On Dec. 8, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt stood before a joint Session of the U.S. Congress and gave his now famous "Day of Infamy” or "Pearl Harbor” speech.
He began the speech, "Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”
Just days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, approximately 250,000 Filipinos serving in the military in the Philippines were inducted into the U.S. armed forces, for a war that was not of their making against Japan, in formal induction ceremonies conducted in U.S. military installations located throughout the Philippines.
American military officials extracted this pledge from those Filipinos :
"I, Juan de la Cruz, do solemnly swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the United States of America … that I will serve them honestly and faithfully … against all enemies whomsoever … and I will obey the orders … of the president of the United States … And the orders of the officers appointed over me … according to the rules and Articles of War.”
Taking that oath would also mean death in front of a firing squad for desertion or for dereliction of duties or failure to obey an order from a superior officer during wartime.
For the next several years, those Filipinos would fight side-by-side with their American counterparts on bloody battlefields, starving and dying of terrible diseases in the prisoner of war camps, enduring unspeakable cruelty and death during the infamous Bataan Death March, and later serving as the main force of guerrilla resistance against the Japanese Army occupying the Philippines.
Accordingly, Washington promised the "the little brown brothers” the same health and pension benefits as their American white brothers. Even after the war, in October of 1945, Gen. Omar Bradley, then administrator of the Veterans Administration, reaffirmed that they were to be treated like any other American veterans.
Every year on Dec. 7, in observance of the Pearl Harbor Anniversary, local and national newspapers in the United States would publish stories about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor recounting glorious acts of gallantry and courage by members of the American Armed Forces. No information about the role of Filipinos in World War II and what happened in the Philippines that day in 1941.
News accounts of Pearl Harbor Day never mentions the havoc wreaked in the Philippines on that day caused by America’s quarrel with Japan. Unknown by the American public to this day is that 10 hours after the Pearl Harbor attack, Japan also attacked the Philippines because American armed forces occupied the country. Unknown is the heroism and bravery of those thousands of Filipinos who fought and died as members of the American armed forces fighting America’s fight.
The world should know and Filipinos should never forget that the true day of infamy happened on Feb. 18, 1946, not on Dec. 7, 1941. It happened within the walls of the U.S. Congress and in the White House. That was the day Public Law 70- 301, better known as the Rescission Act of 1946 was signed by President Harry S. Truman.
It was a shameless act of treachery against a loyal friend and colony of the United States, treachery no less and no different from that committed by the Empire of Japan on Pearl Harbor Day against the United States.
The Rescission Act of 1946 was enacted by hundreds of members of the U.S. Congress, whose names were preceded by the title, " Honorable.” It happened inside the halls of Congress, not inside an institution for the insane. It was a day of infamy for the American people whose honor was dragged through mud of ignominy.
Without shame or sense of dishonor, those honorable men enacted a law stating that service of Filipinos "shall not be deemed to be or to have been service in the military or national forces of the United States or any component thereof or any law of the United States conferring rights, privileges or benefits.”
That is insanity. How else can that service of bearing arms for the United States and fighting Japan be called? Those Filipinos referred to by those honorable lawmakers wore American uniforms, complete with insignias of the armed forces of the United States.
Guy M. Guerrero is the director of the Filipino American Chamber of Commerce of San Mateo County. He lives in Burlingame.