Filipino Veterans Deserve Recognition and Benefits

Before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a military order that called the organized military forces of the Philippines into the service of the United States. At that time, the Philippines was a U.S. Commonwealth, similar in status to Puerto Rico.

Americans remember Pearl Harbor and D-Day as events that mark our nation’s involvement in World War II. We remember the sacrifices of the men and women who fought for our freedom. Much less is known of the more than 160,000 Filipino soldiers who fought the Japanese, often alongside American units. Many more fought in guerrilla units. This needs to change.

There are 17,000 Filipino war veterans, now in their 80’s and 90′, still living in the U.S. and the Philippines. Most of these veterans have not received the benefits they’ve earned or even any recognition whatsoever. In the aftermath of the war, the were promised benefits, but Congress, did not keep its word, as they were worried about costs.

February 18 was the 70th anniversary of the Rescission Act of 1946, which revoked the veteran status of Filipino soldiers who fought in World War II. As a result, Filipinos were never recognized for their service and they were denied the benefits they were promised.

To educate the public about the Filipino soldiers’ contributions and to obtain national recognition and benefits for Filipino and Filipino-American soldiers, the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project was formed. It is a non-partisan national initiative.

The precise number of Filipino veterans living in Hawaii is unknown, but the issue is still important to residents of that state. Senator Mazie Hirono and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who have championed the cause in Congress. They co-sponsored with Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Joe Heck (both of Nevada) the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015.

The bravery and the sacrifice of these soldiers in combat led to the Allied victory over the Japanese forces and their service is more than worthy of the Congressional Gold Medal. Approximately 60,000 Filipinos were killed in action, thousands were wounded, and hundreds more are missing in action.

Other minority groups have been recognized for their service by Congress, including the Tuskegee Airmen, Japanese American Nisei Soldiers, Navajo Code Talkers and Puerto Rican soldiers of the 65th infantry Regiment. It’s time for the nation to do the right thing for the Filipino veterans who fought under the American flag and continue to be loyal to the USA.

Americans are encouraged to visit the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project to learn more about these veterans and the situation they are in. Raising public awareness is the first step in getting these veterans the recognition and benefits they deserve. It is hoped that the government will help these veterans soon as each year, many pass away, without receiving their proper entitlements.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE