HomeAAPI Heritage MonthFilipino Veterans of World War II – Broken Promises

Filipino Veterans of World War II – Broken Promises

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.

Jose Calugas by U.S. Signal Corp via Wikimedia Creative Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jose_Calugas_Medal_of_Honor.jpg

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:

The action for which the award was made took place near Culis, Bataan Province, Philippine Islands, on 16 January 1942. A battery gun position was bombed and shelled by the enemy until one gun was put out of commission and all the cannoneers were killed or wounded. Sergeant Calugas, a mess sergeant of another battery, voluntarily and without orders ran 1,000 yards across the shell-swept area to the gun position. There he organized a volunteer squad which placed the gun back in commission and fired effectively against the enemy, although the position remained under constant and heavy Japanese artillery fire.

Broken Promises

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:

I give the Filipino people my word that the Republic of the Philippines will be established the moment the power of our Japanese enemies is destroyed.

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.

The United States remains forever indebted to the bravery, valor, and dedication that the Filipino Veterans of World War II displayed. Their commitment and sacrifice demonstrates a highly uncommon and commendable sense of patriotism and honor.

Tribute

Located in the tail end section of Corregidor Island, the Filipino Heroes Memorial is composed of statues of different Filipino Heroes. This picture is a tribute to the Filipino Guerillas who bravely fought in World War II. By Karla Mae Brazil via Wikimedia Creative Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Filipino_Heroes_Memorial_in_Corregidor_-_A_Tribute_to_the_Filipino_Guerillas.jpg

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.

They served and they deserve. It is a question of recognition of their sacrifices for our country and our freedoms. They put their lives on the line for a promise made to them and that promise was broken. We need to do the right thing and dignify their duty.

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