Ramon Magsaysay's appointment as Secretary of National Defense in 1950 marked the beginning of the second phase of the Huk insurrection. His appointment marked the beginning of the end of Huk supremacy and initiated the effective government offensive that crushed the rebellion during the following four years. The previous chapter discussed some of the changes Magsaysay dictated for the Philippine military and detailed new initiatives taken by the JUSMAG to support his effort. This chapter examines the military actions that took place between 1950, when President Quirino was a virtual prisoner in Malacanang, and the collapse of the insurgency in 1954/55.


Although the Philippine military began to reorganize before Magsaysay became the Secretary, it was during his tenure that the Philippine military matured and refined its role and function. Each of the 1,100-man battalion combat teams was organized to reflect the change in tactics from conventional, to a, more unconventional mode that was based on small unit operations, mobility, and firepower at the unit level. Artillery and heavy mortar batteries were removed from the battalion and replaced with additional rifle and reconnaissance companies. When artillery was required for an operation, it was attached to the sector for use in that specific operation.1 The following charts show the organization of the Armed Forces of the


Philippines and of a typical Philippine Army battalion used as the basis for Magsaysay's anti-Huk campaign after 1950.

(ca. 1952)


Source: JUSMAG, Semi-Annual Report l Jan-30 Jun 1952, 1 Aug 52.

Chart 6


(ca. 1952)


Source: Smith, Philippine Operations, p.

Chart 7

The Headquarters and Service Company provided the battalion various support detachments used to augment rifle companies, coordinate support for the battalion, and in the case of the intelligence detachment, to conduct independent-operations for the battalion commander or the AFP general staff. Besides the intelligence detachment, the service company also included a medical detachment; a communications platoon, capable of establishing, and repairing radio or wire communication and equipment; a transportation platoon with eighteen cargo vehicles; a heavy weapons platoon with automatic weapons, 81mm mortars, and two 75mm recoilless-rifles, used to augment the weapons company; a replacement pool; and an air support detachment with light


observation helicopters and aircraft. The aircraft, usually WWII surplus L-5 artillery observation planes, provided aerial resupply and gathered intelligence information by observation or receiving "coded" messages from agents on the ground in guerrilla territory. Helicopters were used to evacuate wounded and proved a great morale builder for soldiers on long-range missions. Although the United States provided some heavy helicopters to the Philippine military, they were noisy, slow, and not employed in large numbers during the insurgency.2

With the exceptions of the S-2 section and pilots from the air support detachment, Magsaysay discontinued the old practice, of leaving a battalion in one area for extended periods. Instead, he ordered them moved periodically, leaving only the Intelligence Service Team and the pilots in the old location to assist the new, incoming unit.3 The Army found this allowed them the greatest flexibility to work closely with local police and constabulary units, while avoiding ill-feelings with the local populace. Within a BCT's defined area, companies or other smaller units were deployed to conduct independent operations, or. the entire battalion could join quickly with others into larger formations when needed.

Each company consisted of approximately 200 men and was divided into four infantry platoons; a service platoon with intelligence, maintenance, civil affairs, and medical sections; and a small company headquarters. Additional transportation assets and. heavier armaments were transferred from company and battalion level, and placed directly within the individual platoons. Each platoon was assigned four light utility vehicles,


one 2 1/2 ton truck, radios, two .50 caliber machine guns, and one 60mm mortar. Combat platoons were made up of three squads, each squad capable of fielding two patrols. Typically, a combat patrol had an enlisted patrol leader, a radioman, a Browning Automatic Rifle man, a scout, a rifleman/grenadier, and an aidman/cook.4


Beginning in 1950, AFP tactics underwent dramatic changes in both style and in combining purely military actions with psychological warfare activities. By combining the two, Magsaysay hoped to maintain pressure on the Huks, cause dissension within guerrilla ranks, and influence the people to favor the government. Patrols that once stayed close to home and usually near major roads became more effective as new, more aggressive leaders took command of BCTs. Patrolling was conducted on an irregular time-frame and a patrol often remained in the field for several days before returning to garrison. This in itself was a major change from the pre-Magsaysay days when patrols always returned home before nightfall. Instead of remaining road-bound, patrols ventured deep into the jungle in search of Huk camps and to gather information.5

BCT commanders relied on Scout-Rangers for long-range patrols that exceeded more than a few days in length. Five man teams were assigned to each battalion and often penetrated deep into guerrilla territory for several weeks at a time. One of


their favorite methods of gaining information was to enlist the help of local minorities, who themselves were often victimized by Huk bands. Capitalizing on this ready-made animosity toward the Huks, the government often enlisted the assistance of Negritos, black pygmies who lived in Luzon's mountains, to gather intelligence or to act as guides for the Army.6

Magsaysay was also quick to implement novel methods of attacking Huk logistics and supply. About half of the money he received from the United States after his 1950 visit went toward the purchase of "loose" weapons. His "Cash for Guns" campaign was so successful during its five year lifetime that it is estimated to have reduced Huk weapon stores by up to 50 percent.7 The remainder went to build the Philippine military. By the end of 1950, Philippine Army strength rose to almost 30,000 troops, nearly double its size of a year before. In addition to battalion combat teams, Army force. structure contained a K-9 Corps (used occasionally to track Huks), a battalion of Scout-Rangers, and a horse cavalry squadron.8


