One Step Away from Honoring Their Service

Filipino American World War II veterans will, at long last, be recognized for their contributions

by Michelle Boykins and Kelly Choi

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015. The Senate passed the bill in July. The bill now awaits President Obama’s signature.

More than 260,000 Filipino men and women served during World War II and, despite serving bravely for the United States, these war veterans had not been honored fully for their military service.

The Philippines was a commonwealth of the United States from 1935 to 1946 and from 1941 to 1944, hundreds of thousands of Filipino soldiers fought against the Japanese under U.S. command. During World War II, the U.S. government extended an offer to Filipinos willing to fight, promising full military benefits coupled with U.S. citizenship for the soldiers and their families. More than 260,000 Filipinos answered the call and served to protect both the United States and the Philippines.

However, President Harry Truman and Congress went back on that promise when the war ended by passing the Rescission Act of 1946, which stated: “(The service of Filipinos) shall not be deemed to be or to have been service in the military or national forces of the United States or any component thereof or any law of the United States conferring rights, privileges or benefits.”

Advocates have worked relentlessly for decades to get these veterans the rights and privileges they were promised and so richly deserved. The efforts led to Sen. Mazie Hirono sponsoring S. 1555 and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard sponsoring H.R. 2737 to honor the veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal.

The Congressional Gold Medal is one of the two highest honors that can be given by the United States. The Filipino American World War II veterans will join the ranks of military groups from other communities of color, such as the Tuskegee Airmen and the 442nd/100th Infantry Battalion, who have received the Congressional Gold Medal.

See what Mee Moua, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, had to say about this important step in recognizing the accomplishments of Filipino World War II veterans.

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