Instruments of Statecraft: U.S. Guerilla Warfare, Counterinsurgency, and Counterterrorism, 1940-1990
Even as revelations of German war crimes were coming out in the trials at Nuremburg, American special warfare strategists were studying the tactics of German occupation forces during World War II. In aJune 1947 memorandum, psy-war chief General Robert McClure, seeing the Germans as masters of special warfare from which the fledgling U. S. special warfare community had much to learn, complained that his command’s “request to interrogate Goering and his partners at Nuremburg was denied by the Judges of the IMT [International Military Tribunal].”’ American special warfare doctrine would draw considerably on Wehrmacht and SS methods of terrorizing civilian populations and, perhaps more importantly, of co-opting local factions to combat partisan resistance. The Department of the Army’s A Study of Special and Subversive Operations (November 1947) was an early assessment of the lessons learned from World War II in the context of Cold War imperatives.2 The study examines at length the factors involved in waging guerrilla warfare and observes that “at present there is no instruction in any service schools along SO [Special Operations] lines nor is there likely to be any Army unit which is training in such operations.”3 In the only point in the memorandum concerning counterguerrilla operations, the authors point to the German example:
The means of counteracting resistance movements and activities demand special consideration. Our forces have had little experience in combating an active underground enemy. The problems which faced the Germans and the measures employed by them in counteracting partisan warfare should be studied. It is quite possible that a future war will find us occupying a hostile country in which exists an active underground. Or we might find ourselves in a friendly country, possibly the United States, facing an enemy while at the same time a hostile partisan force operates in our rear.4
In the early 1950s, the Department of the Army’s Military History Division published a series of studies of the German response to the threat of guerrilla warfare. The German armies had attempted a systematic approach to the threat of partisan warfare during Operation BARBAROSSA (the Russian campaign) in 1941, and later in the Balkans. The “German Report Series” was devised to glean lessons from the experience. As Raymond Aron has observed, these were among the lessons that Americans tried, twenty years after the war, “to codify under the name ‘counter- insurgency.’”5
That German tactics against Soviet partisans would play a part in the development of a postwar doctrine for fighting communist guerrillas was perhaps a natural product of the Cold War hysteria of the 1950s. The army’s 1956 book-length study Soviet Partisans is the last and most comprehensive of the “German Report Series” on antipartisan warfare.’’ The Cold War rationale was explicit: “Unconventional warfare has gained in importance along with the increase in range and destructiveness of weapons.” The disturbing similarity between the Nazi’s view of the world and the American stance in the Cold War apparently went by the board, although the ideological nature of the conflict was stressed. “this war was to be far more than a mere passage of arms, or as Hitler said a fight to the finish between ‘two opposing political systems.’ “7
A thread throughout the “German Report Series” is the premise that would inform American counterinsurgency doctrine in later years: that the civil population supports an insurgent or partisan movement only because they are coerced into doing so. The studies consistently maintain that the Russian people saw the Germans as liberators and that partisans WOtl support through “a campaign of terror among the natives.”8 The partisans are characterized as puppets of the Communist Party, forced through terror to fight and to survive by plundering the local people a view of the revolutionary guerrilla not drastically far removed from Washington’s current view of insurgency. The partisans were seen as tactically skilled, but the U.S. Army writers were, for ideological reasons, incapable of considering motives other than coercion for their resistance. The partisans, not the Germans, were characterized as alien predators terrorizing the “civilians” into submission:
They seldom launched a raid without previous reconnaissance, often carried out by civilians pressured into the job.... They lived off the country, forcibly requisitioning what they needed from the natives. They deliberately attempted to demoralize the local civilians with sudden raids, rumour- mongering, and general heavy-handed terror tactics.9
Furthermore, the study contends, had the Germans not erred in their occupation policies (through random killings and systematic brutality)that is, had the invasion been made by Germans not led by Nazis the people of the East would have flocked to their banner. There were very real dimensions of terror and brutality in Soviet policy toward Nazi collaborators, as indeed in the attitudes of resistance movements elsewhere and wherever people have fallen under foreign occupation.10 But the inversion of the attribution of primary responsibility for terrorizing the populationfrom the occupying army to the resistance movementwas an adjustment of the record according to ideological norms. The 1956 army study stresses that even the German High Command recognized that the brutality of the first year of occupation had been counterproductive, yet it unaccountably attributes the growth of resistance primarily to the German failure to “protect” the population from partisan coercion. Astonishingly, the study maintains that the Wehrmacht’s greatest failing was permitting the partisans to terrorize the population into “revolt” against the occupying forces: “Experience had shown that the people often fled to the forests in fear of reprisals and there became prey to the bands who forcibly recruited the men into the irregular ranks.”11
The study refers to the German Armed Forces High Command’s 18 August 1942 Antipartisan Directives as a major reform of previous brutal policies, and casts it as a policy intended to redirect security efforts toward protecting the civilian population from partisan coercion.12 The modifitcation of the policy of “reprisals and collective punitive actions” was to permit “retaliatory measures... only when the reasons for such were carefully explained to the people.”13
The line between terror tactics and legitimate measures of force in wartime was also blurred in the Cold War histories of German tactics. The term “terrorism” appears repeatedly in descriptions of the tactics of the partisansambushes, raids, sabotagebut another vocabulary altogether applies to the German tactics of atrocity. The norms by which civilians were equated with soldiers or held responsible for partisan actions and so penalized by summary execution are deemed eminently fair:
Any person belonging to a partisan formation, any person furnishing aid or comfort, directly or indirectly, to such partisans, or any person withholding information on partisans would be shot.... These directives were all legally well within the provisions of the Geneva Convention of 1929 relative to the treatment of prisoners of war.... 14
In fact, the terms of the laws of war during World War II had made little concession to participants in organized resistance movements, but German forces, m turn, had made little concession to the letter of humanitarian law.15 The Wehrmacht directives, moreover, coincided with higher directives, including the German government’s declaration that rules of war “were not applicable to BARBAROSSA since the Reich considered the USSR dissolved as a sovereign power.”16
The 1942 Wehrmacht directives emphasized the still-common position that a people under occupation will accept repression more gracefully if reprisals and so on are explained fully to them. And they will blame the partisanswho are characterized as monsters deliberately setting up villagers for German reprisalsfor their fate:
When collective punitive punishments had to be exacted, it was highly important that the reasons for so doing be carefully explained to the people. This latter was considered especially pertinent. Further, the people were to be made to realize that the partisans, following instructions from Moscow, often deliberately attempted to place them, even though innocent, in a position where the Germans would take reprisalsas firing on German troops from a village and then escaping, thus leaving the inhabitants to face the penalties which the Germans might lawfully imposeIn order to turn them away from the invaders and into the ranks of the irregulars.
Although the circumstances in which reprisals would be considered “absolutely necessary,” and the manner in which reprisal atrocities were to be “carefully explained” are not elaborated, the U.S. Army Military History Division does suggest convincingly that the German High Command had indeed determined in 1942 that it could no longer rely on terror alone to enforce German administrative and economic demands. The U.S. military historians appear, however, to have overstated the practical change in German “counterterror” policy, in keeping with the study’s quite extraordinary depiction of the German army as the “liberators” of the Russian people. The description of the new, moderate policy, combining ferocious antipartisan measures with fair treatment, anticipates later American counterinsurgency writing:
[T]he destruction of the bands required vigorous, offensive action by all available military, SS and police units... and the “harshest measures” against both active and passive adherents to the movement. The natives’ confidence in German leadership was to be restored and their cooperation solicited by fair and above-board treatment....17
The premise herethat an iron-clad distinction can be drawn between “the people,” who won’t be harmed if they keep their noses clean, and the partisans/bandits, who are seen as aliens beyond the pale, meriting whatever fate befalls themwould eventually be incorporated into American counterinsurgency doctrine.
