Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Remembering Filipino World War 2 Veterans

November 11th Is Veterans Day.

Remembering the Forgotten U.S. War Veterans

A burial detail of Filipino prisoners of war uses improvised litters 
to carry fallen comrades at Camp O'Donnell, Capas, Tarlac, 1942, 
following the Bataan Death March.  Emir214 Wikimedia Commons
Fact: 1941, the members of the Philippine Armed Forces who fought for the United States of America in World War II were U.S. nationals.

But surprisingly,  they were totally unrecognized and utterly forgotten, until 2009.

A Little History Lesson

Before World War II, the Philippines was a U.S. territory (much like Puerto Rico, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, and other Pacific islands). They were since 1899.

Filipinos though have always wanted their independence, so in 1935, the United States agreed to the creation of the Commonwealth Government of the Philippines. The plan was that for the next ten years, this transitional government will exist and on 1946 the Philippines will be granted their independence.


Most people must be reminded that the Philippines is the westernmost U.S. territory and just a short stop from Japan.

Both Japan and the United States were aware that whoever controlled the Philippines will have the advantage militarily in that part of the world.

With its strategic location and 7,100 islands it would be the perfect jumping point for attacking other countries in that part of the world. For the U.S., it would be the ideal location to stop that Japanese advance.

World War II

Then the bombing of Pearl Harbor happened in 1941 during which similar attacks by the Japanese Imperial forces were carried out in the Philippines, which of course wasn’t unexpected.

The United States was already slowly beefing up the Philippine Armed Forces for such an attack on the islands and on U.S. interests. The Japanese aggression since the 1930s is not lost to U.S. Top Brass, and they knew the Philippines would be a potential target.  But of course, protecting Europe from Nazi Germany is vastly more important than protecting the Philippines.

So when the island nation was finally thrust into World War II, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called on the members of the Philippine Commonwealth Army to join the war and fight the Japanese. FDR promised that they would be given all of the benefits of U.S. soldiers.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur formally inducting the Philippine Army Air Corps into 
United States Army Forces in the Far East ( Camp Murphy, Rizal Aug 15 1941).  
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
FDR called for the creation of the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) Command which then absorbed the Philippine Army. These Filipino soldiers then fought for the United States under the command of General Douglas MacArthur. Thousands of others also served underground in guerilla units. 

All in all, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos trained, worked hard, fought for, sacrificed and gave up their lives for the United States of America alongside their American counterparts from 1941 until the end of the war.

The Payback

After the war, the U.S. Congress under President Truman decided that there simply weren’t enough money to give these “Filipino veterans” the benefits FDR promised them. 

The Rescission Act was passed in 1946 which (retroactively) annulled the benefits that would have been payable to Filipino veterans on account of their military service under the auspices of the United States, notwithstanding that during that time the Philippines was a U.S. territory and these Filipinos were U.S. nationals.

In other words, the Rescission Act of 1946 removed full benefits from the Filipino veteran and they have been unrecognized and completely forgotten for over 60 years.

Better Late Than Never

In February 2009, after decades of petitions in and out of the U. S., the United States enacted a law that provided for $198 million in one-time direct individual payments and more importantly official service recognition to Filipino World War II veterans

Under this payment program, Filipino veterans with U.S. citizenship will receive $15,000, while non-U.S. citizen Filipino veterans will receive $9,000 -- too little, too late, but still better than nothing.

But even though these amounts were a total disgrace and too late for those who have already passed away, the law and the payments made it official that these Filipino veterans were indeed U.S. War Veterans and deserve to be recognized and remembered every Veterans Day.

Narrated by Lou Diamond Phillips​​
Produced and Directed by Donald Plata
Written by Chris Schaefer

This is the story of a group of elite US Army soldiers who fought America's first major ground battle of the Second World War.

They were General MacArthur's best soldiers at the start of the conflict.
They were credited with being widely responsible for the prolonged siege of Bataan, an action that drained so much time and resources from Imperial Japan that it prevented the Japanese invasion of Australia.

Half of them were killed in action and in captivity.  Only a few survive today.  This documentary will honor these gallant men who gave so much for the cause of freedom.

They were the United States Army's Philippine Scouts, America's FORGOTTEN SOLDIERS.

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