The storm clouds of conflict presaging war in the Pacific gathered in the summer of 1941. On 26 July President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8832, which directed the seizure of all Japanese assets in the United States in response to Imperial Japan’s occupation of French Indo-China.
Coincident with that action, President Roosevelt exercised his executive authority and ordered Philippine Commonwealth soldiers into the service of the United States Government as well as ordering Douglas MacArthur back to active duty:
“Under and by virtue of the authority vested in me … as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, I hereby call and order into the service of the armed forces of the United States for the period of the existing emergency… all of the organized military forces of the Government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines.”
In the 1942 Bataan Campaign the majority of the troops resisting Imperial Japanese Army forces were Filipino. The brave stand of the Fil-Am forces on Bataan became symbolic of the United Nations determination to resist Militarism, Fascism and Nazism around the world. “Remember Bataan!” became a rallying cry for both Filipinos and Americans who sought to stem and then reverse the Japanese war machine.
On 11 June 2015, Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) of the 114th Congress (2015-2016) introduced a bill into the US Senate that would award the Congressional Gold medal to Filipino veterans of World War II, including those who fought on Bataan. The bill, titled S.1555 – Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015, was read twice and then referred to the Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. The award, should it be approved, would be “of a single gold medal of appropriate design to the Filipino Veterans of World War II in recognition of the dedicated service of the veterans during World War II.”
Major Bataan-related highlights of the text of the bill are recapped here as follows in these excerpts:
“(5) On July 26, 1941, as tensions with Japan rose in the Pacific, President Franklin D. Roosevelt used his authority vested in the Constitution of the United States and the Philippine Independence Act to “call into service of the United States … all of the organized military forces of the Government of the Philippines.” On July 27th, 1941, in accordance with a War Department directive received a day earlier, the United States Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) was established, and Manila was designated as the command headquarters. Commander of the USAFFE, General Douglas MacArthur, planned to absorb the entire Philippine army into the USAFFE in phases. The first phase, which began on September 1, 1941, included 25,000 men and 4,000 officers.
(6) Filipinos who served in the USAFFE included—
(A) the Philippine Scouts, who comprised half of the 22,532 soldiers in the Philippine Department, or United States Army garrison stationed in the Islands at the start of the war;
(B) the Philippine Commonwealth Army;
(8) On December 8th, 1941, not even 24 hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japanese Imperial forces attacked bases of the United States Army in the Philippines.
(9) In the spring of 1942, the Japanese 14th Army overran the Bataan Peninsula, and, after a heroic but futile defense, more than 78,000 members of the United States Armed Forces were captured, specifically 66,000 Filipinos and 12,000 service members from the United States. The Japanese transferred the captured soldiers from Bataan to Camp O’Donnell, in what is now known as the infamous Bataan Death March. Forced to march the 70-mile distance in 1 week, without adequate food, water, or medicine, nearly 700 members of the United States Armed Forces and an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 Filipinos perished during the journey.
(18) Filipinos participated in the war out of national pride, as well as out of a commitment to the Allied forces struggle against fascism. 57,000 Filipinos in uniform died in the war effort. Estimates of civilian deaths range from 700,000 to upwards of 1,000,000, or between 4.38 to 6.25 percent of the prewar population of 16,000,000.
(19) Because Filipinos who served in the Commonwealth Army of the Philippines were originally considered a part of the Allied struggle, the military order issued by President Roosevelt on July 26, 1941, stated that Filipinos who served in the Commonwealth Army of the Philippines were entitled to full veterans benefits. The guarantee to pay back the service of Filipinos through veterans benefits was reversed by the Rescission Acts of 1946 (Public Laws 79–301 and 79–391; 60 Stat. 6 and 60 Stat. 221), which deemed that the wartime service of the Commonwealth Army of the Philippines and the new Philippine Scouts was not considered active and, therefore, did not qualify for benefits.
(20) The loyal and valiant Filipino Veterans of World War II fought, suffered, and, in many instances, died in the same manner and under the same commander as other members of the United States Armed Forces during World War II.
(21) The Filipino Veterans of World War II fought alongside, and as an integral part of, the United States Armed Forces. The Philippines remained a territory of the United States for the duration of the war and, accordingly, the United States maintained sovereignty over Philippine foreign relations, including Philippine laws enacted by the Philippine Government. Filipinos who fought in the Philippines were not only defending or fighting for the Philippines, but also defending, and ultimately liberating, sovereign territory held by the United States Government.
(22) 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.”
//END OF S.1555 EXCERPTS//
The full text of the bill is quite illuminating on the role of Filipino veterans in World War II, worth a read on its own, and available at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/1555/text
And saved in .pdf format at: BILLS-114s1555is
This Senate Bill is a modest but worthy measure of recognition for the Filipino veterans who contributed so much to the US armed forces during World War II. It is now in the Senate’s Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee for further consideration. Per committee rules, legislation bestowing a Congressional Gold Medal upon a recipient must be co-sponsored by two-thirds of the membership of both the House of Representatives and the Senate before their respective committees (the House Committee on Financial Services and the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs) will consider it.
If you are an American citizen, it is worth your time to compose a note to your Congressional representatives in the Senate and the House to ask for their support for S. 1555 to acknowledge these Filipino veterans. Congress often responds to public input if enough of it is received on a given issue.
If your state has a member of the Senate on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, your input might carry even more weight, and help demonstrate some genuine interest and concern for this – it’s important. An example of why is explained a bit further below. View this Senate committee’s current membership at:
An example of a public letter to Congress on this Filipino veterans Congressional Gold Medal bill is that of Ms. Cecilia Gaerlan of California, which you can read at: https://www.opencongress.org/contact_congress_letters/87366-S-1555-Filipino-Veterans-of-World-War-II-Congressional-Gold-Medal-Act-of-2015
This is not the first time, nor likely the last, that members of Congress have sought to recognize Filipino veterans. Back on 31 July 2008, on the anniversary of President Roosevelt’s 26 July 1941 call to arms of Philippine Commonwealth soldiers, the 110th Congress introduced House Resolution 1400, the purpose of which was:
“Expressing the Nation’s sincerest appreciation for the service of the World War II Filipino veterans who fought in the Armed Forces on the 67th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s military order.”
The full text of this resolution, worth reading, is posted here and under references:
Although this 2008 resolution was introduced in Congress, it was not enacted. Perhaps it did not have the support it should have because of the lack of knowledge and awareness among American citizens and politicians of the vital role Filipino troops played in the war in the Pacific. This is one of the reasons for this web log.
Executive order 8832, text, at: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=16148
26 July 1941 Roosevelt quote, from: http://www.bakitwhy.com/articles/71st-anniversary-military-order-pres-roosevelt-placing-philippine-commonwealth-army-under
House Resolution 1400, text, at: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/110/hres1400/text
Congressional God medal, Wikipedia entry, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congressional_Gold_Medal
Picture of FDR signing document, at: https://thefrontblog.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/datebook-july-26-fdr-freezes-japanese-assets-70-years-ago/
Picture of Philippine Army troops going into US service, at: http://pinoyhistory.proboards.com/thread/231/philippine-commonwealth-army-call-arms
Bataan poster, at: http://wwiiletters.blogspot.com/2009/01/bataan-death-march-1942-photos.html
Remember Bataan picture, at: http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/16061-bataan-battlefield-visit/