102-year old World War II hero awarded in Palawan

A 102-year-old World War II veteran was honored in Busuanga town recently with five notable awards for saving two wounded American pilots in 1944.

WAR HERO. (From left) Puerto Princesa Councilor Matthew Mendoza, Vice Governor Dennis Socrates, and World War II 3rd Lt. Jesus Barracoso in Busuanga, Palawan, during the awarding of his medals for heroic deeds in the liberation of the Philippines from the colonization of the Japanese Imperial Army. (PIO/ PNA/ MANILA BULLETIN)

3rd Lieutenant Jesus Barracoso personally received the medals from the Philippine Veteran Affairs Office (PVAO) and the Palawan Liberation Task Force (PLTF) of the provincial government in a special ceremony arranged for him on February 26 in his hometown.

The WWII hero received the American Service Defense Medal, Philippine Defense Ribbon, Asiatic-Pacific Theater Medal, Victory Medal, and the Distinguished Unit Badge with oak leaf clusters, said Sweet Jonalyn Mata of the PLTF on Thursday morning.

“He is the only living WWII veteran whom we have awarded in his hometown this year in the PLTF for his heroic deed in 1944 that was documented by writer Stephen Moore in his book ‘As Good as Dead’. We want to award him here in the city in April, but he cannot travel anymore,” said Mata.

She said Barracoso is the only living WWII hero among 20 they plan to award in April when Palawan commemorates the 73rd Anniversary of the Philippine Liberation next month at the Plaza Cuartel.

“Because we cannot risk his health by flying him to the city, the PLTF went to Busuanga to give him the awards last February, so he can celebrate with his family,” she said.

The awards were given to Barracoso by Vice Governor Dennis Socrates and Puerto Princesa Councilor Matthew Mendoza with the help of Busuanga Mayor Elizabeth Cervantes.

In April this year, 19 other WWII veterans will be honored with posthumous awards by the PLTF at the Plaza Cuartel.

Since 2015, the PLTF had already honored posthumous awards to 29 WWII veterans; and 16 still living.

The PLTF is composed of the provincial government, the city government of Puerto Princesa, Puerto Princesa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Palawan Tourism Council, Filipino and American Memorial Endowment, Palawan Special Battalion World War II Memorial Museum, and Rajah Travel Corporation.

Barracoso was commissioned in the Philippine Army as third lieutenant in August 1941 and was then inducted to the United States Army Force in the Far East’ (USAFFE) B Company, 1st Battalion, 52nd Infantry as a junior officer.

Mata said that during WWII, Barracoso’s unit participated in numerous combat operations against the Japanese Imperial Forces in Camarines Norte. Outnumbered, they retreated to Tayabas, Quezon, where his unit was dispersed due to confusion.

“Since the reorganization was unfeasible that time, 3rd Lt. Barracoso hit mountain trails and cross-country roads looking for other units to join. But they had all retreated to Bataan, and he was unable to join them due to unfavorable circumstances,” she said.

As verified by the PVAO, Barracoso decided to go home to Coron, Palawan, to become a civilian farmer.

He returned later to military service and joined the 6th Replacement Company, 1st Replacement Battalion, APO 72, where he was tasked to join the augmentation and replacement of fellow freedom fighters in Leyte, who were killed and wounded in combat operations.

He was honorably discharged from the military on December 30, 1946, during the disbandment of guerilla forces in the Philippines.

3rd Lt. Barracoso’s contributions during the war make up the glorious chapters of the Philippines’ WWII past, Mata said, adding they would be forever etched in history to serve as inspiration to all Filipinos.

“For rescuing the American pilots and for fighting for the liberation of the province and the country in WWII, 3rd Lt. Barroco deserves to be a hero after all these years. His love and service to the country to fight for freedom at all cost should be emulated by all of us,” said Mata.

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