Obit of the Day: 1st Chamorro General in the U.S. Military
Vincente Blaz was thirteen years old when the Japanese invaded Guam on December 8, 1941. For the next three years, Mr. Blaz was forced to work in labor battalions and served time in a prison camp. The camp and Mr. Blaz were liberated in 1944 by the 9th Marine Regiment. He asked one of the Marines how he could move to the United States. The soldier told him to listen to the radio to learn English.
After returning to school in 1945, he earned a scholarship to the University of Notre Dame just two years later. He traveled to the U.S. by boat - a 22-day journey- and arrived in San Francisco. He hopped in a cab and asked to be taken to Notre Dame. The driver dropped him off at a local girls’ Catholic school with that name. The nuns read his acceptance letter and put him on a train to South Bend, Indiana.
While at ND, Mr. Blaz joined the Marine Corps Reserve and upon graduating he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He would serve 29 years in the USMC.
Promoted through the ranks, Mr. Blaz served in tours of duty in Japan and Vietnam. His favorite assigment was as Commanding Officer of the 9th Marines the same regiment that liberated Guam in 1944. Over his period of service, Mr. Blaz earned the Legion of Merit (twice), Bronze Star, Navy Commendation Medal (twice), Combat Action Ribbon, and Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.
In 1977, Mr. Blaz was promoted to Brigadier General. He became the first Chamorro, as citizens of Guam are known, to reach that military rank, or its equivalent, in any of the U.S. Armed Forces. He also became the first person of color to earn a general’s rank in the Marines.
Mr. Blaz retired in 1980 and returned to Guam. He would run for election to the House of Representatives* twice, losing once in 1982 and winning the seat in 1984. He would serve four terms.
After losing reelection in 1992, Mr. Blaz focused on promoting the history of Guam through the creation of a website, www.bisitaguam.com (bisita means “visit”), production of two television shows Nihi Ta Bisita (“Let Us Visit”) and Nihi Ta Hasso (“Let Us Remember”), and a book, Bisita Guam: A Special Place in the Sun.
Vincente Blaz, who received Notre Dame’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1992, died on January 9, 2014 at the age of 85.
(Image of General Vincente Blaz, circa 1977-1980, is copyright Ken Feil and The Washington Post)
* Guam first came under U.S. control on April 11, 1899 when it was handed over after the end of the Spanish-American War. Until 1950, the country was under military occupation by the United States. It is now an ”unorganized incorporated territory” which allows it self-rule, some Constitutional protections, and U.S. citizenship for its residents. (In the 2012 election Obama-Biden won the territory with 66% of the vote.) Since 1973, the territory has had a non-voting representative in the U.S. House. Currently it is Madeline Bordallo (D), who first took office in January 2003. - Wikipedia