Preserving the history, heritage, and legacy of the Philippine Scouts for present and future generations



The History of the Philippine Scouts

by Col. John E. Olson, USA (Ret.)

"Stand aside, the Scouts are coming." These simple words contained in a poem written by an American officer in a Japanese POW camp shortly after the fall of Bataan reflect a sincere and respectful tribute to some of the finest soldiers ever to serve in the U.S. Army. In the desperate resistance Gen. Douglas MacArthur's beleaguered forces on Bataan and Corregidor put up against the Japanese invaders in early 1942, when units of the Philippine Scouts moved up to bolster hard pressed units or to attack the many landings made by the Japanese troops behind the main line of resistance, morale of other Filipino and American troops rose markedly.

Who were the Philippine Scouts? Little known outside the Philippines and largely forgotten by the U.S. Army of which they were a proud part, the Scouts were soldiers par excellence. How did the Philippine Scouts come into the U.S. Army and what contribution did they make to this country's military heritage?

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Philippine Scout Heroes of World War II

by John A. Patterson

Medal of Honor

The Medal of Honor

Those who know the history of the Philippine Scouts stand in awe of their exploits during World War II. Even though they performed extraordinarily well before the war as regular U.S. Army soldiers charged with the defense of the Philippines, it is their spirited combat against the Japanese in one action after another from early December 1941, until the fall of the Philippines in May of 1942, for which they are most famous.

Colonel John E. Olson writes in his book, Anywhere - Anytime: The History Of The Fifty-Seventh Infantry (PS), of the large numbers of decorations for valor awarded not only to the 57th but to other Scout units as well. These included three Medals of Honor.

By any standard these decorations reflect the heroism of a large number of Philippine Scouts who fought early in the war under extremely difficult conditions marked by inadequate food and medicine, deteriorating health due to tropical diseases, obsolete weapons and ammunition, and no hope of support from the United States.

The following highlights the three Philippine Scouts who were awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery above and beyond the call of duty: Jose Calugas, Sr., Alexander R. Nininger, Jr., and Willibald C. Bianchi.

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The Philippine Scouts

by Chris Schaefer

These were General MacArthur's soldiers—the guys who fought America's first battle of World War II. The Philippine Division. Probably the best trained and possibly the best prepared U.S. Army division at the outset of that war.

But they weren't farm boys from Kansas and California, or Italian-Americans from New Jersey as depicted in the black and white movies made during and after the war years. They were mostly Filipinos serving as enlisted soldiers in United States Army units commanded by American officers. They were special men in special units, officially designated "Philippine Scouts." At the beginning of World War II, General Douglas MacArthur's U.S. Army Forces in the Far East, spearheaded by the Philippine Division, were mostly Filipinos.

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The Philippine Scouts on Bataan: Their Finest Hour

by J. Michael Houlahan

The heroic role played by the Philippine Scouts [PS] in the defense of Bataan is one of the best kept secrets of the war. In fact, the most decorated U.S. Army units in the early days of World War II were composed of Filipinos.

While the commissioned officers of the Scouts included a number of native-born Americans, the noncommissioned officers and enlisted men were Pinoys. Well trained and highly motivated, they played a dominant role in blunting the initial attacks of over 43,000 fanatical Japanese, buoyed by an unbroken string of victories in China and South East Asia. This heroic stand began while opposing the Lingayen Gulf landings in mid-December 1941 and lasted beyond the surrender of the main body of Fil-Am forces on Bataan in early April 1942. Smaller groups of Scouts continued to resist the Japanese from Corregidor and the southern islands. Hundreds joined guerrilla groups following Lieutenant General Jonathan M. Wainwright's surrender of his Philippine command one month after the fall of Bataan.

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Bataan: Victory in Defeat

by Larry L. Pangan, MSgt. USA (Ret.) (Deceased)

Sixty years ago on April 9, 1942, elements of the U.S. Armed Forces in the Far East fighting on the Bataan Peninsula, surrendered to the enemy. It was the largest known mass surrender of any contingent in U.S. Armed Forces history.

But on the comforting side, let us look back in history prior to that dark day of April 9. What the defenders of Bataan accomplished between December 8, 1941 and April 8, 1942 will remain as a major victory even in the face of humiliating defeat. During the many battles of this period, the records show that we inflicted heavy causalities on the enemy. We disrupted the Japanese Imperial High Command timetable for taking control of the entire Pacific Rim, including the Philippines, by the end of January 1942. To save face, the Japanese ordered their advancing troops back to the Philippines to reinforce their already large numbers. Not only did they have superior arms; they also had complete control of air and sea. We were dug in and were getting weaker every day, being on short food rations and a limited supply of ammunition and medical supplies.

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The Causes of the Bataan Death March Revisited

By Jim Nelson

The fall of the Philippines was the largest defeat of an American armed force in the history of the United States, and the Bataan Death March was the most brutal series of war crimes ever committed against surrendering American or Philippine soldiers. The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), the Pacific War's equivalent of the Nuremburg trials formally established the general extent and kind of atrocities committed by Japanese troops but did not fully determine all of the causes that contributed to the Death March. To some degree the IMTFE's inability to find and understand all of the causal factors led to a situation in which some of the less culpable were executed and some of the most culpable escaped justice.

The objective of this article is to briefly delineate the extent and nature of these atrocities and then to examine in greater detail the multiple causes of the Death March. The article draws from older analyses of Death March causes such as Stanley L. Falk's excellent, Bataan: The March of Death and will be drawing from previously untranslated Japanese sources which offer several significant and new perspectives on what caused the horrors of the Bataan Death March. Taken together it is hoped the reader will derive a better understanding of the whys of the Death March including the cultural, competence, conspiratorial, personality, and political factors that came together on April 9, 1942, in Bataan to create one of the most shocking crimes of World War II.

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Post World War II Philippine Scouts

by J. Michael Houlahan

Following WWII, the U.S. Army reconstructed the Philippine Scouts around the approximately 6,000 Scouts who survived combat, prison camp and the Japanese occupation. This reconstructed force peaked at about 36,000 and was used in occupation duty on Okinawa and some other Japanese islands and in reconstruction and guard duty assignments elsewhere.

Post-war Scout units were mostly included in the 12th Infantry Division, which was the reconstituted Philippine Division which had been a major part of General MacArthur's command. Subordinate units included the 43rd, 44th and 45th Infantry Regiments (PS); 23rd, 24th and 88th Field Artillery (PS) Battalions; 56th Engineer Battalion (PS) and the 57th Infantry Regiment (PS). (Many of these units were assigned the same designatins as units that existed prior to the war.)

The U.S. Army began phasing out the Scout units in the late 1940s and the bulk of the post-war Scouts were discharged by mid-1949. Most of the surviving pre-war Scouts (and much smaller numbers of the post war Scouts) joined other U.S. Army units, completed their military careers and retired, often to the United States.

We are interested in including as many post WWII Scouts, as well as their family members and friends, in the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society.


Last modified: 11-May-2007