Born the son of a village school teacher in the small village of Iba, the capital of Zambales Province and in the very shadow of Mount Pinatubo, Ramon Magsaysay spent his formative years surrounded by the people of central Luzon. When Ramon was six years old, he learned about honesty and integrity from his father, who lost his teaching job in the public school when he refused to pass the school superintendent's son in his carpentry class. Outcast by the community, the Magsaysay family moved to Castillejas, where his father set up a small carpentry and blacksmith shop to support the family.1 His father's example took root in Ramon and remained a cornerstone of his personality throughout his life.

Ramon entered Zambales Academy, an equivalent to high school, at the age of thirteen and graduated as salutatorian. In 1927, he enrolled in the Academy of Liberal Arts at the University of the Philippines but was forced to leave because of poor health. After recovering his health, Magsaysay transferred to Jose Rizal College, from which he was graduated in 1932 with a degree in commerce. The only job he could find was as a mechanic at the Try Transportation Bus Company in Manila. Within a few years, he rose to become the company's general manager.2 At the


outbreak of World War II, he quit his position in Manila and joined the Philippine 31st Infantry Division.

After the fall of Bataan, Magsaysay joined a USAFFE guerrilla unit. Commissioned at the grade of captain, he served as G-1, supply officer, was promoted to major, and eventually became the commander of the Zambales Military District, responsible for the actions of nearly 10,000 USAFFE fighters in the area near Mount Pinatubo. His prowess as a military commander became well known and resulted in the Japanese placing a 100,000 peso bounty on his life.3 In February 1945, General MacArthur appointed Major Magsaysay the military governor of Zambales due to his honesty, integrity, and ability. During his tenure as military governor he became an outspoken champion for veteran rights and impressed the local population with his dedication to improving their life. A year later, President Roxas asked him to join the Liberal Party and run for a congressional seat in the November election. Magsaysay refused initially, stunning the president, but relented when he was presented a petition signed by 11,000 of his men asking him to run for Congress. Despite his personal differences with Roxas, whose policies Magsaysay saw as favoring only the rich, his men convinced him that he could best help the country by joining the government. He resigned his commission and won a seat in the Philippine House of Representatives with the largest popular margin in Zambales history.4

Once in Congress, he, continued to fight for veteran rights and was soon appointed to the House Committee on National Defense, the committee with oversight responsibility for the


armed forces. He became the committee's chairman after his reelection in 1949 and was instrumental in transferring the Police Constabulary from the Interior Department to the Department of National Defense. Magsaysay was also responsible for the reorganization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines into battalion combat teams, and its assumption of responsibility from the Police Constabulary for the anti-Huk campaign in Luzon.

While Chairman of the Armed Forces Committee, he traveled to Washington in April 1950 on a quest to obtain financial aid for the faltering government in Manila. The importance of this visit was twofold. First, after conferring with General George C. Marshall (who was still in retirement before becoming Secretary of Defense in the fall), and speaking with President Truman and the National Security Council, he received $10 million in emergency aid to pay the military and offer rewards for information about the insurgents and was promised additional assistance under the Military Assistance Agreement of March 1947. Second, and as important for the anti-Huk campaign, he met and befriended newly promoted Lieutenant Colonel Edward G. Lansdale, an Air Force intelligence officer familiar with the Philippines and her people, and who would very shortly become Magsaysay's personal JUSMAG advisor.5

On his return to Manila, Magsaysay told President Quirino that Philippine prestige in the United States was at a low ebb as a result of poor social conditions and Huk success in the Luzon countryside. He suggested that the president take immediate steps to purge the government of corrupt officials and institute needed agrarian reforms. The Philippine president suggested that Magsaysay confine his attentions to the military situation and


promptly ignored Magsaysay's comments. After all, Magsaysay had succeeded in bringing home $10 million and the future seemed to promise even more American money and equipment.

Magsaysay and the Philippine Armed Forces

In September 1950, Magsaysay was approached by President Quirino and asked if he would become the Secretary of National Defense. Earlier that summer, the former secretary, Roberto Kangleon, resigned in a dispute with Quirino over reorganization. The President received pressure from many within his administration, as well as from Major General Leland Hobbs, Chief of the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group to the Philippines (JUSMAG), to ask Magsaysay to take the position. Magsaysay agreed to become the new secretary, but only if he was given a "free hand." Reluctantly, Quirino agreed to his terms.6 Within a few days of his appointment, Magsaysay was approached by a group of officers who asked him if he would join them to overthrow President Quirino. Although he found it difficult to refuse them; not out of a desire for a military coup but, rather because he opposed so much the Quirino administration was doing, or failing to do; he made them a promise, "Give me ninety days. If I haven't done anything by then, go ahead. I promise you."7

There is no doubt that he accepted the office with clear-cut plans in mind. He wanted to shake the Philippine military from top to bottom, cleansing its ranks of corrupt, incompetent officers, and indeed, he wanted to change its very role.


Heretofore, the AFP conducted itself much like an army of occupation, seldom venturing afield in search of Huks, unless Manila headlines made it absolutely necessary, and most of the time preying heavily on the local populace. Magsaysay saw the military in a different light. He wanted it to become a major part of a large, coordinated development plan for the country, a plan that would incorporate the military as a participant in social reforms and public service.8 Not only did he demand that his forces abandon corrupt practices, he set the example himself. He refused special treatment, lived from his government salary (about $500 per month) and a small stipend from being the Chairman of the Board of Philippine Airlines, and whenever possible presented a modest appearance in public.9 Not surprisingly, many within the Philippine military felt nervous about his intentions but felt just as confident that one man could not bring about such dramatic changes. These doubters soon were not only proved incorrect, but became jobless as well.

