How a Traitor Became a Dictator – The Marcos Myths of World War 2

How a Traitor Became a Dictator – The Marcos Myths of World War 2

During his candidacy for President of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos’ campaign focuses on his anti-Japanese guerrilla stories during World War II. Perhaps this was one of the reasons why he stands out compared to his political opponents. Many of Marcos’ rivals collaborated with the Japanese. After all, who would not want a hero in the President’s seat? On December 30, 1965, Ferdinand Marcos took office as the 10th President of Republic of the Philippines. However, this is one of the many Marcos myths that have been talked about by his blinded supporters and worshipers up to this very day.

The “Maharlika” : Marcos’ Fantasy Unit

Marcos built his career by projecting himself as a World War II hero. He claims to be an anti-Japanese guerrilla commander who formed the “Maharlika” unit, consisting of about 9,200-strong band men that staged daring raids and sabotage Japanese operations in northern Luzon. The young Ferdinand was supposedly such a daredevil operator that he got 32 medals for his valiant efforts during the war. In 1947, as a supposed war hero, he was appointed to the Philippine Veterans Commission to lobby in the U.S. for better benefits for war veterans. In 1949, he ran for Congress in Ilocos Sur, again projecting his wartime heroism to heighten his electoral appeal.

However, between 1945 and 1948 various U.S Army officers rejected Marcos’ two requests for official recognition of the unit, calling his claims distorted, exaggerated, fraudulent, contradictory and absurd. Army investigators finally concluded that Maharlika was a fictitious creation and that ”no such unit ever existed” as a guerrilla organization during the war.

Ray C. Hunt Jr., a former Army captain who directed guerrilla activities in Pangasinan Province north of Manila during the war and who now lives in Orlando, said: ”Marcos was never the leader of a large guerrilla organization, no way. Nothing like that could have happened without my knowledge.‘ Hunt was a staff sergeant in the United States Army Air Corps stationed in the Philippines at the beginning of World War II. After the surrender at Bataan, where he fought as an infantryman, he was forced to take the Bataan Death March with many other American and Filipinos. During the March, he escaped and fled into the hills. He eventually became a noted guerrilla leader on Luzon, where he served for three years behind Japanese lines. Hunt was promoted to captain by guerrilla leaders during that time. Just during the five days before the American landings on Luzon, the guerrilla battalion under Hunt’s command was credited with killing over 3,000 Japanese soldiers in numerous ambushes and raids. Hunt continued to serve with the regular U.S. Army after its return to the Philippines, assisting the U.S. Army in fighting the Japanese, while also coordinating guerrilla activities with the Army. General Douglas MacArthur personally awarded the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross. Hunt also received the Bronze Star for his actions during the war. The Army then confirmed his rank of captain, to date from 11 December 1943. Hunt left the Philippines in June 1945 to return to the United States. At that time he was only 25 years old.


A zero who credits himself as a hero

U.S. government archives revealed that he actually played little or no part in anti-Japanese activities during 1942–45. In addition, the U.S. Veterans Administration (VA), helped by the Philippines army, found in 1950 that some people who had claimed membership in Marcos’ unit actually had been committing ”atrocities” against Filipino civilians rather than fighting the Japanese. They also had engaged in what the VA called ”nefarious activity,” including selling contraband to the enemy. The records include no direct evidence linking Marcos to those activities nevertheless.

The records were on file at the Army records center in St. Louis until they were donated to the National Archives in Washington in November 1984. Alfred William McCoy, a historian of Southeast Asia, discovered them while doing research for a book on World War II in the Philippines. He then stated without a doubt that Marcos’ fabled guerrilla unit the “Ang Mga Maharlika” never existed. Marcos’ guerrilla record was a fabrication.


Stolen Valour – Marcos’ Fake WW2 Medals

The “List of Recipients of Awards and Decorations issued from December 7, 1941 through June 30, 1945” was compiled by the General Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters in Tokyo after the end of the war. Another list of some 120 Americans and Filipinos who were awarded during the Bataan campaign was transmitted to the War Department by General Jonathan Wainwright on April 12 shortly before his surrender. Ferdinand was NOT on any of the lists.

Colonel Manriquez and Adjutant Captain Rivera who commanded the 14th Infantry in Kiangan, Mt. Province during the war stated that Ferdinand was with them. However, both attested to fact that Marcos was a non-combatant and just a Civil Affairs officer. They knew of no award that Marcos could have received or had been entitled to.

Bonifacio “Boni” H. Gillego

For 40 years since the end of World War 2, the Philippine War records were not available to the public. It was only in the 1980s that many of the documents were eventually accessible to legitimate researchers and scholars. Led by Colonel Bonifacio “Boni” Gillego assisted by a team from the Movement for a Free Philippines, a study was made on “Marcos: FAKE HERO”. The study was written by Col. Gillego and was published by the Philippine News and the We Forum which Marcos shut down and its Editor and staff writers indicted for “sedition” punishable by death.

Boni is most remembered for his diligent and scholarly research on the fake World War II medals claimed by Ferdinand Marcos. His research included painstaking interviews of former war guerrillas and a review of Marcos’ records in US army archives.

