Major Maximo Young discusses his military career during the Cold War, serving in the Korean War, suppressing the Huk Rebellion in the Philippines, and being deployed to the Vietnam War.
Major Young begins his recount of his military career from March 1950, when he was assigned as an instructor of guerrilla tactics and tank operations in the Philippine General Staff School. He was tasked with training cadets for overseas deployments, and he and many of his graduates were sent to serve in the Korean War under the United Nations Command. He explains that while the overseas deployment was approved by President Quirino, then-Secretary of Defense Magsaysay was reluctant to get involved in the affairs of other nations. Going to Korea was a popular career choice among the recruits, for which Major Young suggests two reasons. First, soldiers deployed to Korea would earn triple the basic pay as their peers in the Philippines. Second, some soldiers were impressed by Japan’s infrastructural development and wanted to see how Korea had developed under Imperial Japan’s rule before the war. However, it did include a personal cost, as Major Young was separated from his only child, who was in the care of his wife.
While there, he worked with American, Arab, Puerto Rican, Turkish and South Korean contingents. While there was a mutual understanding between troops of various nationalities, he found it easiest to socialize with Puerto Rican comrades, and difficult to get to know the Turkish soldiers. He also encountered some Japanese and Chinese who were fluent in Tagalog, because they had lived in the Philippines during the second world war. North Korea was severely underdeveloped and settlements were often razed by South Korean forces; and a black market formed as a result, as American-led forces had access to better goods and services in their postal exchange. During night combat, soldiers relied on one another’s language competency to identify their nationality and allegiance. He recounts some of his combat experiences, including an occasion where, owing to poor night time visibility, four North Korean soldiers had unknowingly loaded ammunition for the coalition forces attacking their own comrades, and were later arrested in the morning.
Upon his return from Korea, he chose an assignment as an instructor in Bonifaco, training civilian recruits into new soldiers. Later, his unit was deployed to combat Huk rebels in the mountainous regions of the Philippines. He explains that there were two groups of rebels who joined the Huk movement, with different objectives. Some were opposing the wealthy landowning class of Filipinos, while others fought against the government. The Huks had mass support in many rural areas, which demoralized the government soldiers. Major Young was also familiar with Valeriano, a soldier infamous for his brutality towards Huks and their suspected supporters. He also acknowledges that the popular Huk commander, Luis Taruc was being helpful towards poor civilian farmers. Further, he notes that there was a problem of factionalism in the Philippine military, and disagreements over the significance of different personnels’ (of varied training backgrounds) contributions to national security.
In the 1960s, he was deployed to the Vietnam War as part of the Philippine contingent of combat support troops for the US. There he was recruited by the CIA as a counter-intelligence operator, given his previous training background. He was in charge of 180 soldiers in Kwentong Province. A spy working for his unit discovered an enemy plan to attack his province, but this intelligence was not acted upon by his American superiors. As such, Major Young requested an early transfer to a different region before his post was attacked by the North Vietnamese. He notes that the soldiers on the US-led coalition did not have a strong ideological or personal commitment to preventing the triumph of the communist forces; and were quick to surrender to the enemy when attacked. The South Vietnamese troops too, were prone to collaborating with both opposing factions; Young recalls that many Coalition weapons were passed on to North Vietnamese soldiers. In contrast, he feels that North Vietnamese soldiers were more disciplined. However, he still had a positive relationship with his Korean subordinates in Vietnam.
Now retired from active duty, Major Young was honored by South Korea in 2008 for his service in the Korean War. He continues to have close ties to the South Korean government for his contributions to the country.
Name: Major Maximo Young Birthdate: July 30, 1922 Nationality: Filipino VERONICA: Thank you! Good morning, Family Young and Good Morning, Sir! My first question is the last part of the interview. You already answered the questions about your participation during the Philippine Army. So, my second question is besides Conrado Yap, how did you get to know about the Korean War and why did you join? MAJOR MAX: We met Conrado Yap when I was an instructor in the Philippine… General Staff School. He was sent there to study before he was sent to US. Now, he was supposed to go to US but the bus that was supposed to go there was headed at [unintelligible] because of some requirements. Now it was in that place where I met Yap because from US, when I arrived here, I was given two months’ leave. And then from then on, I was told to report to the school. Now in this school, I was given the subject of Guerilla tactics and… tanks. There were then only few students that were sent there – there were six of them. And Yap was one of them. That’s the first time I saw Yap because he graduated from PMA. He’s a new graduate from PMA. Then, after that schooling… we were then – the school, then, was dissolved. And I was also sent to the place where we have to train some students… some soldiers for Korea. That was in 1950 - March of 1950. That’s when we started training the soldiers that volunteered to go to Korea. That’s where I met him.
VERONICA: Was the Korean War a huge issue during your time? Were there many young men who wanted to enlist? Why? MAJOR MAX: Well, at first, you know many Filipinos, they’re risk takers and that aside, what was important is those who go there, their basic pay will be tripled. In other words, if you’re serving, I think that time there were 150 a month, now that will be tripled. 150, that is the salary per student or soldier who goes there. That is one and the other is the allowance of the family. There were other privileges given but I forgot some of them, but the most important is their pay and their allowance and the leave that will be taken by the soldier after they come back from Korea.
