Maria Lukban Mesa and Family 1938 


 Tomas Mesa Family 1936





Maria Lukban Mesa was the eldest child and one of eleven children from the second marriage of Vicente Lukban to Pacienca Gonzales. Her story is one of bravery and martyrdom during the Japanese Occupation of Guam in World War II.

On July 15, 1944, the 800 or so Merizo residents were rounded up and taken by soldiers to the Geus River Valley. The Japanese commander of the area read aloud the names of the most influential citizens of the southern village, which included twenty-five men and five women who were the school teachers, the village commisioner, parents of sons in the U.S. military, a mother who refused to bow to the Japanese and her two daugthers, and other rebellious Chamorros.

The thirty people were told they were going to be part of a work crew and were marched to a cave in the Tinta Area and spend the night. Soon after they went into the cave, the soldiers tossed hand grenades through the opening , killing many Chamorros. The Japanese soldiers then took swords and bayonets and began stabbing anyone still alive. Still, by pretending to be dead , fourteen of the Chamorros survived. Unfortunately, Maria Lukban Mesa was one of those who perished.

In 1948, the victims of the Tinta and Faha caves massacres were memorialized with a monument listing their names on a bronze plaque. The memorial still stands near the shore of Merizo. 

In 2005, the State of Guam commemorated the Merizo Elementary School to The Merizo Martyrs' Memorial School to honor the mens and women of Merizo who persihed in both the Tinta and Faha Caves.





My father, Tomas Rios Mesa, was sent by his father, Vicente Mesa, to study in the Philippines and his teacher was Maria Gonzalez Mesa. My father fell in love with his teacher and they were married and moved to Guam in 1928.

My story covers the period in my life from December 8, 1941 to July of 1944, during the Japanese occupation of Guam, World War II.

December 8, 1941, we were at Mass and right in the middle of the Mass, Father Scott stopped and told us that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. He said the U.S. President declared war against Japan. Father Scott said we must go hide in Jungle. We went to Tumon to hide with the Balajida family.

Three days after the bombing there were soldiers marching from Tumon Bay. They were red in their faces and my mother thought they were Americans. She called to them and asked them to stop. She wanted to greet them. They were Japanese and my mother could speak Japanese. The soldiers beat her and raped her. Because she served them water, tea, coffee, cake and cookies and because she could speak Japanese, they spared her life.

The soldiers marched to Agana and they killed any person who got in their way.

When we were able to to go back to our house in Agana, we found that the Japanese soldiers have been living in our house. They had kept their horses in our basement. They dug a big hole in our back yard for their compost. That was where we buried our money and jewels; however, the Japanese said they found nothing in the back yard.

All the American soldiers were taken prisoners and were confined in the church in Agana and the building next to it which was like a social hall. At the time I was nine years old and had to help my mother. Every morning my mother and I would go visit the American prisoners. I would pull a little red wagon carrying corn soup, sweet potatoes and bananas, and we would go to the social hall to give food to the American soldiers. There were Japanese guards all around the building. Nobody could go near the building except my mother and I because she could speak Japanese and she gave the guards fresh eggs and cigarettes.

My mother taught me to sing Japanese songs and to dance ballet and hula. I would perform to distract the Japanese guards and she would get the food for the American soldiers. The American prisoners wanted mosquito nets, sheets, pillows and shavers. Every morning we recieved the same treatment from the Japanese guards -- "we were slapped". We did this each day until the prisoners were sent to Japan.

One night a Mrs. Shinahara, a mean Japanese lady who lived in Guam in pre-war days, had a party for all the Japanese soldiers and she invited my mother to play the piano. My mother was an accomplished pianist. She taught piano to many children in Guam.

After the party at Mrs. Shinahara's house my mother came home at 3 o'clock in the morning without any clothes. She was naked and she told me she had been raped ad whipped. She had welts on her body and was bleeding badly.

My mother was a very stubborn lady and she would speak only English during the war. We were not supposed to speak English and she made the Japanese angry by doing this. Also, she would not bow to the Japanese or work for them.

Although I just nine years, I had to work in the fields planting rice and vegetable from Monday to Friday. One day I didn't work because a dog had bitten me on the thigh. When I went to work the next day, a Japanese officer asked my why I did not work the day before. I explained and showed him my dog bite. He slapped me, beat me and tied me to a coconut tree. Every hour he would come with his sword and pretend he was going to chop off my head. After eight hours he let me go home. I was thankful.

In 1942 we moved to Merizo Village because the City of Agana was being bombed by the Americans and Japanese "dogfight" in the air. The second bomb that was dropped in Agana hit our house and our shell factory. Our shell factory was destroyed. The bomb was intended for the Governor's Palace which was two blocks away.

