Roles and Accomplishments of Ferdinand Marcos During WW2?

A compilation of reference materials and media reports published during the 1960s to 1980s provided details about the supposed wartime activities of Ferdinand Marcos during the Second World War. Take note that these accounts were based mostly on the publicized claims of the former president himself, including the biographical book “For Every Tear a Victory” by Hartzell Spence he commissioned himself.

Wartime Exploits According to Marcos Himself

For starters, Marcos had received ROTC training during his university years. Thus, after the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese forces, he was activated for service in the U.S. Armed Forces in the Philippines or USAFIP.

He served as a 3rd lieutenant during the mobilization in the summer and fall of 1941. Marcos claimed that for five days from January 22 to 26 of 1942, he led a faction composed of a hundred troops that defended the junction of Salian River and Abo-Abo River in Bataan against more than 2000 Japanese troops.

On 9 April 1942, a day now known as the Fall of Bataan, American and Filipino troops surrendered to the Japanese. Marcos purportedly survived the Bataan Death March, and from thereon, the Japanese took him as one of their prisoners of war. Accordingly, he was subsequently released on 4 August 1942.

Marcos recounted further that after the Japanese released him from captivity, he led a guerilla resistance force in northern Luzon called the “Ang Mga Maharlika” allegedly composed of 9000 men. He wrote the history of the group in 1947 and submitted the document to the U.S. Army in hopes of winning American recognition.

According to his accounts, “Ang Mga Maharlika” was formally organized in December 1942 although its core members had been running operations for several months before that. The guerilla force carried out operations across Luzon and published an underground newspaper three times a day. As mentioned in his several accounts, the force successfully quelled a considerable portion of the Japanese troops from 1942 to 1944.

There was also a claim that the former president defended Bessang Pass all by himself. In the biographical account by Spence, Marcos pursued 50 Japanese soldiers within a two-kilometer distance and for half an hour while they were hurling grenades and firing automatic-rifles toward him. He successfully killed the commanding officer.

Records from the U.S. military showed that he rejoined USAFIP in December 1944 until his service formally ended in May 1945 with his discharge as a major in the 14th Infantry of the USAFIP in Northern Luzon.

Due to his supposed contributions during WW2, Marcos claimed that he received 33 war medals and decorations.

Nevertheless, the former president built his political career around his roles and accomplishment during WW2, even going as far as claiming that he was the most decorated war hero in the Philippines.

However, there have been contentions against his wartime exploits, including concerns over his term of release as a Japanese POW, the existence of “Ang Mga Maharlika,” the veracity of his infamous 33 war medals and decorations, and his role in the Battle of Bessang Pass, among others.


  • Gerth, J. and Brinkley, J. 1986, January 23. “Marcos’s Wartime Role Discredited in U.S. Files.” The New York Times. Available online
  • Gomez, B. 2016, December 2. “OPINION: Marcos, the Monumental Fraud.” ABS-CBN News. Available online
  • Matsuzawa, M. 2016. “Was Marcos a War Hero? Imagined Heroism?” 31 Years of Amnesia: Stories on the Myths that Made Marcos. The Philippine Star. Available online
  • Mijares, P. 1975. The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. 2016 Reprinted Edition.
  • National Historical Commission of the Philippines. 2016. Why Ferdinand E. Marcos Should Not Be Buried At The Libingan Ng Mga Bayani. National Historical Commission of the Philippines. Available online
  • Sharkey, J. 1986, January 24. “New Doubts on Marcos’ War Role.” The Washington Post. Available online
  • Spence, H. 1964. For Every Tear A Victory: The Story of Ferdinand E. Marcos. 1st ed. McGraw-Hill. ASIN: B0006BM87Q
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