VERONICA: So, during the recruitment, sir, it can be said that the intention of those who enlisted was mainly on the payment? Was that because of them not receiving payment as Veterans during the second world war? MAJOR MAX: Well, as I said, most of the soldiers are really looking for a sell. Second, they want to go to Korea – visit Korea. And so, maybe for some, they wanted to visit Korea also. That was what matters.
VERONICA: What have you heard about the Korean War before? Why did they want to go there? MAJOR MAX: Well to them, they were surprised why the Koreans, the North Koreans attacked them. They were surprised and they wanted to know. And first, the Koreans, when they were attacked, they really had nothing to depend on. In other words, they had nothing to count on because the background is when Korea, it was before Manchukuo – Manchuria. When it was occupied by the Japanese in 1910, all the Koreans, all the men were uneducated or if they studied, they were stopped. And then the men had no jobs. The women worked. That’s one and then another one was maybe sightseeing. You know, Korea is a nice place because Japan before was very progressive. Even the Chinese were progressive. So they wanted to know what are some of the things that they want to know. [pause]
VERONICA: Sorry, sir. I was on mute. Sorry, sir. Sir, what were your important experiences in the battle field that you can remember during the Korean War? I have a question, sir, that I just want to clarify because I had an informant that said Filipino-Chinese were members of the North Korean Army. It seems like they were speaking in Tagalog while in the battle field because they had speakers that said, “Go home. Fight your own battles!” So, is it true that there were Filipinos on the other – [crosstalk]. MAJOR MAX: Well, there was information like that. In fact, you will note, when we left for Korea, we had young workers with us who worked in the kitchen. They came along, even though their names – there were seven of them. I would believe, but when the picture was shown to me, taken, and to tell that those seven were with us – that’s when I believed that those people came along even though they’re not soldiers. That’s some of them. Now, and you're saying that there were Filipinos who went there, or pictures of Filipinos or Koreans or Japanese that went there. That’s true. In fact, I know some Japanese who were also there who knows how to speak English and Tagalog. Tagalog, specifically, because his job when he was here in the Philippines was selling in a bazaar. Isn’t it that we have lots of bazaars? Some of them, there were Japanese, Chinese, sometimes Filipino also, and most of those I saw were Japanese and Chinese. They know how to speak in Tagalog. When we went there, [kumusta ka] “Oh, how are you?” Wow! We were shocked! There were many of us surprised to see them speak, “Wow! Tagalog!” So the story, what was their story? Sometimes they went to places like the sitios. They lived in the city and they went to the sitio or barrios to look for the things that the soldiers were doing because there were soldiers who were also going to the barrio. They verified who could be these people. Now some of them even have helpers. Mostly those I’ve seen or talked with were the people that sell in the bazaar and some were agents that go to Baguio.
VERONICA: Yes. But, sir, in the North Korean army or on the side of the communist, were there Filipinos or people that speak English there? MAJOR MAX: I did not notice anything there. What I noticed were Japanese. [crosstalk]. Only Japanese because when Japan took over Manchuria, the North Koreans were mixed there.
VERONICA: All right. Because that’s what I was told. But was there a black market in Korea before, in your contingent? For example, did you exchange items, buy items in the black market? MAJOR MAX: Well, honestly, those North Koreans do not have many things. Not like the Americans that have PX and then some of the citizens who live in Korea have things. What I mean is, they have extra things to sell to the Koreans. Maybe that is what you're trying say that they bought because in Korea we have – we buy twice in PX when we were there. Anything that the pay, articles and registry of the Americans or we can buy in their PX. Maybe what happened before was there were Filipinos that sold things to the Koreans – the Japanese – they sold to them. More or less personal toothbrush, soap, everything, toothpaste. There were many. There’s no limit because we’re Filipino soldiers, or for that matter, any foreigner. In other words, all those who go to Korea to help Korea in fighting against the North Koreans, they were provided with items for free. They sometimes sold them or sometimes gave them as gifts.
