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.

“POOR AS WE ARE . . .”

The ruins of Manila in 1945, five years before the Philippines chose to defend South Korea in the Korean War.

THE PHILIPPINES joined the Korean War despite having to contend with a communist-led rebellion and an economy crippled by the immense destruction wrought by the Second World War.

The Philippine Army had nine out of its 10 Battalion Combat Teams (BCTs) and its lone artillery battalion fighting the communist-led Hukbalahap or Huks when the 10th BCT was selected as the first Korea bound combat unit on 23 August 1950. Together with other military units such as the Philippine Constabulary (the national police force), the government was holding the line against the Huks with some 25,000 men.

The BCTs were highly mobile, compact and self-supporting battalion-size fighting units designed to operate independently of each other in their territories. They were organized specifically as anti-guerilla units and were successful in this role.
Pres. Elpidio Quirino

After World War 2, the Huks launched a rebellion aimed at overthrowing the democratically elected Philippine government and replacing it with a Marxist-Leninist state. The Huks had an armed strength of some 11,000 men in 1949, and many of their men were veterans of the guerilla war against the Japanese. The Hukbalahap, an acronym for the “Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon” (the Anti-Japanese People’s Army), was probably the most potent of all Filipino guerilla units in the war.

The strict discipline of its guerillas; the mobility and hitting power of its “squadrons” (units of 100 or more men) and the widespread support of civilians in Central Luzon allowed the Huks to inflict significant losses on the Japanese.

During the American campaign against the Japanese in 1945, the Huks assisted the US Army in freeing towns and provinces in Central Luzon from the Japanese. In Tarlac, they raised both the Philippine and American flags after liberating the provincial capital. The Huk leadership took a Marxist-Leninist bent following widespread (and probably misguided) government suppression of the movement after the war.

The Huks had superior knowledge of the terrain in North and Central Luzon, the main theaters of the guerilla war. They could also count on the support of a mass base of peasants and farmers alienated from the government by chronic landlord abuses, grinding poverty, bureaucratic neglect and military atrocities, particularly those committed by the Military Police and Civilian Guards. By 1952, the high watermark of their rebellion, the Huks had an active and armed strength of more than 170,000 men and women and a mass base of over two million people. The Huks were finally defeated by a combination of battlefield losses and a dwindling mass base in 1955.

Elpidio Quirino, Philippine President in 1950, said the Philippines was sending its men to fight in Korea in fulfillment of the country’s obligation as a co-signer of the United Nations Charter. There was another, deeper reason for committing the Philippines’ limited military power to a foreign war. Korea was 1,600 miles away and a communist victory would probably have been a severe blow to the Philippines’ campaign against the ascendant Huks.

“Poor as we are, this country is making a great sacrifice in sending you there (Korea), but every peso invested in you is a sound investment for the perpetuation of our liberty and freedom,” said Quirino to Filipinos who attended the farewell rally for the 10th BCT on 2 September 1950 at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum in Manila.

1Lt Tommy Quirino, Pres. Quirino's son,
fought in the Korean War.
And the Philippines was poor. The national government was almost bankrupt in 1950, relying heavily on aid from the United States and reparations from Japan to stay afloat and to rebuild an economy shattered by the Second World War. Damage to industries was estimated at some P600 million while a further P800 million in assets were destroyed.

The government was also plagued by massive bureaucratic corruption that, in 1950, siphoned off more than P1 billion in badly needed foreign aid. Despite these daunting realities, the Philippines committed its meager armed strength to aid Korea, and also offered to send combat troops to Nationalist China to deter a feared Communist Chinese invasion.

Beginning a tradition of service to humanity
PEFTOK began the Philippines’ noble tradition of providing military or humanitarian aid to nations in need.

Since the Korean War, the Philippines has sent its soldiers, police and medical personnel to aid United Nations missions around the world. Filipinos were in the Vietnam War as the Philippine Civic Action Group (PHILCAG) that served in Tay Ninh province in South Vietnam and in Cambodia, among others.

As of April 2010, the Philippines was the world’s 24th largest contributing country to UN peacekeeping operations. Over 1,000 Filipino soldiers and policemen serve in eight countries as members of the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). Of the total number of Filipino peacekeepers, some 650 are from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and 410 from the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Among the countries and regions where Filipinos have kept the peace are Afghanistan, Burundi, Cambodia, The Congo, Cote d’ Ivoire, Darfur, Georgia, the Golan Heights, Haiti, Iraq, Liberia, Kashmir,  Kosovo, Nepal, Sudan and Timor-Leste.

The Philippines will also expand its role in UN peacekeeping operations in coming years with the acquisition of more equipment for its security forces and by deploying more Filipinos abroad to support UN peacekeeping operations.

Remembering our heroes of the Korean War
Memory fails over time. Monuments exist so the memories of past greatness live on despite our frail human memories. Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, the Philippines has undertaken three other great efforts to enshrine the memories of its men who fought so valiantly in that war:

* ON 4 AUGUST 2000, Pres. Joseph Estrada issued Presidential Proclamation No. 353 declaring September 7 and every year thereafter “Korean War Veterans of the Philippines Memorial Day.”

* ON 25 JUNE 2005, the Marikorea Monument was unveiled at Marikina Heights, Marikina City. A project of the PEFTOK Veterans Association, Inc. (PVAI) and its President, the late BGen Bienvenido R. Castro, the Marikorea Monument and the “Korean War Memorial Pylon” at the "Libingan ng mga Bayani" honor our soldiers who served in Korea from 1950 to 1955.
The Marikorea Monument.

The word “Marikorea” was coined from the words Marikina and Korea. Before deploying to Korea, all five PEFTOK BCTs trained extensively for mountain combat in Marikina, whose rolling hills and rugged terrain resembled that of Korea. Castro said the Marikorea Monument filled a decades-old yearning by Korean War veterans for a monument to call their own.

