The Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award, is most likely the best known one in the United States although it is worn by a relatively few people. Many received their awards posthumously and never knew they had been so honored. This decoration, awarded in the name of Congress, is for conspicuous intrepidity at the risk of life in action with an enemy. Extraordinary gallantry in action which influences the outcome of the battle is normally one of the prerequisites for such a prestigious award.
The nation also has awards for civilians and the highest of these is the Medal of Freedom, also known as the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It was established in 1945 by President Harry S Truman to reward notable service in war. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy amended the award for distinguished civilian service in peace.
In 1996, former presidential candidate and Congressman from Arizona, Mo Udall was one of the recipients of this Medal. In 1997, another former presidential candidate and U. S. Senator from Kansas, Bob Dole, was presented the award. Both men received their awards in recognition of their distinguished services to the United States for half a century.
Backtracking now to a half a century ago, in 1946, a simple ceremony took place in the office of the Naval Governor of Guam. At that low-key event, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, was presented to Antonio Cruz Artero, a native son of Guam, by Rear Admiral Pownall, on behalf of President Harry Truman. Tun Antonio Artero was in the prime of his life at age 40 when he received his Medal, one of the first ones awarded by President Truman who established the Medal a year earlier.
Antonio Cruz Artero was a very religious person and it was characteristic of him to participate in religious activities such as he was doing in this picture of a procession shortly after liberation. It was his profound loyalty to his belief in the Catholic Church that led him to take the responsibility of hiding Navy Petty Officer George Ray Tweed from Japanese forces for 21 months.
By October 1942, Tweed was the only American left in the jungle. Tun Antonio was asked if he would shelter the renegade American whom he had never met and did not know. At first, he declined to get involved since it would put the entire Artero clan in jeopardy. As he started to head home, however, Tweed came out of the bushes. He was skinny and dirty with long hair and torn clothes. Mr. Artero was to relate later that Tweed looked so pitiful that he was reminded of a painting of Christ as he might have looked just before he was nailed to the cross . It was at that moment that he decided that it was his Christian duty to help.
For more than 600 days, he and his wife, Josefa, took care of Tweed. Ever present was the pervasive sense of danger of being caught and executed. Enemy patrols were actively in pursuit of Tweed and many native Chamorros were tortured and some were decapitated over allegations that they were hiding the American sailor. On July 10, 1944, Tun Antonio found a note from Tweed stating that he was rendezvousing with a U. S. Navy destroyer for his rescue .
After he returned to the United States, Blake Clark wrote a book about Tweeds experience, entitled Robinson Crusoe, USN. When the book reached Guam, negative reaction was immediate and strong. Tweed was accused of betraying those who had helped him and there was an implication that a Catholic priest had broken the seal of confession.
Tweed, a non-Catholic, vehemently denied the accusations against him but to no avail. The damage to his reputation was irreparable and the book was essentially banned.
Tun Antonio, who spent countless hours alone with Tweed during the 21 months of isolation and got to know and trust him like a brother, stayed above the fray and remained loyal to his friend, a friendship that was to last the rest of their lives.
It is supremely ironic that Tun Antonio was awarded the Medal of Freedom for services that enriched his country, the United States; yet, his father and all the Arteros were later to be denied most of the beautiful land that belonged to him and his family. The huge Andersen Air Force Base and U.S. Naval Communications Station now occupy the Artero family land.
Shortly before he died, Tun Antonio was interviewed by a national network reporter from New York, who said, "you must hate the United States for taking so much of your land from your family." Tun Antonio laughed and said, "no, my dear. I love America and I love Americans. Only a few bad high level officials did this to us. Now it's up to all of you in America to right this wrong."
Ever the charitable man with priestly attributes, he was steadfast in his view that the Medal of Freedom that he received from the President of the United States was meant for many others, among whom were Juan Pangelinan (Malii), E. T. Calvo, Agueda Johnston, and the beloved martyred priest, Father Jesus Baza Duenas.
The year that Tweed returned to the U.S. and Tun Antonio and his family emerged from the jungles of Guam during its liberation in 1944, the movie of the year was Going My Way, starring Bing Crosby as a priest. And, the most popular songs on Broadway at that time included You'll Never Walk Alone and For Sentimental Reasons.