Legacy of World War II on the Philippines
In early 1946 Japan’s General Tomoyuki Yamashita was tried as a war criminal and hanged by order of MacArthur. In 1986, a salvage group located the wreck of a Japanese ship containing $500 million worth of treasure in Filipino waters. The ship was sunk in World War II.
In 1994, President Fidel Ramos had hoped to turn the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Leyte into a sort of an Asian version of the D-Day commemoration at Normandy. President Clinton and MacArthur’s 92-year-old widow were invited to event but neither were able to attend. In their place came the U.S. Secretary of State William Perry and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Shalikashvili.
After World War II and independence, the United States Congress reneged on promised to give benefits to Filipino soldiers who fought on the Allied side against Japan. In 2009 Associated Press reported: “Men and women from the Philippines were promised recognition and benefits when they enlisted to fight alongside US troops during World War II. Many of those honors are only arriving now, 64 years after the war ended. The Fil-Am veterans are also set to receive long-awaited benefits that the United States pledged during the war. [Source: Associated Press, June 7, 2009]
“Some 250,000 Filipinos enlisted in 1941 to help defend the Philippines, a US commonwealth at the time. They were promised that they could become US citizens if they chose, and receive benefits under the G.I. Bill. The US Congress took away that offer in 1946 when the Philippines became an independent nation. Congress passed legislation in 2009 rewarding the soldiers for their service with $9,000 payments for non-US citizens and $15,000 for those with citizenship. In 2009, about 18,000 Filipino veterans, many in their 80s and 90s, were still alive. Ravaged by old age and disease, they were dying at the rate of 10 a day, officials said. “ [Ibid]
Carlos H. Conde wrote in the New York Times, “Unlike in other countries where the war’s end brought renewal and hope, there is a strong sense in this country that the war victimized Filipinos twice over, that its horrifying toll went beyond the destruction of its cities. If the war destroyed 80 percent of the Philippine economy, its consequences - the reparations, the ensuing relationship between Manila and Tokyo, the Cold War, the rise of Ferdinand Marcos, who exploited Japan’s postwar penitence and benevolence and almost single-handedly repaired relations with the Japanese - damaged Filipinos even further, diminishing their sense of pride and their ability to appreciate their past and learn from it. [Source: Carlos H. Conde, New York Times, August 13, 2005 +=+]
“In short, World War II left the Philippines devastated long after it ended, historians and sociologists say. This damage, they say, defines the modern Filipino: poor and lost, perpetually wandering the globe for economic survival, bereft of national pride, and - like the women of Mapanique - forced to suffer, to this day, the indignities of their violation. “Filipinos have a very short historical memory,” said Ricardo Trota Jose, the country’s foremost scholar on Philippine-Japan relations, who teaches history at the University of the Philippines.“ +=+