By Raïssa Robles
Dr. Ricardo Trota Jose took exception to Ferdinand Marcos’ claim that his exploits in Bataan delayed its fall by three months. He said: “One man could not have done that. (To claim that) is an injustice to the others. Some of the others died, gave up their lives.”
Dr. Jose also said a hero has to be judged in totality, and whatever Marcos did in Bataan was totally erased by his misdeeds as president.
In this highly charged debate on whether or not to allow a Marcos burial at Libingan ng mga Bayani or Heroes’ Cemetery, I decided to interview someone I knew was not only APOLITICAL but could also dissect the issue rationally.
And so I turned to Dr. Jose, former chair of the University of the Philippines History Department, who is well-respected expert on World War II by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Japanese military historians and a tight circle of American experts on World War II in the Pacific.
Like in other social sciences, the yardstick used in history is that the assertion of an event must be verifiable through other sources. The more references there are from independent sources, the higher the probability that such events did take place.
I therefore challenged Dr. Jose to prove his assertions. I read out to him what Marcos laid out in detail in his official, self-commissioned biography, Marcos of the Philippines, by Hartzell Spence.
Here are Dr. Jose’s answers to my questions (in bold face) .
Chapter 7, page 126 of Marcos’ biography begins by saying:
General Douglas MacArthur, pinning on Ferdinand Marcos the Distinguished Service Cross for valor in battle far behind the call of duty, commented publicly that without Ferdinand’s exploit, Bataan would have fallen three months sooner than it did.
Is this true?
Dr. Jose: That can’t be. Three months? When did he do that? If he did that in January – (because) Bataan fell in April. That means nobody did anything. It’s just impossible.
Wait, what is the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC)?
Dr. Jose: The DSC is among the medals awarded by the US. The Medal of Honor is the top medal. Second is the DSC. Three or four got the DSC in Bataan.
The only Filipino I can think of who got the top medal – the Medal of Honor – in Bataan is Sgt. Calugas. He fired a gun in Layac junction in January 1942 and virtually stopped a Japanese column of tanks. He didn’t die. He was a Philippine scout, a mess cook. He did not have to do that. So when he saw a gun damaged and the crew wounded, he rushed forward and took over.
Because of that action he won the Medal of Honor. He delayed the Japanese a day or two days. And that’s already the Medal of Honor.
So why did Marcos only get a Distinguished Service Cross when he purportedly delayed the Fall of Bataan by three months whereas Calugas got the Medal of Honor for delaying the Japanese only by one or two days?
Dr. Jose: That’s why.
Have you come across any photo or mention of MacArthur pinning on Marcos the Distinguished Service Cross?
Dr. Jose: MacArthur went to Bataan only once in the whole campaign. I don’t think he pinned medals on anyone on that trip. He came back (to the Philippines) only during the Liberation. He was too busy fighting a war to do that (pin medals).
Then he came back for Independence Day in 1946. And then in 1961.
A medal (like the DSC) is really important. For that kind of medal to be pinned, it would have to be right after (WWII).
In your researches in the United States, haven’t you come across it?
It’s not in the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Virginia to which I’ve gone four times. It’s not in John Toland’s Rising Sun. It’s not in any of the books I’ve read on Bataan.
In contrast, take the case of Sgt. Calugas. Almost everyone in Bataan knew about Calugas. Calugas was awarded physically in 1945. He had been recommended the Medal of Honor already before that. People knew that.
Another American won it but he was killed in action in the northern part of Bataan.
* * *
Dr. Jose suggested I trawl the US Military website. And so I did.
I discovered that Sgt. Jose Calugas is the only Filipino ever to receive the Medal of Honor, shown below:
Here is the official citation on Sgt. Calugas:
Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Battery B, 88th Field Artillery, Philippine Scouts. Place and date: At Culis, Bataan Province, Philippine Islands, 16 January 1942. Entered service at: Fort Stotsenburg, Philippine Islands. Born: 29 December 1907, Barrio Tagsing, Leon, Iloilo, Philippine Islands. G.O. No.: 10, 24 February 1942. Citation: The action for which the award was made took place near Culis, Bataan Province, Philippine Islands, on 16 January 1942. A battery gun position was bombed and shelled by the enemy until 1 gun was put out of commission and all the cannoneers were killed or wounded. Sgt. Calugas, a mess sergeant of another battery, voluntarily and without orders ran 1,000 yards across the shell-swept area to the gun position. There he organized a volunteer squad which placed the gun back in commission and fired effectively against the enemy, although the position remained under constant and heavy Japanese artillery fire.
The American soldier who was awarded the same medal in Bataan, whom Dr. Jose referred to, was Alexander Nininger. Here is Nininger’s official citation from the US army:
*NININGER, ALEXANDER R., JR.
Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army, 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts. Place and date: Near Abucay, Bataan, Philippine Islands, 12 January 1942. Entered service at: Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Birth: Gainesville, Ga. G.O. No.: 9, 5 February 1942. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy near Abucay, Bataan, Philippine Islands, on 12 January 1942. This officer, though assigned to another company not then engaged in combat, voluntarily attached himself to Company K, same regiment, while that unit was being attacked by enemy force superior in firepower. Enemy snipers in trees and foxholes had stopped a counterattack to regain part of position. In hand-to-hand fighting which followed, 2d Lt. Nininger repeatedly forced his way to and into the hostile position. Though exposed to heavy enemy fire, he continued to attack with rifle and hand grenades and succeeded in destroying several enemy groups in foxholes and enemy snipers. Although wounded 3 times, he continued his attacks until he was killed after pushing alone far within the enemy position. When his body was found after recapture of the position, 1 enemy officer and 2 enemy soldiers lay dead around him
In 1996, according to the US military,
Congress directed the Secretary of the Army to conduct a review of all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in World War II “to determine whether any such award should be upgraded to the Medal of Honor.”
As a result of the review, on June 28, 2000, our very own Sgt. Calugas was officially inducted in “the Hall of Heroes”. You can read the official news release of the US Department of Defense here.
My challenge to the Marcos family and their rabid loyalists is –
Prove that what Ferdinand Marcos stated in his official biography is true – that MacArthur personally pinned the Distinguished Service Cross on him.
Or be forever branded LIARS. After all, he used this book to project himself as an authentic war hero when he ran for President in 1965.
- He has been a trustee of the AFP Museum and Historical Library Foundation, Inc. since 1999);
- He has done extensive interviews with Filipino, Japanese and American survivors of World War II, written books and monographs on them, studied Japanese Language and Japanese History at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa Japan and did his doctorate at Tokyo University);
- He has received US government grants to further his research, among them, the Asia Foundation Grant for an Observation-Study Tour on Military History);
- He was former chair of the Department of History of the University of the Philippines, Diliman and continues to be a senior faculty member);
Coupled with this, Dr. Jose has never been affiliated with any political organization or movement for or against the Marcoses. In fact, during Martial Law, he had an observer seat of the Marcos government. On some occasions, he was even privileged to go to Malacañang Palace and see a display of Marcos’ war medals, and be in the same room as Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos.
In addition, by mindset and inclination, Dr. Jose has a scientific bent. He studied at the Philippine Science High School then initially enrolled at the University of the Philippines, Diliman as a physics major. But his innate love for history, stoked by his late uncle who had watched Japanese warships dock at the port of Zamboanga during World War II, eventually got the better of him.