Some seven decades ago, a monument was erected on 18 September 1952 in Camp Tiano, Simpo-ri, Yanggu-gun, Gangwon-do, Republic of Korea, in honor of 1Lt Apollo B. Tiano of the 19th Battalion Combat Team (BCT), Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK), of Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines, who was killed in action during the Battle for Outpost No. 8 at Hill Eerie, Karhwun-Gol, Korea on 21 June 1952.
The men of the 19th BCT earlier renamed their main encampment as “Camp Tiano” in honor of the slain lieutenant. For his gallantry in action, Lt. Tiano was posthumously awarded the Gold Cross Medal and Purple Heart, and his name is among those written on the Monument to the Philippines at Kyonggi-do near Seoul dedicated to Filipino soldiers who died in the Korean War. The dedication ceremony was attended by Brig. Gen. Jesus Vargas, Vice Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, during his visit to the camp during an inspection tour, and witnessed by Maj. Gen. David L. Ruffner, commanding general, 45th Infantry Division (AUS); Brig. Gen. P.D. Ginder, assistant division commander, 45th ID (AUS), and Col. Stewart Yco, chief of staff, 45th ID (AUS) with Col. Ramon Z. Aguirre, commanding officer of the 19th BCT, PEFTOK. Camp Tiano Memorial Society During the 70th Anniversary of Camp Tiano Memorial Monument on 18 September 2022, a Korean non-government organization (NGO) marked the occasion with a memorial program in honor of the Kagay-anon hero. “The Camp Tiano Memorial Society aims to commemorate the sacrifice and dedication of Korean War Veterans from the Philippines, who participated during the Korean War,” said Ms. Jenny Yoon, secretary-general. By restoring the monument, Camp Tiano Memorial Society endeavors to teach posterity the devoted leadership and indomitable courage that Lieutenant Apollo B. Tiano, showed during the battle, as one of the heroes of the war on record. By doing this, Ms. Yoon said they hope to teach future generations the real essence of the Korean War, and promote international friendship by activating cooperation and exchange, having correct awareness, and full understanding among future generations of young people. The anniversary program prepared by the Camp Tiano Memorial Society was organized by Dr. Helen Chu, Yanggu Public Health Officer, with Ms. Jenny Yoon, Secretary-General of the Camp Tiano Memorial Society, with the assistance of the Philippines Young Leaders Program Missionaries Lorenz Vianzon, Mark Cyril Castro, Roy Sapno, Marvin Jay Lagazon, and Angelie Claire Manansala. Col Enriqueto R Deocadez Jr and MSgt Alexander H Gacrama (PAF) represented the Philippines Embassy in Seoul, Korea while Ms. Elsa Dominguez Santos, director of the PEFTOK 19th BCT Chapter President, and Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK) Veterans Association, Inc. (PVAI) Corporate Secretary, participated virtually online from the Philippines. The program started at 11:00 AM at the monument site with the observance of silence and the laying of floral offerings by the participants. This was followed by the introduction of the Camp Tiano Memorial Society at 174-1 Simpo-ri, Gukto Jeongjungang-myeon, Yanggu-gun, Gangwon-do, and lunch at Yanggu Sondubu Tofu Restaurant.
The program continued at 14:00 with a guided tour for the Filipino visitors at the Park- Sookeun Art Gallery (Yanggu-gun, Park Sookeun- ro 265-15), Hanbandosum (Korea Peninsula Island Tour ) and Yanggu Ceramic Museum.
In an email dated October 1, 2022 to this author, Dr. Michael W. Wallace, husband of Faith Pañares, daughter of the Lt. Tiano’s youngest sister Ruth, expressed their thanks and gratitude to the Camp Tiano Memorial Society for honoring their kin’s memory:
“Faith and I are greatly honored to learn of the efforts of the Camp Tiano Memorial Society, and of their efforts to honor the memory of her uncle Pol.”
“Faith’s mother, Ruth Tiano Pañares, often spoke of her desire to visit Korea and view in person the Camp Tiano site honoring her brother.”
“We will share the efforts of the Camp Tiano Memorial Society with her 25 cousins worldwide, here in the Philippines, in the USA, and in New Zealand. Also, we hope to visit the Memorial, and personally thank those who honor his service.”