Long-range government patrols were also used to assist the government's psychological warfare program that was in full gear


by 1951. The "Force X" idea was reborn by Col. Valeriano, now the commander of the 7th BCT, and psychological warfare officers, who reported directly to the Secretary of National Defense staff, were attached to each Army battalion. ScoutRanger units within each battalion often adopted "Force X" tactics and ambushed enemy patrols and planted "dirty tricks" in Huk weapon caches. In addition, they were used covertly to distribute propaganda leaflets in areas thought secure by local guerrillas. The most successful of these leaflets was "The Eye." When a Huk found one of these simple leaflets, he was shaken at the thought of his secure territory being violated by some unseen enemy.9 Another AFP favorite, originally used against the Moros, involved planting altered ammunition in enemy ammunition stockpiles. This modified ammunition contained dynamite in place of powder and exploded when it was fired. Besides destroying a weapon and injuring the man firing it, it sent chills of mistrust through the Huk ranks. Who could be sure that the cartridge he was about to fire had not been tampered with and, who was to blame? Was it planted into one of their secure depots or, was their supplier a government agent? They never could really be sure.10

Photo: The "Eye" Leaflet


The Philippine Army's research and development unit, known affectionately as "The Department of Dirty Tricks" developed several other interesting items. Some of these involved exploding radios, flashlights, and doctored Huk weapons that were then secretly replaced into enemy stockpiles. Another of the inventions developed by the head of the R&D unit, whom Bohannan called "...the nicest man that I have ever known and with one of the nastiest minds," was a modified M1 carbine for use by Scout-Rangers. This weapon was equipped with dual barrels, made fully automatic, and was capable of firing 1,500 rounds per minute. They were greatly favored by the patrols who needed the firepower but not the weight of conventional weapons for their long excursions into Huklandia. Finally, the AFP produced a homemade napalm bomb that was dropped from L-5 light observation aircraft. These napalm bombs were made by filling coconut shells with gasoline and dropping them along with a couple of incendiary grenades on suspected Huk locations.11


Initial success with infiltration tactics prompted the government to experiment with expanding into large-scale infiltrations. Company C of the 7th BCT was selected for this project and moved to a secret training site in the Sierra Madre mountains. After eight weeks of intense training in all varieties of special operations and in impersonating the insurgents, four teams were dispatched on OPERATION COVERUP. The teams moved into the area around the village of Pandi and settled into the local community as farmers and laborers. From their base in a house rented by the unit S-2, they reported on guerrilla activities, ambushed several Huk patrols, and carried out a number of "snatch" operations against local Huk officials. Before the operation ended, seventy Huk officials disappeared and almost all guerrilla activities in the area were documented. This one action literally took Pandi away from the Huks as an operational base.12

Map: Central Luzon, Pandi area

As the government realized benefits from promoting dissension and mistrust in the Huk organization, it increased its efforts in 1952. Rewards were paid for information leading to the capture of guerrilla leaders and were given wide publicity. Local officials known to sympathize with the Huk were often put


into such compromising positions that they volunteered information in exchange for safe-conduct out of the area. In one instance, a local mayor was called into a village square and amidst great pomp and fanfare was thanked by Col. Valeriano for helping his troops kill a courier. Although totally unaware of the circumstances surrounding the courier's death, the mayor and his family appeared on the colonel's doorstep at 0300hrs the following morning. In exchange for information, the government resettled the mayor and his family to another island.13

In another example of psychological warfare, this time aimed at Huk cohesion, Magsaysay authorized a bounty of $50,000 for Luis Taruc. This was followed immediately by a more surprising move. He authorized even larger rewards for some Huk lieutenants and less important leaders. His plan worked. Jealousy sprang up between different groups whose members were upset that their leader's "price" was less than other leader's. However juvenile the effect, the reward program succeeded in disrupting guerrilla organization and did in fact lead to the capture of several Huk leaders.14

One enterprising BCT on Manila's outskirts managed to borrow several panel trucks from a local business and began making daily deliveries around the city. Early one morning, one of the trucks (with a fully armed squad concealed in its cargo compartment) was stopped by a Huk foraging party on a lonely country road and demanded the driver give them what he had in the back of his truck. This, he did graciously. The dead insurgents were left where they fell by the road and, after similar incidents happened


around Manila's suburbs, hijackings of civilian vehicles almost came to a complete stop.15

In another episode, a plane flew over a small battle and called down to the surprised Huks below by name. As the pilot departed, he thanked several "informers" on the ground and wished them good luck in escaping injury as a result of helping the Army find their unit. The Huks stared at one another, especially those whose names were called out, and wondered how much of what they had just heard was true. Could their comrades be informers? They just couldn't be sure, and as the tide of battle turned against them, several mock trials were held and more than one innocent guerrilla was put before a convenient wall.16 Those who watched the execution must surely have prayed that the next plane to fly over them didn't have a list with their names on it.

