Filipino soldiers’ Fighting Communist China - Korean War: Valor redux

By Art Villasanta

Philippine Daily Inquirer

In an astonishing act of humanity and selflessness, the Philippines sent its soldiers to defend South Korea against a massive communist invasion despite its having to contend with a communist rebellion of its own and the painful challenge of rebuilding an economy crippled by World War II.

The Philippines was the first Asian country to send combat troops to the Korean War that began on June 25, 1950. Its soldiers protected South Korea until 1955.

The first Filipino warrior set foot on Korea at the port city of Busan (formerly Pusan) on Sept. 19, 1950. The 10th Battalion Combat Team (BCT) was the first of five BCTs that would serve in Korea until June 1955 under the flag of the elite Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea or Peftok.

Over 7,400 officers and men of the Philippine Army served in Korea. Five of these warriors—all in their 80s—recently returned to Korea for the first time since the Korean War. The Korean government sponsored their visit as part of the "Revisit Korea Program" for the Filipino war veterans and their families.

These veterans were accompanied by 15 other Filipinos who were either their children or grandchildren. Their host was South Korea's Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs.

There were 299 wounded Filipino soldiers and 57 were missing in action.The battles were fought in Waegwan, Gimcheon, Daegu, Cheolwon, and the Imjin River.

These veterans were all astounded at the massive progress Korea had made over the past six decades. One veteran noted that our present economic situation is the reverse of what it had been in the 1950s.

The Philippines then was Southeast Asia's leading economic and military power and Asia's second largest economy after Japan. From being one of the world's poorest nations in the 1950s, South Korea is now one of the world's 30 richest in per capita gross domestic product.

Oldest Korean War veteran – Jesus Dizon

"I can't believe how fast South Korea has improved since the Korean War," said Jesus Dizon, who at 86 is the oldest Korean War veteran among the "revisitors." "It's a tribute to the Korean people."

His unit was the 20th BCT, the second Filipino BCT deployed to Korea. Dizon was a forward observer or FO, the most dangerous of allied soldiers, whose job was to identify targets for the six 105mm howitzers of the battalion's field artillery battery.

FOs got their deadly job done with a field telephone; a pair of powerful binoculars, maps—and a great deal of courage. They normally occupied well-hidden positions on hilltops or other dominating terrain near the enemy and spent days searching for enemy activity. The power of life or death held by an FO was terrifying.

In North Korea one morning, a large number of communist Chinese soldiers suddenly appeared below a ridgeline Dizon had been observing for some time. Dizon located the enemy unit on the grid map spread before him.

He calmly picked up his field telephone and called in the target coordinates to the battery's fire direction center of the battalion's artillery battery emplaced a few kilometers behind him.

"Fire!" he ordered.

A single high-explosive 105mm round exploded away from the Chinese unit. Dizon noted the fall of the ranging round through his binoculars. He reported the adjusted range over the phone and commanded the entire battery to open fire.

Six 105mm howitzers manned by Filipinos unleashed shell after shell into the Chinese. Dizon saw the bewildered Chinese engulfed by horrifying explosions as murderous blasts tore apart their unit.

The inferno was over in about a minute. A dirty pall of dust and smoke from the barrage lingering over the tragedy served as the gravestone for dozens of dead Chinese.

Wounded in action -  Luminoso Cruz

"All of this was flat," exclaimed Luminoso Cruz, referring to the thriving and crowded city of Suwon, 30 kilometers south of Seoul. "It was flat and gray. This city was totally destroyed."

Suwon was where Cruz's unit, the 10th BCT, spent its first Christmas in Korea. That was in 1950 and the 10th was the first of the five BCTs that served in Korea.

Cruz, a member of Recon Company, was the gunner of an M24 Chaffee light tank armed with a 75mm cannon. He took a shrapnel wound to the head along the banks of the Imjin River and was visibly moved as the bus crossed the river north during his visit to the Demilitarized Zone.

"This was where I was wounded," he said, pointing to the bank of the Imjin, while holding back his tears.

He fought in a two-man foxhole at the great Battle of Yuldong, which he recalled as a night of incredible terror.

