soldiers called to look over the house. He was asleep and his daughter refused to wake him.

They slapped her, pulled him out of bed, tore off his clothes and destroyed all his other clothing, made him open his safe and took all his money. He was left practically destitute.

While we were in the country, Mrs. Dejima, a Japanese woman who ran a store across the street from our house and whom my wife had befriended on many occasions, kept the house from being entered by watching the place and talking the Japanese into letting it alone and going somewhere else.

When she saw we had returned Wednesday night, she came over and told Agueda to be very careful to welcome Japanese soldiers with a smile and a bow and be as pleasant as possible.

“I know how you feel. This is war. But keep your feelings here,” she said, pointing to her heart. “Do not let it come out here,” pointing to her lips. …

I could go on at length and tell the interesting experiences of men who had had almost miraculous escapes from death, but I have, I believe, written enough to give a fairly comprehensive narrative of the capture of Guam.

Transcribed by Pacific Daily News reporter Katie Worth.

Originally published July 21, 2005

I’ll finish up the series tomorrow…

Twinkies or Twikes?

While my buddy contemplates buying a Prius, I thought I would offer up some links to an interesting electric/human powered vehicle: The Twike. That stands for ‘twin bike’ and the contraption looks like an airplane cockpit crossed with a tricycle. It features an electric motor capable of doing 85 km/h with a range of 130 km and optional bicycle pedals to extend that range. It’s handmade in Switzerland, costs a bundle (around $20,000), and looks pretty cool – but that sure is a silly name. Get used to gizmos like this, I firmly believe this is the future of automobiles, at least for city driving. Will people in the US adopt such a funky looking thing willingly? Not as long as gasoline remains cheap. But once prices skyrocket, vehicles like this will become attractive alternatives to walking or riding a bike around in the rain.

More Twike links, including an American’s odyssey in obtaining one:

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.

Spud Server

Okay, I’m heading off for another movie, but before I go let me post about the Spud powered web server. Geeky, in a rotting vegetable sort of way.

More later tonight.

‘Midwest’ Discovered Between East And West Coasts

I just love the Onion; though it’s an old joke that’s been told far too many times, this is still funny. The Onion | ‘Midwest’ Discovered Between East And West Coasts.

Though the Midwest territory is still largely unexplored, early reports describe a region as backwards as it is vast. “Many of the basic aspects of a civilized culture appear to be entirely absent,” said Gina Strauch, a Los Angeles-based anthropologist. “There is no theater to speak of, and their knowledge of posh restaurants is sketchy at best. Further, their agricentric lives seem to prevent them from pursuing high fashion to any degree, and, as a result, their mode of dress is largely restricted to sweatpants and sweatshirts, the women’s being adorned with hearts and teddy bears and the men’s with college-football insignias.”

And dig that crazy map!