Late in the campaign, government L-5 aircraft dropped two series of leaflets on Huk forces trapped without food on Mount Arayat. The first set, addressed to the group's leaders, promised a choice of safe conduct if they surrendered, or death by starvation if they continued to resist. The second set of leaflets were addressed to the troops and promised them fair trials and just treatment, including food, if they surrendered. Magsaysay's object was to make the troops believe their leaders no longer cared about what happened to them and that they were willing to sacrifice them for a lost cause. In this case, the plan worked, at least partially. About half of the surrounded guerrillas surrendered, while others attempted to break-out of


the government lines. Even though some escaped, their confidence in their leaders suffered.17


Secretary Magsaysay realized that intelligence was the key that could reverse the course of the insurrection. Without knowing where the Huks were, in what strength, and what their plans were, no amount of military reorganization or change in tactics would prove effective. Using Lansdale's practical advice, he made Huk order-of-battle the first concern of his intelligence officers. Commanders were told to study Huk organization in their areas and to compile complete information files on known or suspected members of the movement. Each battalion started a special intelligence file on 3x5 index cards on all of these people. The files contained information about specific people, about local Huk intelligence and logistic nets, and other information obtained by Scout-Ranger patrols. When the BCT was transferred to a new area, the card file, and the S-2 Intelligence Section, remained in the area to help the incoming BCT.18 Periodically, these files were collected and their information consolidated at AFP GHQ.

Magsaysay presented his commanders with two sets of basic questions that were essential to the campaign. First, what can the enemy do to hurt me, what does he intend to do, and when will he do it? The second question was where is the enemy, what are his strengths that should be avoided, and what are his weaknesses


that should be exploited?19 As this information was compiled, other related data came to light -- the Huk communication system and the location of local supply points and logistic drop-points were discovered. The information about order-of-battle became so complete by 1954 that Lansdale remarked that if the guerrillas wanted to know where any of their units were, all they needed do was ask AFP intelligence.20

"Force X's" rebirth was a direct result of this emphasis on intelligence. During this second phase of the insurrection, "Force X" operations supplied the government with both intelligence and erased Huk feelings of security even in their traditional strongholds around Mount Arayat, the Candaba Swamp, or in the Sierra Madre mountains. Realizing large-scale infiltration did not come easily for the military, Magsaysay required his commanders to devote more and more of their assets to its use. Much of the program's success can be credited to the work of the Philippine Intelligence Service and graduates from the intelligence school, both organizations revitalized through the efforts of Secretary Magsaysay and his personal advisor, Edward Lansdale. Intelligence school graduates were placed at all levels within the Army, the Constabulary, and the National Bureau of Investigation.21 Soldiers were screened and trained, cover stories developed, and when conditions favored "Force X", they were employed. These conditions usually involved the temporary disruption of Huk communications in an area or a successful operation that destroyed a Huk unit and its leaders.


But above all, "Force X" relied on secrecy in planning, training, and execution.22

On the island of Panay, the Philippine Army tried a variation of the "Force X" concept to break the local guerrilla structure. Accompanied by three military intelligence agents, a group of twenty former Huks were infiltrated into the island's interior. After three months of gathering information, establishing their cover as a bona fide Huk unit, and gaining the confidence of the island's Huk leadership, they hosted a "by invitation only" barbecue for the Panay High Command.23 Between the ribs and potato salad, the covert government force sprang an ambush that killed or captured nearly all the Panay commanders and crippled the organization on the island for the duration of the campaign.

Magsaysay also resorted to planting spies within the Huk ranks to gain firsthand information. Employing the tightest of security, Magsaysay located a willing villager who was the cousin of a local Huk commander. The commander had joined the movement for personal rather than ideological reasons and was considered as the operation's target. After two months of training, Magsaysay's plan was put into action. Government troops burned the man's house, his brother was imprisoned, and his parents secretly moved to another island. With this as his cover, he sought refuge with his cousin, the guerrilla, and joined the movement. The local squadron made him a National Finance Committee collector and with money supplied to him by the government, he was soon promoted and in a short time became one of Luis Taruc's personal bodyguards. Before this project was terminated and the informer ordered to escape to friendly lines, he supplied the government with the names of the 1,175 member


Finance Committee, and information about the entire Huk operation in Candaba Swamp.24

The government also relied on information obtained from captured Huks and their friends and families. Direct intelligence came from the guerrilla or his immediate family. Although the amount of information received directly from these people was limited, when it was tendered, it was usually accurate and timely. The government tried to interrogate a captured Huk as soon after his capture as possible. By doing this, intelligence officers hoped to take full advantage of confusion and depression that normally accompanies capture. Once the man was convinced that he was going to be treated fairly and not tortured or summarily executed, he sometimes cooperated.

More information was gathered by using an indirect method that targeted friends, classmates, and more distant family members such as cousins, uncles, aunts, etc. While the guerrilla remained at large, these people were reluctant to divulge information but, once the guerrilla relative was captured, family members often volunteered information to help their friend or relative. To supplement this program, the government also planted agents in Manila prisons and questioned criminals about Huk activities. Since Huks sometimes employed common criminals to assist them with robberies and kidnappings, especially during the movement's decline, this tactic proved most helpful. Criminals frequently knew about Huk organization and were likely to exchange this information for reductions in sentences or improved living conditions.25


The Philippine Army was not beyond staging well planned production numbers to get information from hard-core Huk supporters. In San Luis, Luis Taruc's hometown, a local guerrilla unit killed four policemen and left the dismembered bodies scattered on a highway. In response, an AFP company surrounded the village, marshalled the villagers into the town square and proceeded to march them at gunpoint to a nearby riverbank. Across the river stood a squad of troops and twelve bound and hooded "Huks." One by one the soldiers bayonetted and shot the "Huk" prisoners while those awaiting execution shouted out names of local supporters amidst their cries for mercy. When the last "Huk" was killed, the people were marched back to the village and individually questioned by MIS officers. Out of fear, and probably more than a little shock, many of those named by the executed guerrillas began to spew forth information about local guerrilla activities, food and weapon caches, and anything else they could think of. The information broke the Huk hold over the village and hurt the movement throughout the region. Alas, what the villagers failed to see while they were being questioned was the scene at the execution site. As soon as the villagers left the riverbank, the executed "Huks" arose from the dead, went into the jungle, washed the animal blood from their clothing, and rejoined their units.26 It had been a grand show, and it worked.

