A TIME OF AGONY
Sister Maria Angelica Salaberria, M.M.B.
Translated and Edited by
Marjorie G. Driver and Omaira Brunal-Perry
Committee on the Commemoration of the
50th Anniversary of World War II
Micronesian Area Research Center
University of Guam
MARC Educational Series No. 19, Thomas B. McGrath, Editor. This publication was made possible with a grant from CNMI Council for the Humanities, which is funded, in part, by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Copyright 1994: The Division of Historic Preservation, Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, Office of the Governor, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Micronesian Area Research Center. Used with permission from Committee On The Commemoration Of The 50th Anniversary Of World War II, Saipan.
Foreword ............................... Remedios P. Castro, M.M.B.
Preface ................................ Marjorie G. Driver
The War In The Pacific In Saipan ....... Sister Maria Angelica Salaberria, M.M.B.
Appendix: Notes concerning the Saipan mission ......................... Father Jose Maria Tardio
It started in Fanaganan. When the Americans were coming, all the Spanish nuns and priests were taken to Fanaganan by the Japanese authorities. I was not a nun, but my only ambition was to become like Sister Angelica and Sister Genoveva and the others. Because I was able to speak Japanese and Spanish, I was able to convince some sympathetic Japanese soldiers to allow me to bring them food when they were forbidden to leave their quarters.
We went from Fanaganan to Chalan Galaide and stayed there for several weeks before we were forced to move to Mount Tapochau where we slept under the trees for several weeks. I was able to find food and supplies for my friends from Chamorro farms and other Japanese friends.
What really impressed me and confirmed my dedication to becoming a Mercedarian like Sister Angelica and the others was their willingness to take the suffering without complaint. In our camps, provided by the Japanese military in some cases, we were regularly subjected to American aerial attacks by pilots who did not know who we were. One of the sisters was killed and Sister Angelica was badly wounded at one point. She was treated by a Japanese doctor who was low on supplies and used a stick to administer antibiotics inside the bullet wound. It worked until she found more adequate treatment from the American medics.
We found sympathetic Japanese soldiers and officers who gave us what they could, in most cases, but we also heard rumors that we might be killed as spies for the Americans. Some Japanese soldiers ran away from us; some helped us.
It was a long march from Chalan Galaide (today, Maturana Hill) to Mount Tapochau, Talofofo, Calveras Cave, and finally, to my family farm in Makpi (Marpi) just south of the present-day Last Command Post.
As we went through the shelling and bombing, I could only admire the strength of the sisters, the Jesuit brother, and Father Tardio. I was convinced that this was what I wanted to do with my life.
When we finally made it to safety and were released by the Japanese who had told us where we could go during the invasion, we made it to my family's farm where we found food and shelter.
After the American victory on Saipan, they found us: a whole Catholic community of sisters, Brother Gregorio, and Father Tardio.
The Americans were very helpful. They took us from my farm, below what is now Suicide Cliff, to the top where they gave us food and water. Then they took us to Camp Susupe where the non-Japanese citizens were sheltered.
When Father Tighe, a Catholic priest with the American invasion forces, found us, our situation improved tremendously. The American troops helped us with food, clothing, and other supplies from the Red Cross and American charities.
I finally realized my dream of becoming a Mercedarian after the Americans took over. My model was the life of Sister Amgelica and the other nuns who represented the Church at that time.
Since then, what I have been trying to do is to maintain the old traditional values that I learned. The strength of Sister Angelica, Father Tardio, and the others of the group has given me the strength to continue the mission with my people.
Times have changed. We have new challenges. But I will never forget the sacrifices that these dedicated people made in a culture that was not their own and that eventually became hostile to their existence, but who persisted in their dedication to their principles and convictions, nonetheless. Some of them gave their lives, some lived after to continue their work until the Lord called them. I am still here, and I am here because of God's calling and I listened. I hope it never happens again, but I am forever grateful for their inpsiration.
Sister Remedios P. Castro, M.M.B.
Saipan, May 1994
The islands and people of the Mariana Islands have experienced countless changes since the day in June, 1668, when Father Diego Luis de Sanvitores stepped ashore at Agana (Guam), intent on establishing a Jesuit mission in the archipelago. In 1769, after one hundred years in the Marianas, the Jesuits were expelled from all Spanish possessions by decree of King Carlos III. Their replacements, the Augustinian Recollect Fathers, reached the islands on the same ship that removed their predecessors. Among the first Augustinians was Father Fray Andres de San Jose. The Spanish administration in Guam, the largest of the Marianas and the capital, ended with the Spanish American War in 1898. After the war, it was almost impossible for Spain to maintain authority over the rest of the Marianas or the Caroline Islands, and within a year, she ended her presence in the Pacific, selling her possessions to Germany on 12 February 1899.
During the first decade of the 1900's, the German administration effected a series of administrative and ecclesiastical changes. In 1904, Capuchins from Westfalia arrived; the following year, the Eastern and Western Carolines became a single apostolic prefecture, headed by Father Venantious aus Prechthal, the apostolic prefect. By 1905, the German Capuchins fathers had replaced all the Spanish missionaries in the Carolines.
In June 1907, the Marianas were also placed under the protection of the German Capuchins and an apostolic prefecture was established with Father Paulus von Kirchhausen as the apostolic prefect. In 1911, Guam was separated from the apostolic prefecture of the Marianas because the island now belonged to the United States; consequently, an independent vicariate was established under the leadership of the Capuchins from the Province of Cataluna, Spain.
The labor of the German Capuchins in the Marianas was very productive. There were several schools, and Father Callistus Lopinot wrote a book in the Chamorro language that was published in Hong Kong in 1910. This growth was interrupted by the outbreak of World War 1. In October 1914, the Japanese invaded and took possession of Saipan and the other German-held islands. All the Germans were withdrawn, except the missionaries. Since the Japanese promised to guarantee private property rights and freedom of religion and conscience, Vicar Salvador Walleser responded to the eviction notice as follows: "If it is true, we will not leave, because this is a Catholic mission, ultranational, and universal."
The missionaries soon found themselves isolated from the rest of the world--even from other islands--and outside support ceased completely. In May 1915, for lack of food, they were forced to close the schools. Father Lukunor wrote, "The islanders would rather die than allow us to perish from hunger; we will remain, at all costs, unless we are removed by force."
The Treaty of Versailles finally recognized Japanese sovereignty over what had been German Micronesia, and the now exiled German fathers departed toward the end of 1919. Later, as the result of a petition made by the Chamorro women, requesting the replacement of the German missionaries, the Japanese Government sent Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (then a naval captain) to Rome to initiate negotiations with the Holy See.
As a result of the negotiations, the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide offered to send religious orders to the mission, but because of the war, there was a lack of available personnel. Nevertheless, the Society of Jesus accepted the offer made by the Holy See in its agreement with the Japanese Government, and the general of the Jesuits, Father Ledochowski, subsequently received an offer from the Spanish Jesuit missionaries of the Province of Andalucia to accept the mission. Twenty missionaries were selected and sailed from Spain on 15 December 1920, under the direction of Father Santiago Lopez Rego, the apostolic vicar. They arrived in Japan on 24 February 1921 and sailed for Saipan later that month, arriving at the island on 2 March 1921. Monsignor Rego took possession of the mission that his countryman, the Spanish Jesuit Father Diego Luis de Sanvitores, had founded 253 years earlier.
The Mercedarian Missionaries of Berriz have their home in the small Basque town of Berriz, in northern Spain. Their institute was founded by Mother Margarita Maria Maturana, an educator who believed in the efficacy of Christian education. She was bom in Bilbao in 1894 and died in 1934. During her lifetime, she made two trips around the world, accompanying the first M.M.B. expeditions.
In 1927, the first group of Mercedarian Missionaries of Berriz sailed for Saipan. When they arrived, they began working almost in the open air, and although housed in very poor living quarters, they established their school, etc. Soon there were many vocations from among the young Micronesian women.
During the first years of the Japanese administration, the Jesuit and Mercedarian missionaries in Saipan were treated with consideration, but by 1938, difficulties with the Church developed, and the entry of Spanish missionaries was restricted and finally prohibited in September of that year.
The war years 1941-1944 followed, during which the missionaries suffered hardships and were made prisoners, as described by Sister Angelica and Father Tardio in the accounts that are the subject of this publication.
After the war, between 1945 and 1953, the principal responsibility of the M.M.B.'s was to catechize the children.
As noted above, the archipelago has undergone many changes and the Mercedarian Missionaries of Berriz have seen the complete transformation of the islands. At the end of World War II, the American presence brought about what is known today as the "Americanization" of the islanders. They not only speak English, but receive good prices for the rental of their land, and they have adopted many American customs. It can be said that the islands lack for nothing.
As during previous colonial administrations, the United States subtly discouraged the presence of foreigners and only permitted entry to its own citizens. At one time, it appeared that the Government of the United States intended to expel the Spanish Jesuits and the Mercedarian Missionaries of Berriz from Micronesia. Washington's position softened somewhat, however: the missionaries were permitted to remain, but the superiors on each island had to be American, not Spanish.
The Mercedarian Missionaries of Berriz continue to labor in Saipan, although other congregations have arrived. There are still people who can pray in Spanish, who remember thekaselelia, or goodbye, they sang to Mother Margarita Maturana when she left Saipan for Japan many years ago.
Today, there are two Mercedarian communities in Saipan. The Chalan Kanoa House is a home for novices--the young Micronesian women who wish to become missionaries--also for the American, Spanish, and Micronesian sisters dedicated to teaching and other pastoral activities. The second community, at the hillside Maturana House of Prayer, dedicates itself to retreats and spiritual exercises.