Of particular importance to later counterinsurgency doctrine is the emphasis placed on integration of all aspects of the administration, civil and military. The shift toward a more complex, integrated occupation policy came in the 18 August 1942 orders. The study concludes that the strategy to undermine the partisan movement ‘‘by weaning away its external support by the people” failed largely because the changes were “too little too late.”18 The 1942 blueprint for antipartisan operations included most of the components that appeared later in American counterinsurgency doctrine, including counterorganization and counterterror: “The war against the bands was to be considered as much a part of general operations as the move against the front line armies.... All means of politics, economics, and propaganda were to be brought to bear. “19
Counterorganization along paramilitary lines was ordered as a means both to augment conventional forces and to imitate the partisans. A first step was establishing “a reliable net of informers” and a system to check and evaluate their information, with “all false or over-exaggerated reports punished severely.” A second was recruiting “native security units... from among anti-Soviet inhabitants and reliable former prisoners of war,” organized into local guard units around cadres from German military police battalions and German reservists (Landesschützen).20 The orders stressed the importance of their close control “Where a composite force of German military and paramilitary units was to be committed, a clear chain of command and responsibility was to be established prior to the action.”21 “Native volunteer units, wherever recruited, were to be used for reconnaissance and static guard duty only, and never committed in an offensive operation except as a last resort, and then under close and immediate German command. ““ German concern that local security units could go renegade was occasionally borne out: the 1956 report cites one case in which a unit of 600 men guarding a rail line went over to the partisans, wrecking the line in the process.23
The new antipartisan measures of 1942 provided for “home guard” forces of both volunteers and civilians who were “drafted for static guard duty, “ and held responsible for incidents during their duty tours.24 The system was not unlike the kind of “home guard as hostage” formula of such modern, obligatory “civilian self-defense” organizations as are currently in USC to control Guatemala’s highland Indian population (nonparticipation, even failure to report a stranger on the village path, are capital offenses). 25 Local civilians were also held responsible, under pain of death, for the implementation of population control measures not unlike those used traditionally by the European powers in the colonial dominions: “Mayors... were to be made responsible for registering all strangers, “26 while local security forces were to assist in implementing travel restrictions (“any person found on the roads without a pass was to be arrested and, if not belonging to the nearest village, executed as a partisan”).27 The U.S. Army report, however, emphatically casts the oppressive strategy as an attempt to provide civilians with a feeling of security from partisan terror:
The troops... and any spare police forces were to be dispersed down to platoon size over as many villages as possible so as to give support to the inhabitants against the terror raids, deny the partisans bases and food, and prevent the natives from aiding them. Once an area was considered pacified, it was still to be patrolled and important localities and installations guarded.28
The principal offensive forces of the rear areas wore organized in a system of “highly mobile task forces. “ These rapid-response forces were formed “out of SS and alert regiments... based at strategic points” and provided the strategic backup necessary to make the light German and “home guard” garrisons defensible.29 A more creative “counterguerrilla” experiment, along the lines of the British “pseudo-gangs” or the U.S.-backed “pseudo-guerrillas” of the Philippines, was also implemented. The 1956 U.S. Army report described these as “dummy bands... made up of Russian- speaking German officers and NCO’s and native volunteers passing themselves off as partisan units, to seek out the more virulent pro-Soviet elements of the population and mark them for roundup and evacuation.”30 The organization of “counter” or “dummy” bands had been recommended in the August 1942 directives:
They were to be made up of units from the security police and the security service and of the Ordnungspolizei, with a number of reliable natives, and committed in partisan-dominated areas in the manner of a genuine partisan unit. ln this manner they would be able to keep a constant check on the sentiments of the population, make contact with irregular units, and often quietly eliminate the partisan leaders.31
Propaganda was another lesson of the German example. The June 1941 Armed Forces High Command directives on propaganda, summarized in the 1956 study, explained the way in which the Wehrmacht itself explained its antipartisan actions to the population:
The greatest emphasis was to be placed on the thesis that the enemies of Germany were not the people of the Soviet Union, but the Jewish-Bolshevist Soviet government and the Communist Party working for world revolution. An especial point was to be made that the Wehrmacht was not entering Russia as an enemy of the people, but to free them from Soviet tyranny.32
The September 1941 directives on measures “to deal with this general insurrection movement” gave as the first of its general action guidelines that “it should be inferred, in every case of resistance to the German occupying forces, no matter what the individual circumstances, that it is of Communist origin.”33
Propaganda guidelines also governed terminology. August 1942 directives added a now-familiar semantic diktat: The Wehrmacht ordered “that the term ‘partisan’ [Partisanen], which had been found to mean ‘fighter for freedom’ in Russian terminology, no longer be used,” but be replaced with “Bandit” (Banditen).34 The policy was not unique. The British would later refer to the Malayan guerrillas as “Communist Terrorists” (CTs), and Peru’s armed forces today refers to Terroristas Comunistas (TCs). And in the 1980s the lexicon of American foreign policy would swing from usage of the relatively respectable term “guerrilla” to uniformly characterize guerrillas not under American patronage as “terrorists. “
The American critique of the German propaganda offensive in the Soviet Union centered on “lost opportunities.”35 “Propaganda remained negative, and even verged on the hypocritical”; “It was designed primarily to keep the population from joining or supporting the partisans. They were promised nothing. Beyond threats, warnings, and prohibitions, the emphasis was to remain on the role of the Germans as ‘liberators’ come to create ‘a new system of social justice.’”36 The Soviets, on the other hand, had the propaganda initiative: “In conjunction with the terror attacks, the Soviets launched a virulent propaganda campaign [to the effect] that the tide would soon turn.... The people grew progressively uneasy under such psychological attacks and began to wonder at the true nature of these self-styled ‘liberators.’”37 Clearly, the American writers of the U.S. Army’s 1950s series on partisan movements (who were working with former Wehrmacht officers) had no illusions but that an American “liberation” of the Soviet Union in 1941 would have been considerably more successful than the German.
The role of terror in the German campaign is discussed extensively in the U.S. Army studies, with rather contradictory conclusions. The policy of naked terror with which the German invasion was launched in 1941 was explained as a tactical option designed to crush resistance as rapidly as possible so that an occupation administration could rapidly be established. The 1956 study cites an order of 16 July 1941: “The whole of the occupied territories had to be pacified as quickly as possible. The Resistance there had to be crushed. The best method was a strict reign of terror.”38 This concept of terror as a shortcut to pacification, compensating for a German manpower shortage, is a classic misconception of the power of terror:
The troops available for security... will... suffice only if the occupying power meets all resistance, not by legally punishing the guilty, but rather by spreading the type of terror which is the only means of taking from the population every desire for opposition 39
The U.S. Army assessed the mass terror of 1941 as generally counterproductive or, put another way, the failure to combine terror with positive methods of psychological warfare was “for the Germans... just another lost opportunity.”40 The attitude of the analysis toward the more selective use of terror tactics is rather more ambiguous. In discussing the new, supposedly hearts and mindsoriented strategy after 1942, the authors discuss admiringly what might be described as a mirror-image approach to partisan warfare:
To combat the partisans the security commands evolved an antipartisan blueprint founded on the basic assumption that to be successful in a rear area war they had to be as mobile and tricky as the partisans themselves, so much so that it would be the Germans who were feared, not the partisans.41
Here the premise that the partisans (or revolutionaries) win support through terror finds its corollary in the thesis that counterterror, targeted with sufficient precision and selectivity, can win support through fear.
Similarly, while the system of massive reprisals was seen to have been ineffective, the Germans’ clearance end “evacuation” of the suspect population (most of the German evacuees died) was seen as effective:
Captured documents and interrogation of partisan prisoners conclusively demonstrated that while reprisals as means of weaning the people away from the bands, and thus weaLening the support of the latter, were generally ineffective, the evacuation of all natives from partisan-infested areas and the destruction of all farms, villages, and buildings in the areas following the evacuations did much to slow up the growth of the movement and sap its strength.42
Although the mass killings and random brutality of the German occupation were characterized as counterproductive, more selective terror methods were noted uncritically. The selective extermination tasks of the security battalions (Einzatzgruppen), for exampIe, were described without comment: “[T]hey were to clear the operations zone of both Jews and Communist officials and agents by liquidating all racially and politically undesirable elements seized. “43 According to the U. S. Army study, operations of this kind were counterproductive only when they claimed victims at random: “The unchecked ‘clearing’ actions of the Einzatzgruppen and police units, during which many people were executed without proof of Communist Party affiliation or Jewish blood, harmed the German cause immensely...” (emphasis added).
The German officers, of course, had other orders for the total subjugation of the Russian people, and well understood that propaganda was not to be confused with reality. The “German Report Series” studies, however, tend to support the “liberation from Bolshevism” claim, if not the racial theories invoked.44
The U. S. Army’s analysis of the Soviet experience from the German viewpoint is of value today for the insights it provides into the way Ideology came to cloud American military and political analysis after World War II. It also provides a window into the Cold War laboratories of military doctrine from which blueprints for unconventional and later counterinsurgency doctrine emerged. That the German analysis also reached beyond the Pentagon is confirmed by the records of the special White House Cold War panel, the Operations Coordinating Board. A 1954 briefing of the board, using much the same argument as the studies of the “German Report Series, “ cited the German invasion of the Soviet Union as an opportunity in which concerted psychological warfare could have resulted in victory: “Russian troops and civilians viewed the Germans as saviours of Mother Russia from the tyranny of the Communist Party. Had the Germans understood this deep and significant vulnerability and exploited it, Russian resistance might well have collapsed.”45
The American doctrine of unconventional warfare was not strictly modeled on the German antipartisan strategies of the Wehrmacht, but it is easier to understand in light of these unique versions of the German-Russian conflict. The 1950s “German Series”and associated documentsserve further to confirm that American officers responsible for developing unconventional warfare doctrine in the 1950s were cognizant of German antipartisan organization and tactics. The analysis of the motivations and methods of the Soviet partisan movementin particular, the apparent conviction of the authors that the Germans were in fact “liberators,” and the partisans dominating their countrymen through terrormay also have directly influenced the emerging doctrinal view of revolutionary guerrilla warfare.
The American intervention in the Greem Civil War of 1946-1949 put some of the lessons of World War II into practice in the first counterinsurgent campaign of the Cold War. The 1954 study for the U.S. Army’s “German Report Series,” German Antiguerrilla Operations in the Balkans (1941- 1944) (U.S. Army Pamphlet 29-243), provides a detailed counterinsurgent’s-eye-view of the partisan movement in Greeceand insight into the American attitudes toward German tactics and perceptions.
