August 19, 2016 would have been my dad’s 106th birthday. I truly miss him, yet the wisdom he imparted upon me and his place as my original role model still guide me to this very day!
Luis C. Campos was born in Maribojoc, Bohol in the Philippines in 1910. He and some of his friends immigrated to the United States in 1931, right in the middle of the Great Depression.
During World War II, he served as part of the distinctive First Filipino Infantry Regiment, a United States Army unit formed for Filipino-Americans and immigrants from the Philippines who wanted to directly contribute to the efforts of the Allied forces in liberating the Philippines from Japanese invaders.
I found an interesting history of dad’s unit here:
California’s Filipino Infantry
by Alex S. Fabros
In one combat action, the regiment reported killing 1,572 Japanese soldiers while five of its men were killed in action.
These soldiers were clearly motivated to repel the Japanese from their ancestral homeland. That I can believe, as my friends and I grew up hearing so many stories of the atrocities performed by many of the Japanese troops.
Having endured white America’s racism, these men knew how to adapt to rapidly changing situations. They relied upon one another for strength.
My dad was usually silent about many of the injustices and the rampant racism in America, but inevitably he would tell stories that serve to remind me of how far, yet how little our country has progressed since then.
Colonel Offley had a major dilemma on his hands. Even though his regimental chaplains were prepared to perform marriage ceremonies between the Filipino soldiers and their white girlfriends, the strict anti-miscegenation laws in California prevented the men from applying for marriage licenses. Colonel Offley solved this by sending his soldiers and their sweethearts to Gallup, New Mexico on chartered buses that soon came to be called the “honeymoon express.”
Before and during the war, Filipinos (and other ethnic groups) were forbidden from marrying whites. Dad drove his friend Andy Pontillas and his white girlfriend Betty to Arizona to get married. We used to go to their house during every Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday.
There are so many parallels between the MilitaryMuseum.org account and my dad’s stories. I only wish I had more time to go into those.
On the other hand, I see some slight inconsistencies in Alex Fabros’ historical account, but while Dad’s stories were very consistent during the lifetime that he told them, one most certainly must consider that the memories of those contributing to this work and my father’s were also affected by the many years that have passed and the different perspectives that each has. Both sources without a doubt give us insights into an aspect of modern American history that most people know nothing about.
With the increasing resurgence of bigotry and divisiveness in our nation today, stories like these must serve to remind us that we are one America, a nation of immigrants that has come together in the past to do great things and that the United States still has incredible potential to achieve so much, so long as we are indivisible.