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The "Navy Generation" of Chamorro descendants and the Bonin (Ogasawara) Islands

Published: Wednesday, 19 December 2012 Written by Bernard Punzalan

It was not until October 17, 1876, when the Japanese completely annexed the Bonin Islands, despite the Islands initial colony of settlers with a variety of national origins (i.e. British, American, Italian, Portuguese, Chamorro, Carolinian, Hawaiian, Tahitian, etc.) since June 26, 1830. The Bonin Islands became one of Japan's World War II losses to the United States, surrendered by General Tachibana Toshio in September 1945.

Like the Northern Mariana Islands, the Bonin Islands immediately after World War II became administered by the United State Navy. However, the Naval administration of the Bonin Islands would only last for the next 22 years. To the surprise of the Bonin Islanders and with very little to prepare, on June 26, 1968 the U.S. and Japan reached an agreement and the Bonin Islands would be returned back to Japan's sovereignty.

During the Navy's administration of the Bonin Islands, English once again became the controlling language at school, work, home and church. This was a shift from prior Japanese control with English only being spoken at home and church; while, Japanese was taught and spoken at work and school. Because schooling was limited on the Islands, children from the Bonins were sent to school on Guam and in some cases to Saipan for the remainder of their high school years. When they were sent to the Mariana Islands for schooling, they were sponsored by and lived with U.S. Navy families.

The featured picture in this article is Irene Savory (circa 1966), who won a $5,000 scholarship from the Rotary Club of Guam. This is one article of many that I have come across during my on-going research of the Chamorro people and the Bonin Islands. It was interesting to note that the Rotary's article identified her as "part Caucasian, from way back. Her great grandfather was a whatler from New Bedford, Mass. She also has Japanese blood, and speaks Japanese, as well as English, she has been on Guam for five years." (Source:

It seems that most people were not aware of the complete history of the Savory family and the Bonin Islands during that time. Otherwise, they could have also identified that Irene also has Chamorro ancestry from her Great Grandmother, Maria Castro delos Santos, the matriarch of the Savory family from the Bonin Islands.