Saturday, December 12, 2009


Men of the 10th BCT on the march in Korea.

ON SEPTEMBER 19, 1950, barely three months after North Korea’s invasion of South Korea, the Philippines’ 10th Battalion Combat Team (Motorized) landed at the port of Pusan in southeastern Korea.

The 10th BCT was the first of five Philippine "Battalion Combat Teams" that would serve under the United Nations Command (UNC) in Korea. With its 1,400 officers and men, the 10th BCT was the third UNC ground combat unit to enter the Korean War after the Americans and the British.

It was also the first combat unit from an Asian country to land in Korea. Thailand's combat contingent reached Korea two months after ours.

The Philippines was one of 16 UN member states whose troops saw combat in the Korean War. These countries, led by the United States, added their strengths to those of the armed forces of the Republic of Korea (ROK) to preserve South Korea’s freedom against the communist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the People’s Republic of China (PROC).

The UNC combatants included Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. Excluding the United States and the ROK, casualties among the 15 other UNC combatants totaled over 3,000 killed in action and close to 14,000 wounded and missing in action.

Four more UN member states (Denmark, India, Norway and Sweden) provided medical and humanitarian aid during the war. Italy, although not a UN member then, provided a hospital.

General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was commander-in-chief of the UNC. Gen. MacArthur was the man who built the pre-war Philippine Army, and was appointed Field Marshall of the Philippine Army by Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon. Noted for his affection for Filipinos, Gen. MacArthur led the American and Filipino forces that defeated the Japanese in the Philippines in World War II.

14th BCT men fraternize with Turkish soldiers.

Five Philippine Army BCTs totaling some 7,420 officers and men served in Korea from 1950 to 1955 as the PHILIPPINE EXPEDITIONARY FORCE to KOREA or PEFTOK.

Taken together, these BCTs constituted the Regimental Combat Team promised by the Philippine government in August 1950 to the United Nations war effort. PEFTOK was the fourth largest combat force in the UNC.

PEFTOK consisted of these units:

  • 10th Battalion Combat Team (Motorized)
  • 20th Battalion Combat Team (Motorized)
  • 19th Battalion Combat Team (Motorized)
  • 14th Battalion Combat Team
  • 2nd Battalion Combat Team

These battalions acquitted themselves well in battle. Not one PEFTOK battalion was overrun or made incapable of combat as a result of enemy action despite many hard fought battles. PEFTOK fought successfully against its main enemy— the brave and skilful soldiers of the “Chinese People’s Volunteer Army”  (CPV)—in scores of actions for hills, cities and towns along the 38th Parallel dividing North and South Korea.

The Philippines was unique among UN combatants since it was the only one whose soldiers had immediate combat experience against the Communists. A good number of our men who served in Korea had also fought against the Imperial Japanese Army, either as regular soldiers or guerillas.

The combat savvy of all five BCTs kept their casualties low, and allowed them to accomplish their combat missions despite Chinese tactical skill and numerical superiority.

Officers of the 20th BCT.

The 10th, 20th, 19th and 14th BCTs fought in the Korean War with the 14th BCT seeing the last shots fired in the war. The 14th, however, along with the 2nd BCTs also saw service of a different kind.

These battalions were engaged in Peacekeeping and reconstruction work following the signing of the truce ending the Korean War on 27 July 1953. The truce was signed at Panmunjom, a village in western Korea along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea.

The price the Philippines paid to defend South Korea included 112 Filipinos killed; 313 wounded and 61 taken prisoner, of whom 16 remain missing-in-action to this day and are probably dead.

All PEFTOK battalions were attached to larger Allied units, mainly American, during their tours of duty in Korea. Relations with these “mother units” were neighborly, especially with the Americans, who governed the Philippines for 48 years until 1946. PEFTOK and the Philippine Army were trained in American tactical doctrine. Its equipment was almost all of American origin (rifles, machine guns, helmets, artillery, tanks, grenades).

19th BCT gunners man an M45 Quadmount or Quad 50 machine gun on an M3 halftrack.

A number of Filipino officers trained in American military schools such as West Point, and in specialist schools such as those for armor. That PEFTOK officers generally spoke, read and wrote English well averted miscommunication problems that proved fatal in the front line to some UNC contingents for whom English was not a second language.

Americans officers headed the multinational UNC and, in the main, were responsible for the broad conduct of the war. The United States contributed the dominant share of UNC military power and suffered the most among foreign combatants.

Some 1.6 million Americans served in the war, suffering some 34,000 killed in action (54,000 killed from all causes) and over 100,000 wounded in action. President Harry Truman officially described the Korean War as a “police action” in order to skirt a provision in the Constitution that vested the right to declare war only in the Congress of the United States.

South Korean boys begging for food


  1. Our involvement in the Korean conflict must be a mandated reading for Filipino students. I hope that we can interest a US national media to give coverage to the Philppines' contribution, as well as other countries, to the Korean confliet.

  2. I have good news for you. Some of our history text books for high school students are now being re-written to include portions that dwell on the Korean War.

    These new history books will be distributed to students in the next few years.

    The Korean War remains today as it was since the 1950s, The Forgotten War, since it is consistently overlooked in history books.

    We need a documentary or movie about the Philippines role in the Korean War but I seriously doubt if anyone wants to produce these films.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    PEFTOK video

  5. My uncle Filemon C. Palacios was one of the enlisted men of the 10th BCT, however, his name has been misspelled in the Korean War Memorials both in South Korea and in the Philippines.

  6. do you have a listing of the PEFTOK veterans. I believe my uncle Anselmo Araña Villablanca is one of them. Email me if you have info at

  7. I salute those men who fought for the freedom of others so that their nation would not perish. "Lest we forget." "All gave some, some gave all. "