Legacy of Bataan

 Photo credit: World War II Database (ww2db.com)

Photo credit: World War II Database (ww2db.com)


By Cecilia I. Gaerlan/Rappler.com – Two years ago, while doing public readings of my World War II novel “In Her Mother’s Image,” I discovered that not too many people in this country have heard of the Fall of Bataan.

My father, Luis Gaerlan, served in the the 41st Infantry Regiment and survived the Bataan Death March and his incarceration at Camp O’Donnell. His stories about the war served as the inspiration for my novel, the story of the emotional toll of war on a Filipino family.

Although the storyline is fiction, the circumstances surrounding the story were based on real life. I started doing extensive research and interviewing Bataan and Corregidor veterans and, to my horror, I realized that my knowledge about the war was just the tip of the iceberg; I also discovered that most history books in the United States only mention the American defenders of Bataan. The Filipino defenders are ignored, derided and in some cases, even maligned.

After the Spanish-American War in 1898 the Philippines was ceded to the United States for US$20 million. On March 24, 1934, The Tydings-McDuffie Act was enacted for the eventual independence of the Philippines after a 10-year transitional period of Commonwealth Government. The Act also reclassified all Filipinos, including those living in the US, as aliens.

In 1935, Gen Douglas MacArthur was appointed as the US American Military Advisor. His longtime friend, Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon, also asked him to serve in a dual capacity as Field Marshall to help build the Philippine Commonwealth Army.

On July 26, 1941, immediately after the fall of French Indochina to the Japanese Imperial Army and under threat of impending war, then President Franklin (erratum: we had mistakenly put the name Theodore earlier; our apologies) Roosevelt signed an executive order absorbing the Philippine Commonwealth Army under the service of the United States Armed Forces of the Far East.

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