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Philippine Air Force (PAF)

1944-1953

After Gen. MacArthur landed in Leyte, surviving PAAC pilots and troops were shipped to the island where the Philippine Army had set up provisional headquarters. They were subsequently sent to the United States for refresher flight training.

Ungraduated cadets belonging to Class 42-B and 42-C of the PAAC Flying School were also sent to US flying schools to earn their wings. Following their return to the Philippines, the PAAC was reorganized by Lt. Col. John Ryan of the US Army Air Corps, who served as its acting chief until Lt. Col. Edwin Andrews returned to the country from his own training in the US.

The refresher flight training in the US did not turn out well for everyone. One high-ranking casualty was Lt. Col. Basilio Fernando who died in a B-25 crash at Enid Field, Oklahoma. Lipa Air Base would later be named after him.

The PAAC regained its flying status with the activation of the 1st Troop Carrier Squadron in September 1945 at Lipa Army Air Base in Batangas. The squadron was organized by Capt. Roberto Lim, a Filipino US Army officer detailed with the PAAC. As the squadron's first commander, Lim focused on building up its aircraft fleet. Starting out with only two C-47s, the squadron had a standing fleet of 22 "Gooney Birds" by the time he left the service in January 1946.

The Philippines' postwar dependence on the United States was ordained by the Americans themselves. In March 1946 the Truman Doctrine was proclaimed, stating that the United States would "support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures." The doctrine defined the main thrust of US foreign policy in the face of an emergent rivalry for global power with what was then known as the Soviet Union.

The Truman Doctrine launched the United States' foreign military aid program for its allies and satellites in Asia, among them the Philippines. As a colony, the Philippines would receive military hardware, including aircraft and equipment sorely needed by the PAAC at the time. The same day that the Military Police was formed in anticipation of the aircraft that would be coming from the US.

In addition, three documents - the Bell Trade Act, the Military Bases Agreement and the Military Assistance Pact - would render Philippine independence virtually meaningless.

The Bell Trade Act, approved by the US Congress in October 1945, provided for free trade between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines (RP) until 1954, after which imports from either country would be taxed progressively until the full levy was reached in 1974. The same Act granted Americans equal rights and opportunities as Filipino citizens in disposing, exploiting, developing and utilizing "all agricultural, timber and mineral lands in the Philippines," along with the right to operate public utilities in the country.

The RP-US Military Bases Agreement, signed on 14 March 1947, gave the United States the right to "retain the use of bases in the Philippines" for a period of 99 years and to permit the United States to use such bases as it saw fit (In 1966, the term of the agreement was changed to expire in 1991).

Under the Military Assistance Pact, signed a week later, the United States promised to furnish the Philippines with arms, ammunition, equipment and supplies. It also provided for the establishment of the Joint US Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG). Mandated to reorganize the AFP and train its officers and personnel, the Group had free rein to influence Philippine military policies. In fact, as the clearing house for US military aid, JUSMAG was more powerful than the Philippine Congress which for many years would feel no need to appropriate funds for defense purposes. Part of military aid was the grant of scholarships to military schools in the United States. Beneficiaries of such schooling got more than just military training: they became virtual advocates of American doctrine, tactics and culture.

Together, these three documents assured the United States a secure grip on her "former" colony in the post-war years. History would later reveal that the Philippines, prostrate after the war, was left with little choice but to accept the strings attached to the grant of "independence."

The Filipinos' inordinately high regard for the US was reflected in the inaugural address of Philippine President Manuel A. Roxas in 1946. "The world cannot but have faith in America. For our part, we cannot but place our trust in the good intentions of the nation, which have been our friend and protector for forty-eight years. To do otherwise would be to forswear all faith in democracy, in our future and in ourselves."

With that perspective, President Roxas could not have countenanced any opposition to the grant of parity rights to Americans as provided by the Bell Trade Act. But six newly-elected Congressmen from the Alliance party - which espoused the interests of peasants, workers and intellectuals - were expected to block the proposed amendment to the Philippine Constitution which would make the grant possible. President Roxas therefore engineered the passage of a resolution to unseat these oppositionists, led by erstwhile anti-Japanese guerilla leader Luis Taruc, on the grounds that they had won the election through fraud and terrorism.

President Roxas' ploy only created worse problems for his administration. Unseated, Taruc went underground and regrouped the peasant guerilla movement called the Hukbalahap, short for Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon (People's Army Against the Japanese) into the Hukbong Magpapalaya sa Bayan (People's Liberation Army) - or Huks. Agrarian inequity in Central Luzon stirred peasant unrest, spawning an insurgency that would prove increasingly intractable.

The Huk rebellion would give the Air Force an added - some say, distorted - mission. North American P-51D Mustangs and other Air Force aircraft were enlisted in the fight against the dissidents. The anti-Huk enclaves and actual air support missions. At the height of the campaign, the Air Force flew as many as 2,600 bombing sorties against the dissidents. While these sorties would contribute to the eventual success of the military effort against the Huks, they would also sow the seeds of an internal orientation that would cost the PAF dearly in the years to come.

The anti-Huk campaign defined the predominant nature of military tactics. The country was divided into military area commands with counterpart PAF detachments that would pre- sage the concept of composite air support forces decades later. With forward deployment and air mobility as key tactical elements, PAF squadrons were detached from mother units and equipped to operate autonomously in the war zones.

That the Philippines under Pres. Ramon Magsaysay opted for a military solution to what was essentially a social problem betrayed strict adherence to American doctrine. The country would be trapped in this mindset in dealing with the subsequent Muslim uprising led by Hadji Kamlon, another former anti-Japanese guerilla leader, who resented, among others, the grant of Mindanao land to Huk surrenderees and enterprising Christians. The followers of Taruc and Kamlon succumbed to superior military force - best manifested by the PAF's air supremacy - but new insurgencies would surface later on due to unresolved social ills.

With the presence of American military bases as an external defense crutch and with the availability of US military aid, the "culture of dependence" was hard to resist. Apart from providing the convenience of foregoing the need for Congressional appropriations, the US card offered a pair of advantages. American arms could be acquired at a discount and bilateral agreements made US counterpart aid available for every government peso spent for military needs.

In practice, however, it was simply a continuation of the "hand-me-down" arrangement, which commenced after the First World War. The US managed to dump decommissioned (i.e. outmoded) war material in exchange for virtually unrestricted use of massive military bases in the Philippines.




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