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Doing justice to gratitude: Chamorro native son thanks Guam liberators & Battle of Saipan veterans in his own way

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SOMETIMES, true gratitude, the sincere, heartfelt thankfulness that recognizes the fragile, and at times seemingly random pieces of thread 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. Such gratitude requires that the thanker and thankee be able to look each other in the eyes, perhaps share a handshake or a hug. This is an ongoing tale of such gratitude. The characters in this particular chapter include World War II veterans living in the mainland USA, and a Chamorro family on the island of Guam.

My own light grasp on a thread in this story began in 2014 when I wrote a book about Lloyd Glick titled “From Bugle Boy to Battleship.” Lloyd 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 involved in the shelling of several Japanese-controlled Pacific islands including Saipan and Guam. Seventy-five years later, Lloyd and his wife, Judy, were booked on a cruise ship excursion that would dock on both Guam and Saipan in July 2014. They contacted me to give them tours of both islands. During the few months of email exchanges to plan the tours, I realized he had an amazing story to tell and so, unbeknownst to him, I chronicled, organized and edited all the stories he had been sharing about his 3 years at sea and I created and published a book that I then presented to him in ceremonies on Guam as well as Saipan. (see www.bugleboyglick.com) Copies of that book have made their way into the hands of people around the world, including one Johnny G., a Chamorro of Guamanian extraction living in California, who then contacted me via email:

Hello Lloyd & Walt,

My name is Johnny G. and I am originally from Guam but now live in California.  My copy of your book “From Bugle Boy to Battleship” just came in the mail yesterday (see the attached photo).  I will be in the Southern California area this Saturday (sept 26) and Sunday (sept 27) and I am hoping that I can meet up with you to have you sign your book.  Please let me know your thoughts. Thank you.

p.s. My parents are both Chamorro and were both 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 saw that Lloyd was on Guam in 2019 helping to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Guam’s liberation and ultimately came across your book. I enjoyed reading it last night.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Johnny C. Gogo of California shows a challenge coin and autographed copy of “Bugle Boy to Battleship” by Lloyd Glick as told to Walt F.J. Goodridge.

 

  

Lloyd and Judy Glick, with the author, Walt Goodridge, upon the couple's 2014 trip. (Lloyd's first return to the region since 1944). Contributed photos

 

Eventually, Johnny did, in fact, get to meet with Lloyd and Judy, and I then had a chance to chat with Johnny by phone yesterday.

WG: Where on Guam were you born?

JG: Well, I was actually born in Germany. Both my parents were born on Guam — Guamanian Chamorros — but my father enlisted in the military shortly after he graduated from high school on Guam, and ultimately, I was born in an army hospital in Germany.

WG: Do you have brothers and sisters, and when did you actually come to Guam?

JG: Yes, my parents had a total of five kids. My oldest sister was born on Guam, but my older brother was born in Japan. I'm the third child, born in Germany. My younger brother was also born in Germany, and my youngest sister was born on an army base in Kentucky. Because of my father's military career, we moved around quite a bit. We were stationed on 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.

WG: How did you stumble upon the book “From Bugle Boy to Battleship?”

JG: Because my father was career military, I had always grown up with a sense of respect and admiration for those who serve in the military. I had a general interest in United States military history and was influenced by movies I watched as a young boy growing up. That's always been there. The current Covid situation has affected government operations and many of us are sheltering in place. I've been doing a lot of reading and I was watching a show called American Pickers — it's about a couple of folks who travel throughout the United States going through people's old items in garages, barns and warehouses [to buy or "pick" various items for resale, for clients]. In picking the items, they usually 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. For some reason, I started to focus on the period of World War II and 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 just Google and find his contact information, and 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 there and meet up with Pete in Arizona 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 general Google search about WWII veterans and I found a 2019 Guam PDN (Pacific Daily News) article that included a short video with Lloyd Glick, Ray Faulkner and Gordy Rosengren. Once I found out about those guys, I said to myself, "I've gotta try and track these three guys down! I tried a few different ways of getting in touch with Lloyd. Somehow, I ended up finding and ordering your book. I got the book in the mail, and read through it, thought it was a great read.  Thankfully, you included an email address for Lloyd--which went through to you, and as a result, I contacted and kept in touch with him and was able to meet him and his wife Judy this past weekend! So, thank you for that.

