By ART VILLASANTA
THE GLORY OF OUR FATHERSTHE KOREAN WAR, which began 60 years ago on 25 June 1950, remains a forgotten war for most of today’s 90 million Filipinos. Hardly surprising in a country where three out of four persons is 35 years old or younger.
But for the 2,000 surviving soldiers who served in the Korean War (all in their 70s); for the families of the 7,420 officers and men who served in Korea and for those who actively supported our fighting men, the Korean War was the defining event of their lives.
From 1950 to 1955, five Battalion Combat Teams (BCTs) of the Philippine Army served in Korea as the 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 May 1955. In close to five years of fighting, 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.|
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. Johnny F. Villasanta. He covered the Korean War as a War Correspondent for Philippine media and the United Nations. 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 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. 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 Democracy we take for granted today must be remembered, and this website is my contribution to this cause.
(Updated 2 December 2009. Based on data in my original PEFTOK website at www.geocities.com/peftok first placed online in April 2000. Yahoo! Geocities shut down in October 2009.)
COPYRIGHT 2000 by ARTHUR DOMINIC J. VILLASANTA