[At 1:30 PM on August 27, 2019 Daddy Max was invited to be the GUEST OF HONOR and SPEAKER at the COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, Metro-Manila. Dad Max spoke before a class of Philippine military officers (notable among whom are colonels and lieutenant colonels) including military officers from other countries who are undertaking one-year schooling to qualify them for promotion to the generalship rank. The initial schedule actually was on August 22, 2019 at 10:00 AM but as Daddy Max was priorly scheduled to attend to another engagement, the event was moved to August 27, 2019.]
Good morning! Thank you for inviting me to your college, as I share to you bits and pieces of my life as a simple Filipino army soldier.
I have served our beloved country the Republic of the Philippines, and fought to defend 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 began serving our beloved country, as a 19-year old soldier, when the Second World War broke out in 1941.
I was conscripted by the USAFFE or the United States Army Forces in the Far East, for military service after Japan attacked the Philippines on December 8, 1941.
I faced death against the Japanese forces who sank the MV Legaspi where I was a crew member. 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 and I was captured.
But I escaped from the Japanese camp to later join the 72nd Infantry of the Military District of Negros Island.
Right after World War II, I was awarded the U.S. Silver Star, the United States Army Forces’ third highest military decoration for valor, for my service as crewmember of the MV Legaspi.
Seventy three years after World War II – on September 13, 2018 – I was one of the first together with other TWELVE (12) Filipino Veterans who received the US Congressional Gold Medal from US Ambassador Sung Kim . The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor the US Congress can bestow to an individual.
And in the KOREAN WAR, my unit, the 10th BATTALION COMBAT TEAM, was the most bloodied among all five (5) BCTs that served in the KOREAN WAR. 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 the Vietnam War, 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 armed men of the North Vietnamese militia.
Now, let me tell you about my beloved Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea or PEFTOK.
There are fewer than 1,347 PEFTOK veterans left alive today: 1,347 out of the 7,420 eager young men who set foot in Korea, seven decades ago, to fight in their country’s first foreign war.
PEFTOK was born in an era where patriotism was so powerful as many Filipinos then were willing to sacrifice their lives for our dear Motherland.
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 who fought against the Japanese.But only 7,420 were chosen.
Our commander in the 10th BCT was the late Colonel Mariano Azurin. The 10th BCT was the only Philippine Army tank battalion in the Philippines then, as we had then a company of American-made tanks.
I was chosen by Col. Azurin because, in 1947 – three years before the Korean War deployment – I was sent by the Philippine government to train for one (1) year on Armored Communications at Fort Knox, Kentucky USA. Fort Knox then was home to the US Armor School and was used during those times by the US Army and Marine Corps to train crews on the M1 Abrams main battle tanks.
A march-in-review was performed for the 1,468 members of the 10th BCT on September 8, 1950. Around 50,000 people witnessed the event at the Luneta Grandstand in Manila.
We left Manila on September 15, 1950 .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, where the 10th BCT was met by a loud band playing music actually a marching song, which I can not now recall. We felt like heroes being welcomed home.
When we arrived in our destination, 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 warm 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.
There are two major battles that the 10th BCT waged and saw action in the Korean War: the Battles of Miudong and Yuldong which I am going to talk about today:
THE BATTLE OF MIUDONG
From Busan, we moved into North Korea as part of the United Nations’ Command (USC) 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 was 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 (5) 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 mission 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 fusillade of fire-power 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.
On the enemy side, we counted FORTY-TWO (42) enemy dead. We estimated some 100 more could have been wounded. We lost one man, who was killed and a few wounded.
I later learned that this battle was witnessed by several high ranking officers from of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division and some foreign officers from atop the hill. 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 was belatedly conferred the Philippines’ Gold Cross Medal for this heroic combat feat. The Gold Cross is awarded only for gallantry in action and is the Philippines’ fourth highest military award.
THE BATTLE OF YULDONG
After SIX (6) months since the Korean War broke out 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 counterattack 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 10th BCT 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 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 mission was 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 three 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.
During the Battle of Miudong and the Battle of Yuldong, I embraced and boldly professed and actuated the needed leadership traits to animate my men in the 10th BCT to action and eventually win the war.
Indeed, in any military mission the main and basic task of a leader is to ensure the success and the accomplishment of the mission as well as ensuring the welfare of his men.
I believe that I have done my best to measure up to those standards. In all those times, I never thought of FEAR anymore as there was no such time anymore to think about it. I instilled in my mind that I have to remain BRAVE,COURAGEOUS and LIONHEARTED.
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.
I am now 97 years young, surrounded by a big family, a total 62 loving family members that include my wife Mercy, my children, children-in-laws, grandchildren, grand-children in law, great grandchildren and the recently-born great great grandchild.
Mine has been a life well lived. It has been a purposeful and quite an exciting one.
And I am a proud Filipino Soldier. Most important of all, I am a proud PEFTOKER.
As a post script to my Peftok career: 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.
I just learned recently that only FIFTEEN (15) personalities have received this honor from the South Korean government.
Next to the United States of America, the Philippines is the second country that has reaped this MERIT MEDAL, more than once.
I was awarded in 2016, and another Filipino, who died in action in the KOREAN WAR, was also conferred in 2018. He is no other than my comrade-in-arms, the late Captain Conrado Yap.
In the last two decades, I have been involved as director of Peftok Veterans Association Inc. or PVAI.
In January of this year, I was elected as President of the Association. In the twilight of my life, I commit to care for the living veterans, perpetuate our legacy and support a FREE KOREA.
Live long and prosper.
Thank you very much. And good day to all!