JAPANESE FATHER / CHAMORRO MOTHER

Vickie Vaughan was born on Saipan in 1933. Her father was a Japanese immigrant, and her mother was a native Chamorro. After the war Vickie attended the American Dependents School on Saipan along with a select group of other locals. She was one of the first two natives of Saipan to win a scholarship to the University of Hawaii. Upon graduation from UOH she returned to Saipan where she briefly taught school. She soon met and married an American service man. She then moved to Chicago where she worked as a social worker, and raised five children. She returned to Saipan in 1992, where she now lives.

My name is Victoria Delos Reyes Akiyama. I was born January 7, 1933 in Garapan, Saipan. Some older people still remember me by my Japanese name, Setsan. My father was Japanese and my mother was Chamorro. My father's name was Tomomitsu Akiyama (Pedro)j and he came to Saipan from Yamanashi Ken, Tokyo. He first came to Saipan in the 1920s when he was still a student. I am told that when he arrived all he had was his bed roll, a pair of chop sticks, and a rice bowl. He met my mother on this trip. He returned to Saipan after he finished his studies, and they married. My father became a Catholic, and to the best of my knowledge never saw Japan again. As a young girl, Saipan was my entire world. It never occurred to me to ask my father why he came to Saipan. Why should I? I was happy. My world was defined, safe, and secure. How was I to know that it would be torn apart, and never put back together again



Vickie today
My mother's name was Avalina Sablan Reyes and she was the third of nine children. She married my father when she was only seventeen or eighteen. Before she died she gave the world seven children. I don't remember much about my mother. She died when I was only five years old. I remember when relatives came over to perform the rosary; I would hide under the table and watch. I also remember sitting on my mother's death bed, surrounded by other family members and having our pictures taken. The last thing I remember about my mother is her casket being taken from the house.

After my mother died my father married my aunt and had three more children, two girls and one boy. Of the ten children in our family only three of us survived the war. I have a sister who still lives in Saipan, and a brother who lives in California with his wife. Neither one of them will talk to me about what happened to us during the war. I have five children of my own now, but they don't want to talk about it either, because they don't like to see their mother cry. But, I need to talk to somebody.
I had an older brother, but I never knew him because my mother took him to Japan so that he could continue his education. He was supposed to return to Saipan but never did. From our two story house in Garapan we could look out across the lagoon, and past the harbor entrance. Sometimes ships would be sunk by American submarines within site of our house. One day a ship was sunk just outside of the entrance to the lagoon. My father was frantic because he thought my older brother was on board. As it turned out, he was not on that ship, or any of the ships that tried to make it to Saipan. However, after that day my father turned over part of the house to shelter the survivors of sunken ships. I found out after the war that my oldest brother was in the military and died in the Philippines.

I was a happy child. I never wanted for anything. Our house was not far from the old Garapan Church. We lived close to an air raid shelter that still exists on Beach Road. When American planes started bombing Saipan in February of 1944 we would always go there. One of my older brothers, Shiuichi, was killed during one of these air raids. I don't know the whole story of what happened. He was hiding in a cave with a friend. During a lull in the bombing he left the cave and, according to the friend, a boulder fell on him and crushed his chest. However, this was never confirmed. We never found his body. Like so many, he just disappeared.

Just before the invasion of the island, my father left for some important business in the Marpi area. He was always such a busy man. But I remember, as busy as he was, he always had time for me. One of my last memories of my father was the two of us having a bicycle race on Beach Road in Iliyang. He was such a wonderful man. He must have known that something was going to happen because he made me responsible for his important papers, and he asked one of his friends to look after us if anything happened to him. However, one of the sons in that family was a soldier, and just before the Americans landed he shot and killed everyone in his family. Only their Carolinian maid survived, and it was through her that we knew what happened to them.

On the night before the invasion we fled Garapan. We had a farm in Iliyang where National Office Supply is now, but my step-mother insisted that we go on to Aslito where we had another farm, and she knew my grandparents and other family members to be. After the war somebody told me that my father came back to Garapan looking for us, but we had already left, and when he could not find us at Iliyang he must have assumed that we were all dead. I carried my youngest sister, Elpedio, on my back, and in my arms were the documents that my father had entrusted me to carry to a safe place. All together we were seven, me, my step-mother, and five siblings. I was also responsible for two younger siblings, both of whom wanted to be carried. We walked along the beach where we saw soldiers planting mines. Then we moved inland towards Aslito. We had to stop and take cover from time to time because of the shelling.

