By Raymond Douglas Chong, AsAmNews Staff Writer
On December 8, 1941, the Japanese Imperial Army attacked and invaded the Commonwealth of Philippines, a protectorate of the United States. Filipinos soldiers and guerrillas bravely battled the Japanese forces until final victory in August 1945. But the American government blatantly broke promises to the Filipino veterans.
World War II
After the Battle of Philippines (1941-1942), the Japanese empire conquered the Philippines. Filipino guerillas valiantly fought against the Japanese forces across the vast archipelago. During the Philippines Campaign (1944-1945), United States armed forces, allied with Filipino soldiers and guerrillas, finally defeated and expelled the Japanese forces. 57,000 Filipinos in uniform died during the war effort.
The Medal of Honor is the United States’ highest award for military valor in action. US Army Sergeant Jose Calugas, with the Philippines Scouts, was the only Filipino to receive the Medal of Honor during World War II.
His citation reads:
In July 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt federalized the military forces in the Philippines under American control. Filipinos enlisted in answer to their President’s call to serve. Roosevelt promised veteran benefits to them, similar to members of the United States Armed Forces.
In August 1943, Roosevelt promised:
On July 4, 1946, the American government fulfilled that promise, when Filipinos celebrated a newly independent Republic of Philippines.
But Congress broke one Roosevelt’s promise. They retroactively annulled the benefits promised to Filipino veterans and their widows and children, enacted February 18, 1946.
In 2009, Congress authorized lump-sum payment to eligible World War II Filipino veterans, thru the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund. Non-United States citizens received a payment of $9,000. United States citizens received a payment of $15,000. But the United States Department of Veterans Affairs denied eligibility to many Filipino veterans.
Another promise was broken. Many Filipinos who served with US Armed Forces States during World War II were promised American citizenship. The Immigration and Naturalization Service has consistently denied them.
Congressional Gold Medal
As national appreciation, United States Congress bestows the Congressional Gold Medal to occasionally honor recipients from the military.
On October 25, 2017, Congress officially presented the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal, for the Filipinos who honorably served from 1941 to 1946.
On this 2021 Memorial Day, 76 years after end of World War II, Roy Recio, past board director of San Francisco Veterans Equity Center, reflects about the Filipino veterans.
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