Standing some 20-feet tall, the monument is crowned by an eternal flame atop a granite pylon. Inscribed on metal plaques in the monument’s base is the history of the Philippines’ participation in the Korean War and unit histories of the five BCTs that served in Korea, all of which I wrote.

* ON 29 MARCH 2012, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III inaugurated the "PEFTOK Korean War Memorial Hall" (PKWMH). Located insided the "Philippine-Korea Friendship Center" along Bayani Road inside Fort Bonifacio, PKWMH houses the Philippines' first Museum dedicated to the Philippines' role in the Korean War.

It also consists of a library; auditorium; a roof deck and offices for the Museum staff and PVAI.

I am proud to have written, laid out and provided the pictures for the history of the Philippines' role in the Korean War printed on all the large floor panels and part of the wall panels at the Museum.

PKWMH stands on a 5,000 square meter prime lot donated by the Philippines. South Korea provided funds to build the entire complex inside the Friendship Center. An HRD Center operated by the Philippine government located inside the Friendship Center trains Filipinos for employment in South Korea.

The PEFTOK Korean War Memorial Hall

The Department of National Defense and the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office took charge of the Philippines’ role in building the Friendship Center. The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) was responsible for the South Korean contribution. South Korean firms began work on building the Friendship Center in 2010.

The Memorandum of Agreement that gave rise to the Friendship Center was signed in May 2009 by former Ambassador Choi Joong-Kyung, former Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro, Jr. and the late BGen Victorino Azada, former PVAI President.

Filipino veterans of the Korean War and World War II and visitors tour the PEFTOK Korean War Museum.

* PVAI ALSO PUBLISHED TWO souvenir programs that were, in effect, mini-histories of PEFTOK and the Philippines’ involvement in the Korean War. I was honored to have been chosen to develop, edit and layout both magazines: the first published in September 2006 and the next in September 2008 to mark Korean War Veterans of the Philippines Memorial Day.

The names of all Filipino soldiers who served in Korea from 1950 to 1955 are printed on panels at the Museum.

The first was named “Honoring Democracy’s Forgotten Heroes” while the second carried the title, Significant Filipino Battles of the Korean War.”

PEFTOK Veterans Association, Inc. 
The PEFTOK Veterans Association, Inc. (PVAI) is the only organization of our Korean War veterans.

The main objective of PVAI since its founding on July 23, 1959 remains true to this day: to uplift, through self-reliance, the economic well-being of all PEFTOK veterans, their widows, orphans and dependents.

PVAI’s other objectives are the preservation and maintenance of the PEFTOK Scholarship 
Program for the descendants of PEFTOK veterans, and further enhancing the close relationship between Filipino and Korean war veterans and the local Korean community.

The Republic of Korea funds the “Revisit Korea Program” (begun in 1975) that allows veterans and their families and descendants to return to visit the Republic of Korea.

PVAI's office is located inside Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City. Its phone number is 911-2579. Its email is


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


No place to fight a war: the dangerous mountains, hills and valleys of Korea.

THE WAR IN KOREA, according to my late father, Johnny Villasanta, was easy to describe. It involved charging up one hill, up another, up the next and the next one after that. Of course, he was oversimplifying but any Korean War veteran will probably tell you the same thing.

War in Korea was essentially mountain warfare. This fact was dictated by Korea’s geography: three quarters mountainous with only a fifth of the land arable or flat. Eastern Korea is dominated by towering mountain ranges that run in an almost north to south direction.

Most major cities, including Seoul (capital of South Korea) and Pyongyang (capital of North Korea), are in the western, less mountainous part of the country and within easy reach of the coast. The few major highways during the war were mostly in western Korea and ran through valleys dominated by hills and mountains.

The battles in this war show a consistent effort by both sides to seize and hold high ground. High ground enabled one side to outflank his enemy; to rain shells on him at leisure or to deny him mobility. In this war as in World Wars 1 and 2, possession of higher ground could destroy or save the lives of thousands of men.

And there was the Korean weather: as hot as the Philippines during the dry season, just as rainy but terribly cold during winter, a season the Philippines doesn’t have. The winter of 1950, the year the 10th BCT served in Korea, was the coldest in two centuries with temperatures falling to below minus 30 degrees Centigrade.

Despite this sub-arctic climate, the “Chinese People’s Volunteer Army" (CPV) entered the war, triggering a series of bloody battles in the snow that led to the UNC defeat at the Yalu River.

The men of PEFTOK acclimatized as best as they could to the painful winter cold but not as quickly as the Americans or other contingents whose countries had a winter season. Since the Philippines is without snow, Filipino soldiers had to contend with winter related afflictions such as frostbite and chilblains that were totally alien to their experience.

PEFTOK men of the 19th BCT in parkas are protected against the bitter cold.

My father related an incident in which he and some men of the 10th BCT were on a truck making its way behind the front. Winter had just set in and the Filipinos in the truck were bundled in thick parkas, jackets and blankets. They passed a group of American artillerymen playing football. Some of these boys had taken off their jackets.

Some were naked from the waist up; others were wearing shirts or undershirts. On seeing the shivering Filipinos, one GI yelled something like: “What’s the matter? Can’t stand a little cold?” The other GIs burst out laughing.

The defeat of the NKPA
When the 10th BCT shipped to Korea on 15 September 1950, the situation at the war front was taking a decisive and dramatic turn in favor of the UNC.

Outwardly, the UNC remained penned inside the “Pusan Perimeter,” a 140-mile long last ditch defense line it had doggedly defended against the North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) since early August. While keeping the NKPA at bay, the UNC continued to receive reinforcements (mainly American) by sea through the port city of Pusan.