VERONICA: Sir, what were your observations in Korea during that time? Was their country extremely devastated? And how were the Korean citizens during that time? Were there many who suffered from starvation? MAJOR MAX: Well, to tell the truth, when we went there, we were the first. We went as far as Pyongyang. Along the way, you can see [around] it was flattened and burned. When the North Koreans attacked the South Koreans, they were quick because they had no army before. That’s why when the North Koreans, these are Koreans, the Manchurians, they came continuously with no reservation. And then imagine, 80% of Korea has been occupied right away in ten days. They got it fast. Now, when help came to Korea, [from] the other nations, we came first. We were the ones that reached Pyongyang [first]. What happened before when the North Koreans withdrew – they kept attacking South Korea? Then they went as far as Taegu and then Pusan, and it was 80% of South Korea that was occupied by them. Now what they did was, when they returned, they burned all the houses that the people lived there. That’s why what we saw there left standing when we advanced, the places the North Koreans passed were only posts, those railroad posts. If you look around, about 100 yards, you will see that railroad posts were the ones left standing ...because that’s what happened to the houses there. Now, when we were being attacked, MacArthur entered Inchon; he was in the center. When he entered the center, the North Koreans that came to South Korea had to split. It had split in between the 38th parallel, that’s where they came in [Inchon], the soldiers of MacArthur. The North Koreans were divided, half in Pyongyang. We were the ones that went straight to Pyongyang; we traversed the supply route. Now the Koreans burned all the houses. Really all the places. “Naku,” Korea was really pitiful. The people, the children, had nowhere to stay. Some of them were sleeping in the woods. Many conflicts happened because the South Koreans before, when they were staying there, they planted as much pineapple… no I mean apples, chestnuts, and many more foods. Nevertheless, they do not know how to defend their place. That’s why they were quickly caught. Hence, this is what happened, MacArthur entered, and it was divided as soon as he entered. What MacArthur did was that, the other half that entered attacked the North, and the other half attacked the South. Now, in March, about April or February, the Chinese communist joined. When MacArthur learned that there were many communists on the other side, he gave everyone the order that all units deployed in Korea should go South as fast as possible. Take the next transportation going there. So we all went down. What the South Koreans did was burn all the houses that the North Koreans built when they went there [in their territory]. So more or less, what happened to Korea was when the North Koreans came, they burned everything. When the South Koreans left, they also burned everything. When the North Koreans came and then Chinese too, they also did the same thing [burned]. So in Yuldong, when Mac-Arthur drew some line, he called it the Yuta line. The Yuta line is from east of Inch’on to the other side of Japan. That was one line. We had an area there. We have about five miles that we had to defend. On our left were Puerto Ricans, on our right were Turkish, so on and so forth. The Americans were there as well as the Koreans. In other words, the whole line was fully guarded by the United Nations Command. In other words, we, all the nations combined, lined up on that side facing the North Koreans.
VERONICA: How was your relationship with other UN contingents? Who was the closest to you, and who did you not get along with? MAJOR MAX: Well, when we went there in December, we were given some leave. For fifteen days, we were on a break. There we saw each other. Everyone met. Everyone was a friend, we got along. Sometimes we order chicken, we order a beer. We split the bill. And they were kind. There were no bad friends there. All of them respect each other and tell stories about their life, their life at home, and they tell stories about their life and their families in the different camps. To us, the Puerto Ricans were closer because when we were in the Yuta Line, the Puerto Ricans stayed on our left. Well, the Turkish were unfriendly. Those people, if you notice when you go to Turkey, in that part, believe me, those people even today you seldom see them laugh. Turkey and Arabs, in those places. They are Purists [quite conservative]. They seldom laugh, and then, you can rarely speak with them. Unlike the Puerto Ricans that are humorous and tell stories about their personal experiences.
VERONICA: So our culture is more similar with the Puerto Ricans than the Arabs. But how about your relationship with the Korean locals? What do you do when you catch a North Korean? Major Max: Well, you know, Filipinos are good when it comes to women. For example, when we were in RER. When you are in RER, in other words, you are the reserve. Because in the army, each company has a reserve, active, and front. The front is direct to those. Now, the reserved, in case there’s an attack, is all – to help the friends that are being attacked. That’s one, two, three. The first, the reserve, and then, the men, [who are] reserved. The men reserved are only good if there is a counter-attack. They’ll be used [on the battlefield]. But while you have a maintained unit, you have a line until you are not in the front line. You are reserved. You are a general reserve. That’s our agreement with the recruit [unclear]. Sometimes we gamble, we play poker, blackjack. In other words, we just entertain ourselves. Aside from that, stories. Stories about their home or whatever. Friendly relationship, [we had] truly a friendly relationship [with then], especially with the Puerto Ricans because they’re close to us. The Americans were distributed all over. Sometimes there were few; if there were Americans there, they were just some liaisons between units to more or less [who arrived to] coordinate their action.
VERONICA: But if you catch a North Korean, do you do something to them, or you turn them over…? MAJOR MAX: So, this was what happened. When we were in the front line in Yuldong, it was really dark. That’s why at night, every 9’ o clock, nobody was allowed to leave [the camp] or move. Everybody should be de facto [unclear]. Well, in case you happen to go out, you [will] have [to state] a password. Our password was difficult for both Koreans [and Japanese], who find the letter L difficult; in Japanese, our password is “ella, lalia” or something like that, so they find it difficult to pronounce. We lie low in the evening. Nobody should leave, everybody at most, unless he says the password, we let him go. When the gun fight started… on 22, April 1950, they started to attack, everything was in loud chaos. You’ll get confused… Now, you could spot North Koreans and Chinese Armies, each of them was carrying a gun, and seven [PLA and NK] followed immediately. Believe me, we had our machine gun in front, everything that stood [in front] would fall down. That’s why in our area, in front of us, more than 500 were killed. We cannot see what was happening to the other side. What happened before, in one of our companies, when the mortar strikes, there were eight people. Someone gets the bullet, another adjusts the mortar, one loads, and another holds the ammo. Around 2 a.m. in the break of the dawn, we kept firing in the direction of [the NK]… When morning came, we saw four men with a different uniform – [they were wearing] brown. That’s why when we stopped, we saw those four were not with us. Meaning, while we were shooting, those four helped us load the mortars, they even gave us ammos to strike the enemy’s side. When we stopped, that’s when they also stopped. We suddenly realized their uniform was different, they [started panicking] went like this. Because those four Koreans, they thought we were Korean enemies. Meaning they [were also confused] they gave [us] ammo to strike their comrades because it was really dark. You can’t even see your own face; you have to do this [touch your face] just to know that you’re okay. You are a Filipino if you speak Tagalog. If you can’t talk, you know he’s not a Filipino. For that reason, the four that we captured were sent to RER. They were interviewed by our intelligence.
