Monday, December 13, 2010

First Pinoys in Foreign Wars: The Filipino World War 1 Veterans

There were 50 veterans belonging to the 49th Infantry Filipino Company (see their banner) during an event in Washington DC, which could have been the Veterans Memorial Day of November 1924.

"NO greater proof can be found of the success of America's policy in the Philippines than the loyalty and friendship the Filipino people have shown her during the great war [World War 1]," wrote Maximo Kalaw in his book advocating Self-Government in the Philippines (1919), with  "all the men and resources of the Islands ... offered to the service of the United States"--

"Immediately upon the declaration of war the Philippines offered to America the services of twenty-five thousand soldiers of the Philippine Militia [this was in April 1917], to be called the National Guard. Senate President Quezon, in a special trip to the United States, urged in person the acceptance of the offer as a sign of Philippine loyalty. In expectation of the acceptance of the offer, a quota of the 25,000 men was assigned to each province, and, without resorting to draft, 28,000 men soon were enrolled ready to go into training. Hundreds of our choice young men--the flower of our youth-- left their high governmental and professional positions to join America's colors ...

"Six thousand Filipinos voluntarily enlisted in the American Navy ...  Four thousand Filipino laborers in Hawaii, who could have claimed exemption from the draft under the citizenship clause of the draft law, insisted on being enrolled under the Stars and Stripes. The loyalty was sincere and spontaneous on the part of the people." 
When the Philippine Legislature convened in 1917, it immediately passed a resolution of commitment to America for the cause of democracy, and even allocated P4-million to build a destroyer and a submarine for the the US.  In fact, a destroyer named after the national hero Jose Rizal was launched on September 23, 1918.  We do not know if the destroyer was accepted by the US and deployed to Europe to help in the war efforts. 

The Filipinos in the United States like the contract workers or sakadas in the Hawaiian plantations and other industries were either drafted by the US military on June 5, 1917, June 5, 1918 and September 12, 1918, or they volunteered their services.

Kalaw himself volunteered to serve, and their division "could probably have had a chance of reaching France, of joining Pershing's Army, of helping sanctify St. Mihiel and Chatteau Thierry had it not been for inexcusable delay in its organization."  The delays?  The US President could only call the Philippine National Guard to federal service after the enabling law was passed on January 3, 1918; the Officers' school was organized late in July 1918, and at that time, the National Guard training camp had already been named Camp Claudio in honor of Tomas Claudio, the first Filipino to die in the war in Europe.

Kalaw's division completed mobilization on November 11, which was also the day the armistice was signed. Thus, the National Guard was not able to leave the Philippines at all.

I.Q. Reyes, Filipino veteran of  that war, reminisced six years later in his They Served Uncle Sam in his Foreign War (The Philippine Republic, July 1925):  "We left homes, parents, sisters, brothers and loved ones to join the army, navy or the marine corps of the United States to help to fight her battles and win the war. ... We fought with American comrades side by side on land and sea.  Each and every one of us, although Filipinos and of a different race, were perfectly willing to give our lives for the country that has done so much for our homeland."  

Kalaw and Reyes could very well have been speaking for other generations of Filipinos to come, Philippine- and US-born, who would serve with the United States armed forces during World War 2, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and in the continuing conflicts in the Middle East. 

During the war years, according to Kalaw, the Filipino people maintained their peace and restrained all agitation for Philippine independence.  "All their work was one of patient cooperation, apparently forgetting for the time being their own cause. ...  there was not an attempt made to remind America of the Philippine problem."

When the war ended, the Philippine Legislature even expressed through a resolution "the gratitude of the Filipino people to the United States for the part they were allowed to take in the most far reaching enterprise ever undertaken by Democracy."

The World War 1 veterans either went back to the Philippines or settled in the United States to raise families. There were those who re-enlisted in the Army, joined the Navy or the Merchant Marines. 

Officers and members of the Massachusetts World War Filipino Veterans' Association, Inc., 1926.
 The veterans in the US formed their associations in their cities of residence, and were also members of two posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) organized exclusively for Filipino veterans at that time.

One of them was Post No. 1063 with headquarters at 1521 West Colombia Avenue., Philadelphia, PA, which was organized on 05 August 1923 for "fraternal, patriotic, historical and educational" purposes including the promotion of friendship between Filipinos and Americans .  In 1925, I.Q. Reyes was commander of  this post. 

Officers and Members of Pvt. Tomas Claudio Post 1063, 1925.
Post No. 1063 was named Pvt. Tomas Claudio Post in honor of the war hero from Morong, Rizal in the Philippines.

