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Liberator has fond memories of Guam

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Gene Bell, circa 1944 Gene Bell, circa 1944

Aside from the celebrations Guam partakes in annually for Liberation Day, the real reason why we gather every year in Hagatna is to honor those who sacrificed so much for our freedom. Gene Bell is the sole liberator from the 3rd Marine Regiment to visit Guam this year.

Bell was only 17 when he joined the Marines Corps, and came ashore in Guam to bring an end to the three-year Japanese occupation. "It was chaos," he recalled. "The entire island was just flattened - it was devastated. There was nothing standing, everything was destroyed, completely destroyed. For a 17-year-old, when I hit the island, it was a shock, really."

He said in October his division made the final sweep of the island, from south to north, saying, "It took us about two weeks, it was the final push. It was really something beating through the jungle." But eventually, the island was cleared.

During the months Bell spent in Guam he says the memory that stands out the most is one of two Chamorro children. "I had a boy and a girl, they were about 10 years old and they were named Pedro and Maria, that's all I can remember. They got my laundry each week and I was fortunate that I could give them fifty cents," he said. "I sure wish I could come in contact with those two, because for several months they took care of my laundry every week."

Bell said after training every day in Guam, he went to his next mission in Iwo Jima in February 1945. But he tries to return to the island every year, saying, "I've been back to Guam many times. I love Guam and here I am again. Last year there were seven of us; they honored seven of us last year, it just so happened this year I was the only one to return. I'm really amazed that the young people known about what the Liberation Day means and who went through it to give them that privilege."

Bell said he is just honored to have been able to serve his country and the people of Guam. 

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