U.S. Celestino Almeda (C), Filipino veteran representing the Philippine Commonwealth Army, arrives at a Congressional Gold Medal presentation ceremony October 25, 2017 at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, DC.

Last month, Senate and White House leaders awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to roughly 250,000 Filipino veterans who served during World War II. The recognition was long awaited: it had been over 75 years since Filipino troops, alongside U.S. forces, helped resist the Japanese invasion of their islands. When U.S. commanders later surrendered, hundreds of Americans and about 10,000 Filipinos became prisoners of war and went on to endure the Bataan Death March. We discuss the Filipino veterans’ struggle for benefits and recognition, and the significance of this award.

Cecilia Gaerlan,
executive director, Bataan Legacy Historical Society
Antonio Taguba, retired major general, U.S. Army
Lou Tancinco, board president, San Francisco Veterans Equity Center

Filipino WWII Veterans Receive Long-Awaited Recognition with Congressional Gold Medal 10 November,2017Amanda Stupi

  • Skip Conrad

    I don’t get it. The Japanese invaded the Philippines. These brave people fought for their country, not America. Their reward was the freedom of their country. Isn’t that enough of a reward.?

    • geraldfnord

      The Philippines weren’t close to fully independent at that point—all Filipinos alive 1898-1935 had been U.S. citizens,and all were made so
      again in 1942—and the lines between their forces and ours completely muddy during the war. They had had no hint of independence until about six years before the invasion, and before the invasion the Commonwealth armed forces had formally been put in service of U.S. forces, and many resident in the U.S. plain joined-up in the U. S. forces.

      They obeyed our orders and went where they were told to go. They were fighting for their own country, but they were at that point of our nation, and our interests were were very definitely at stake as well as theirs. [Goes to Wikipedia] The Gold Medal does not require citizenship, and the critæria limited to having made a lasting [positive] difference for the States.

      • Cecilia Gaerlan

        Thank you so much for your support.

    • MikeCassady

      Skip, as it was stated in the program, after the Spanish-American War, ending in 1898, the Philippines remained under the soverignty of the United States until 1946. The US valued the Philippines as a strategic asset in the “Ring of Fire” area. The port of Subic Bay was an important base for Navy ships. Fortifications were built from 1910 to protect the harbor, especially on Corregidor Island in Manila Bay. In short, Japan clearly saw the Philippines as a dangerous strategic asset for any counter attack against Japan. What happened in the Philippines in World War II had little to do with occupying the Philipines for territorial expansion. The Japanese were interested in the Philippines as a US military base in dangerous proximity to the Japanese mainland.

  • Angela

    Thank you for this program. Can you please recommend texts to read to learn about the Philippines in WW2?

    • Cecilia Gaerlan

      Please go to our website http://www.bataanlegacy.org. You can access materials through the Lesson Plans tab or the references. Thanks so much for your interest.

  • Bill_Woods

    “When U.S. commanders later surrendered, hundreds of Americans and about 10,000 Filipinos became prisoners of war and went on to endure the Bataan Death March.”

    The Bataan Death March … was the forcible transfer by the Imperial Japanese Army of 60,000–80,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war … from 5,000 to 18,000 Filipino deaths and 500 to 650 American deaths during the march.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bataan_Death_March [emph added.]

  • MikeCassady

    As a Vietnam era Army veteran, I applaud the work of Ms. Gaerlan adn Ms. Tancinco on winning recognition for the role Filipino defenders played responding to the Japanese invasion following the Pearle Harbor surprise attack. I would like to know the official backstory to the legistlative action or inaction that permitted the failure to recognize and give compensation to these persons. Is there a way to access the record, find the discussion behind the policy decisions and, eventually, put names to these deeds. When someone decides it’s time to turn the page of history, we still need to peer into the kinds of minds that were behind these decisions and try to understand the full scope of their sense of vision. Did Filipino authorites, by whatever means, contriubte to this moral failure to act?

    While working in Southeast Asia in the 1970’s, out of Singapore, I visited Manila once, taking the tourist boat over to Corregidor Island. I recall standing at the different places the tourist bus stopped and becoming increasinly convinced it was impossible and almost painful to try to imagine what the occupation of Corregidor and the Pilippines was to people who were there. The interviewees speak of the influence on our perceptions of Asians that leave us in a state of very consequential incomprehension. Japanese officiers were trained to look down upon Koreans and Chinese, and I suppose Filipions equally, but what about ordinary Japanese soldiers who had close daily contact with the Filipino population? The guide on the island tour told about the terrifiying effects of intense bombing, and how Japanese soldiers jumped to their deaths from the cliffs rather than be captured.

    Going to Corregidor, every nationality was mixed on the boat, but, on reaching the island, there was a bus for Japanese visitors and another bus for everyone else. It turned out most of the Japanese people were on a personal mission to honor a realitve who had died in the battle (the final battle) to defend Corregidor. At several places overlooking Manila Bay, cedar posts had been placed in the ground which the Japanese visitors used to perform a comemorative ritual of pouring sake on the posts, apparently to honor the dead relative, and they expressed their grief, at least some of them, in nearly hysterical sobbing. I decided at that point to accept that I lacked the means to process what I was looking at. World War II, like it or not, made the “world” in the sense of an effective community of concern, global. Nuclear war, climate and environmental assets, the power of data and the ability to inform oursevels, are issues that go past the competence of geographical political structures. That doesn’t stop antiquated governance structures and established states of supposed privelege from fighting for their survival even as we persons have become citizens of an objective extra-national reality. Those who faced the horrors of the “Battle for Coregidor” had a much more existentially reduced vision of “world”, and they watched their frontiers of identification evaporate before their eyes, not sure of what they were seeing, left with deep and lasting memories they are told have become the past now that history has turned to a blank new page. Ms. Gaerlan, Ms. Tancinco and General Tanguba do us a service reminding us that history is written in pages that turn while people inhabit the moral, personal story that continues in us who author it.

    • Cecilia Gaerlan

      Thank you so very much for your support!

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