Commemorating my Grandfather’s career of service in the United States Army.
World War II was just the beginning for my grandfather, then a combat infantryman in the 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment, where he contributed to Allied efforts in New Guinea, the Philippine Liberation Campaigns, and eventual victory for Allied countries in the global war.
He went on to lead an astonishing and distinguished career in the United States Army that he served honorably and with excellence.
This time last year, he and compatriot soldiers from both U.S. and Philippines were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by way of S.1555 – Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015, recognizing the call to duty that they answered during WWII. To be there with my family receiving the medal on his behalf was the highest and most incredible honor and the life we enjoy because of his service is an eternally precious gift.
The Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony was made possible by the commendable efforts of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP), and was held at the regal War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco, California, on October 28, 2019.
Leading up to the event, I spent a considerable amount of time researching my Grandfather’s career of service. My self-imposed research project was prompted by the shame I felt when I was asked by a friend about his role in WWII and could provide only a vague response…
Serving in the U.S. Army was among my grandfather’s proudest achievements and enabled my family to build a life in the United States as American citizens. Failure to remember his sacrifices would be a disservice to properly honoring his memory; in addition, to take part in a ceremony with only a superficial understanding of its meaning and magnitude to my family would be more transactional than the loving celebration of my grandfather’s life that I intended for it to be.
Based solely on snapshots of the few documents my Tita had on hand, combined with intensive internet searches and determined curiosity, I was able to weave together his story – one that astounded me and gives me an immense measure of pride for his role in landmark eras that have shaped American history and geopolitical relations. I could not wait to share with my family members, who also were surprised to learn about many of the details along his journey, and in reviewing my findings, they shared other illustrative vignettes of his time in the Army: the kind of stories that were probably best left off the paper trail, yet, instill a closeness with his memory in passing down these oral accounts of his bold character.
Below is the timeline of his service that I constructed. I hope it may inspire you to connect with your family members, whether living or passed, and build prideful connection with their stories that you can pass on now and for generations.
Lolo is serving active Federal Service in the U.S. Army. At this time, he is a Private with the 159th Infantry Regiment, Company C at Camp Ord, California.
Lolo is inducted into the Enlisted Reserve Corps.
The Select Service and Training Act is amended by Congress to permit
enlistment of citizens “and every other male person residing in the United
States.” Previously, Filipinos (American nationals) were ineligible to serve, however, to fight a world war, the U.S. needed all available manpower.
Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson announces the creation of a Filipino battalion to enable Americans of Filipino ancestry as well as resident Filipinos to serve together in the U.S. Army.
Lolo is inducted into the 1st Filipino Battalion.
The U.S. War Department activates the 1st Filipino Battalion. Lolo enters active service.
The 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment replaces the 1st Filipino Battalion and is activated at the Salinas California Rodeo Grounds. Lolo is an Infantryman joining Company G.
Lolo achieves rank of Sergeant. April 1944
With World War II underway in both the European and Pacific Theatres, elements of the 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment arrive in New Guinea where they fight under General Douglas MacArthur as the Southwest Pacific Area commander, until moving to the Philippines in 1945. Though the strategic campaign was tested by thriving diseases, merciless jungle terrain and a determined Japanese foe, Allied operations in New Guinea were essential to the U.S. Navy’s drive across the Central Pacific and to the U.S. Army’s eventual liberation of the Philippine Islands from Japanese occupation.
Lolo took part in the latter parts of the New Guinea Campaign under United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) General Order #26.
Lolo earns the Asiatic-Pacific Theatre Service Ribbon for his service in the New Guinea Campaign. Also identified as the Asiatic–Pacific Campaign Medal, the award was created on November 6, 1942, by Executive Order 9265 issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Lolo’s Asiatic-Pacific Theatre Service Ribbon is also decorated with multiple Silver and Bronze Stars he earned for each battle he served in as a combat infantryman in the New Guinea Campaign.
Fueled by the 1942 surrender of American forces to Japan in the Philippines; the strategic position of the islands to support future operations including the invasion of Japan; and the ongoing humanitarian crisis of Filipinos who were subjugated by brutal Japanese captors; General MacArthur orders his forces into action: from New Guinea, and under USAFFE General Order #23, Lolo is commissioned to serve in the Southern Philippine Campaign, also known as the Liberation of the Philippines.
During this time, Lolo serves as a Platoon Guide for the infantry battalion. His responsibilities involve ensuring the platoon is supplied with ammunition, rations and in combat is tasked with charge of casualties and enemy detainees, in addition to general platoon administration and logistics.
Fighting side by side, the U.S. and Philippine Commonwealth military forces progress in liberating territory and islands when the Imperial Japanese forces in the Philippines are ordered to surrender August 15, 1945, following the dropping of the atomic bombs on mainland Japan. In less than one year, the Philippine Campaign is won with rapid operations and swift
coordination between ground, naval and air troops that break the power of Japan’s military force. The Philippines would soon become a powerful new base for the final blows to end the war. Announcing the official end of the Philippines Campaign, General MacArthur describes the action as such:
Naval and air forces shared equally with the ground troops in accomplishing the success of the campaign. Naval battles reduced the Japanese Navy to practical impotence and the air losses running into many thousands have seriously crippled his air potential.
Working in complete unison the three services inflicted the greatest disaster ever sustained by Japanese arms.
The objects of the campaign were as follows:
- To penetrate and pierce the enemy’s center so as to divide him into north and south, his homeland to the north, his captured Pacific possessions to the south. Each half could then be enveloped and attacked in turn.
- The acquisition of a great land, sea and air base for future operations both to the north and to the south comparable to the British Islands in its use as a base for allied operations from the west against Germany.
- The establishment of a great strangulating air and sea blockade between Japan and the conquered possessions in the Pacific to the south so as to prevent raw materials from being sent to the north and supply or reinforcement to the south.
- The liberation of the Philippines with the consequent collapse of the enemy’s imperial concept of a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere and the reintroduction of democracy in the Far East.
- The liberation of our captured officers and men and of internees held in the Philippines.
- A crippling blow to the Japanese Army, Navy, and Air force. All of these purposes were accomplished.
Lolo earns the Philippine Liberation Ribbon for his service in the Southern Philippine Campaign as well as supporting efforts in the Luzon Campaign. A military award of the Republic of the Philippines, the medal was created by an order of Commonwealth Army of the Philippines Headquarters on December 20, 1944, to recognize service members of both Philippine Commonwealth and allied militaries who helped drive Japanese forces from the islands.
In addition, Lolo earned the Philippine Independence Ribbon, a military decoration of the Republic of the Philippines that was created by order of the Philippine Army Headquarters on July 3, 1946. The Philippine Independence Medal was created to recognize members of the military Who had participated in multiple Philippine military campaigns during the years of World War II.
Lolo is awarded the Good Conduct Ribbon under 1st Filipino Infantry General Order #37. Established during World War II, the Good Conduct Medal is awarded for exemplary behavior, efficiency, and fidelity in active Federal Military service demonstrated over a period of three years.
Aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Japan formally surrenders to the Allies, bringing an end to World War II.
Lolo is awarded the American Theatre Service Ribbon (also known as the American Campaign Medal), which was created on November 6, 1942, by Executive Order 9265 issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to recognize military members who had performed military service in the American Theater of Operations during World War II.
With World War II concluding in favor of the United Sates and Allied forces, Lolo is awarded the World War II Victory Medal, which was established by an Act of Congress July 6, 1945. Initially issued as a ribbon and later transitioning to a medal in 1946, the award recognizes any member of the U.S. military, including members of the armed forces of the Government of the Philippine Islands, who served in active duty, or as a reservist, between December 7, 1941, and December 31, 1946.
With the U.S. Army regulation concerning Army forces reduction after World War II (AR 615 – 365 RR 1-1 Demobilization), Lolo receives Honorable Discharge from 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment to join the U.S. Regular Army in Leyte, Philippines, and reenters active service as a Rifleman.
Over the course of his early service career with the 1st Filipino Infantry, Lolo earns his Combat Infantryman Badge, a U.S. Army military award. The badge is awarded to Infantrymen and Special Forces Soldiers who personally fought in active ground combat. It was created in November 1943 during World War II to boost morale and increase the prestige of service in the Infantry. Specifically, it recognizes the inherent sacrifices of all Infantrymen, and that they face a greater risk of being wounded or killed in action than any other military occupational specialties.
Lolo continues in this specialization as Rifleman and eventually earns his Marksmanship Badge to demonstrate his marksmanship and gunnery qualifications specific to the use of rifles.
Lolo departs the United States for Japan. In September 1945, General Douglas MacArthur took charge of the Supreme Command of Allied Powers and began the work of rebuilding the war- torn country. This period is also known as the Allied occupation of Japan and is the only time in Japan’s history that it has been occupied by a foreign power. It is marked by the initial Allied effort to punish and reform Japan, involving war crime trials, dismantling of the Japanese army and war infrastructure, land reform, and eventually, the creation of a new constitution, which put into power a democratic government.