Germany’s occupation of Greece began in May 1941, and within two years it was the object of concerted resistance by an irregular partisan National l’eople’s Liberation Army (ELAS), some 20,000 strong (Greece’s population then totaled some eight million). ELAS incorporated many former officers of the Greek national army, including its principal w.artime leader Colonel Stefanos Serafis; its political side, the underground National Liberation Front (EAM) was dominated by the Greek Communist Party (KKE).46 EDES, the small monarchist resistance movement sponsored by the British and led by Colonel Zervas, was confined largely to the Epirus Mountains in northwestern Greece, while ELAS operated throughout the rest of the country.47 Like Mihailovitch’s Chetniks in Yugoslavia, EDES rapidly came to an accommodation with the Germans, and put its principal efforts into clashing with the partisans that were energetically fighting the occupation forces.48 0ver 600,000 German troopsand thousands of irregular auxiliarieswere tied down in Yugoslavia, Albania, and Greece by November 1943: The Germans themselves estimated they faced some 145,000 guerrillas in the theater, with some 90,000 under Tito’s command alone.49 German casualty levels rose gradually throughout the occupattion, peaking in the months before withdrawal began: in the July-August 1944 period the Germans recorded 936 dead, 1,235 wounded, and 275 missing.50
German antipartisan tactics in the Balkans differed little from those employed in the Soviet Union. Large forces were deployed to isolate circumscribed areas to “comb out” partisans. Veteran mobile reserves (the equivalent of today’s rapid-reaction forces), including crack mountain troops (notably the First Mountain Division), stood by to go to the aid of outposts under attack, or to be “rushed to the scene of any protracted rising.”51 Special Forces-style operations were carried out by elite search-and-destroy/hunter-killer units:
A highly effective offensive weapon was found in the Jagdkommando [ranger detachment],], designed to seek out and destroy guerrilla bands. Personnel... were usually young and combat- wise veterans of German campaigns on other fronts. Physically hardy and trained to live in the open for extended periods of time, they depended little on supply columns and could pursue the guerrillas into the most inaccessible areas.52
Jagdkommandos also operated as pseudo-guerrillas: “When the situation required, the rangers would put on civilian clothing, disguising themselves as [guerrillas]....”]....” Their principal task in such circumstances was reconnaissance. However successful the elite units were in small-unit operations, though, the 1954 U.S. Army report concluded they were too few in number “to affect decisively the outcome of the antiguerrilla campaign.”53
The Germans modified earlier tactics after 1943, seeking to improve upon the efforts of the 380,000 Italian troops that had hitherto borne the brunt of the occupation in the Balkans.54 Passive defense measures introduced were much like later French measures in Indochina: they centered on a network of Stützpunkte (strongpoints) securing rail lines, principal roads, and installations every six miles or so, on average. “These strongpoints were actually small forts, heavily armed... and situated in the vicinity of... guerrilla targets....” Armored car patrols moved frequently between posts, while armored trains further defended rail lines.55 Free-fire zones, in which civilians were shot on sight, were established in rural areas for five kilometers on either side of rail routes, and 200 meters in built-up areas.56
Terror, too, was a principal feature of German occupation policy in the Balkans. Hostage- taking, torture, public executions, and the burning of villages were carried out in accord with the principle of collective responsibility for hostile action or noncompliance with orders. Several incidents involving mass reprisals are described in the 1954 U.S. Army study, which became one of the standard U. S. Army texts on the conflict. The horror of the actions is understated by the description of victims not as “civilians” but as “communist suspects”:
A Communist-inspired strike in the Piracus area in March (1944) was put down by the Germans only after security troops fired on the demonstrators killing 21.... Immediately following this, a German truck column... in the Peloponnesus was attached, and a total of 18 Germans killed and 44 wounded. Ill reprisal 21)0 communist suspects were executed, 10 villages burned, and martial law declared. . . 57
Similarly, when a German general and three others were killed in an attack on their headquarters in the Peloponnisos, “325 Communist suspects were shot in reprisals.”58 Reprisal killings were just a part of the horror: deportations to extermination camps continued throughout the occupation, without causing visible concern to OSS (or the British Special Operations Executive [SOE]) personnel on the spot. OSS chief William Donovan reported to President Roosevelt on 20 July 1944 that 90,000 Jews were being “expatriated” from Greece: a word rather less alarming than the truth (and suggesting an execrable complacency).59
The withdrawal of Italy from the Axis in September 1 943 had obliged Germany to raise drastically the number of its own troops garrisoning the Balkans, to bring in “Eastern” forces, and to organize local forces wherever possible, using the principle of divide and rule, which had been exemplified in Yugoslavia by the creation of a separate Croatia. “Eastern” battalions brought into Greece included Ukrainians, Poles, and Bulgarians. Minority populations were also co-opted into the security structure: In collaboration with the Bulgarian II Corps, “home guard”-style militias were set up in areas with Bulgarian minorities (as the U.S. Army study observed, “the minorities used these armed units against their Greek neighbors, who in turn blamed the German authorities...”).60‘ In the Pindus Mountains and in Thessaly, the Vlach minority were organized into “Legionnairies,” which ELAS head Serafis later noted had “become a real menace” in Thessaly and western Macedonia before the guerrillas”and the great majority of Vlachs, who condemned this movement”brought about its collapse.61
The U. S. Army report on wartime antiguerrilla operations concludes with a series of “lessons learned” and recommendations to be taken into account, should similar antiguerrilla scenarios arise in future. As in the reports on antipartisan measures in the Soviet Union, the study concludes that, with minor modifications, the occupation could have been “successful.” Although it was unlikely “that German commanders” will ever be concerned with the occupation of the Balkans again,
a review of the mistakes these commanders made would undoubtedly cause them to urge any future occupier to begin his administration with a clear-cut statement of policy, including a promise of eventual withdrawal... and self-determination for the people; a unified military command and distinct delineation of responsibility in the political and military fields; the assigmnent of trained, well-equipped combat troops in adequate numbers to the area; the taking of prompt and effective though not excessively harsh measures to quell disorders; and an extensive propaganda campaign to explain the purpose of the occupation and the benefits to accrue to the population with the maintenance of law and order. Finally they would most certainly recommend the troops be supplied from outside the country and restrained from excesses. With perseverance, the occupation might then be able to avoid the Balkan chaos of 1941-44.62
The final point was perhaps the most positive and the least applicable to later counterinsurgency efforts. That intervention and occupation forces should not rely on collaborationist domestic minorities to maintain control responded to the awareness from the Balkan experience that such alliances are volatile, and may trigger uncontrollable interethnic conflict antithetical to the objective of a trouble-free occupation. The authors in 1954 were concerned with suppressing partisan movements in the context of conventional warfare, and with imposing an effective occupation administration: they recognized that mobilizing ethnic minority groups against their neighbors was of limited short-term advantage, while counterproductive in the long term to the orderly life of the society.
Despite the foreign battalions and the ethnic minority forces available, by mid-1943 the German command had concluded that its forces were insufficient “for the maintenance of law and order in Greece,” and so authorized the formation of Greek “Security Battalions.” The pilot model, the 700- man “Laocoön Volunteer Battalion,” was armed in late 1943 with rifles and machine guns, and it participated in a major clearance operation in the Peloponnisos. Its successful deployment prompted the formation of further such battalions. 63 The 1954 U. S. Army report notes that the monarchist EDES, too, provided a principal source of manpower for the German effort, through arrangements by which previous informal collaboration in fighting ELAS was rationalized:
The Germans still had some supporters from the anticommunist elements of the Greek population, among them EDES. For keeping the Yannina-Arta road and a large part of the Pindus Mountains area cleared of ELAS forces, EDES was supplied with small arms and ammunition by local German commanders, a practice approved by the army group commander. According to revised German estimates, Zervas’ main force at this time comprised only 2,500-3,000 men.... ELAS, in contrast, had grown to 20,000 men.... While clearing operations, restrictions on movement in the area of the rail lines, and the active assistance of EDES and the Greek volunteer forces restored a measure of security to the German supply routes, guerrilla forces increased their activities in more remote areas.64
Another source, with a different bias, notes that in some areas EDES troops and those of the Security Battalions were virtually indistinguishable. 65
The 1946 war memoir by Stefanos Serafis suggests EDES’s arrangement with the Germans was common knowledge at the grass roots, even if the technical details were unknown. EDES forces, wrote Serafis, worked openly in the presence of the Germans, and continued to do so even as the Germans began their evacuation in August 1944 (the last units crossed into Yugoslavia and Albania on 2 November 1944). A letter of 25 September 1944, purported to have been from EDES leader Asterios Michalakis to the German commander in Thrace/Macedonia, set out a proposal for EDES to watch the German rear in exchange for an orderly hand-over of powerincluding command of the Security Battalions. The proposal, not dissimilar from the actual events, required
1. Creation of a strong EDES force. . . with the ultimate objective of. . . wiping out the ELAS forces which arc collaborating with the Russians, Bulgarians and Tito. 2. Territory to be evacuated by German troops will be taken over by the EDES army.... 3. Security Battalions will be incorporated into the EDES forces.... 4. The Germans will supply a quantity of heavy equipment. 66
Although the German accommodation with EDES held throughout most of its nominal territory, EDES remained the favored British vehicle for the postwar control of a monarchist Greece. Similarly, in the Philippines, the returning American forces had recognized the Japanese puppet Constabulary and other collaborationist forces as legitimate postwar security forces, and turned them against the left-wing Hukbalahap resistance organization. The British priority in Greece was to back monarchist forces, however unsavory, who shared a hostility toward the left-wing ELAS partisans.67 EDES nominally returned to the Allied side on 3 duly 1944, when, according to U.S. intelligence reports, British SOE liaison officers “seized command of the Zervas organization, in conjunction with a group of anti-German commanders” and its forces attacked German troops to seize a remote coastal area adjoining the Pindus Mountains. A subsequent landing of 5,000 Greek forces from Middle East Headquarters in Egypt would serve primarily to give the British a monarchist counter to ELAS at war’s end.68
Colonel Virgil Ney, a former U.S. “Senior Advisor, Psychological Warfare” to the South Korean army, drew on his experience in Korea and on the published accounts of partisan movements in World War II to examine U.S. “guerrilla” and “counterguerrilla” doctrine at length.69 His writing is punctuated with pedanticand seemingly admiring references to German counterguerrilla methods, which he describes as harsh but necessary. Ney’s own widely disseminated checklist of tactics, antecedents to the formal doctrine of counterterror, included “direct attack (including raids); indirect attack (including surveillance); hostages; decimation; shipment; execution.”70 Its theoretical foundation draws on the doctrines of colonial powers and the Wehrmacht, but adds a new rationale: that guerrilla resistance forces can only be defeated by co-opting their most powerful weaponterror.