We wish to acknowledge several individuals and organizations that have made possible the publication of Sister Angelica's manuscript. In December 1991, MARC Research Associate, Florentino Rodao, a Spanish scholar studying in Japan, forwarded a copy of the original to MARC's Spanish Documents Collection. Subsequently, publication of the manuscript was discussed with members of the Mercedarian communities in Guam, Saipan, and Rome to determine their interest in the matter. We are especially grateful to Sister Mary Ann Becmer, Sister Remedios Castro, Sister Inirnaculata Ochoa-Retana, and Sister Mary Louise Balzarini for their enthusiasm, assistance, and quick response.
This publication incorporates the transcriptions and translations prepared by the editors, Marjorie G. Driver working in English and Omaira Brunal-Perry in Spanish. A preliminary draft translation was prepared by Lorena Martin and is available in MARC's Spanish Documents Collection. Because of the interest in the original Spanish manuscript, it was decided to prepare a bilingual publication. A report incorporating a shorter version of the same war-time experience written by Father Jose Maria Tardio, which adds certain details to Sister Angelica's account, is appended to the English and Spanish texts. Both the Salaberria and the Tardio manuscripts are presented as accounts of personal experiences within the context of tragic historical events that affected the lives of large numbers of people in Micronesia.
In view of the 1994 Fiftieth Anniversary Commemoration that will take place in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, the editors sought support for the publication from interested persons in Saipan. Many in Saipan responded enthusiastically, among them Sister Remedios Castro, M.M.B., Richard Shewman, editor of Humanidat; Scott Russell, Deputy Historic Preservation Officer; Ron Barrineau, Executive Director of the CNMI Humanities Council; Cynthia Fleming of the Committee on the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of World War II; and Samuel McPheters. We are, indeed, grateful for the support generated in Saipan, as well as that of Dr. Hiro Kurashina, Director of the Micronesian Area Research Center, and Thomas B. McGrath, S.J., MARC's Director of Publications.
A grant from the C.N.M.I. Humanities Council provided financial support for the publication of the booklet. Artist Jeff Skavril designed the cover.
Marjorie G. Driver
Notes concerning the Saipan mission
Father Jose Maria Tardio
Agawa, Hiroyuki. The Reluctant Admiral. Tokyo: Kodansha International Ltd., 1979.
Farrel, Don. History of the Northern Mariana Islands. Northern Mariana Islands: Public School System Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, 1991.
Garcia Mata, M.M.B., Maria de los Angeles. "Al fin tenemos noticias de nuestras misioneras de Saipan." Angeles de las Misiones 126 (Septiembre-Octubre 1944): 125-136.
Gonzalez Quintana, M.M.B., Maria Mercedes and Salaberria, Angelica. "Dos cartas interesantes." Angeles de las Misiones 127 (Noviembre-Diciembre 1944):162-165.
Hezel, S.J., Francis. The Catholic Church in Micronesia. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1991.
Infantes, M.M.B., Maria Femanda. "Paginas de guerra." Angeles de las Misiones 176 (Marzo-Abril 1953):56-72.
McGrath, S.J., Thomas. "The Capuchins in the Marianas." The Journal of Pacific History 20 (January 1985):59.
Revuelta, M.M.B. Joaquina. "Notas sueltas del diario de Saipan." Angeles de las Misiones 145 (Noviembre-Diciembre 1947):666-671.
Sierra, S.J. Antonio. "Oceania, Vicariato de las Islas de Palaos, Marianas y Carolinas." El Siglo de las Misiones 73 (Enero 1920):298-331.
Drawing of Sister Maria Angelica Salaberria by Jeff Skavril, based on original photograph.
THE WAR IN THE PACIFIC IN SAIPAN
Sister Maria Angelica Salaberria, M.M.B.
During the year 1940, and especially during 1941, the threat of war between Japan and the United States became more imminent, and fear and anxiety about the future began to take hold and agonize the people of Saipan. Gradually, military personnel began to arrive and soon a military government was established on the island. I do not recall the exact date, but I do remember that by mid-1941 we were already under military rule. The military occupied the parish church, saying they needed it to store war materiel; thus, the mission was left without a church, and we had to set up a tiny chapel to celebrate the Eucharist and for other acts of worship. Naturally, all the people who attended could not fit inside the chapel and we assembled them in our dining room and the visiting area, which were quite spacious and connected to the chapel by a door. The garden and the street opposite the garden leading to the chapel would fill with people. The worshippers not accommodated in the chapel could not see the altar or hear the priest celebrating mass, yet they sang with great fervor, as those feeling keenly the need to be closer to God.
It had been some time since Bishop Rego,2 a Jesuit serving as apostolic vicar of the Caroline, Marshall, and Mariana Islands (except Guam) had resigned, and in Rome, it was heatedly debated whether it would be suitable to appoint a Spanish Jesuit as Monsignor Rego's successor, since the Spanish Jesuits were in charge of the mission, or whether it would be better to appoint a Japanese bishop. By this date, all foreign bishops in Japan had resigned and Japanese bishops had been appointed to succeed them as apostolic administrators. The situation in the Church was extremely tense. The military government turned out to be very hostile toward the Catholic Church. On one occasion, the military governor said, "The Catholic Church must not be good, if Hitler is persecuting it so vigorously in Europe." In schools, they prevented children from attending catechism classes and spoke to them disdainfully of the Church. They also began to watch us very closely, as one would watch a suspicious person, harassing us frequently with prolonged interrogations. It was at this time that Rome sent us a visitor. He was a holy man of Japanese origin who loved the Church more than he loved his nation, and who was an expert on the Japanese military, having been involved in several conflicts as Church mediator. He had come to study our situation and to provide us with instructions as to how we should proceed in dealing with the Japanese military. It required a great deal of prudence, patience, and cordiality.
During 1941, around the month of November, if I remember correctly, the military assembled some thirty young native men with good command of the Japanese language to instruct them in the strategy of war. At this point, we must bear in mind that Guam, the southernmost of the Mariana Islands located only 206 miles from Saipan, belonged to the United States, and that all the other islands of the Mariana archipelago belonged to Japan. From these native men and their relatives, we learned that Japan was going to initiate the war against the United States at dawn on 8 December. At the time, Saipan had a population of 3,000 natives and 35,000 Japanese. The panic that struck the people was indescribable, and since all the local people were Catholic, each and every one, without exception, received the sacrament of penances in preparation for death. One should have seen the joy expressed by the parish priest, Father Jose Maria Tardio,3 because according to him, it had been more effective than a mission.
December 7th4 arrived. All the military men and the thirty selectees designated to start the war by attacking the island of Guam departed aboard ships to Rota, a small island halfway between Saipan and Guam. At dawn on the eighth, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, they headed for Guam, and before landing on the island, the thirty local men were ordered into the water to make preparations for the landing of the Japanese. The U.S. Government on Guam was unaware of Japan's intentions and was caught completely by surprise, with no war defenses. Consequently, the Japanese advanced with no difficulty and gained control of the island within four days. As a result of this attack, all missionaries, both Spanish and American, were taken prisoner, and only two recently ordained young native diocesan priests5 remained on the island.
Meanwhile, what was happening in Saipan? Father Tardio routinely came to our chapel daily to celebrate the Eucharist at 5:00 in the morning. I do not remember whether it was on the twelfth or the thirteenth when Father Tardio did not come, but at about 5:30, four Japanese policemen arrived to search our home. Since they found nothing suspicious (Mother Mercedes Gonzalez,6the mother superior, had hidden whatever might have been considered suspicious) they took nothing with them. After the search, they ordered us to accompany them to the police station. In a large room, the chief of police and the entire police force, both Japanese and native, awaited us. Father Tardio and Brother Oroquieta were there also. Once we entered the room, the chief of police solemnly declared that Father Tardio and Brother Oroquieta were under arrest and would be confined to their residence, totally isolated from the people. As for the sisters, we were placed under arrest also, although we were allowed to walk around, but only within the town of Garapan.7 At this point, a funny incident comes to mind that I cannot resist relating. While Father Tardio's house was being searched, which occurred at the same time as our's, Father Juan Pons,8 a missionary on the island of Rota, happened to be there. At the conclusion of the search, he demanded to know what was being taken. They showed him a small notebook, which Father Juan solemnly took note of. It was Father Tardio's personal examination book.9 Undoubtedly, its symbols and numbers seemed to be the most suspicious thing in the entire library.
Returning to the sentence imposed by the chief of police, Father Tardio (who realized we would be without mass as a result, but who did not speak Japanese) asked in Chamorro10 if he could go to our chapel to celebrate mass. A native policeman, very experienced and knowledgeable of the Japanese, in a completely free translation, said, "Chief, Father Tardio has to pray in the chapel every morning at 5:00, and he asks whether he may continue to do so." The chief, who must have been surprised at the need to pray, answered, "Of course! No problem!" Thus, our daily mass was saved, at least for the time being. But it was short-lived. Eight days later, the police came again to take us to the government offices because we had been summoned by the chief of police. There, we were told that Father Tardio was forbidden to go pray in our chapel, and that we, too, were to be confined to our residence and isolated from the people. It was 23 December 1941. There we were, without mass, without the sacraments, and without contact with the priest or the people. They did consent, however, that Remedios Castro (then an eighteen year-old young woman, today a sister of the Mercedarian Missionaries of Berriz)11could stay with us to obtain food and help with whatever necessities might arise.
Given this state of affairs and seeing God in the circumstances surrounding us, we prepared to spend the Christmas holidays as joyfully as possible. Although without the Eucharist, we tried to create a spiritual and temporal Christmas spirit, decorating the living room, singing carols, wearing our best habits, etc. The Christmas holidays passed and the feast of Saint Pedro Nolasco12 was approaching, which, at the time, was celebrated on 31 January. It occurred to us to request that Father Tardio be allowed to celebrate mass that day, adducing that it was one of our Institute's13 most important feasts. They told us to celebrate mass by ourselves, that it was not necessary for Father Tardio to come to our house; thus, we had no mass that day either.
