Saturday, February 28, 2009

Too late the hero.


Manila is abuzz with excitement over the news that finally Filipino veterans of World War II, our homegrown soldiers who fought side by side with Americans in Corregidor but who have neither gained renown nor recompense for it, will finally be awarded their due. I am sure many of those veterans who are still alive are euphoric. In these hard times particularly, they could do well with manna from heaven, one fallen unexpectedly from the sky, in the form of half a million pesos.

But out of 240,000 to 250,000 Filipino veterans, only 18,000 remain, their ranks constantly depleted like leaves in autumn at the rate of 10 a day. Our veterans are too old now that marching to the US Embassy to comply with the requirement, proved more arduous than the Death March from Corregidor to Capas.

The compensation of the Filipino veterans is a start, but it barely scratches the surface in giving them their due. Indeed, it barely goes beyond the first step in giving this country its due. It hasn’t begun to address the powerful currents of discrimination that underlie the American neglect, albeit, betrayal, of its former colony after the war.

You don’t quite know whether to regard this as victory or defeat, as stark tragedy or black comedy. But you have to wonder why it had taken this long for the US government to finally cast an eye in our direction. Franklin D. Roosevelt had promised to indemnify every Filipino to the last carabao (water buffalo) who would take up arms against the Japanese. Of course many of them had no choice: It was their duty; they were soldiers. But many others were not, they were civilians turned by the outrage and the atrocities into guerrillas. Of course, too, Roosevelt would die before he could live up to his word, leaving Harry Truman to make good on the unpaid bill. But then he proved to be anything but a true man, turning his attention, and American money, instead to reconstructing Germany and Japan, the countries that had made hell for the world.

We Filipinos can see the discriminatory mindset even at this late date, in an American movie “The Great Raid,” which tells the story of an operation during the war that led to the freeing of more than 500 American POWs in Cabanatuan. The raid has landed in the American annals of war as one of the most daring and successful operations ever carried out by American soldiers. The film stresses the point, noting in the end, before the credits roll, that it led to the deaths of hundreds of Japanese and only two American soldiers. One POW died later from disease, making the entire casualty only three. For the record, it also adds that the raid led to the deaths of 21 Filipinos who helped carry it out.

How can an operation that led to the deaths of 24 people, presumably brothers-in-arms, be seen as having so ingenious a strategy and so miraculous an outcome? Only if you don’t look at the 21 too closely, or at all. In fact, unless you argue that the Filipinos were just too dumb to know how to dodge the Japanese bullets, you have to assume that the real daring was shown by them. They bore the brunt of the Japanese fire either because they took the lead or the more dangerous aspects of the operation. However charitable the movie looks at Filipinos by Hollywood standards, its perspective remains horribly skewed.

Change has come to America. When will it come to the world?

7 comments:

Tracey said...

The World 'leaders' are the only ones who like credit for anything. Like the UK with its mistreatment of the Gurkha, The USA has a lot to answer for.
Tracey x x x

Angry American said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
blue_butterfly said...

angry american,
its just damn frustrating that our war veterans who are so old and dying had to be subjected to more difficulties just to get their long over due compensations. most are on wheelchairs now and many are already bed ridden that they could barely sign their names.
if the US is sincere in giving out this money to them, they should take into considerations the age of this people - most of them had already one foot on the grave and yet they want these men to personally go to the embassy to fill out forms!
think of adding insult to an injury...

NEO-CONDUIT said...

Wow B-B an awesome post!
I am personally anti-war for any cause. It has been proven that war is nothing but a money making scam by America. They make so much money, and create jobs around fictional situations to gain public acceptance and $$$$$. Its disgusting!
My father before he died spoke of his disgust for the government. He was based all around the world with the U.S Air Force and he knew the horrors. He died not long after we spoke, but I'm glad his opinion was against what has happened around the world including your country.
What an insult to your soldiers, I agree whole heartedly.
Love Kirst xoxoxoxo

Sid Brechin said...

Odette knows I rarely write formally as a soldier and Officer of the Queen ( Elizabeth is still the Queen of Canada. It is something I am proud of as I would rather have her sign my commission than any politician ).

Weapons do not make a soldier. The soldier is the weapon. His mind, body and spirit which includes spirit and honour are what make the differnce between him and the non-soldier. Sworn in or not.

The soldiers of the Philipinnes during the war were men of exceptional bravery who deserve regcognition from the whole world not just people in Government.

Rest assured Odette that Soldiers such as myself know of the courage bravery and most especially honour of those who fought against almost unimaginable odds during that war.

Btw. The operation portrayed in the film you mentioned just happens to be the most sucessful military operation in world history with one possible exception. The exception would be the SAS raid on the Iranian Embassy in London. However as that was a peacetime rescue I think "The Raid" should retain that honour.

I have worked with Canadians who had been soldiers or marines in the Philipinnes. Few in WWII several in Vietnam and consider all that I met to be excellent Soldiers. Christ said " He has no greater love than he lay his life down for a friend " . A Soldier is a man who is willing to lay his down for his people his beliefs and his way of life. Even if he has no family remaining and his only friends are the like minded indivduals who are his comrades in arms.

A few years ago my oldest Nephew started a Fillipino girl. ( He is an exceptional young man who commanded his cadet corps and was presented the Duke of Edinburgh award at 18 by Prince Phillip husband to the Queen. The Gold Award is almost never won by anyone under 21 and usually 25 is when it is won ) He was also a Master Cadet. Also not an ordinary fear I know I placed first in Master Cadet testing in Canada in 1971. I had known I placed first in my Province but it was this Nephew who found out I had placed first Nation wide ). I am being careful not to mention him by name as he now works for IBM under contract to the Pentagon.

Anyway when he introduce his financee to my Mother his Grandmother. My Mother was very proud and as she was born here in Canada my Mom took her aside and spent several hours telling her of the bravery of the people of the Philipinnes who had fought in WWII. While I know from history and the few men I have been lucky enough to meet. My mother lived through the war as a little girl. She remembers the newpaper accounts and the stories of the vetrans who returned alive.

I am going to put a little package together to send Odette. Pins from the Canadian Legion To honour and remember veterans. I am going to ask her to give one of these to each vet she knows till they run out.

I am going to close this in the manner only a soldier can truely understand. ( Soldier meaning any service person in this usage )

Gentlemen :"I salute You!"

blue_butterfly said...

Kirst,
people in the military are easily corruptible, but iam glad there are still those who aren't.

Sid,
thank you for you very high regard to our WWII veterans, and for those who have served during the war. you are indeed an officer and a gentleman.

Tracey said...

You have some very intelligent, interesting followers Odette. Not only do you write wonderful posts, but your comments are amazing.
Love from your thick friend
Tracey xxx

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