On his first day as secretary, Magsaysay began to clean his new house. He relieved several high ranking officers, including the Chief of Staff and the Chief of the Constabulary, and ordered other "armchair strategists" to the field. Those reluctant to leave the safety of Manila, or implicated in graft and corruption, were likewise removed. He then began a personal routine that included extensive travelling, talking with troops and civilians alike, and taking quick and decisive actions when he found a situation that warranted it.10 During these unannounced field trips Magsaysay became convinced that his plans


for the AFP were correct. He found it suffering from low morale, ineffectiveness, poor leadership, and riddled with corruption. Under his enlightened leadership, these conditions changed rapidly.

The secretary personally selected many new, and younger, battalion commanders and ordered most of the units to new areas of operation. By doing this, Magsaysay hoped to destroy cliques within the service and reduce tensions that had built up between local people and Army units over a period of years when units remained assigned to a single area.11 When Magsaysay discovered an officer under Huk influence, he got rid of him, along with those he considered reluctant to carry the fight to the guerrillas, Favoritism, long an established criteria for promotion, was halted and those who had advanced using it were advanced no further.12

On his almost daily excursions to the field, Magsaysay stopped at all AFP sites, regardless of size or location, and made thorough inspections of the men, their equipment, and their facilities. Officers derelict in their duties or involved in graft were relieved on the spot. During one such night visit he found a guard asleep at his post. The secretary took the man's rifle, replaced the soldier at his post, and ordered the soldier to fetch his commander. The soldier was disciplined and his commander was relieved that night.13 These surprise inspections were so numerous and effective that leaders throughout the military began to improve the condition of their units. In the


words of the commander of the 7th BCT, AFP Colonel Napoleon Valeriano, "No commander, even in the most isolated outpost could go to bed at night sure that he would not be awakened at dawn by an irate Secretary of National Defense."14

At the same time., Magsaysay was equally fast to reward as to punish. One captain was offered 150,000 pesos to "forget" about a Huk ammunition cache his men discovered. The officer accepted the money, but instead of keeping it, he went immediately to the secretary, who at that time was attending a state dinner to honor President Quirino. Between courses, Magsaysay awarded the captain a cash reward for his honesty and promoted him to major.15

In his first twenty days as secretary, he took two other steps that directly affected the soldier in the field. First, using money he acquired from U.S. military assistance funds, he increased pay from only 30 centavos to a full peso per day. Although the pay-scale seems meager, it allowed the soldier to purchase his daily ration from the local people rather than steal or demand it as had often been the case prior. Second, Magsaysay equipped each patrol `leader with a camera to document enemy casualties. As has so often been the case in guerrilla wars, accurate numbers of enemy casualties (body counts) proved difficult to verify. Without photos, government claims were not verified unless, as was sometime the case when the cameras broke, the patrol leader brought other positive proof back with him. This proof sometimes included Huk heads or ears strung on rattan cords.16


Magsaysay stopped and spoke to the local people during each of his inspection tours. He told the people that the police and military forces were there to protect them and, that if they had complaints about his forces, they could tell him and he would take appropriate action. To encourage this communication, Magsaysay authorized free telegrams from villagers and insured that each was answered quickly by himself or his key staff.17 With programs such as these it did not take long for word to spread about the new secretary and what he expected from his armed forces. Within just a few months, the entire outlook of the AFP was changing for the better.

Soon after becoming Secretary of National Defense, Magsaysay decided that government tactics needed drastic adjustment. Although he had originally favored large-scale conventional sweep operations, he changed his mind as he examined the results from these operations on both the guerrillas and the local populace who seemed to suffer the brunt of such large actions. He was willing to try something new, something not in "the book." When he approached the president with his proposal to change their tactics, Quirino responded: "I have never heard of such tactics. General Castaneda (the Chief of Staff that Magsaysay fired) has never suggested anything like this to me." "Of course not," answered Magsaysay, "Costanedo does not know anything about guerrilla warfare. He does not understand the kind of strategy that has to be practiced against the Huks if we are to defeat them."18


He decided to base government military tactics on small-unit operations, relying on large convention sweeps only when specific circumstances dictated its use. By doing this he hoped to maintain greater pressure on the Huks, reduce intelligence leaks associated with large operations, and remove the enemy's sense of security in Huklandia. In a speech delivered before the Philippine General Staff, Magsaysay summarized his new tactics: "Gentlemen, I know you all have graduated from military establishments here and in the United States. Now I am telling you to forget everything you were taught at Ft. Leavenworth, Ft. Benning, and the Academy. The Huks are fighting an unorthodox war. We are going to combat them in unorthodox ways. Whatever it was that hurt me most as a guerrilla is what we are going to do now to the Huk."19

To support his new strategy, Magsaysay began to increase the size of the Army to twenty-six battalions that would operate in four tactical commands. With help from the JUSMAG, and monies from the Military Defense Assistance Program (MDAP), this ambitious plan was accomplished -- 28,000 troops were added, to the AFP by 1955 and the number of constabulary companies increased to ninety-one. Of the twenty-six BCTs, twenty-three were concentrated on Luzon with only two deployed to

Map: The Philippines (Military Areas)


the southern islands. The final battalion remained in Manila in a training /reserve status. Emphasis was placed on patrolling (especially at night), squad/platoon size operations, and hit-and-run tactics similar to those used by Luis Taruc.20

Above all other considerations, Magsaysay knew that government terror tactics had to be stopped. From his days as a guerrilla leader, he understood that the campaign depended on gaining the people's support and allegiance. In the past, government attempts to provide relief for the people were destroyed by just a few acts of barbarism against the villagers. He told the military that their function was to protect the people from the Huks and to assist them in whatever ways they could. Each soldier was given two duties: to act as an ambassador of good will toward the people and to kill Huks. Army legal officers were instructed to serve as civilian counsel, free of charge, in court cases involving peasants and landlords, while Magsaysay personally investigated cases of military crimes, harshly punishing those involved. Just three months into his term as secretary, children ran to greet Army trucks when they visited villages rather than running to hide in the jungle as they had done before.21

