Saturday, December 12, 2009


By Art Villasanta

Solace in the face of death. At the foot of a sand bagged altar, the Roman Catholic men of PEFTOK attend mass at the county of Chorwon in North Korea before committing themselves to battle in the Korean War.

THE KOREAN WAR, which began 63 years ago on 25 June 1950, remains a "Forgotten War" for most of today’s 100 million Filipinos. Hardly surprising in a country where three out of four persons is 35 years old or younger.

But for the 7,420 officers and men of the Philippine Army that served in Korea from 1950 to 1955, and for those who actively supported our fighting men, the Korean War was probably the defining event of their lives.

From 1950 to 1955, five Battalion Combat Teams (BCTs) of the Philippine Army served in Korea as the elite PHILIPPINE EXPEDITIONARY FORCE TO KOREA or PEFTOK.

PEFTOK’s mission was to defend the Republic of Korea against communist conquest.

The first PEFTOK BCT reached South Korea in September 1950 while the last departed that country in June 1955. In close to five years of fighting and humanitarian service, our fathers showed the world the sterling qualities of patriotism, courage and a steadfast dedication to duty that made the heroic Filipinos of their generation—the generation that helped defeat the Empire of Japan in World War II—one of the greatest in our history.
The Monument to the Philippines at Kyonggi-do near Seoul. 
The Philippines and its 20 other UN allies paid in blood and pain for defending democracy in South Korea. This first world war between democracy and communism took the lives of 112 Filipino fighting men, wounded 313 others while 16 men remain officially missing-in-action to this day. Not revealed by these casualty statistics is the pain and sorrow inflicted on the families of these men.

Some 57,000 UN fighting men (54,000 of these Americans) gave their lives defending South Korea. Some 228,000 South Korean soldiers died fighting for their country.

All five PEFTOK BCTs served under the United Nations Command (UNC), the military arm of the United Nations during the conflict. Our soldiers fought successfully and well, first against the North Korean communists, then against the tough fighting men of the “Chinese People's Volunteer Army” who became their main antagonists.

The war in Korea, a country mostly mountainous, was fought mainly in the hills and mountains. It was horrible mountain warfare made more brutal by sub-zero winters alien to Filipinos since our country is tropical and without snow. PEFTOK fighting men soon learned to hate snow, which offered no respite from savage combat and made it all the more terrible.

This website is a tribute to all Filipinos who served in combatant and non-combatant roles in the Korean War. It is especially dedicated to our front line soldiers who fought on a battlefield some 1,600 miles from home in our country's first war as an independent state. Our country fought to preserve democracy in South Korea at a time when democracy at home was seriously threatened by a communist-led rebellion.

In creating this website, I drew heavily on the memoirs and papers of my late father, Atty. Juan "Johnny" F. Villasanta. He covered the Korean War as a War Correspondent for the leading afternoon newspaper, the "Evening News," and other media companies. He wrote about the activities of all five BCTs that served in Korea. My father reported on the war mostly from the front, up at the sharp end where soldiers did the dying.

In July 1954, he published a book, Dateline Korea: Stories of the Philippine Battalion, whose stories are mainly about the Filipino soldier in the Korean War. He was conferred the Philippine Legion of Honor, the country’s highest military-civilian award, in October 1954 for his news coverage of the Korean War.

The number of our soldiers who served in the Korean War becomes fewer with each passing year. Only 1,800 of our Korean War veterans (most in their 80s) were known to be alive at the end of 2013. Over 3,300 have died while the fate of  2,200 others who came home from the Korean War is unknown.

My father died in December 1997, joining his many departed comrades from the Korean War. He had wanted to visit Korea one last time before he died. It was a wish unfulfilled since cancer took him from us.

Our men who fought in that cruel war—the first “hot war” of the Cold War era—remember the Korean War with sorrow and pride. And so may their families. The Korean War, however, was Our Father’s War.

The sacrifice of our fathers in protecting the Freedom we take for granted today must be remembered, and this website is my contribution to this cause.

The PEFTOK creed at the Museum of the PEFTOK Korean War Memorial Hall at Fort Bonifacio written by Art Villasanta.



17 September 1947. Carlos P. Romulo, Ambassador of the Philippines to the United Nations, recommends the United Nations General Assembly adopt the terms of reference to define the conduct of democratic elections in Korea. 

This proposal leads to the organization of the United Nations Commission on Korea (UNCOK), of which the Philippines is a member. UNCOK oversees the national general election in South Korea on 10 May 1948 that leads directly to the creation of the Republic of Korea. Syngman Rhee is elected President of the new state.