The UNC would probably have lost Pusan in the first few days of the war if an alert warship of the ROK Navy hadn’t sunk the troopship carrying the NKPA battalion assigned to capture Pusan.

The first non-American UNC combat contingent arrived in August: the British 27th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade from Hong Kong consisting of units from Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand. By September when our 10th BCT arrived and became the third UN combat unit to land in Korea, the UNC had gained a numerical superiority over the NKPA in men and a huge superiority in artillery and tanks. The UNC had complete air supremacy.

US Marines retake Seoul after the Inch'on landings.

Uncoordinated attacks by the NKPA against the Pusan Perimeter continued to fail against a strengthening defense. On the other hand, massive UNC shelling inflicted growing casualties on the attacking NKPA while unremitting air strikes pummeled reinforcements and supplies along supply routes extending back to North Korea, which was also repeatedly bombed.

September 15, the day the 10th left Manila Bay, saw heavy fighting along the length of the Pusan Perimeter. The fighting diverted the attention of the NKPA away from a greater danger to their rear. That morning, the US X Corps (two divisions) made a surprise amphibious landing at the port city of Inch’on on the Yellow Sea.

Inch’on, 25 miles west of Seoul and behind the NKPA lines, was considered an unlikely location for an amphibious assault as its 30 foot tides were the second highest in the world. It was precisely for this reason that MacArthur chose it as the site for his boldest military gamble.

Pushing rapidly eastward, the Americans cut the communications of all 14 NKPA divisions attacking the Pusan Perimeter and re-took Seoul on 29 September. The tide of battle was quickly turned and the NKPA divisions besieging Pusan trapped. On 16 September, the US Eighth Army burst out of the Pusan Perimeter and scattered the NKPA divisions facing them after hard fighting. The NKPA fled. By the end of September, the NKPA ceased to exist as an organized fighting force in South Korea.

Only some 30,000 of the 135,000 men in the NKPA that invaded South Korea on 25 June scrambled back home, mainly by way of the rugged eastern mountains. More than 30,000 NKPA regulars, however, were left behind in the south by the rapid NKPA retreat.

Some of these filtered back northwards; others deserted while still others opted to continue fighting as guerillas. On 27 September, US President Harry Truman gave MacArthur permission to cross into North Korea to destroy remnants of the NKPA.

Refugees. South Koreans flee the fighting.

Communist Chinese intervention
The possibility of an end to the Korean War in 1950, however, was counterbalanced by the grim prospect of Communist Chinese intervention. A continuation of the UNC advance into North Korea brought both major UNC commands, the US Eighth Army in western Korea and the US X Corps in eastern Korea, closer to the North Korean border with the communist People’s Republic of China (PROC).

One Chinese source said it was the threat that this advance posed to the integrity of the PROC (established only in 1949 after a brutal civil war) that decided the PROC in favor of intervention in Korea. On 2 October, Mao Zedong told Josef Stalin the PROC would fight in Korea. The day before, the UNC captured Wonsan, North Korea’s only major port on the east coast.

On 8 October, the “Chinese People’s Volunteer Army" (CPV), consisting of some 80,000 men drawn from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), prepared to enter North Korea in secrecy. Eleven days later, the CPV began crossing the Yalu River into North Korea undetected by the UNC. More than 200,000 Chinese quietly moved into positions in North Korea opposite the UNC.

On 24 October, MacArthur ordered his commanders to advance as rapidly as possible towards the Yalu River separating North Korea from China. The next day saw the UNC meet the CPV in battle for the first time. In the next week, the CPV smashed a South Korean regiment that had reached the Yalu River and mauled a regiment of the US 1st Cavalry Division during attacks delivered in sub-zero weather.

The Chinese continued to attack until 6 November when they quickly broke contact, having delivered their message that any further UNC advance northward would be met with force. Some 30,000 Chinese in the CPV 39th Army were involved in what they called their “First Phase Offensive.”

Undeterred by the punitive CPV attack, the UNC launched its “Home for Christmas” offensive on 25 November. After some progress, the UNC was violently counterattacked the next day by the CPV, an event that marked Communist China’s undeniable entry into the war.

Both the US 2nd and 25th Infantry Divisions were attacked and hurled back by the Chinese “volunteers” in a four-day battle. The US Eighth Army (including PEFTOK) began to retreat in the west pursued by the CPV XIII Army Group (130,000-200,000 men in 18 divisions). The US X Corps in the east withdrew under heavy pressure from the CPV IX Army Group (120,000 men in 12 divisions).

By year-end, the UNC was forced out of North Korea. Seoul was lost to the CPV on 3 January 1951 but the UNC withdrawal stopped at the line of the 37th Parallel. The UNC’s military strength at the start of the New Year stood at close to 500,000 men of whom 270,000 were South Korean. Ranged against them were some 250,000 Chinese and over 100,000 North Koreans. More than 1,000,000 Chinese troopers were stationed in reserve near the Yalu River.

"As close as lips and teeth." Communist Chinese soldiers defend North Korea.

The Chinese fighting man
The bitter first defeats at the hands of the CPV had shown the UNC just how good the Chinese soldier was at his trade. Without tanks, little heavy artillery and no air support, the CPV had taken on a mechanized enemy with tremendous firepower and had defeated it, but at heavy cost.

Many of the men in the CPV were veterans of the wars against the Japanese and the Nationalist Chinese. They had won both wars and a number of the CPV divisions that fought in Korea had a tradition of victory on the battlefield. Their commanders were experts in guerilla warfare but had, however, no experience fighting a modern army such as the UNC.

Chinese divisions generally consisted of 10,000 men with three divisions generally comprising an army. The men of the CPV were mostly tough, disciplined and brave. It was not uncommon for them to march 18 miles a night on snow covered mountains and hills and be fit to fight afterwards. UNC air supremacy meant that the CPV did its marching at night, as did the German Army in the Normandy campaign during World War 2.