Together with other programs geared to gather information and influence the people, Magsaysay's intelligence campaign was a resounding success. By the end of the campaign in 1955, Luzon was flooded with informants, posters offering rewards for Huks still at large, and government troops carried out large covert operations throughout the region once known as Huklandia. The well organized and coordinated program gave the Army the information it needed to strike the Huks where they were most


vulnerable and gradually severed the guerrillas from their food, arms, and most importantly, from the people.27


On the day he was sworn into office as Secretary of National Defense, Magsaysay received an anonymous phone call from a man who wished to talk to him about the insurgent movement. An hour after the call, Magsaysay met Tarciano Rizal on a deserted back street in one of Manila's barrios. (Rizal was the grandson of Jose Rizal, a national folk hero and freedom fighter from the 1896 rebellion.) As proved the case with other would be assassins, Rizal came to Manila to kill Magsaysay but heard so many glowing reports about the Secretary that he decided to meet him first. For several days the two men discussed the Huk movement, its roots, its goals, and what Magsaysay wanted to do for the Philippines. When their talks concluded, Rizal was convinced of Magsaysay's sincerity and offered to help him. He took the Secretary to his Manila apartment from which the two watched a local lady leave two baskets of food for CPP Politburo members.28 When Magsaysay returned to his office and told the chief of Philippine intelligence what he had seen, he was informed of the ongoing government operation to try to keep track of this CPP group.

On 18 October 1950, using information compiled by Army Intelligence and from observations of the "basket lady," twenty-two simultaneous raids were launched on Politburo members and their meeting places. The raids totally disrupted the Politburo and prompted Magsaysay to get President Quirino to issue a


presidential proclamation suspending the writ of habeas corpus for, the duration of the anti-Huk campaign. This step allowed the government to hold captured guerrillas longer than twenty-four hours without prima facie evidence. Magsaysay could now hold Huks for extended periods while the government built judicial cases against them. Before the writ was suspended, it was not at all unusual for a captured Huk to be back with his unit within two days from the time he was taken into custody.29

The Manila raids spawned a rash of Huk retaliation. Having a strength of some 12,000 armed fighters and another 100,000 active supporters in Luzon, the Huks renewed their campaign of raids, holdups, kidnappings, and intimidation.30 In Binan, Huks robbed the local bank of $76,000. Another Huk squadron attacked the village of San Marcelino and burned thirty-six homes, kidnapped ten people, and murdered seventy-two others before leaving. In Zambales, fifty guerrillas attacked the PC garrison at Palawig and killed two policemen and captured twenty-one rifles before being driven off.31

However, in its enthusiasm one squadron went too far. On 25 November, one hundred Huks attacked the small village of Aglao and massacred nearly the entire population. As word of this atrocity spread, people throughout central Luzon became outraged. There were no government troops in Aglao and the villagers had done nothing to anger the Huks. When Taruc heard of the


massacre, he recalled the unit's commander, tried him by court martial, and sentenced him to confinement and hard labor. But Taruc's efforts to appease popular discontent came too late. The damage was done and the entire Huk organization suffered the consequences.32

The government responded to the new offensive and the Aglao massacre with an early 1951 offensive of its own. In January, Army units struck Huk locations near Mount Arayat and Mount Dorst that they had learned of from information gathered in the October Manila raid. OPERATION SABER, as this action was called, ended in February about the time the EDCOR program was formally launched. SABER demonstrated the military's new resolve to pursue the Huks into their strongholds, and showed that the government would no longer be satisfied with simply responding to guerrilla attacks but, would initiate operations when and where it desired.33

At the same time, the AFP began to disrupt Huk supply lines between villages and their jungle hideouts. Using information collected through infiltration, informants, and from aerial reconnaissance, government troops tried to separate Huks from their food and popular base. Meanwhile, L-5 flights were used to locate "production bases" that Taruc started during the previous couple of years. When one of these farms was located, it was either attacked directly or was kept under aerial surveillance until just before harvest time. Then, when government agricultural consultants thought harvest was imminent, the farm would be raided and destroyed.34 This procedure proved most effective. It kept guerrilla forces occupied guarding and


working the "bases," only to have them destroyed just before they could harvest the crops. This not only cut deeply into Huk food supplies, but hurt morale as well.