"The Chinese attacked us in waves all night. My buddy and I just kept firing and firing our rifles," he recalled of this gory battle, which was fought on April 23, 1951.

He doesn't know how they survived the murderous hell of Yuldong. But his buddy had to be sent home afterwards. His nerves had given way under the terror of too much savage combat.

They called it "shell shock" then. We call it "post-traumatic stress disorder" today.

The Battle of Yuldong was the greatest Filipino victory in the Korean War. A mere 900 Filipino fighting men withstood the night attack of an entire communist Chinese army that numbered 40,000 men at peak strength.

In standing their ground at Yuldong, the Filipinos fatally slowed down the largest Chinese offensive of the war, and probably helped prevent the destruction of the United Nations forces and the communist conquest of South Korea.

One man's handiwork – Florendo Benedicto

Amiable and talkative, Florendo Benedicto served in both the 10th BCT and the 20th BCT. He decided to "re-up" or reenlist in the 20th BCT because he loved combat.

Benedicto stands almost 6-ft tall. In the Army at the time, tall men generally wound up becoming gunners in the belief they could carry heavier loads.

Benedicto's weapon was the M1919 Browning .30 cal. medium machine gun that could fire up to 600 rounds a minute. The gun itself weighed 14 kilograms and it was Benedicto's job to lug the gun onto the battlefield and fire it at the communist enemy. He did this on many occasions in two years of fighting.

He believes that South Korea's enviable economic blessings are due mostly to the strong unity pervading South Koreans.

"Their national unity is worth emulating," he said. "Filipinos should learn from the South Koreans. We have to establish love in the heart of every Filipino. We must love one another."

It is a startling transformation for a formerly fierce warrior. It is all the more surprising if one knows what he did in the Korean War.

"I know I killed about 200 Chinese," he said calmly when we talked about this. "I probably killed 300 more. I counted their dead bodies."

Benedicto's feat is all the more astounding since only 112 Filipino soldiers died in three years of combat in the Korean War despite almost constant fighting.

First winter experience

Constancio Sanchez turned 24 on the historic day the 10th BCT arrived by ship at Busan on Sept. 19, 1950, less than three months after the start of the Korean War on June 25.

Knowing this, his officers allowed Sanchez to become one of the first Filipino fighting men to set foot on Korean soil. His mates then treated him to merienda at one of the restaurants in the port city then being besieged by the communist North Korean People's Army.

Sanchez served in the Headquarters & Headquarters & Service Company, the command group of the 10th BCT. The battalion was founded and first commanded by Col. Mariano Azurin. Col. Dionisio Ojeda replaced Azurin in the spring of 1951.

Of all the dangers he faced in the war, Sanchez remains awed by that phenomenon alien to Filipino experience called winter. It was December 1950 and the battalion was in Pyongyang when the communist Chinese intervened and hurled the United Nations Command (including the 10th BCT) out of North Korea.

The winter of 1950-1951 was Korea's coldest in two centuries but this did nothing to dispel the savage fighting that actually intensified with the Chinese intervention.

"We were shocked when the Chinese came and advanced so quickly," he said. "We had to withdraw rapidly to avoid encirclement and it was terribly cold."

Things would have been far worse for the battalion if the Chinese had attacked earlier, Sanchez believes. The onset of winter a month earlier immobilized most of their motor vehicles.

The intense subzero cold froze the water in engines and shattered engine blocks. This paralyzed most of the battalion's vehicles, including those in the transport-heavy HQ & HQ & Service Company.

Adding antifreeze to the water solved the problem, however, so that when the Chinese came, the battalion's trucks, jeeps and armored vehicles kept running despite the intense cold.

"We probably wouldn't have escaped from Pyongyang if we had to march on foot through the snow."

The monument in Gwansan-dong, Dugyang-gu, Goyang-si, Gyeonggi-do Province was erected by the Ministry of National Defense of Korea on October 2, 1974 in memory of the members of the Philippine armed forces who fought to defend the security and freedom of South Korea against North Korea. The Philippine contingent was composed of 1,496 soldiers. Ninety-two (92) Filipino soldiers died in the battle.

