The first contingent of the 19th arrived in Korea late April 1952 with the last contingent rotating to Korea two months later. Battalion commander was Col. Ramon Aguirre.
The 19th held a segment of the main line of resistance in the Chorwon-Siboni corridor in the west central sector of Korea. It was first attached operationally to the US 1 Corps and then to the US 45th Infantry Division. Armistice negotiations to end the war were being discussed when the 19th went into action against the men of the Chinese People's Volunteer Army (CPV). The men of this famed battalion acquitted themselves well against the CPV.
But their most outstanding combat achievement was in the battle for hills dominating the Chorwon-Siboni area, considered he most vulnerable sector of the UNC’s front line. The battalion was given responsibility for defending Hill 191 (also called Arsenal Hill) and Hill Eerie, comprising Combat Outpost No. 8, on 17 June.
|Men of the 19th about to assault Bloody Nose Ridge.|
|Mortar crew fires on the communist Chinese.|
The CPV continued pummeling the battalion’s positions the next day in preparation for an infantry assault that was aborted after the 19th returned fire. The intense artillery duels resulted in the deaths of eight Filipinos, including an officer.
|Pfc Fernando Micua receives a medal for gallantry from Gen Jesus Vargas|
|Commanding Officer Col Ramon Aguirre|
Under terrific artillery fire, and attacked by a massive force, the battalion stood its ground. Counter battery fire destroyed many of the CPV guns and mortars.
|19th BCT troopers listen to the "PI Calling Korea" radio program.|
On the battlefield, the battalion fought in a savage hand-to-hand and bayonet melee throughout the evening. At some positions along the Filipino line, the battle looked like the siege of a medieval castle with the Chinese clambering up ladders and the Filipinos shooting them down or pushing them off. Lt. Apollo Tiano led his platoon in a frantic bayonet charge against the advancing Chinese, killing one before being killed himself. His men held their positions.
|Filipinos in winter camouflage uniforms.|
The Chinese ware fought to a standstill and forced to retreat by a savage counterattack. The fight continued until the morning of the 21st. The retreating Chinese left behind the hulks of two tanks and over 500 dead. Eight Filipinos were killed and 16 wounded in the brutal night battle.
At the end of this gory, four-day battle, a group of Filipino soldiers ascended Hill 191 and, in full view of the Chinese, planted the Filipino flag on its summit. It was a heroic act of defiance that told the Chinese they had lost this battle.
More actions against the CPV followed and the fighting skill shown by the veterans of the 19th drew respect and praise from other UN fighting units. The 19th was the first PEFTOK battalion awarded the South Korean Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation. It also received a Battle Citation from the US X Corps.
|Warriors at rest.|
Pres. Quirino’s warrior son
Among the officers of the 19th BCT were two men apart from all the rest. One of them was 1Lt Tomas “Tommy” Quirino, Philippine Army, Pres. Quirino’s only surviving son. The other was 1Lt Luis “Chito” Gonzalez, Philippine Air Force, the husband of Pres. Quirino’s only surviving daughter, Victoria.
Pres. Quirino’s wife, the former Alicia Syquia, and three of his children (Armando, Norma and Fe) were among the over 100,000 Filipino civilians massacred by the Imperial Japanese Army during the Battle of Manila from February to March 1945.
In an act of great personal courage, Pres. Quirino sent his son and son-in-law to fight in the Korean War. The question is “Why”? His answer:
“I sent ahead of you my only son and son-in-law to offer their blood in defense of democracy. Thus, my pride will be that with my own flesh and blood, I shall have participated in your coming struggle and victory, for the honor and prestige of our country.”
1Lt Quirino was a member of the Signal Corps of the Philippine Army and served as a Forward Air Observer in the 19th BCT. 1Lt Gonzalez served as a pilot and Forward Air Controller, also with the 19th BCT. They were attached to the aviation unit of the U.S. 45th Infantry Division.
Both flew their dangerous missions in the Stinson L-5 Sentinel, an unarmed and slow observation, artillery spotting and liaison aircraft. The difficult and dangerous job of Lieutenants Quirino and Gonzalez was to fly over communist positions in search of enemy targets.
Captured Chinese soldiers said the airpower of the United Nations Command was the weapon they most feared. They also said among the most hated of Allied soldiers were the aerial observers that brought down death and destruction upon them by directing accurate howitzer fire from massed artillery batteries.
Given this level of hatred for Allied aerial observers, one can surmise the fate of either Lieutenants Quirino or Gonzalez had they been captured. Had either been shot down, captured or killed, the outcome of the Philippines' saga in the Korean War would have been much different. But both survived the Korean War.
|1Lt Tommy Quirino|