VERONICA: When the Korean War was over… when you came back to the Philippines as a 10th contingent, how were you received by the Filipinos in the 10th BCT before? MAJOR MAX: When we temporarily stayed in Japan on our way home, well, in Japan, we met [other contingents]. Meaning, when we went to a car repair shop, other continents also had their cars repaired before they deployed to Korea. Meaning, some of the Filipinos who came from Korea also worked there [to fix some things]. That’s where we exchanged stories. Most of the stories were about the news in the Philippines. Upon reaching the Philippines, there were already people who welcomed us at the pier. Now, they formed a marching [parade]. We went to the dock, after the pier, we went to Pasay, the road near the sea – Boulevard, from there we went to Jones place. We entered a shortcut… in other words, they marched us until Avenida. We were given a grand welcome. There were many people, they were holding papers, colored papers, besides shouting and cheering. In other words, we were heartily regarded because they were happy that some of us were still alive.
VERONICA: Was it Magsaysay who welcomed you? MAJOR MAX: Magsaysay passed by, yes… I think it was Magsaysay or Quirino that we met, because Quirino sent us to Korea. Magsaysay was there also, but he was the Secretary of National Defense. He was there also, not as the president, but as a secretary.
VERONICA: Was Magsaysay as a Secretary of Defense against the sending of troops to the Korean [crosstalk]. Magsaysay was against the sending of the BCT because there was a problem in the Philippines? Did his opinion change when you came back? MAJOR MAX: What? Well, you know Magsaysay is close to the people, and he was talking to me – to people. You know Magsaysay was like this, every time he goes around, he visits the people to speak, the ordinary people. That’s why more or less, maybe what he said was true. Many were against it because they didn’t know the commitment of Quirino. Quirino sent us there because, for example, if we would be attacked most especially because we were targeted by the HUKBALAHAP before, by the communists. So Quirino was anticipating that in the future, we would be attacked; that’s why he first sent help to others. You know, when I talked to Magsaysay when he was still the Secretary, what he did was, he was talking to us, especially when he was almost scouted by Director Ruel, Paredes, who was running for president. Now, during that time, what he did was he went around. Now, I have information that Borromeo… was very close to Magsaysay, even at the time that Magsaysay was the Secretary of National Defense. He was already listening to the people. That’s why while he was listening to the people, the politicians were telling him to run. Magsaysay initially did not want to run, but in the end, there was a time that Borromeo (aide of Magsaysay) when they went to Cebu… did Magsaysay grow up in Cebu? When he went to Cebu? When he was a president already? Borromeo said that Magsaysay really did not want to interfere with foreigners because he does not like them to mess with him as well. Still, he could not do anything because many foreigners had already come to meddle here. However, Magsaysay did because Laurel, Recto, and Paredes were also politicians – there was a time when Magsaysay returned; he was already the president before, he decided he was leaving Laurel’s party. He will form his own party because those politicians excessively provided wrong things [that] Magsaysay would not want to do to the people.
VERONICA: Major Young, before you went to Korea or after, did you join the counter-insurgency against the HUKBALAHAP? MAJOR MAX: Well, I fought, yes. In fact, I fought against the HUKBALAHAP because we’ve been to the mountains, even in Negros. There’s HUKBALAHAP there. The fight is different. They were not fighting against the government. The others were against the government, those were the communists… the communist. There were communists; others were not. But for us, the ones we fought were communists. The fighting soldiers that are not communist are called… In those days, this was called… a battle not against the government but against the wealthy people. That is the fight against those who have money [rich]. This existed before. Those were our enemies back then. Those who fight against money don’t join the communists. They’re different.
VERONICA: So there were two types of Huks before, HUKBALAHAP? One fought against the rich, the other against the government? MAJOR MAX: Yes.
VERONICA: So, how was the fight against the government? Did they lose? MAJOR MAX: Well, what others did before was instead of capturing them, they decided to kill those who speak against the government, causing mass confusion. It was messed up because the people who were initially against the government could have been solved by talking to them. Meanwhile, the soldiers sometimes, they get annoyed, so what they did is to kill them. That’s why things became chaotic. Those against the government and the HUKBALAHAP conjoined. Hence, the enemies of the government increased more than ever.