Apollo Bacarrisas Tiano
Although a street in Cagayan de Oro on which their former residence can still be found is named in honor of Apollo and his siblings Nestor and Ronaldo who all served with the guerrillas during World War II, not many Kagay-anons today know about their deeds which merited such an honor.
Apollo was born on February 19, 1923, in Cagayan de Oro city, the third of eight siblings.
He finished his elementary school at the City Central School and was a high school senior at the Misamis Oriental High School when World War II broke out in December 8, 1941. In 1942, he joined the guerillas with his four other siblings.
Pol, as he was known to family and friends, was promoted to Second Lieutenant and was part of the expeditionary battalion composed of troops from various guerrilla units that conducted mopping up operations against Japanese stragglers during the Liberation period in 1945.
Besides serving as a 2nd Lt. and platoon leader of “C” Company, 1st Battalion, 120th Regiment, 108th Division based in Initao, Misamis Oriental during World War II, he was also the commanding officer of E Company, which helped liberate Malabang, Lanao, in Cotabato and Davao together with the 24th Division, 10th Corps of the US 8th Army.
After his honorable discharge, he took up Civil Engineering at Far East University, but later shifted to a nautical course and graduated with honors at the Philippine Maritime Institute (PMI) in 1950.
Although he could have chosen another profession after his service as a guerrilla during the Second World War, Pol chose to enroll at the AFP Service School in Fort McKinley where he became a Second Lieutenant and an instructor of the school.
A year later, he volunteered for combat duty in Korea where he was given the rank of 2nd Lieutenant and became a platoon leader for the 1st Platoon, Reconnaissance Company, 19th BCT of the PEFTOK. The first contingent of the 19th arrived in Korea late April 1952 with the last contingent rotating to Korea two months later.
The Rizal Day Battle for Combat Outpost No. 8
(June 17 – 21, 1952)
As related by CDR Mark R. Condeno in a post on the social media page Defense of the Republic of the Philippines, the Battle for Combat Outpost Number 8 (also known as the Defense of Arsenal Hill/Hill 191 and Hill Eerie) by the PEFTOK’s 19th BCT (known as the Bloodhounds), fought a gory four-day battle against the Chinese Peoples Volunteer Army (PVA) 349th and 117th Regiments attempting to overrun their positions, a tactically important segment which comprised Hill 191 (also known as Arsenal Hill) and Hill Eerie.
The 19th held a segment of the main line of resistance in the Chorwon-Siboni corridor in the west central sector of Korea. It was first attached operationally to the US I Corps and then to the US 45th Infantry Division. Armistice negotiations to end the war were being discussed when the 19th went into action against the PVA.
On June 16-17, the 19th BCT under the command of Col Ramon Z Aguirre, relieved the 2nd Battalion of the US Army’s 179th Infantry Division on T-Bone Ridge, Hill 477 (Chondoksan), Combat Outpost 7 (Yoke and Uncle) and Combat Outpost 8 (Eerie and Hill 191) upon orders of Major General David L. Ruffner, Commanding General, US 45th Infantry Division. The hills dominating the Chorwon-Siboni area was considered the most vulnerable sector of the UNC’s front line.
The 19th BCT was complemented by the following US units in defense of the assigned area: K Coy, 179th Infantry; 2nd Battalion, 279th Infantry (support); Tank Platoon, 245th Tank Battalion, and the 158th Field Artillery Battalion (with the 19th FA Battery attached).
Overall control of the supporting weapons was delegated to the 19th Heavy Weapons Coy, with 75mm Recoilless Rifles, 3 Half-tracks equipped with Quad 50s, a reinforced Mortar Platoon with 7 Mortars and 2 US Army tanks from the 179th Infantry.
The Chinese PVA units commenced the attack on June 18th with an artillery bombardment of the UNC positions in which the BCT lost 2 killed and 4 wounded. Fortunately, the artillerymen of the 20th BCT quickly responded with counter battery fire, reducing the impact of the enemy barrage, and allowed most of the Filipino defensive positions to survive relatively unscathed.
USAF B-29 Superfortesses supported the defense by obliterating Chinese artillery and mortar positions at T-Bone Ridge which were firing on the Filipinos in Hill 191.
When Chinese snipers began taking potshots at the Filipinos, the Sniper Platoon of Lt Prudencio Regis PA killed 2 Chinese snipers and neutralized the others.