Magsaysay continued to integrate the military into his civil affairs and psychological warfare campaigns throughout 1951. In the small hamlet of San Augustin, population fifty, the local Huk leader's wife was preparing to have her first child. Knowing that the hamlet lacked medical facilities, Magsaysay ordered the local battalion commander to send a five-man surveillance team to the village and to report when she delivered the baby. When the child was born, Magsaysay dispatched an Army ambulance, doctor, and nurse to help the woman. While the ambulance was en route, an AFP helicopter flew over the hamlet and told the surprised villagers that medical help was on the way for their newest citizen. When the ambulance arrived, siren blaring, it was met by cheering townspeople. Later, the new mother sent her thanks to the Secretary and apologized for her husband being a guerrilla. Shortly thereafter, the guerrilla peaceably surrendered with his entire unit to the area BCT commander.35

By the close of 1951, Army strength increased by nearly 60 percent over the preceding year to stand at twenty-six 1,047-man BCTs. In addition to the BCTs, one of which served in Korea, an airborne infantry battalion was activated in October, an engineer construction group with three construction companies was formed, and the Police Constabulary increased to ninety-one companies. The entire Department of National Defense had been successfully reorganized for internal defense. With a combined strength of over 53,700 men, the Philippine armed forces were beginning to make steady progress against the guerrillas. Professionalism and competence were improving in both officer and enlisted ranks and,


during 1951, two hundred-sixty top graduates from Philippine military schools attended training courses in the United States. Another significant addition was made to the Philippine Air Force -- they received fifty F-51 Mustang fighters to improve their ground support mission.36

The 1951 Elections

The 1951 off-year election played an important role in fighting the guerrillas and demonstrated increased public confidence in the Philippine military and the changing complexion of the insurgency. Magsaysay promised the nation an honest election and was determined to keep his word. Remembering the violent 1949 election that bolstered Huk propaganda, Magsaysay mobilized the military to guarantee the November election would take place in a more peaceful atmosphere.

Despite several Huk attempts to disrupt campaigning, and occasional political violence between the major parties in Manila, overwhelming military presence during the campaign and at the polls produced a surprisingly quiet election. Magsaysay activated the Philippine Army Reserve and mobilized ROTC cadets to secure the polls and ensure that ballot boxes arrived safely, and untampered with, at tally centers. In addition, Maj. Gen. Robert Cannon, then Chief of the JUSMAG, assigned twenty-five of his officers to poll-watching duties.37

Four million Filipinos cast ballots and only twenty-one people lost their lives during the election. This compared most favorably to the 1949 election during which several hundred Filipinos were killed. Aside from the lack of violence, the


major surprise was that Quirino's Liberal Party lost considerable ground to the opposition Nacionalistas who carried every contested congressional seat and won control of the Philippine Senate.38 The people distrusted Quirino and felt that the only reason he allowed some reforms was to stop the Huks, not to help them. Magsaysay on the other hand, who refused to campaign for Quirino's Liberals, was seen as acting to help the people by stopping the insurgents. His popularity grew from both his success against the Huks and from delivering the honest, peaceful election he promised the people.39 Beginning that December, Huk surrenders increased, the number of active squadrons declined, and the combined government intelligence programs and PSYOP operations continued to erode guerrilla solidarity.

In 1952, AFP GHQ established a Public Affairs Office for Psychological Warfare and Public Relations. With considerable assistance from the U.S. Information Service, well equipped teams were assigned to areas where they conducted efficient public relations programs to gain the people's support for the government. Using pamphlets, posters, and public address systems, the teams held public rallies that were generally well received. Because the teams lived with the people and helped them construct schools and other public facilities, they became well liked and their influence grew accordingly. By the end of 1953, these public relations teams often found themselves in the middle of surrender negotiations, acting as go-betweens for the government and the guerrilla forces.40


A second program directly aimed at influencing the villagers also began in 1952. Army commanders were encouraged to set up Civilian Commando Units in friendly areas susceptible to Huk raids. Composed entirely of local volunteers, and led by Army NCOs, the volunteer units protected their barrios and thus relieved government forces from these stationary duties. By allowing the villagers to protect themselves, the program grew to include some 10,000 people by the end of the campaign in 1955.41

By the spring of 1952, the AFP was taking the initiative away from the Huks. Once again forced to fight as semiautonomous bands; Huks no longer enjoyed the luxury of well-organized squadrons under Taruc's central control and guidance. Government intelligence continued to improve and provided GHQ with accurate and timely information about Huk strength and location. Huk casualties during the first few months of the year increased 12 percent, while AFP casualties declined by 23 percent. Training and education of officers and enlisted men began to pay benefits in professionalism and competence. As a result of the new professionalism and the success of village commando units in securing many local hamlets, fewer Army forces were required for static defense, thus allowing a larger proportion of government troops to undertake active pursuit operations. By year's end, the Army stood at 36,400 men and had a new M-4 medium tank platoon that was activated in May.42

On 11 April 1952, government forces raided Recco 1 headquarters in Nueva Ecija Province, capturing the Recco


commander, William Pomeroy.43 During the summer, the government conducted a two-day operation near Mount Arayat that demonstrated the increased effectiveness of the entire Philippine Armed Forces. Although the operation netted few guerrillas, it was the first major effort wherein the Philippine Air Force actively supported a ground operation with air cover. P-51 fighters flew air support for the BCT for the entire time the force was in the field. Response time was reduced to less than twenty minutes and the two forces cooperated to their fullest -- due in no small measure to the fact that the Air Force commander was the son of the BCT commander on the ground. This cooperation, based as it was on familiarity and a singular goal, continued to grow throughout the remainder of the campaign.44