In Merizo, my mother made soap so we could barter it for food. My father, two brothers and a sister were attending school in the Philippines during this time.

In 1937, my mother, after having five children, had sent my father to the Philippines to become a dentist. At that time there was no Guamanian dentist in Guam. My father flew on the first PanAm Clipper from Guam to the Philippines. He would return to Guam each summer to spend time with us. The plane land in the water at Sumay because Guam did not have an airstrip.

We were living in a little hut in Merizo and one night around 8 o'clock, a Japanese Navy Comander (who was caled Tiecho) came to our home. he told my mother he wanted me. I was only ten years old at the time. My mother told me to run and not come back that night. She offered herself instead and the officer raped her.

I ran that night until I was exhausted. It must have been near daylight when I fell asleep under a breadfruit tree. When I awok, I didn't know where I was, and had trouble finding my way home.

One night all the people of Merizo were commanded by the Japanese to march all the way to Inarajan so we could meet up with the people of Inarajan. The theory was to get us all together so they could kill the Chamorros before the Americans returned to Guam.

When we reached Inarajan, we could not find the people. They had gone and to hide in the jungles. The officers then said all the people had to turn back to Merizo.

My stubborn mother did not want to make a retuen trip in one night ince my brother Joey was only two years old, Lulu was four, Medding was six,  Lorraine was ten and I was twelve. The Japanese did not know we were missing.

The next day, Mr. Flores from Inarajan found us and told us we should go back to Merizo. He said if we were found by the Japanese we would be killed.

We walked back to Merizo which took all day. When we arrived there the Japanese officer beat my mother again and took her as prisoner. She was charged with being an American spy. That was the last time I saw my mother.

We joined the people of Merizo and the Japanese took us way into the jungle, over the mountains, to a concentration camp to be hidden from the Americans. The Americans were already in Agat Bay and Tumon Bay. Day and night the Americans were firing at the island and planes bombing. We had to hide in the jungle.

We were starving but we could still build fires to cook food because planes would see the smoke. We ate coconuts everyday.

Thirty people were imprisoned and taken by the Jaanese to Tinta, Merizo. They were put into a cave so they could be hidden from the firing of the cannons. One night the Japanese threw hand grenades into  the cave where 30 people were. They then went into the cave and chopped everything that moved. There were also Japanese outside guarding the cave.

That night it began raining so hard that he soldiers finally left. Fifteen of those 30 people lived and crawled out of the cave. Some of them were able to come find us in our concentration camp. They told us the Japanese planned to kill us also. A few of the men in our concentration camp had machetes and were able to overpower the Japanese soldiers and kill them.

One of the ladies who came out of the cave said my mother had died. The lady said before my mother died she had been begging for her life because she had children. She told me the Japanese had chopped off my mother's head.

We moved again and hid in a valley. We walked day and night. Joey was three years old and I tied him on my back. I then could hold the hands of Meding and Lulu and Lorraine walked along with us. We were starving. I was so tired walking thru e jungle. I could not untie Joey because I was afraid i could not tie on my back again. We were only able to sit down and rest for short periods, maybe 10 minutes at a time.

When we reached the valley we had only Chamorros around us so we could build fires and cook sweet potatoes, rice and whatever we could find. It was so good to finally eat good food.

Some men who survived the cave incident of Tinta needed medical attention. They had maggots on their legs because they had been chopped by the Japanese. The men got into canoes to go to the American destroyer. Each time they came near the destoyer it would move away. After three tries they finally got the wounded Chamorros onto the destroyer. They were given medical attention.

The men told the Americans on the destroyer what was going on on the island. They told them that the Japanese said by the time the Americans arrived on the island there would only be flies and ants because all the Chamorros would be killed.

The American on board the destoyer did not believe the men. They thought it was a "set-up" or that the men were Japanese spies. However, there was man there name Anderson, a Chamorro in the U.S. Navy, and he remembered his dog tag number. The destroyer sent a message to Washington D.C. because they planned to capture the island until September. Instead, they landed in Juny 21, 1944.

While we were in the valley, the U.S. Marines found us and we were so happy. However, they told us we had to walk to Agat becaise Agat had already been secured. We walked to Agat from Merizo. The Marines gave us chocolate candy and all the people of Merizo had diarrehea.

When we reached Agat they put us in a big tent. The Commander learned that my siblings and I were orphan kid, with no mother and no father, and we were treated special. They let us eat with them in the galley and gave us our own tent for the five of us kids. They treated us beautifully and they called me "little mother of Guam".




This free website was made using Yola.

No HTML skills required. Build your website in minutes.

Go to and sign up today!

Make a free website with Yola