President Ferdinand E. Marcos denounced today as "crazy" U.S. reports that he falsely claimed to have led a guerrilla resistance unit against the Japanese during the World War II occupation. He charged his opponents in next month's presidential election with trying to discredit him.
U.S. government records released today--named the Maharlika file after Marcos' alleged unit--show that repeated U.S. Army investigations found no basis in fact for Marcos' official claims of heroic actions in military operations against Japanese forces from 1942 to 1944.
Many of the 300 pages of records were classified as secret until 1958 and kept at the Army records center in St. Louis until they were donated to the National Archives in Washington in November, 1984.
Authorities made copies of the records available today after the New York Times reported on the controversy over Marcos' wartime activities. The records were discovered by Alfred W. McCoy, a historian, among hundreds of thousands of other documents several months ago at the National Archives, the newspaper said.
'Maybe They Are Crazy'
Campaigning in the Manila district of Tondo today, Marcos said of people who questioned his war record, "Maybe they are crazy.
"You who are here in Tondo and fought under me and who were part of my guerrilla organization--you answer them, these crazy individuals, especially the foreign press.
"Our opponents say Marcos was not a real guerrilla," Marcos told the crowd of several thousand. "I don't know where they got this lousy accusation.
"Look at them," Marcos said of his election rivals. "These people who were collaborating with the enemy when we were fighting the enemy. Now they have the nerve to question my war record. I will not pay any attention to their accusation."
Marcos did not identify the alleged collaborators. However, Jose P. Laurel, father of the opposition vice presidential candidate Salvador Laurel, was president of the puppet government during the Japanese occupation. The father-in-law of presidential candidate Corazon Aquino was his agriculture minister.
Stress on War Record
In his current bid for reelection, Marcos has referred constantly to his war record and alleged guerrilla exploits--partly to lay claim to being better able than Aquino to deal with the communist insurgency in the Philippines.
Throughout his political career, he has depicted himself as the Philippines' most decorated war hero, with 28 medals, including the U.S. Medal of Honor. A Philippines newspaper that in 1982 ran a series on Marcos' alleged "fake medals" was shut down by the military.
Marcos was a lieutenant in the Philippine army at the time of the Japanese invasion in 1941 and, according to his official biography, was wounded at least four times in the fighting for Bataan in 1942 and decorated for that action after the war.
It is his role as a guerrilla leader that has been questioned.
At the Pentagon, officials confirmed today that Marcos had been awarded three medals by the U.S. Army but stressed that they stemmed from his conduct during the early days of World War II while an officer with the Philippine army.
U.S. Rejected Requests
Marcos twice asked the U.S. Army for official recognition of the existence of his purported guerrilla unit, but between 1945 and 1948 various Army officers rejected Marcos' requests for the unit's official recognition, calling Marcos' claims "fraudulent" and "absurd," the Army documents said.
Army investigators concluded the so-called Maharlika (the Free Men or Noblemen) was a fictitious creation and that "no such unit ever existed" as a guerrilla organization during the war, the documents said.
The documents also said that the Maharlika group was not controlled adequately "because of the desertion of its commanding officer"--Marcos.
One source quoted today by the New York Times, former Army Capt. Ray C. Hunt Jr., of Orlando, Fla., said today that he didn't believe Marcos was ever the leader of "an active, armed guerrilla unit" or the U.S. Army would have recognized him as a guerrilla leader at that time.
Marcos' 'Paper Army'
Hunt directed guerrilla activities in Pangasinan province and said he was introduced to Marcos in 1944 by one of Hunt's recruits. Marcos was barefoot, and "to the best of my memory, I can't remember that one word was said that Marcos was in the guerrillas," Hunt said.
"My frank opinion today is that Marcos did get around the islands, and he did do some recruiting, but he didn't manage to get arms. So we call that a paper army."
In 1950, the documents showed that the Veterans Administration, with help from the Philippine army, also found that some of those who had claimed membership in Marcos' alleged guerrilla unit had committed "atrocities" against Filipino civilians instead of having fought the Japanese.