The Philippines in the Korean War: 10th BCT PEFTOK
PEFTOK
10th BATTALION COMBAT TEAM (MOTORIZED)
Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK)
September 1950 to September 1951
Motto: Steady On
The Philippines’ only armored battalion, the 10th BCT (Motorized) landed at Pusan on the southeast coast of Korea on 19 September 1950 after a four-day voyage from the Philippines on board a US Navy troop transport.

The 10th was originally known as the 3rd Battalion Combat Team, a unit activated on 29 April 1949. The 3rd BCT was redesignated the 10th BCT (Motorized) in January 1950 to reflect its new role as the Philippines’ only armored battalion. It had a company of medium tanks (M-4 Sherman) and another company of light tanks. The 10th was selected as the first PEFTOK battalion to Korea because the Philippine Army believed it admirably suited to the “slugging type” of conventional warfare in Korea. The battalion's motto was "Steady On."

Upon its arrival in Korea, the battalion’s strength stood at some 1,400 officers and men. Its “teeth” consisted of three rifle companies, a medium tank company, a reconnaissance company equipped with light tanks and a field artillery battery. Both tank companies arrived in Korea without tanks since the Americans had agreed to provide these. In the event, only the Recon Company received its tanks (
M-24 Chaffee, a light reconnaissance tank) during the battalion’s tour in Korea. The tankless Tank Company was reorganized into a Heavy Weapons Company, becoming a highly decorated unit that won fame at the Battle of Yultong in April 1951. Col. Mariano Azurin, the first commanding officer of the 10th, was a tank man trained at the US Army armor school in Kentucky. Azurin organized and was the first commanding officer of the 3rd BCT.

The 10th spent its first two weeks “in country” acclimatizing to the terrain, continuing unit training interrupted by its abrupt departure and taking in weapons and supplies. Bivouacked initially in the town of Miryang, 35 miles north of Pusan, the 10th was moved to other towns farther north and joined the war in the city of Waegwan. The battalion was first attached to the
US 25th Infantry Division (Tropic Lightning) that fought in North and Central Luzon in the Philippines in 1945.

Guerilla fighters
Preceded by its reputation as a battle hardened anti-guerilla unit, the 10th was first given the mission of hunting down North Korean guerillas interdicting the main supply route (MSR) of the United Nations Command (UNC) in South Korea. The battalion’s first area of operations, based on Waegwan, covered more than 800 square miles and harbored about 3,000 guerillas. At Waegwan, the 10th took the war to the guerillas but at a price in casualties. Pvt. Alipio Ceciliano was killed in a guerilla ambush along the Naktong River, the first Filipino killed in action in the Korean War. The battalion was deployed in anti-guerilla operations during the first six months of its tour in Korea.

Many North Korean guerillas were regular soldiers of the North Korean People’s Army (NKPA), well armed and with better knowledge of the rugged terrain than their UNC enemies. These soldiers had taken to the hills either because it was their mission, or because they had decided to fight on after being cut off from their units by the victorious UNC advance into North Korea following the Inch’on Landings on 15 September. Other guerillas were South Korean communists who had unsuccessfully tried to overthrow the government before the war.

In September 1950, the UNC estimated that there were 35,000 communist guerillas in South Korea disrupting UNC road and railroad communications and attacking UNC units behind the front line. Guerilla attacks were especially bothersome to the Americans who sometimes took extreme countermeasures against them, including a tragic response at the village of No Gun Ri. The NKPA credited guerillas with helping defeat the
US 24th Infantry Division (Victory) and capturing its commander, Maj. Gen. William Dean, in July 1950. The division, however, had sacrificed itself to gain time for the arrival of UNC reinforcements. The 24th had fought against the Japanese Army in Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao in the Philippines during World War 2.

On 31 October, advanced elements of the 10th crossed the 38th Parallel dividing North and South Korea, an event reported to the Filipino public by
Johnny Villasanta, a Filipino UN War Correspondent who accompanied the advanced unit. Villasanta was one of the first Filipino war correspondents in Korea and covered the war the longest. The next day, the rest of the battalion moved further north to Pyongyang, capital of North Korea, and was given the mission of securing the MSR from Kaesong to Pyongyang and clearing the area of guerillas.

At the outskirts of the town of Miudong, the battalion fought its first pitched battle, this against a North Korean battalion, killing 50 while losing one man. In a bold raid on November 5, a five-man commando team led by Lt. Venancio “Bonny” Serrano captured 77 North Korean soldiers and sympathizers plus arms and ammunition.

Bitter winter
The brutal winter of 1950 was the coldest in 200 years with temperatures well below zero. Despite this, the 10th was without the heavy winter clothing that would allow its men to survive and fight in this arctic environment. This supply omission strained relations between Col. Azurin and the commanding officer of the American regiment to which the 10th was then attached. Azurin protested forcefully and was relieved of his command. The 10th was then fragmented, its companies being deployed to five widely separated towns. The battalion subsequently received its heavy winter gear including large amounts of clothing donated by Filipinos in response to “clothing drives” launched by the government, the media, schools and private organizations. Col. Dionisio Ojeda, however, replaced Col. Azurin as CO of the 10th BCT.
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The 10th BCT led by Col. Mariano Azurin parades before President Elpidio Quirino and the Filipino people at the Rizal Coliseum prior to the battalion's deployment to Korea.
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