Marcos ‘war medals’ exposed, questioned (1) | Inquirer Opinion
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Marcos ‘war medals’ exposed, questioned (1)

Because of the outcry of tens of thousands of victims of the Marcos dictatorship over President Duterte’s plan to bury in the Libingan ng mga Bayani the corpse of president-dictator Ferdinand Marcos who died in Hawaii in 1989, I am serializing the piece “The Other Version of FM’s War Exploits”  by Bonifacio Gillego published in WE Forum in November 1982.  It was written for a major US newspaper, but publication was withheld because of Marcos’ state visit. The long piece caused the raid and closure of WE Forum and the arrest of editor Jose Burgos Jr. and staff. It is included in the book “Press Freedom Under Siege: Reportage that Challenged the Marcos Dictatorship” (UP Press, 2017). Gillego, a former soldier and member of the 1971 Constitutional Convention, was in exile in the United States and working with the Movement for a Free Philippines when he researched his piece. He became a congressman after Edsa I toppled the Marcos dictatorship in 1986. He died in 2002. His name is etched on the Wall of Remembrance of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City.

How many medals did Marcos actually receive for his alleged feats of heroism in World War II? The count has become a numbers game.


Hartzell Spence, in his book, “For Every Tear a Victory: The Story of Ferdinand E. Marcos”  (McGraw-Hill Inc., New York, 1964), credits Marcos with 28, including American awards. More a hagiographer than a biographer, Spence has been the purveyor of embroidered tales about Marcos’ life and deeds to the credulous and gullible public, both Philippine and American. It was Spence who propagated the myth that Marcos singlehandedly delayed the fall of Bataan by three months—with the encouragement and consent, no doubt, of Marcos. It was Spence who recounted the ridiculous story that when Gen. Omar Bradley “saw Ferdinand’s six rows of ribbons headed by 22 valor medals including the Distinguished Service Cross, the four-star general saluted Marcos.”

The story is patently false because in May 1947, the date of the comic Bradley-Marcos encounter in the Pentagon, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) could account only for six war medals. Most of the medals of Marcos were conferred on him by the AFP only from 1948 to 1963.


On the occasion of the multimillion-dollar extravaganza (the Marcos state visit to the USA),  the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC gave  the widest dissemination of  propaganda materials glorifying the war exploits of Marcos. A brochure titled “Friends in War, Ferdinand E. Marcos in the Pacific War, 1941-45” tabulates 32 medals. The souvenir program contains, among others, a picture of Marcos with the inscription at the back that during the Pacific War, Marcos won 33 American and Philippine medals. A more modest claim, however, is made that Marcos delayed the fall of Bataan “by weeks,” not three months, as Spence propagandized earlier in his campaign biography of Marcos.

The salvo of paeans to Marcos’ vaunted war heroism was part of a well-funded drive to influence the powers-that-be in the US to award Marcos the Congressional Medal of Honor. At this juncture, it may be recalled that it was Spence again who fantasized that upon hearing the exploits of Marcos in Bataan, Gen. Jonathan Wainwright from his headquarters in Corregidor called by phone the 21st Division directing that Marcos be recommended for a Congressional Medal of Honor. Accordingly, Brig. Gen. Mateo Capinpin allegedly made the recommendation but the papers got conveniently lost, hence the explanation why Marcos was robbed of the singular honor of receiving the much coveted American award.

Claiming that the recommendation was “sidetracked,” Bataan, purportedly a Philippine magazine published in Washington, DC, came out with a special edition (Sept. 20, 1982) urging the conferment of the Congressional Medal of Honor on Marcos 40 years after the guns of Bataan and Corregidor were silenced!

Unfortunately for the drumbeaters of Marcos, the grant of the Congressional Medal of Honor has prescribed time limitations. The recommendation has to be made within two years after the deed of extraordinary valor above and beyond the call of duty. The actual conferment has to be made within three years after such deed. Only the US Congress can waive the time limitation, but apparently the move for Congressional waiver was laughed off.

There is not a scintilla of evidence in the files of the US Army Center of Military History, the National [Personnel] Records Center of the [National] Archives, the US Army Library in Pentagon, the Library of Congress, etc. that Marcos performed an authentic deed of extraordinary valor deserving the grant of the Congressional Medal of Valor.

The reports of and about the defense of Bataan by the staff of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Jonathan Wainwright and George Parker Jr. do not show the faintest trace of Marcos’ single-handed feat of stemming the tide of Japanese advance in Bataan that delayed its fall by three months. Even the foremost deodorizer of the Marcos dictatorship, Carlos P. Romulo, made no mention of Marcos among the heroes he “walked with.”

But the count remains. The statistical projection, whether it be 28, 32 or 33, creates and fosters the impression—as it is deliberately intended to—that Marcos was the most decorated Filipino soldier in World War II. None of the participant nations during the war could produce a hero with as many awards as Marcos—not excluding General MacArthur himself. That is, if the count of the Marcos medals is devoid of fraudulence and deception.


What is deliberately concealed in the accounting of the Marcos medals is the date of issue of each of the awards. If this one essential detail is shown, the stark truth stands out. It was not during the war that he was awarded these medals. Marcos managed to have himself awarded these medals by the AFP long after the war was over! (More details in succeeding parts.)

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TAGS: Ferdinand Marcos, Libingan ng mga Bayani, martial law, war medal
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