And so, what did we do? We prayed, sewed, studied, read, played the piano, played cards, etc. As for me, I tried to recall what little English I knew, preparing for the arrival of the Americans. Remedios would bring food, something we never went without during this time. There was much corn on the island, and providentially, Mother Mercedes Gonzalez, from Colombia, knew how to make many delicious dishes with it, Colombian-style: soups, tamales, desserts, etc. Every once in a while, in addition to food, Remedios would bring messages from a Russian gentleman,14 an Orthodox Christian who had fled Russia after receiving death threats. This gentleman was fond of us, and via Remedios, he warned us to be very, very careful of the military officers who visited us, because their intentions were not good. The days and months passed and Lent came. Meanwhile, the people were caught in an ever-increasing panic, without mass, without the sacraments. The Saipanese were all Catholics and absolutely isolated from us. That group of people, so close to its missionaries! Suddenly, during Holy Week, Monsignor Idaguchi, the apostolic administrator of Yokohama, arrived. He had come, with the appropriate authorizations from the Government of Tokyo, to attend to the island's Christians and with authorization to have Father Tardio help him in his pastoral work, since Monsignor Idaguchi did not speak the Chamorro language. The joy and exhilaration felt by the island's Christians was indescribable when they learned that a bishop had come from Tokyo, that he would provide them with services such as masses, confessions, visits to the sick, etc. I remember hearing someone say, "Easter has arrived before Holy Week." Unfortunately, Monsignor Ideguchi was unable to remain on Saipan very long, because he had to go to Guam where the two young native priests were experiencing great difficulties; but he did obtain several authorizations for Father Tardio's pastoral work: he could celebrate one public mass a month; he could visit the dying and the gravely ill; Christians would be permitted to take their dead home for funeral prayers; and we ourselves would be permitted to go to mass at Father Tardio's residence on Sundays. Naturally, Father Tardio could not visit the sick and we could not go to mass on Sundays without being escorted by the police. Every Sunday, at 5:00 in the morning, two policemen arrived at our home and took us to Father Tardio's residence. If the policemen were natives, we would take advantage of the opportunity to receive the sacrament of confession. If they were Japanese, we could not. Because we were forbidden to communicate with Father Tardio, they tended to be distrustful of what we might say in the confessional, and for the sake of prudence, we did not want to give them cause for suspicion.
The monthly public mass was a more complicated affair. Our chapel had a door leading to the street on one side, another leading to the anteroom on the other side, and since the mass had to end before sunrise, people would begin to arrive at 2:00 in the morning in order to get a good place in line for confession. The women would stand on the street side, the men on the side of the anteroom and garden, and since everyone wanted to confess as quickly as possible, outbursts and fights would ensue regarding who was first. To establish some order, arrangements were made for Sister Genoveva to watch the men's line and for me to watch the women's. Of course, in order to do this, we had to be up by 2:00 in the morning. I remember that one day I observed a woman trying to get ahead of her place in line, causing those in front of her to protest. I chided her several times, but as soon as she could, she would attempt it again, bringing about the expected uproar from those in front of her. I finally said, "Madam, would you please stay in place?" To which she responded, "And what if I die?" I answered, "We are all in danger of dying, but God knows we are repentant and want to confess. Let us trust in God, who loves us so much." When her turn finally came and she had finished her confession, Father Tardio came to me and said, "Tell that woman who just confessed not to receive communion at mass, because I am going to give her Viaticum15 afterward." I was so impressed that I tried to compensate for having scolded her during the hours she had spent standing in line. In order to make her more comfortable, I had her sit in a large armchair, and I gave her a glass of milk after the Viaticum. We had to do everything in the dark, and since we were not permitted to light even the small larnp for the Blessed Sacrament, we could not see a persons' physical appearance or determine who was sick, unless they told us themselves.
This situation lasted from the spring of 1942 to early March 1944. We continued to pray, sew, read, study, and play cards, knowing nothing of our sisters or of the rest of the world, or even of the progress of the war in the Pacific. During this time, Sister Concepcion Bernaola managed to send us, via an islander, a letter from Ponape, in which she asked if we knew anything of what was happening in the world. Sister Teresa, with her unique sense of humor, sent a letter back the same way, responding in the affirmative, "The world is the same; some are born, others die; some laugh, some cry; some live in peace, others are at war."
By March 1944, the town [of Garapan] had been evacuated. Little by little, all Chamorro families had been moved to their ranches, the inherited properties that all native families owned in the jungles or in the countryside where they cultivated fruit trees and vegetable gardens and tended animals. Now, we were practically alone in town, surrounded by the military. Once in a while, we would receive a visit from some military officers and an occasional warning from the Russian Orthodox gentleman, reiterating the danger surrounding us.
In early March 1944, we were told we had to leave Garapan, and we were moved to a hill where there were two unoccupied houses a short distance apart. One was for us, the other for Father Tardio and Brother Oroquieta. Here we were able to participate in a daily mass celebrated by Father Tardio in a nearby hut. The scenery was beautiful, with views of the ocean, and we immediately realized we would be the first to see American ships when they arrived. The Japanese must have realized that also, because exactly a month later, they moved us to another location. They took us to a ravine surrounded by jungle where we could barely see the sky. They had built a small wooden house for us, while Father Tardio and Brother Oroquieta were given the small house belonging to the landowner. Here, too, we enjoyed a daily mass. About one hundred meters from our house, they had prepared an underground shelter, measuring approximately 1 1/2 x 5 meters, where we were instructed to take refuge when the alarm siren sounded. Father Tardio and Brother Oroquieta also had their own shelter.
On 22 May, the day of the feast of Santa Rita, we heard a deafening sound, like a truck lumbering up the mountain. We were surprised because we did not believe a truck could maneuver those roads. The truck stopped across from our house on the opposite side of the ravine and the crew began unloading it. They brought cases of ammunition and placed them around our house, like a wall. Sister Mercedes protested and asked how they could do such a horrible thing as to surround our house with cases of ammunition when in a war-time situation the slightest mishap could set them ablaze and kill us all. Unmoved, the officer commanding the operation calmly shook his head: "Our intention is to take this to a cave nearby, but we cannot do it today. We will return in a few days and take these cases to the cave." It was obvious that his intent was quite different, because for that purpose, it would not have been necessary to go to the trouble of hauling those boxes across the ravine and placing them around our house.
Our life went on more or less as it had in Garapan: isolated, with no news of anyone. Remedios would go to town or to the hamlets where she knew she could find food. It was at this time that an Infantry lieutenant, a Japanese named Mori-san, or Mr. Mori, happened to meet Remedios. He sent messages several times, saying he wanted to visit me because a cousin of his had been my student in Tokyo. I warned Remedios to ignore Mori-san, because, as a soldier, he knew exactly what to do if he wished to visit us. Finally, one day, Remedios brought me a message saying that Mori-san would come around noon the following Sunday. In effect, the following Sunday, at the appointed time, a young soldier appeared, whose manners and demeanor made him seem more French than Japanese. I received him under the huge mango tree that stood in front of our little house. I noticed immediately that he spoke Japanese poorly. He told me his father was Japanese and his mother French, that he had not lived in Japan very long, but had returned there to serve during the war so as not to lose his Japanese citizenship. He concluded by telling me that the Japanese were going to lose the war. To me, this seemed a very dangerous topic and I tried to change the subject; first, I expressed my surprise at his pessimism, given that the Japanese are such optimists and that, without a doubt, most of them believed they would win the war. He was very intelligent and realized that I did not want to talk about the war. We discussed many things, but every once in a while, very skillfully, he would revert to the topic of the war, and once again, I would change the subject. When I ran out of ways to maintain my position and noting that he was so well-educated and well-mannered, I dared ask him two questions that I have never asked a stranger, "Are you familiar with the Catholic religion?" He replied, "No, only what I have read in newspapers or magazines." "Have you ever thought about what awaits us after death?" "I have not thought about that either, although I have found myself in difficult situations many times. This is very interesting, but I have been invited to eat at the Camacho ranch not far from here, and they are probably waiting for me. This afternoon on my way back, I will stop to talk with you about these things." He said goodbye and I sighed with relief. Later we found out he had remained at the ranch, pretending to be wounded, and had not returned to the barracks. A few days later, he crossed over to the American lines. He was an American spy.
While Mori-san visited with me, the sisters had taken their meal and it was approximately 2:00 in the afternoon when I went into the house to get something to eat and relate the details of the visit to them. Suddenly, bombs exploded around us and a deluge of bullets and shrapnel fell on the roof. It was 11 June 1944.16 Mori-san must have known that the battle of Saipan would begin that day. I believe he tried to help us, but I also believe his visit represented one of the most dangerous and delicate moments of the period, because if the Japanese had suspected we had communicated with an American spy, they would have executed us missionaries that night, as they had others. In this predicament, we could not run to the shelter, about 100 meters away, and we protected ourselves as best we could, covering ourselves with mattresses. When the air battle ended at dusk, as it did daily during the battle of Saipan, we went outside the house. The spectacle was awe-inspiring and terrifying, the surrounding mountains aflame, covered by a dense black smoke. Miraculously, none of the bullets around our building exploded, although we could hear others exploding in the boxes located at a certain distance from the house. In the bushes nearby, we found two Japanese soldiers whose mission, undoubtedly, was to guard the ammunition stores. We struck up a conversation with them: "Hello! Good afternoon. The battle has been fierce, has it not?" "Yes, very fierce." "Do you think this will happen again tomorrow?" "Of course! Tomorrow morning, at daybreak, the air battle will commence and continue all day. They did this in Truk17 and we presume they will do the same here. We were at Truk and not a single tree remains; everything has been burned." We told Father [Tardio] what the soldiers had told us, and it was decided that the following day, at 4:00 in the morning, we would celebrate mass in a ruined shed nearby, then we would go to the shelter, taking sufficient food for the day. A young couple lived in a house nearby where they had been since being evacuated from town. We suggested they join us when we had to go to the shelter and they gladly accepted. It was important to have lay persons witness whatever might happen, because the rumor among the local people was that the Japanese intended to kill us. There were nine of us-seven sisters and the couple--compelled to spend the day in a space so small that we could hardly change position. The sisters were: Mercedes Gonzalez (mother superior), Maria Teresa Cortazar,18 Pia Goicoechea,19 Joaquina Revuelta, Genoveva Garate,20 Aurora Chopitea,21 and I. We never lacked food; the worst thing was that the air became more and more scarce as the hours passed, and by mid-afternoon, it was difficult to breathe. The first day of our voluntary retreat into the shelter was Monday, 12 June. We did not move all day, but placed ourselves in God's hands and listened to the thunder of the air battle. At dusk, as happened every day during the fighting, the battle ceased and we were able to leave the shelter to breathe fresh air and eat something hot that Sister Genoveva would prepare for us. We soon learned that an anti-aircraft gun had been set up on top of our shelter--also that the Americans had destroyed all the anti-aircraft guns at the various locations on the island, except the one over our heads. Naturally, this aroused suspicions among the military concerning any relationship we might have with the Americans. For us, however, it was the second miracle God granted to save our lives. Fortunately, the anti- aircraft gun was moved elsewhere.