On 23 December 1950, Magsaysay ordered the Police Constabulary placed under Army control for the duration of the Huk campaign. Formed in 1901 as a national police force, the Constabulary was the oldest independent paramilitary organization


in the country. By subordinating them to the military, a move police accepted only with great anxiety, Magsaysay demonstrated how far he was willing to go to improve the government's posture to fight the insurgency. In another attempt to improve the quality of the constabulary forces, regular army officers were placed in command of PC units and the PC was given additional training and newer weapons and equipment.22

The EDCOR Project

As part of his overall strategy to defeat the Huks, Magsaysay incorporated civil resettlement projects with his military campaign. His rural background told him that as long as the peasant felt no obligation to the central government, the guerrillas could continue to prosper in their midst. One of his first efforts to accomplish this began in December 1950 with the formation of the Economic Development Corps (EDCOR) that was implemented in conjunction with plans to provide captured or surrendered guerrillas better treatment. He envisioned the Corps operating under direct supervision of the Philippine Chief of Staff, who was strong enough to ensure military cooperation with this civil action. Magsaysay hoped that EDCOR would provide enough incentives for Huks to rejoin mainstream society. If successful, it might entice active Huks to give up their arms once they saw that the government was making progress toward land-reform and private land-ownership.

The program had four primary aims, all centered on resettling former insurgents on government land away from Luzon-- government land to which settlers would be given title. Captured or surrendered Huks who were not wanted for criminal


activities other than being a guerrilla, could participate in the program. Once screened by Army intelligence, they received a short re-education program and indoctrinated about the benefits of belonging to peaceful society. The Philippine Army transported those selected for the program, with their families, to one of the project sites and there gave them additional education on how to care for the land and advice on what to grow. To provide stability, and in some cases to keep control, the government allowed a small number of retired soldiers to participate in the EDCOR program as well.23

In February 1951, a reluctant President Quirino allowed army engineers to depart Luzon for the first EDCOR site on the southern island of Mindinao. Using equipment and supplies obtained through the JUSMAG, they cleared land, erected administration buildings, constructed roads, and prepared sites for settler's homes. Three months later, Magsaysay accompanied the first group of settlers to the project at Kapatangan. Using building materials supplied by the government and with the assistance of AFP troops, the new settlers began to raise their homes and clear their farmland. Each family was given 6-10 hectares (15-25 acres) of farmland, a home garden plot, free transportation, schools, medical care, electricity and clean water. Other basic necessities, such as farm animals, seed, and an initial supply of food, was sold to them on credit by the EDCOR administrators -- always of course, under Magsaysay's watchful eyes. In exchange, the farmers promised, in writing, to farm the land, repay the government for start-up costs, and accept advice from the Philippine Department of Agriculture. Finally, the settlers had to guarantee that they would not sell or sub-divide his land -- tenancy was strictly forbidden.24


This was truly a contractual agreement between the government and former Huks. Magsaysay hoped that since the program required all parties to work toward a common goal, the participants would develop pride in their accomplishments, unlike other give-away programs that did not require the recipient to devote his own time and labors. The Army helped clear the land, worked daily with the people, and provided the community with utilities. This became very important to the settlers, most of whom did not have the luxury of electricity before.25 The farmers were given title to the land on condition they develop and live on it.

EDCOR's success came early and surpassed everyone's expectations. Applicants soon outnumbered available plots and many Luzon peasants paid their own way to Mindinao in attempts to get some land adjacent to EDCOR sites. By November 1951 it was obvious that the program needed to be expanded and a second EDCOR site was started on Mindinao. The second site proved as successful as the first and was itself followed by two more sites on Luzon, outside of contested areas, in 1954.26

EDCOR also provided Magsaysay with a great propaganda victory. It not only gave the farmer a chance to own land, it undercut the foundation upon which the Huk campaign was based. "Land for the Landless," once the Huk slogan, now belonged to the government. Although. Huks tried several times to sabotage EDCOR projects and spread word that EDCOR projects were concentration camps, persistent rumors about the wonderful conditions at the projects made these Huk attempts counterproductive.27 Glowing reports and stories about EDCOR spread beyond the Philippines to


China and Malaya as well. British officials from Malaya came to see the "huge" generators they had heard were being used to power the settlements. What they found were small army generators providing electricity to the farmer's homes. The actual size of the generators was unimportant, that word of the good EDCOR conditions had spread throughout the Philippines and beyond was significant. Before the end of the insurrection, many guerrillas surrendered to government troops and the first thing that they asked was how they could get their own farm.28

1955, government officials estimated that 1,500 guerrillas had surrendered or simply quit the resistance to take advantage of EDCOR. Without this imaginative program, the Philippine government estimated it would have taken the efforts of 30,000 troops to eliminate that portion of the insurrection. Some five thousand-two hundred people (1,200 families) were resettled from central Luzon to EDCOR projects.29 But the final results of EDCOR went beyond the number of people that were resettled. The program demonstrated the willingness and dedication of the Magsaysay administration to change the way government treated its peasant farmers. From the program's first success in Mindinao, the psychological effect on the people of Luzon was dramatic and served to undercut the support that Taruc and his guerrilla movement relied upon.