PEFTOK fought many hard battles against the CPV. After the Battle of Yuldong, one trooper from the 10th said that the Chinese “fight like devils.” My father described them as tough soldiers who really knew how to fight. “Matigas. Magaling lumaban,” (“They’re tough. They know how to fight”) are words my father used to describe the Chinese soldier. Our soldiers called the Chinese enemy “Insik” (the Filipino word for Chinese) or “Reds”.

During an offensive, the Chinese preferred night attacks and were masters at night fighting.  All their major offensives in Korea were launched at night, including their Great Spring Offensive in April 1951 that brought about the Battle of Yuldong. Night attacks not only allowed the CPV to exploit its skills in this type of fighting, but also limited the effectiveness of UNC artillery and air power.

In an attack, the CPV consistently sought to turn the enemy’s flanks and surround him. The trapped enemy units were then chopped up and destroyed. The CPV tended to avoid frontal attacks although western media accounts at the time fostered the myth of the Chinese “human wave” attacks that sacrificed hundreds of men in vain frontal assaults.

The CPV had excellent pre-attack reconnaissance and also took pains to learn as much as possible about the UNC units facing them. The British related incidents during which the Chinese (using loudspeakers) welcomed by name their units newly arrived at the front line.

A heavy mortar or artillery barrage followed by infiltration and infantry assault was the normal pattern of a standard CPV night attack. The first wave generally consisted of grenadiers who hurled hundreds of “stick” grenades at front line enemy positions. Infantry armed with submachine guns and rifles then rushed the enemy in waves, aiming to pierce his flanks or the links between units.

In the attack the Chinese preferred using “concussion grenades” that stunned the defenders and were less dangerous to their attacking troops because of fewer shrapnel. High explosive fragmentation stick grenades were used mainly in defense because of their greater killing power.

The CPV, however, was poorly armed and went to battle with a variety of weapons. A favorite weapon was the 72-round Type 50 submachine gun, a Chinese-made copy of the reliable Russian-made PPSh submachine gun proven in World War 2.

Their rifles and machine guns were mostly Russian, Japanese and American. The American weapons were captured from the Nationalist Chinese. This multiplicity of the CPV's weapons complicated re-supply.

As for uniforms, the CPV fought in a quilted uniform heavily padded against the cold. This uniform was colored brown on one side and white on the other. They had practically no special winter clothing such as parkas or heavy jackets and thus suffered more from Korea’s harsh winters than their UNC opponents. The Chinese soldier did not wear helmets in battle but wore thick cotton caps with large earflaps.

Another great weakness of the CPV was its scarcity of supplies and its primitive communications that relied on runners, signal flags, gongs, bugles and whistles. Chinese sources reveal that CPV soldiers normally carried rations, ammunition and grenades for one week’s hard fighting.

A severely limited supply capability also forced the CPV into a “five days to fight and 10 days to replenish” schedule. This crippling lack of supplies was a factor in many of the CPV’s defeats in the war.

In January 1951, two months after the CPV entered the war, the UNC discovered that the CPV had the resources for about two weeks’ intensive campaigning. The UNC response was to immediately counterattack after it detected a loss of offensive momentum by the CPV.

 "Machine gun artillery." The cartridge case of the 50,000th artillery round fired by the Field Artillery Battery of the 19th BCT is presented to Battalion CO Col Ramon Aguirre. PEFTOK FA batteries were famous in the United Nations Command for delivering rapid and accurate artillery fire. They were each armed with six 105 mm M2 howitzers made in the USA.

Leveling the battlefield
The massive UNC superiority in firepower, especially in artillery, literally “leveled” the battlefield in favor of the UNC. Overwhelming firepower also offset the general UNC disadvantage in combat experience.

Most ROK soldiers, American GIs and UNC troops were “green” conscripts or reservists hastily committed to the war. As can be expected of green troops, they found the going hard at first and suffered accordingly. The Chinese considered the Americans especially vulnerable in night combat.

Throughout the war, the UNC sought to inflict maximum casualties on the CPV during its withdrawals, and evaded CPV offensives by fighting delaying actions. The UNC relied on its firepower and air power to destroy CPV manpower while minimizing its own casualties.

During The Big Bug Out, American artillery fired more than 50,000 rounds a day to fend off the advancing CPV. To this incredible expenditure of metal was added thousands of tons of bombs and missiles dropped by UNC attack and bomber aircraft, mainly American, on CPV positions at the front and rear.

American bombers killed Mao Anying, son of Mao Zedong, on 25 November 1950 in Pyongyang when they obliterated his artillery unit then on its way to the front. Captured Chinese soldiers said UNC air power was the weapon most feared by the CPV.

Americans and South Koreans
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 casualties among foreign combatants.

Of the 1.6 million Americans who served in the war, close to 34,000 were killed in action while over 100,000 were wounded in action. More than 20,000 other Americans were killed by friendly fire or died from other causes.

President Harry Truman, however, officially described the Korean War as a “police action” to skirt a provision in the United States’ Constitution that vested the right to declare war—and thus the right to commit US troops to combat overseas—only in the U.S. Congress. The United States did not declare war on North Korea.

The brunt of the fighting, however, was borne by the infantry divisions of the Republic of Korea (ROK). The ROK provided more than half the UNC’s military manpower and paid the heaviest price. More than 200,000 South Korean soldiers gave their lives to defend their country. South Korean military casualties are estimated to range from 600,000 to 800,000 men and may have approached 1,000,000 men.

Poorly led, poorly armed and poorly trained at the start of the war, the men of the ROK infantry divisions (mainly young conscripts) bore the weight of the NKPA invasion and the CPV intervention.

