CHICAGO (jGLi) –A Filipino veteran said here that despite being unequipped, they were still assigned in the frontlines during World War II. And yet their services were never recognized by the American people.
“We were armed with vintage Springfield rifles used during World War I and used by Philippine campaigner American Gen. John J. Pershing and our American counterpart were lugging the newest weapons of choice, the faster-firing, semi-automatic 8-round M1Garand at the outbreak of World War II and yet we were in front of the war zones against the superiorly armed Japanese enemies,” according to Fil American Post No. 509 Commander Emilio O. Hidalgo.
Hidalgo, who was 24 years old when he enlisted in the Philippine military when war clouds were hanging near the outbreak of the war, said that as a gunner at the Pilar-Bagac Road in Orion, Bataan (the main supply route), he even lost his hearing.
“Nagpapaputok kami ng 1,200 to 1,600 rounds mula sa apat na kanyon araw araw kaya ako nabingi.(We were firing from 1,200 to 1,600 rounds from four cannons a day that’s why I am now hard of hearing.) My fellow Filipinos’ last stand must have helped delay the Fall of Bataan and yet until now we are still fighting recognition,” Hidalgo, a native of Tanauan, Batangas in the Philippines, added.
In brief remarks the 92-year-old retired colonel delivered in front of Filipino American community on behalf of his dwindling comrades commemorating the 69thanniversary of Bataan Day celebration held inside the Philippine Consulate in Chicago, Illinois following a drizzle at the Bataan-Corregidor bridge in the heart of Chicago’s downtown Friday (April 8), Hidalgo said he was a witness to the surrender of the Allied Forces by American Gen. Edward P. King, Jr. in the afternoon of April 9, 1942.
“Now after a lapse of 69 years, the guns that roared in defense of Bataan are now silent. The voice of our Commander urging us to stand our ground and not give way to the enemy could no longer be heard.
“We, the living, are now involved in a new struggle – to repeal the provisions of the Recession Act of 1946 that states that our service with the USAFFEE (U.S. Armed Forces of the Far East) shall not be considered (except for certain purposes) as active military service in the Armed Forces of the United States.”
Hidalgo urged his Filipino veterans to support Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), who filed in the U.S. Congress the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011, making Filipino veterans fully eligible for benefits similar to those received by all U.S. veterans.
At a press conference Wednesday (April 13) in Washington, D.C.,Speier said she wants the legislation to eliminate the distinction among the Regular or "Old" Philippine Scouts and the other three groups of veterans—Commonwealth Army of the Philippines, Recognized Guerrilla Forces, and New Philippine Scouts. Widows and children of Filipino veterans would be eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation just like any other U. S. veteran.
“A promise made must be a promise kept,” Speier said. “I am frankly embarrassed that we are still having this debate more than a half-century after Filipino veterans helped us win World War II. But we must persevere. I will not rest until these heroes receive the benefits they deserve.”
The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act contained a provision that provided a lump sum payment of $15,000 for Filipino veterans who are now U.S. citizens and $9,000 for non-citizens. But there have been problems with the implementation of this payment program. To be eligible, a veteran has to be in the so-called “Missouri List,” an Army roster of eligible veterans. The Missouri List is incomplete. A 1973 fire destroyed 80 percent of the records for Army personnel from 1912 to 1960. As a result, over 17,000 Filipino veterans have had their claims denied. The Filipino Veterans Fairness Act directs the VA to take into account alternative military documentation to determine eligibility.
“The Recovery Act payments were a start, but our nation must bestow the full status it promised these veterans more than 65 years ago,” Speier concluded. “Their average age is 85. Only 15,000 are still alive today. We need to act now.”
Also on hand at the commemoration of Bataan Day in Chicago was 93-year-oldCleopatra Dulay Pactol, who joined the Bataan Day celebration in Chicago for the first time this year along with Henry P. Jao, a sergeant, who joined the 31stDivision under Gen. Lim at Bagac Road, Beach Defense facing China Sea.
A holder of Nursing and Dentistry degrees and a prisoner of war, Dulay Pactol was a Third Lieutenant at the Philippine Army Nurse Corps, Headquarters of U.S. Forces at Fort Mills in Corregidor, Philippines on April 20, 1942 and was prisoner of war from May 7 1942 to July 23, 1942 at Fort Mills and Old Bilibid Prison in Manila.For her bravery, she was awarded the“Bronze Star Medal.”
Mrs. Dulay Pactol recalled that when they were treating patients in Bataan during the war, they attended to all patients, including wounded Filipino and Americans and captured Japanese soldiers. “When we treated the wounded, we did not discriminate on account of nationality.”
Meanwhile, Jao, 88, said he contracted malaria but earned Purple Heart when he was wounded in action.
During the Bataan Day event, Director William Schmutz of the Chicago City Mayor’s Office on Human Relations Advisory Council on Veterans Affairs read the proclamation by Mayor Richard M. Daley, proclaiming April 9, 2011 as “Bataan Day in Chicago.”
Consul General Leo M. Herrera-Lim also awarded Mr. Schmutz a certification of appreciation for coordinating the Bataan Day celebration with the Philippine Consulate every year during the several past celebrations.
Also on hand wereMajor Edwin H. Walker IV (USMC) (ret.) of the Maywood Bataan Day Organization, likewise paid tribute to their fellow veterans’ heroism and courage during World War II; Ms. Abbey Eusebio, Constituent Advocate, Office ofU.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky; Director Kripal Zala of the Chicago Commission onHuman RelationsAdvisory Council onAsian Affairs; Ms. Angeles Carandang of the National Federation ofFilipino American Association,Illinois(NaFFAA); Ms. Carmen Estacio of theAsian AmericanLiaison, Office of the Secretary of State; andthe following veterans: Emilio Hidalgo, Emilio Garcera, Mariano Nazareno, Juan Millio, Dr. Crispin Echiverri, Catalino Macarulay, Isabelo Campollo, Ricardo Caronongan, Fortunato Mallari, Servillano Cabagnot, Jose Juachon, Dominador Ramirez, Jaime Pesongco and the other veterans of World War II. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
BATAAN DAY VETERAN MAKES A CASE:
Retired Col. Emilio O. Hidalgo (fourth from left seated),Post No. 509 Commander, said the under-equipped Filipino World War II veterans are also under-recognized by the American people during his brief remarks commemorating the 69thFall of Bataan on April 8 inside the Philippine Consulate in Chicago. Another veteran, 3rdLt. Cleopatra Dulay Pactol (second from left seated), 93, a member of the Philippine Army Nurse Corps, said her team treated wounded patients during World War II, regardless of nationality. Aside from Filipino and American soldiers, her team also treated captured wounded Japanese soldiers. Henry P. Jao (behind Ms. Dulay Pactol), a sergeant, who joined the 31stDivision under Gen. Lim at Bagac Road, Beach Defense facing China Sea, survived WW II despite being wounded and having contracted malaria. Photo also shows Consul Gen. Leo M. Herrera-Lim (eight from right, back row) veterans and guests. (jGLiPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)
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