Filipino World War II veterans rally in front of the White House in August 1995 to demand justice and equity. Photo by Paul I. Tanedo.
“The American people need to know that the 260,000 soldiers who fought under the U.S. flag deserve their place in history,” says FilVetREP Chairman Major General Antonio Taguba (US Army, Ret). We owe it to them to preserve their memory.”
On October 26, the day after the U.S. Congress honored Filipino veterans of World War II with the Congressional Gold Medal (a FilVetREP report, “A Ceremony & A Celebration” is attached), Filipino veterans and family members gathered at the World War II Memorial to pay their tribute.
In his remarks, American World War II veteran Frank Francone, who represented the Philippine Scouts at the Congressional Ceremony, recalled the one year battle to recapture the Philippines from Japanese occupation. “By this time, it was estimated that 57,000 soldiers were killed in action and 900,000 civilians died. We’re here today to memorialize this sacrifice and it couldn’t be in a better place.”
“But the memory will only be maintained as the story is told to our children and grandchildren,” Francone added. “The Congressional Gold Medal is not the end; it’s a beginning and a vehicle for making future generations aware of this history.”
In late August this year, Taguba and members of FilVetREP’s executive committee met with Jennifer Locke Jones, Chair and Curator of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Division of Armed Forces History. The discussion focused on plans to display the Filipino Veterans Congressional Gold Medal in an appropriate location at the Museum. Plans also call for a digital exhibition to complement the medal, a social-learning website and a curriculum developed by FilVetREP in partnership with the Bataan Legacy Historical Society (BLHS).
Based in San Francisco and headed by Cecilia Gaerlan, BLHS was established to depict the real story of World War II in the Philippines and the major role of the Filipinos during the war. BLHS is now leading an effort to implement California’s state law AB 199, which was passed in 2011, a first for United States education. The law “encourages the inclusion of the role of the Filipinos during World War II in the social sciences curriculum for grades 7-12.”
“The California Board of Education only revises its curriculum guidelines about once a decade,” Gaerlan says. “We seized this opportunity to get Bataan finally written into history. Not very many people have heard of the Bataan Death March, where 9,000 Filipino soldiers died. This history needs to be widely made known. Otherwise, the history is going to die.”
The education program complementing the Congressional Gold Medal will be centered on the Filipino veterans’ “dedication to duty, loyalty to country and intrepidity in defense of the United States,” Taguba said. “Imagine millions of visitors from all over the world learning, probably for the first time, about the valuable role Filipinos played in World War II. Their story will now be enshrined in U.S. history.”
The National Museum of American History, Jones points out, “explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. It helps people understand the past to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future.”
For this phase of the project, FilVetREP has partnered with AARP and Next Day Better to gather oral histories through one-on-one interviews with living veterans. FilVetREP will continue its nationwide fundraising efforts to ensure that adequate resources will maintain this program.
The Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP), is a nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, community-based, all-volunteer national initiative whose mission is to obtain national recognition of Filipino and American WW11 soldiers across the United States and the Philippines for their wartime service to the U.S. and the Philippines from July 26, 1941 to December 31, 1946. For more information about Filipino WWII veterans and how to get involved, visit our website at www.filvetrep.org or find us on Facebook or Twitter.