Speech of Daddy Max at the ATENEO (October 27, 2016-Leong Hall Auditorium)

 

 [Top right photo shows Daddy Max attired in the traditional white Filipino barong tagalog with the PEFTOK logo stitched on the right chest portion of the barong. Bottom right photo is a group photo showing the assembly of guests to the Korean Studies’ Conference which included Fmr. Speaker Jose De Venecia, the South Korean Ambassador, officers of the PEFTOK and officers of the Korean Studies Program, the Department of Political Science and Department of History of the ATENEO. Bottom left photo shows Daddy Max having a photo opp after receiving the certificate of appreciation for the delivery of his speech on his Korean War experience with ATENEO’s academic community officials. Middle left photo shows a distant shot (just as to capture the overhead monitor showing Daddy Max’s  picture, as an Army First Sergeant, and his GOLD CROSS medal for his daring Korean War feat) with Daddy Max delivering his speech (which centered on his Korean War experience as member of the 10th BCT-PEFTOK) shown at the extreme bottom left portion thereof. Top left photo shows Daddy Max with a family who attended the Conference and who asked Daddy Max for a souvenir photo.] 

Good morning! Thank you for coming today, as I narrate my life as a simple Filipino army soldier. But I am a proud Filipino soldier of the PHILIPPINE EXPEDITIONARY FORCE to KOREA, better known as    PEFTOK.

I am Major Maximo Purisima Young, Philippine    Army, Retired. I began serving our beloved   Philippines as a soldier when the Second World War broke out in 1941. I was conscripted by the USAFFE for military    service after     Japan attacked the Philippines on December 8, 1941.  USAFFE is acronym for United States Army Forces in the Far East. I have served our beloved country and fought for the defense of freedom and democracy in three wars: World War 2, the Korean War    and the Vietnam War.

I fought her domestic enemies, the communist Hukbalahap and its   successor, the New People’s Army, from the 1940s to the 1960s.I have been shot at and shelled. I have seen my friends die in battle and have killed my country’s enemies, in turn. But by the grace of God, I am still here. 1 am now 94 years young.

Yes, I, Major Max Young, am 94 years young. AND I HAVE A TWITTER ACCOUNT. You can tweet me at @maxpyoung.

But I am not  the only example of PEFTOK longevity. Some of my other  comrades in PEFTOK are also over 90. The oldest, I think, is 100. There are    fewer than 1,353 PEFTOK veterans   left     alive today. 1,353 out of the 7,420 eager        young men who set foot in Korea six decades   ago to fight     in their country’s first     foreign war.

Let me FIRST share with you my war experience during the Second World War…I was never wounded. I was captured once, but escaped from the Japanese   camp together with other     Filipino patriots. I faced death against the Japanese forces   who sank the MV Legaspi where I was   a crew member and who took me prisoner. MV Legaspi, was transporting    supplies and Filipino soldiers from the Visayas  to Luzon to fight the Japanese when it was sunk off   Puerto Galera, Mindoro by two (2) Japanese warships.

After the war, I was awarded the U.S. Silver Star, the United States Armed Forces’ third highest military decoration for valor, for my service as crewmember of the MV Legaspi.

And in Korea, my unit, the 10th Battalion Combat Team, was the most  bloodied among all five (5) BCTs that served in Korea. The 10th accounted for over half of all Philippine casualties in the Korean War — 112 KIA, 229 WIA, 16 MIA and 41 POW.

And in Vietnam, I was designated as Military Advisor of the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support Group or CORDS. I was  invalided  home from injuries I suffered after almost being captured by militia men of the North Vietnamese Army.

Now, let me tell you about  my beloved   PEFTOK.  PEFTOK was born in an era where patriotism was so powerful as many Filipinos then were willing to sacrifice  their lives for Inang Bayan. Over one million Filipinos did just that in World War 2. I would have been one of them but for the grace of God, I survived. PEFTOK was born in an era when Filipino men were deemed as true warriors. Filipino men of my era were hard men with guts of steel.

The men I fought   with, both against  the Japanese during the Second World War and the North Koreans and the Chinese communists during the Korean War,   were fiercely patriotic  men. Their patriotism was a living force   that  imbued their total being. Love for country was only next to love of God. That is how they endured particularly the three (3) brutal years   of the Japanese occupation which happened before the Korean War.

