Chapter Three: Promises Made, Promises Broken
The Rescission Act of 1946 stripped rights and benefits from Filipino soldiers and guerrillas.
No broken promise mattered more than the Rescission Act, two related 1946 federal laws that stripped most citizenship rights and veterans benefits from soldiers who had served in the Philippine Army or recognized guerrilla units.
The Rescission Act of 1946 is a U.S. law that annulled benefits payable to Filipino troops.
With the end of World War II, the American people and the American government sought ways to reduce the federal budget. Some eyed the possibility of trimming the cost of veterans benefits. Servicemembers from more than 60 nations fought under the U.S. flag in World War II. But Filipinos alone were singled out to be denied benefits.
Married guerrilla couple with the American and Philippine flags. Courtesy of Lopez Museum Collection via Amazons of the Huk Rebellion by Vina A. Lanzona
The Veterans Administration (VA) advised Congress that benefits and health care for USAFFE veterans could total nearly $3 billion over their lifetimes. While that was a large sum, it was only a small fraction of the costs the U.S. government assumed for the millions of men and women who served during the war. At a time when Congress was trying to cut its budgets, and independence was turning Filipinos from U.S. nationals into foreigners, there was little appetite on Capitol Hill to pay benefits to veterans from its former colony.
An infographic displaying the estimated value of benefits denied to USAFFE veterans ($3 billion) compared to the estimated value of all benefits paid to WWII veterans to date ($742 billion). U.S. War Costs: Two Parts Temporary, One Part Permanent by Ryan D. Edwards
“Roosevelt promised they would be treated like any American Veteran. Well that didn't happen.”
Sonny Izon, Son of Veteran, Documentary Filmmaker
Senator Carl Hayden (AZ) introduced the Rescission Act to Congress. The law’s provisions stated that service in the Philippine Commonwealth Army (PA) would not be deemed service “in the armed forces of the United States … for the purposes of any law … conferring rights, privileges, or benefits.” Beneath the surface of that bland language was a betrayal: whatever the contributions PA soldiers and their guerrilla comrades might have been to the war effort, it was no longer considered service “in” the U.S. armed forces.
U.S. Senator from Arizona, Carl Hayden. United States Senate Historical Office
October 2, 1877 – January 25, 1972
U.S. Senator and advocate for the Rescission Act
Hayden advocated for the 1946 Rescission Act that stripped Filipino veterans of their promised benefits. Taking office shortly after statehood was granted in 1912, Hayden was the first U.S. representative from Arizona. In 1962, he would become the first person ever to serve 50 years in Congress. Known as the “silent senator,” Hayden rarely spoke in the Senate chamber, but his ability to work behind-the-scenes to secure votes was widely recognized. Though he championed the 1944 G.I Bill, Hayden reportedly balked at the expense the U.S. would entail if the government followed through on its promise to grant veterans benefits to Filipinos. Instead, he insisted that funding “Philippine rehabilitation” was enough. Later evidence showed some of these promised funds were never received, and most were not received by the veterans themselves. Hayden ultimately secured the passage of the Rescission Act, despite Truman’s objections to the bill.
Some in Congress reasoned that the $200 million of promised military aid for the Philippine government freed the U.S. of its obligation to individual Filipino soldiers, despite the fact that it was never sent. The Rescission Act overturned field commands of General Douglas MacArthur. It overruled official orders of President Sergio Osmeña. And it retroactively took away rights and benefits that had been promised to Filipino soldiers and their families during the war’s darkest days.
Philippine President Sergio Osmeña (right) and General Douglas MacArthur (left) on board a landing craft en route to the Leyte landing beaches, October 20, 1944. U.S. National Archives
President Harry Truman objected to the Rescission Act and considered vetoing it, but he knew there were few Filipinos in the United States to protest or vote in the next election, so it would be hard to convince Congress to allocate the necessary funds. On February 18, 1946, he signed the Rescission Act into law, observing that it did not erase the “moral obligation of the United States to look after the welfare of Philippine Army veterans.”
Excerpt of Truman's objection to the Rescission Act. U.S. National Archives
With the American public eager to put the war behind them, the act did not make headlines. In the Philippines, veterans only slowly began to understand its significance. Carlos Romulo, a war veteran serving as the Philippine Resident Commissioner in Washington, protested vigorously. But it was too late.
Chief Executive of the Boy Scouts Arthur A. Shuck (right) presenting to Carlos P. Romulo (left) a miniature of the Statue of Liberty in April, 1950. Kevin L. Nadal, Filipino American National Historical Society
Truman signed the Rescission Act. The Philippines was the only nation that were denied benefits.
Duty to Country
To the people of the Philippines who had tuned into Franklin Roosevelt’s radio broadcasts, to the Filipino and American soldiers who had marched side by side on the Bataan Death March, and to the guerrillas who risked everything during the war in the hopes that General Douglas MacArthur would fulfill his pledge that “I shall return,” this was a broken promise.
President Roxas shakes hands with General Douglas MacArthur at the Independence Day ceremonies. Philippine photographs digital archives, University of Michigan digital library
It had devastating financial and economic implications for veterans trying to start a new life in a war-torn country. It excluded veterans and their dependents from essential medical care. And at the deepest level, it generated a sense of betrayal that could never be repaired.
Flag-waving Filipinos greet the American troops at Tacloban. U.S. Department of Defense
“They fought for this country, they died for this country. And they got nothing.”
Marie Blanco, Vice Chair of FilVetREP, Former Chief-of-Staff to Senator Daniel Inouye
The independence ceremonies of July 1946 marked the end of the long history of U.S. colonialism in the Philippines. But it was the beginning of a new struggle by Filipino veterans and their advocates to secure in the political realm what they had won on the battlefield.
During ceremonies held in the temporary Independence Grandstand (built in front of the Rizal Monument), the Philippine flag is raised while the U.S. flag is lowered. Presidential Museum and Library, Philippines
Filipinos marching under the U.S. Flag. U.S. Army
The struggle began to secure in the political realm what they had won on the battlefield.
1946 – 1985
An Ongoing Struggle
In the decades after the Philippines won its independence, the two countries remained close allies, while veterans’ issue remained “unfinished business.”Explore