World War II veteran Max Young

MANILA – Maj. Max Young, a 98-year-old former guerrilla fighter, on Monday vividly recalled his ordeal in World War II, particularly his daring escape, together with his comrades from their Japanese captors on March 20, 1942.

Young, who hails from Cebu, disclosed his WWII experience during an exclusive interview on the eve of the 79th anniversary of the Japanese invasion of the Philippines on Dec. 8, 1941 that started WWII in the Pacific.

At 98, Young could be the only surviving Filipino war veteran who fought during the Second World War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War where he was a member of the Philippine Civic Action Group to Vietnam (PHILCAG), not engaged in combat, but civic action work.

Despite his age, Young still remembers all his combat experience, particularly the Korean War where he was a tank commander, who fought almost singlehandedly against highly superior Chinese and North Korean force in the battle of Yultong where he was awarded the Taegeuk Medal, South Korea’s highest military medal for gallantry in combat.

Young still does calisthenics every day doing 1,000 steps, and walks on his own.

Recalling his WWII experience, Young said he was aboard working in a civilian ship, together with 160 soldiers and their families going to Manila from Cebu when we heard "over the radio at 10 in the morning that Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and Clark Air Base in Pampanga were bombed by Japanese warplanes on that fateful day of 8 December 1941”.

“We were sailing near Mindoro Island when we heard the news that shocked all of us. We prayed to God for protection,” he said.

He said the ship captain was undaunted as he sped up the ship going to Manila.

“As we sailed to Manila, two Japanese warships spotted us. We were told to surrender, but our skipper ignored the warning,” he said. “Suddenly, the Japanese opened fire at us with their big guns as we continued to sail.”

Young said the boat’s captain proceeded to Corregidor and anchored the ship on the seashore.

“We jumped to the shallow waters and ran for our lives,” Young said.

After a few days, they were told to proceed to Bataan but “on Dec. 15 we went to Fort Mills in Corregidor Island where there was an enlistment in progress by the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE),” he said.

“I was enlisted immediately. I was elated. At that time, I was 19,” Young said.

With the Philippines under attack, Young said he was ready to die and defend the country against the Japanese invaders.

Later, Young said he and six of his companions decided to surrender to the Japanese on March 1, 1942, or three months after the invasion.

“We were assigned to help in serving meal to our Japanese captors,” he said.

“Then on March 20, 1942, we secretly planned to escape. Fortunately, we were able to escape and thanked God for His help and protection,” he added.

Young’s combat experience is a one-of-a-kind exploit that all Filipinos can be proud of and even worth making into a movie about the great Filipino soldier. (PNA)