Remembering Those Who Are Still Not Remembered

As we pause to remember and honor the service of our veterans on this Veterans Day, let us also remember those veterans who are all too often remain forgotten – even when we take the time to remember those who were intentionally overlooked for so many years. Just three of these examples include the Filipino Scouts of World War II, the US Soldiers and their Korean Augmentees who fought and died along the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) in Korea in the years after the Korean War ceasefire was signed, and the Hmong tribesmen who fought along with our Special Forces in the Vietnam Conflict.   

Writer J. Michael Houlahan notes the heroic role played by Philippine Scouts in the defense of Bataan is one of the best kept secrets of World War II.  They composed the most decorated US Army units in the early days of the war. While the commissioned officers of the Scouts included a number of native-born Americans, the noncommissioned officers  and enlisted men were Pinoys. During the defense of Bataan, three Scouts, Sergeant Jose Calugas, Sr., First Lieutenant Alexander Ramsey Nininger, and First Lieutenant Willibald C. Bianchi earned Medals of Honor, America’s highest award for combat valor. Many Distinguished Service Crosses, Silver Stars, and Purple Hearts were also earned by Scouts.

Hundreds of Scouts joined guerrilla groups following the surrender of the main body of Filipino and American forces on Bataan in early April 1942. These included Second Lieutenant Edwin Ramsey who led the last cavalry charge of the US Army in a surprise encounter against a larger Japanese force at Morong during the defense of Bataan. He later gained fame leading a large guerrilla force against the Japanese. [1]

For many years, the Korean War has been regarded as America’s “forgotten war.” Even more overlooked were the series of engagements fought along the DMZ which have continued since the signing of the ceasefire in 1953. The reports of these engagements were often lost in the constant media coverage of the Vietnam conflict and its aftermath. In 1966 one ambush which killed seven US Soldiers and their Korean Augmentee to the US Army (KATUSA) one kilometer south of the DMZ.[2] In 1976, the murder of two US Army Officers by North Korean troops over the trimming of a tree at Panmunjom brought the United States to the brink of another major war in Korea, culminating in Operation PAUL BUNYAN. The discovery of four massive tunnels under the DMZ between 1973 and 1990, each capable of supporting the passage of massive North Korean armored formations beneath the defenses of South Korean and US Forces[3] only confirms the North’s ill intent.  The Soldiers who have faced down the North Korean forces of the Kim dictatorships for so many years deserve all the respect and accolades due to any other veterans who faced enemy guns.

Then there are the Hmong tribesmen who fought alongside American forces in the Vietnam War. More than 30 years after the end of US involvement in that war, the Hmong who fought along with our CIA and Special Forces against the North Vietnamese have not received any official recognition and very little public notice. California Representatives Jim Costa (D) and Paul Cook (R) have introduced legislation to allow the Hmong warriors to march in official Veterans Day parades and to be buried alongside their now fellow American Service members whom they fought beside. [4] This is an honor their actions have earned. 

As we remember and honor those who served on this Veterans Day, give a special nod to those who, along with the times and places they served, have too often been forgotten.

[1] Houlahan,
J Michael, The Philippine Scouts in Bataan:
Their Finest Hour, http://philippine-defenders.lib.wv.us/html/philippine_scouts_bataan_article.html,
November 11, 2013.

[2] GI
Korea, DMZ Flashpoints: The Bloodiest DMZ Shootout, April
3rd, 2008 at 12:36 pm rokdrop.com/2008/04/03/dmz-flashbacks-the-bloodiest-dmz-shootout/,
November 11, 2013.

Singlaub, John K., Hazardous Duty; An American Soldier in the 20th
Century, Simon & Schuster, New York,
pp 351, 366-379.

[4] Hmong Vietnam War Vets Still Seeking Recognition, November 09, 2013, Sacramento
Bee, http://www.military.com/daily-news/2013/11/09/hmong-vietnam-war-vets-still-seeking-recognition.html,
November 11, 2013

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