Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

July 28, 2013

Professor witnesses patriotism in Guam

ASHLAND — Dan Bailey of Ashland reports he recently witnessed the true spirit of patriotism and appreciation during a visit to Guam for Liberation Day, celebrating the arrival of the U.S. Marines Corps in 1944.

“It is July 21 and that is the day of the Invasion of Guam in 1944, when the invasion began to take back Guam after 31 months of occupation by the Japanese,” Bailey said, explaining he visited Guam along with Sai Pan, Tinain, Okinawa and Nagasaki between July 4 and 22 as part of an ongoing exploration and revisitation of his father’s military experiences.

Bailey is traveling the same route his dad’s 10th Regiment, Second Marine Division traveled from June 15, 1944, until the end of the occupation of Nagasaki in 1946, with plans to compile his experiences in “Closing the Circle: Tracing the Footsteps of My Father During World War II.”

Bailey said his father went to Guam when a Marine pilot invited him along for the ride. The professor said his first glimpse of the patriotism of the people of Guam came when an associate from that country thanked him for his father’s service.

“He gave me the sharpest military salute I’ve ever received in my career and thanked me for my dad’s service. It gave me chill bumps up and down my spine,” said Bailey, a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel.

The experience, however, did not quite prepare him for his own Liberation Day in Guam.

“During the week leading up to it, people would say ‘Happy Liberation Day!’ Men are kissing women and all that. Of course, there’s a heavy emphasis on family there. I counted 68 floats lined up for the big parade,” he said, noting the holiday has retained its intent and the people’s appreciation is sincere, with massive crowds along the extensive parade route. “It’s very genuine. In fact, they’ll tell you it’s the most important day of the year to them.”

Many in Guam told him Liberation Day is “bigger than Christmas,” he said, adding practically everyone he met gave him a message for his father.

“They would say, ‘Take this message to your dad.’ Nearly every person I met ... it was phrased many ways. They appreciate they would not be here if not for the Marines,” he said.

 “The main highway in Guam is Marine Corps Drive. It is the main route in Guam,” Bailey said, explaining the road name originally excluded the word “Corps” but the people there insisted it be changed so there would be no confusion with diving or aquatic considerations.

During his time in Guam, Bailey also followed another bit of family history. Explaining his father grew up alongside Okel and Hobert Skaggs, the uncle and father of country music artist Ricky Skaggs, Bailey said he sought and found information about Okel Skaggs as part of his research.

“Okel was killed during the invasion, but at the time my father was not aware that he had been killed there,” Bailey said, explaining he gathered photos and documents he hoped to present to Skaggs while he was in Ashland for a performance at the Paramount Arts Center.

Bailey said his mission to retrace his father’s war routes resulted from a deeply personal experience.

“While preparing to go to church on Easter morning 1995, my dad stood over a wash basin with shaving lather on his face and said to me, ‘Fifty years ago this morning we hit the beaches of Okinawa,’” he said. “I call that a defining moment in my life.”

Bailey extensively photographed each of the places where his father had gone before him. He will present “Closing the Circle: Tracing the Footsteps of My Father During World War II” during the October meeting of the Eastern Kentucky Military Historical Society, as well as for a group in Paintsville and for members of the local Lions Club and other civic and church organizations.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.

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