Romulo is elected President of the Fourth Session of the UN General Assembly and serves from 1949 to 1950. He is considered the greatest Filipino diplomat of the 20th Century.
Carlos P. Romulo

15 August 1948. Birth of the Republic of Korea. 

3 March 1949. The Republic of the Philippines and the Republic of Korea establish diplomatic relations. The Philippines is the first Asian state to open diplomatic ties with South Korea, and the fifth state in the world to do so

In a letter to Pres. Elpidio Quirino, Pres. Rhee says of the Philippines: 

“As a nation which courageously and with high vision stood resolutely in the forefront of the international movement to re-establish the sovereignty resident in the people of Korea, your generous and forthright extension of recognition to Korea comes as a happy augury of cordial relationships of our two peoples.”

25 June 1950. The Republic of Korea is attacked without warning by the communist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), igniting the Korean War. The DPRK’s aim: conquer South Korea and expand communist hegemony over the entire Korean peninsula. The DPRK receives military and financial support from the communist Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the People’s Republic of China for its invasion.

27 June 1950. The United Nations passes Security Council Resolution 83 that effectively places the United Nations at war with the DPRK. 

30 June 1950. The United States of America enters the Korean War.

10 July 1950. The UN Security Council creates the United Nations Command (UNC) to take overall command of all UN combat forces in Korea. It appoints U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur Commander-in-Chief of the UNC.

7 August 1950. President Elpidio Quirino announces the momentous decision to send Filipino combat troops to the Korean War. This move is the Philippines' answer to the call of the United Nations for armed assistance in thwarting communist North Korea’s invasion of South Korea.

10 August 1950. The Senate of the Philippines passes Concurrent Resolution No. 16 urging the government of Pres. Quirino to render every possible assistance to United Nations forces in Korea. The resolution also asks the government to mobilize Filipino soldiers and to quickly provide this assistance.
Pres. Elpidio Quirino

25 August 1950.The Philippine Military Aid to the UN Act” or Republic Act 573 is passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives. The law makes possible the deployment of Filipino combat troops to fight in the defense of the Republic of Korea as part of the United Nations Command (UNC).

7 September 1950. Pres. Quirino signs Republic Act 573 into law. 

19 September 1950. The Philippines’ 10th Battalion Combat Team (BCT) arrives at Korea after a four-day voyage by sea. It is the first of five BCTs collectively called the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK) that will serve in Korea until 1955. The Philippines is the first Asian country and the third Member State of the United Nations to send combat troops to the Korean War.

11 November 1950. The 10th BCT defeats two battalions of the North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) at the towns of Miudong and Singye in North Korea. The Battle of Miudong is the first battle won by the Philippines on foreign soil.

26 November 1950. The People’s Republic of China enters the Korean War. Its “Chinese People’s Volunteer Army” (CPV) again attacks and finally hurls the advancing UNC out of North Korea. Amid appalling winter conditions, the UNC succeeds in withdrawing south and escapes the CPV.

22 January 1951. In his Third State of the Nation address, Pres. Quirino said the Philippines was affirming its commitment to Democracy with its involvement in the Korean War.

"Arms without valor, however powerful, are useless weapons. Valor can be aroused only by a righteous cause. This we have, and we are pledged to fight for it and if need be to die for it. We are doing that right now even beyond our borders. We are increasing our forces for this cause--the cause of innocent free men, women, and children in our midst and everywhere, ravished and destroyed by the agents of a foreign foe bent on world domination."

23 April 1951. Massively outnumbered, the 10th BCT with only 900 men withstands the night attack of an entire Chinese army of 40,000 men at the Battle of Yuldong in North Korea. This great Filipino victory helps deny the communists the decisive victory that would have ended the Korean War with their complete conquest of the Republic of Korea and the destruction of the UNC.

Filipinos in South Korea commemorate the great Battle of Yuldong

5 September 1951. The 20th BCT relieves the 10th BCT, which returns to the Philippines covered in glory as “The Fighting Tenth.”
1Lt Fidel Ramos in Korea

21 May 1952. The 20th BCT again seizes Hill Eerie, a strategic observation post that proves invaluable to PEFTOK in the coming battles against the CPV. One of the many assaults on this bloody hill is led by 1Lt Fidel Ramos, who will become President of the Philippines from 1992 to 1998.