After an exhaustive analysis of the medals which Marcos supposedly received, Gillego came up with the following conclusions:

  • Eleven awards were given in 1963
  • Ten were given on the same day (12/20/1963);
  • Three awards were given in one AFP General Order (12/20/1963);
  • One award was given in 1972 when he was already President;
  • Eight are really campaign ribbons which everybody involved in Bataan and the resistance movement are entitled to receive
  • Awards are duplicated for the same action at the same place on the same day;
  • One is a Special Award given by the Veterans Federation of the Philippines
  • Three for being wounded in actions which his own Commandant swore could not have happened


The Traitor who became a Dictator

Alfred William McCoy

On March 8, 1945, during the closing days of the war,  Mariano Marcos, Ferdinand’s father was arrested by American-ledGuerrillas.  He was found to be a Japanese collaborator and died in La Union at the hands of Philippine guerrillas. His hands was tied to four carabaos (large water buffaloes) . The carabaos were then whipped to run in opposite directions which literally tore him limb from limb. The pieces were hung in a tree to rot.

On the other hand, Marcos emerged from World War II with a reputation as the greatest Filipino resistance leader of the war and the most decorated soldier in the U.S. armed forces. However, he have spent the war on both sides, lending support to both the Japanese and the United States. In early 1943 in Manila (the capital of the Philippines), Marcos created a “secret” resistance organization called Ang Mga Maharlika that he claimed consisted of agents working against the Japanese. In fact, the group consisted of many criminals—forgers, pickpockets, gunmen, and gangsters—hoping to make money in the wartime climate.

Colonel Bonifacio “Boni” Gillego who led a study was made on “Marcos: FAKE HERO” found no records in the War Archives that would support the awards supposedly received by Marcos. On the contrary, fraudulent and false claims as well as anti-guerilla propaganda files involving his father and his group were uncovered.

Boni’s article that was being prepared for publication in The Washington Post in time for the Marcos US state visit in 1982 when Marcos got wind of it and threatened to sue. The Post decided to withhold publication.

Manila publisher Jose Burgos Jr. however decided to publish the article in the We Forum. Marcos was so incensed he had the We Forum editor and staff arrested and the newspaper shut down. The publication of the story pushed the foreign press to dig further.

Marcos’ US war files were later released from the US army archives into the US National Archives, where another independent researcher, Alfred McCoy, found them. McCoy then published his findings in The New York Times.

Boni was also instrumental in getting the portrait of Marcos removed from an exhibit of the awardees of the US Medal of Honor in New York. Boni had challenged the officer-in-charge to show proof of the validity of the inclusion of Marcos’ portrait.

Ferdinand Marcos



A Historian Rewrites History by Stripping Bare the War Record of Philippine President Marcos,,20092920,00.html

Alfred W. McCoy
J.R.W. Smail Professor of History
Department of History – University of Winsconsin-Madison

Behind Japanese Lines: An American Guerrilla in the Philippines
Hunt, Ray C., and Norling, Bernard. 1988.
Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-64960-4

Dubious and fake like Marcos’ war medals
Philippine Daily Inquirer11:29 pm | Tuesday, April 10th, 2012
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Ferdinand E. Marcos
Encyclopedia Britannica |

Ferdinand Marcos Biography
Encyclopedia of World Biography

Filipinos Still Wary When It Comes to Marcos
By SETH MYDANS, Special to the New York Times
Published: December 11, 1988

Marcos Blasts U.S. Reports He Was a Phony War Hero : American Records Fail to Back Him
January 23, 1986|From Times Wire Services

Marcos’ Fake Medals
Asian Journals

Marcos Was More Than Just Another Deposed Dictator
Chicago Tribune
September 29, 1989|By Joseph A. Reaves.

Gillego, Bonifacio H.
Bantayog ng mga Bayani

U.S. Army Years Ago Labeled Marcos’ WW2 Tales As Lies
Orlando Sentinel


10 Replies to “How a Traitor Became a Dictator – The Marcos Myths of World War 2”

  1. Does the same logic apply to “Fr. XYZ served his parish. Child molester or not, HE PREACHED!”

    If not, then your argument is beneath your intelligence and you should be insulted by the fact that that is your defense.

    If yes, then good job on being consistent.


  2. I am incredibly interested in McCoy’s article. Do you have access of this? Is it available at the net? Would surely appreciate a link if you know of one. Thanks a bunch!


  3. Mariano Marcos was captured by the guerrillas led by my paternal grandma’s brother, Anastacio Buccat, and executed at Sapilang, Bacnotan, La Union. My surviving uncle who was one of the guards could attest to the story.


  4. Sir,

    Could you cite your sources through footnotes? You relied heavily on internet
    blogs and not books. This makes your blog doubtful. A true researcher will always
    give books and records.


  5. Thank you for this article. This gives a good coverage of this little but essential point in ferdinand marcos’ anomalous history.

    I just wonder why the AFP has not taken away Ferdinand’s so-called “Medal of Valor” yet. Apparently, no one has even dared to demand an investigation ever since


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