In August 1952, the 7th and 16th BCT mounted an offensive against guerrillas in Zambales Province. Supported on the west and south by other Army units, the 7th BCT moved into the mountains while the 16th BCT formed a blocking position around the perimeter. For seventy-two days the BCT searched the area for Huk camps and received daily resupply from L-5 aircraft whose pilots, lacking adequate parachutes, dropped supplies encased in woven rattan spheres. When the operation concluded in October, seventy-two of the estimated two hundred Huks in the area were captured or killed, and numerous enemy ordnance shops and caches were destroyed. As the battalion withdrew, it left behind. platoon-sized units to continue the search. Although small, these stay-behind units were armed exceptionally well. Each unit had at least two automatic rifles, four sub-machine guns, a radio, and the ever present camera. This operation, along with other similar ones conducted throughout Huklandia, produced a Huk


offer for a truce just before Christmas. Unfortunately, the government agreed to withdraw its forces during the negotiations and, when the talks broke down after New Year's, the Huks recovered somewhat from the government's fall offensive. Despite this reprieve, the Huk force had lost nearly 13,000 members to combat action or surrender since the day Magsaysay took office in 1950.45

Philippine military success continued throughout the following year. 1953 was marked by a major April offensive and the November elections. In early April, a captured guerrilla told 17th BCT officers where the main Huk headquarters was located near Mount Arayat. On 10 April, the battalion attacked the location while three companies of the 22d BCT held the north and east slopes of the mountain. Unfortunately, the camp was deserted, but rather than abandon the operation, the government force pressed its advance. Moving from area to area, discovering many smaller camps as they went, troops searched for the main enemy concentration. While they searched, two more battalions reinforced the perimeter around Mount Arayat.

On 24 April, the 17th BCT and two additional rifle. companies attacked the barrio of Buena Vista on the mountain's western slope. Although they managed to engage a number of Huks, most of the leaders escaped through the perimeter five days later.46 Again, the number of enemy casualties failed to tell the whole story of the offensive. The Army's real success came from doggedly pursuing the guerrillas through the very center of their former bastion. For even the most optimistic Huk, this meant the government now had relatively free access to any part of Luzon. The idea of an impenetrable Huk fortress was dashed and the


remaining 2,300 guerrillas were forced to move constantly to avoid the persistent government troops.47

The 1953 General Election

1953 was the year the Philippines was scheduled to have its next presidential election and, other than the military situation with the insurgents, little had changed in Manila. The Quirino administration was still corrupt and made no attempts to clean its house or improve the people's plight in ways not directly connected to the insurrection. Early that year, Magsaysay was again approached by several Filipino statesmen who were planning a coup d'etat to avoid what they suspected would be a bloody election in November. True to his nature, Magsaysay responded to their advance as he had done in 1950.

I know that it is true, as you say, that I can seize the government, should we try. There is no doubt about it in my mind. I should like to point out, however, that if we do this thing it will make us into a banana republic. It would be a precedent we would regret if we allow our young democracy to set out on such a dangerous undertaking ... Let us work together to insure a clean election. If all else fails, and we have not tried all else yet, then, let us discuss the problem again.48

On the last day of February, Magsaysay resigned his position as Secretary of National Defense on the pretext of irreconcilable differences with President Quirino, but in reality, his resignation paved the way for his running for the presidency on the Nacionalista party ticket. In his letter of resignation, Magsaysay set the tone for the campaign: "...It would be futile


to go on killing Huk while the administration continues to breed dissidence by neglecting the problems of our masses."49 Thus, began his run for the presidency. During the next nine months, while his hand-picked senior Army officers continued to take the fight to the Huks, Magsaysay visited 1,100 barrios and spoke for more than 3,000 hours on issues close to the hearts of his countrymen -- corruption, neglect, poverty, and land reform.50

On 10 November, more than four million voters cast ballots in another relatively quiet and clean election. As was the case in 1951, the military guarded the polls, ensured the integrity of ballot boxes, and prevented political thugs, or the remaining 2,000 Huks, from intimidating voters. When the ballots were counted, Magsaysay won the presidency by the largest popular margin in Philippine history -- 2.9 million to 1.3 million for Quirino. Six weeks later, on 30 December 1953, Ramon Magsaysay was inaugurated in a most unorthodox ceremony. Instead of the traditional tuxedo and tails, he wore an open shirt and slacks that were shortly thereafter torn from his body by an overly enthusiastic crowd of supporters. That night, five thousand people attended a state dinner to honor the new President and cleaned-out the kitchen completely, but Magsaysay loved every minute of it all.51

As president Magsaysay continued his practice of traveling and speaking with the people both while on the road and at his home in Manila. Each morning, people formed outside his home to discuss problems or suggestions they had with the president while he ate his breakfast. Magsaysay seemed everywhere at once


with troops on campaign, checking local officials, and talking with the people. It was on one of these trips aboard his C-47, The Mount Pinatubo, that he died at age forty-one in a crash on Cebu on 17 March 1957.52

Final Anti-.Huk Military Operations

After assuming the presidency, Magsaysay was able to concentrate on civil relief operations and he devoted less of his time to purely military matters. During his first year in office, he dramatically reduced the amount of corruption in government and instituted many social and agrarian reforms. A quarter of a million hectares of public land were distributed to almost 3,000 farmers and two EDCOR projects on Mindinao flourished. EDCOR was by now so popular that several peasants admitted to joining the Huk movement simply as a means to participate in EDCOR when they turned around and surrendered to government forces. Outside of EDCOR project sites irrigation projects were started, 400 kilometers of new roads were constructed, and another 500 kilometers of existing roads were repaired and improved.

