In 1950, the Philippine government was pushed to the verge of collapse by a well organized, popularly supported, communist insurgency known as the Hukbalahap. No stranger to internal rebellion, the nation again faced a direct challenge to democratic government. The United States, already at war in Korea, was threatened with the loss of a strategic stronghold in the Pacific, and the subversion of a longtime friend and ally.

This study analyzes the Hukbalahap (Huk) Insurrection to determine what conditions led to the near disaster of 1950 and to discover what steps were taken by the governments of the Philippines and the United States to bring the uprising to stop the revolt by 1955. It examines the insurgent movement; its origins, evolution, goals, tactics, and personality; in order to shed new light on a successful anti-insurgency operation. Philippine governments in power during this time are also examined to determine why their anti-Huk policies failed until the appointment of Ramon Magsaysay as Secretary of National Defense in September 1950. As this unique and extremely talented individual began to change the course of the rebellion, American military and economic assistance became vital to his success.

This study also includes an analysis of the functions and roles played by the Joint United States Military Assistance Group-Philippines (JUSMAG) and of a key U.S. advisor, Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Edward G. Lansdale. Without American aid and assistance, the Magsaysay government would not have been able to defeat the Huk -- but aid alone did not stop the insurgency. It required a unique melding of personalities, a revitalization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), dedicated efforts by the Philippine government to win back the people's allegiance,


and the right combination of American military advice and economic aid. Lacking any of these essential ingredients, the anti-Huk campaign might well have failed.

This is the story of a once powerful indigenous communist insurgency, of American aid and advice, and of the Philippine government under Ramon Magsaysay. But most of all, it is a story about the Philippine people -- a people frustrated by a string of uncaring and corrupt governments that showed little concern for the country's peasants. With hope and progress, the people would follow any authority regardless of political affiliation. Ramon Magsaysay understood the people he grew up with, and knew what their aspirations were. With American support and assistance he was able to provide what his countrymen wanted and stop the Huk at the very peak of their influence and power.

To examine only military and political actions that occurred between 1946-1955, however, does not tell the entire story. To appreciate the insurrection fully, one must first consider the background and evolution of the Huk movement and of the people of central Luzon. With this preface, the story is placed in context, and one can understand the insurrection and the reasons for its rise and subsequent fall. Under Ramon Magsaysay's enlightened leadership and guidance, the guerrillas were beaten at their own game by Philippine armed forces reborn with pride, competence, professionalism, and a deep devotion to their fellow countrymen.


page created 14 February 2002

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