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How Fidel Ramos and His 44 Men Repelled Thousands of Enemies in the Korean War

It became a textbook example of how to prevail against a larger enemy force.
IMAGE Robert Ward, Wikimedia Commons
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In World War II, Gen. Douglas MacArthur famously said, “Give me ten thousand Filipinos and I will conquer the world.”

His quote was not lost when the Philippines sent 4,420 troops to aid the United Nations in the Korean War. The Philippines was the first Asian country to respond to the call of the U.N. to help repel an invasion force of 400,000 Chinese and North Korean troops.

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Among the officers sent to the front was Fidel V. Ramos, then a fresh graduate from West Point and had a rank of 2nd Lieutenant. Ramos led a company of 44 men into the highly contested Eerie Hill, which was overrun by Chinese forces. Eerie Hill was a nightmare for the U.N. forces, which considered it impregnable. 

After nine failed attempts at capturing Eerie Hill, the Philippines’ 20th Battalion Combat Teams picked Ramos to lead the historic assault on the position, according to the Philippine News Agency

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The U.N. forces needed to pass through Eerie Hill before they could push forward into the north. Capturing it was essential, and they primarily relied on the 44-man team Ramos assembled for this objective.

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The untested Ramos proved his mettle when his team was tasked to attack and capture Eerie Hill. For the mission, Ramos divided his men into four separate groups: the sniper group, the rifle group, scouts, and forward observer group. Each group had a radio operator, a medic, and a runner who would act as a messenger between the groups.

At 4 a.m. on May 21, 1952, Ramos and his men started their mission. For two hours, they crawled through mud, barbed wires, and rice paddies. When they arrived at Eerie Hill, the forward observers and scouts reported that it was heavily fortified by the Chinese Communist Forces who were armed in bunkers with howitzers, mortars, rockets, and .50 caliber guns.

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To the enemy’s surprise, Ramos called for air support and artillery support, which were promptly delivered by the U.S. Air Force. Positions on Eerie Hill were bombarded with napalm but were not enough to smoke out the majority of the Chinese inside the bunkers.

To get to the bunkers, Ramos and his men charged forward and resorted to close-quarter fighting in order to capture the front trenches. Surprisingly, they were able to drive back the Chinese forces. On the other side of the hill, Ramos commanded the scouts, led by Corporal Juliano Palis, to engage the enemy. It took a couple of minutes before Ramos and his own team joined Palis and his group.

During the close-quarter battle, two Chinese soldiers emerged from the bunker and attempted to shoot Ramos, but the latter’s quicker reflexes allowed him to draw his rifle and kill the Chinese troopers.

Meanwhile, Ramos ordered the rifle team to assault the flank while the sniper team provided support. The enemies on Eerie Hill were being pounded from multiple positions by the Filipinos, with support air support and artillery. Two hours after their initial attack, Ramos and his men successfully captured the strategic hill. 

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After an accounting of casualties, it was found that the 44-man team of Filipinos only suffered one injury, while the Chinese forces lost 1,100 men and had 2,540 wounded, according to South Korea's Ministry of National Defense. 

Fidel Ramos and his men’s victory at Eerie Hill became a military textbook example of small-unit tactics and leadership in overcoming a much larger enemy force. The Korean War resulted in the deaths of up to five million people. The anniversary of the war is remembered every June 25.

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About The Author
Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
MarioAlvaro.Esq[email protected]
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