[SILVER STAR MEDAL, the 3rd highest military decoration in the US]
Daddy Max modesty aside, perhaps can now state with conviction, that among surviving war veterans, he belongs to that rare breed of warriors who has earned the distinction of having been involved in THREE (3) international wars: the Second World War, the 1950 Korean War and the Vietnam War. During the Second World War, where he earned the Silver Star Medal, he got enlisted into the USAFFE, acronym for United States Armed Forces in the Far East; while in the 1950 Korean War, where he earned a Gold Cross Medal, he was part of the 10th Battalion Combat Team of the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea, better known with its acronym, PEFTOK. In the Vietnam War, where he received various commendations, Daddy Max served as military advisor to TWO (2) quondam South Vietnam provinces. And I will narrate hereunder how Daddy Max got his Silver Star Medal in World War 2, the third highest military decoration for valor which is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States of America.
On December 7, 1941, Japanese forces bombed PEARL Harbor and this incident dragged the United States of America into the Second World War. Since the Philippines was still considered as territory of the United States of America, and that the country possessed important military bases, the Commonwealth of the Philippines got invaded too by the military forces of the Empire of Japan. Thus, on the following day, December 8, 1941, various places in the Philippines were subjected to air raid bombings.
As is mandated during a war, MV Legaspi, a commercial sea vessel where Daddy Max was working as shipping clerk, was commandeered by the US forces and Daddy Max, got commissioned as an active member of the USAFFE.
By April 1942, the combined Filipino-American army was defeated, but guerrilla resistance against the Japanese continued throughout the war. And as Manila was declared an open city, the last bastion of the defenders of the Philippine Commonwealth was fixed in the island of Corregidor. Gen. Douglas MacArthur who was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the Far East together with the ailing Philippine President, Manuel Luis Quezon plus thousands of American and Filipino soldiers were holed up in Corregidor. Consequently, food and other basic supplies became scarce in the island of Corregidor.
The officers and crew of MV Legaspi were given the task of procuring food supplies from the Visayas particularly in Capiz. And as the prospects of triumphantly defending Corregidor became nil, it was decided that the top officials of the Allied forces principal among whom were General MacArthur and Pres. Quezon and other soldiers, who were holed up in the island be surreptitiously brought out of the island into Australia to avoid capture.
Per Daddy Max’s recitals, as MV Legaspi negotiated their trip to Corregidor under cover of darkness of the night, the principal personages among the Allied forces were transported out of the island. As there were still stragglers and debilitated soldiers left in Corregidor, MV Legaspi sailed on its first trip to Capiz to get food supplies for eventual shipment back to Corregidor. Daddy Max remembered that the family of the then Senator Manuel Roxas who later became the first President of the Philippine Republic was the major contributor of food supplies for eventual shipment to Corregidor. At a nearby port in Capiz, herds of livestock such as cattle, hogs and chicken as well as other food supplies (i.e. sacks of rice, sugar , salt and bales of vegetables) await their loading into MV Legaspi and other ships.
MV Legaspi was successful in making three (3) round trips to Capiz and back to Corregidor. However, on the ship’s fourth try, as narrated by Daddy Max, MV Legaspi was descried by a Japanese war ship and after orders called out from the Japanese war ship to stop went unheeded, the Japanese war ship fired upon MV Legaspi until MV Legaspi was put ablaze. Instead of surrendering, the captain of MV Legaspi, Captain Conejeros, decided to continue sailing until MV Legaspi collided with a big rock formation just off Puerto Galera in Mindoro. As MV Legaspi was brought aground and while burning furiously, its officers and crew including Daddy Max scampered and escaped on foot as they hit the beach of Puerto Galera.
As the Japanese forces were furiously mad, a search for the officers and crew of MV Legaspi was conducted in earnest. After regrouping in a town adjoining Puerto Galera, the officers of MV Legaspi laid out a plan to stop the continuous search being done by the Japanese foot soldiers. And as Daddy Max was the youngest among the crew of MV Legaspi, (he was the 19 years old) unto his shoulders fell the duty to surrender to the pursuing Japanese forces and to deceive the Japs into believing that all of his comrades have perished. As planned, Daddy Max was able to successfully make out a story that eventually swayed the pursuing Japanese foot soldiers to believe in his tale that all of MV Legaspi’s officers and crew except him and the six (6) other crew members who joined Daddy Max in the surrender, have perished.
After Daddy Max together with six (6) other men surrendered to the pursuing Japanese soldiers, they were incarcerated in a camp where they eventually became personal attendants and servile servants of Japanese officers.
As attendants/servants of Japanese officers Daddy Max and his men were tasked to clean the latrine and prepare those essential ingredients for a Japanese warm bath daily. They were also made to do other menial tasks while inside the Japanese camp.
One day, Daddy Max in a huddle with his companions planned out an escape. Thus, one night while the Japanese soldiers were carousing and entertaining themselves playing cards and drinking liquor, Daddy Max and his men successfully flew the coop.
To put one over the Japanese who eventually pursued them in haste the following day, Daddy Max decided that instead of going south as the Japanese was earlier led to believe that they all wanted to return to their respective towns in the Visayas (most of the crew members of M/V Legaspi were Visayans), they moved up north. They were able to grab on to a batel, some kind of a boat, which they used in their escape from Puerto Galera and as they moved up north, they arrived at Abra de Ilog in Mindoro.
Hopping from one place to another, they negotiated by sea a sequel trip to San Jose in the farther extreme end of Mindoro. When they reached San Jose, Daddy Max then decided to take on their southbound trip to the Visayas particularly to Negros Island.
Following their escape, Daddy Max continued to wage the fight for freedom against the Japanese Imperial Army, still as part of the USAFFE guerilla forces. For their war feat, Daddy Max and the officers and crew of MV Legaspi were awarded each with a Silver Star Medal by the US government.