– Daniel Ang (Ka Tui Ang) (1925–?)
Ten hours after Pearl Harbor was bombed, the Japanese bombed the Philippines, then a territory of the United States. Earlier in July 1941, Franklin Roosevelt had consolidated all Filipino military under the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE). USAFFE Commander Douglas MacArthur retreated from the Philippines to Australia in March of 1942. For three years, the Filipinos—including Chinese Filipinos—led a guerrilla campaign against the Japanese that involved a heavy death toll. The status of Filipinos who served in the USAFFE was in limbo after the 1946 Rescission Act. This law retroactively annulled benefits to over 250,000 Filipino veterans. Daniel Ang was born in Manila, and a 2nd lieutenant in the COWHM Unit of the Philippine Army. He was then attached to the U.S. 25th Infantry Division as a rifleman. Jim Fong and Gilbert Hom interviewed Daniel Ang on 15 April 1997.
My father and mother are from China, and they are old-timers in the Philippines. My father was the vice principal of a Chinese school; my mother was a teacher. Of course, I had to go to Chinese school. Our school was one of the bigger elementary institutions with 1500 students. In the morning, we were taught in Mandarin and in the afternoon, they taught in English. Most of the Chinese in the Philippines speak the Fukien (Fujian) dialect. I also went to a Chinese high school, and then I transferred to the Catholic Colegio de San Juan de Letran and San Beda College in Manila. Before the war, I was in PMT—Preparatory Military Training—at the high school.
We felt we were Chinese. We hated the Japanese who occupied China. During that time, our aim was to defeat the Japanese. If given a chance, we would join the fight against the Japanese. At the end of 1941, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, I joined a Chinese battalion in the Philippines. It was an underground operation.
My uncle was arrested soon after the Japanese occupation as he was the president of the Philippine Chinese Chamber of Commerce. My father would go visit his brother, but the prisoners were transferred further to Mandaluyong. The Japanese wanted to show people they were doing something. They shot some of the Chinese leaders including the Chinese consul.20 There were the 10 martyrs.21
The Japanese were looking for my father. They wanted my father to work with them and re-open the Chinese school. My father would not. They promised my father money. Secondly, they promised my father protection. And thirdly, they promised him that if he didn’t comply, he would be arrested. My father escaped. I had another uncle who lived about ten kilometers away in Malabon. My father hid there. My uncle also had another important visitor who was also escaping from the Japanese military; he was the editor of the Fookien Times22. The two were together. My father would not cooperate.
Later, my father organized a medical clinic during the Occupation. There were plenty of civilian casualties. The hospitals were full, so my father organized a first aid medical group in our church. We had doctors and physicians who volunteered to save the lives of some civilians.
I was in the underground; my parents and my brothers didn’t know where I was. We had about 30 or 40 men to start. But when we later became attached to the U.S. Army Infantry Division, we were 300-plus. There were four major Chinese underground groups in the Philippines.23 The first group was the Philippine Chinese Anti-Japanese Volunteer Corps (PCAJVC).24 The second group was called the Chinese Young People Fellowship; this was composed mostly of students from the Chiang Kai-shek High School25. The third group was COWHM or Chinese Overseas Wartime Hseuhkan—Mandarin for doing it with gratitude—Militia.26 The fourth group was Wha Chi27 which was sponsored by the communists. But the four groups worked separately. I was assigned with COWHM.
During the occupation, all four groups were mostly focused on propaganda and printing underground newspapers. We all listened to the Voice of America broadcasting from Australia. Our newspaper would point out businesses that were collaborating with the Japanese. We also sabotaged Japanese activities. COWHM was headquartered in Manila.
It was very dangerous as the Japanese military police (Kenpeitai) would torture. We always used fake aliases; we would never use our real names. The groups were working independently from each other. There was tension and jealousy between them. Major General Vicente Lim was designated by the American Liberation Army as the overall commander. But the Chinese don’t always take his orders. The financial support for these groups came from the rich Chinese. They’d give you money to operate and to run the newspapers. During that time, there were a lot of collaborators too.
General MacArthur landed in Tacloban, Leyte in 1944 but the Americans had sent plenty of warships beforehand. The American warships were attracting a lot of attention from the Japanese. Tacloban was called “Red Beach” as that was the code name. After the Americans landed, all the underground groups—Chinese and Filipino—became very active. When the first Americans reached Luzon island, all the underground got in touch with the commanders of the U.S. Armed Forces to volunteer their services.