VERONICA: So, were you also deployed in Central Luzon before? MAJOR MAX: Yes, we were primarily deployed in Central Luzon. [crosstalk]
VERONICA: Where in Central Luzon, sir? MAJOR MAX: I was in Pampanga. In Floridablanca and then, there in… I was not fighting against those anti-government. My rivals were those at odds with the wealthy. I was there in Laguna. Isn’t it that you know Asedillio and then Ikargado , those are the poor people. Those were at odds with the rich. You know, right? Asedillio died – killed by Vargas? I was on that side. Those were the adversaries. I fought in the battle of the poor versus the rich.
VERONICA: Immediately after you came back from the Korean War or before the Korean War? MAJOR MAX: Immediately after arriving from Korea, after the parade they asked me about my new assignment. Now, they made me choose because I was given preference where to choose our next assignment. What happened to me getting assigned in… where was I assigned? Wait... I was again appointed in that school. Instead of the school in Pampanga, I went to Bonifacio. There I was in Bonifacio. The ones I taught were newly recruited soldiers. In other words, they recruited a hundred. Those people were taught how to be an army man. There they were.
VERONICA: So, did you also train the Philippine Marines back then? MAJOR MAX: Marines? I did not train in the Marines.
VERONICA: But you’ve also heard about the Marines before? MAJOR MAX: Yes, I think we did send in Marines. The Marines, those sent were – those in the sea. Those operations in the ocean, those catching smugglers, like that, people that bring smuggled goods.
VERONICA: Your comrades in the BCT sent again to Korea, who recruited them when Conrado Yap was gone? How was the selection process? MAJOR MAX: When he died, his comrades were invited. They befriended his wife. In other words, gratified. Like they just talk. Like more or less make it known Yap is with them. VERONICA: How was your family affected after coming back from the Korean War? Did you have a family then? MAJOR MAX: Yes, I had a family then. When I left, I only had a child. You know, during those days, my wife was really used to it because we were assigned everywhere. Now what’s important is it’s for the family. That’s important. Now, the mother will take charge of the children’s education, feeding, and nourishment. Cause’ I was also assigned to Vietnam after I came back. When I was in Vietnam, I think I already had seven children. I already retired – in Vietnam, I was hired by the CIA because I was a retired officer, and I have a good record in intelligence. I was the adviser to the governor of the province. When I was– when I was assigned in Korea, I was first in Kentong. Kentong was the province facing the communist front. That’s why I have 180 Korean soldiers; I mean BCT soldiers. Now, I had an interpreter, I had two interpreters and one driver, and I had an assistant. We visited the houses of the soldiers that went with the communist and we convinced them. We were able to convince some, but you know, in Vietnam, the people were like that. In the morning, they’re yours; in the evening, they’re with the enemy. That’s why most of the guns given to them were given to the other side. That’s what happened. That’s why I was assigned to Kentong. Now, what I told the Americans who were with me, [I reported] there was no standing army [in the Vietnam province I worked in], just civilians, but [civilians were also the] military. What happened before, when I had a spy that went with us, said to me, “Sir, be careful because they have a plan that Kentong will be occupied by the North– Vietnamese. I immediately reported it to the Americans that there was a plan to attack it within this week– within that month. They did not believe me so I told the head to put me in a different post outside Kentong [because the North Viet planned to occupy Kentong in the following month]. What they did was to transfer me to Bien Hoa. Bien Hoa’s front is the China sea. I was assigned there. Three days after I left [Kentong], the Vietnamese attacked. You know the Vietnamese faced their fellow Vietnamese, so there were no killings that happened. When the North Vietnamese occupied the place, they just gave in. They just handed the guns. There’s no fight. So, in other words, I would have been in prison if I stayed there. It’s a good thing I was sent away, before the war broke. The Americans did not want to believe me because you know there, these Americans sometimes give women to the Koreans [he means Vietnamese], and the Koreans [Vietnamese] also want it. The women there were French, petite. Americans really love that. And mostly because, what I found out. The assigned Americans there were mainly political followers [appointees]. That’s why what they did before, [these people were like, deployed by CIA] like me. This is my perspective, the CIA, they mostly assigned the CIA people there. I was also stationed in one place. That's what the Vietnamese did, when given women [they talked]. That’s why sometimes [it’s good if] there’s none [no encounter with women]. That’s why I saw what happened [how things unfolded], even when I was there – fortunately I got sick. I was brought to the hospital right after 1960. When I left, what the North Vietnamese did was capture all political appointees and have them imprisoned. [That failure was] because the Americans gave in to whatever the Vietnamese people wanted– that’s why nothing happened to them. That’s why the Americans just wasted its money in Vietnam. That’s why they all got captured in the end.
VERONICA: Sir, when you were sent under CIA, did you already know Lansdale? MAJOR MAX: Who? VERONICA: Lansdale? MAJOR MAX: Lansdale? Well, I’ve heard about Lansdale. I think he’s the senator?
