VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Imee Marcos falsely claims Marcos Sr. led WWII guerilla unit, awarded U.S. war medals


Sen. Imee Marcos wrongly claimed that her father, former president Ferdinand Marcos Sr., was awarded three types of military decorations from the United States (U.S.) government for his military service during the Second World War. 

She also claimed that Marcos Sr. led a guerilla unit called “Ang mga Maharlika” (The Nobles).


To commemorate the Day of Valor last April 9, the senator’s official FB page posted a graphic listing the following as her father’s achievements: 

  • “In 1942, early in his military career, he (Marcos Sr.) earned his first Silver Star medal and was promoted to first lieutenant for leading the Mount Natib encounter, a successful attack on an established Japanese encampment.” 
  • “He also received the Congressional Medal of Honor from General Wainwright, who promoted him to captain, after strategically decimating another Japanese base at the Salian River.” 
  • “He received his second Silver Star medal in April of 1945 for the defense of Bessang Pass in Kiangan, Mountain Province.” 
  • “Distinct among these accolades is the Distinguished Service Cross which General Douglas MacArthur personally pinned on him in recognition of his participation in the defense of Bataan.”

Source: Senator Imee R. Marcos’ official Facebook page, Mabuhay ang mga magigiting na Pilipinong…, April 9, 2022 

Minutes later, the graphic was reposted by FB page Jhonylucastv and bore this caption which was also carried by the senator’s FB post:

“Si dating Pangulong Ferdinand E. Marcos ay isa sa kanila, sundalo at lider ng guerilla intelligence group na ‘Ang Mga Maharlika’.”


(Former president Ferdinand E. Marcos was one of them, a soldier and a leader of a guerilla intelligence group called ‘The Maharlikans’.)


Source: Facebook page Jhonylucastv, Mabuhay ang mga magigiting na Pilipinong…, April 9, 2022

The latter post garnered 512 reactions, 16 comments, and 36 shares as of publishing. The senator’s post got a total of 30,900 interactions. 


There is no official U.S. government record supporting the claim about Marcos receiving medals from the U.S. Armed Forces. Claims about such military decorations are fake, according to a 2016 report by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), the University of the Philippines’ Third World Studies Center (UP TWSC), and a story by The Washington Post.

On U.S. military decorations

Marcos Sr. is not in the list as among the recipients of the U.S. Medal of Honor or the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC).

U.S. Army records also show that Marcos neither got a DSC nor any Silver Star medals, as stated in a 1966 U.S. State Department telegram quoted in the 2016 NHCP report.

According to a 1983 investigation by The Washington Post, a 44-page military transcript called “History of the 21st Division” at the Institute of Military History at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, did not mention anything about Marcos being recommended for the Medal of Honor or receiving a DSC or a Silver Star medal.

The Medal of Honor, DSC and Silver Star medals are the three highest military decorations in the U.S., respectively, according to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

All three awards are given to soldiers who perform a deed of personal bravery or self-sacrifice while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States or an opposing foreign force.

On Bessang Pass, Maharlika guerilla unit

Meanwhile, there are no official accounts to support Marcos’ alleged prominent role in the Battle of Bessang Pass, the UP TWSC explained.

The Battle of Bessang Pass – which happened in Cervantes, Ilocos Sur and not Kiangan, Mountain Province as claimed by the FB posts – lasted from Jan. 8, 1945 to June 14, 1945, it added. (Read: File No. 60: Debunking the Marcos war myth)

On May 1, 1945, Marcos Sr. requested a transfer to Manila to his Ang Mga Maharlika unit by writing to Colonel Russel Volckmann, commanding officer of the United States Army Forces in the Philippines – Northern Luzon. The request was denied five days later, as the unit was not recognized by the U.S. Armed Forces, according to both the UP TWSC and the NHCP. 

“[Marcos Sr.’s organization] ‘Ang Manga Maharlika [sic]’ is not among the guerilla units recognized by Higher [U.S. Army] headquarters. It is therefore believed that his trip to Manila to report to an unrecognized guerrilla organization would be futile,” Volckmann’s chief of staff, Lt. Col. Parker Calvert, wrote in response to Marcos.

Another American military official seriously doubted the status of the Ang Mga Maharlika guerilla group as an organization, the NHCP report stated. 

Major R.G. Langham wrote in a May 31, 1945 memorandum that the alleged guerilla group, which had six officers and eighteen enlisted men, were tasked “to guard the Regimental Supply Dump and perform warehousing details.” He added that “they are not recommended for recognition because of the limited military value of their duties,” the NHCP report stated. 


Editor’s note: This article was updated to correct the designation of Colonel Russel Volckmann.

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The United States Army, World War II (M – S Index), Full-Text Citations, accessed April 18, 2022

Military Awards for Valor – Top 3 | U.S. Department of Defense, Distinguished Service Cross Recipients, World War II, 1941-1945, accessed April 18, 2022

National Historical Commission of the Philippine | The Martial Law Chronicles Project, WHY FERDINAND E. MARCOS SHOULD NOT BE BURIED AT THE LIBINGAN NG MGA BAYANI, July 12, 2016

The Washington Post, The Marcos Mystery: Did the Philippine Leader Really Win the U.S. Medals for Valor? He Exploits Honors He May Not Have Earned, Dec. 18, 1983

Military Awards for Valor – Top 3 | U.S. Department of Defense, DESCRIPTION OF MEDALS, accessed April 20, 2022

U.S. Department of the Army, U.S. Department of Defense, 32 CFR Ch. V (7–1–00 Edition), accessed April 20, 2022

VERA Files, File No. 60: Debunking the Marcos war myth, July 4, 2016


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)