My Korean War experience

In June 1947, as First Sergeant in the Philippine Army, I was sent by the Philippine government to train at the Armored Force School in Fort Knox, Kentucky. The training I had in armored tank operations came in handy as I was thereafter conscripted to be among the first Filipino soldiers sent to the Korean War.

I formed part of the 10th Battalion Combat Team (10th BCT) of the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK), the only armored tank motorized battalion in the Philippine Army then. We arrived in Korea on Sept. 19,1950.

It was winter when we arrived in Busan and I was shocked to see frightened and thin Korean refugees, many of them children, begging us for food. One of my enduring memories of my first month in Korea was the unending stream of Korean refugees fleeing from the fighting. And there seemed to be so many parentless children among those refugees.

In November 1950, at early dawn on the outskirts of Miudong, I together with my men were ordered by the US 3rd Infantry Division to secure the area known as Syngue. At around 0730 on Nov. 11, 1950, we reconnoitred with armored tanks an area believed to be occupied by enemy forces. As we approached a bend, an explosion destroyed the army truck up front and a hail of continuous gunfire met us; a number of Filipino soldiers got hit.

I was inside the third tank and the personnel of the first and second tanks seemed to have been stunned and were immobilized but he surprise attack. I reconnoitred the immediate surroundings via the tank’s periscope. Then, I maneuvered onto the top of the tank, grabbed the machine-gun atop the tank’s turret and fired relentlessly in the direction of the enemies. With continuous machine-gun fire, I was able to repulse the advancing enemy forces and avoided costly loss of lives among our ranks. This battle was recorded in Korean history as the Battle of Miudong/Syngue and was hailed as the first battle won by Filipino soldiers on foreign soil.

In the Battle of Yuldong, the biggest battle that the Filipino soldiers fought in the Korean War, we were earlier given permission to withdraw because we were severely outnumbered. As the Battle of Yuldong turned fiercer, we stood our ground against all odds. At the height of gun battle, the Filipino soldiers were pinned down. Still, the Filipinos managed to launch a counter-attack, repulsing and driving the Chinese and North Koreans away.

This despite the fact that the Filipino soldiers who were defending a five-kilometer stretch called the Utah Line were left on their own after the Turkish forces of the UNC, stationed on the right flank, abandoned their post, rendering the Reconnaissance Company of the 10th BCT completely exposed. We willingly pressed on to fight a numerically superior force of Chinese soldiers in savage close-quarter combat.

Exactly 70 years ago, from April 22-23, 1951, 900 Filipino soldiers of the 10th BCT of the PEFTOK successfully defended and threw back the numerically superior – about 40,000 – elements of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army’s 44th Infantry Division and the North Korean People’s Army, drawing widespread admiration from the United Nations Command Forces.

It was in the Battle of Yuldong that the Filipinos once again proved their bravery in combat which made fitting the words of Gen. Douglas MacArthur: “Give me 10,000 Filipino soldiers and I will conquer the world.”

As a soldier, I saw action too in World War II. I have fought for the defence of freedom and democracy which are precepts dear to our motherland, against foreign adversaries in three international wars: World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

I have been shot at and strafed. I have seen my comrades die in battle and have in turn killed my country’s enemy-combatants. I have seen the worst of human nature in war. And my experience has taught me that there is nothing redeeming about war. War is only gruesome death and senseless destruction. And war involves tremendous remorse. By the grace of God, I am still here.

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Maximo Young is president of the PEFTOK Veterans Association and the recipient of numerous medals, including South Korea’s Medal of Valor and the US Congressional Gold Medal. — Maximo P. Young

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