Chamorro native son thanks Guam liberators and Battle of Saipan veterans in his own way
Sometimes, true gratitude—the sincere, heartfelt thankfulness that recognizes the fragile, and seemingly random threads connecting the past decisions and actions of one individual with the present outcomes of another—is best expressed and conveyed in person. No letter will suffice, nor will any phone call, email or text do it justice. Such gratitude often requires that thanker and thankee be able to look each other in the eyes and, perhaps, share a handshake or a hug. This is a tale of such gratitude. The characters include World War II veterans living in the U.S. mainland, and the descendant of two Chamorro children on the island of Guam.
Once upon a time…
Lloyd C. Glick was 17 years old in 1941 when news of the Pearl Harbor invasion broke. His sense of duty prompted him to enlist in the Navy, and he found himself serving as Musician First Class on the USS North Carolina, a battleship that would be part of the shelling of several Japanese-controlled islands, including Saipan and Guam.
Seventy-five years and a lifetime later, Lloyd and his wife, Judy, were booked on a cruise that would dock on both Guam and Saipan in July 2014. They contacted me on the island of Saipan to give them tours of both islands, and during the months of planning via email, I realized Lloyd had an amazing story to tell. So, unbeknownst to him, I organized and edited the stories he had been sharing about his years at sea and presented a book titled From Bugle Boy to Battleship: A Battle of Saipan & Guam Veteran’s Memoir, that I presented to him in surprise ceremonies in Guam and on Saipan and subsequently published on Amazon.
Fast forward another six years, and out of the blue, I received an email from a Chamorro of Guamanian extraction living in California:
Hello Lloyd & Walt,
My name is Johnny G. and I am originally from Guam but now live in California. Your book, From Bugle Boy to Battleship, came in the mail yesterday. I will be in the Southern California area this Saturday and Sunday, and I am hoping I can meet up with you to have you sign it. Please let me know your thoughts. Thank you.
p.s. My parents are both Chamorro, born on Guam right before the island was invaded and captured on 12/8/41. Both were still small children when the island was liberated in 1944. My father eventually enlisted in the military and served 20 plus years with the Air Force and Army. I have had a deep sense of respect, gratitude and admiration for those who have served in our military.
I put Johnny in touch with Lloyd, the two kept in touch after initial plans fell through, and they eventually met up. I spoke with Johnny a few days afterwards.
Walt: Where [in] Guam were you born?
Johnny: Well, I was actually born in Germany. Both my parents were born [in] Guam, but my father enlisted in the military shortly after he graduated from high school [in] Guam, and ultimately, I was born in an army hospital in Germany.
W: Do you have brothers and sisters, and when did you actually come to Guam?
J: My parents had a total of five kids. My oldest sister was born [in] Guam, but my older brother was born in Japan. I’m the third child. My younger brother was also born in Germany, and my youngest sister was born on an army base in Kentucky. As a military family, we moved around quite a bit and were stationed [in] Guam two times. The one time that I have memories of was from 1977 to 1980. The family left Guam in 1980, and I was the only one of our family who went back there to live for a few years before ultimately coming back to California.
W: How did you stumble upon the book From Bugle Boy to Battleship?
J: Because of my father, I had a general interest in United States military history and was influenced by movies I watched as a young boy. In the current COVID situation, I, like a lot of people who are sheltering in place, have been doing a lot of reading and television watching. I was watching a show called American Pickers, about folks who travel the United States going through people’s garages, barns and warehouses [to buy or “pick” various items for resale]. In doing so, they talk about the history of the items and different time periods. I thought to myself, “I wonder what kind of Guam history stuff is out there that I might be interested in?”
I started doing research on the internet about the history of Guam and focused on World War II and the period right afterwards. [One book led to another]…and I got a hold of Peter Marshall’s book, 1368 Days: An American POW in WWII Japan, and found out he was still alive. He’s now 100 years old. I was able to find his contact information, reached out to his family and asked if I could come visit. I mean, he’s a living piece of history. Fortunately, I was able to get out to Arizona and meet up with Pete and his daughter and son-in-law. He was able to share a few of his stories with me. That started the current mission I’m on, which is to track down living WWII veterans and others who served and helped liberate Guam.
