My father-in-law, Al Beralas (1923-2012), was one of several young men from Kauai who served as soldiers in the United States Army’s 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment during World War II.
Al told me that when I first met him at his home in Lihue in 1968, and one day in the 1980s, he shared war stories with me that he’d previously only discussed with his fellow 1st Filipino Infantry veterans.
Many years later, I wrote briefly about him, his war experiences and the 1st Filipino Infantry in an Island History story published in The Garden Island newspaper on Sept. 24, 2010.
What follows is additional information about the 1st Filipino Infantry.
The 1st Filipino Infantry, comprised almost completely of men of Filipino ancestry from the Mainland U.S. and the Territory of Hawaii, began training as a battalion in California in 1943.
Prior to 1943, Filipino sugar workers in Hawaii otherwise acceptable for military service were unable to join the U.S. Armed Forces, since the Hawaii Sugar Planters’ Association had successfully argued until then that their labor was essential to the Hawaii sugar industry.
After having completed training in California, the regiment sailed from San Francisco on April 6, 1944, for Oro Bay, New Guinea, where it embarked upon nine additional months of training.
Then on Jan. 17, 1945, it was deployed to the Philippines as part of the Americal Division to fight the Japanese invaders.
On Feb. 7, the 1st Filipino Infantry landed at Tacloban, the provincial capital of Leyte, and crossed the Janbatas Channel onto Samar Island, where it fought its first large battle.
While engaged in combat in the Philippines, the regiment killed hundreds of enemy soldiers, while losing only 13 of its own — a testimony to the courage and esprit de corps of its soldiers.
Al Beralas’s old Army unit, the 1st Filipino Infantry, was deactivated in California in April 1946.