Independence days celebrated around the Pacific
Independence Day is more than a mere holiday. Perhaps the proudest day in American history, it commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, asserting independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.
It is a celebration of celebrations, commemorating the birth of a cluster of 13 colonies in some far-flung land that would someday earn the moniker of “Leader of the Free World.” We remember it with fireworks, parades, barbecues, concerts, baseball games and political speeches.
“On July 4, 1776, a small band of patriots declared that we were a people created equal, free to think and worship and live as we please; that our destiny would not be determined for us, it would be determined by us,” President Barrack Obama told a crowd at a 2013 White House Fourth of July picnic. “And now, 237 years later, this improbable experiment in democracy, the United States of America, stands as the greatest nation on Earth.”
We, as Americans, however, are not the only people to remember our independence with solemn speeches and special celebrations. (Even within our own boarders many African Americans have been celebrating their independence and freedom from slavery with Juneteenth celebrations on June 19 for 150 years.) Others also value and share, “our way of life.”
This Fourth of July, Stripes Okinawa tips its hat to our partners and allies in the Pacific by recognizing the diverse independence days that, in their entirety, celebrate our common bond: A determination to be free and fair, and our love of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Guam – Liberation Day
It would be hard to find Americans more patriotic than those on the U.S. territory of Guam. Home to Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam, the Fourth of July is celebrated here with gusto. But the real patriotic blowout on this island is Liberation Day on July 21.
The day marks the start of the 1944 Battle of Guam in which U.S. Marines stormed the beach to eventually wrest control of the island from Imperial Japan. The fierce 20-day battle liberated Guamanians from a brutal three-year occupation.
Arguably the biggest day on Guam today, festivities culminate in the annual Liberation Day Parade (now in its 70th year) down Marine Corps Drive in Hagatna Village.
Saipan – Liberation Day
Along with U.S. Independence Day, Saipan usually celebrates Liberation Day on July 4. It marks the June 15, 1945 invasion by U.S. troops who opened of the gates of Camp Susupe where most of the former Imperial Japanese colony’s residents were interred at the end of World War II.
This year, however, the U.S. territory celebrated its liberation in conjunction with the 70th anniversary of Battle of Saipan. There were two weeks of festivities – including tributes to veterans of both sides of the war – leading up to the grand finale parade on June 15.
South Korea – Independence Movement Day, Liberation Day
The Republic of Korea has two national holidays marking its bid for self-determination.
Independence Movement Day on March 1 is in remembrance of a small group of Koreans in Seoul who declared their nation’s independence from Japanese colonization on that day in 1919 – as well as those who died in the aftermath. The event sparked a movement that stood up to the draconian tactics of their oppressors and led to the establishment of a provisional Korean government.
Liberation Day on Aug. 15 marks when Koreans attained full autonomy from Imperial Japan in 1945 after 35 years of oppressive and often brutal occupation. On the same day in 1948, the government of the Republic of Korea was established, and the first South Korean president took office.
A special ceremony attended by the current president takes place every year on this day. Most public museums and other facilities wave admission fees for descendants of independence activists on this day, as well.
On both of these days, the “Taeguki,” or Korean flag, is flown high on homes, businesses and public facilities. Celebrations, concerts, exhibits and parades are held nationwide.
Here are some other notable independence days in the region:
- Philippines – Day of Freedom on June 12: Declaration of Independence from Spain in 1898.
- Vietnam – National Day on Sept. 2: Declaration of Independence from France in 1945.
- Singapore – National Day on Aug. 9: Independence from Malaysia in 1965.
- Marshall Islands – Constitution Day on May 1: Becoming a self-governing democracy in free association with the U.S. in 1986.
- Palau – Independence Day on Oct. 1: Becoming a free sovereign nation in free association with the U.S. in 1994.