Claudio was 19 when he journeyed to Hawaii in 1911. There he joined other young and adventurous Filipinos working in the plantations.  He'd move to California, and to the canneries in Alaska.  He'd settle in Sparks, Nevada and pursue a commerce course in Clark Healds Business school, graduating in 1916.

Claudio was a clerk at the city post office when the US joined the war in 1917.  He had always been attracted to the military even way  back in the Philippines, and with America in the war, he applied in the US army.  He was denied twice but was finally enlisted in the 41st Division on 02 November that year.  On December 15, the division left for Europe, and Claudio's final destination was France.

He was first assigned in the trenches of the Toul Sector, then with the reserve division near Paris, and later at the Montdidier front.  On 28 May 1918, he took part in the Battle of Cantigny against the Germans where he was severely wounded.  He was not able to recover, and he passed away on 29 June in Chateau Thierry..  The United States, France and his country, the Philippines, honored his heroism.

Today, the Pvt. Tomas Claudio Post 1063 is one of 35 VFA posts based in Philadelphia.  It is no longer exclusively Filipino in its membership. 
The two ladies in the picture above--Mrs Alice Custodio, Jr and Mrs Alberta Q Daguil--were the American wives of Filipino veterans belonging to Post 1063.   They were delegates to the 28th National Encampment of the VFA in Providence, RI.  Mrs Daguil was president and Mrs Custodio junior vice-president of the Ladies' Auxiliary at that time.  "Boosters for Filipino Veterans" they were called in the note accompanying this picture in The Philippine Republic (March 1928
In its earlyyears,  the post actively participated in the city activities like " parades, memorial services and social gatherings undertaken by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, sending delegates to the National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars to represent it each year." It was"widely known in the city, and well supported and cooperated with by all the posts and Department and National Headquarters" being "one of the very active posts in the city"; it organized "a Ladies’ Auxiliary to participate in [their] activities, and to look after a comrade or a family of a comrade in distress" (Reyes, 1925).

Rizal Day 1924 hosted by the Massachusetts Filipino World War 1 Veterans' Association.

The Filipino veterans in key cities in the US were very active in the celebration of Rizal Day on 30 December in the years before some of them fought again during World War 2.  In Massachusetts, the veterans' association hosted the Rizal Day events of 1924 and 1925 , as can be seen in the pictures here.  They could have continued doing so during those years all the Filipinos in America were all campaigning for Philippine independence with the national hero as their strong inspiration.
Rizal Day 1925 hosted by the Massachusetts Filipino World War 1 Veterans' Association.

The last Filipino World War 1 veteran might have passed away many years ago.  There are continuing efforts to remember who they were and their heroism in that distant war.  

We've clipped the photos above with their captions of names for those who have been looking for records of their relatives in that war.  Our interest was captured by veterans cited to be from Zambales particularly those from San Narciso.  This led us to the Filipinos First WW1 US Military Homepage where we got the following roster of veterans from Zambales:

  • Labrador Arce born 12/1/1893 Zambales; died 5/21/1963; buried Los Angeles National Cemetery; Pvt Co E 1st Hawaiian Inf inducted 9/12/1918-7/10/1919; resident of Liliha & Kukui Sts Honolulu Hawaii 
  • Fausto Baneros born 8/13/1884 Cabangan Zambales; Pvt Co L 1st & 2nd Inf inducted7/11/1918-7/9/1919; resident of Pahoa Hawaii
  • Juan Delara born 1892 Olongapo Zambales; Sgt Co B 1st Hawaiian Inf; 9/10/1916-7/12/1919; resident of Honolulu Hawaii
  • Epefanio Dial born 4/25/1896 Zambales; died 12/20/1970 Pfc Co E Hawaiian Inf; inducted 7/1/1918-7/10/1919; resident of Kahului Maui Hawaii; SS# issued Hawaii
  • Alejo Diquia born 1893 Zambales; Pfc Co L 1st & 2nd Hawaiian Inf; ¾/1918-7/11/1919 resident of Camp 4 Makaweli Kauai Hawaii
  • Fulgencio Esiberi born 1/20/1891 San Felipe Zambales; Pvt Co I 2nd Hawaiian Inf; inducted7/8/1918-2/1/1919; resident of  Waiakea Mill Hilo Hawaii
  • Pascual Garcia born 5/14/1890 Castillejos Zambales; Co E 2nd Hawaiian Inf; inducted 7/10/1918-1/31/1919; resident of Puunene Maui Hawaii 
  • Primitivo Gregorio born 1895 Zambales; Pvt Co L Det; Co I 1st & 2nd Hawaiian Inf; inducted 7/29/1918-1/27/1919; resident of Waimea Kauai Hawaii 
  • Domingo Larutin born12/3/1898 San Narciso Zambales; died 6/3/1969; buried National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific; Pvt Co I 4th; Co L 1st & Hq Co 1st 2ndHawaiian Inf; 5/13/19177/14/1919; resident of Makaweli Hawaii
  • Ciriaco Mararac born 8/17/1892 Iba Zambales; died 10/20/1971 Norco Riverside California; Pvt Co G 1st Hawaiian Inf; inducted 7/17/1918-7/17/1919; resident of Kukui near Liliha St Honolulu Hawaii; laborer Hawaiian Fertilizer Co Honolulu
  • Maximo Mendoza born 1896 San Narciso Philippines; Pfc Co H 2nd & Co K 1st Hawaiian Inf; 11/26/1916-7/12/1919; resident of Haiku Maui Hawaii  
  • Emigdio Milanio born 8/2/1898 Zambales died 9/19/1959; buried Maui Veterans Cemetery; Cpl Co E 2nd Hawaiian Inf; 5/28/1918-1/31/1919; resident of Lahaina Hawaii
  • Pablo Oyando born 2/23/1890 Zambales; Pvt Co H 2nd Hawaiian Inf; inducted 7/9/1918-1/31/1919; resident of Koloa Hawaii 
  • Nicholo Pluma born 1891 Zambales; Pvt Co M 1st Hawaiian Inf; inducted 7/29/1918-7/12/1919; resident of Kukuihaele Hawaii 
  • Lorenzo A. Ramos born 1889 Iba Zambales; Cpl Co M 1st Regt Hawaiian Inf; 7/10/1916-7/10/1919; resident of Honolulu Hawaii

Our 'Bravo!' to Maria Elizabeth Ambry of California for setting up the Filipinos World War 1 US Military Services Homepage .  

From her we borrow an appropriate coda for this article:

"Filipino veterans after WW1 war.  Many veterans went to the Philippines, Hawaii, California, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, New York and other places to raise families. Other veterans joined the Navy and the Merchant Marines or re-enlisted in the Army, serving once again in WW11 and Korean War, because their "war that will end other wars" failed to deliver the promise of peace. Some veterans who suffered military service connected disabilities (SCD) were entitled to vocational training and $100.00 monthly pension, but the 1933 creation of the Department of Veterans Affairs, stripped these benefits and the 1945 G.I. Bill of Rights did not come soon enough to help them. Additionally, the returnees had to confront the turmoil of the Economic Recession (1918) and Economic Depression (1929), as well as the realities of contract labor employment. Some would die, while others would find themselves in prisons, both for farm labor union activism.

"Today, we find the WW1 Pilipino veterans buried in the Arlington, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, the Presidio and other military or civilian burial grounds, unnoticed and unsung. Others were buried with their ships that were sunk by the enemies during the wars, unrecovered and unhonored.

"Today, their numerous descendants reside in every corner of the world. Rooted in deep family military traditions, many of these descendants had served during times of peace, as well as during WW11, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq wars.

"Undeniably, whether they served in the European military trenches or in the U.S. military support services, these valiant WW1 Pilipino soldiers had served the cause of peace and liberty to benefit all of us. They also swear allegiance to serve the flag of the United States during the time it was a seditious act for Filipinos to display the Filipino flag in their native land under the rule of the colonial U.S. government (Sedition Act of 8/23/1907 in addition to the Sedition Law of 11/14/1901 that imposes death penalty or long imprisonment for Philippine independence advocacy).

"Therefore, to us remain the sacred task of engraving their names and military legacies in our hearts. Let their memories inspire us, that we may work together to reclaim the rightful place of our Pilipino soldiers in the military history of the Philippines, the United States and the world. This awareness of our unique history is the responsibility of every living Pilipino ..."


1.   Kalaw, Maximo M. (1919). Chapter IV. Filipino Loyalty During the War. Self-Government in the Philippines.  New York: The Century Company. 59-75.  Retrieved from 

2.   Reyes, I.Q.  (1925, July). They Served Uncle Sam in His Foreign Wars. The Philippine Republic.  2(7):19.  Retrieved from 

3.   VFW PA Post 1063. (1928, Jan-Feb). Boosters for Filipino Veterans. The Philippine Republic.  5(1):2.  Retrieved from 

4.   VFW PA Post 1063 at  

5.   VFW PA  Post Directory at

7.   Filipinos WW1 US Military Service Homepage at

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