"Easy meat" early on. Republic of Korea Army soldiers.

Only 90,000 lightly armed and partly trained South Korean soldiers without tanks, pitiful artillery support and no air power stood up to the surprise NKPA invasion on the early morning of 25 June 1950. South Korean accounts note with sorrow that entire regiments were destroyed in the uneven fight against the more than 135,000 NKPA that attacked South Korea without warning.

The NKPA used over 120 Russian-made T-34/85 tanks, an excellent World War 2 medium tank, to crush South Korea’s thin defenses. South Korean accounts report cases of incredible heroism by individual South Korean soldiers who, clutching explosives, hurled themselves against the T-34s. These men selflessly ignited the explosives, destroying themselves and the tanks in the process.

Despite inadequate equipment and indifferent leadership, the South Korean army fought in all the war’s major battles. ROK divisions were the hardest hit in all the CPV’s five offensives—the CPV saw them as the weak link in the UNC lines and “easy meat.”

Their inability to resist the early Chinese offensives from 1950 to 1951, however, gave the CPV an advantage in morale during the first year of the conflict. According to one South Korean source, the CPV’s early victories led the South Koreans to consider the Chinese as “mysterious supermen” incapable of being defeated.

The superiority in morale gained by the CPV over the ROK was overcome when the ROK stood up to the second phase of the CPV’s Great Spring Offensive in May 1951.

ROK divisions earned the respect of the CPV for their bravery and tenacity. One Chinese account said the CPV suffered greatly from the South Korean’s refusal to retire once an attack had been checked. Instead of retreating downhill as was the American’s custom, ROK infantry regrouped where they were stopped and resumed the attack. This tactic caused higher ROK casualties, but also inflicted higher casualties on the Chinese as well.

The ROK Army or “Yuk Gun” reached a peak strength of some 600,000 men during the war. Without the bravery and sacrifice of the South Korean soldier, the war would probably have turned for the worse.

The cost of conflict
The CPV suffered heavy losses because of its reliance on infantry power. Chinese casualties from 1950 to 1953 were estimated at more than 900,000 men by the UNC. Some western sources say the figure is more than a million.

The People’s Liberation Army, however, placed total CPV casualties at close to 400,000 men, of whom 110,000 were killed in action. Another 30,000 men died of wounds and sickness. NKPA losses, according to the UNC, exceeded 500,000 men.

Estimated UNC (including ROK) combat deaths range from 200,000 to 450,000 men. Over 80 per cent of this total were South Korean. More than 500,000 UNC and ROK soldiers were either wounded or listed as missing in action.

Civilian losses were enormous: upwards of 500,000 South Korean civilians were killed during the war. The number of North Korean civilians who died as a result of the war is harder to estimate, but published figures place this at from 1,000,000 to 3,000,000 persons.


Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK)
Motto: Steady . . . On

The Philippines’ only armored battalion, the 10th BCT (Motorized) landed at Pusan on the southeast coast of Korea on 19 September 1950 after a four-day voyage from the Philippines on board a US Navy troop transport.

The 10th was originally known as the 3rd Battalion Combat Team, a unit activated on 29 April 1949. The 3rd BCT was re-designated the 10th BCT (Motorized) in January 1950 to reflect its new role as the Philippines’ only armored battalion. It had a company of 29 American-made medium tanks (M4 Sherman) and another company of light tanks (M5 Stuart).

The 10th was chosen as the first PEFTOK battalion for Korea because the Philippine Army believed it admirably suited to the “slugging type” of conventional warfare in Korea. The battalion motto, “Steady . . . On,” referred to the tank crew practice of shouting the phrase, “Steady . . . On!” when aiming their tank cannon and machine guns at a target. Col. Mariano Azurin, the first commanding officer of the 10th, was a tank man trained at the US Army armor school in Kentucky.

The selection of the 10th BCT as the first to deploy to Korea was accompanied by a great deal of press publicity. The Korean War would be the first foreign war for the four-year old Republic of the Philippines, and Filipinos of that era saw it a great honor that the Philippines should fight to save democracy in a far-off country, despite having to contend with a serious communist insurrection of its own.

Press coverage of the 10th was so extensive Filipinos knew the oldest soldier in the battalion was 54 years old while the youngest was just 18. Daily English-language newspapers such as the Evening News, The Manila Times and The Philippine Herald assigned war correspondents to cover the battalion’s exploits in Korea.

The 10th BCT led by Col Mariano Azurin parades at the Rizal Stadium before deploying to Korea.

At 9:00 a.m. on 2 September 1950, 60,000 Filipinos crammed the Rizal Stadium in Manila to watch the 10th BCT parade prior to its departure for Korea on 16 September.

Upon its arrival in Korea on 19 September, the battalion’s strength stood at some 1,400 officers and men. Its “teeth” consisted of three rifle companies, a medium tank company, a reconnaissance company equipped with light tanks and a field artillery battery.

Both tank companies arrived in Korea without tanks since the Americans had agreed to provide new tanks to replace the battalion’s 17 M4 Shermans and one M10 “Wolverine” tank destroyer sent to Korea prior to the battalion’s departure. These tanks, however, were destroyed during the UNC retreat to the Pusan Perimeter before the battalion got to use them in combat.

Men of the 10th first meet the South Koreans, mostly children and orphans.

In the event, only Recon Company received tanks (M24 Chaffee) during the battalion’s 13 months in Korea. The tankless Tank Company was reorganized into a Heavy Weapons Company, becoming a highly decorated unit that won fame at the Battle of Yuldong in April 1951.

10th BCT tank crew and their M24 "Chaffee" light tank mounting a 75 mm gun.