The artillery duel between the two sides continued on 19 June followed by a night probing mission of the West of Hill 191 which was repulsed by the Filipinos, though 2Lt Cosme Acosta of the 20th BCT was killed and eight other personnel wounded. By dusk, the heavy guns of the Chinese fell silent.
Human Wave Attacks
The Filipino defenders immediately went on heightened alert since based on the experience of the 10th and 20th BCTs, the Chinese were wont to launch their vaunted human wave attacks under cover of darkness.
The Chinese troops attacked and flares shot up into the sky to light up the battlefield. The Filipino-manned 105mm howitzers directed by the 20th BCT fire observers rained shells on the exposed Chinese troops, forcing of them to retreat, but that wasn’t the end of it.
On 20 June 1952, Lt. Tiano’s 36-man platoon was ordered to reinforce the 19th BCT defenders of Hill Eerie. About 90 minutes to midnight, the Chinese again unleashed artillery and mortar fire on the Filipinos, followed by a battalion sized human wave attack which flares from the 19th showed were converging on all sectors towards Hills Eerie and 191.
This was met by a heavy firewall thrown by the 19th Field Artillery and Heavy Weapons, further supported by US Army tank and artillery fire which destroyed many of the PVA artillery and mortars.
However, the following day 21 June, an even heavier attack followed on the US Army’s main line of resistance (MLR) and Combat Outpost Number 8. At some points along the Filipino line, the battle looked like the siege of a medieval castle with the Chinese clambering up ladders and the Filipinos shooting them down or pushing them off.
This time, the Chinese troops supported by two T-34/85 tanks (supplied by the Soviet Union), made a frontal assault on Hill Eerie occupied by the Recon Coy of the 19th BCT under Capt. Alejo Costales resulting in the destruction of the two enemy tanks.
Around 0105H savage hand-to-hand fighting erupted between the Filipinos and Chinese in the perimeter of the 1st Platoon Reconnaissance Company under 1Lt Apollo B Tiano, which lasted until 0340H.
Despite the enemy artillery bombardment, Lt Tiano ordered his men to “fix bayonets!” with the cry, “Laban tayo mga bata!” (Let’s fight boys!), and led a bayonet charge against an incoming enemy platoon. Although he was struck in his shoulder by a bayonet from a Chinese soldier, he managed to kill his assailant, but expired later from loss of blood when was again hit on his left shoulder by shrapnel from a mortar shell.
Lt Tiano’s courageous stand inspired the rest of his men to finish off the remaining Chinese squad which eventually led to their retreat, although exchange by both sides’ artillery, mortar and rifle fire continued until 0500H.
With the coming of daylight, allied fighters and bombers finished off the rest of the attackers.
Although the Filipinos suffered 8 killed and 6 wounded, they accounted for over 500 of the enemy. It was estimated that troops from two Chinese regiments had attacked the lone Filipino battalion. With three battalions per regiment, the lone Filipino battalion had stood up and defeated an attack launched by six Chinese battalions over four days.
Besides Tiano, nine other Filipinos lost their lives. Among them, Lt. Cosme Acosta, a forward observer of the 20thBCT’s artillery unit that had stayed in Korea. Acosta was scheduled to return to the Philippines once he had completed training the 19th BCT’s forward observers.
Following the end of this gory, four-day battle, a group of Filipino soldiers ascended Hill 191 and, in full view of the Chinese, planted the Filipino flag on its summit. It was a heroic act of defiance that told the Chinese they had lost this battle.
The Filipino battalion was later relieved by the US 2nd Infantry Division on 18 July 1952.
The 19th BCT’s stand during this battle did not go unnoticed and it became the first PEFTOK unit to be awarded South Korea’s Presidential Unit Citation and a Battle Citation from the US X Corps.
President Syngman Rhee of the Republic of Korea awarded the 19th BCT the ROK Presidential Unit Citation Medal in July 1952. The medal is awarded to ROK and Foreign Military Units for exceptional meritorious service during the Korean War.
The remains of Pol, and his brothers Nestor and Ronaldo are interred together in Forest Lake Memorial Park (formerly Divine Shepherd Memorial Gardens) in Barangay Bulua, Cagayan de Oro City.