RUBEN P. SONGCO, 1LT, USA
Ruben Songco '43
Date of birth: September 5, 1921
Date of death: December 5, 1944
From the 1943 Lucky Bag:
The first of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion missions departed Brisbane, Australia on October 23, 1943. MacArthur was there to bid them farewell as they left on the submarine USS Narwhal. The party consisted of Major Lawrence Phillips, Captain Galang, 1st Lieutenant Ruben Songco, four radio operators and two Reconnaissance men. They landed in Mindoro on November 13, 1943. The Japanese immediately knew of their landing from an informer in the town of Paluan and hunted them down. Only Galang and two men survived the war.
The fate of 1st Lieutenant Ruben Songco was a shameful tragedy. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, he was denied a commission in the U.S. Navy because he was a Filipino. Wanting to help liberate the Philippines, he accepted a commission in the U.S. Army and trained with the 1st and 2nd Filipino Infantry Regiments. After a series of gallant exploits, he was ambushed and killed in Panay in December 1944, betrayed by pro-Japanese Filipinos.
There is a fascinating photo album posted that includes some pictures of Ruben, and then dozens of the ceremony in his home town when his remains were returned in 1960. Additional photos also posted here.
Contacted the person who posted the pictures on June 26, 2017 with questions.
Despite invitation indicating a promotion to Captain, keeping rank as 1LT, as that is what is on the plaque in the photographs.
The portrait of Ruben includes a Bronze Star; unable to find a citation.
From the Class of 1943 anniversary book "25 years later…":
Ben was born in Guagua, PamPanga, Philippine Islands and was a Philippine National. He was appointed from that country in June 1939 and upon graduation on 19 June 1942 was honorably discharged as a Midshipman, U.S. Navy. He was offered a commission in the Philippine Navy to serve with a unit then forming up in the States. It would mean a long time before combat the enemy. Though a spot in the Philippine Navy would have meant a substantial promotion, Ben requested and received a 2nd Lieutenant's commission in the U.S. Army in order to get into combat earlier. He then volunteered for, and was accepted into the cadre of guerrilla organizers, spies, and saboteurs recruited by General MacArthur through Colonel Whitney. After special training, these incredibly courageous men were landed in the Philippines by submarine. Knowing be forehand that they would have to operate almost without support and without hope of relief or reinforcement, they boldly and unceasingly harrassed the Japanese from jungle hideouts. They cut communication lines, or ganized resistance in the barrios, blew up ammunition and oil dumps, sent radio reports of troop and ship movements. These last activities were the most effective of all, resulting in the sinking by U.S. submarines of hundreds of thousands of tons of Japanese shipping.
It was the radio messages that led to disaster for Ben. The location of his sending station was detected by radio direction finder, his unit was surrounded, and Ben, emaciated by fatigue, hunger, and disease after more than a year in the jungle, died on 3 December 1944 firing his carbine defiantly at an enemy machine gun.
He was survived by his mother, father, brother and sisters who all, ironically, lived through the war, unharmed.
Ben wore the Purple Heart, the American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp, the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal and the Philippine Defense Medal.