Marcoss wartime activities during World War II can be divided into the following:
Alleged Heroic Exploits in Bataan (Period Covering January April, 1942);
Non-Heroic Exploits around the Philippines (Period Covering May, 1942-December, 1944); and
Alleged Heroic Exploits in Kiangan, Mt. Province (Period covering January April, 1945).
Notice that the first period covers only about four months; the last one covers also four months while the middle period where no heroic exploits or no medals awarded to Marcos covers about two and a half years which is most of the wartime period.
Analyzing the events, if you center on MacArthurs presence, the wartime activities of Marcos can also be divided into the following:
Alleged Heroic Exploits while MacArthur was around;
Non-Heroic Exploits in the absence of MacArthur; and
Alleged Heroic Exploits after the return of MacArthur.
The Alleged Heroic Exploits in Bataan while MacArthur was still around.
It was in Bataan where he allegedly earned his first medals. As his drumbeaters led by his hagiographer Hartzell Spence wrote, Marcos single-handedly delayed the Fall of Bataan temporarily. In another instance, it was proclaimed that Marcos delayed the Fall of Bataan by three months. Later on, the apologists declared that he considerably delayed it, and during his 1982 US State Visit, his Ministry of Information settled on the delay as weeks.
It was also alleged that MacArthur called him a one-man Army. He allegedly received among others not only a Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star and a Purple Heart but he was also recommended for a US Congressional Medal of Honor.
When World War II broke out, the Philippines was still a colony of the United States. The Philippine Army and the fighting guerillas were all under the command of the United States Military. Awards, decorations, back pay benefits, reparation and other claims are reviewed and granted by US military authorities. Any of the former involving World War II is kept in the US military archives. All documents and files supporting any claim or award are stored in pre-designated archives. Decisions on any application for reparations or recognition for back pay benefits are also found in the same archives.
The reporters of the Washington Post and the New York Times, researchers and historians have scoured and meticulously examined the Philippine War records. They found no documentary evidence supporting any of the awards allegedly given to Marcos. John Sharkey of the Washington Post interviewed Philippine and American survivors of the war and looked into the personal files of Marcos at the U.S. military records center in St. Louis, Missouri. He found no evidence to substantiate the claims of Marcos. He also could not find any independent, outside corroboration to buttress the claim that Marcos was recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor.
According to US Army rules and as recorded in the files, awardees usually receive a letter from the GHQ of the appropriate command such as USIP, USAFFEE, SWAP, AFWESPAC, etc; and general orders that contain the details of the citation.
When asked about the absence of any authentic documentation, then Marcos Minister of Information Cendana came up with a very convenient excuse; the fire that burned a portion of the military archives in St. Louis, Missouri.
Colonel Boni Gillego who also did extensive research on the issue came up with this response to Cendanas lame excuse; It seems that this fire was so selective and discriminating as to destroy only the documents among others that would substantiate Marcos claims. Actually, most of the documents in the St. Louis archives had been previously duplicated and dispersed to other archives. In effect, it is not difficult to reconstruct a veterans record once certain details such as date of birth and serial number are furnished.
Gillego went further by citing some examples. One is the case of Sgt. Ambrosio Lappay of Angadena, Isabela – an unsung but genuine, not counterfeit, war hero. There exists on record G.O., dated March 13, 1942, issued by USAFFE Headquarters awarding him for extraordinary heroism in action in the vicinity of Trail No. 7 and the Pilar-Bagac Road, Bataan, Philippines on 17 February 1942. He also noted that the order was issued less than a month after the performance.
Another example mentioned by Gillego is the case of our ace Captain Jesus Villamor (after whom the Villamor Air Base was named). He received his Distinguish Service Cross Medal per G.O. No. 48, USAFFE Headquarters, dated 21 December 1942 for engaging Japanese zero fighters in aerial combat on the 10th and 12th of December 1941. It was General MacArthur himself who pinned the DSC Medal on Villamor.
Marcos allegedly received a letter from Major J.A. Marshall, Assistant Adjutant General, USFIP acknowledging the validity of his claim. To verify the assertion in the letter, Sharkey requested the Department of the Army for confirmation. The reply to Sharkey was that search of USFIP special and general orders has found nothing conveying an award to Marcos.
As Sharkey was doing his research, he also found two official lists of some 120 Americans and Filipinos who were awarded the DSC during the Bataan campaign. One list was transmitted to the War Department in Washington, D.C. by General Jonathan M. Wainwright on April 12 shortly before his surrender. The other, List of Recipients of Awards and Decorations issued between December 7, 1941 through June 30, 1945, was compiled by General Douglas MacArthurs headquarters in Tokyo after the end of the war.
The name of Ambrosio Lappay appears in both lists. The name of Ferdinand E. Marcos does not. Strange!
Marcos Foreign Affairs Secretary Carlos P. Romulo authored the books, I Saw the Fall of the Philippines (Garden City, Double Day, 1946) and I Walked With Heroes (Holt, Rinehart and Winston of Canada, 1961). There was no mention of Marcos in either of the books. The heroes that Romulo walked with did not include Marcos.
In Romulos broadcast, The Voice of Freedom, the exploits of heroes in Corregidor and Bataan were told. Survivors said Marcos was never mentioned. Yet this man was depicted by his hagiographers as one who singlehandedly delayed the fall of Bataan by three months.
William Manchester, author of American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur, 1880-1964 (New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1978) never mentioned Marcos despite citing Romulo as one of his sources.
Paraphrasing Boni Gillego; To borrow Churchills felicitous phrase, Marcos award for his Bataan exploits is a mystery wrapped in an enigma.
Regarding the alleged statement of MacArthur that Marcos was a one man Army, no confirmation could be found in the Generals own Reminiscences (New York: McGraw Hill, 1964).
Lastly, Marcos claimed that he was recommended for a U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor ala Sergeant York of World War I and Audie Murphy of World War II. General Wainwright allegedly gave instructions by phone to General Capinpin to write the letter of recommendation. The letter was supposedly lost during the confusing transfer from Bataan to Corregidor.
Like the others no authentic document supporting the claim could be found. Marcos had the chance to confirm the instructions and recommendation from General Wainwright and General Capinpin, respectively when they were still alive. As Gillego asserted, it was not done because it was untrue. Expectedly, no U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor was ever awarded.
As John Faust, son of outstanding Rotarians Jun and Acel Turla, looks for a HERO to emulate, who should we recommend, MARCOS or MURPHY?
(Author: I will discuss Marcos Wartime activities in the other two periods in my next columns)