As far as your book, I did a Google search about WWII veterans and I found a 2019 Guam Pacific Daily News article that included a video with Lloyd Glick, Ray Faulkner, and Gordy Rosengren. I said to myself, “I’ve gotta try and track these three guys down.” Somehow, I ended up finding and ordering your book, got it in the mail, read through it and thought it was a great read. Thankfully, you included an email address for Lloyd, and ultimately, I was able to meet him and his wife Judy this past weekend! So, thank you for that.
W: You’re welcome. How’s your quest coming along?
J: I’ve been able to connect with a few amazing individuals. I flew to Montana to meet and talk with Gene Bell. Another gentleman, “CB Bill” Kelly, I was able to visit him in Oregon. [Note: Bill Kelly, diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this year, is quoted in a May 2020 militarytimes.com article: “I survived the foxholes of Guam, I can get through this coronavirus bulls—t,” according to granddaughter, Rose Etherington. He has since recovered. CB=Construction Battalion] Thus far, I have met five WWII veterans in person, and there are approximately eight others I am trying to contact/track down.
W: Wow! Are you documenting these meetings? What’s the long-term plan? A book?
J: Well, this is really just a personal passion—a personal mission—to thank them for saving the lives of my parents who were small children at the time, and for helping save the residents of Guam. I do take pictures of my visits, but I also have a Guam flag I’ve been asking these veterans to sign. I plan to display the flag, and ultimately I’ll probably bring it back to Guam and see if someone wants to put it in a museum. Because I am Chamorro, I want it known that not only are the island and the people thankful to the U.S. forces who liberated the island, but I also want to recognize the survivors of the [Japanese] occupation—those who were alive between 1941 and 1944—who are still alive today. I’d be honored to have them sign my flag too.
W: Have you learned anything you can share with the people of Saipan and Guam?
J: I wish I had started my journey 20 years ago when a lot more folks were still with us. For me to meet with them and chat with them for just a little bit, to get to know them, I think it makes them feel proud about their service to the nation and to the people of Guam. I don’t want to re-traumatize any of these folks, but for the most part, the soldiers I’ve met have good memories about Guam. In fact, Gene Bell, who I mentioned earlier, has been to Guam 21 times over the years. He’s not only a veteran of the military, he’s also a veteran of Guam’s liberation festivities.
W: I understand Lloyd gave you a special coin, correct?
J: Yeah, that was pretty cool! Lloyd gave me a “Challenge Coin” that shows he’s a Navy veteran and that he served on the USS North Carolina. In return, I gave Lloyd one of my Superior Court pins as a token of my appreciation.
That bit of coin-swapping information provides the perfect segue to another question I had for Johnny:
W: By the way, Johnny, what do you currently do for a living?
J: Well, I am currently a Superior Court judge. I was appointed in December 2019 to the California bench.
And that’s where I’ll pause this story with a thought. One might argue that the decisions and actions of people like Lloyd Glick and Gene and Ray and Peter and the many others who served and gave their lives for the liberation of Guam and Saipan provided a critical span in the threads of stories of families all around the world. One could argue, for instance, that Lloyd Glick’s decision on Dec 7, 1941, to enlist and provide the much needed morale boost to sailors on the USS North Carolina led in part to the outcome on Dec 6, 2019, when Johnny Cepeda Gogo raised his right hand to be sworn in as judge of the Santa Clara County Superior Court.
Perhaps Johnny Gogo, former student at C.L. Taitano Elementary, former altar boy at St. Jude Church in Sinajana, and now a judge in the U.S., appreciates more than most the power that a single decision on the right side of history can make, and the strength that in-person testimony can have in making or breaking a case, and is perhaps why he’s chosen this unique way of expressing gratitude. I’ll leave that speculation to the reader. I, for one, have already reached my verdict.
To sum things up:
Everybody else: “It’s a shame there’s no unique way to thank the Guam liberators so they really feel our appreciation…”
Johnny Gogo: “Hold my beer…”
Lloyd Glick turns 97 this Dec. 28! Wish him well and convey thanks at email@example.com. Contact Justice Johnny C. Gogo at firstname.lastname@example.org. Photos of Lloyd’s visits to Saipan (2014) and Guam (2014,2019) are at www.bugleboyglick.com.
Walt Goodridge (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Walt F.J. Goodridge is the author of over 24 books including Saipan Now, There’s Something About Saipan, and Chicken Feathers & Garlic Skin. Learn more at www.bestofsaipan.com; email email@example.com.