The next day, Tuesday, when we emerged from the shelter at nightfall, the owner of the farm informed us that in the morning several soldiers had arrived and burned several war documents in the kitchen of Father's house, which, as I have said, belonged to the owner of the farm. The latter, who knew the Japanese and their intentions very well, carefully watched everything they did. In the afternoon, other soldiers arrived at the kitchen, causing an uproar and saying, as they pointed to the remnants of the burned documents, "Gentlemen, the missionaries have burned war documents here." Pedro, the owner of the house, said: "That is not true. I saw who burned those documents." He told who had done it, and subsequently, the accusation was withdrawn. Once again, we recognized the loving providence of God, our Father.
During this week, our schedule remained the same: mass at 4:00 in the morning, then off to the shelter. Theirs was also the same: the air battle began at dawn and ended at dusk. I cannot recall whether it was midmorning Wednesday or Thursday when someone arrived at the shelter with a letter for us, said to have come from Guam. We did not believe it, because it was impossible for a letter or anything else to come from Guam in the midst of the war. It was a sheet of paper from the Americans, stating that they did not wish to harm the civilian population; that precautions would be taken to safeguard the people. We realized that this was a trap of some sort. While discussing how to dispose of the paper, it occurred to Sister Mercedes Gonzalez that if we burned it, someone could examine the ashes. The safest solution was to eat it: we tore it into tiny pieces, distributed them among ourselves, and swallowed them.
I believe it was on Friday of that week that we came out of the shelter at nightfall to move around a little and breathe the fresh air while Sister Genoveva went to the kitchen to prepare food. From where we were, we could not see the little house, although it was close by--about 100 meters away--because there was a curve in the path that hid it from sight. When Sister Genoveva did not return, Sister Mercedes said to me, "Let's go see what Sister Genoveva is doing." Upon arriving at the house, we were met at the entrance to the kitchen by two military policemen, rifles in hand. The kitchen had no wall on one side and the fire that the sister had made to prepare dinner and the next day's meal could be seen from the outside. The policemen were furious, because according to them, we had made the fire to signal the Americans on the other side of the jungle. One of them pointed his gun at Sister Mercedes and me, about five or six meters away, and made a motion as if to fire. Fortunately, a third soldier appeared behind him, quickly grabbed his arm, preventing him from firing, and said: "Don't do that, you fool!" Remedios stood there, struck dumb with fear. "Remedios, speak", I said. As a lay person and a Chamorro, I thought it best that she be the one to speak. She said, "How can you think such a thing of these nuns who have come to help us all, the local people and the Japanese?" The soldier answered, "Fine, but if they build another fire, I will kill them." Once again, God's loving providence was with us.
On Sunday, the eighteenth, we were in the shelter, as we had been every day, when at mid-morning two civilian policemen appeared at the entrance, screaming for Angelica-sama22 to come out. At this point, one must remember that I was the only one who spoke Japanese, that for the past three or four years I had had to mediate during all visits, during innumerable interrogations, and had had to complete hundreds of forms. They knew they could communicate only with me; consequently, they led me from the shelter, and to prevent being seen by the Americans fighting overhead, we went into a thicket of bushes. One of them said to me: "We have come on behalf of the chief of the civilian police to tell you he thinks you will be better off near the Japanese civilian population, which we have gathered around Mount Tapochau. Be prepared at 8:00 this evening, and we will come to take you to Mount Tapochau." As soon as they finished talking, I ran to the shelter and relayed the message from the chief of police to the community. We informed Father Tardio and Brother Oroquieta. We did not know whether the change would be for better or worse, but since we were not doing well where we were, we received the order with a certain enthusiasm. We had reserved some food, especially in cans, and we prepared packages for each of us and also for Father Tardio and Brother Oroquieta.
We began the pilgrimage at 8:00 in the evening, carrying our small bundles and escorted by two policemen. It was a long walk. All I remember is that we arrived at Mount Tapochau at midnight. The policemen left us in a clearing, telling us to rest there, that they would take us to a better location at daybreak. Exhausted, we lay on the ground to sleep, when after a couple of hours, we became aware of a racket around us: a batallion of parachutists had landed exactly where we were. Imagine our fright, in the dark of night. At dawn, the policemen took us to another place, and again, God's loving providence protected us. No sooner had we moved from the site where we had rested, than a bomb fell on the exact spot. The place where the police had left us was a large clearing, with not a single tree for shelter. Furthermore, we were caught between Japanese and American crossfire. We spent the day lying face down on the ground, bullets whizzing continuously over our heads. A bomb fell close to Brother Oroquieta, but did not explode. At nightfall, a soldier approached to see if we were dead and was surprised to find we were alive.
This is when it occurred to Remedios to go to the chief of police and ask him to take us to her father's ranch, located in the northern part of the island where there are many caves and we would be safer. The chief amiably acceded, but said, "It cannot be tonight, because we are busy leading the entire Japanese population north." Consequently, we had to stay in the same place, under the same circumstances, caught in the crossfire for yet another day. Again, it must be emphasized that it was impossible to move during the daytime; only at night could we go from one place to another--to say nothing of the fact that we, as prisoners, could move only with a police escort. Meanwhile, Remedios never ceased going to the chief of police, insisting that they, please, take us to her father's ranch. I believe it was on the twenty-first, after Father Tardio had heard our confessions--which we thought could be our last--that the police gave us orders to proceed. We had to go down from Mount Tapochau, and to save time, they took us on a short- cut, a very narrow, steep, and rocky path. In some places we had to descend sitting down, grasping the bushes along the sides of the pathway. At this point, I would like to describe our attire. From the beginning of the war, we had been forbidden to wear our white habits outside the house; consequently, we used the black veils we had put away to make skirts for ourselves, and together with other large veils over our heads, we covered our white habits quite well. But coming down from Mount Tapochau, our skirts were tom to shreds; pieces were left,along the wayside and some of us could barely cover our white habits. This led to problems, because every once in a while the policeman would scream at us, "Shiroi, shiroi!" (White, white!), and we would try, unsuccessfully, to cover the white fabric with the rags we had saved from the black cloth.
While we were going down the mountainside, a batallion of soldiers was coming up the same path, heading for the early morning battle. On the plain below, new adventures awaited us. The place was like a small open valley. Several soldiers moved quickly, carrying the dead on stretchers. Here and there, huge piles of bodies were burning, which made a tremendous impression on us. Another new experience was that, from their ships, the Americans fired bullets or bombs--I do not know what those weapons were called--but they produced a deafening shrill, and upon reaching a certain height, lit the battlefield as if it were daytime. When they exploded, large chunks of burning iron fell; if they struck someone, they tore them to pieces, legs, arms, and heads flying in all directions. We seven nuns and two Jesuits, following the policeman's orders, walked in a straight line; when the siren sounded, we immediately threw ourselves to the ground, face down, until the bomb exploded. At times, this would happen every ten or fifteen minutes; at others, the interval between bombs was longer.
We continued to walk northward, and around daylight, we reached Talofofo. We were left there on the side of a mountain, at a place so rocky that there was no level place to sit. Each of us had to clear a space, moving rocks and soil, in order to sit or lie down during the day. The air battles began very early, and we had no choice but to lie, face down, all day. At around 5:00 in the afternoon, the battle subsided, and Sister Mercedes asked if we wanted something to eat, since at noon no one had dared to move. We had just begun to eat, when, suddenly, several planes flew by, showering bullets over the area. One of them struck me, entering the right side of my chest and exiting my back. Father Tardio was a few meters above me and I screamed, "Father, absolution, please! I am going to die--I have been wounded." Father Tardio, lying face down, turned and blessed me. All I could think of was, "Now, I will see God." Sister Mercedes realized I was bleeding to death, and in spite of the deluge of bullets, managed to remove a towel from her bag and wrap it tightly around me to stop the streaming blood. Meanwhile, everyone was trying to decide whether it would be best to leave the place, but since bullets kept falling all around, we did not know if it would be better to move or stay put. At this point, we noticed that several gasoline tanks eight or ten meters away had started to bum, and since the wind was blowing in our direction, the flames were coming toward us. Naturally, we started to leave, but then we noticed that Sister Genoveva was not moving. We went to her and found she was dead; but for the time being, we had to leave her. Once safely away from the flames, we met a soldier, and since our policeman was nowhere to be found, we asked him if he could take us to a cave. A very cordial man, he took us to a nearby cave filled with Japanese civilians. When they saw us enter, they protested strongly: they were not pleased to have foreign prisoners in the same cave. The soldier appeased them, telling them we would be there overnight only, that we would be taken elsewhere the next morning. In effect, early in the morning, we were taken to a much more peaceful place than Talofofo. We were left amid the foliage of trees where we felt safer psychologically, though such was not the case as planes flew overhead and bombs exploded all day.