VERONICA: Lansdale, the head of the counter-insurgency in Vietnam. Edward Geary Landsdale, the best friend of Magsaysay. MAJOR MAX: I think I must have heard of him, I’m not close to him. I’m close to his people.
VERONICA: Do you know Veleriano? Napoleon Valeriano? MAJOR MAX: Valeriano, I’ll tell a story. I was part of the Jabidah; have you heard of the Jabidah? VERONICA: Yes. MAJOR MAX: [REDACTED SENSITIVE INFORMATION]
VERONICA: Have you heard about the freedom company, sir? The one sent to Vietnam? MAJOR MAX: What’s that?
VERONICA: Freedom company? The Filipinos sent to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia before in the Vietnam war? MAJOR MAX: Maybe just like ours, but had a different name. Many were like that. In fact, in other countries, we did send a lot of soldiers. This is more to find out what [these countries] are doing and what is their attitude towards us. That’s the counter-intelligence.
VERONICA: Cause according to them, the most terrifying army general was Napoleon Valeriano, head of the Nenita unit? And then were they sent to Vietnam? Was that true? MAJOR MAX: No, Valeriano, in all honesty, was caught when he was in Vietnam. When he was in Vietnam, he got caught. What happened was he got imprisoned in Singapore. Since then, he was killed. He was unable to return because he’s a counter-intelligence. He was the head of Southeast Asia. He was in-charge of our counterintelligence operations in Asia. So, I think he was caught in 1961 or 62. Since then, he has not been released. He was imprisoned. In the end, he was killed. He died in Southeast Asia. I just don’t know if from Singapore he was taken to some place in Thailand or something because Thailand was the head of the headquarters of the counter intelligence in Asia or either in Bangkok. Something like that. But what I know is he died. He could not go to Burma because when Indonesia found out they activated their army so that Burma would not be taken.
VERONICA: How would you compare your experiences in the Korean War to the Vietnam War? MAJOR MAX: Well, in Vietnam, I did a lot of good things even to the soldiers because there the Koreans in those days, the Vietnamese they’re really alert. They follow what you say. Not like the Vietnamese that are “kwan”/skeptic to the Americans. Those Americans gave too much. These Vietnamese, they are really very strict [disciplined Noth Vietnamese]. That’s why when I was there, I was almost caught in Vietnam. What happened before, I was hidden by the Vietnamese because my subordinates, they hid me because there were North Vietnamese. My car was caught. I hid under the sea – under the water, the battery was equipped with water. I was hidden there under the water. I was given a pipe to breathe.
VERONICA: According to them those Korean soldiers in Vietnam were cruel? Like, when they entered a community nothing’s left? MAJOR MAX: They’re really like that. They were trained to be cruel. yes. In fact, they were able to dig a hole under the farm. Isn’ it that there were many farms there? The car can fit through the hole they dug. Just imagine for how long they dug that hole. Until now they still use that. That’s why when the Vietnamese stole it – when the Vietnamese stole it because of that hole. It was very useful to them.
VERONICA: How many soldiers, BCT, that came from Korean War participated in the Vietnam War? Were there many of you? MAJOR MAX: Well, for us, 7,500… everyone including us were 1 million five, including the Americans. About 1 million, five. We have the least numbers of soldiers. Most were Canada, “basta” we were the – seventh out of the 21 with most soldiers. The soldiers sent to fight were – 16 nations sent about one million, five hundred thousand. Others were medicines only, carpenters, doctors, nurses, nurses, like that…
VERONICA: But sir did you notice that most of the soldiers who fought with you during the Korean War continued to join in the Vietnam War? Did they also participate in the Vietnam War? MAJOR MAX: They participated but as a Filipino there because others were eventually sent back home. But even so, there were Filipinos that remained there. There are still Filipinos there.
VERONICA: Because in the 20th BCT, most of them were sent to Vietnam War but they did not join in the warfare. They only built bridges. Was that true? MAJOR MAX: Yes, that’s true.
VERONICA: They said that the Filipino were not suited for combat before. MAJOR MAX: Others were for combat; others were to help in the office. The others were like us, we advised them on intelligence.
VERONICA: So the counter-intelligence that you did before, you also employed in the Huk rebellion in the Philippines? MAJOR MAX: Yes, in fact, when I was in Negros I caught a Huk. I also captured a Filipino that went to us. He’s just alone, but he was a target because he always – this Filipino is alone, wealthy, and prominent. And he did it to protect his business inside, so he did something, but in the end, he was exposed because he worked for the Japanese office back in those days [collaborator]. He worked there. So when he was seen, pointed out, killed immediately. That’s a Filipino. It depends; sometimes, there were Filipinos that escaped. You don’t know, sometimes those Filipino – Japanese you talk with. Really, it happens to all nations.
