Economic stimulus helps Filipino WWII vets

April 6, 2009 (CHICAGO) Almost 70,000 Filipino troops fought alongside the American GI's during the Battle for Bataan. On Monday, a wreath was laid at the Bataan Corregidor Memorial Bridge in honor those who served the country.

It's a day Calabas, 90, has been waiting for ... for a long time.

"Sixty three years," said Calabas. "...1946."

Calabas survived the infamous Bataan Death March in 1942 where 75,000 soldiers were forced to march 90 miles in tropical heat. They were beaten, executed, and the weak were left to die. Almost 10,000 Filipinos died, along with more than 600 Americans.

"I still remember one major, an American. He was bleeding and he needed time to rest. But then along comes an officer ... and he just cut off his head," said Calabas.

During World War II, President Theodore Roosevelt promised Filipinos that if they joined the military and fought with the Americans, they would receive full veterans benefits. But, after the war, President Harry Truman voided the promise. That was 63 years ago.

Since then, Filipino vets have been trying to get their benefits. Now, thanks to the economic stimulus bill, they will. Millions of dollars will be given to 18,000 surviving Filipino World War II vets.

Calabas will receive a one-time payment of $15,000, which amounts to about $246/year since 1946. He says the recognition is what really counts.

Copyright © 2023 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.