Late in 1953, the Philippine Congress passed the Elementary Education Act of 1953. This act, that received acclaim across the nation, called for free, compulsory elementary education, and provided seven years of intermediate and secondary education. During the following year, 1954, the government founded the Liberty Wells Association. Funded heavily by American aid, this organization supervised the digging of more than two thousand sanitary water wells in villages across Luzon and on larger


islands to the south.53 While his administration took action to improve the people's lives through these programs, Magsaysay continued to supervise the anti-Huk campaign by serving as his own Secretary of National Defense.

As 1954 began, Huks no longer presented a serious threat to the central government. They numbered less than 2,000 active guerrillas and their popular support base was all but dried up. Under these severe restrictions they were forced to limit operations to small raids aimed primarily at getting food and supplies, and they increasingly turned to simple banditry. In essence, the Huks were reduced in status to the level that the United States and the Philippine governments alloted to them before 1950.

In February, the Army began its largest anti-Huk operation to date in an area bounded by Mounts Dorst, Negron, and Caudrado, thirty miles west of Mount Arayat. OPERATION THUNDER-LIGHTNING lasted for 211 days and involved more than 5,000 troops. When it ended in mid-September, government forces had captured eighty-eight Huks, killed forty-three, accepted the surrender of fifty-four others, and destroyed ninety-nine production bases, burned more than five hundred enemy huts, and captured ninety-nine weapons. By comparison, government casualties were extremely light -- five killed, four wounded, and one L-5 destroyed. But the high point of OPERATION THUNDER-LIGHTNING came on 17 May when Luis Taruc surrendered to a young presidential assistant, Ninoy Aquino.54 The following day, Taruc's Chief of Staff surrendered


to government troops in Candaba Swamp and started a mass surrender of Huk leaders and guerrillas throughout central Luzon.

Concurrent with Taruc's surrender, Second Military Area forces conducted a six-week long operation centered on Mount Banahaw. There, two battalions pushed through the Sierra Madre mountains northeast toward the Pacific Ocean. By the time they reached the coast, they killed twenty-nine guerrillas, wounded eight, and captured another twenty-three. All toll, government troops killed nearly 6,000 Huks, wounded an estimated 1,600, captured over 4,000, and accepted the surrender of yet another 16,000 as the campaign drew to a close in late 1954. During this same period, the AFP suffered 642 killed and another 710 wounded.55

Throughout 1955 the number of guerrillas remaining at large continued to diminish until by year's end less than 1,000 remained. Occasional sightings and some contact was made with these hold-outs, but they all but disappeared as a threat to either the region or the government. Their organization was destroyed and the former Huks were nothing more than roving bands of thieves and bandits trying to get enough food and support to simply survive. The number of Huk sympathizers in the region suffered a similar fate. Of the 250,000 Huk supporters in central Luzon in 1949, less than 30,000 could be found by December 1955.56


HMB/CPP Strength
(in thousands)

Chart 8: HMB/CPP Strength 1950-1955 (in thousands)

  Source: Donald MacGrain, Anti-Dissident Operations in the Philippines, (Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, 1967 , p. 35.

Chart 8



1. Napoleon D. Valeriano and Charles T.R. Bohannan, Counter-Guerrilla Operations: The Philippine Experience, (NY: Frederick A. Praeger, Publisher, 1966), p. 133.

2. Ibid., pp. 132 and 257-266.

3. Reginald J. Swarbrick, The Evolution of Communist Insurgency in the Philippines, Quantico, VA: Marine CorpsCommand and Staff College, [7 June 1983]), p. 33.

4. Valeriano and Bohannan, Counter-Guerrilla Operations, p. 68.

5. Irwin D. Smith, The Philippine Operations Against the Huks: Do Lessons Learned Have Application Today?, (Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, [24 January 1968]), pp. 1 and 8..

6. Charles T.R. Bohannan, "Unconventional Warfare," in Counter-Guerrilla Operations in the Philippines 1946-53, (Ft. Bragg, NC: U.S. Army Special Forces Center and School, [1961]), p. 61.

7. Donald MacGrain, Anti-Dissident Operations in the Philippines, (Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, [26 March 1956 ), p. 23.

8. Clarence G. Barrens, I Promise: Magsaysay's Unique PSYOP "Defeats" HUKS, (Ft. Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, [1970]), p. 41.

9. A.H. Peterson, G.C. Reinhardt, and E.E. Conger, eds. Symposium on the Role of Airpower in Counterinsurgency and Unconventional Warfare: The Philippine HUK Campaign, (Santa Monica, CA: The Rand Corporation, [July 1963]) , p. 50.

10. Valeriano and Bohannan, p. Counter-Guerrilla Operations,136.

11. The U.S. refused to sell napalm munitions to the Philippines. Bohannan, "Communist Insurgency in the Philippines," p. 50.

