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The Surviving Faces of War: Guam’s World War II Legacy

At the heart of war is conflict. Two forces at odds. The obvious signs of war include weapons, battles, bloodshed, utter destruction. It is the worst of human experiences. But it is never simply something that happens in the present. The pieces of war are put together throughout history. From the moments that led to it, to the lasting memories and trauma that keep it alive for generations. We know this all too well on Guam, where World War II continues to shape so much of who we have become as a people and as a place in the world.

Through a trilogy of books about the war, the Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation has worked closely with survivors and their families to capture Guam’s wartime legacy. The Foundation has compiled and published stories and essays that offer a glimpse at the strength of those who survived the war, and the enduring resilience of the families who inherited their tribulation.

This summer, the Foundation will launch the third and final book of the trilogy entitled, “Legacy Beyond Faces: A Sentimental Journey Generation to Generation.” This book takes a unique focus on an instrumental outcome of the war that continues to uplift survivors and their descendants – a deep love for music.

Music played an integral role in both raising Chamorro spirits and expressing resistance during the war. Just as the second book of the trilogy entitled, “Families in the Face of Survival” highlighted the role of family, food, and faith in helping Chamorros survive the war, this third book examines how music kept them strong during this difficult time. The book also celebrates the role music continues to play in Chamorro families as part of the wartime legacy, and features reflections from some of the children and grandchildren of survivors, who have become some of Guam's most recognized musicians.

Legacy Beyond Faces shares the stories of more than 20 survivors, many written by their descendants. It also includes interpretive essays and reflections from local scholars and musicians on Chamorro identity and music, and features tributes to musical families, who descended from war survivors. It is a beautiful collection of stories and photos that work together to capture the very distinct musical legacy of the war.

The Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation was formed to tell the stories of Guam’s World War II generation. Its members felt an urgent need to capture these stories before they were lost. While these books are a collection of short stories, it is the hope and intention of the foundation that these stories will grow beyond the pages of this trilogy. That they will inspire the kinds of epiphanies that open minds, heal wounds, and bring families closer together.

These books teach us that just as war is never simply something that happens in the present, neither is peace. In sharing their stories, one thing most war survivors commonly say is that they do not want their children, or their children's children to ever know the horrors of war. Many of them have died since they shared their stories, and many more died before they ever could. They may not have found the peace they sought, but we can. May their legacy inspire lasting peace in our community for generations to come.

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