Rediscovering God

Prudencio Medrano served in the HQ & HQ & Service Company of the 19th BCT, the third Peftok unit deployed to Korea, and re-upped for another year with the 14th BCT. And this was because of his friends.

"I re-enlisted because we were 'buddy-buddy,'" he said. "Five of my buddies in the 19th BCT decided to extend. They asked me if I wanted to extend and I did because they were my buddies."

In both BCTs, Medrano served as a radio operator of their battalion commanders—Col. Ramon Aguirre of the 19th and Col. Nicanor Jimenez of the 14th.

With the 19th, Medrano recalled he was often in the advanced command post with Colonel Aguirre. His job was to transmit and receive voice messages and telegraph messages via Morse Code. Lives depended on the accuracy of his messages.

Medrano rediscovered God amid the horror of the Korean War. The long spells between action and boredom along the static front line gave him time to reflect on things spiritual.

(Editor's Note: The author is a historian of the Korean War. Among his stories published in this newspaper is one about the 500 bill being a memorial to the Philippines' involvement in that war. His Korean War website is .)

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  1. PEPTOK - followerJuly 8, 2012 at 3:07 PM

    Do you know Fellows that South Korea is also determined to be with the Philippines when communist China will invade the country?

    South Korean Government is steadily monitoring the development in the Panatag Shoal and the West Philippines Sea.

    Last July 5, 2012 (Thursday) When President Aquino Warned to China to watched their word in accusing the Philippines that escalate tension..

    It is like a bell rung for a coming war for Koreans. It echoed to the Whole South Korea that President Aquino warns China to watch their word.

    "The fact is the Philippines is not escalating tension". China abused the territory of the Philippines EEZ but Philippines is opted to settle problems diplomatically not a childish style to throw stones and break the face of the invader communist china.

    South Korea is monitoring the Philippines carefully. Do you think that South Korea will not sympathize to the Philippines?


    South Korea live with Pride...
    Philippines live with love...

    In spite of their differences, South Korea and the Philippines are sharing the same goal and direction to preserve "Freedom"

    Why the Philippines protect the South Korea? Because Filipinos are fighting for freedom with LOVE.

    Why South Korea will come to help the Philippines if China will invade and initiate war? Because South Korea lives with Pride. South Korea wants to repay the Philippines of what the country did for their freedom from the communist China.

    Let there be peace on earth and let it begin in each and everyone's heart following and reading this.

  2. My to all filipinos do not expect other to depend your territory do the mandate of your country to depend by yourself although you help others do not expect that others will give gratitude to you back, it is your duty as Pilipino to depend your own country with dignity and honor to God.

    be solemn to your that's what it need to protect your territorial integrity for this bullying nation. I am an OFW. and i am not trust to anyone but God, When Philippine go to war in south korea the south korea did not ask the Philippine to help them, but because of fear that the Communism will spread through out the entire korean peninsula then the duty of democratic country is to depend for it.

    And the Govt. of the Philippines expect nothing but to see the Koreas will not govern by communist regime.

    Now that south korea is now stable in economic and in Military so his mandate as well to depend the country which is in besiege by the communist neighbors.

    Stand by your own and God will bless you for your needs only the govt. leaders can decide what to be purchase whether it is lethal or soft power.

    Meaning the expectation of others to help you is not relevant for an independent country you must stand by your own purchase all arms needed to depend your country Aegis destroyer, Frigates , Missile capability sea and Land base Radar. and fighter Jets. war tanks and modern equipment for the army and marines, including amphibious tank with missile power. do not hesitate to think twice the time is of the essence.

    1. Perhaps it would be better if you write it in tagalog. Wrong grammar and wrong spelling could have been avoided. Peace! :)

  3. Korean is also in trouble with China so you could not expect from them but maybe they will sympathize to the Philippines as free nations.

    China is aiming to control Ieo do (Small Islet) and when China will invade the Philippines which is infact has been started they will not do it in full but slowly so the International community would not notice it.