WG: You're welcome. How's your quest coming along?

JG: Just through other random Google searches, I've been able to connect with others and have been able to meet up with them. One gentleman's name is Gene Bell. I was able to fly to Montana to meet and talk with Gene. Another gentleman goes by the nickname "CB Bill" Kelly. I was able to visit him in Oregon. [Walt's note: Bill Kelly, diagnosed with Covid-19 earlier this year, is quoted in a May 2020 militarytimes.com article as saying, “I survived the foxholes of Guam, I can get through this coronavirus bulls--t,” according to granddaughter, Rose Etherington. He has since recovered and has tested negative! CB=Construction Battalion] There's another gentleman, he lives out in the Stockton, California area and I was able to meet up with him as well. Thus far, I have met 5 WWII veterans in person and thanked them for saving the lives of my parents and the People of Guam. As of now, there are approximately 8 others I am trying to contact/track down.

WG: Wow! Are you documenting these in-person meetings?  What's the long-term plan? A book? A video series?

JG: Well, this is really just a personal passion, a personal mission of mine. So, I do take pictures of my visits. I also have a Guam flag that I've been having these gentlemen sign for me. I plan to display and hang the flag in my [office], and ultimately I'll probably bring it back to Guam and see if folks there will take the flag and put it in their museum. I've also decided that because I am Chamorro, I also want to recognize that not only are the island and the people thankful to the US forces that liberated the island, I also want to recognize on my flag, the survivors of the occupation —those who were alive from 1941-1944 who are still alive today — I'd be honored to have them sign my flag too. There's a few Chamorro people out here in California who I'm going to track down, and I know there are a few more out on Guam.

WG: Is there anything you'd like to share with the people of Saipan and Guam that you've learned during your quest?

JG: I wish I had started my personal journey twenty years ago when a lot more folks were still with us. But, there are people who have done the interviews and recordings. For me, it's just a personal mission to thank them for saving the lives of my parents who were small children at the time, but also for helping to save all of the residents of Guam. For me to meet with them and chat with them for just a little bit, to get to know them, I think it also 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 now lives in Montana, has been to Guam 21 times over the years. He's not only a veteran of the military, he's also a veteran of the Guam's liberation festivities!

WG: Lloyd gave you a special coin, correct?

JG: Yeah, that was pretty cool! Lloyd gave me a "challenge coin" [readers may search online to learn more] 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 and thanks to Lloyd.

That bit of coin-swapping information provides the perfect segue to a question I had for Johnny during our conversation:

WG: By the way, Johnny, what do you currently do for a living?

JG: I am currently a Superior Court judge. I was appointed in December 2019 to the California bench. So, that's what I currently do. I'm a judge.

And that's where I'll end this chapter in our story. 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 towards the liberation of Guam and Saipan provided a critical span in the thread of events in the stories of families halfway around the world. One could argue that Lloyd's decision on Dec 7, 1941 to enlist and provide the much needed musical boost in morale to the sailors on the USS North Carolina led in part to the outcome on Dec 6, 2019, when Johnny Cepeda Gogo, son of one of the local children liberated during those battles would raise his right hand to be sworn in as judge of the Santa Clara County Superior Court.

Further, one could argue that as a former student at C.L. Taitano Elementary, former altar boy at St. Jude Church in Sinajana, and now as a judge in the US, Gogo appreciates more than most, the power that a single decision on the right side of history can make, and the strength that an in-person testimony can have in making or breaking a case. I'll leave that speculation and consideration of those possibilities to the reader. I've already reached my verdict.

To sum things up, I'll pre-empt a style of comment I've seen online:

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 December 28! You can wish him well and convey your thanks at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You may also contact Justice Johnny Cepeda Gogo at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Read more about Lloyd's visit to Saipan and two visits to Guam at www.bugleboyglick.com

Walt F.J. Goodridge is the author of over 24 books including Saipan Living, There's Something About Saipan, and Chicken Feathers & Garlic Skin. Read more about his Saipan-specific books and projects at www.bestofsaipan.com

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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