My unit became attached to the U.S. Army. We were in combat missions. My duty was as a liaison with the Chinese unit. If we needed arms or something, I’m the one who could get access. My unit assigned me as a lieutenant. I had started as a young private first class. But because of my PMT training and because I spoke English, I could communicate with the Americans.
In our unit, we saw about 100 killed in action. Our unit received Silver Stars and Purple Hearts.
The Anti-Japanese Volunteer Corps was associated with the 43rd Infantry Division. Our unit was associated with the 25th Infantry Division, the Tropic Lightning division. I don’t know about the Wha Chi because they also wanted to advance communism. They were in Central Luzon and associated with the Huks. The duty of the 43rd was to guard the bridges. Our unit was in combat.
The position of Filipino veterans of World War II in the American military is tenuous. Filipinos since 1898 were American nationals.28 During that time, I know that a first lieutenant made $330; a second lieutenant received $210. I do not have any idea where that money came from. I didn’t get any. If we were wounded, we did get access to the U.S. Army’s field hospital. Today, we are recognized by the Veterans Administration of the United States. We were promised back pay. The economy in the Philippines was very poor at the time. In the 1950s, General Romulo was Philippine foreign secretary under President Quirino, and he fought for our lump sum back pay. That may have been paid to the Philippine government, but the Philippine government may have taken the money. I never got any back pay but it was never my goal. I don’t know if other people got it. At that time, we were fighting against the Japanese; we were not thinking about pay.29
After the war, I went back to my family business and continued my studies. I went to college, and graduated with a degree in commerce. I came to America in 1967. When the Vietnam War was going on, the United States needed nurses, and my wife was a nurse. Since I had served in the U.S. Army, I was given special privilege. The American embassy saw my record and said to me, “You are qualified to go. Even if you want to leave tomorrow, you are qualified.” I had been active in veterans’ activities. Since 1955 or 1956, I joined the American Legion in the Philippines. The whole unit was army officers; we had two generals, a colonel, and a major in our unit. We had about 200 plus members.
We left because there was no future in the Philippines. There was government corruption and high inflation rates. We left a seven-bedroom, two-story house in the Philippines. We made sacrifices to come. I gave the house to my other brother. We brought our five children; the oldest one was 13 and the youngest was about two years old.
Being Chinese in the Philippines is a 50/50 proposition. It is hard because some Filipinos are jealous of the success of the Chinese. There are anti-Chinese feelings. If you are not a Filipino citizen, you cannot buy property and there are professional restrictions. But the Philippines was very corrupt; you can even bribe to get out of a traffic ticket. You can get certain things done through bribery. There are things that Chinese Filipino cannot achieve. But there are a lot of holidays, and it is an easier life in the Philippines (laughs).
Even today, I have to give back to the community. I joined the American Red Cross disaster team. I helped after the fires in Chatsworth, the mud slides, and the fire in Altadena. During the Northridge earthquake, I worked from 7 am to 10 pm for one week. We’ve been called to many disasters. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to serve during World War II. I had this opportunity to participate in this history, to fight for democracy.
20 Consul-General Clarence Kuangson Young 楊光泩(aka Yang Guangsheng) and members of his consulate staff in Manila were executed in April of 1942.
21 Martyr’s Hall in the Chinese Cemetery in Manila is a memorial for the ten Chinese Filipinos executed by the Japanese.
22 Fookien Times was established in 1926 to garner support amongst Chinese Filipinos for victims of the 1925 Fujian flood. It became the largest Chinese daily paper in the Philippines. During World War II, James Go Puan Seng was the editor and was said to have hidden in the Sierra Madre mountains of Luzon.
23 Other sources suggest there were over 140 underground Chinese guerrilla groups in the Philippines during World War II.
24 Also called Kang Chu 菲律宾抗日锄奸义勇队, this was a leftist guerrilla force.
25 Chiang Kai-shek College was established by Chinese Filipinos in 1939 and is now the largest Chinese Filipino school in that nation.
26 COWHM is generally associated with the Guomindang Party.
27 In Mandarin, hua zhi 華支.During the Japanese occupation, the Wha Chi collaborated with the Filipino Hukbalahap guerrillas in the mountains of Central Luzon. After World War II, the pro-American Philippine government targeted the Huks in their attempts to rid communist influence during the Cold War.
28 After the 1898 Spanish-American War, US acquired the Philippines—and Guam and Puerto Rico—as American “territories.”
29 After decades of community activism on their behalf, in 1990, Filipino veterans belatedly gained the right to naturalized citizenship. In 2003, Filipino American World War II veterans were extended health benefits. In 2009, Filipino American surviving veterans were given a lump sum of $15,000, while non-citizens were given $9000. In 2016, Congress passed the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act.