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Philippines: early 1950s

In the Philippines, the Agency's close relationship with Ramon Magsaysay beginning in 1950 was perceived as a major factor in the defeat of the Huk rebellion. From the early 1950s until 1953, Air Force Colonel Edward Lansdale, under CIA auspices, gave advice and assistance to Philippine leader Ramon Magsaysay in his struggle against the local Communist Huk guerrillas. Millions of American dollars were provided by the U.S. secretly for Landsdale's use in this program. The program was instrumental in bringing about the ultimate defeat of the guerrillas.

In 1935, under the terms of the Tydings-McDuffie Act, the Philippines became a self-governing commonwealth. Manuel Quezon was elected president of the new government, which was designed to prepare the country for independence after a 10-year transition period. World War II intervened, however, and in May 1942, Corregidor, the last American/Filipino stronghold, fell. U.S. forces in the Philippines surrendered to the Japanese, placing the islands under Japanese control.

The war to regain the Philippines began when Gen. Douglas MacArthur landed on Leyte on October 20, 1944. Filipinos and Americans fought together until the Japanese surrender in September 1945. Much of Manila was destroyed during the final months of the fighting, and an estimated 1 million Filipinos lost their lives in the war.

As a result of the Japanese occupation, the guerrilla warfare that followed, and the battles leading to liberation, the country suffered great damage and a complete organizational breakdown. Despite the shaken state of the country, the United States and the Philippines decided to move forward with plans for independence. On July 4, 1946, the Philippine Islands became the independent Republic of the Philippines, in accordance with the terms of the Tydings- McDuffie Act. In 1962, the official Independence Day was changed from July 4 to June 12; General Aguinaldo declared commemorating the date independence from Spain in 1898.

The early years of independence were dominated by U.S.-assisted postwar reconstruction. A communist-inspired Huk Rebellion (1945-53) complicated recovery efforts before its successful suppression under the leadership of President Ramon Magsaysay. Col. Edward G. Lansdale, who served as an intelligence officer for the OSS and the Military Intelligence Service in the Philippines during the war and who had but recently been promoted to lieutenant colonel, was then teaching intelligence and counter-guerrilla operations at the Air Force Strategic Intelligence School at Lowry Air Force Base. Lansdale received a call from an old friend, Philippine Colonel Montemayor, telling him that he should meet the new Philippine secretary. "I'm with quite a man," Montemayor told Lansdale, "and you've got to get to know him."36 At the Ft. Myer reception, Lansdale caught both Magsaysay's ear and imagination.

The airpower used to defeat the communist movement was organized along unconventional lines. Using United States assistance under Lt. Col. Edward G. Lansdale, who in turn employed a Foreign Internal Defense (FID) mode of operation, the Philippine Air Force flew C-47s, P-51s, L-5s, AT-6 armed trainers, and a mixture of liaison aircraft against the Huks. In addition, Lansdale initiated a successful psychological warfare campaign of leaflets and airborne speaker operations.

As part of the rejuvenation campaign, Lansdale, with Magsaysay's active support, helped establish intelligence schools and a Philippine Military Intelligence Corps. As graduates from these schools joined forces in the field, battalion combat team commanders became convinced of the importance of intelligence to their operations, the battle began to shift to the government. During the next few years, programs initiated by Magsaysay gradually took the revolution away from the Huks. The people saw clear evidence of military professionalism, competence, and honesty (quite a dramatic change) and through the military's behavior, began to realize that Magsaysay was working for their benefit. Psycholoical warfare, combined with air and ground attacks, kept the Huks on the defensive and led to their defeat in 1954.

The succeeding administrations of Presidents Carlos P. Garcia (1957-61) and Diosdado Macapagal (1961-65) sought to expand Philippine ties to its Asian neighbors, implement domestic reform programs, and develop and diversify the economy.

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Page last modified: 22-11-2013 00:03:34 ZULU