Magsaysay and the Filipino People

Few people have directly affected an entire population as Ramon Magsaysay. His honesty, unpretentious aire, and deep


concern with the problems faced by his countrymen forged a bond with the common man that was unprecedented in Philippine history. He lived in an unprotected home (at least until he was convinced to move into Lansdale's guarded residence within the JUSMAG compound), wore simple clothes, frequently drove his own car, and spoke in a manner easily understood by all. To make sure that the people knew what he was striving for, he traveled daily across his nation, visiting military installations and civilian communities alike, asking questions and listening to what his people had to say. As one villager told a journalist about Magsaysay: "The government never comes here to see how we live. The only man who comes to these parts is Magsaysay," and adding a bit of prophecy, "Maybe he should be president. At least he knows how badly we need his help, and seems to be the only one interested in the welfare of the barrios."30

Magsaysay normally wore common civilian clothing on his travels -- an "aloha" shirt and slacks. Unlike other government officials who traveled amidst great pomp, Magsaysay's ordinary appearance lent credence to his reform plans and helped him gain the people's trust. On one occasion, however, his appearance almost cost him a long and uncomfortable walk through the Philippine countryside. With his personal advisor, Lt. Col. Lansdale, he had flown by helicopter to what he thought was walking distance from a village. After walking for some time, the two realized that they had misjudged the distance and tried to catch a ride with passing motorists. Finally one driver stopped when he saw Lansdale, who was in uniform, but hesitated to give a ride to the other man, whom he did not recognize. Only after Lansdale convinced the Filipino that his companion was the


secretary of national defense, did the wary driver permit Magsaysay to get into his car.31

Besides his concern for the people, Magsaysay's honesty became synonymous with his administration. When he found graft or corruption he was quick to act against those involved. "Everytime I sit here and look at my stamp drawer," recalled a local postmaster, "I start to think, well, I don't have much money and my family needs food, maybe I ought to swipe some. Then I start thinking that that damn Magsaysay might suddenly show up ... just as my hand is going into the petty cash drawer, and he'd throw me in jail."32

The new secretary of national defense's popularity and fame did not escape Taruc's notice. During his first year in office, Magsaysay was the target of several Huk assassination attempts. Fortunately, all of these attempts failed and in one case, the agent was "turned" after having a long discussion with Magsaysay.33

One of several young men sent to assassinate Magsaysay during his first year as secretary was Thomas Santiago, known as "Manila Boy." Santiago was one of Luis Taruc's personal bodyguards and totally dedicated to the Huk cause. Leaving the mountains with grenades and pistols hidden in his clothing, he went to Manila where, while watching the secretary's office, he overheard a group of citizens talking about Magsaysay. To his great surprise, they were praising the secretary as a new national hero. When young Santiago challenged their contentions, he was taken aside by a former guerrilla leader and told that he


should talk to Magsaysay to see if what he heard was indeed the truth. The following morning, Santiago did just that. After an hour of often heated debate, Santiago shook Magsaysay's hand, turned his weapons over to the secretary, and told him, "I came to kill you. Now please, let me work for you."34 As was the case with several Huk personalities during Magsaysay's term, "Manila Boy" went to work for the secretary, touring the country and telling all who would listen to him of Magsaysay's dedication to the people and the nation.

This episode however, should not suggest that Magsaysay's personality and charisma overcame all adversity -- it did not. Several other assassins arrived in Manila, but they too failed to kill Magsaysay. The secretary was by then living with Lansdale in a Manila residence quietly protected by a special team of Filipino bodyguards who specialized in stealth and night operations. Although never publicized,. several "hit teams" were quietly dispatched by these extraordinary bodyguards. One might wonder why these attacks were kept secret -- Lansdale recalls Magsaysay saying that it would be best to remain silent and let Taruc wonder what happened to his men, ie, were they killed or had they deserted.35


A prominent factor in the successful anti-guerrilla campaign was the close, personal relationship that developed between Edward Lansdale and Ramon Magsaysay. This relationship provided an effective conduit through which American advice affected Philippine actions during this period. To overlook


Lansdale's role would be to neglect a significant chapter of this story.

The relationship began in 1950 when they first met at a Washington reception for the visiting Secretary of National Defense. Magsaysay came to the United States to encourage U.S. support for his government's growing fight against the Huks.

Lansdale, who served as an intelligence officer for the OSS and the Military Intelligence Service in the Philippines during the war and who had but recently been promoted to lieutenant colonel, was then teaching intelligence and counter-guerrilla operations at the Air Force Strategic Intelligence School at Lowry Air Force Base. Lansdale received a call from an old friend, Philippine Colonel Montemayor, telling him that he should meet the new Philippine secretary. "I'm with quite a man," Montemayor told Lansdale, "and you've got to get to know him."36 At the Ft. Myer reception, Lansdale caught both Magsaysay's ear and imagination. Later that year, as the JUSMAG began to play a more prominent role in the anti-Huk effort, Magsaysay asked President Quirino to request Lansdale's assignment to the JUSMAG.

Shortly after his arrival in the Philippines with his assistant, U.S. Army Maj. Charles T.R. Bohannan, Lansdale was invited to dinner by Magsaysay at his home near Manila. Concerned with visible guerrilla activity in the neighborhood and the lack of security for the Secretary, Lansdale invited him to share his room in the house he lived in within the JUSMAG compound in Manila. Magsaysay accepted the offer, sent his wife and children back to his wife's family on Bataan, and moved in with the U.S. advisor. Thus began the intimate relationship that existed between the two military men until Magsaysay's untimely death in 1957.


Although assigned to the JUSMAG as a G-2 advisor, Lansdale was given exceptional freedom of action and quickly became Magsaysay's de facto personal advisor. Often the two talked long into the night about conditions that fostered the insurrection and about the real need for governmental and social reforms as a prelude to a permanent solution to the Huk problem. Early each morning the Secretary would rouse Lansdale from his bed and together they made daily inspection tours around the nation. To maintain this close personal contact, Lansdale obtained special permission from the Chief of JUSMAG, General Hobbs, to make these forays into contested areas to see firsthand the condition of the Philippine armed forces. Other than Lansdale and Bohannan, JUSMAG advisors were prohibited from taking the field with their counterparts. It was during these visits, and during frequent informal coffee-chats, that Lansdale was able to discuss the real causes for the insurrection with Magsaysay, his assistants, and other concerned government officials. Shortly thereafter, Magsaysay took steps to revitalize the military, improve pay and morale, eliminate corrupt officers, and foster his campaign to win the people back to the central government.

