The guerrillas struck at breakfast time, catching the American infantrymen unarmed and off guard. One U.S. sergeant was decapitated at the mess table: his head tumbled neatly into his plate of hash. Others fought back and were later found dead with bloody forks clenched in their fists. Of the 74 officers and men of C Company, 9th U.S. Infantry, only 26 survived. As one of them raged with tears in his eyes: "Damn the infernal Googoos!'
Googoos? That was the contemptuous label which American fighting men applied to an earlier enemy in Southeast Asia, a guerrilla army as fierce and feisty as any elite Viet Cong unit, and twice as bloodthirsty. The ambush of C Company took place on Sept. 28, 1901, on the Philippine island of Samar. The guerrillas were Filipino insurrectos inspired by General Emilio Aguinaldo, tough little "bolomen" whose razor-sharp cane knives and captured Krag-Jorgensen rifles killed 4,165 Americans before the three-year insurrection was quelled. In turn, some 20,000 Filipinos died in the struggle.
Asian Democracy. Last week, 65 years after the slaughter on Samar, Filipinos and Americans were the staunchest of Asian allies. Descendants of the bolomen—1,200 soldiers from the Philippine Civic Action Group—were setting up camp beside U.S. troops in the South Vietnamese jungles of Tay Ninh. American wounded, airlifted from Saigon, were being treated at hospitals outside of Manila, and U.S. fighting ships —back on rotation from the Tonkin Gulf—lay at anchor in the palm-fringed Philippine harbor of Subic Bay. B-52 bombers from Guam swept past the Philippines before making their bomb runs over North and South Viet Nam.
More important than its value as a fighting ally and a site for American bases was the fact that—after 48 years of American occupation and two decades of independence—the Philippine Republic endures as Asia's freest democracy. It is no "showcase," to be sure, but it stands as a model of hope for all of non-Communist Southeast Asia: from the introverted Burma of Neutralist General Ne Win to the bankrupt chaos of Suharto's Indonesia; from royalist Thailand through Malaysia to trifurcated Laos; and certainly to South Viet Nam itself.
Quest for Identity. The custodian of those hopes, and of 33 million Filipinos, is a short, perpetually grinning man who walks with a military spring, drives a golf ball with the tense fury of Ben Hogan, and spends 20 hours a day on the job. As the sixth President of the Philippine Republic,* Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, 49, has been in office only ten months, but in that time he has taken significant steps toward providing the Philippines with the dynamic, selfless leadership it needs to cope with the Southeast Asian burdens of poverty, lawlessness, Communist insurgency and —most important—the quest for national identity after centuries of colonial occupation.