“Direct attack,” in Ney’s lexicon, is described as conventional assault by regular troops. “Indirect attack,” the preferred method, includes the range of actions from surveillance to cordon- and-search operations, “seizing all persons in the immediate vicinity.”71 Ney elaborates:
Prisoners taken arc valuable for interrogation or hostage purposes. Depending upon the situation there are raids which may be classed as reprisals as revenge [sic] or certain acts committed against the occupying forces. These operations are drastically brutal and no prisoners are taken alive.... based as it is on terror, the reprisal raid is one of the most effective means of controlling or inhibiting the members of the resistance.72
To illustrate the point, Ney cites examples of German reprisals in Greecesummary executions of “the first fifty persons who happened to walk down the street, “ as well as the razing of houses and villages.73 Citing The Soviet Partisan Movement study, Ney observes that during Operation BARBAROSSA, “as reprisal for positive partisan activity, in the Fourth Army Area two inhabitants were ordered shot for every German killed. “74
Ney’s writing also exemplifies the tendency of U.S. Army writers on guerrilla warfare to blur the distinction between what the “communist guerrilla” is purported to do and what the American guerrilla is advised to do. The concept of the “propaganda of the deed”including terrormuch like the “armed propaganda” featured in the CIA’s 1983 manual for the Nicaraguan contras, was particularly attractive to Ney.75 He observes,
propaganda may be successfully spread by means of terror.... Threats, intimidation, coercion, mental and emotional stress, threatening destruction of family ties, ransom.... The very act of terror will of its own nature convert many of its witnesses or surviving victims to whatever the propagandizer desires.76
Ney’s fascination with terror is further reflected in his premise that support for the guerrilla cause, and indeed loyalty, was readily won through terror: “Terror, the guerrilla leader’s most potent weapon, is used by him not only to demoralize the enemy and extort the support of his own people, but also to extract unswerving loyalty from the individual guerrilla.”77 Unlike most of his contemporaries, Ney decried the limitation of counterguerrilla methods to conventional military means, and he became a principal advocate of fighting fire with fire:
The old adage “It takes a thief to catch a thief” may be transposed properly and correctly into “It takes a guerrilla to beat a guerrilla....” The conventional soldier must be taught that to defeat the guerrilla he must use guerrilla methods.78
Ney, however, proposes no major change in the kinds of forces to be deployed against guerrillas or in the general emphasis on conventional small-unit tactics, or “simple infantry patrol actions,” to hunt them down. His approach was relatively limited in practical terms, and “unconventional” primarily in its emphasis on propaganda and psychological warfare, including the use of terror. It is in this respect that Ney’s prescriptions are at once innovative and throwbacks to the methods of colonial powers of the past.
Colonel Ney may himself have had relatively little influence 011 the formulation of doctrine, despite the wide circulation of his writing. The substance of his proposals for counterinsurgency is most sign)ficant as an indicator of the mood of the times; Ney was less an innovator than a representative 1950s counterinsurgent.
Similar prescriptions appeared in the 1950 classic Secret Forces, by Lt. Col. F. O. Miksche, a veteran of unconventional warfare in occupied Europe from Czechoslovakia to France. Miksche’s study outlines in elaborate detail the methodology of communist resistance organizations, and identifies “the secret forces... at the back of the many civil wars, strikes and acts of sabotage, that are so typical of our epoch, and how these are organized and conducted.”79 More to the point, Miksche delves into the record of German antipartisan policies to identify those that can be adapted to the present war with “revolutionary forces.” “We are,” he asserts, “already at war with the East today, whether we care to acknowledge it or not.”80
The response to guerrilla forces, in Miksche’s analysis, would ideally incorporate measures “to capture the sympathy of the great mass of the people,” but he asks “is it always possible to settle disputes in a peaceful manner? ... History does not encourage us....”81 That said, political measures to win sympathy and support among at least part of the population must coincide with a counterattack against the adversary:
Secret organizations should be attacked at the roots.... Conspiracy is best met by counter- conspiracy.... Spies must insinuate themselves right into the nerve centers of the underground movement. One need only think of the numerous tricks to which the German authorities resorted in dealing with the underground movements.
While the German secret police attracted “many doubtful elements,” Miksche added that “it is precisely they who are best suited to this kind of work.”82 Secret warfare was cruel, and those combating underground movements were well justified in responding in kind:
The deeper a secret movement goes, the more cruel the methods it employs. Any means arc considered justified provided they serve the purpose. It has always been so, and I think I am speaking the truth when I say that almost every nation, confronted by similar circumstances, would act in the same way.83
German measures to defend the railways area explained as a case in point that while ruthlessness could be effective, it was not in itself sufficient to break the spirit of the population or to meet the challenge of the guerrillas. Although putting Polish civilians into the front carriages failed to stop assaults,
A much more effective method was to compel the local population to guard its own section of the railway.... Their lives were forfeit for the security of the sections for which they were responsible. In other cases, hostages were taken as a precautionary measure against partisan attempts.84
In the final analysis, however, “the defender plays a losing game.” The proposed solution is to go onto the offensive, and to fight like with like. Miksche cites Napoleon’s order to Marshal Lefebvre to “use partisan methods when dealing with partisans.” The German innovation, in turn, was to do the same, and whenever possible to organize counterguerrilla irregulars from sectors of the local population. A German order signed by the Chief of Counter-Guerrilla Movements is cited as a model: “Just as the uniformed police require the assistance of plainclothes police, we must have bands of our own to support the troops against the enemy guerrilla bands.” Each unit was to have from fifteen to twenty men, armed with rifles and grenades. The tactics “should be the same as those adopted by enemy bands.”85
The influence of the war in Europe on postwar doctrine and policy was perpetuated through the medium of emigres recruited to the fledgling CIA, and the army’s psy-war/unconventional warfare establishment. Unconventional warfare schemes had called for recruitment of refugees from the occupied nations of Eastern Europe to provide a manpower pool for eventual behind-the-lilies operations against the Soviets. Proposals like Eisenhower’s “Freedom Battalion” had fallen through in the face of military reluctance to undertake an organizational task of doubtful value and high political risk, as well as for want of volunteers. The Lodge bill (1951), which permitted the recruitment of European émigrés into the U. S. Army, failed either to attract the numbers of qualified personnel envisioned or to overcome security concerns. But the Army Special Forces recruited a core of European emigres under the act.86
One former Special Forces officer described the emigre recruits as ‘ proven lot of hardy, versatile volunteers from Finland and other European countries.”87 Another, trained at Fort Bragg in 1959, later recalled that “a good proportion” of his fellow recruits had been “Lodge Act peoplemen who had come from Iron Curtain countries. Their anticommunism bordered on fanaticism.” And as such, they had helped set the tone for Special Forcesand the CIA. “Many of them who, like me, had joined Special Forces to do something positive, were to leave because ‘things’ weren’t happening fast enough. They were to show up later in Africa and Latin America in the employ of others or as independent agents for the CIA. “88 Their influence on Special Forces, however, was significant if only because of the close relation of the two special warfare services.
Other recruits included veterans of monarchist and other anticommunist partisan movements of Eastern Europe. Some made major contributions to the formulation of doctrine, perhaps none more than a former Yugoslav colonel who led Chetnik guerrillas against both occupation forces and communist-led partisans. Slavko N. Bjelajac, who would achieve high office within the U.S. military establishment, had already had an illustrious military career in the Royal Yugoslav Army before the German invasion of April 1941; he served four years as a General Staff Officer, taught at the military academy, and authored military textbooks. After the German takeover, Bjelajac served in the pan- Serbian, monarchist forces raised by Colonel (subsequently General) Draja Mihailovitch. Dubbed “Chetniks”after a Serb group that had fought the Turks in World War IMihailovitch’s forces were better known for their fratricidal opposition to the communist-led partisans (also largely Serbs) than for their harassment of German and Italian forces.
Colonel Bjelajac’s long association with the U.S. military and intelligence establishment began even before his departure from Yugoslavia at the end of 1943 to join Allied forces in Egypt. According to a Department of the Army report, Bjelajac had provided valuable intelligence information to the Allies while in Yugoslavia, and continued his cooperation with “US Headquarters and its intelligence organization” after his shift to Cairo.89 After the Royal Yugoslav Army command dissolved, Bjelajac worked directly with the U.S. Army in Cairo until his transfer in 1948 to Washington. He then served in the Office of the Army Chief of Staff (G-2, intelligence) before transferring to “another government agency for a period of five years.”
Although Colonel Bjelajac’s curriculum vitae might appear that of a “spook,” his uniqueness lies in his prolific publications and the respect accorded him in the unconventional/counterinsurgency warfare establishment. Officially described as “a consultant on unconventional and psychological warfare and on conventional military matters pertaining to Communist Bloc countries,” Bjelajac had by 1971 produced over 150 unclassified and classified studies on psychological operations, unconventional warfare, counterinsurgency, and subversion.90 His published material was in the mainstream of the late 1950s and 1960s doctrinal writing from which the United States’ doctrines of unconventional warfare and counterinsurgency developed.
Although the substance of Bjelajac’s still-classified writing must remain a matter for speculation, the material now on the open record offers few surprises. Bjelajac had, however, experienced one of the bloodiest and most savage “small wars” of recent times, and he had served a cause notable primarily for its fanatical hatred not of invaders but of fellow Yugoslavs tainted with communism. As his official Pentagon “Biographical Sketch” notes, “the Communists killed Colonel Bjelajac’s brother and son.” An obsession with the strength and ruthlessness of the communist partisan movements during World War II was shared by many postwar analysts. So too was the conviction that the United States should prepare itself to field “guerrilla” forces in the occupied territories of Europe, and the territories threatened by communist subversion around the world. Bjelajac could call on firsthand experience of the kind of “resistance” movement the Cold Warriors envisioned for the new captive nations of Europe: a guerrilla response to the communist threat his colleagues could vicariously share and could adapt in the formulation of military doctrine.
