History of the 1st & 2nd FILIPINO INFANTRY REGIMENTS, U.S. ARMY, 1942-1946
Following the Japanese attacks that destroyed U.S. airfields on Luzon on 8 December 1941, thousands of Filipinos fought side by side with U.S. Army soldiers in the defense of the Philippines. Yet at the same time stateside recruiters refused to enlist Filipino-American volunteers due to their status as American nationals. Under the Selective Service and Training Act, American nationals were ineligible to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States.
To fight a world war, however, the nation needed to call upon all its available manpower. On 21 December 1941 Congress amended the Selective Service and Training Act to permit enlistment of citizens and “every other male person residing in the United States.” As a result, on 19 February 1942, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson announced the creation of a Filipino battalion to enable Americans of Filipino ancestry as well as resident Filipinos to serve together in the U.S. Army.
On 1 April 1942, the War Department activated the 1st Filipino Battalion. Its existence proved short-lived. In July 1942 the soldiers transferred to the newly constituted 1st Filipino Regiment which replaced the battalion, and the new regiment activated on 13 July 1942 at Salinas, California. On 14 October 1942 the Army constituted a second regiment, designated as the 2nd Filipino Regiment. The 1st Battalion, 2nd Filipino Regiment, activated on 22 October 1942 at Fort Ord, California.
Shortly thereafter, the Office of The Adjutant General approved a coat of arms for the 1st Filipino Regiment. The red, white, and blue colors on the shield, representing the national colors of the Philippines and the United States, reflected the Filipino heritage of this U.S. Army regiment. The unit was granted the motto LAGING UNA, which is “Always First” in Tagalog—a major native language of the Philippines. No records have surfaced to indicate that the Army ever authorized a coat of arms for the 2nd Filipino Regiment.
On 27 March 1944 the 2nd Filipino Regiment was disbanded, and the 1st Battalion was concurrently reorganized and redesignated as the 2nd Filipino Battalion (Separate). From Fort Ord, elements of the 1st Filipino Regiment and the 2nd Filipino Battalion (Separate) moved to various training locations in California before embarking separately at San Francisco for a two-week voyage to the South Pacific.
Elements of the 1st Filipino Regiment arrived in New Guinea in April 1944 where they fought until moving to the Philippines in February 1945. There, some of the regiment’s companies provided security for Eighth Army General Headquarters, Far East Air Force, and Seventh Fleet Headquarters as well as at two airstrips, Tanauan and Tacloban. For the remainder of the war, the 1st Filipino Regiment manned checkpoints, participated in mopping-up operations, and performed security and support operations in the Philippines. The unit returned to the United States in March 1946 and inactivated at Camp Stoneman, California, on 10 April 1946. The 1st Filipino Regiment earned battle honors for New Guinea, Leyte, and the Southern Philippines. The unit additionally earned the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation.
The 2nd Filipino Battalion (Separate) left the United States in June 1944 and arrived in New Guinea in July 1944. The battalion eventually moved to Manila, Philippine Islands, where it inactivated on 21 December 1945. The unit earned battle honors for New Guinea. It did not receive any decorations.
“LAGING UNA” – “ALWAYS FIRST”
“SULUNG” – “FORWARD”
“BAHALA NA!” – “COME WHAT MAY!”
“IN HONOR OF OUR FATHERS!”
“75TH ANNIVERSARY (1942-2017)”
Blog Post Credit goes to Pelagio Valdez, Community Relations Liaison for 1st & 2nd Filipino Infantry Regiments and 1st Reconnaissance Battalion (Special), U.S. Army, 1942-1946 at US Army Retired.
Bayani Art and ITAK has collaborated to create the Laging Una Collection. This is to dedicate and to honor all Filipino heroes that served the US Army. These designs were inspired by the 1st and 2nd Infantry Regiment. It is to showcase the fighting spirit of the soldiers who have fought and served this country. We are honored and humbled to help create awareness of the brave soldiers who have paved the way for the younger generation. We thank you!