Meanwhile, my wound was getting worse. We had had no opportunity to ask for medicines or seek relief of any kind, and Sister Mercedes told the policeman that we needed a surgeon to treat my wound. The policeman agreed, saying they would take me, but we had to wait until nightfall. Thus, at 8:00 in the evening, they took me to a large cave, not far from where we were, where two famous surgeons were attending wounded civilians. One of them treated my wound so well that it gave me great relief. Of course, I had to remain in my tattered and blood-stained clothes, as there was nothing for me to change into. Since we were not far from where we had left Sister Genoveva's body, we begged the policeman to take us there. He agreed to do so, and we found the body where we had left it. We told him we wished to bury her and asked when and how we could do it. The chief [of police] who was there replied that we need not worry; they would bury her. Later we were able to confirm that it did not happen. When the battle for Saipan ended, with the help of some American soldiers, a search for the body was made in the area where she had died, but it was never found. It was probably cremated, as were all bodies.
The next stop was at a place called Calaveras,23 near the coast on the east side where there are high vertical cliffs. There, we felt more protected from the bullets and bombs, although we could see them exploding against the huge cliffs before our very eyes, as though we were watching a scene unfolding on a screen. My wound was dressed a second time. Meanwhile, Remedios kept insisting that we be taken to Marpi, at the northern end of the island, to her father's ranch. Finally, they relented and the policeman informed us we would be escorted there that night. it was either June twenty-ninth or thirtieth. We had to cross the island from east to west, a distance of six miles, then continue up and down, over the mountains to Marpi. There was a doctor among the Japanese there, and it occurred to Sister Mercedes to ask him to dress my wound before we left, since it had not been treated for several days. The man was extremely nervous and frightened. By the light of the full moon, he began to dress my wound. He was standing and so was I, but in his haste, I do not know what he stuffed inside my open wound, and when a luminous bomb exploded, he fled like a bolt of lightening and hid. The pain was so great that had Remedios not supported me, I would have fainted; nevertheless, we immediately began our pilgrimage to the west. The luminous bombs followed us, and as usual, we had to hit the ground instantly when they appeared. How could I, in my condition, have walked so far, performed such movements as throwing myself suddenly to the ground, then getting up again? I do not know. What is clear is that, for God, nothing is impossible. I assure you it was not too much for me; but, yes, the wound did become infected, and I thought I would die.
We crossed the island and at a place near the west coast the policeman stopped and said, "You are now free; you may continue by yourselves." Imagine our joy, when after nearly three years of detention, we unexpectedly found ourselves free. We were at the intersection of two roads leading to Marpi. One was very long, since it was necessary to skirt a mountain to get there; the other was much shorter, but Remedios found it so changed that she was afraid there would be military installations along the way that would prevent us from preceding. We waited for someone to go by, and before long, a group of soldiers arrived. We asked them how we could reach Marpi by following the path that Remedios considered to be the best and shortest. One of them began to explain, pointing to a huge tree in the distance. "Do you see that mango tree..." At that point, his companions shouted at him, as if to prevent him from saying what he was about to say, and the youth fled and hid in the bushes. We realized there was something dangerous over there, and we sat down by the side of the road to rest and wait for someone else to come by. It was around 1:00 in the morning. Soon, a military officer appeared and we asked him the same question, to which he cordially responded, "Yes, it can be done, but be very, very careful. Walk down the middle of the road and stay away from the sides." He repeated, "Be very, very careful." We thanked him for the advise and realized we should not continue along that road. We decided to take the long way, and after skirting the mountain, arrived at Remedios' father's ranch at 4:00 in the morning. After the battle, we learned that the shorter road had been electrified along both sides, because it was feared the Americans would invade on that side [of the island].
There were many caves on the ranch, all filled with Chamorro people. Nevertheless, we managed to find one large enough for the seven of us, although we could not stand, only sit or lie down. Father Tardio and Brother Oroquieta found another one large enough for them and the youth who accompanied them. As soon as we were settled, Remedios went to all the caves seeking a nurse and found a very good one, one of our former students. Through her, we located a wounded Japanese officer24 who had medicines with which to treat himself and who provided some good ones for the infections in my wounds. With this help, the infections in my wounds (which had a diameter of approximately five centimeters in my chest where the bullet had entered and about twelve or thirteen centimeters in my back where it had exited) disappeared before we crossed to the American lines eight days later. Once we had medications and were well cared for by the nurse, we needed to find a way to change my clothes, which, after eight days, were tattered and soaked with blood. But how? Once again, Remedios went from cave to cave, asking for clothes. She brought me a sleeveless shirt from Brother Oroquieta, a short- sleeved, flower-printed blouse, and a flower-printed skirt with vivid colors and a two meter-long train in the style typically wom by the Filipino and Chamorro women. Imagine what I looked like, in a skirt with a train, a short-sleeved shirt, and a nun's wimple and veil. Now came the problem of washing the clothes. Remedios remembered a small creek nearby and asked the Japanese officer to accompany her, and at 2:30 in the morning, they went to wash my clothes, or rather, to dip them into the water. Do you realize what Remedios meant to us? Thanks to her, we found food at Marpi, where she could move about at night. She tried to find water nearby to quench our thirst, and throughout the entire war, never ceased her efforts to obtain, within the range of possibility, whatever would alleviate our predicament.
During our eight days in the cave, we could hear the battle raging, the continuous gunfire getting closer by the day, making us realize the Americans were very near.
Thirst was one of the greatest hardships we faced during the month we crisscrossed the hills and jungles from south to north. There was no rain, and we could not move about during the daytime. Whenever she could, Remedios would go out at night with a bottle, looking for a creek or a well whose water was more or less clean; then Mother Superior would dole it out, a little in the moniing, a little at noon, and a little in the evening. When we were forced to walk at night, Remedios would go into the sugar cane fields and bring each of us a piece of sugar cane to chew as we walked, and it helped. At the end of a month of insufficient liquid, our throats were so parched that there were days when we could not swallow our food. On the morning of 8 July, when we were thirstier than ever, we began to hear constant gunfire close by, and we were convinced the Americans were practically on top of us. At this point, an elderly Chamorro arrived at the cave, shouting, "Sisters, come. Now! Follow me!" We followed him and he took us along a path through the bushes. After circling around for about 100 meters, we came upon the American lines, in the middle of the battlefield. I was dying of thirst, and the first thing I said was, "Water, please!" One of the soldiers who was busy firing at the enemy heard my cry, stopped firing, turned, and offered me the water canteen dangling from his belt. When I remember his act, I feel both shame and gratitude: I could think only of my thirst, and the young man, in imminent danger of death, turned immediately to help me. I do not doubt the Lord will reward him generously. At any rate, the delicious lemon water allayed our thirst.
At this point, the Catholic chaplain was in the middle of the battle, attending to the dead and wounded. As soon as he could, he came to greet and bless us: "Benedictio Dei Oninipotentis Patris et Fili..." He was unable to finish; he was so moved a lump came to his throat and tears streamed down his cheeks. This was not so strange, because, as we learned later, the first question asked by the local groups captured by the Americans was: "What about the missionaries? Where are our missionaries? What has become of our missionaries?" This concern for their missionaries, coming from all of them, without exception, impressed the Americans deeply. This was how they learned there were missionaries on the island, that we were held prisoners, that the Japanese tried to kill us, etc. This happened during the first fifteen days. Some days, they had an idea where we were, because local people would tell them: "Yesterday we saw them in Tapochau; the day before they were in Talofofo", etc. It was at that time that several priests (among them the one who greeted us on the battlefield) together with some Catholic soldiers, made midnight forays into the Japanese-held area, endangering their lives, but could not find us. They had had no news of us during the preceding fifteen days, consequently, they presumed we were dead. This accounted for the unrestrained emotion of the chaplain who received us: we were believed to be dead.
A doctor came and immediately examined my wound, dressed it, and reported it free of infection. At this point, we were ordered to leave because we were in great danger, and we were led to a hill about a half kilometer from the battlefield where we found a completely different atmosphere. A group of soldiers-- about thirty of them--were resting, waiting to relieve others returning from the battlefield. They greeted us with shouts and indescribable joy. They sang, danced, and served us cups of delicious broth. Several were of Mexican origin and spoke perfect Spanish. While we were talking with them, a young lieutenant of Italian descent, who also knew Spanish, approached. He was Lieutenant Gadnier. He introduced us to a young Japanese girl, seven or eight years old, dressed in a beautiful kimono. The lieutenant told us: "This girl saw her parents commit suicide this morning, and we have kept her with us. Would you like to be responsible for her?" You can imagine how happy we were with this proposal. How could we not take in a young war orphan whom we could lead to become a daughter of God? The little girl's face reflected the panic that prevented her from speaking, and we were unable to encourage her to utter a word. She was petrified. She carried a woman's pocketbook with all the family documents: the name of her parents, where they lived, their possessions, etc. One soldier held a year-old baby boy in his arms, and the baby seemed very happy with the soldier. He could not continue to care for the child, because he had to go into battle soon, and we were asked if we wanted to care for that child also, at least until we reached the concentration camp. We gladly consented, but the child did not want to leave his soldier, and he cried, screamed, and kicked as hard as he could. After much effort, Remedios convinced him to stay with her.
In midafternoon, those of us who had been captured that day were loaded aboard a huge truck and driven to the concentration camp25 set up on the south side of the island, some twelve miles away. We were impressed to be riding on roads completely new to us, built by the Americans as they gained control, section by section, of the island. In the concentration camp for the local people, about three thousand had been gathered. In the morning, they had been notified by radio that the missionaries were alive and had crossed over to the American lines. I cannot describe the joy and jubilation of these people when we arrived at the camp. All three thousand awaited us, waving handkerchiefs, greeting us with shouts, many crying for joy, and we, containing our emotions, surveyed the multitude from the heights of the huge truck. All I could think to say was: "Lord, this is the triumph of Your Church. Thank you, Lord!" Impressed, the Marine colonel commanding the camp said, "These are your people." It is true that Saipan was probably the mission where we were closest to the people, and perhaps the three years of isolation, during which we had suffered so much, made them feel much closer to us.