When we got to Aslito we went to the house of my uncle, William S. Reyes. Before the fighting reached us we had dug a hole and covered it with palm logs and dirt, but the soldiers took that; and the only place left to hide was under my uncles house. I remember hearing one of my cousins say, "Oh, look! They are fighting." But, I was busy concentrating on what I had been taught, 'Stick your. thumbs in your ears, and cover your eyes with your fingers.' The next thing I remember is the house disintegrating and catching fire. My sister Teruko just disappeared. I never found any trace of her after that. I looked over to where my step-mother and baby brother were. His head was cracked open and his brains where hanging out. I am sure he was dead, but his lips were still moving as if sucking on his mother's breast. My grandmother and step-mother were both wounded. I was untouched at the time, so I started dragging the wounded away from the burning house and into one of the covered fox holes. I saw my aunt Carmen. She was dead, and someone had laid her body on a box and folded her arms across her chest. Not far from her was my brother, Jose. He had a small hole in his chest, but when I rolled him over his back was shattered. He was trying to hold up his pants when he died, because I had taken his belt. In the same fox hole where I dragged the wounded were two soldiers; one of them had part of his face missing and maggots were crawling around inside. He said to me, "I am a soldier; I am supposed to die. You can come in." He then left with the other soldier. In the fox hole one of my cousins was praying. She was full of holes and blood kept spurting from her wounds. She complained of being hot, and took her clothes off, and tried to wring the blood out. She died shortly after. I watched so many members of my family die that day. I saw another cousin with her stomach ripped open. She kept trying to push her intestines back in with her dirty hands. I sat at the entrance to the fox hole trying to protect them from further harm. It was some time later; I don't remember how long it was, I felt something hot on my back. They were using flame throwers, and my back had been burned. I screamed hysterically.

When the Americans captured us they treated our wounds on the spot, then transferred us by ambulance to a makeshift hospital at Camp Susupe. I was laying face down on a stretcher in an ambulance so I saw very little of the carnage around me. Before we left the fox hole for Camp Susupe I remember that everything around us was burned. My step-mother had a broken shoulder, and it was in a cast. We were in the same tent at Camp Susupe one night when the air raid warning siren went off. I was so scared that I jumped out of my cot and onto my stepmother. I must have landed on her broken shoulder, because she screamed. When I was able to get up and move around they allowed me to visit my grandmother in another tent. People were always dying in that tent, but she survived.

In Camp Susupe we were always hungry. I think that is where most of us tasted Spam for the first time. Sometimes American soldiers would call us over to the barbed wire fence and give us chocolate. We were provided with no shelter. We had to make our own with whatever materials we could salvage. Pieces of rice sacking might be all we had for a door. We were all covered with lice. We must have looked like monkeys at times, all sitting in a line picking bugs out of the hair of the person in front of us. We had to be on guard at night because sometimes American soldiers would come into camp looking for young women.

While we were still in Camp Susupe people, even friends and relatives told me I could no longer speak Japanese. I had spoken Japanese all of my life; now people were telling me I couldn't. The Japanese were all dead, or in camps like us. The Americans were in charge now. Because I was half Japanese people who used to be my friends started calling me names like "Tojo."

I think I must have been in a state of shock during those days. I was able to function, but I could not and did not shed a tear. I asked around about my father. Some people said that he had stopped by their cave, but did not linger for long. One of my cousins told me that she last saw him at a cave in Talufofo, but that was the last time anybody saw him. Even though I watched most of my family get killed, I still had hope that my father was still alive, and that he would take care of me, and all would be well again. In Camp Susupe there was a Mr. Guerrero. He told me one day that my father would come the next day. As a young girl I was always taught to look up to and respect adults. You could always depend on them; they would never lie to you. All that next day, and for some days afterward I sat outside my shelter and waited and watched, but my father never came. Ever since then I have been suspicious of people. After more than fifty years I still miss my father.

Ken and Vickie at the Saipan Airport

Notes about Vickie from Ken Eidnes of the 509th who gave me this story . . .

Several years ago a friend of mine asked me to come to her home to meet a lady from Saipan that was her sons mother- in-law. It turned out to be Vickie Akiyama. We had a great time talking over things about the war. She told me that she was a teacher on Saipan, so I asked her if she knew John Edwards, the administrator. Her reply was "he was the man that gave me permission to marry an American sailor. In time we all got together and had a great time. In 1998 I was going to Tinian for the dedication of the memorial for the 509th so I contacted Vickie and told her about the trip. She met me at the airport on Saipan. I had not told the fellows I was traveling with about this Japanese woman. You should have seen the reaction when she came up to us holding a sign, "Welcome Ken Eidnes".

Later we had dinner at the Governors home, the bus brought all the group, I came later in a car with Vickie. When the Governor saw us he opened the car door and said " Hi Ken, I have been waiting for you" When the others in the group asked me how he knew me I told them all sorts of stories. At last I could no longer keep from laughing so I had to tell them the whole story. Vickie and the Governor's wife, Sophie, are cousins and the whole thing was set up for a laugh.

Vickie lives on Saipan but comes to the States almost every year as she has children living here. She is a wonderful person and I count her among my good friends.


L to R: Vickie Vaughan, Sophie Tenorio, Ken Eidnes, and Pedro Tenori,. Governor of N. Mariana Islands