SAN DIEGO (KSWB) – Nearly 300,000 Filipinos fought alongside the U.S. military in the Philippines – many of them making the ultimate sacrifice. But after a victorious fight, those Filipino soldiers were stripped of benefits because of funding.
Cenon Audencial was a guerilla with the Philippine resistance movement turned second lieutenant in the U.S. Army under the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East. But like many of the 260,000 Filipinos who fought and served under and alongside the U.S. military during World War II, Audencial may never be recognized.
It’s a story that dates back seven decades. There was a call for Filipinos to serve under the U.S. Armed Forces in 1941 when the Japanese advanced on Philippine soil.
Among the organized military forces, young men and women in recognized guerilla units, the Philippine Commonwealth Army and the Philippines scouts answered the call.
An example is Cita Gruta’s father, who started out as a spy for the U.S. Bienvenido Guiam disguised himself as a poker player who was well-liked by the Japanese.
“My father-in-law’s first tool as a spy wasn’t a gun. It was a deck of cards,” Gruta said.
By the end of the war, he was discharged as a captain. But Captain Guiam – along with thousands of other Filipino U.S. veterans – never received their promised end of the bargain in annuity from the U.S. government.
“It’s a betrayal of trust,” Gruta said. “They were promised to them when they were ordered … You don’t fight a war and get nothing for it,” she continued.
In 1946, President Harry Truman signed off on the Recission Act of 1946, which stripped them of their U.S. nationalities and other rights and benefits as U.S. Armed Forces veterans.
Retired Major General Antonio Taguba is the chairman of the Filipino Veterans’ Recognition and Education Project. Their goal is to educate Americans about the heroic actions of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who fought for their freedom during World War II – only to be forgotten.
“Give them back their honor and dignity. They’re all relevant in American history,” Taguba said.
Although the damage has been long done, there has been some progress. Since 2017, congressional gold medals have been presented to living Filipino WWII veterans or surviving family members who have verifiable records of their service
For families like the Guiam-Grutas – the moment was bittersweet.
“It’s a little bit too late because most of them are gone… [but] it makes me proud,” Grutas said.
Out of the 260,000 Filipino soldiers, only 18,000 have received their due compensation. Once these veterans pass on, the benefits are only allotted to a surviving spouse, not children.
The fight is far from over.
“What we’re asking for is the U.S. government to apologize,” Retired Major General Taguba said.
For those whose names won’t make it into the databases, your service, loyalty and courage for a country many of us now call home is unmatched.
And to my grandfather, Cenon Audencial, we honor your name and legacy. This story is dedicated to you.
The Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project has launched “Duty to Country” – a free educational program now being offered at schools in seven states, including California.