Manila American Cemetery. History Preserved With Reverence By The Filipino People.
Updated: Feb 20
Manila American Cemetery is the largest military cemetery outside of the United Staes. The land was granted to the U.S. for this cemetery in perpetuity without tax by the Philippine Government.
Welcome to Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, the final resting place of some of the bravest Americans and Filipinos to have ever served in war. This historic site is located in Manila, Philippines, the former capital of America's Asian Pacific Theater.
The Manila American Cemetery is the only World War II American cemetery in the Asia-Pacific region, and not only serves as a powerful reminder of the immense sacrifices made by American and Filipino soldiers, but also stands as a memorial to those brave individuals who gave their lives for freedom and liberty. Before we continue with the tour, a short history of our WW2 relationship with the Philippines is in order.
On December 7th, 1941 Japan attacked Pearl Harbor virtually destroying the US Pacific Fleet. Simultaneously and unknown by most, the Japanese also launched their attack on the Philippines. (The attack on the Philippines was technically made on the 8th due to the international date line.) Japan’s invasion of the Philippines resulted in a three-year occupation by Japanese forces. This marked Japan's first major foray into Southeast Asia during World War II and was part of Japan's strategy to dominate the Pacific.
The Philippines at the time was still a US Commonwealth, so Japan's attack was seen as a direct challenge to US power in the Pacific. Japan had been preparing for an invasion of the Philippines since 1940, which included a buildup of troops, ships, aircraft and supplies. Japan's strategy was to launch a surprise attack on the Philippines in order to gain control of key airbases located there.
The Japanese invasion force succeeded in capturing most of the Philippine islands quickly, except for the island of Corregidor at the entrance of Manila Bay. Despite its strategic importance, Japan was unable to quickly take Corregidor.
The heroic actions and remarkable resolve of the Philippine Scouts who fought courageously against the Japanese forces delayed Japan’s taking of the the island for five months allowing the United States to establish their presence in the Pacific.
The brutal occupation by the Japanese resulted in terrible atrocities committed against the Filipino people. Tens of thousands of Filipinos were killed or sent to prisoner of war camps and thousands of Filipino women were brutalized. During the battle of Manila in 1945 the Japanese destroyed the city and killed over 100,000 civilians.
The next time you hear about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, remember that the United States was also attacked in the Philippines and remember to pay tribute to not only the US military, but also to the Philippine Scouts and civilians who sacrificed so much for their country and fought valiantly at our side.
While Americans are rightly proud of our servicemen and women, we should also remember and be deeply grateful for those brave Filipinos who have proven their courage, strength, and commitment to the US with their service. Today, there are thousands of Filipinos serving in the US military and we owe them a debt of gratitude for the role they have played in our nation's history.
Although not a political or foreign policy post, it’s very easy to see (with a little research) that the U.S. government has not kept all of it’s promises to the Filipinos who served our nation. Being said, the Filipino and American people have a bond beyond what can be defined by our government.
Back to the cemetery.
Visiting the Manila American Cemetery is a must for anyone seeking to better understand the sacrifices made by military personnel during World War II. The cemetery stands as a solemn reminder of those who lost their lives in defense of freedom and democracy.
The Manila American Cemetery contains 16,931 Latin Crosses and 166 Stars Of David each dedicated to a United States soldier who bravely fought in the Pacific Theater of World War II (The Philippine Scouts were an actual unit of the United States Army).
The Manila American Cemetery also includes a “Wall of Missing” honoring 36,286 American soldiers and Philippine Scouts killed in action whose remains were never recovered or identified and also provides visitors with a fascinating history lesson.
Not only is this cemetery an important reminder of wartime tragedy; it is also beautiful and peaceful place for visitors to reflect and appreciate the bravery of those who gave their lives in defense of freedom. Visiting Manila American Cemetery is an unforgettable experience and should be on your “short list”.
Lastly, it is very much worth noting that the Filipino men I witnessed guarding and maintaining the cemetery did so with reverence and respect. They are indeed serving an important role and deserve recognition.