PEFTOK, to me, is the embodiment of Filipino patriotism. We fought   in Korea because we were proud for the honor to represent our country in the world’s first war against    godless   communism. And many of you perhaps will be surprised that tens of thousands of Filipino men volunteered to fight in Korea. Many of these   patriots  were ordinary civilian     men without military experience. Many others were    brave Filipino   guerrillas      that fought against    the Japanese. Many of them were teenagers.

Such  was the power of patriotism in the 1950s. But only  7,420 were chosen. With this, perhaps the challenge unto the youth of today is to muster and display that noble kind of patriotism. Clearly, not through WAR, but for the youth to evince love for country by according respect for authority, our national leaders.

Our commander in the 10th BCT was the late Colonel Mariano Azurin. The 10th was   the only Philippine Army tank battalion. In the Philippines, we had a company of American made tanks. We arrived    at Busan aboard  a U.S. Navy troop transport, the MS ANTOLAK, after a rough  four day voyage.

We set foot on Korean soil  on September 19, 1950. There were 1,400 of us in the battalion. The BCT was  met  by a band playing loud music which I can not now recall. We felt like heroes being welcomed    home.

When we arrived, Korea then was  experiencing its coldest    winter. We pitched our tents on an open field and many of us – me included – woke up with water  snakes in our tents. The   snakes apparently fled     the cold and sought warmth beside our     bodies.

Busan then was  a world  away from Busan now. When we arrived, the port  was a fortress geared  for war. It was  at Busan that we first came face-to-face  with frightened and thin Korean refugees, many of them children, begging us for food. One of my  enduring  memories of my first month in Korea was the seemingly unending  stream of Korean refugees fleeing the fighting. And there seemed    to be so many parent-less children among these   refugees.

It was     heartbreaking. We had  seen such sights here during the brutal Japanese occupation in our country from 1942 to 1945. Poverty was widespread after the war ended in the Philippines on September 15, 1945. The war devastated  our industries, ruined  our farms and made  many Filipinos  destitute. And    here we were in Korea, a thousand miles from home, witnessing a tragedy many of us hoped we   would never see again. We then moved into North Korea  as part of the United   Nations counter-attack that almost destroyed  the North Korean People’s Army. At the outskirts   of the town of Miudong in North Korea, the battalion fought  its first   pitched battle, this against  a North Korean   battalion. ‘’The Battle of Miudong’’   was the   first  battle fought, and won, by Filipino soldiers on foreign soil.

At the time of this victory, I was a First Sergeant and a Tank Platoon Commander of the Reconnaissance Company. I commanded five M24 Chafee light tanks each armed with a 75 mm gun. Our secondary weapon was a .50 caliber heavy machine  gun mounted atop the turret. The task  given our battalion was  to clear  and secure the town of Singye  inside  North Korea  just above the 38th Parallel. We moved out  towards  Singye in a long column early     in the morning.

We were then hit by heavy file fire from North Korean soldiers dug  on along the forward slopes of hills on our right flank. I could not  see the enemy positions from inside  the tank. My gunner was yelling  at me to tell him where to aim        the tank’s 75mm cannon. There was  only one thing to do. I flung open the turret    hatch, clambered out of the turret, braced my feet against the metal hull and fired  the big .50 caliber machine    gun at the enemy positions.   The machine gun had no gun shield and I was fully exposed to enemy fire that continued   to strike my tank. I fired and aimed   at the enemy foxholes and watched the big .50 caliber rounds   tear up the ground around those positions. I saw some of the enemy fall while others fled  their  trenches. The sound of my fire apparently roused our pinned down infantry, who rallied and began to pour heavier fire onto the disorganized    North Koreans.

The North Koreans ran. Our men chased  the retreating North Koreans into Singye whose defenders, two battalions, fled before our attack. We   counted 42 enemy dead. We estimated some  100 more could have been wounded. We lost one man who got killed and a few wounded. I later learned this battle was witnessed by several high ranking officers from ATOP A HILL, of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division and some foreign officers. They later congratulated          me.

