California Filipino Infantry Regiments

When WW2 broke out my father joined the U.S.Army and was inducted into the 1st Filipino Battalion. From what my mother told me he went back with General Mc Arthur's in the campaign to liberate the Philippines. My father was wounded in the battle of Leyte and was sent to an infirmary where he met my mom and the rest was history.

Following the Japanese attacks that destroyed U.S. airfields on Luzon on 8 December 1941, thousands of Filipinos fought side by side with U.S. Army soldiers in the defense of the Philippines. Yet at the same time stateside recruiters refused to enlist Filipino volunteers because of their American nationals status. Under the Selective Service and Training Act, American nationals' were not eligible to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States.

To fight a world war, however, the nation needed to call upon all its available manpower. On 21 December 1941Congress amended the Selective Service and Training Act to permit enlistment of citizens and “every other male person residing in the United States.” As a result, on 19 February 1942, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson announced the creation of a Filipino battalion to enable Americans of Filipino ancestry as well as resident Filipinos to serve together in the U.S. Army. This was a segregated unit like the Japanese and African American battalions.

On April 1st, 1942, the War Department activated the 1st Filipino Battalion at Camp San Luis Obispo. As new volunteers around the nation continued to join and increase in numbers the battalion was elevated to a regiment at the California Rodeo Grounds in Salinas. The 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment was activated on July 13th, 1942 and in October 14th, that same year, the 2nd Filipino Infantry Regiment was activated. The 1st Regiment was assigned in January 1943 for training at Camp Beale, near Sacramento and the 2nd Regiment was assigned for training at Camp Cooke, near Santa Maria California. From Fort Ord, remaining elements of the 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment and the 2nd Filipino Battalion moved to various training locations in California before embarking on separate voyages to join the Pacific Campaign. They shipped out of Fort Mason, San Francisco once known as the Port of Embarkation.

On October 8th, 1943, the 5217th Reconnaissance Battalion was formed by authority of General Orders #58 Hq USAFFE APO 510, 1943. On November 20th, 1944 the 5217th was disbanded and the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion (Special Forces) was activated in place. Some members of the 1st Infantry were reassigned to the Alamo Scouts, the 1st Filipino Reconnaissance Battalion, and to Allied Intelligence Bureau. This reduced the size of the 1st regiment to an unacceptable level so on March 27th,1944, soldiers of the 2nd regiment were reassigned to join the 1st regiment and increased the regiment to 125% capacity. The reduction of the 2nd regiment was then re designated as the 2nd Filipino Infantry battalion.
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Soldiers of the 1st Infantry Regiment engaged in bloody mop-up combat operations in Leyte, Samar, and New Guinea. My father was in the mop up campaign for the battle of Samar where he was wounded. He was sent to an infirmary in Tacloban, Leyte, where he met my mom. Later, after the war was over, my dad went back to Leyte and brought my mom over as a war bride.

In April of 1944 separate Divisions of the 1st and 2nd Regiment arrived in New Guinea where they fought until moving to the Philippines in February 1945. This regiments provided security for the Eighth Army General Headquarters, the Seventh Fleet Headquarters, the Far East Air Force and airstrips in Tanauan and Tacloban Leyte. For the remainder of the war, the 1st and 2nd Regiments manned checkpoints, performed security and mop-up operations where needed.

The 1st Filipino Regiment returned to the United States in March 1946 and was deactivated on April 10th at Camp Stoneman, near Pittsburgh California. The 1st Filipino Regiment earned battle honors for New Guinea, Leyte, and the Southern Philippines. The unit additionally earned the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation. On their return back there wasn't a large celebration or parade like other American soldiers that were widely publicized. In large formation they were granted their citizenship as promised and like a pat on the back with a thank you, the regiment was deactivated and went home.

The 2nd Filipino Infantry Regiment that also fought in New Guinea eventually moved to Manila where it was inactivated on December 21st, 1945. The unit earned battle honors for New Guinea but did not receive any decorations.

Unfortunately, the public back home in the U.S. knew very little about the activities of the Filipino Infantry Regiments in comparison to the notoriety of the Japanese 442 and the 101st. In 1984 former veterans, family members, and friends associated with the Filipino Regiments erected a monument in Salinas to commemorate the soldiers of the unit.