The 10th spent its first two weeks “in country” acclimatizing to the terrain, continuing unit training interrupted by its abrupt departure and taking in weapons and supplies. Bivouacked initially in the town of Miryang, 35 miles north of Pusan, the 10th was moved to other towns farther north and joined the war in the city of Waegwan. The battalion was first attached to the US 25th Infantry Division.

10th BCT Commanding Officers: Col Mariano Azurin; Col Dionisio Ojeda

Guerilla fighters
Preceded by its reputation as a battle hardened anti-guerilla unit, the battalion was first given the mission of hunting down North Korean guerillas interdicting the main supply route (MSR) of the United Nations Command (UNC). The battalion’s first area of operations, based on Waegwan, covered more than 800 square miles and harbored about 3,000 guerillas.

Filipino warrior in Korea armed with an M1 Garand semi-automatic rifle.

North Korean guerillas were mainly regular soldiers of the North Korean People’s Army (NKPA), well armed and with an excellent knowledge of the rugged terrain. These soldiers had taken to the hills either because it was their mission, or because they had decided to fight on after being cut off from their units by the victorious UNC advance into North Korea following the Inch’on Landings on September 15.

Anti-guerilla patrol prepares to move out.

In September 1950, the UNC estimated that there were 35,000 communist guerillas in South Korea disrupting UNC road and railroad communications and attacking UNC units behind the front line. At Waegwan, the 10th took the war to the guerillas but at a price in casualties. Pvt. Alipio Ceciliano was killed in a guerilla ambush along the Naktong River, the first Filipino killed-in-action in the Korean War. The battalion was deployed on anti-guerilla operations during the first six months of its tour in Korea.

War Correspondent Johnny Villasanta (right) with Col Mariano Aguilar of the 20th BCT in the ruins of Seoul, 1950.

On 31 October, advanced elements of the 10th crossed the 38th Parallel dividing North and South Korea, an event reported to the Filipino public by War Correspondent Johnny Villasanta, who accompanied the advanced unit. Villasanta was the first Filipino war correspondent in Korea.

The next day, the rest of the battalion moved further north to Pyongyang, capital of North Korea, and was given the mission of securing the MSR from Kaesong to Pyongyang and clearing the area of guerillas.

At the outskirts of the town of Miudong, the battalion fought its first pitched battle, this against a North Korean battalion, killing 50 while losing one man. "The Battle of Miudong” was the first battle fought, and won, by the Philippines on foreign soil.

In a bold raid on November 5, a five-man commando team led by Lt. Venancio “Bonny” Serrano captured 77 North Korean soldiers and sympathizers plus arms and ammunition. The "gung ho" Lt. Serrano was to earn a reputation for fearlessness that made him one of the most colorful Filipino soldiers in the Korean War.

Wounded 10th BCT trooper after the Battle of Miudong.

Bitter winter
The brutal winter of 1950 was the coldest in 200 years with temperatures well below zero. Despite this incredible cold, the 10th was without the heavy winter clothing that would allow its men to survive and fight in this arctic environment. This supply omission strained relations between Col. Azurin and the commanding officer of the American regiment to which the 10th was then attached. Azurin protested forcefully and was relieved of his command.

The incredibly brave
Lt. Bonny Serrano
The 10th was then fragmented, its companies being deployed to five widely separated towns. The battalion subsequently received its heavy winter gear but Col. Azurin was sent home and replaced by Col. Dionisio Ojeda.

The 10th was in this pitiful state when the Communist Chinese intervened in force. On November 25, the People’s Republic of China (PROC) sent more than 200,000 men in what it called the “Chinese People’s Volunteer Army” (CPV) against the UNC. Using speed and superior tactics, the lightly armed but combat hardened “volunteers” quickly defeated both the US Eighth Army and the US X Corps near the border of North Korea and China.

Plunging southward, the CPV re-took Pyongyang and Seoul within the year. The 10th retreated with the UNC in this harsh winter of defeat that men of the US Army derisively called “The Big Bug Out.”  The US defeat at the Battle of the Yalu ended its “Home for Christmas” campaign, and forced the US Army into the longest continual retreat in its history. As a rearguard unit, the 10th was one of the last UNC units to re-cross the 38th Parallel “the wrong way.”

The 10th BCT covers the retreat of the US Army after the communist Chinese intervened.

The battalion spent its first Christmas in Korea in the town of Suwon along the Han River. When the American-led UNC launched its counterattack in February 1951, the 10th went on the offensive as part of the US 3rd Infantry Division (Rock of the Marne), a unit that fought in Europe in both World Wars.

By this time, the CPV was spent, suffering heavy losses in men and materiel. It began a deliberate withdrawal towards its bases in North Korea to refit and replace casualties. In March and April, the 10th was in continuous action, capturing hill after hill from the Chinese. Now a front line fighting unit, the 10th pushed northward towards the 38th Parallel defeating Chinese counterattacks along the way.

By 14 April, the hard-driving 10th was the northernmost of all UNC units. The men were exhausted after close to two months of non-stop fighting but were in high morale. On the 17th, the 10th was stood down and reverted to the reserve of the US 65th Infantry Regiment (the famous “Borinqueneers”) composed of Puerto Ricans. The battalion was down to some 900 men. Most of its casualties, however, were non-battle in nature.

Men of the 10th prepare to attack a communist held hill.

The Battle of Yuldong
What we Filipinos commemorate as The Battle of Yuldong (formerly spelled Yultong) was part of the biggest battle of the Korean War. The CPV and NKPA had massed over 400,000 men for their “Great Spring Offensive” against the advancing UNC. It was the largest communist offensive of the Korean War.

When it launched its counterattack on 22 April, the CPV stood on ground of its own choosing. Again, the CPV had succeeded in massing its divisions unhindered, moving by night and hiding by day. Its fighting withdrawal, in which it had given up ground gained at a huge cost in men and materiel, had led the UNC into the jaws of a major counterattack.