I also received a  ‘’WELL DONE’’ from my battalion commander, Col. Mariano Azurin, and our Executive Officer, Major   Delfin Argao. I was awarded a battlefield   commendation for my role in the Battle of Miudong.

Over 50 years later, I belatedly was conferred the Philippines’ Gold Cross Medal for this combat. The Gold Cross  is awarded only for gallantry in action and is the Philippines’ fourth highest  military award.

Back to the Korean War… as the Korean winter set in,  it was     the coldest  in 200 years with temperatures well below freezing LEVEL. Then, the Communist Chinese intervened militarily. On November 25, 1950, the People’s  Republic of China sent more than 200,000 men in what  it termed as the ‘’Chinese     People’s Volunteer Army’’ (the “CPV”) against the  United Nations Command (the “UNC”). The CPV  ‘’volunteers’’ were battle hardened  regular soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army. They quickly defeated  both the US Eight  Army and the US   Tenth Corps near  the border   of North Korea and China.Advancing  southward, the CPV re-took Pyongyang and Seoul within the year.

The 10th BCT retreated with the UNC in this harsh winter of defeat, which men of the US Army derisively called ‘’The Big Bug    Out.’’ The 10th BCT spent its   first Christmas in Korea at the town of Suwon south of the Han River during the retreat.

When the UNC launched its counter-attack in February 1951, the 10th went on the offensive. In March and April 1951, the battalion was in continuous action, capturing hill after hill from the Communist Chinese. By  April 14, 1951 the 10th was the northernmost of all UNC units. We were exhausted after close to two months of non-stop fighting but were in high morale. The battalion was down to some 900 men.

Then came the great Battle of Yuldong. The Battle of Yuldong is the greatest Filipino victory in the Korean War. It was   one of many battles fought by the UNC in an effort to repel the biggest  offensive of the Korean War: the communist’s ‘’Great Spring  Offensive of 1951.’’The CPV   and NKPA (“North Korean People’s Army“) had massed some 400,000 men for this mammoth counter-attack. Their aim was to end the WAR     with a decisive communist   victory. The 10th BCT was  ordered  to defend a three-mile segment of Line Utah, the northernmost  UNC defensive line inside North Korea. The enemy assault that triggered the Battle of Yuldong came under cover of darkness during the early dawn of April 23, 1951. An entire Communist Chinese  army of 40,000 men struck hasty defensive firing positions, while there were only 900 Filipinos defending that line.

In hours of savage, close quarter combat, we prevented the Communist Chinese from overrunning our positions, thereby putting a fatal brake on the communist’s advance. By 6:00 am of April 23, 1951, the 10th BCT was only one of only two (2) UNC units on the Western Front not overrun or wiped     out by the tremendous Chinese    assault. In standing firm at Yuldong, the grossly outnumbered Filipinos helped prevent the Communists from winning    the Korean War. As it turned out, the defeat of their Great Spring Offensive forced the communists to open peace talks with the United Nations   Command.

Mine has been a life well lived. It has been a purposeful and quite an exciting one. What has sustained my health and vigor for over NINE  (9) decades has been love of country. And love of family. I have been blessed with eight (8) loving children who grew up on the war stories of their Daddy Max.

And—–wonderful grandchildren who love their Lolo Max.

I have been married three (3) times. First, was during the Second World War which ended in DIVORCE as during that time, DIVORCE was still valid in the Philippines. Then, with the mother of my eight (8) loving children who passed away  in 2001. And now with my 3rd wife, Mercy, to whom I was married in 2003.

I am  a proud to be a Filipino Soldier. And a Filipino father. And a Husband. I am a proud PEFTOKER. Once more, I wish to rouse the patriotic spirit in all of you. You are all blessed and lucky as all of you, have lived through life without experiencing WAR. And I am lured into coming out with a thought-provoking query for the young ones who are here today: “HOW CAN I NOW DISPLAY MY PATRIOTISM FOR MY BELOVED COUNTRY.”  Finally, I wish to thank the South Korean government as on July 27, 2016, I received the FIRST TAEGEUK ORDER OF THE MILITARY MERIT MEDAL from the Prime Minister of South Korea, the highest military decoration for valor of South Korea.Live long and prosper.

Thank you very much. And good day to all!

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