10 June 1952. The first contingent of the 19th BCT deploys to Korea. The entire battalion rotates to Korea a few weeks later.

21 June 1952. The 19th BCT emerges victorious after a fierce four-day battle to defend Hill 191 and Hill Eerie. This gory “Battle for Combat Outpost No. 8" inflicts heavy losses on the Chinese. Triumphant Filipinos plant the National Flag on the summit of Hill 191 to proclaim their victory over the Chinese. 

THE PEFTOK HILLS. Men of the 19th BCT observe the God-forsaken hills on which so much Filipino blood was shed by the 20th BCT, 19th BCT and 14th BCT.

26 March 1953. The 14th BCT takes over the PEFTOK colors in Korea.

15 June 1953. The “Battle of Christmas Hill” ends in victory for the 14th BCT. It is one of the last battles and UNC victories in the Korean War.

27 July 1953. The Armistice ending fighting in the Korean War goes into effect. The 14th BCT reverts to peacekeeping and reconstruction work in its area of operations.

19 April 1954. Arrival of the 2nd BCT in Korea. The battalion trains in new weapons and combat techniques. It extends peacekeeping and reconstruction work while providing humanitarian aid to South Koreans.

6 June 1955. The last PEFTOK men belonging to the 2nd BCT return to the Philippines. The PEFTOK colors are furled for the final time.

The United Nations' emblem


(Entire website again updated 5 January 2014.)

(Website first entirely updated 2 December 2009. Based on data in my original PEFTOK website at first placed online in April 2000. Yahoo! Geocities shut down in October 2009.) 

This website protected by the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.


  1. Good afternoon, Mr. Villasanta.

    Is there a way one can get your late father's book? PEFTOK isn't exactly the most covered subject of the Korean War, and his work would be a huge addition to anyone's library.

    Thank you.

  2. My father's book has been out of print for the past 60 years. He printed only a few copies of the book since he couldn't afford to pay for more copies.

    I am trying my best to re-publish my father's book and am working on it now. My resources are very limited, however, and you might have to wait for some time before I can re-publish Dateline Korea: Stories of the Philippine Battalion.

    I will send you a copy once I finish the book, and can find someone to publish it.


  3. Good day Sir,
    i m alejandro a.cadungog jr my father was the late alejandro v.cadungog sr ( of looc, malabuyoc cebu ) was a member of 10 bct peftok that was sent to korea septeber 1950 .do you have the list of the 10 bct members ? ( officers and enlisted men ) .my father was born may 3, 1929 and he served the 3 branches of the armed forces of the philippines from army to philippines constabulary then the last was philippine air force( assigned to 301st intelligence group under Col.Luat) 1957 he was sent to laos ,southvietnam for covert operations.Unfortunaely he died at the age of 36 was killed in an ambushed on the way to than sohnout airport ( SOUTH VIETNAM ) on january 31st 1968 during the tet offensive. Can u send me Dateline Korea : Stories of the Philippine battalion. just advice me how much the amount needed im willing to buy this precious book .thanks and best rdgs @
    God Bless
    My address; alejandro a.cadungogjr.
    104-b sitio pinaghi -usa
    zone 6 barangay san isidro,talisay city

  4. Your father was truly a hero who served his country in two wars and was killed in action helping the South Vietnamese.

    My father's book is no longer in print, so I cannot send you a copy much as I would like to.

    I am trying to find a publisher but have not found one.

    God Bless You and your loved ones.

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  7. sir does your book titled "dateline korea: stories of the philippine battalion contains the heroic deeds of LT LEOPOLDO B REGIS? thank you sir

  8. sir please leave a comment regarding the heroic deeds of lt regis.... thanks

  9. Hello Mr Villasanta. I am looking for information about the participation of my late uncle to these Phil forces in Korea. His full name is Anselmo Araña Villablanca. Would you have the list of the names of all the Filipino soldiers who took part in this war? Would love to read them to my children, nephews and grandchildren of my uncle..

    1. You can call the PEFTOK Veterans Association at 911-25-79 for the list. You have to tell them what BCT your uncle served in.

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  11. Good morning sir Villasanta ,
    I'm glee my father is Ret.Captn Jose B. Esteban he is a Korean Veteran can you send me a pictures of the soldiers that fight for Korea? I just want to have my father's memories to Honor him and recognize him.
    Thank you for your kindness

    my email is

    1. Hi, Glee. I don't know what your father looks like so I can't tell if he's in any of the 10th BCT photos I have. What BCT did he serve in?