UNC strategy at the time involved establishing “lines” across the breadth of the Korean peninsula. These lines were used as springboards for attack or as sanctuaries in defense. This strategy was made possible by the narrowness of the Korean peninsula, which is less than 200 miles across at its widest. A series of these lines, which ran west to east, were built at intervals across the peninsula.

The northernmost of these lines, called Line Kansas, was located about 10 to 14 miles north of the 38th Parallel. Line Kansas had two northward bulges called Lines Wyoming and Utah, making both lines the northernmost UNC positions and logical targets for any counterattack.

The 10th was rushed to reinforce Line Utah on 22 April amid positive signs of an imminent communist counterattack. The 10th defended a three-mile sector of the 40-mile long UNC front line in western Korea located above the Imjin River. It was still attached to the US 3rd Infantry Division.

Last photo of Battle of Yuldong heroes Capt Conrado Yap
 and 1Lt Jose Artiaga.

Arriving at the front on the morning of 22 April, the battalion quickly took over the forward positions of the 1st Battalion, US 65th Infantry Regiment, part of the US 3rd ID. The Filipinos began to improve their positions, digging more foxholes, siting machine guns and stringing more barbed wire. The 10th held a portion of the left shoulder of Line Utah astride Route 33, a major highway connecting Seoul to the city of Chorwon further north.

The Puerto Ricans of the US 65th Infantry Regiment, probably the best US infantry unit on the western front, dug in one of their battalion's on the 10th’s left flank. To the Puerto Rican’s left stood the British 29th Independent Infantry Brigade Group consisting of the Belgian battalion, the 1st Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles, the 1st Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers and the 1st Battalion of The Gloucestershire Regiment. These units were within the sector held by the 3rd US ID. Defending the left of the British was the ROK 1st Division, which also held the city of Munsan-ni, the western anchor of the UNC line.

A battalion of the Turkish Brigade, part of the US 25th Infantry Division, held the line to the right of the 10th. The battalions of this division were strung out to the right of the Turks as were the battalions of the US 24th Infantry Division. The US 3rd, 25th and 24th Infantry Divisions constituted the US I Corps defending the western sector of the UNC line. The US IX Corps held the right of US I Corps.

Opposite the 10th were the CPV 31st, 34th, 35th and 181st Divisions that were part of the CPV 12th Army. This army, which at full strength numbered some 40,000 men, formed part of the CPV III Army Group along with the CPV 15th and 60th Armies. More than 400,000 “volunteers” in 18 armies and 50,000 NKPA regulars were massed for their “Great Spring Offensive.” This formidable horde was supported by the heaviest concentration of Communist artillery yet seen in the war.

EPIC HEROISM. Some 900 Filipinos (identified as Fil 10 in the circle) repulse the attack of the communist Chinese 12th Army at the Battle of Yuldong while its UNC allies are quickly overrun by the tremendous Chinese "Great Spring Offensive."

The Filipinos set-up an Intelligence Outpost (IOP) some five kilometers forward of their front line to give advance warning of the impending Chinese attack. At about 8:30 pm, the IOP reported large numbers of Chinese leaving their positions and heading towards the battalion. The IOP then withdrew into the safety of the battalion’s positions. The Chinese reported by the IOP belonged to one of the four divisions comprising the CPV 12th Army that would become the battalion’s antagonists at Yuldong.

The Chinese opened their attack with a massive artillery barrage lasting over four hours in some of the three UNC sectors attacked. At 9:30 pm, the battalion’s Tank (Heavy Weapons) Company defending the left flank reported contact with the Chinese. Heavy fighting then broke out on the flank.

At  five minutes past midnight on 23 April, Sunday, the entire 10th BCT took the full impact of the Chinese assault. Baker Company defending the right was the first to be hit. After hammering the rest of the battalion’s positions with artillery, mortar and automatic weapons fire the Chinese charged the Filipino line to the noise of bugles, whistles and gongs.

They ran into a wall of fire thrown up by the 10th, hundreds of Chinese falling to the defenders. The battlefield was in chaos. Although heavily outnumbered, the men of Able, Tank, Recon and Baker Companies in the front line resisted furiously backed by their howitzers and mortars. The battalion’s front line remained unbroken.

Steady On!
Disaster, however, struck the UNC battalions on the 10th's flanks. The Chinese quickly overran the Turkish battalion, exposing the 10th's right, and began to encircle Baker Company defending that flank. The Puerto Rican battalion holding the 10th's left flank staggered under the massive assault, and while two companies withdrew fighting, the rest of the Puerto Ricans prevented the Chinese from rupturing their lines.

Amid a rapidly collapsing western front, the Filipinos and the Puerto Ricans held firm, denying the Chinese the quick victory they needed to crush the UNC.

Farther left, the British stood up to the first Chinese assaults. After an initial repulse at the hands of the Gloucestershire battalion on the left of the British position, however, the Chinese forced a crossing of the Imjin River at Korangpo-ri. The Chinese then drove hard inland, surrounding the Gloucestershire battalion at its Solma-ri position and outflanking the other battalions of the brigade, which were forced back to escape encirclement.   
Many of the UNC battalions holding the 10th's left and right flanks were in retreat by the morning of 23 April. With its flanks "in the air," the 10th stood alone in a salient almost surrounded by a torrent of assaulting Chinese. The most threatening penetration, however, occurred further east in the vicinity of the city of Hwach'on. The CPV routed the South Korean 6th Division in the US IX Corps area and poured southward threatening to cut off UNC units north of the Imjin River.

Filipino artillery hammers the communists.

The Chinese continued to attack the 10th BCT and their persistence, despite terrible losses, being rewarded when one of their regiments overran the lone Tank Company platoon of just 17 men posted on a ridge (not a bridge) overlooking Yuldong village.