The occupation, codenamed Operation Blacklist, was ended by the San Francisco Peace Treaty, signed on September 8, 1951, and effective from April 28, 1952, after which Japan’s sovereignty was fully restored. However, to this day, the U.S. military maintains a strong presence throughout the Japanese islands and the nation remains one of the United States’ strongest foreign supporters.
For service during this period, Lolo earns the Army of Occupation Medal, Japan. This U.S. military award was created by the U.S. War Department on April 5th, 1946, in the aftermath of World War II, to recognize those who had performed occupation service in either Germany or Japan.
Lolo departs the United States for a period of active service in the Philippines. In the previous year, the Treaty of Manila was signed on July 4, 1946, relinquishing U.S. sovereignty over the Philippines and recognizing the independence of the Republic of the Philippines. The treaty was signed by the United States and the Philippines, and later ratified by President Truman on August 14, 1946. A key provision would allow the United States to retain military bases and related assets and rights, to seek “the mutual protection of the United States of America and of the Republic of the Philippines” as agreed upon by the Philippine government.
Lolo is Honorably Discharged from the U.S. Army as a Sergeant of the 8126th Service Unit, Camp Rizal, APO 900 in Manila, Philippines, citing demobilization at the convenience of the government. At this time, Lolo is recommended for further military training. In the official remarks: Character: “Excellent. Efficiency: “Excellent.”
Lolo returns to the United States and reenlists at Fort Bliss, Texas, as a Sergeant where he serves as Duty Foreman responsible for all aspects concerning technical missions, logistics and operation of his company.
In the final hours of World War II, officials from the U.S. War and State Departments were preparing to negotiate with the Soviet Union over how Japanese-occupied Korea would be administered following Japan’s surrender. The conclusion arrived at the 38th parallel: a line that, “made no sense economically or geographically,” but evenly divided Korea into the Soviet- controlled North, and American-occupied South where the United Sates maintained control over Seoul. By 1948, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) were established.
On June 25, 1950, North Korean forces cross border with South Korea. The mission of the massive artillery is to liberate South Korea to Soviet control, with the invasion backed by the support of Soviet premier Joseph Stalin and Chinese leader Mao Zedong. This marks the beginning of the Korean War.
Nine days after the North Korean army invaded South Korea, the decision was made in Washington, DC, upon the recommendation of General MacArthur, to respond with American ground combat forces.
As a Light Weapons Assault Infantryman for the 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, Lolo arrives at the at the southern port city of Pusan, Korea.
Notably, the 35th Infantry Regiment was created in 1916 in Douglas, Arizona, and is known as “The Cacti.” During World War II, Korean, and Vietnam Wars, it served as part of the 25th Infantry Division. The 25th Infantry Division is known as “Tropic Lightning” and was formed in 1941 at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
Lolo’s Infantry Division initially sets up defensive positions with the assignment to reinforce Republic of Korea defense, halt Soviet aggression, and protect the southwestern sector of the 140-mile Pusan perimeter.
Bitter, grueling fighting ensues. Lolo’s Infantry Division withstands repeated attacks by the numerically superior forces of a fanatical enemy. The battle in Korea, at this stage, is a fight against time and terrain until reinforcements can be brought in. Lolo’s Infantry Division is the first unit to withstand the pressure of the enemy armored columns and to slow them down.
Until ordered to a new front, Lolo’s Infantry Division contains the enemy in its zone, thus gaining time for the United Nations (U.N.) Forces to strengthen their defenses. Field artillery and infantry elements under attack by North Korean units often resort to hand-to-hand combat to defend their positions.
Lolo achieves rank of Sergeant First Class, Regular Army serving the Quartermaster Corps (QMC). The QMC is a Sustainment branch of the Army whose mission is to support the development, production, acquisition, and sustainment of general supply, Mortuary Affairs, subsistences, petroleum and water, material and distribution management during peace and war to provide combat power to the Army.
Commence Operation Thunderbolt, a reconnaissance and counterattack operation designed to discover enemy dispositions and intentions of the Communist Chinese Forces with a show of power. An additional objective is to dislodge any enemy forces south of the Han River, the major estuary running through Seoul.