As part of the rejuvenation campaign, Lansdale, with Magsaysay's active support, helped establish intelligence schools and a Philippine Military Intelligence Corps. As graduates from these schools joined forces in the field, battalion combat team commanders became convinced of the importance of intelligence to their operations, the battle began to shift to the government. During the next few years, programs initiated by Magsaysay gradually took the revolution away from the Huks. The people saw clear evidence of military professionalism, competence, and honesty (quite a dramatic change) and through the military's behavior, began to realize that Magsaysay was working for their benefit. The soldiers became heros to the people, "White Hats," and received more and more of their active support.


Late in 1953, Lansdale was ordered back to Washington to prepare for an assignment with the O'Daniel mission to Vietnam. After completing his first French lesson, Lansdale was called at home by President Magsaysay and asked to return to the Philippines. Lansdale told his old friend that he was unable to come back but, after the Philippine President made another call to President Eisenhower, Lansdale found himself in Manila early in 1954. This time, he was only able to remain until May, when he was ordered to continue on to Vietnam "to do there what you did in the Philippines."37

To what did Edward Lansdale credit his success? First and foremost, he dealt with Magsaysay and the Filipinos as friends and equals. Filipinos viewed friendship as a deeper and longerlived relationship than Americans did. To them, friendship involved total acceptance into their most valued social institution -- the family. Trusting the Filipinos, allowing them to form their own solutions to their problems with a minimum of interference, and always treating them as equals were Lansdale's keys to success. He advised them on counter-guerrilla tactics and helped them lessen their reliance on conventional operations, but he always made sure they were responsible for the decisions. He maintained a low-profile and allowed Filipinos to take credit for successful operations, concurrently building pride and confidence in the AFP and their fellow countrymen. As retired Maj. Gen. Lansdale so aptly put it, the Filipinos best knew the problems, best knew how to solve them, and did it -- with U.S. aid and advice, but without U.S. domination of their effort.38



The JUSMAG supported the Philippine governments during the first half of the 1950s through a multi-faceted approach that included advice to key military and government officials, both officially and otherwise, and through direct material and financial aid. Whether by purpose or default the combination of money, war surplus equipment, and good sound advice found fertile ground with Ramon Magsaysay. With the American assistance, he defeated the insurrection.

Evolution of the JUSMAG

JUSMAG-Philippines, originally called the Joint Advisory Group, was established by the JCS on 1 November 1947 to oversee a modest military assistance program under the Military Assistance Act of 1946.39 Initially under the operational control of CINCFE, the JUSMAG worked in conjunction with U.S. economic programs and as a major participant in the total American effort that followed the war. Initially, the JUSMAG's small size, having less than twenty officers assigned until 1952, reflected American post-war philosophy of reducing U.S. military presence in the region to promote local development. The Huk insurrection prompted many changes in the JUSMAG and demonstrated shortcomings in post-war U.S.-Philippine policy. Of these failures, the greatest were misjudging the seriousness of the situation until 1950, and the importance of nationalism and land ownership to the average Filipino.40


The Department of Defense refined the JUSMAG's mission in late 1950 to reflect more closely U.S. support for the Philippine government in their growing battle against the Huk -- a battle the Philippine government was losing. At the same time, Congress passed a special act permitting the sale at cost of surplus military equipment to the Philippines. In addition, Congress allocated an undetermined amount of grant aid for the government under the Military Defense Assistance Act. The JUSMAG, then under the command of General Hobbs, became the sole source of all military assistance to the Philippines.41 Its responsibility grew rapidly as monies and materiel arrived to support the anti-Huk campaign. For example, the Army Materiel Program, the largest of the three service accounts, nearly doubled between fiscal years 1950 and 1951 from $12.6 million to $21.8 million. All of this was made easier after 25 June 1950 when North Korean troops crossed the international boundary into South Korea and the United States entered the Korean War.42

Shortly thereafter, the JUSMAG increased in size to seventeen officers and twenty-one enlisted men.43 Its mission expanded to reflect a growing concern in Washington that the ineffectiveness of the Philippine armed forces was preventing victory over the Huks, who were growing in activity and popular support during 1949 and 1950. During the summer of 1950, while


U.S. advisors helped Magsaysay reorganize the Army into battalion combat teams (BCT), officials of the Mutual Defense Assistance Program conducted a survey of conditions in the Philippines. They found the primary problem to be political-economic instability and concluded that progress would be impossible without broadbased American assistance.44 They were proved correct. The Huks were suppressed only after Luzon's peasant class was assisted by progressive social and economic changes that allowed them to shift their allegiance back to the central government and away from the guerrillas. Without this basic change, military operations alone could not have defeated the guerrillas, but it would require time to incorporate such a broad attack. Yet, the JUSMAG seemed to be ignoring nonmilitary aspects of the insurrection before the MDAP report on the insurgency was published. Lansdale commented about the lack of attention even in the summer of 1950. Recalling his in-briefing at the JUSMAG, he mentioned that, "...curiously enough, Philippine and American officers barely mentioned the political and social factors in briefing me. They dwelt almost exclusively on the military situation. It was as though military affairs were the sole tangible factor they could grasp."45

In 1951, things began to change. Originally established by Public Law 454, the JUSMAG was reorganized when the Mutual Defense Assistance Act replaced PL 454 on 4 July 1951. The JUSMAG increased in size and became the executive agent for American military assistance to the Philippines under the general guidance of the ambassador, not the Commander-in-Chief Pacific as had previously been the case. The Chief of JUSMAG was designated by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and approved by the Secretary of


Defense and the government of the Philippines.46 Although removed from MacArthur's command, the JUSMAG continued to inform his headquarters of the situation by forwarding weekly and semiannual reports through it on the way to the Director of the Office of Military Assistance and the JCS in Washington. In August 1951, Maj. Gen. Albert Pierson replaced General Hobbs as Chief Advisor/Chief of MAAG, but not before the JCS adopted Hobbs' proposed reorganization. His proposals to increase the size of the JUSMAG with officers to advise Philippine military service and branch chiefs were incorporated in 1952.