The Pentagon’s biography of Colonel Bjelajac, prepared when he served as special assistant for Overseas Security Operations (OSO) at the Department of the Army, acknowledges his unique experience in the Chetnik organization as both “insurgent” and “counterinsurgent.” In the former role, he was credited with organizing and commanding “a force of some 9,000 nationalistic guerrillas... and an underground of 15,000” in western Yugoslavia. “Here, besides his normal military functions of organizing and conducting guerrilla and underground campaigns, he organized a local economy and government” and “an important defensive and offensive psychological warfare campaign.”91 The Chetnik role under the occupation, however, was hardly that of the classic “resistance” organization.
Yugoslavia’s population in 1941 was about 16 million, divided into three principal ethnic groupings. Some 6.5 million Serbs dominated the larger part of the territory in a swatch from Belgrade, the former capital of the Kingdom of Serbia, to the Dalmatian coast. Over 3.2 million Croats were concentrated in the northwest; Croatia had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I. And a Slovenian minority of some 1.5 million was concentrated in the north.92 A strong German influence was apparent at the time in northern areas among the Croatian elite, as well as the million members of German- and Hungarian-speaking minorities. When a German ultimatum obliged Yugoslav Regent Paul to sign an accord with Hitler in March 1941, a coup led by Serbian army officers briefly took power and organized resistance against the invasion that followed soon after. Divided on ethnic lines, the army resisted, but was rapidly overcome.93
In June 1941, when the bulk of the German forces withdrew for redeployment in the invasion of the Soviet Union, occupation tasks fell to the Italians. The Chetnik and partisan resistance forces emerged soon afterward.94 Chetnik leaders counseled holding back attacks on the invaders, nominally to await coordinated action in conjunction with a far-future Allied landing; soon they appeared more concerned with fighting partisans than Axis forces.95 That same month, partisans initiated a campaign of guerrilla warfare involving sabotage and assaults on Italian troop detachments, convoys, and police posts. In a major partisan offensive in Montenegro, on the Dalmatian coast, guerrillas on 13 July 1941 launched coordinated assaults on Italian garrisons throughout the area, forcing their withdrawal to major garrison towns.96
The partisan offensive was defeated after one year of fighting; 15,000 Montenegrins died, and 10,000 others were deported to labor camps. According to a U. S. Army study, based on contemporary German army sources, this campaign was only possible “by enlisting the aid of the Chetniks.”97 In return, the Chetniks assumed many of the prerogatives of local government and undertook, using their own “guerrilla” tactics, the antiguerrilla tasks at which the Italians had proved inept: “Stipulations in the agreement with local Chetnik leaders required the Italians to restrict themselves to the garrison towns.... In turn the Chetniks maintained control over the countryside and kept it free of Partisans, drawing on Italian stocks for arms and ammunition.”
Although details of Colonel Bjelajac’s service in the Chetnik organization are not specified in declassified material, his role in suppressing the partisans is one of his key credentials as a counterinsurgency adviser. According to Bjelajac’s Department of the Army biography,
In the second part of his WWII campaign [Bjelajac] organized and directed counter-insurgency against the communist insurgents in the area of Western Yugoslavia, for which he used his guerrilla, self-defense and underground forces, and the civilian support organizations. During this period he had to deal with the problems of insurgency and counterinsurgency, and of civil war, in addition to the guerrilla operations against the enemy forces of occupation.98
Although credited, perhaps justly, with authentic resistance work, Bjelajac’s guerrilla activities against other (communist) guerrillas was of equal or greater significance to his subsequent career with the U.S. government. While partisan forces tied up occupation troops, threatening German access to the strategic mineral resources of the Balkans, Chetnik forces were doing their best to aid Italian countermeasures.99 The Chetnik experience of guerrilla tactics to combat guerrilla partisans found application in other theaters in years to come.
The classified 1947 U.S. Army report on World War II resistance movements, A Study of Special and Subversive Operations, discussed the Yugoslav situation in considerably franker terms than did the later army histories of the height of the Cold War:
Yugoslavia provided an example of the national political implications involved in support of guerrilla organizations. After the collapse of Yugoslavia in April, 1941, General Draja Mihajlovic, Minister of War in the loyalist government, escaped and set up a resistance organization.... Seeing in Tito’s forces an incompatible and irreconcilable rival, Mihajlovic with 50,000 patriots was actively siding with the Germans fighting Tito’s 200,000 partisans by the summer of 1942. Brigadier Armstrong was dropped to Mihadlovic to persuade him to renew operations against the Germans. The Armstrong Mission as well as repeated similar attempts ended in failure. Support of Tito’s forces graduated from limited special operations to support of a major force.... British and US military missions were maintained at Tito’s headquarters as his forces grow into an army of 300,000, by autumn of 1944. 100
The subsequent praise of Mihailovitch’s joint counterinsurgency efforts with the Italians and Germans to combat the Allied forces illustrates the extent to which the rewriting of history (with which the Eastern Bloc was long familiar) came to the United States on the wings of the Cold War.
The Chetnik organization began to unravel in 1943, as its accommodation with the Italians and then its link with the Allies broke down. The U. S. Army’s study of German antiguerrilla operations in the Balkans, using German sources, describes the Chetnik role in Operation WEISS, launched in January 1943 to clear partisans from a mountainous bauxite-producing area. The account centers on Italian- German views on the utility of the Chetniks and plans for their disbandment after the destruction of Tito’s partisan movement:
The Chetniks became a matter of sharp contention between German and Italian commanders during the course of Operation WEISS. In fact, the Italians had been requested to disarm their Chetnik auxiliaries as part of WEISS III. However, regarded as allies by the Italians, many Chetnik units were supplied with arms and ammunition and given important missions in the conduct of operations.... Strong German protests to Mussolini finally had the desired effect, and the Italian field commanders were directed to cease delivery of arms and munitions to the Chetniks and to disarm them as soon as the partisans had been destroyed.101
Operation WEISS was, in fact, followed by military action to break up the Chetniks. Responding to fears of an Allied invasion and doubts over the reliability of the Chetniks in such an event, crack German forces launched Operation SCHWARZ in May end dune 1943. “Achieving surprise”having kept the Italians out of the affairthe Germans overwhelmed Chetnik forces in Montenegro and Herzegovina, capturing 4,000 .102 Although Mihailovitch escaped and Chetnik forces were resupplied from Italian stocks following the September 1943 Italian withdrawal from the Axis, the Chetniks failed to serve either as effective resistance fighters or as a counter to the communist-led partisans in the last year of the war. 103 In late 1943, Allied irritation with Chetnik temporizing resulted in the withdrawal of Allied liaison officers from the Chetnik command, largely cutting them off from outside support.104 And so by year end, when Colonel Bjelajac was sent by General Mihailovitch to meet the Allies, the Chetniks had lost the support of patrons on both sides of the conflict. This notwithstanding, by the mid-1950s the Chetnik “counterguerrillas” were touted in the new American special warfare establishment as an example of both the way guerrillas really are and an ideal low-cost model for counterguerrilla operations.
The American role in waging resistance warfare against the occupying Japanese in the Philippines during World War II provided a principal foundation for the postwar doctrine of unconventional warfare. Army officers who had led guerrillas in Luzon and Mindanao were among the most influential in the formulation of postwar doctrine and in the organization of the army’s Special Forces. Russell Volckmann, who led guerrillas in northern Luzon, was a key drafter of the initial field manuals on unconventional warfare; he and Wendell Fertig, who commanded the American guerrillas on Mindanao, worked closely on the creation of Special Forces and helped establish the terms within which they operated. In the aftermath of the war, the American response to insurgency in the Philippines provided a crucible for counterinsurgency doctrine and a laboratory for unconventional tactics predating the American involvement in Vietnam. American officer Edward Geary Lansdale, who played a major role in crushing the insurgency, took his experience there to Vietnam and on to the Kennedy White House. The influence of both the resistance war and the counterinsurgency war continues to be felt in the way the United States responds to low-intensity conflict.
The long military occupation of the Philippines by Japan was challenged by active resistance movements throughout most of the island group. U. S. army officers took charge of Filipino guerrilla organizations in many areas. A different kind of resistance movement sprang up in the most populous island of the group, Luzon, from among a rice-growing peasantry primed for revolt by a decade of declining circumstances. The peasant resistance of central Luzon fought a rather different war from that of the U. S.-led guerrillas, attacking Japanese troops and Filipino collaborators alike. American officers, on the other hand, pursued a policy of biding time until the return of the U.S. fleet; and in central Luzon, they dedicated considerably greater effort toward stamping out the armed peasantry than harrying the Japanese.
Japanese troops first landed in the southern islands of the Philippines on 9 December 1941, and they controlled central Luzon by the end of the month. As Japanese troops advanced in a swath of destruction, rape, killing, and looting, peasants in central Luzon fled with their families into the mountains. Resistance centered around a nucleus of peasant union activists and was well underway by the following March. Arms were stolen from landowners (who had by and large fled to Manila), collected from abandoned American army positions and battlefields, and captured from Filipino police collaborating with the Japanese. The resistance movement assumed the name “Hukbalahap,” an abbreviation of Hukbo ng Bayan laban sa Hapon, “People’s Anti-Japanese Army,” and developed directly from an earlier peasant movement. The incident generally identified as the first major action of organized resistance was an ambush led by a woman leader of the peasant movement, Felipa Culala, against a patrol of Japanese troops and Filipino police, in which some thirty firearms were recovered. 105
The Japanese occupation of the Philippines, like their simultaneous move into Indochina, was facilitated by the co-optation of the existing administrative and security services. The bulk of the Philippines Constabulary, like the French Vichy security services of Indochina, would serve the Japanese faithfully until shortly before the Allied return to the Philippines in 1944. The landowning elite, in turn, went along with the Japanese, in part because the Japanese made no move to dispossess them, and in part because their families retained their influence over the collaborationist government.106 Landowners’ dealings with the peasantry changed little with the Japanese invasion.