They were housed in two canvas tents. The following morning, the doctor came to examine us and found many things to treat in addition to my wound: anemia, vermin, as well as gallstones that needed to be operated on as soon as possible. All these conditions were the consequence of the food and dirty water we had been drinking for more than a month.
When the doctor finished his examination, he said jokingly, "How come you were not cured by the reception you received yesterday?" With the resources available to them, the American doctors took very good care of us and we recovered our health relatively soon. Even Sister Pia, who had to undergo a liver operation after the battle of Tinian, recovered her health completely. It was said that the provisional hospitals established on the island were served by the best doctors and equipped with technical facilities as good as those in the best hospitals in New York, that this was because they had to perform very difficult operations on many of those wounded in the war.
The next day, the commanding general of the island came to the camp and ordered that our living conditions be improved. They set up two units: wooden floors elevated about one meter above the ground, wooden walls about a meter and a half high, and two canvas tents mounted on top of them. A small corridor joined the two tents: we used one for our community life, the other to receive the endless visits from soldiers and officers.
Four days after we arrived at the camp, the war in Saipan ended and Lieutenant Gadnier came to visit us. He brought a collection he had gathered for masses for his companions who had died in battle. He inquired about the little girl, and we explained that we had not been able to keep her, because when we arrived, the officer in charge of orphans told us the little girl could not remain with us, that she would have to go to the Japanese camp to be included on the list of orphans, and that within a few days, we could arrange for her adoption if we so desired. The same was true for the little boy. We also told him that we had found a young childless couple who were good Christians and wished to adopt the little girl, and that we hoped to have her with us in a few days. At this point, Mercedes Gonzalez asked him what his mother's name was. The young man took out a small piece of paper and wrote "Antonetta". Mercedes told him: "We hope this girl will become a Christian someday, since she is going to live with a Christian family. The day she is baptized, we will name her Antonetta." This made the young man very happy and he said goodbye, saying he had to return to the battle on Tinian, an island very close to Saipan, and that he would return to visit us as soon as the battle ended. God had other plans, however, because Gadnier died in the battle. We wrote to his mother, telling her that on two occasions we had seen her son performing good deeds, and we sent her the little piece of paper on which he had written her name- -probably the last thing he wrote.
Meanwhile, the Americans had begun to distribute the orphans among the native families wishing to adopt them, but the Japanese judge in the Japanese compound protested, stating there was a law forbidding them from giving their children to local families for adoption. The Americans respected their law and recovered all the children given for adoption. We never saw our future "Antonetta", but there was another orphaned girl whose name was not on the list of orphans because a native family had taken her in when her parents died. She was somewhat older, about ten years old. After being properly instructed, this girl was baptized and given the name "Antonetta." Today, she is a Mercedarian Missionary of Berriz.
Soon after, a squadron of B-29 bombers was stationed on Saipan. Their purpose was to bomb Japan. There were fifteen thousand young fliers and another fifteen thousand who formed the ground crews at the airfield, which, at the time, was said to be one of the world's largest. There were so many warships assembled that they hid the horizon--like a huge city of ships covering the horizon, to the right, the left, and straight ahead. In all, some one hundred fifty thousand men were stationed on the island, including military land, sea, and air forces. Each battalion had twenty-five Catholic chaplains, many more Protestant pastors, and an occasional rabbi. Each regiment built temporary barracks and chapels, several of which were quite attractive, serving all faiths: Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish. Joint services were celebrated also for anyone who wished to attend. I recall attending an all-faiths service officiated by a priest of the order of Saint Camillus.
I believe it was in early August when one of the bomb squadron's chaplains, Father Tighe,26came to visit us at our tent. He offered to help us in any way he could and explained that their mission was to bomb Japan. Every day, at about 7:00 in the evening, some twenty, thirty, or forty planes would take off for Japan, each with a crew of eleven men. Each plane was to bomb an assigned target, fly over it for ten minutes, then return to Saipan. They usually returned at about 7:00 in the morning-but never all the planes of a group. For each plane lost, eleven young men died. What the chaplains suffered during this time is indescribable. I believe they had to fly ten missions, after which they were rotated home. The young men on their first flight, or "mission", as they called it, were excited, but before the ensuing missions, they were so panic-stricken and so badly frightened by the experience that it was painful to see them. This is why Father Tighe would bring the Catholics to visit us sisters, to ask for our prayers, in order to encourage them as much as possible, but it was extremely difficult. One day, on a Friday, 8 June 1945, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Father Tighe came to visit us with six other officers, whose turn it was to go on a bombing mission that afternoon. They seemed overcome by a deep sadness, as though they were certain they were going to their deaths. Two of them, Captain Criss and Lieutenant McDonald, were the pilots of two different planes, the others were members of their crews. As Catholics, Father Tighe tried to cheer them up, to foster their trust in the Sacred Heart of Jesus; he asked for our prayers, seeking to obtain through the Sacred Heart of Jesus the grace to enable these young men to return home. It was then he picked up the English dictionary I had on the table and on the first blank page wrote the following:
"When the crews of Captain Criss and Lieutenant McDonald
are rotated home, it is agreed that Father Tighe
will be sent home to establish a mother house for the
Mercedarian Missionaries of Berriz.
Resolved on this eighth day of June, the feast of the
Sacred Heart, in the year of Our Lord, 1945."
Arthur M. Tighe
When the war ended, the withdraw of the troops began and lasted several months. It was not easy to move the thousands of men spread across the Pacific. If I remember correctly, the total withdrawal was not completed until February 1946. We, the inhabitants of Saipan, continued to be confined in the concentration camp until 4 July 1946, the United States' Independence Day. All of us, missionaries and local people, were cared for and fed by the powerful U.S.A. While awaiting their withdrawal, the Catholic military men got together to built a large wooden house for us. There was a ground floor, a first floor, and a central courtyard, and it stood where our cement house in Chalan Kanoa stands today.
When our Mother General, Cecilia Gallarzagoitia, attempted to visit us in 1946, she went to the United States, but was unable to travel to the islands because transportation into Micronesia had not yet been established. She remained there several months and met with Father Tighe. Since Captain Criss's and Lieutenant McDonald's crews had returned safely, she was able to arrange for the foundation of our home in Kansas,27 since Father Tighe belonged to that diocese. Thus, was founded our first home in the United States, whose specific purpose was to help the missions in Micronesia.
At this point, I cannot help asking myself. "Can our intellects ever comprehend the magnitude of the gifts of protection, love, gentleness, and tenderness that God, Our Father, showered on us during that time of war? Can we ever find words to adequately express our thanks?" I cannot; I can only say: "I shall forever praise the loving-kindness of the Lord. Thank you, Father!"
Beatriz Salaberria, M.M.B.
1. Salaberria, Maria Angilica, M.M.B.:
In earlier times, it was customary for sisters to be given a religious name when accepted into a religious order. More recently, sisters have kept their given names. Thus Ana Beatriz Salaberria was known as Maria Angelica Salaberria, during the years of her Saipan experience. Sister Mary Ann Becmer, M.M.B., has provided the following information from Sister Salaberria's obituary: "Sister Ana Beatriz Salaberria was born in Ermua, Spain, on 26 July 1908. She entered the Mercedarian Missionaries of Berriz on 24 September 1928 after completing her studies as a teacher. She made her profession of vows in 1930 and was posted to Tokyo in 1931, making the trip with our foundress, Maria Margarita Maturana, M.M.B. In Japan, she studied Japanese since she was to be sent to Saipan where there was a need for sisters proficient in that language. She left for Saipan in 1934 and remained there until 1949. Then she spent eight years in Chuuk, after which she was assigned to open the Mercedarian mission in Palau in 1959. Angelica stayed in Palau until 1967, when she returned to Saipan. In 1971, she went to Troy, New York, for two years, finally returning to Spain in 1973. While in Spain, she worked in a variety of ministries until her death. After a brief illness, she died on 24 March 1993, at the age of 85 years. During her lifetime, Sister Angelica had been a teacher, principal, religious superior, in addition to performing a.variety of other ministries. She was multilingual, having learned Chamoru, Chuukese, English, and Japanese. In all her missionary work, she was known for her warmth and love of people, her goodness, sense of humor, and gratitude as she tried to spread and be the Good News for others." When the war in Saipan ended, she continued her apostolate with the Japanese who remained on the island, gathering around her a number of Japanese girls married to Chamorro men.
2. Rego, Santiago Lopez de, S.J.:
Soon to become a bishop and appointed the apostolic vicar, Father Rego arrived at Saipan 2 March 1921, the first of the expedition to step ashore and take possession of the Vicariate of the Caroline, Marshall, and Mariana Islands. Because of the outbreak of the European War in 1914, the people of the islands had been without missionaries for seven years and there were great difficulties in reestablishing the mission. In 1938, old and ill, Monsignor Rego returned to Spain.
3. Tardio, Jose Maria, S.J.:
Father Jose Maria Tardio Vasquez was born 24 February 1893. He left for the Micronesian mission in 1929, arriving in Chuuk on 30 January 1930. After working on the islands of Tol and Wona for nearly a year, he was assigned to the Marianas in 1930, where he spent the remainder of his missionary life. From 1930 to 1935, he worked on Saipan; from 1935 to 1937, on Rota; he then returned to Saipan where he continued from 1937 to 1947. In 1947, after working as a missionary on Saipan for seventeen years, he received orders from his superiors to return to Spain because of his poor health. He returned on 22 June and died toward the end of the year in Spain. His writings include "Persecucion, sangre y liberacion", a brief history of missionary work in the Marianas from 1919 through the end of the war, 1944. The basis for this paper may have been the report included in this publication, entitled "Notes concerning the Saipan mission from the time of the departure of the German Capuchin missionaries in 1914 until the capture of Saipan by the Americans in July 1944". [See appendix.]