    Be self sufficient... Do not rely in any country to help the Philippines. If they will come for an aid, accept it. Otherwise.. Face all enemies with courage

  4. It is my gesture to help my country in terms of trouble but my gesture was vanish when i see that the govt. officials is always talking to the media about their intention i wish those should be silent and help speedup the purchase of armaments and if it is a second hand then propose to buy a brand new one and the best is to build our own.

    Real Frigate and destroyer is in need in our sovereignty do use the term frigate where as this ship you acquire is patrol boat only and as warship.

    Buy a real warship and you see how is the attitude of china towards you.

    Even Jet fighter do not say jet fighter where as this is only a trainer jet.

  5. oo nga mamakuha ng sympathize ang pilipinas sa ibat ibang bansa. tingin nyu ba me gagong bansa natutulong satin? sinong gago bansa ang papadala ng sundalo nila para magpakamatay sa di nila bayan? ang magagawa lng ng ibang bansa e mag padala ng armas.. kung america nga nag dadalawang isip nag sumali sa isyu na yan.. tignan nyu sila din mismo nag utos na iatras ang barko sa panatag.. wag kayong hangal kung makikisawsaw ba yan southkor sa gera e inde kikilos ang tga nortkor? syempre uunahin nila ung bayan nila.. pag nakaputukan na sa asya madadamay na ang lhat.. inde lang nmna china ang kalaban ng pinas. meron pang malaysia kikilos yan para makuha nila ang mindanao.. at saka meron pang NPA gagamitin yan ng china para maging banderang pula na tong bansa na2.. kya wag kayo umasang matutuloy ang gera alam ng lahat pag natuloy ang gera babagsak ang na ang pilipinas. dun na matatapos ang pinag mamalaki nilang 118years na pinag hirapan nila rizal na nawalan nnman ng sasay dahil sa mga hangal ng namuno ng bansa.

  6. Sa Southkor Dito lahat pera pera mga kabayan.

    lahat dito napapantayan ng pera. Wala ng true friend dito, wla ng true love, wala ng true wife.. wala ng tunay dito parang robot na dinidiktahan ng pera.

    Magkaroon ka lang ng isang bagay pag may pera ka pero huwag kang mahulog sa isang bagay na nakuha mo kasi pag may hihigit pa sa kung anong meron ka papalitan ka ng hihigit pa kasi buhay dito lahat gamitan at hindi uso ang utang na loob dito.

    Pag kaharap mo iiyakan ka pag nagipit ka pag talikod mo, pagtatawanan ka na.

    Kung plastic sa Pinas mas china dito.. ubod ng fake lahat.

    Kaya huwag kayong aasa na may isa na taga rito ang aapak diyan pag may gulo na. Kahit milyon pa ang ka lahi nila nasa atin, hindi nila value ang life kundi sarili lang nila at pera kaya wala silang pakialam sa ilan man ang nandyan.

    Huwag ng aasa at mag mukhang tanga.. kumilos ng nag iisa iyan ang nagiisang solusyon. kaya maghanda kayo lahat ng effort na meron kayo. may labi na GIR kung pwde gamitin para maipagtangol ang bayan natin, do it

  7. Mga iho, wag niyo sabihin na walang tutulong sa atin. Hindi tanga ang mga kapit bahay natin para hindi harapin ang china. Makinig kayo.

    Search niyo ang RIMPAC 2012. Ito ay ang PINAKAMALAKIng Naval exercise sa historya ng buong mundo. Lahat ng major pacific powers ay imbitado, 20 nation ang sumali, units o personnel from Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom and the United States.

    Lahat halos iyan ay major pero tingnan niyo ang tatlong detalye. Isinama ang Pilipinas, sumali ang Russia at hindi inimbita ang china! Sa katunayan, hindi pinayagan ang china na kahit maging observer man lang. ahaha..

  8. Makinig kayo. Sa susunod na may chinese na minamaliit tayong Filipino, banggiting niyo ang RIMPAC. hahahahaa. Sa ibang forums ng ibang lahi, pinagtatawanan ang china dahil ipanakita sa RIMPAC na walng may gusto sa china kasama na ang Russia!