The official American approach during the war was to turn a blind eye to elite collaboration and to ban attacks by American-registered guerrillas on those in the puppet government. After the war, many of the same civilians were appointed to government posts. General MacArthur’s close friend, sugar baron and prewar politician Manuel Roxas, was cleared of treason charges, despite having served the Japanese as minister responsible for rice production and economic policy;107 the United States subsequently boosted Roxas into the presidency in 1946. American policy toward collaborators later played a major part in stimulating and sustaining the postwar insurgent movement.
The Japanese accommodation with the landowning elites was manifest in the structure of the security system; elements of the same system were later adapted for postwar counterinsurgency. The prewar Constabulary remained the principal institution of rural coercion and control under the Japanese-directed “Bureau of the Constabulary.” The Japanese also supported what American counterinsurgency expert Charles Bohannan called “privately financed outfits formed to protect the estates of landowners cooperating with the Japanese.”108 These armed civiliansknown as the “Civil-Guard” or “Civilian Guards”remained a major feature of rural security after the war and (under the nominal authority of civil authorities) were incorporated into the postwar counterinsurgency apparatus. During and after the occupation they provided both a ready instrument to enforce the political and economic prerogatives of the rural elites and a very real incentive for the peasants to organize themselves in self-defense.
The rapid pace of peasant organization in the decade before the war, particularly in central Luzon, reflected growing discontent among the peasantry in the decade before the war. The two largest national peasant organizations, the General Workers’ Union (AMT), with some 70,000 members, and the National Society of Peasants in the Philippines (KPM}’), with some 60,000, had merged in early 1939 to present a united front.109 Similarly, the peasant organizations of the 1930s were not spinoffs from, or dependent on, urban-based political partiesalthough some leaders of the peasant movement did belong to the Socialist Party or the small, largely middle-class Philippine Communist Party (PKP) founded in 1930 (the two parties merged in 1938).110
Aligned with the landlords in the looming confrontation in central Luzon was the Philippines Constabulary (PC), a force set up by the U. S. Army in 1901 along lines similar to those of the National Guards to be set up in the following decades by Marine Corps occupation forces in Nicaragua, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Panama. The object was a national, paramilitary police force with primary responsibility for internal security and law enforcement. (The American armed forces were, until tested by the Japanese, to provide defense against foreign aggression.111) The PC provided the nucleus of the Philippine Commonwealth Army established in 1936, and although remaining a separate force, was after that date a part of the army.
As rural unrest grew in the 1930s, the estates of central Luzon employed civilian armed guards which, together with the Constabulary, were increasingly called upon to confront the new peasant organizations. The structural response to agrarian unrest included nearly quadrupling Constabulary forces in critical areas between June 1938 and March 1 939; placing Pampanga and Bulacan Provinces under army and PC control for a time in 1938; and, in dune 1941, placing the municipal policethe only strictly local component of the security systemunder PC control in all of the central Luzon provinces, as part of a government campaign to crush “subversive, rebellious, and radical elements.”112
Although peasant organization continued to develop throughout the 1930s, the increasing conflict with landowners surprisingly involved little in the way of violence on the part of the peasantry. The brewing rural unrest fumed violent as a consequence of the Japanese invasion, the occupation, and its aftermath. The transformation of the nonviolent peasant movement into a guerrilla army was in part an immediate response to the death and destruction brought by the invader. It began as a movement for self-defense and revenge against Japanese atrocities, but rapidly developed into a broad-based resistance movement. The alliance between the Japanese and the peasants’ old adversaries, the rural elites, their armed guards, and the constabulary made resistance a matter of survival.
The Hukbalahap was in many ways a classic, eminently local peasant movement, tied to the land and fired by very immediate threats to hearth and home. The guerrillasor Hukswere almost indistinguishable from the peasant communities through which they moved. The Hukbalahap or Huk movement was both a military and a political organization, providing a functioning parallel government at the local level. “3 Their military tactics were a mixed bag of conventional methods learned by a few leaders with experience in the Philippine army reserve, veterans of the last conventional battles with the Japanese. Peregrino Taruc, brother of the Huk leader Luis Taruc, a reserve officer with ROTC training who had fought at Bataan, was put in charge of training. Although some effort was made to organize training based on the Chinese experience, the principal training in guerrilla tactics was gained in the field.114 Guerrilla actions centered on ambushes of Japanese/Constabulary patrols and convoys, raids on small detachments and government buildings, and the assassination of collaborators.
The objectives of the Hukbalahap, like those of the later Huk rebellion, were strictly limited and not particularly revolutionary. The Hukbalahap was initially a self-defense organization, fighting back against the Japanese occupation forces in a relatively haphazard fashion. In the course of the war it developed into a structured organization, but remained a fundamentally local, defensive movement, without the kind of comprehensive political program or ideological orientation that was characteristic of many European resistance movements. The main political goal was the expulsion of the Japanese and the removal from power of collaborationist Filipinos. The social goals were no more revolutionary than those of the peasant movements of the 1930s. The expressed desires of the tenant farmers that comprised the bulk of the Hukbalahap were simply physical security and a fair deal with the landlords in the division of the harvest.
The Huks placed considerably more faith in the return of the U.S. armed forces than in the force of revolutionary arms to expel the Japanese. The resistance fighters expected at war’s end due recognition of their role and, with the promised independence of the Philippines (already pledged by the U.S. government to become effective in 1946) the restoration of a semblance of agrarian justice in central Luzon.
The Hukbalahap’s infrastructure of peasant organizations and communities was unique in the resistance to the Japanese occupation, although scores of other armed groups emerged under American direction. The U.S.-led forces were guerrillas (or partisans) organized from above, in conventional American command structures. The commanders of the U.S. Army’s guerrillas view of the Hukbalahap was ideologically biased, influenced by the same elite economic interests that had generated the repression of the central Luzon peasant movement in the years before the war.
At the top of the American hierarchy, General Douglas MacArthur, commander of the U. S. Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), was himself a second-generation American colonial officer. His father, General Arthur MacArthur, had served in the conquest of the Philippines, and in 1900 and 1901, as the American military governor of the Philippinesa virtual viceroy. The principal American commanders of USAFFE guerrillas were reserve officers, businessmen, and profession als with financial interests in the country and long-standing relations with the Filipino landholding elites. Brigadier General (reserve) Courtney Whitney, whom MacArthur made responsible for the guerrilla operation throughout the Philippines, was a Manila-based corporate lawyer known for his ferocious antiunion, antisocialist, anticommunist views.
U.S. Reserve Officer Wendell Fertig, commander of guerrilla forces on the southern island of Mindanao, was a mining engineer who had worked in the Philippines for five yearsand, as a missionary there observed, he knew how to treat Filipinos.115 A Lt. Col. McGee, a West Pointer who had been a planter on Mindanao for twenty years, was put in command of a force, the 106th Division, in Cotabato in the Islamic southwest of the island. Some of the other Americans gathered under Fertig’s command were appalled at the planter mentality of the mining engineers, estate owners, and old colonels incorporated into Fertig’s command structure, complaining that the Old Filipinos, as the old hands referred to themselves, treated the Filipinos inhumanly.116
Four conditions were laid down by MacArthur’s Far East Command (FECOM) for American recognition of guerrilla groups: the guerrillas were to
remain united under one command...; the guerrillas must not usurp but must support the local civil government; combat activity against the Japanese was to be limited to protection of guerrilla facilities, and the leader was to faithfully carry out his responsibilities to strengthen his organization and gather intelligence.117
Official guerrilla status opened the way to supplies of arms and equipment, pay (Colonel Fertig was authorized to print currency to pay troops and local leaders),118 the promise of postwar veterans benefits, and exoneration of what might in normal times be considered criminal actions. The prosecution of the Hukbalahap for operations against the Japanese and collaborationist forces, on charges of banditry, murder, and other common crimes, was justified on the grounds that their actions were “unauthorized. “
Colonel Fertig was unhappy with MacArthur’s orders, since he was aware that a policy of nonengagement would leave him high and dry with no Filipino supporters. He bucked the policy to the extent necessary to maintain his organization, but not so far as to appear insubordinate. (He complained in a letter that “instructions were to undertake no offensive action against the enemy. This has been followed, but the enemy did not receive the same orders.”119) He appears, however, to have concurred with MacArthur’s view that the purpose of his guerrilla operation was not primarily to bleed the Japanese or drive them from the islands but to retain a foothold from which to prepare to assist an eventual return of massive, conventional U.S. military force. According to this conception, the full potential of guerrilla action was to be unleashed only on the eve of D-Day.
Colonel Fertig’s views on the “guerrilla” role in the Philippines are consistent with those he held later as the second chief of the Special Operations Division at the U. S. Psychological Warfare Center set up in 1951 (the first, whom he succeeded in July 1951, was OSS veteran Colonel Aaron Bank).120 In Fertig’s view, the “guerrilla” was a multipurpose concept suitable either to resist an invader or to counter other guerrillas. In Mindanao, the American guerrillas provided the U.S. Army the services of “sabotage, information collection, reconnaissance guides, and a well-trained counter-guerrilla force.”121 Colonel Fertig’s mayor part in setting up the army’s Special Forces in the 1950s built upon this experience.