Source: JUSMAG, Semi-Annual Report 1 Jun-30 Jul 2X, MMRD, RG 330, box 46, NARA, Washington, D.C.

Chart 4




Source: JUSMAG, Semi-Annual Report.

Chart 5

The JCS directed that the JUSMAG be composed of a chief, and three service related division chiefs appointed by the Services. Although documentation detailing the composition of the JUSMAG officially set its strength at "such numbers as required," an earlier draft showed the JUSMAG would consist of thirty-two officers and twenty-six enlisted men, nearly double the previous strength of seventeen and twenty-one.47 During the remainder of the campaign, the JUSMAG retained this thirty-two officer/twenty-six enlisted structure, later adding nine civilian stenographers to assist in administrative duties. In May 1953, Maj. Gen. Robert M. Cannon succeeded General Pierson as Chief Advisor.


The reorganized JUSMAG was given four areas of major responsibility. Under the guidance of the American ambassador, it would provide advice and assistance to key members of the military, administer the Mutual Defense Assistance Program that financed end items, help train the AFP, and promote standardization within it.

JUSMAG Support and Operations

JUSMAG requests for arms, ammunition, and vehicles rose in 1950 as Huk activity increased. Prior to this time, aid requested by JUSMAG was received, but the amounts were limited and consistently fell below the amount requested. For example, a fiscal year 1948 request for $9.4 million for food, fuel, and clothing for the Philippine military met the following response from Washington: " is felt very little justification exists at this time for favorable consideration. Also, it does not appear that denial of this request would seriously retard development of Philippine defense forces beyond the capability of the Philippine government to control."48 Nearly a year later, in the fall of 1948 and despite a marked increase in Huk activity, U.S. policy remained largely unchanged. "Equipment in addition to that already furnished to the armed forces of the Philippines," wrote the War Department's Director of Plans and Operations to the Commander in Chief Far East, "can be provided only after more urgent requirements are met and after the necessary appropriations are obtained."49 Finally, in 1950,


requests for additional transfers of equipment and for AFP school quotas in the United States began to reap positive results.

Photo: North American P-51A Mustang and Stinson L-5 Sentinel

With the exception of heavy engineer equipment that was diverted to Korea, the Department of Defense approved most of the new requests and shipped the equipment to Manila. For example, in the three months from April to July, the Philippine armed forces received fifteen million rounds of small arms and mortar ammunition, several armored cars, light trucks, and thirty-four F-51 aircraft from Pacific and CONUS war surplus stocks.50 At the same time, surplus cargo, training, and observation aircraft (C-47, T-6, and L-5) were delivered to the small Philippine Air Force. Other materials received by the JUSMAG and passed to the armed forces in 1950 included various types of small arms, machine guns, mortars, light artillery, wheeled cargo vehicles,


and a few light and medium tanks.51 Concurrently, JUSMAG advisors received permission from the JCS to participate in training the AFP in such vital functions as organization, tactics, logistics, and the use of the new weapons and equipment - - a decision nearly as important as the arrival of the actual equipment.52

Beginning in 1950, the JUSMAG supported Philippine requests for additional monetary assistance. Magsaysay first sought these special funds in a letter to Secretary of Defense Johnson in April. These funds were not for the purchase of equipment, as might be expected, but rather, were earmarked to pay the existing government troops and to allow the government to increase the number of battalion combat teams in the Philippine Army from ten to twenty-six. Throughout 1950 and well into the following year, MDAP money flowed into the Philippine Department of National Defense. These requests culminated in a special request for $10 million during the summer of 1951. Approved by President Truman, this special request seems to have put the Army over the top. Corruption began to decline, due to increased pay and the efforts of the new Secretary of National Defense; and the armed forces became more professional and effective. Soldiers, now able to purchase rations from the local villagers and provide for their families, began to feel better about their mission. This attitude change had far reaching effects for both the soldier and


the peasant alike. The soldier gained prestige, a sense of nationalism, and felt that he was fighting Huks to protect his country and his fellow countrymen. The peasant was relieved as the police and military finally began to protect him, and no longer used him as a handy supply house.53 As the trend continued, so did the erosion of Huk popular support.

In the fall of 1951 the JUSMAG began to train and equip a Philippine airborne infantry company. The unit, sparked by an idea passed to Secretary Magsaysay by Lt. Col. Lansdale, was intended to be emplaced behind enemy lines to act as a mobile blocking force during large operations. Although the necessary equipment and training was provided, the airborne company was never employed as planned.54 Concurrently, the JUSMAG funnelled large amounts of equipment into the AFP, including nearly 200 wheeled and light tracked vehicles that greatly increased their mobility and helped alleviate two long-standing deficiencies--mobility and slow response time.

It was also during 1951 that the JUSMAG embarked upon an expanded program to provide the military with professional education and training. Quotas for officers and enlisted men from all three Philippine services were obtained for military and technical schools in the United States. In 1951 alone, 249 Philippine officers and men attended 85 courses in the United States at a cost of $930,300.55 These courses ranged from the Command and General Staff College to branch advanced and basic courses, to NCO academies, and to courses on communications, maintenance, and supply. Encompassing schools from all three


U.S. services, the education program paid high dividends as the AFP grew in capability and professionalism.

JUSMAG efforts to increase the amount of MDAP funds were successful, aided no doubt by growing government successes against the Huks. In 1952, the Department of Defense designated $48.9 million for the Philippines to raise sixteen additional battalion combat teams. This allowed Magsaysay to achieve the twenty-six BCTs that he desired. The appropriation included a supplemental request sent to President Truman by the Secretary of Defense in February 1952, seeking an additional $5 million to be used to pay government forces and to finance a government program to purchase weapons from Huks and their supporters.56

By 1953, JUSMAG efforts could be judged through greater AFP effectiveness against the Huks and, to a larger extent, by overall conditions in the country. Luis Taruc saw the tide of battle changing and blamed the United States for the government's good fortunes. "He was given an American Military Advisory Group to train his armed forces," he said of Magsaysay, "to train them for war against the peasants, and he was backed up with the promise of greater aid if the people's movement got too strong for him."57 American aid and advice were working.-working too well for some.

