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Mar 25th
Home Sections History Remembering the Asian (and Filipino) Holocausts on Memorial Day
Remembering the Asian (and Filipino) Holocausts on Memorial Day PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - History
Sunday, 27 May 2007 18:49

T he American people celebrated Memorial Day in 1944 with more optimism even if the United States was still at war. In the European Theatre, the American and Allied Forces were preparing to land in a beach in France to start the liberation of Europe. (In fact, the landing at Normandy happened just days later on June 6, 1944.) The Nazi Army was on the defensive and Allied victory was close at hand. It was just a few months away from confirming the World War II tragedy that was the Holocaust.

America's heart has a soft spot for the Jewish communities in the United States, Israel and in Europe primarily because of the Holocaust.

Many Americans, however, do not know that there were Asian versions of the Holocaust. These Asian versions of the Holocaust likewise bring about bitter, painful and tragic memories not only to Asian Americans but also to some Mainstream and other Minority Americans as well.

More than 39-million Chinese died as a result of Japan's atrocities during World War II. There were also more than six-million Koreans who perished as a result of the aggression of Japan during the last global conflict. Then there is the World War II holocaust that happened in the Philippines.

The "Filipino-American Holocaust" is a story that remains basically untold to the American public. "One-million Filipinos -- out of a total population of 18 million -- died in the (World War II) struggle." Journalists Paul Richter and Jim Mann reported this fact in the Los Angeles Times, Nov. 13, 1994, issue, page A6. The one-million Filipinos who died during the Second World War were American nationals. Many of them, Filipino nationals of America, died while they fought for democracy and for the wartime interests of the United States.

The atrocities of the Second World War included the deaths of six-million Jews in Europe. Not many of the Jews who died were American nationals. But do Filipinos get even one-sixth of the attention and sympathy that America and the American media devote to the Jewish people? Does the Philippines get even three-percent of the military and economy aid that Israel gets every year from the United States? Surely, the deaths of one-million American nationals in the Philippines during World War II deserve some attention from the American media and the American politicians! The agony that is the Filipino-American Holocaust continues. The Holocaust's memories continue to be painful to the American veterans of Philippine ancestry. Up to now, the heroics of the Filipino-American soldiers who so gallantly fought for the United States remain forgotten. The "Supplementary Appropriation Rescission Act," that the Congress passed in 1946, did not consider the wartime services of the Filipino-American soldiers as "service to the United States military." Yet, the same law considered the Filipino soldiers who died or were wounded during the Second World War battles members of the United States military.

The United States military did not even pay the American veterans of Filipino ancestry their full salary for the four-year (wartime) service they performed. (As a general rule, Filipino members of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East received only half of the pay of the American soldiers yet all of them fought in the same battles, side by side, against the Japanese invaders.) The American government, on the other hand, paid the Japanese Americans $20,000 per individual as compensation for their immoral internment. The Japanese invaders turned the Philippines into one big internment camp and more than 200,000 Filipino "American nationals" took up arms to fight for Mother America. Sixty-two years after Victory Day on Sept. 2, 1945, these Filipino soldiers of America are still waiting for their benefits due them.

The United States partially remedied in 1990 the predicament of the World War II Filipino nationals of America. The then President George H. Bush signed into law a bill that restored to them the promise by President Franklin D. Roosevelt that they could become American citizens if they fought for America during the war. Yet, while these aging Filipino war veterans became American citizens starting in 1990, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) did not permit their spouses and children to come with them to the United States. They also were not entitled to the benefits being received by the other American veterans. Their plight, therefore, continues.

O n Aug. 30, 1994, at the height of the Cuban migrant crisis, I wrote the then President Bill Clinton about the predicament of these American veterans of Philippine ancestry. I sent also on Sept. 2, 1994, the President two identical follow-up letters through the then Attorney General Janet Reno and Deputy National Security Adviser Samuel (Sandy) Berger, respectively. The letters said, "Americans of Filipino ancestry cannot understand the apparent double standard being practiced by the INS. While the INS extended 'entry rights' to 'cousins and grandparents of Cuban Americans, instead of just immediate family members,' the spouse/s and children of American World War II veterans of Filipino ancestry are denied entry. The immediate family members of these World War II veterans must wait for probably 10-15 years for their immigration visas, and their approved petitions would naturally die with the death of the petitioners, who have an average age of 74 years." (Editor's Note: The average age of the Filipino veterans is now 90 years.) President Clinton acknowledged my Aug. 30, 1994, letter about the Cuban migrant crisis and thanked me for "sharing my ideas with America." But that was all and the White House did not do anything more for the American veterans of Filipino ancestry. Ms. Reno and Mr. Berger did not bother to reply to the Sept. 2, 1994, letters.

The plight of the American veterans of Filipino ancestry and their children becomes more ironic when one takes into account the Russian Jews' flight to America. The United States permitted almost all of the Russian Jews to immediately immigrate to this country after the Soviet Union's collapse in 1989. The INS permitted a significant number of Russian Jews to come to the United States, without resorting to immigration quotas and waiting periods. The well-funded and well-organized Jewish lobby in Washington, D.C., facilitated the immediate entries of the Russian Jews, most of whom could barely speak English. The Filipinos, of course, are the most Americanized, English-speaking Asians, having been nationals of the United States from 1899 to July 4, 1946.

The Filipino Americans, who now number more than three-million, are just starting to get themselves organized politically. The Filipino-American community now realizes that it has the second-most number of voters in the Asian-American voting population. Many consider the Filipino Americans the model minority. I wrote in my political novel about the Filipinos' biggest contribution to the United States: the more than half-a-million Filipino-American medical professionals and other Filipino contract workers in the American hospitals and health-care facilities. These doctors, nurses and other medical workers are the pride and joy of the Philippine expatriate community, aside from being the "Number One" positive contribution of Filipino Americans to the American society.

Someday the American people through their elected leaders in the United States Congress and in the White House, hopefully, will remedy the painful and unnecessary injustice that their former nationals in the Philippines suffered during World War II. The world knows that the American public never tolerates injustice.

There will be a day when justice will come to the victims of the "Philippine-American Holocaust." Perhaps when the United States of America celebrates its next Memorial Day in May 2008, the Filipino-American community will be celebrating with all other Americans the resolution of the plight of the Filipino World War II veterans. But until that day comes, the American veterans of Philippine ancestry will just continue to languish and slowly die of old age. The United States government must act and act quickly it must. # # #

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Last Updated on Saturday, 25 May 2013 08:43

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