VERONICA: In your view, the troops were divided before? There were communists and there were not? MAJOR MAX: Yes, there is. Most of them, well, the reason why was some of them are poor. Some of them are working in landed areas. That’s one, that’s why what happened before, for example, I worked in a different place, I have let’s say 30 hectares. I plant rice in those areas; the question now is; the rich do not follow the promised division. That’s why what they did was to report to the [Huk] spies so that the spies would deal with them [wealthy land owners]. But most of them died. But those who also killed [the Huks] were the hacienderos [land owners], they were also the killers. Especially, if for example, the other people were affected. In other words, they [Huks] were taken advantage of. That’s what happened.]
VERONICA: In a sense, sir, when you fought against the Huk before, they said that the soldiers were low morale during those times because the communities did not trust them? Was it true that the reputation of the soldiers recovered under the leadership of Magsaysay as Secretary of National Defense? MAJOR MAX: Some recovered. It depends. You know, when they are cunning, they do that. They can tell – they can do that. Almost everyone, as long as they work as a spy, it’s possible that they could tell lies. They’ll do that to protect themselves. For example, you’re there, you’ve been caught. You don’t have to – most especially if there’s a sanction to tell everything. That’s why you have to lie. That’s why if they knew, you’d also be caught. Sometimes in your own words, you’ll get caught. That’s why if you’re caught, you’re in trouble. VERONICA: Do you also know Luis Taruc, sir? MAJOR MAX: Yes, I knew him from before.
VERONICA: What’s your opinion of him? MAJOR MAX: Well, Luis Taruc, he was really helping a lot of people. He ruled over those that were abused by the rich. Those tenants, he was really the “ano.” However, in the latter part, he also joined politics. Taruc was okay initially because some of the hacienderos trusted him. After all, Taruc was very honest. But in the end, when he entered into politics, his life was disturbed. That’s why he also got affected.
VERONICA: Sir, how was the relationship of Castaneda and Magsaysay before? [crosstalk]. Castaneda. Mariano Castaneda [crosstalk] and Magsaysay? Secretary of Defense, he was the… MAJOR MAX: Who? And then? Okay. Okay. What’s okay with Magsaysay were Duque, Castaneda.
VERONICA: How about Ramos? MAJOR MAX: Ramos, not so much because Ramos, he’s PMA. I have not – they’re not close with Ramos because Ramos graduated in 1961, I think. Magsaysay died then. They did not have much “ano.” If there was any conversation or relation between the two of them, Ramos was not a military man yet during that time; he was a civilian.
VERONICA: How about Duque? Calixto Duque, right? MAJOR MAX: Yes, Calixto Duque.
VERONICA: The other one is Alberto Ramos, is that right? Alberto Ramos? The one with Castaneda and Calixto Duque, Ruperto Kangleon? MAJOR MAX: What? Calixto Duque, Veleriano, that’s Valeriano.
VERONICA: Valeriano? [crosstalk]. Mariano Castaneda? MAJOR MAX: He’s Mariano… Castaneda... VERONICA: How was the relationship of Ruperto Kangleon with Castaneda? [crosstalk]. With Castaneda. How was the relationship between Kangleon and Mariano Castaneda? MAJOR MAX: Ruberto? With? Kangleon? [crosstalk]. Both of them were okay. Well, Kangleon is a graduate of PMA, I think. I don’t know if he is a graduate but he graduated school – they’re okay. They are good, even with Duque. They are good friends. They’re okay. There were no problems with the two.
VERONICA: Because I read that Castaneda wanted to split with Kangleon but I did not understand it so I’ll just leave it out. MAJOR MAX: Well, maybe because Kangleon… was a guerilla then. He was a guerilla in Negros – in Panay. Kangleon was – he is the head of the guerilla in Panay. I don’t know what was going on between the two but I know they are okay.
VERONICA: Thank you. All right. I was trying to see if the guerilla’s and the PMA’ers, and the graduates of Philippine Army were in good terms. MAJOR MAX: I think I mentioned it to you before. Because, you know, when I entered the war, there were ROTC brought to Corregidor, PMA, soldiers, and then there were civilians. During the days, some civilians guarded places. When the war broke, all those were brought to Bataan. All of them there, in my understanding, were okay. No problem. When the war ended, the problem arose because those high school graduates became military officials. Those who did not graduate from PMA were made graduates of PMA. In other words, those who did not graduate in ROTC were made officials. Those who did not graduate in PMA were made officials. Now, those ROTC that were in the army were made officials. That’s why there were many types of officials. There were PMA, ROTC, graduates of PMA, and then ROTC. That’s why there was a commotion because of their status in the war. Since there were PMA, retired-active civilian, inactive-retired that became an official, promoted as acting, and then those that became ROTC officials.