At this junction, an important change took place in JCS philosophy. American military advisors were permitted, for the first time, to accompany government forces into the field, a suggestion first raised by the 1950 MDAP survey mission. Prior


to this time, JCS policy prohibited advisors (with only two exceptions, Lt. Col. Lansdale and his assistant, Maj. Bohannan) from taking the field with their counterparts.58 In February 1953, JUSMAG made the first official reference to granting a few advisors permission to accompany Philippine units afield. The Country Statement FY 1954, reported that "Periodically, JUSMAG officers accompany AFP tactical units as non-combatant observers during operations in the field against dissidents. At these times, they note and report on the tactics employed and utilization (made) of MDAP equipment. By accompanying AFP units in the field from time-to-time, ... (they) are thereby better able to advise Philippine Commanders."59 The exact number of advisors or their specific actions while accompanying Philippine Army units were not detailed.

The situation in the Philippines had reversed by 1954 and was favoring the government, now under the leadership of President Magsaysay: Relying heavily on American aid and advice from the JUSMAG, Manila was winning the battle against the insurgents and improving the economy throughout the islands. The military had been reorganized, increased in size and efficiency, and was now viewed by the peasants as a protector rather than as an oppressor. The AFP numbered some 51,000 troops, of which 37.000 were assigned to twenty-six BCTs. The remaining forces were divided between the Police Constabulary (7,300), general headquarters and special units (7,700), and combat support and service units and the small Air Force and Navy.60 Due to


American aid, Magsaysay was able not only to beat the Huks, but to devote thee majority of his country's finances to social programs and land reforms. Special community projects were funded that built schools, roads, and health clinics in areas long forgotten about by previous administrations. In yet another large development program, thousands of new wells were dug across Luzon and on the southern islands to provide the people with fresh, clean water. From 1951 until 1954, the Philippines received $94.9 million in non military economic aid and assistance, assistance that enabled national spending on the military to remain below 50 percent of the total budget, even at the height of the insurrection.61



1. Edwin J. McCarren, Personal Leadership: An Element of National Power, (Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, [8 April 1966]), p. 20.

2. Clarence G. Barrens, I Promise: Magsaysay's Unique PSYOP "Defeats" HUKS, (Ft. Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, [1970]), p. 46.

3. Barrens, I Promise, p. 47; and McCarren, Personal Leadership, p. 21.

4. Carlos P. Romulo and Marvin M. Gran, The Magsaysay Story, (NY: Van Rees Press, 1956), p. 78.

5. Irwin D. Smith, The Philippine Operation Against the Huks: Do Lessons Learned Have Application Today?, Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, [24 January 1968]), p. 6; and McCarren, Personal Leadership, p. 29.

6. Robert R. Smith, The Hukbalaha Insurgency: Economic, Political and Military Factors, Washington, D.C.: Office of the Chief of Military History, [1963]), p. 100; and Smith, Philippine Operations, p. 86.

7. William L. Wardon, "Robin Hood of the Islands," Saturday Evening Post CCXXIV (January 12, 1952), p. 76.

8. Ismael Lapus (Col., AFP), "The Communist Huk Enemy," in Counter-Guerrilla Operations in the Philippines 1946-53, (Ft. Bragg, NC: U.S. Army Special Forces Center and School, [15 June 1961]), p. 20.

9. Barrens, I Promise, p. 54.

10. McCarren, Personal Leadership, p. 26.

11. A.H. Peterson, G.C. Reinhardt, and E.E. Conger, eds. Symposium of the Role of Airpower in Counterinsurgency and Unconventional Warfare: The Philippine Huk Campaign, (Santa Monica, CA: The Rand Corporation,. [July 1963]), p. 18.

12. Smith, The Hukbalahap Insurgency, p. 102.

13. Barrens, I Promise, p. 70.

14. William B. Steele, Internal Defense in the Philippines: 1946-1954, (Carlisle Barracks, PA: US Army War College, [1967]), p. 8.

15. Barrens, I Promise, p. 86.

16. Peterson, et al., Symposium on the Role of Airpower, p. 25.

17. In the first year of the program, Magsaysay received 59,000 telegrams, each of which was answered in three days or less. Clifford M. White, Why Insurgency Was Defeated in the Philippines, (Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, [1967], p. 10.

18. Romulo, The Magsaysay Story, p. 105.

19. Reginald J. Swarbrick, The Evolution of Communist Insurgency in the Philippines, (Quantico, VA: Marine Corps Command and Staff College, [7 June 1983]), p. 30.

20. Donald MacGrain, Anti-Dissident Operations in the Philippines, (Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, 26 March 1956 ), p. 16; and White, Why Insurgency Was Defeated, p. 7.

21. Charles T.R. Bohannan, "Unconventional Warfare," in Counter-Guerrilla Operations in the Philippines 1946-53, p. 55; and Napoleon Valeriano and Charles T.R. Bohannan, CounterGuerrilla Operations: The Philippine Experience, (NY, Frederick A. Praeger, 1966), p. 207.

22. Military Assistance Institute, Country Study and Station Report: Philippines, (Washington, D.C.: American Institute for Research, [1964]) , p. 49.

23. Smith, The Hukbalahap Insurgency, p. 108.

24. Ibid., p. 109.

25. Peterson, et al., Symposium on the Role of Airpower, p. 30.

26. Smith, The Hukbalahap Insurrection, p. 109.

27. Smith, Philippine Operations, p. 10.

28. Peterson, et al., Symposium on the Role of Airpower, p. 30; and Lansdale interview, p. 17.

29. Fred Poole and Max Vanzi, Revolution in the Philippines: The United States in a Hall of Cracked Mirrors, (NY: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1984), p. 32.

