Speaker Won Pat's Testimony before Congress - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Speaker Won Pat's Testimony before Congress

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The Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act

I would like to share with you my testimony, in part, before theUnited States House Representatives on a matter of parity and justice for Guam's Greatest Generation, HR 44, the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act.

Honorable Members of Congress, the issue of recognizing the patriotism and loyalty of approximately 23,000 men, women and children, inhabitants of Guam were subjected to unthinkable brutalities, . . . involuntary servitude and forced labor. All of whom were never extended even the most basic parity with other human beings in similar situations. These issues have been discussed in these hallowed halls for many, many years. The issue of war claims or war reparations, or whatever name it is called by was one of the first subjects of legislation introduced by my father, the late Congressman Antonio B. Won Pat over 36 years ago, and then in 1985 by retired U.S. Marine General and Congressman Ben G. Blaz. Both of these gentlemen were survivors of the war and spoke with personal and intimate knowledge of the suffering of our people and the brutalities they endured.

In 1992, the Honorable Congressman Dr. Robert A. Underwood again asked Congress to recognize the unfailing loyalty and patriotism of the Chamorro people. For last eight and a half years, Guam's incumbent Congresswoman, the Honorable Madeleine Z. Bordallo, has made this quest her highest priority.

In the 107th Congress, in his last term as a Member of this body, Congressman Underwood introduced legislation which would establish an official government commission to review the efforts and records pertaining to war claims. In the 108th Congress, through the efforts of Congresswoman Bordallo, in her first term, the intent and mechanism envisioned by Congressman Underwood became a reality when the Guam War Claims Review Commission was impaneled, funded and began their important work.

Perhaps the most important finding of the Guam War Claims Review Commission this is most relevant and should be considered at this point in time reads as follows:

1. Moral obligation to pay compensation for war damages. The Review Commission affirms that there is a moral obligation on the part of our national government to pay compensation for war damages, in order to ensure to the extent possible that no single individual or group of individuals bears more than a just part of the overall burden of war. That the United States Congress recognized this obligation with respect to Guam is evidenced by its prompt enactment of the Guam Meritorious Claims Act of 1945 (the "Guam Act") within weeks after the termination of World War II.

Every Member of both Houses of Congress should give greater deference to what the Commission believed is a moral obligation of the national government.

Also noted by the commission are fifteen separate instances where there was a lack of parity for the people of Guam who suffered the Japanese occupation and brutality, as compared to inhabitants of other areas, and indeed, other American nationals and American citizens. I call upon the Congress to correct and right an injustice suffered by the people of Guam.

The Chamorro people of Guam were imprisoned and brutalized in their own homeland. These very same Chamorros are also loyal, patriotic and freedom loving Americans who have never hesitated to serve their country and flag. But these same Chamorros, to this day, are not treated with parity in terms of war claims after World War II. For as long as the issue of "war claims" or "war reparations" remains unresolved their loyalty and patriotism remains relegated to ignobility. In 1944 American soldiers guided nearly 22,000 Chamorros from the concentration camps in Mannengon, Asinan and Fena.

Today, we estimate that perhaps 4,000 of those 22,000 are still alive but rapidly aging. I call upon the Congress of the United States to take action now and not to wait for these 4,000 to pass on. Please do not wait until those remaining are granted the parity and recognition they have waited 67 years for.

LISTEN TO SPEAKER WON PAT'S ADDRESS

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