In central Luzon, the U. S. Army’s efforts to organize a guerrilla force contrasted dramatically with the success of the Hukbalahap, in part because of MacArthur’s restrictions on U. S.-led units, and in part because of the quality of American leadership there. Colonel Fertig in Mindanao had at least balked at the orders not to attack the Japaneseif only on practical grounds. On the other hand, the central Luzon USAFFE commanders appear to have wholeheartedly adhered to the policy, and interpreted their own main role as that of reining in the Huks and protecting the landowning interests and associated local officials from what they defined as “banditry.” Relations with the Huks deteriorated accordingly. Periodic attacks on Huk units by USAFFE guerrillas were later described by American sources as enforcement of the “lie low” policy; in resentment of Huk action, the hog- tied USAFFE forces “went so far as to ambush Huk units to prevent them from engaging the Japs. “122
The Hukbalahap insistence on retaining local control of their movement was based in large part on two aspects of U.S. policy. The “lie low” order banning attacks on the Japanese and their puppets perhaps made sense to MacArthur, who envisioned a rapid return to the islands with overwhelming force, but was unthinkable (if not incomprehensible) to the local people. MacArthur wanted an intelligence apparatus and irregular auxiliary forces in place for his eventual return; the Huks were protecting their families. Furthermore, the Americans insisted the Huks dismantle their political infrastructure in the villages: The orders were to protect discreetly the collaborationist civil administration and not to create potentially lasting subversive alternatives. In short, the very concept of the American “guerrilla” was out of sync with the grassroots nature of the Huks. The Americans were out to recruit a compliant mercenary force in the service of American interests.
A third concern of the Hukbalahap, intimately related to the irrationality of the American guerrilla concept, was the character of USAFFE personnel and the behavior of USAFFE units. Neither did particular credit to the American officers responsible. Benedict Kerkvliet’s interviews of central Luzon villagers and other sources suggest quite convincingly that USAFFE personnel were despised by the rural population. Many “said the USAFFE, which was much smaller than the Hukbalahap, mainly included men who either were close to the government or were hoodlums whom the Hukbalahap had rejected. They stole food and money from villagers and seemed not to care whether they had popular support.” While the Hukbalahap was at once a political and military organization, USAFFE neither had a grass-roots base nor sought one. While preying on the peasantry for supplies, the USAFFE units of central Luzon showed no mettle in attacking the Constabulary or the Japanese, while maintaining contacts with local elites in the occupation administration.
American officers appear to have quite coolly rationalized that “guerrilla” forcestheir forceswere not necessarily bound by either the laws of war or the rules of peace. If in need of supplies, foraging from the villagers was by necessity legitimate; and since they had no political support organization, such actions were not infrequent. USAFFE became known as “tuliSAFFE,” a pun on the word tulisan, meaning thief. Even in Mindanao, where Hukbalahap propaganda had no influence, a water buffalo stolen by guerrillas was said to have been “USAFFEd.”123
Charles Bohannan, a leader of USAFFE guerrillas throughout the war, concluded that successful guerrillas required rather more than professional American leadership:
Successful guerrillas must have a cause, an ideal. They must constantly appeal to it, must seek to make their actions conform to it, must relate them to it.
Even with a cause which has widespread support, guerrillas who employ excessive terror cannot succeed against a hated enemy who makes a real attempt to win the support of the people.
To enjoy continuing success and support, the guerrilla needs a civil government, even though it may be shadowy, with representation in the communities in his area....124
The same qualitative differences between the Huk grass-roots resistance and the U.S.-directed forces later characterized American unconventional warfare efforts to organize dependent “guerrilla” forces, from Vietnam and Angola to Nicaragua. Fertig’s approach to guerrilla organization bore little relation to that of the partisans of the European theater, where American and British officers advised and assisted indigenous forces, and even less to later revolutionary guerrilla movements. The Americans in Mindanao followed a traditional colonial pattern of working to recruit indigenous peoples through local elites (notably the chiefs or datu of the Moros, and the caciques, or Christian political and economic strongmen), and combined coercion and cajolery with cash down and the promise of future advantage.
From a nucleus of American and Filipino army forces of some 200 in mid-1942, Fertig moved to take control of existing resistance forces, and claimed some 15,000 men by March 1943.125 In Mindanao, in contrast to central Luzon, the guerrilla forces that emerged were subordinate to
local strongmen, even some veritable warlords, whose fighters in large part constituted personal followings. Fertig sought to win over the existing elites and, with their support, to rein in the guerrilla forces of individual war leaders, who he thought represented as much of a threat to the Filipino social order as did the Japanese. The co-opting of the Christian elite of the Misamis region on the north coast, where Fertig would make his headquarters, involved winning over the Church and the “boss” of the area, Doña Carmen de Ozamis, the widow of a powerful politician who was said to be the “unofficial owner” of Misamis. Fertig later attributed the success of his “guerrilla” movement to a private dinner party with Doña Carmen, her house priest, and her adviser, which won their support: “[T]he Mindanao guerrilla was finally born at Doña Carmen’s supper party.”126
The Islamic elites included both the datu or chiefs, and wealthy landowners exercising almost feudal sway over their territories. The latter included Pendatum, a Moro lawyer and landowner in Cotabato who had organized (and presumably financed) a force of several thousand men on his own initiativea force initially raised to protect his own vast properties. 127 Leaders like Pendatum were advised that their postwar political prospects would be considerably enhanced by knuckling under to American control of their guerrilla forces (the country’s civil admin istration was packed with USAFFE leaders after the war). As Fertig told a Moro leader in Cotabato, he could either collaborate (and receive appropriate compensation) or his force would “simply be classified as a group of bandits.”128 The American approach to guerrilla organization was strictly a matter of appropriate manpower. The “supper party” guerrilla, the contracting or trading of guerrilla fighters at the whim of elite managers (tribal, economic, mercenary), would be a hallmark of American unconventional warfare in the decades to follow.
A principal objective of the American command was to bring under its control, or else to destroy, independent guerrilla forces. A major guer rilla force raised from what Fertig called “masterless men”and which he set out to destroywas organized by two fanatically Christian Filipino- Americans, “Captain” Luis Morgan and Lieutenant William Tait.129 Fertig moved first to co-opt Morgan, sending him as his emissary to unite other independent forces; however, in his absence, Fertig appointed new commanders and made a pact with Moro leaders and, by July l943, had largely neutralized his influence. Confronted with united Moro opposition, Morgan was induced to suspend his revolt and depart for Australia in September 1943.130 The deployment of U.S.-sponsored guerrillas against both the Japanese forces and independent guerrillas was a logical precedent for the later merging of guerrilla and counterguerrilla concepts in the American special operations doctrine of the 1950s.
Colonel Fertig’s guerrilla warfare strategy eschewed the rules and usages of warfare, both in his efforts to subdue independent guerrilla leaders and in his operations against the Japanese. He apparently decided that this same “anything goes” policy appliedas a military necessity to the civilian population. Aware that Japanese brutality provoked resistance, Colonel Fertig was not adverse to bringng Japanese reprisals down on the heads of the uncooperative natives. A case in point was an eastern coastal area in which a Japanese officer had treated people well and local leaders had refused to support Fertig’s forces. The USAFFE guerillas conducted a campaign of sabotage and assassination of Japanese officers and civilian leaders in the area to provoke the Japanese into taking “the kind of reprisals that will put the people on our side”the kind of deliberate provocation that American doctrine would later describe as characteristic of revolutionary insurgents.131
Colonel Fertig’s rationale, like that of later counterinsurgents, was that “there could be no neutrals, no middle ground. “132 “Support of the people was absolutely fundamental” and was virtually guaranteed by Japanese tactics; “as long as the Japanese were bestial, popular support of the resistance was assured. And as long as there was resistance, the Japanese would continue to be bestiaI.”133 Fertig told a newly arrived army officer of his satisfaction at increasing reports of Japanese atrocities:
Well, that’s fine.... If the Japs put a philanthropist in charge, where would we be? It’s tough on the people, but it puts it up to them: they are either for us and against the Japanese, or they are against us and for the Japanese. If they help us, the Japs will get them. If they help the Japs we’ll kill them, or plant the word that they’ve really been helping us, SO that the Japs will kill them for us.134
Fertig explained that although “we have to use terror ourselves,” it was a “tricky” business, because “you have to show that the enemy is evil while you are good.”135 Even Fertig’s largely sympathetic biographer John Keats, notes, “neither Fertig nor the Japanese were concerned with the truth that terror, in the long run, always fails....”136
Operations against the Japanese, while limited under the terms of MacArthur’s edicts, were unlimited in terms of the laws of war. Assassination was de rigueur when carried out in a disciplined manner, and mutilation was encouraged by the payment of U. S. bounties for Japanese body parts. “Fertig secured the loyalty of the legendary lord Datu Pino by paying him 20 centavos and one bullet for each set of Japanese ears Pino brought him. By 1945 he was delivering ears by the jar.”137 Although perhaps rationalized by the Americans on the grounds that Moro- Christian feuding had long involved equally barbaric practices, the arrangement was consistent with the “anything goes” nature of the U.S. doctrine of unconventional warfare in the 1950s; similar practices would be a feature of later American counterinsurgency programs in Indochina, Central America, Portuguese Africaand, of course, in the conflict in the Philippines today.138
The Mindanao guerrilla operation began to come apart even before Fertig’s command had destroyed or neutralized the independent guerrilla leaders, when the Japanese launched their first concerted attack on his headquarters at Misamis City on 23 June 1943. Guerrilla forces (and much of the civilian population) fled for the hills almost without a fight, while Japanese troops carried out a scorched earth campaign to deny the guerrillas support by burning houses, destroying crops, and killing farm animals. When the smoke cleared, Fertig’s forces were reduced to some 8,000 men and, kept on the run, rapidly declined to less than a third of that when the Americans returned in 1945. 139
The Japanese occupation raised the cost of rural dissent, equating nonviolent with violent resistance and rapidly introducing measures to counter the emerging Hukbalahap. Japanese counterguerrilla tactics against the Huks in central Luzon, and elsewhere against U. S.-supported guerrillas, were not that different from the tactics used by the European powers in quelling colonial uprisings. Guerrillas were “bandits” outside the law and could be shot on sight. Punitive expeditions could act on a principle of collective responsibility, holding communities as a whole responsible for actions in their vicinities. Torture was routine, and suspects who died under torture frequently disappeared. Tens of thousands of prisoners held in internment camps died of hunger and disease.140 On
Mindanao, bounties were paid for dead guerrillas. One million of the 16 million or so Filipinos at the outbreak of war with Japan are estimated to have died in the course of the occupation, a large proportion of them in the devastation of Manila and other areas in the last stages of the war.141 Population control measures imposed by the Japanese included issuing identity cards and a system of mandatory travel passes for movement outside local communities. In one basic counterinsurgency measure what the Japanese called zona, a strong force of Japanese troops and Filipino Constabulary would surround an area and bring all of the men into a central square:
Suspects were checked against population records and scanned by hooded informants and screened out as potential guerrillas, spies, or sympathizers.143
Like a flash... thirty or forty Japanese and PC would swoop down on a barrio or a section of town and surround the place. Anyone who moved or objected in any way could be shot, no questions asked They were looking for people who might be in the resistance movement Anyone whom they suspected was hauled offend detained indefinitely, frequently beaten up and tortured. . . 142
A Japanese effort at counterorganization, organizing the population for grass-roots intenigence and indoctrination purposes, was undertaken after the creation in December 1942 of Kalibapi, an official party (all others were proscribed) in which membership of civil servants was compulsory.144 The local instruments of counterorganization were the “Neighborhood Associations” set up under the aegis of Kalibapi. In theory, it was much like the French system developed in Indochina and Algeria: It was intended to monitor and control the movements, and to account for the activities of, all the inhabitants. The base unit was a group often families: “The leader of a unit was responsible for the actions of every member of each of the ten families... for periodically reporting the exact number of individuals under his ten roofs and for explaining any additions or reductions to their number.” The Neighborhood Associations were also to be the channel for the distribution of rationed food and commodities. Although implementation of this system appears to have been uneven, the units formed the lowest rung of a hierarchy and reported to a section, which in turn reported to a district. Reports were complemented by spot checks by Filipino collaborators end Japanese patrols.145
Although perhaps theoretically sound as a totalitarian system of population control, the system appears to have failed as a result of administrative inattention and grass-roots resistance to collaboration. In central Luzon, the system even provided a useful cover for the civilian side of the Hukbalahap resistance. In some areas of central Luzon, the official Neighborhood Associations provided the framework for the Hukbalahap Barrio United Defense Corps (BUDC); in this way, while collecting “supplies, money and information for the guerrillas.”146
The American return to the Philippines began with troops landing on the island of Leyte on 20 October 1944, with major fighting continuing in Luzon until the end of June 1945. On Mindanao and more isolated islands, fighting continued until the formal surrender of Japan on 2 September 1945.