    "See China? Everybody dont like you... all other nations are only pretending to be friendly with you because of your economic leverage.

    International polls confirmed this.. even the Russian people dont like you and never trusted you.."

    "rightly I mentioned couple of days back..nobody wants to be with China...may its Hong Kong, Taiwain, is only its people who are there by force and not by choice...they cant even own kids...their pets are not safe..they are used like slaves in CCPs junk factories making huge profits by paying peanuts...guess a freedom is desperately needed for chinese people...a demise of CCP regime and at least 10 states from China can improve the situation in that country.."

  9. Kapatid kulang ang nalalaman mosa RIMPAC 2012

    RIMPAC 2012 in Haiwaii is participated by 22 countries not 20.

    Kasama na diyan ang Singapore Naval forces.

    Kasama ang Pilipinas pero mga Tao lang ng Pilipinas kasi wala namang mga barko ang Pilipinas.

    Pero may duda ako dito. Huwag kayong kampanti at huwag kayong umasa an lang sa kanila.

    Tumayo tayo ng Sarili nating paa. May Sobra sobrang pera tayo diba?

    Why dont we use it to develop our own weapon.

    pagod na kasi ako sa excitement ko na tutulungan tayo ng America pero bottom line tumanggi sila at napahiya tayo.

    Ayuko na umasa pa tayo. Kung tutulong sila, we will welcome it pero huwag tayong luluhod at mag maka awa tulad ng ginawa natin recently at tinanggihan tayo.

    LEts rely on whats we have and develop more.

    let them come for an aid unexpectedly then we will accept it. Kakapagod umasa eh ang USA is under control by China economically. so anong laban natin?..

  10. start yourself by buying a pistol for/and practice on a shooting range (armscor/jethro, etc.). P16,000 you will get one brandnew (norinco 9mm) and with license (pede pang hulugan within 6mos). there will be a gunshow at sm megamall by july23. visit it. start practicing by pulling the trigger. the purpose is to know how to point and operate the gun with accuracy and how to deal with it.

  11. dapat talaga magsakrispyo ang bawat pilipino at magkaisa na i-boycott ang mga china products niloloko lang tayo para bumili tayo ng bumili pero wala namang quality. ito ang mainam na paraan para pabagsakin ang economy ng china ang huwag tangkilikin ang produkto nito. magtiis tayo kung wala tayong ipad/iphone/china phone, cd-r king, motherboard ng pc, at iba pa. di lang china ang gumagawa nito mga hitech gadgets, computer, appliances meron din dyang country na pedeng tangkilikin (wag taiwan kasi china din yan)

  12. Correct! Stop buying iPhone, iPad and all products of this company.

    We have our own product but less competitive because we become so dependent to this made in China.

    Usap tayo mga kababayan.. simulan na nating sunugin ang mga shop na mag benta ng made in china.

    para naman ma alarma ang government natin na sobra na ang ating pakumbaba.

    Tingnan natin kung may china made pa... kaya naman natin bumili ng made in USA or made in the Philippines original pa.

    OPPS ingat kayo sa made in Germany. Stop buying made in Germany. nabili ng china majority sa big companies sa Germany kaya ang germany at China parang 1 country na sila

  13. The Philippines might be a poorly equipped country in terms of modern materials and weapons of war. But the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is no fool in terms of making hasty decision to wage war against a "weak Philippine Military", since they themselves have some serious doubt as to their ability to wage war and win successfully over a so-called weaker opponent like the Philippines.

    In fact, aside from the PLA'S victory over the Koumintang Forces in Mainland China during the late 1940s, the only other "Victories" the PLA can laid claim is their conquest of a poorly defended and generally peaceful country of Tibet in 1951 and their underhanded attack along the disputed Himalayan border they share with India in 1962. In both instances the PLA went against unprepared and under-equipped and trained armies, both resulting in Victories for the PLA.

    The PLA by its owned history is trying very hard to present an image of modernity and professionalism so that the world can take their armed forces seriously, for since their two (2) noted military victories over very weak and ill-prepared forces, they have not won any major engagements against well trained, professional armies even thought these same armies were outnumbered by Chinese forces ten to one.