Phase lines-lines drawn on maps with specific reporting and crossing instructions are used to maintain tight control over the advance of U.S. troops toward Seoul. This use of terrain-based phase lines and limited advances with large forces in reserve would eventually become the standard procedure for U.N. offensive operations for the rest of the war.
While the projected attacks did not represent a full-scale offensive initially, and the units are instructed to avoid becoming heavily engaged, Lolo’s Infantry Division is tasked to take the town of Suwon, where the Communist Chinese offensive is active carrying out nightly attacks and enemy raids.
Lolo’s Infantry Division recaptures the town Suwon and a large airfield complex. Close air maneuvers support the advance, damaging enemy lines of communications and pounding points of resistance. Lolo’s Infantry Division advances against stiff enemy resistance in the high ground south of Seoul. Contact is maintained with the enemy while the United Nations reinforce their troops and strengthen their defensive positions. Reconnaissance in force is employed to inflict destruction on the enemy.
Lolo is seriously wounded by a firearm. According to the National Archives, he is seriously wounded in action by a missile, while Discharge from Army Duty forms report a gun shot that penetrates his left knee.
Lolo is awarded the Purple Heart, the most recognized symbol of a combat injury. The award is presented only to service members who have been wounded or killed as a result of enemy action while serving in the
U.S. military. Originally created as the Badge of Military Merit by George Washington on August 7, 1782, the Purple Heart is the oldest military award still presented to American service members.
Operation Thunderbolt lasted from January 25th through the 31st and established a new defensive line from the Han River to the eastern coast. The Chinese resistance began gradually increasing, indicating that the main enemy line at the 38th parallel had almost been reached. The operation marked the beginning of the First United Nations Counteroffensive that lasted from January 25th to April 21st, 1951,
with participation by the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. March 27
Lolo returns to active duty with Far East Command in just 57 days. At this time, Seoul had changed hands for the fourth time when U.N. forces once again liberate the South Korean capital. The city has been devastated by fighting, and its population has been reduced to a fraction of its prewar size.
Later in July, truce talks between the United Nations and the communists begin, however, the fighting continues for two more years.
In the final phases of the Korean War, Lolo’s Infantry Division assumes the responsibility of guarding the approaches to Seoul immediately instituting a policy of aggressive patrolling involving barrages of small arms, automatic weapons, mixed mortar and machine guns, tanks and flame throwers.
Lolo and members of his Infantry Division earn the Meritorious Unit Citation for their demonstrated courage and heroism in the forceful patrolling actions. The award is bestowed to units that, for a minimum of six months, exhibit extraordinarily meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services during the time of military operations against an armed enemy.
The United States, China and North Korea conclude an armistice ending hostilities of the Korean War. A demilitarized zone is created that roughly follows the prewar border along the 38th parallel. South Korea announces acceptance of the agreement, but no representative of South Korea ever signs the document.
For his service in the bloody and challenging war, Lolo earns the Korean Service Medal, an award of the United States Armed Forces that was created in November 1950 by executive order of President Harry Truman. The decoration recognizes service members who specifically served in the war zone during the Korean War.
Lolo is also awarded the National Defense Service Medal, which was established by Executive Order 10448, issued by President Dwight Eisenhower on April 22, 1953. The medal was created to recognize all service members who served during the Korean War.
Lolo is Honorably Discharged at the convenience of the government reenlists for a period of six years.
Lolo is also awarded his second Good Conduct Medal, signified by a bronze clasp with two loops, for his exemplary behavior, efficiency, and fidelity in active Federal Military service demonstrated over another period of three years in his career.
Lolo is recognized for having served his country honorably and performed his duty faithfully and well for more than 20 years of active Federal service and is now retired from the U.S. Army as a Sergeant First Class (E-6). He is transferred to the United States Army Reserve based in Fort Ord, California.
Following a decades-long struggle to earn federal recognition for their sacrifices and service, Filipino and Filipino-American veterans of World War II qualify collectively as awardees of the United States Congressional Gold Medal under the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015, Public Law 114-265, 130 Stat. 1376 (114th Cong.)
Awarded to individuals and groups as the highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions, the Filipino veterans of World War II join the ranks of other worthy recipients, such as the Native American Code Talkers, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Walt Disney, The Tuskegee Airmen and many others who have impacted history or culture.
Filipino veterans who served honorably during World War II are awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor, at a ceremony in Washington, DC.
A Congressional Gold Medal Presentation is held in San Francisco, California, where Lolo is to receive his Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his honorable service to the United States in World War II.