While President Reagan was in Germany this week commemorating the 40th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, Ricardo J. Bordallo, the Democratic governor of Guam, was complaining that Washington never has given his island the attention it deserves.
"There's been a tremendous neglect. We see the economies of the enemy -- Japan and Germany -- restored and in robust health," Bordallo said in an interview.
"Yet we are part of the American family, and there's never been a plan, never a program for our people," he said.
"When V-J came, they forgot all about us and packed up and went home," he added. "Much of our infrastructure is still what was left by the military in World War II."
Bordallo was here to lobby for a change in status for Guam. Except for three years of Japanese occupation in World War II, the island has been under U.S control since the Spanish-American War in 1898.
Since 1950, Guam has been an "unincorporated territory," and its people American citizens. Now it wants to become the Commonwealth of Guahan and be granted some autonomy.
The Guamanians' plan is part of a general movement toward self-government in the Pacific island group known as Micronesia. The Northern Mariana Islands, for example, have become a commonwealth. The Marshall Islands, the Federated State of Micronesia and Palau are attempting to become independent nations.
Guam, controlled by outside powers for 300 years, voted in 1982 to seek commonwealth status rather than independence or statehood, and it began writing a "commonwealth act" last year. Bordallo circulated the fourth draft of the act among congressional leaders this week. The act would give Guam, flooded with refugees after the Vietnam war, control over immigration and commercial air traffic and a veto over establishing any new security zones or basing foreign troops on the island.
It would return about half of the land controlled by the Defense Department, which maintains naval and air force bases there, to the local government.
It also would establish a federal payment plan for Guam similar to that of the District of Columbia because of the large U.S. presence on the island, and it would extend certain federal entitlement benefits to residents.
The act must be approved first by Guamanians, then by Congress. Bordallo said that he has encountered no outright opposition here but that it is difficult to lobby here for a Pacific island 9,000 miles away. He said some members of Congress have asked him, "Where is Guam, anyway?"
Bordallo said he believes that Guam, site of a major World War II battle, has contributed more than its share to U.S. defense. Of the island's 110,000 residents, 10,000 are U.S. military veterans.
Bordallo attended the University of San Francisco; his wife was raised in Minnesota.
"Very few people know about our history," Bordallo complained. "We're stuck in a time warp, a World War II image. Everyone remembers us as the place where the Marines landed and the bombers flew off to bomb the Japanese."
Times have changed, however. Eighty-five percent of tourists visiting Guam are Japanese.
"We're bringing U.S. dollars in through the back door, and nobody realizes it," he said.