    Classic example is the continuing existence of Kinmen Island @ Quemoy Island which is only a scant few miles from the Chinese mainland and still happens to be in the hands of Nationalist forces based in Taiwan. During the First and Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, the PLA failed miserably in taking Kinmen from Nationalist hands and suffered horrendous casualties on the beaches.

    During the 28 day Sino-Vietnamese war, the PLA claimed victory over the Vietnamese poeple was seriously doubted since it was apparent that the PLA suffered unexpected casualties at the hands of Vietnamese forces, prompting their political bureau to declare a "Victory", wherein the political objective and military objective both obviously failed to achieve the outcome desired by Beijing.

    Let us not forget of course Korea, where a million "Chinese volunteers" went to fight the forces of democracy in behalf of preserving the communist way of life! Although the Korean War is technically a stalemate, it was not the outcome the PLA expected, who believing that force of numbers was enough as a determining factor failed miserably in fulfilling their strategic objective.

    The PLA of today is in no doubt a more modern, professional and deadlier force, but it is still the same force with doubts about its capability in waging conventional war effectively and efficiently even against weaker opponents such as the Philippines. True, with their strength they can over run all of the military occuppied islands in the disputed Spratly area and they could hold these same islands indefinitely with their current strength alone, but are they willing to wage a war which they know they cannot win in the long run if the claimant countries (all of whom, except Taiwan)suddenly form a Regional Military Alliance that will challenge the PLA in an environment they cannot possibly win?

    Clearly the PLA knows this, so for now, saber rattling is the norm, but someday, when they are really ready, the PLA will show its teeth and the future may well be tainted in blood by all concern.

  14. If the Tongressman and a senator has a provision 100million dollars per year then they can give 1million each of them that makes a definite fund for AFP we have 350 congressman and 24 senator so by one year it is clear the fund for armaments is around 374million dollars per year and thats a good budget for AFP every year.

  15. Thank you for reposting my story on your website. Thanks to all of you who have visited this website and learned that our country played a key role in the birth and protection of the Republic of Korea.

    We are a Great Nation. It is the task of every Filipino to prove this to the world through his patriotism.

  16. Hi Art, Thanks for writing the Story, We learn a lot from this.

  17. walang kwenta ang bansang korea! mababa pa sa ipis ang tingin nila sa mga pilipino! wag nyo ipag malaki ang ganyang bansa walang utang na loob yan.. sana man lang e wag nila masyado tayong laitin

  18. Hey you bitches out there democracy is only for the white man to control poor indegeniuos pinoys like you and other former colonies of the west.

    Wake up!

    If white mans democracy is so sweet smelling then why your uncle Sam has kept its bloody mouth shut when it comes to His allies in the middle east who have commited atrocities against its own people....and OFW'S 

    Yeah you know UAE, Saudi Arabia,Qatar,Kuwait,etc etc...(what a bloody long list)

    How many Filipino women have been raped by them! How many had to kill their rapists,how many had to go to jail for defending themselves?

    So you see Uncle Sam never have and never will raise His concern about your poor and bloodied women in their harems AKA work places!

    As long as the oil continues to flow freely and cheaply back to the US,the Great Satan don't give a f@#k about your women.

    So much for white mans democracy,it's only for them to suite themselves!

    It surprise the rest of the world why pinoys continue to love yanks when even in the past they slaughtered so much of your forefathers in the American Filipino war? It's just so brain dead !

    Uncle Sam will continue to play the double game of democracy and supporting dictators and terrorists...oops freedom fighters for its hegemony!

    Uncle Sam with Bible in one hand, pinoy balls in the other! What a balancing act.. Bible to humble you people,squeezing your balls in the other if you people get out of hand.

  19. we don't need other countries to fight for us, we will face China, the Islamists, other Communists, criminals, and poverty ourselves. We can do this, if we did it before we can do it again. Just be really strict on who you vote for at the same time work hard and work smart. There is something that we lost all these years and that is discipline.


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