[The GOLD CROSS MEDAL, shown above, which Daddy Max received after over 50 years reckoned from the date an armistice was signed ending the hostilities in the Korean War, is traditionally awarded by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (“AFP”) for gallantry in action. It was Armed Forces Chief General Hermogenes C. Esperon who spearheaded the move to accord Daddy Max the distinct honor.]
As narrated to me by DADDY MAX, when the FILIPINO SOLDIERS of the 10th BATTALION COMBAT TEAM of the PHILIPPINE EXPEDITIONARY FORCES TO KOREA, dispatched by former President ELPIDIO QUIRINO, to win back the freedom of SOUTH KOREA; arrived in Korea on September 19, 1950, they witnessed the sight of Korean children of all ages streaming and moving in flocks with their belongings tucked above their heads.
The children, as Daddy Max described, were running into different directions, while their faces placidly show anxious uneasiness as they sought refuge wherever possible.
As Daddy Max’s unit roamed and moved forward towards the war front, they saw various villages burned down to the ground. The villages were literally flattened as though they were bulldozed and steamrollered with various poles and wooden posts sticking out and protruding upward, indicating that there existed a peaceful village before.
It was confirmed that after the North Koreans invaded South Korea and when the North Koreans retreated, the North Koreans burned down all the houses in the villages. the burning and scorching happened up to and until the northern part of South Korea, along the way of the North Korean’s retreat path.
Aside from the pitiful sight of houses that have been burned and torn down, everywhere they go, they continue to see people of all ages moving in all directions seeking possible refuge from the chaos.
In most instances, in places where they would set up a bivouac camp in a deserted area, they would usually be surrounded by abandoned orchard farms with trees of apple, plums and chestnuts all around them.
As they were all overcome with pity and sympathy, they decided not to touch those fruits out of respect for the South Korean farmers. However, after tasting the fruits with their first bite brought about by their compelling hunger pangs, they eventually felt that the fruits were heaven-sent as they hang in enticing clusters on the branches.
Tempted once more by the delicious and juicy taste, they were eventually moved to freely harvest the fruits as though they were the full owners of the orchards.
As they begun to immerse themselves into the Korean way of life, they would see again the Korean children of various ages, never showing any fear or indifference to them They thought that perhaps, little as they were, the children already knew, then and there, that the Filipino soldiers were defending them from the North Korean aggressors.
Daddy Max further narrated that the children, despite the chaos would show their joy for the Filipino soldiers’ presence in their native land. The Korean children would continue to work and strive to make a living, not for their own, but for their respective families to where they belong. Daddy Max truly sensed that the Korean children were very industrious; all of them worked and toiled hard. They tried to work and endeavored to bring assorted food to their families and their loved ones during the chaotic war.
The South Korean children that the Filipino soldiers saw were very well-behaved too. Daddy Max pondered and thought that what they saw, those very well-behaved children of yesteryears, were the same who grew into adulthood and who contributed much to the growth and the progress of the South Korean nation.
Daddy Max now firmly believes that those hardworking and well-behaved children was the key to South Korea’s success. And because of those children, it was no wonder that the South Korean nation has risen from the ashes of the Korean War and has truly developed so fast.
Daddy Max remembered too that there was only one bridge spanning the wide expanse of the Han River that runs along the border between South Korea and North Korea, up and down to Seoul City then. Now in Daddy Max’s recent visit to South Korea, there are about 36 bridges which exist. And from Daddy Max’s rumination, this is a clear showing of the tremendous progress that South Korea has now attained.
South Korea is now known not only as a strong fortress of freedom and a formidable bulwark of democracy but also as a wonderful show window of peace, prosperity and progress.
At one time during the Korean War, Daddy Max recounted particularly in the first week of November 1950, Daddy Max’s unit received information that two regiments of Red Chinese soldiers were set to be deployed along their supply route on the fringes of the mountain ranges in Korea, which was about 50 miles long, towards the north.
On 11 November 1950, Daddy Max’s unit left NAMCHONJON at 7:00 am towards SINGYE using the narrow road planted with mines and booby traps. Daddy Max’s platoon was in the lead with five (5) armored tanks, with Daddy Max’s own-driven tank stationed on the third position. Their patrol contingent consisted of two companies, engineers and a medical platoon. They were backed up by two artillery batteries and air support was available upon request.
The support group that was way behind , ran into a land mine, that caused the leaping of the 6 x 6 army truck with the crew riding in it, soaring about eight feet above the ground. Luckily however, the support group survived that incident.
Daddy Max’s unit continued to move with caution, anticipating an encounter with the enemy. After five kilometers from where the land mine exploded, they reached a long hilly curve, while they tremulously expected another mine explosion.
When the whole component of soldiers cleared the hilly curve, a hellish volley of assorted gun fire started hitting the main body coming from their right flank in all directions, for 15 continuous minutes. This caused their troops to seek cover along the road into some ditches and canals with the the natural instinct to initially keep still and observe where the enemies’ fire where actually coming from.
Daddy Max was inside his tank and he took a glimpse on his periscope. Daddy Max saw that all the soldiers were immobilized by the sudden impact of the volley of fire and the shock effect that it caused. No movement of troops was seen and the enemy soldiers continued to fire at will.
As Daddy Max descried that there was no free movement for their shocked troops, what was certain was that their troops were indeed being kept at bay by the continued enemy fire.
Daddy Max then opened the steel hatch of the armored tank which is located on top near the tank’s turret, thus exposing himself to enemy fire coming from all directions. He thereafter manned the 50 caliber machine gun installed atop the turret of the tank. And Daddy Max relentlessly started firing along the hilly side of the area, seeing dust when his bullets and tracer would hit the ground.
This COUNTER-ACTION on Daddy Max’s part caused the enemies to start getting out of their foxholes as the enemies started to transfer from one place to another as they plausibly feared the impact of the 50 caliber ammunition.
The continuous firing from the 50 caliber machine gun created a great commotion among the enemies and that the whole bunch of the enemy soldiers frantically ran around and continued to transfer from one position to another. Daddy Max kept firing the machine gun until he saw his comrades start to stand up, one by one as they commenced to move towards the enemy’s position. The encounter lasted for one hour and a half.
The body count on the side of the enemy was: 42 killed and several wounded who were carried and tugged by rescuing soldiers among them. The info about the wounded enemy soldiers was according to the Red Chinese soldier who was captured. It was unfortunate that the sole casualty on Daddy Max’s side was the very soldier who was supplying/feeding Daddy Max with ammunition while Daddy Max was manning the machine gun. With the almost crisscrossing of enemy fire, that friendly-soldier who was feeding Daddy Max with ammunition got hit on his forehead. Fortunately however, Daddy Max’s company eventually overran the enemy lines as they, Daddy Max’s company, went across the mountains to clear the route to their supply lines.
When the dust settled down and everything was clear, many foreign observers from the United Nations command who were observing from a distance, atop the mountains, who witnessed the whole operations, came towards Daddy Max and congratulated him in the presence of all of the troops that were all on the ground during the encounter.
Daddy Max thereafter (though extremely belated indeed) was awarded a GOLD CROSS MEDAL, for gallantry in action, for this daring feat. This daring feat of the Filipino soldiers was a supreme act of friendship unto the beleaguered South Korean nation. In fact, the Philippines was the first Asian country which sent support troops to South Korea, and the third among the member-nations of the United Nations. Indeed, this daring feat of Daddy Max has brought much pride and honor to our clan.