VERONICA: Thank for the information, sir. Now, personally, how did the Korean War affect your career as a soldier? Young: Well, [life] was not really that affected. In fact, right now, since I was honored by the [SoKor] president, the leader, he really loves me. Every time I go there, he always talks to me, invites me, and they let me talk about something – just me because I was one of the uh – I did something for them. If you have read my records, what I did then was for the good of the soldiers who joined the war …because if I did not shoot the Nokor soldiers, because we were already in the line and the North Koreans were going towards us. They wanted to circle our hill so that they could capture our battalion. What I did when I saw them was to go to the side of the trench while other soldiers started climbing down because I couldn’t fire my canon, because when I moved backward, when I did that, there was a canal; that’s why my tank got soaked. That’s why I can’t use my canon. What I did, even though there was much shooting outside, was to go out. Anyway, there was a machine gun outside. I used my machine gun without any cover. And then, I had five boxes of ammunition, that’s what I used. I maximized all that. Fortunately, I fired ahead of them before they could shoot us. Because if they shot me first, maybe I would have been hit, but when I went out, they did not know that I would run to get the machine gun. I first targeted those who were running towards us; they all ran to me. That’s where you can say that we took more than 200 lives and that 52 died and that many were wounded because if I did not jump all the way to use the machine gun, we would’ve been caught. After all, their plan was to make their way through the side of the hill. We were there at the center. Fortunately, I acted first, when we started becoming disorganized. Being disorganized, our canon – they were severely hit. The others were able to escape going to Chinhae. We ran after them. Then, we were instructed to leave that and just give it to the people who stayed. But we continued to go to Chinhae and then ran after them. We did not reach them because when we arrived there, they were already in defense.
VERONICA: Hello, sir. My internet connection was lost. The internet here in the dorm was cut Sorry. We finished talking about your career as a soldier. It’s okay even if we do another eight minutes, well until 10:30… If I recall your career as a soldier, after you became close with the president and then you became the president of PEFTOK commission, how was your relationship with your fellow veterans and how, sir, did you become closer with the other soldiers? Were you respected in the community? MAJOR MAX: Well, the moment I did PEFTOK, it was like an honor to serve the soldiers who also went to Korea. All the things I did now, including the scholars, everything followed. Right now, we have more than 400 Filipino scholars, under the Korean scholarship that is being financed by the Korean government and some Korean companies. Not just the Korean government but also companies were grateful to the soldiers that went there and participated. What I’m grateful for the Koreans was – because, in fact, I did my duty as a soldier and fought for them. Not knowing them, not even meeting them before. I’m surprised that until now, they respect me. Every time I meet a Korean in any place and when they know that I’m a Korean [war veteran]– what I mean to say is they bow. Aside from respect, they wanted to find out if I needed something and if they could help me with it or is there anything they could do for me. The same way with us, when someone has a problem, I ask what's the problem [so I could] help them. Sometimes, we visit some houses, and then the soldiers with me, were also being served [by Koreans]. I talk even with the civilians. They are very respectful. In other words, the Koreans are really good neighbors. They are the ones that help us too. Until now, just imagine, our economy has risen a lot. In 2009, a Korean ambassador, I forgot the name, approached me. He told me, “Mr. Young, our government is planning a 20-year period. For the next 20 years, that is from 2008 to 2030, we will see to it that your economy will be at par with us. Meaning, because before you went there, our Korean economy was inflated, even yours dropped [after the war]. That’s why we assure you, since we’re already on top, we’ll see to it that by 2030, that’s by 29, he said they have a timetable, by 2030, the Philippine and Korean economy should be at par with one another. Right now, we’re almost quite there because, in those days [1950s], we were more developed [economy] than Koreans. Because of the invasion of the North Koreans in South Korea, and see the difference here is that, the United Nations to Korea has contributed to the making of their economy [US Aid in Korea]. In fact, they’re number 20 among the most prosperous countries in the world. That’s his [Ambassador’s] promise to me, to us. By 2030, we’ll see to it that your economy will be at par with us. Maybe help in a way of– now look, they’re giving us everything: rice, clothes, food, equipment, any kind of equipment. All types of equipment. That’s why maybe, in 30 years, it’s getting closer, perhaps we can trust them. Even their people are very respectful to us. They even said the Philippines is the closest country to Korea in the Far East. Not like the others, [which] sometimes, they don’t even speak with, and then [consider] the help they gave us, even the support the Korean people provided to us.]
VERONICA: Thank you, sir, Major Young. I will transcribe the main points and then I’ll do a follow-up if [inaudible] additional information. Is that okay, sir? MAJOR MAX: Okay. VERONICA: Well, Ma’am Amy mentioned that you’re a member of FORDS before. So, I’ll first read Vietnam War to understand the politics during those times and then whatever were your experiences if there’s any that you got from Vietnam then. Thank you, sir. So, our schedule is only until 10:30 because you might need to rest around 11. I’m very thankful to Family Young. Thank you.
Interviewer: Veronica Sison
Interviewee: Major Maximo Young
PX refers to postal exchange, where soldiers could get access to retail goods.
What does Major Young’s explanation about the soldiers’ motivations for serving in the Korean War suggest about the extent to which the ideological divide of the Cold War permeated the larger global society.
What does Major Young’s discussion of low morale amongst the soldiers in the various Cold War conflicts he served in suggest about their objectives? Consider its implications for our understanding of the Cold War in the Philippines and Asia more broadly.
In light of Major Young’s testimony, suggest some themes and ways of conceptualizing transnational Asian histories of the Cold War. Discuss what the merits and flaws of such an approach might be for the study of the Cold War in Asia.