30. Richard M. Leighton, Ralph Sanders, and Jose N. Tinio, The HUK Rebellion: A Case Study in the Social Dynamics of Insurrection, (Washington, D.C.: Industrial College of the Armed Forces, [March 1964]), p. 23.

31. Lansdale interview.

32. Ibid.

33. Edward G. Lansdale, In the Midst of Wars, (NY: Harper and Row, 1972), p. 46.

34. William O. Douglas, North From Malaya: Adventure on Five Fronts, (NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1953), pp. 103-105.

35. Lansdale interview.

36. Ibid.

37. Ibid.

38. Ibid.

39. Memo, Gen. Omar Bradley to Sec. Def., 2 Feb 51, sub: SemiAnnual Appraisal of the JUSMAG to the Republic of the Philippines, MMRD, RG 330, box 74, NARA, Washington, D.C.

40. Leo S. Comish, Jr., The United States and the Philippine Hukbalahap Insurrection: 1946-54, (Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, [8 March 1971]), p. 74; and Memo, Col. F.T. Folk to P&A, 8 Oct 48, sub: Personnel for JUSMAG-Philippines, MMRD, RG 319, box 25, folder P&O P.I. TS, NARA, Washington, D.C.

41. Memo, Maj. Gen. S.L. Scott to Maj. Gen. Duff, 6 Dec 50, sub: Agency to Army Outstanding MDAA Fund, MMRD, RG 330, box 74, folder 091.3 Phil., NARA, Washington, D.C.

42. Memo, J.O. Bell to Maj. Gen. S.L. Scott, 30 Jun 51, MMRD, RG 330, box 74, folder 111 FY 50-52, NARA, Washington, D.C.

43. Memo, CSA for JCS, 24 Oct 50, sub: Proposed Installation of a Medium Wave Transmitter, JCS 1519/51, MMRD, RG 330, box 31, folder CCS 686.9 Phil Islands, NARA, Washington, D.C.

44. Memo, J.T. Forbes to Chairman of Mission and FMACC, 27 Sep 50, sub: MDAP Organization-Philippines, MMRD, RG 330, box 74, folder 0005-333 Phil, NARA, Washington, D.C.; and Valeriano and Bohannan, Counter-Guerrilla Operations, p. 123.

45. Lansdale, Midst of War, p. 19.

46. Memo, F.C. Nash to Sec Def, 16 Jun 52, sub: Modifications to JUSMAG to the Philippine Directive, MMRD, RG 330, box 74, NARA, Washington, D.C.

47. Memo, OSD to JCS, 14 Jan 52, sub: Modification to JUSMAG to the Philippines Directive, MMRD, RG 330, box 74, folder 121, NARA, Washington, D.C.; and Note, Sec of JCS to holders of JCS 1519/44 (The Philippines), 28 Jul 50, MMRD, RG 330, box 31, folder CCS 686.9, NARA, Washington, D.C.

48. Msg., War Department to CINCFE, 13 Aug 47, MMRD, RG 319, box 25, folder P&O P.I. TS, NARA, Washington, D.C.

49. Ltr., Lt. Gen. A.C. Wedemeyer to CINCFE, 11 Oct 48, sub: Defense Plans of the Philippines, MMRD, RG 319, box 25, folder P&O, NARA, Washington, D.C.

50. Memo, Maj. Gen. L.L. Lemnitzer to Sec Def, 25 Apr 50, sub: US Aid to the Philippines, MMRD, RG 330, box 74, NARA, Washington, D.C.

51. During 1950, the AFP received the following items from surplus US stocks: .30 M1 and M2 carbines; .30 M1 and 1903 rifles; .30 machine guns; .50 machine guns; 60mm, 81mm, and 105mm mortars; .45 pistols; 37mm, 57mm, 40mm, 75mm guns and recoilless rifles; and 75mm and 105mm howitzers; 1/4 ton, 3/4 ton, 2 1/2 ton utility and cargo trucks; scout and armored cars; half-tracks; and light and medium M4 and M5 tanks. Memo, Leffingwell to Gen. Lemnitzer, 17 Jul 50; and Memo, Col. M.W. Brewster to Director Military Assistance, OSD, 17 Jul 50, both in MMRD, RG 330, box 74, folder 0005-333 Phil., NARA Washington, D.C.

52. Ltr., Scott to Arthur Foye, Dec 50, MMRD, RG 330, box 74, folder 091.3, NARA, Washington, D.C.

53. Lansdale interview.

54. Ibid; and Memo, Col. Nyquist to Gen. Olmsted, undated, MMRD, RG 330, box 31, folder 091.3, NARA, Washington, D.C.

55. JUSMAG, Proposed MDAP for the Republic of the Philippines FY 1951, 25 Mar 50, MMRD, RG 330, box 74, NARA, Washington, D.C.

56. Memo, Col. K.R. Kreps to Sec. Army, 3 Mar 52, sub: Special Fund for the Armed Forces of the Philippines; and ltr., W.C. Foster to President Truman, 21 Feb 52, both in MMRD, RG 330, box 74, folder 091.3 and 121, NARA, Washington, D.C.

57. Luis Taruc, Born of the People, (NY: International Publishers, 1953), p. 251.

58. Ltr., Gen. Omar Bradley to Maj. Gen. Hobbs, 31 Aug 50; and Memo, J.T. Forbes to Chairman of Mission, both in MMRD, RG 330, box 31, folder CCS 686.9 Phil Islands, NARA, Washington, D.C.

59. American Embassy, Manila, Country Statement, 17 Feb 53, MMRD, RG 330, box 12, folder 111 FY 50 Phil, NARA, Washington, D.C.

60. JUSMAG, Submission of the Director of Mutual Security - FY 1954 Program, 6 Sep 54, MMRD, RG 330, box 74, folder 111 FY 53 Phil, NARA, Washington, D.C.

61. JUSMAG, Country Statement.

page created 14 February 2002

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