MANILA -- Sixty-five years after the Korean War ended, former President Fidel V. Ramos, now 91 and a veteran of the Korean War, still vividly remembers his war exploits in Korea where he led his troops in the capture of the strategic Eerie Hill occupied by communist Chinese forces.
The Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950.
At that time, Ramos, fondly called FVR, was a fresh graduate of the U.S. West Point with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant when he volunteered for combat duty as a member of the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK).
It was in Korea that Ramos had his baptism of fire against Chinese and North Korean forces who invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950.
The Philippines was the first Asian country to send combat forces to Korea in response to an urgent call by the United Nations (UN) to send to help that beleaguered neighboring country stave off an invasion by some 400,000 Chinese and North Korean troops.
Then President Elpidio Quirino ordered the sending of five battalions composed of 4,420-strong officers and men of PEFTOK.
The PEFTOK contingents were the 2nd, 10th, 14th 19th, and 20th Battalion Combat Teams (BCTs).
The Philippine was part of the 21-nation UN forces that fought in Korea during the war.
It was during the Korean War that the Filipino soldiers replicated their bravery in combat against all odd which they showed during Second World War that prompted Gen., Douglas McArthur, to say these famous words: “Give me ten thousand Filipinos and I will conquer the world.”
Lt. Ramos was designated as the platoon leader of the reconnaissance patrol of the 20th Battalion Combat Team (BCT) of the Philippine Expeditionary Force of Korea (PEFTOK).
His unit was tapped to assault and capture the strategic Eerie Hill occupied by Communist Chinese Forces. It was a risky mission that put his life and his men in grave danger.
But Lt. Ramos was fearless.
The fighting in Eerie Hill was his initiation as a young soldier.
It was in May 1952 that Lt. Ramos led a 44-man platoon of the 20th BCT to assault Eerie Hill.
The Chinese occupied heavily fortified bunkers. The Chinese were armed with heavy weapons such as howitzers, bazookas, mortars, and .50 caliber machine guns.
The presence of Chinese forces at Eerie Hill prevented United Nations Forces from advancing towards North Korea without suffering heavy casualties. Hence, the capture of Eerie Hill was vital.
Elements of the 20th BCT attempted nine times to capture Eerie Hill to no avail.
Col. Salvador Abcede, commander of the 20th BCT, picked Lt. Ramos to lead the assault on the strategic hill.
The young lieutenant in coordination with his superiors and Allied Forces made an elaborate plan on how to attack Eerie Hill and capture it with any casualty as much as possible.
Before they jumped off for the risky mission, Lt. Ramos, a devout Christian, led a prayer for God’s protection.
Jump off time was before daybreak of May 21, 1952. He divided his men into four groups.
To avoid detection, they crawled for two hours through rice paddies.
Four hundred meters from the top of Eerie Hill, they stopped for a while and surveyed the area.
Before launching the assault, seven F-86 Sabre jet fighter-bombers of the U.S. Air Force streaked the sky and dropped napalm bombs on the Chinese position.
When the bombing stopped, Lt. Ramos called by radio the BCT headquarters and gave the order to open fire their artillery. The bombardment was very accurate.
Then he radioed again to stop the artillery fire as he ordered his troops to commence the ground assault.
Close quarter fighting erupted as the Chinese retreated. However, the Chinese continued firing as they retreated.
But the Filipinos were undaunted and pursued the retreating enemy.
At this point, Lt. Ramos and his men seized the front part of the trench previously occupied by the Chinese.
Sensing that they had gained the upper hand, the Filipinos were unstoppable as the fighting was at the crest of the hill.
At the height of the close quarter battle, two Chinese soldiers got out from the bunker and tried to shoot Ramos, but the young lieutenant was quick to the draw and fired his Carbine rifle, fatally hitting the Chinese troopers.
The two sides engaged in hand-to-hand bayonet combat as the Filipinos prevailed and captured the once impregnable Eerie Hill.
Forty years later, Lt. Ramos, who rose from the ranks not only to become the Chief of Staff of the Armed Force (AFP) and later as Secretary of National Defense, he was elected as the 12th President of the Republic of the Philippines. (PNA)