102-year-old veteran finally honoured for saving US pilots in 1944

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Third Lieutenant Jesus Barracoso finally receives his medals from Puerto Princesa Councilor Matthew Mendoza, Vice Governor Dennis Socrates. Picture courtesy of Palawan Provincial Information Office

A 102-year-old war veteran, who saved two wounded American pilots in 1944, has finally been rewarded for his bravery.

Third Lieutenant Jesus Barracoso received the medals from the Philippine Veteran Affairs Office and the Palawan Liberation Task Force (PLTF) at a ceremony arranged for him in his hometown Busuanga.

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The old soldier received the American Service Defense Medal, Philippine Defense Ribbon, Asiatic-Pacific Theater Medal, Victory Medal, and the Distinguished Unit Badge with oak leaf clusters.

Jonalyn Mata of the PLTF said: “He is the only living WWII veteran whom we have awarded in his hometown this year in the PLTF for his heroic deed in 1944 that was documented by writer Stephen Moore in his book As Good as Dead.

She said Barracoso was the only living war hero among 20 they plan to remember when Palawan commemorates the 73rd Anniversary of the Philippine Liberation next month.

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“Because we cannot risk his health by flying him to the city, the PLTF went to Busuanga to give him the awards, so he can celebrate with his family,” she said.

The 19 other war veterans will be honored with posthumous awards by the PLTF at Puerto Princesa’s Plaza Cuartel.

Since 2015, the PLTF has issued 29 posthumous awards and honoured 19 living veterans.

Barracoso was commissioned in the Philippine Army as third lieutenant in August 1941 and was then inducted to the United States Army Force in the Far East B Company, 1st Battalion, 52nd Infantry as a junior officer.

Mata said that during the war, Barracoso’s unit participated in numerous combat operations against the Japanese in Camarines Norte. Outnumbered, they retreated to Tayabas, Quezon, where his unit was dispersed due to confusion.

“Since the reorganisation was unfeasible that time, 3rd Lieutenant Barracoso hit mountain trails and cross-country roads looking for other units to join. But they had all retreated to Bataan, and he was unable to join them due to unfavourable circumstances,” she said.

Barracoso then returned to Coron, Palawan, where he resumed working as a farmer.

However, when the opportunity arose he returned to military service and joined the 6th Replacement Company, 1st Replacement Battalion, APO 72, where he joined fellow freedom fighters in Leyte. It was at this time he assisted in the rescue of the two Bataan Death March survivors who had escaped from a Japanese death camp.

He was honourably discharged from the military on December 30, 1946, during the disbandment of guerrilla forces in the Philippines.

Barracoso’s contributions during the war make up the glorious chapters of the Philippines’ WWII past, Mata said, adding they would be forever etched in history to serve as inspiration to all Filipinos.

“For rescuing the American pilots and for fighting for the liberation of the province and the country in the war, Third Lieutenant Barroco deserves to be a hero after all these years. His love and service to the country to fight for freedom at all cost should be emulated by all of us,” Mata added.

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