4. December 7, 1941.:
The date of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Because of the International Date Line, the date of the attack on Guam was 8 December. Although the attacks on Hawaii and Guam occurred at approximately the same time (shortly after sunrise, Guam's sunrise being 4 time zones later than Hawaii) it was Sunday, December 7, in Hawaii, but Monday, December 8, Feast of the Immaculate Conception, in Guam.
5. The recently ordained young Guam priests were Oscar Lujan Calvo and Jose Baza Duenas.
6. Gonzalez, Mercedes:
Maria Mercedes Gonzalez Quintana, M.M.B., from Colombia, was the mother superior. She departed from Berriz in September 1938 with the new expedition to the Orient, destined to Saipan as the superior. Soon after her arrival on the island the entry of new missionaries or replacements was forbidden.
The capital of the Marianas under the Japanese administration. It eventually reached a population of 15,000, and was where most of the Japanese lived. Many Chamorros and Carolinians leased their village land to the Japanese and moved to their ranches and farms.
8. Pons, Juan, S.J.:
Father Pons was born in Barcelona 26 March 1876. A Jesuit priest in the Carolines for many years (1921-1935) he was sent to Saipan in 1935. He went to Rota to fill in for several months. In 1937 he was permanently assigned to Rota. His ministry was successful and pleasing to him at first until he became ill. A new large convento and chapel were just completed in the Tatacho village and he was the first, and the only priest ever to occupy and use them. He died on 23 March 1944, and the chapel was destroyed when the Tatacho Village was bombed on 11 June 1944.
9. Examination book:
A book in which the individual recorded daily progress in overcoming obstacles to the spiritual life and acquiring virtues.
The indigenous people of the Mariana Islands; also their language.
11. Remedios Castro:
A young Chamorro woman who did not leave the side of the Mercedarian sisters during the war. She was able to obtain permission from the chief of police to choose the place of refuge for the sisters; she guided them herself to a cave near the beach that offered security and water. Her parents gave up their shelter for the sisters, endangering their own lives.
12. Saint Pedro Nolasco:
The patron of the Mercedarian missionaries was born during the last quarter of the twelfth century. His special concern was for the captive slaves, of whom there were many in Spain at the time. On I August 1218, the Holy Mother appeared to him in a vision and instructed him to establish a charitable order to care for the captive slaves. As a result, he founded La Orden de los Mercedarios, the Order of the Mercedarians, whose convent is in Lerida, Spain.
The Mercedarian Missionaries of Berriz (MMB). Although the first expedition of Mercedarian missionaries left Spain for the Vicariate of the Mariana and Caroline Islands on 30 October 1927, destined for Ponape, the apostolic vicar of the islands, Monsignor Rego, considered it best for them to go to Saipan and open a school there. In Japan, the missionaries, accompanied by Father Faber, the procurator for the Marianas and Carolines, boarded the Niko-maru, which arrived at Saipan on 4 March 1928. When they arrived, they were greeted by Jesuits Father Dionisio de la Fuente and Brother Gregorio Oroquieta. As the threat of war became more imminent, the missionaries were asked by the Japanese military officials whether they wished to be transferred to Tokyo. If so, they would arrange for their trip; in the populous capital of Japan, it would be easier for them to be housed and supported. The missionaries expressed their gratitude, but without permission from their mother general, they would not move. Their future was tied to that of the islanders of Saipan. Later, on 4 July 1946, as a result of the administrative changes brought about by World War II, Rome assigned the Northern Mariana Islands to the Vicariate of Guam.
14. Russian gentleman:
Sister Joaquina Revuelta, speaking of the village of Chalan Kanoa, where the American Military Government established its headquarters, writes: "On the same street there is a bakery and an ice cream shop. We believe the latter is the most successful enterprise in Saipan. Nearby, The Russian, as he is commonly known, is setting up another ice cream shop. This man came here many years ago, fleeing from his country's communist government; since then he has had no communication with his wife and children. In Russia, he was a chief of police. Although he is of the Orthodox religion, he is a refined person who faithfully attends the functions of the Catholic Church and is a very good friend of ours."
Holy Communion given to a person who is about to die as a spiritual grace to accompany that person on the way to Heaven.
16. June 11, 1944:
The Battle for Saipan began with an air strike on I 1 June 1944.
Today, "Chuuk". Major American attacks took place in February 1944.
18. Maria Teresa Cortazar:
Departed Berriz 30 October 1928. She was among the second expedition to arrive at the Marianas.
19. Pia Goicoechea.
During the war suffered a very high fever and great thirst. At the end of the war, she taught music in Saipan.
20. Genoveva Garate:
Sister Genoveva Girate died in Saipan as a result of the shock of one of the heavy bombardment of the island. She was born in Azcoitia on 10 February 1905. She made her first profession in Berriz in June 1930. She departed for the Saipan Mission on 7 August 1934, after which she served the Marianas mission in Saipan and Rota. Suffering from heart disease, after nine days in the cave, she was known to have said, "Those of us who have been in the cave will not have to suffer purgatory."
21. Aurora Chopitea:
Joined the second expedition to the Marianas at Shanghai. She had been on the first expedition sent to China, which was now incorporated into the one going to the islands, as ordered by Mother Margarita. At the time of the war, Sister Aurora was 64 years old, living a soldier-like existence, feeble, but in a mixture of Spanish, Basque, Chinese, and Chamorro, she found words to express her willingness to conform to the will of God.
The Japanese honorific title for a woman, as applied to Sister Angelica.
Spanish, meaning skull; Chamorro, kalabera. The area is believed to have been the location of the last battle between Chamorros and Spanish.
24. Japanese officer:
In expressing appreciation to those who had assisted them during their war-time experience, the Mercedarian sisters were especially grateful to the police chief who gave them what little he could and saw to it that they were not maltreated or harmed; and to the injured Japanese officer who shared his medications with Sister Angelica, contributing to her cure.
25. Concentration Camp:
The camp for civilian residents of Saipan was established at Susupe.
26. Tighe, Arthur:
Captain Arthur Tighe was a U.S. military chaplain attached to a group of B29's stationed in Saipan in 1944. He found the Mercedarian missionaries in Saipan undernourished, sick, homeless, without resources. For a year he shared his apostolic interests with them, and upon returning to the United States in 1945 promised to help them establish a house there. He believed such a house was necessary in order to sustain and support the Mercedarians in the Marianas and Caroline missions. Monsignor Tighe kept his promise, and the result was the establishment of Our Lady of Mercy Home in Kansas City, Missouri.
27. Sister Mary Ann Becmer, M.M.B., stated, "Many of our Sisters always referred to Kansas City as Kansas. The house was actually established in Kansas City, Missouri, and was called Our Lady of Mercy Home.
From the time of the departure of the German Capuchin missionaries in 1914 until the capture of Saipan by the Americans in July 1944.
- - -
In 1914, as a result of Japan's entry into World War I on the side of England and France against Germany, the Japanese military compelled the German missionaries on this island to leave. Consequently, the islands were without missionaries for several years. When the war ended in 1919, the island became part of the Japanese Mandate, together with the other Mariana Islands (except for Guam, which had belonged to the United States before the war) the Carolines, and the Marshalls.
When the Japanese military authorities took control of this island, they gathered the leaders of Saipan and told them, more or less, in these words: "These islands now belong to Japan. What would you like us to request from the Tokyo Government?" They responded, "We want Catholic missionary priests, whether Japanese, German, or of other nationalities." The Tokyo Government tried to send Japanese priests, but they were few and needed in Japan. The apostolic delegate then suggested that a request be made to the Pope. The commission that was sent to Rome included the Catholic admiral, Yamamoto, who procured Spanish missionaries from His Holiness. The first missionary group arrived on the island 2 March 1921 and included Father D. [Dionisio] de la Fuente and Brother Gregorio Oroquieta.
During the early years, the authorities treated the missionaries very well. After twelve years or so, however, their regard diminished and a form of persecution against the Church began. At first, it was disguised, but then it became more and more open until, finally, the school children were forbidden to go to catechism classes and mass on Sundays. They could never come to mass during the week, because at the same time as the mass, which was at 5:00 a.m., the boys and girls were required to be at jinja (the Shinto temple) for gymnastic exercises, called taiso. The teachers at the school spoke to the boys and girls against the priest, against Christ, against the Church, etc. One day, one of the teachers saw a boy wearing a scapular of Our Lady of Carmen around his neck; he yanked it off and forbade anyone to wear one again. Among other things, he said, "The school is like the sun; the Church is like a wax candle. When our planes come, they will destroy the Church, which is nothing but a pigpen."
Sometimes I visited the teacher to entreat him to allow the boys and girls to come to Church on the first Friday to hear mass and receive communion. He conceded, provided they first attend jinja, and since the mass was very early, at 4:00 a.m., those who wanted to go to mass had to get up at 3:00 a.m. In spite of this, many came.
For several years they allowed missionaries from Spain to replace those who were sick or had died, but after 1938 or 1939, no more were permitted to come. This state of affairs continued until war broke out in December 1941.
By August of that year, they had taken possession of the Church, converting it to a depository for materiel for the military, and we had to perform all worship services in the chapel of the Mercedarian sisters' school. On 8 December 1941, the war with England and the United States began; on the ninth, all public religious activities were forbidden. On the tenth, as I prepared to go to the Mercedarian sisters' chapel to celebrate a private mass around 6:00 a.m., there was a knock at the door: there stood several Japanese policemen and one who was Chamorro. We were told we all had to go to government headquarters. They wanted Father Juan Pons to go also, but he could not move because his legs were badly swollen and suppurating continually, and he was permitted to remain at home with the boy. Father Pons had come from Rota on 16 October, seeking medical attention for his ulcerated legs. Brother Oroquieta and I arrived at the government headquarters. We had to wait an hour while they made a thorough search of our house, looking for anything incriminating that would justify our detention, but they found nothing.
