An important part of Northern Guam is the South Pacific Memorial Park, which is located on the site of an old underground Japanese command post constructed by General Hideyoshi Obata. Located in Yigo Village, the memorial park stands as a solemn reminder of a time in history that no one hopes will happen again. The battle in the South Pacific during World War II took the lives of over half a million Americans, Japanese, Guamanians, and Pacific Islanders.
There are three reasons why tourists should come and see South Pacific Memorial Peace Park. First is to honor all the brave soldiers who lost their lives in the war. At the center of the park is a 50-ft tall abstract monument of two hands clasped in prayer, apparently praying for peace. Buried underneath this monument are the Japanese soldiers who died in the war during the last days of the Japanese Occupation.
Second, to celebrate American and Japanese friendship that is so artistically depicted by the monument. In 1965, the South Pacific Memorial Association Mission headed by Mitsunori Ueki, a Japanese, met with Monsignor Oscar L. Calvo, a Guamanian priest. Monsignor Calvo expressed his remorse that some of the bones of dead Japanese soldiers were still scattered all over the place 20 years after the war. The priest said, “I have been hoping to collect these bones and console the souls of the dead in formal funerals as soon as possible.” And so he proposed to Mr. Ueki to undertake a project that would finally bury the remains. Mr. Ueki agreed and responded with a proposal of his own. He said, “Let us collaborate in building a memorial tower which will heartily console the souls of all the people who perished while dedicating their loyalty to their respective countries, and at the same time symbolize the wishes for friendship between Japan and the U.S. and also for world peace.”
Third, come to the memorial peace park to give homage to the island-country of Guam, through which alliances and victories were forged. Guam has a very colorful history and culture, having been ruled by Spain, Japan and the United States, and yet somehow was able to maintain its own unique culture and traditions.
The first and original island settlers were the native Chamorro people who arrived in 3000BCE. After a number of millennia, Ferdinand Magellan, the famous Spanish explorer, and his galleons arrived in 1521 and eventually claimed the island for the Spanish Crown. Guam was a Spanish territory for 300 years until the Americans won the Spanish-American War in 1898. In 1941, the Japanese invaded and ruled Guam and began the country’s darkest years in history. In 1944, the Americans returned and won back the island. Today, the festive Guamanians and Chamorros celebrate the country’s Liberation Day with much revelry, but gone are the days when the Japanese were looked at as enemies.
The South Pacific Memorial Peace Park serves as a reminder that Guam is a friendly island-nation to every other nation in the world, including Japan. Today, the most number of tourists coming to enjoy the beauty of the island and mingle with the people are the Japanese.