The Chinese were immediately counterattacked and driven off the hill by the heavily outnumbered men of Tank Company (which didn't have any tanks). Capt. Conrado Yap, commanding officer of the Tank Company, was killed in this counterattack. His men had, however, retrieved the bodies of Lt. Jose Artiaga (Yap's closest friend) and the men of Lt. Artiaga's shattered and badly understrength 1st Platoon.

Lt. Artiaga received the Distinguished Service Cross for leading his grossly outnumbered men in the most dramatic saga of the Battle of Yuldong. Capt. Yap was posthumously awarded the Medal of Valor, the Philippines' highest award for heroism, while the Tank Company received a unit citation from the US Eighth Army for this valiant action.

At dawn on 23 April, the 10th supported by two of its M24 light tanks counterattacked the surprised Chinese, who were regrouping following the murderous night battle, killing many and driving the survivors out of its positions.

Lt. Alfredo Cayton, the battalion’s supply officer, led a supply convoy that brought ammunition and food the following morning. At one of the forward positions, Lt. Cayton looked out across a smoke shrouded but eerily silent battlefield littered with what appeared to be large numbers of brown rags as far as his eyes could see. He turned to the .50 cal. machine gun crew defending that sector and asked what those rags were.

Dead Reds,” the Filipino gunner curtly replied.

Lt. Cayton wept at the massive slaughter. It was the first time he had seen so many dead men in one place. Despite their being the enemy, the Chinese were still human beings, he told me.

The US 3rd ID ordered the battalion to withdraw, a disengagement the 10th accomplished while under constant attack from the Chinese and without other UNC units to cover its withdrawal.

There was, however, no rest for the exhausted 10th. Barely rested from its terrifying ordeal and with its men dog-tired, the battalion on the 24th was thrown into a tank-led British counterattack to free the trapped Gloucestershire battalion.

The Filipinos attacked with their M24 light tanks, one of which was destroyed by the Chinese. More Filipinos died. The 10th fought to within 1,500 meters of the trapped battalion, the closest approach by any of the UNC units involved in the rescue attempt, but were hamstrung by unfavorable terrain that allowed no room for maneuver.

Standing firm against the British, Filipino, American, Puerto Rican and Belgian attackers, the Chinese eventually destroyed the Gloucestershire (or Gloster) battalion after a fierce four-day struggle. Only  50 of 750 Glosters escaped death or capture. The British fought to the last bullet against three Chinese divisions of  the CPV 63rd Army.

The 10th BCT fights its way forward to the trapped
British Gloucestershire battalion.

The Battle of Yuldong cost the 10th BCT 10 killed, 26 wounded and 14 men missing in action. Five more Filipinos were killed in the vain attempt to rescue the Gloucestershire battalion and others were wounded. These light casualties in a major offensive testified to the courage and fighting skill of the men in the front line. CPV dead littered the battalion's positions. The 10th emerged from its first great battle intact and undefeated.

The UNC lost over 7,000 men during the first day of the Chinese counterattack. Balanced against this were CPV losses totaling more than 70,000, according to the UNC. The entire UNC line, however, fell back before the Chinese attack to a prepared defense line above Seoul. Withdrawing to this line brought the 10th more losses.

On 26 April, a Chinese regiment surrounded and captured an entire Filipino platoon of 40 men in a sudden attack. The confused fighting during the nerve-wracking withdrawal saw many examples of heroism from the ranks. Staff Sgt. Nicolas Mahusay gave his life in a heroic attack on enemy mortars that had pinned down the battalion. He was cut down by enemy fire after silencing the mortars and allowing the battalion to escape,

The small village of Yuldong in the mountains of North Korea became the scene of the bloodiest battle fought by a PEFTOK battalion in the Korean War. The Philippines commemorates the Battle of Yuldong every year to honor all Filipinos who served in Korea.

Peace and war
During the UN counterattack in June 1951, the 10th was once more in the fight, battering Chinese rearguards impeding its advance. The 10th led the UNC advance to the Taejo River where it killed 65 Chinese and secured the vital Chorwon Reservoir. The battalion then reverted to the reserve of the US 3rd Infantry Division. The commanding officer of the 3rd ID, Maj. Gen. Robert “Shorty” Soule, said the 10th was the best Allied unit in his division. The brilliant battle fought by the battalion at Yuldong earned it the nickname, “The Fighting Filipinos.”

The repulse of the Chinese Spring Offensive in April and the second phase of this offensive in May brought the combatants to the peace table. Armistice negotiations to end the war began 10 July 1951 in Kaesong, a village in North Korea. With the beginning of peace talks, the war of movement and big battles came to an end and was replaced by savage small unit actions for strategic terrain.

The CPV used the lull to reinforce and bring up its heavy artillery and anti-aircraft guns. As a result, artillery barrages by both the Chinese and the UNC were heavier than those in World Wars 1 and 2. Half of the Americans killed during the Korea War died during the truce negotiations.

Cemetery at Busan, Korea for the fallen heroes of the 10th BCT. The bodies of these men, and all the other Filipino warriors that gave their lives in Korea, were later repatriated to the Philippines.

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The 20th BCT, which was to replace the 10th, took over the Filipino front line on 6 September. On 27 September, the 10th was finally pulled out of the war. The Fighting Tenth, as it was now called, arrived in Manila on 23 October to a rapturous heroes welcome.

In its 398 days in the Korean War, the battalion lost 63 men killed, 145 wounded and 58 missing-in-action, for a total of 266 battle casualties, the highest casualty toll among all five PEFTOK BCTs. On 5 May 1952, the battalion’s dead returned to the Philippines, with many buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Fallen heroes of the 10th BCT return home.