At 7:00 a.m. the Mercedarian sisters arrived at government headquarters, escorted by the same policemen who had brought us. We were all called to the table of the chief of police and were left standing while they sat, surrounded by many policemen and government people. The chief informed Brother Oroquieta and me that we were under house arrest and, for no reason, were we to leave the house. The sisters could walk around Garapan, but were not to go beyond the town limits. In order to frighten us, they used the tactic they employed with the natives when they wanted to find out if a robbery or some other deed that deserved punishment had been committed. The chief said to us: "The father and the brother have been arrested because of something serious they have done." Then I said, "Would you be so kind as to tell us what serious thing we have done so that we may correct it?" Disconcerted, he answered: "This is not the time to discuss it. It is not an important thing; it's a little thing. Do not take it seriously; it's because of the war. I will speak to the superiors (meaning the military, who were the ones in charge). I believe it will be a brief thing, perhaps three or four days." I asked if I might continue to celebrate Holy Mass each day at the Mercedarian school, and he answered, "There is no problem." He said goodbye; it was obvious he wanted to end this troublesome discussion.
I continued to say mass in the chapel of the Mercedarians until 23 December 1941. On that day, in midafternoon, Brother Oroquieta and I were summoned to government headquarters again and were informed that we were forbidden to leave the house or to say mass in the chapel of the Mercedarians.
Therefore, from 24 December, Father Pons and I celebrated mass at home. Because they believed we were spies, the military superiors wanted to isolate us completely from the local people; but the local police, all of whom were Catholics, told the chief of police that it would not be possible: the people needed to baptize the newborn, pray for the dead, marry the young, etc. They consented to allow them to come to our residence in such cases, but first, they would have to go to government headquarters to obtain permission, carry a paper with the government seal, the names of the godparents, etc. The Mercedarian sisters could come to our residence for mass on Sundays only, accompanied by a Chamorro policeman who was to remain during the mass and accompany them back to the school.
In March 1942, a Japanese priest came from Japan, appointed as the apostolic administrator for these islands. He obtained permission from the government for me to celebrate one public mass a month in the chapel of the Mercedarians. He also obtained permission for me (accompanied by a policeman) to visit the gravely ill when the family called for the priest.
There was a change of governor in October 1942. The new one was a reasonable man and knew us well. I appealed to him, and he was able to persuade the military to allow us a little more freedom. This meant we could visit the sick and celebrate public mass two Sundays a month in the chapel of the Mercedarians. Also, the local people could bring the newborn to be baptized and could speak to the priest without permission from the government.
When the United States invaded Italy in September 1943, the Mercedarian sisters, Brother Oroquieta, and I were called to government headquarters again and told that, from then on, there would be no public mass on Sundays, that Brother Oroquieta and I were again under house arrest and incommunicado: it was not because of anything we had done, it was the exigency of war.
On 23 February 1944, American planes flew over for the first time, but dropped no bombs on Garapan, only on military targets. In March, Brother Oroquieta and I were forced to quit Garapan, and the Mercedarian sisters their school there, leaving the town to the Japanese soldiers. We settled into a little house in the jungle belonging to a Chamorro, while the Mercedarians occupied other small houses nearby. In April, they made the Mercedarians and me leave our little houses and go to another location, where, once again, it was necessary to raise small houses for the Mercedarians and the priest. The reason for the move was that from our first location we had a limited view of the sea, and the military objected to our being there. Since they believed we were spies, they said we could communicate with the American ships approaching the island from that side.
We were at this residence in Chalan Galaide on 11 June 1944, the first day of the American bombings, which did not end until they captured the island. Although we were in the jungle, we were still under arrest and isolated from the local people, as we had been in Garapan. On the eleventh, in the morning, we celebrated two baptisms and several confirmations, and at 1:00 p.m., the American air bombings began. After the twelfth, it was not possible to say mass until 9 July, when I celebrated it in the open at the Susupe concentration camp. Day and night, from the twelfth to the eighteenth [of June] we remained hidden in a shelter, hardly going outside at all.
At night, on the eighteenth, the Japanese police and a Chamorro policeman led us to Mount Tagpochau. We walked several hours that night, and since we could not reach the appointed destination, we slept in a narrow gulley. The reason we went to that place was that the chief of police, who was very fond of us, found out the Japanese soldiers intended to kill us, that they had raised false charges against us while we were hiding in the shelter. On 16 or 17 June, several Japanese soldiers took a valise filled with plans and documents to Chalan Galaide and burned them in our oven, completely without our knowledge. On the nineteenth, after we had departed from Chalan Galaide, the Japanese military police came looking for us because we were to account to them for the documents we had burned in the oven. The Chamorro owner of the small ranch, the house, and the oven told them it was a lie: the father and the sisters had not burned papers in the oven; the Japanese soldiers had, and he had witnessed it, together with a relative who was there with him. Angrily, they told him, "You are also a spy and we are going to kill you." He answered, "I am not a spy, and although you may kill me, it will always be true that the priest and the sisters burned nothing here; the Japanese soldiers did." They told him, "Give us the key to the house. We want to go inside." He responded, "I do not have the key." They broke the lock, went inside, and stole what they wanted. Upon leaving, they saw a bunch of bananas by the door and said to the Chamorro, "We will take the bunch of bananas, too." He answered, "That bunch is not mine, it belongs to the father." Exasperated, they said, "The father does not need to live any longer; he does not need this bunch." And they left.
We continued our march through the jungle. On the nineteenth, the Japanese police left us under some trees in a clearing, in the crossfire and in great danger. We remained there until the night of the twenty-second. That night the police made the Mercedarians, Brother Oroquieta, and me walk for about five hours until they left us at a place called Talofofo. Naturally, we were exhausted, but they deposited us under some trees on a very steep mountainside where we spent the rest of the night, hardly able to sleep.
We were at this place on the twenty-third, the most tragic day of this narrative. At about 6:00 p.m., we were spotted by a plane; the crew radioed the warships and they began bombing us. About eight or ten mortars landed near us. Stretched on the ground, I repeated continuously, "Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in You." At that point, Sister Maria Angelica cried out, "Father, absolve me; a piece of mortar flack hit me in the chest and I am bleeding profusely." I absolved her.
Suddenly, the jungle began burning. The wind blew in our direction and the intense fire came toward us. "Let's go somewhere else." I said. Quickly, we got up and ran in the opposite direction, away from the fire. The girl accompanying the sisters, a very pious young woman who had been with them several years and intended to become a nun, saw that Sister Genoveva was not moving, and thinking she was asleep, said to her, "Sister, get up; we are leaving." The sister did not answer; she was dead. It was impossible to carry the body to another place because the bombs from the ships were falling a-round us, and we had to run into the jungle and hide. That night of the twenty-third, we slept beside some caves on the opposite side of the jungle. On the twenty-fourth, in the morning, we went down to the Talofofo River and spent the day on another hillside, under some trees, with no additional protection. A mortar fell nearby, killing three Japanese. During the night, we crossed the river in the dark in order to reach the Japanese policemen's cave. It was very dark and we stumbled in the mud and into the river several times; finally, tattered and torn, we reached the shelter. The police told us to accommodate ourselves as best we could, that they would take us to a safer place that night of the twenty-fifth. On the twenty-fifth, we crossed to the opposite bank from where we had been the night before, which was where the wounded Japanese soldiers were. At night, we went to the Japanese policemen's shelter again and they led us to Calabera.
We must have walked three hours, up and down the mountainsides. We spent the rest of the night and the day of the twenty-sixth on a hillside at Calabera, where we were in great danger, with Japanese cannons nearby. On the night of the twenty-sixth, the policeman led us again, [this time] to a little thatch-roofed house with no doors or windows; seemingly, we were in less danger there. We stayed there, in the middle of crossfire, until the night of the twenty-ninth, when we were led, finally, to the farm of Remedios Castro--thanks to the insistence of that young woman who served the sisters as a novice. We owe our lives to God and to her. Because they were so frightened, the police deserted us halfway along the road, but since Remedios knew the way, we slept at her ranch the night of the twenty-ninth. This was our salvation: the police lost us from view and could not look for us, because, shortly thereafter, the Americans were positioned between their location and ours. From 30 June, the Mercedarians, Brother Oroquieta, several local people, and I were in the two shelters provided by the Chamorro families of both Remedios and Pedro Castro, who accommodated themselves as best they could, protected by some large rocks. We remained at this place until 8 July when we were liberated by the Americans.
Until then, we had had water to drink, though bad and in measured quantities, but on that day, we ran out of potable water and were compelled to drink sea water. At 8:00 or 9:00 a.m., the Americans came to where we were and took us to a safe place. They shared what they had with us: water, chocolate, sugar, cheese, caramels, etc.; then they took us by truck to the Chamorro camp where we were given an extraordinary reception, because everyone had thought we were dead. We found about 3,000 Chamorros in the camp, who, like us, had been liberated by the American soldiers. We slept safely in the camp, attended by the authorities and the Americans. Thanks to their attention and sensitivity, we gradually recovered our strength and were able to resume our work with the local people as before, enjoying complete freedom to carry on our spiritual ministry on behalf of the people.
- - -
Among the principal teachers who spoke against the Church, as we mentioned at the beginning, one was the director of the school. Because of his bad conduct, the Japanese Government forced him to return to Japan during the coldest months, December and January. He soon began to bleed at the mouth, and he wrote asking for money from his friends and the school children. I believe he died in the ruins soon after. The other one died during the American invasion, on June twentieth, killed when his head was blown off by a bomb fired from one of the ships.
Chalan Kanoa 1 March 1946
Jose Maria Tardio, S.J.
Missionary of Saipan