12. Ibid. , pp. 67-69; and Napoleon D. Valeriano (Colonel, AFP), "Military Operations," in Counter-Guerrilla Operations in the Philippines 1946-53, (Ft. Bragg, NC: U.S. Army Special Forces Center and School, [15 June 1961]), p. 32.

13. Bohannan, "Communist Insurgency in the Philippines," p. 61.

14. William 0. Douglas, North from Malaya: Adventure on Five Fronts, (NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1953), p. 120.

15. Valeriano and Bohannan, Counter-Guerrilla Operations, p. 153.

16. Peterson, et al., Symposium on the Role of Airpower, p. 50.

17. Luis A. Villa-Real, "Huk Hunting," Army Combat Forces Journal V (November 1954), p. 35.

18. Peterson, et al., Symposium on the Role of Airpower, p. 29; and Valeriano, "Military Operations, p. 32.

19. Valeriano and Bohannan, Counter-Guerrilla Operations, p. 45.

20. Valeriano, "Military Operations," p. 32; and Interview with Lansdale.

21. JUSMAG, Semi-Annual Report, July - December 1951, 15 Jan 52, MMRD, RG 334, box 6, NARA, Washington, D.C.; and Interview with Lansdale.

22. Valeriano, "Military Operations," p. 33.

23. Smith, The Hukbalahap Insurgency, p. 123.

24. Medardo Justiniano (Maj., AFP), "Combat Intelligence" in Counter-Guerrilla Operations, pp. 44-46.

25. Ibid., p. 42.

26. Ibid., p. 47.

27. MacGrain, Anti-Dissident Operations, p. 22; and Valeriano and Bohannan, Counter-Guerrilla Operations, p. 153.

28. Douglas, North From Malaya, p. 111.

29. Ismael Lapus (Col., AFP), "The Communist Huk Enemy," in Counter-Guerrilla Operations, p. 22; and Valeriano and Bohannan, Counter-Guerrilla Operations, p. 68.

30. Special Operations Research Office, Peak Organized Strength of Guerrillas and Government Forces in Algeria, Nagaland, Ireland, Indonesia, South Vietnam, Malaya, Philippines, and Greece, (Washington, D.C.: The American University, (1965]), p. 16.

31. Lapus, "The Communist Huk Enemy," p. 21.

32. Rodney S. Azama, The Huks and the New People's Army: Comparing Two Postwar Filipino Insurgencies, Quantico, VA: Marine Corps Command and Staff College, [26 April 1985]), p. 148.

33. Ibid.

34. Valeriano and Bohannan, Counter-Guerrilla Operations, p. 134.

35. JUSMAG, Semi-Annual Report, 1 July - 30 December 1951, 11 Jan 52, MMRD, RG 334, box 6, NARA, Washington, D.C.; and Valeriano and Bohannan, Counter-Guerrilla Operations, p. 155.

36. JUSMAG, Semi-Annual Report Jul-Dec 51.

37. Barrens, I Promise, p. 56.

38. Edwin J. McCarren, Personal Leadership: An Element of National Power, (Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, [8 April 1966]), p. 30.

39. Smith, The Hukbalahap Insurgency, p. 111.

40. MacGrain, Anti-Dissident Operations, p. 25.

41. Ibid.

42. JUSMAG, Semi-Annual Report, 1 January - 30 June 1952, 1 Aug 52; and Smith, The Hukbalahap Insurgency, pp. 121-122.

43. Pomeroy later wrote of his Huk experience in The Forest. New York: International Publishers, 1963. This volume provides an interesting view of the insurrection and its causes from the guerrilla standpoint.

44. Peterson, et al., Symposium on the Role of Airpower, p. 26.

45. Villa-Real, "Huk Hunting," p. 33; and Smith, The Hukbalahap Insurgency, p. 119.

46. Villa-Real, "Huk Hunting," pp. 34-35.

47. Report, JUSMAG to CINCPAC, "Monthly Summary of Activities for April," 9 May 53, MMRD, RG 334, box 8, NARA, Washington, D.C.

48. Carlos P. Romulo and Marvin M. Gran, The Magsaysay Story, (NY: Van Rees Press, 1956), p. 192.

49. McCarren, Personal Leadership, p. 32.

50. Leonard S. Kenworth, Leaders of New Nations, (NY: Doubleday and Company, 1959), p. 210.

51. Smith, The Hukbalahap Insurgency, p. 113; and Barrens, I Promise, p. 60.

52. Barrens, I Promise, p. 63.

53. Report, JUSMAG to CINCPAC, "Monthly Report of Activities for January 1954," 10 Feb 54, MMRD, RG 330, box 46, NARA, Washington, D.C.; McCarren, Personal Leadership, p. 36; and Military Assistance Institute, Country Study, p. 5.

54. In August, Taruc was sentenced to twelve years imprisonment and given a 20,000 peso fine -- considered a very light sentence. Reports, JUSMAG to CINCPAC, "Monthly Summary of Activities for August 1954," 10 Sep 54; and "Report for September 1954," 9 Oct 54, both in MMRD, RG 330, box 46, NARA, Washington, D.C.

55. Reports, JUSMAG to CINCPAC, "Monthly Summary for June 1954,: 10 Jul 54; and "Monthly Report for February 1955."

56. Ibid.; and Swarbrick, The Evolution of Communist Insurgency, p. 38.

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