Hukbalahap forces fought in conjunction with the Americans in their advance from the north through central Luzon toward Manila, and helped to clear the Japanese from mountain redoubts. In central Luzon, American troops found some towns, as well as a military air base in Floridablanca, had already been cleared of Japanese forces by Hukbalahap military action. The Huks and their communities welcomed the return of U. S. troops with banners, American flags, music, and speeches. Hopes and expectations that this open-arms reception would be reciprocated in a postwar relation of mutual respect were soon dashed.
A 20 December 1945 U.S. Army report extolled the military assistance of Hukbalahap forces that had fought “side by side” with American troops in the drive to the south, and concluded, “In terms of value in dollars and cents and American lives saved, the work of the Hukbalahap compares favorably with that of any other guerrilla unit throughout the Philippine Islands. 147 Although the Huks won the respect of the American field commanders with whom they worked, higher military authorities rapidly quashed any formal recognition of the Hukbalahap role. In the view of MacArthur and the Filipino elites, the Hukbalahap were a communist organization no less dangerous than the Japanese. The American high command proceeded to orchestrate repression of the movement by the U.S. Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC), the USAFFE guerrillas, and the previously collaborationist Constabulary and Civilian Guard forces. The U. S. government was also party to a postwar cover-up of the Philippine elite’s collaboration with the Japanese, and steered Filipinos who had held high office under the Japanese into postwar administrations. The American policymakers appeared determined to preserve the economic status quo ante, while coming down hard to reverse the wartime ascendallcy of the peasant- based Hukbalahap.
As American troops advanced through central Luzon, American officers appointed Filipinos to posts in a temporary administration in the liberated towns and provinces. The administrations set up by the Hukbalahap stepped aside to make way for American appointees, even though these included “individuals with reputations for being pro-Japanese and prominent USAFFE personalities.”148 American CIC officers scrupulously avoided appointing individuals associated with the Hukbalahap, and tended to restore local government to its prewar complexion. The new civil authorities, moreover, were provided with “armed guards” and, eventually, a reconstituted Constabularycalled “Military Police”raised from USAFFE and collaborationist Constabulary. As in Greece in the last days under Nazi occupation, when collaborationist Security Battalions shifted gracefully from Nazi to Allied control, the Japanese-allied Filipino forces made a fairly smooth transition to postwar respectability. The Hukbalahap (and the preexistent peasant movement) were thus excluded from the postwar administration and security apparatus, while their wartime enemies acceded to positions of privilege and power.
As early as January 1945, American CIC forces in the Philippines began to disarm Hukbalahap guerrilla forces and to arrest their leaders. The army’s CIC was charged with detecting and investigating “all matters pertaining to espionage, sabotage, treason, sedition, disaffection and subversive activity”an activity aimed primarily against the Hukbalahap, as the issue of collaboration gradually went by the board.149 Just as the Greek partisan leaders were confined to prison islands by the Allies after the withdrawal of the occupation forces, the U.S. Army and its Filipino trusties moved to hamstring the “communist” Hukbalahap movement. Huk leaders, including their top commander Luis Taruc were jailed on charges of ‘‘subversion, kidnapping, murder and communisnt” and held in detention camps with those Filipino collaborators too notorious to be overlooked. Some, including Taruc, were released In September 1945 in the wake of mass demollstrations of peasants who had traveled to the capital to demand their freedom.150
Many Hukbalahap members were detained and summarily (and illegally) executed. The most notorious incident of the kind was the detention and massacre in early February 1945 of 109 members of the Hukbalahap Squadron 77 returning after their participation in the march to Manila. On passing through the liberated town of Malolos, then in the control of U.S. CIC and Filipino USAFFE guerrillas, they were surrounded by soldiers, disarmed, and forced to dig a mass grave. They were then shot on the orders of USAFFE Colonel Adonias Maclang, with the agreement of American CIC officers there.151
The arrests and murders of February 1945 were only the beginning of a campaign of repression that would drive the central Luzon peasantry into rebellion against its own government a year later. What was surprising was the slowness with which Hukbalahap leaders recognized their true position. In September 1945, upon the release of some of their principal commanders, among them Taruc, the leadership formally declared the dissolution of the organization and applied for recognition by American authorities for the services rendered to the war effort. A complete roster of Hukbalahap guerrillas was delivered to the U. S. Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps by Huk leaders as a requirement for the formal recognition and veterans benefitsand as an expression of good faith. The lists, however, were used not in good faith but as a blacklist for harassment, arrest, or murder. The list was also circulated by the CIC to landlords, leading to wholesale evictions of tenant farmers. A U.S. Army report of October 1945 observed that Huk veterans were “being traced and killed by both [USAFFE] guerrillas and Puppet Constabulary and. . . are being rounded up by the U.S. Armed Forces.”152
The prelude to the April 1946 elections and their aftermath converted the anger and dismay at the postliberation repression of the Huks into open rebellion. The disbanding of Hukbalahap military units in the first months of 1945 had been followed by the resurrection of the prewar peasant organizations under a new National Peasants Union (PKM). Most of its leaders had been prominent in the prewar KPMP and AMT, and some, but by no means many, were Communist Party members who had led the Hukbalahap.153 Its main objective, as before the war, was securing a fair share of the crop for its tenant farmer membership, primarily by enforcing existing legislation.
Like the prewar organizations of central Luzon, the PKM sought a way out of the rural dilemma by means of electoral politics and fielded candidates for the 1946 elections through a reformist, anticollaborationist coalition called the Democratic Alliance (DA). After December 1945, repression of PKM/DA supporters and leaders escalated rapidly, with arbitrary arrests, attacks on rallies by “civilian guards” and Military Police, and the murder of several local leaders. In a 16 January 1946 telegram to [‘resident Truman, Luis Taruc protested against what he described as “partial martial law” in Nueva Ecija and gave statistics of civilians murdered, wounded, or jailed by military police there. Taruc asked for American pledges to be upheld: SITUATION DANGEROUS IF NOT EASED MAY LEAD TO CIVIL STRIFE. REQUEST ENFORCEMENT OF YOUR DIRECTIVES.154 Repression notwithstanding, the six PKM/DA candidates for congressional seats in central Luzon won overwhelming majorities (Luis Taruc, candidate for Pampanga, won 39,289 votes to the 1,312 of his next closest rival). 155 The electoral victory of the DA turned to ashes in the course of the first session of the new Congress. Prompted by President Roxas, the Speaker of the House of Representatives “suspended” the six DA candidates, claiming they had used “terror and illegal means to win” (although the necessary resolution to suspend them was never voted). 156
In the months that followed the elections, popular dismay in central Luzon at the exclusion of their elected representatives was exacerbated by a rise in extralegal violence by Military Policemen and civilian guards. Over 500 PKM supporters and leaders were reported killed within two months, while some 1,500 others were imprisoned, tortured, or “disappeared.”157 Many former Hukbalahap went underground to form what they called a “peasant army,” although top leaders continued to meet with [‘resident Roxas and other officials in an effort to negotiate an end to the killings by means of a “pactfication” program. Open rebellion, however, awaited high treachery. Juan Feleo, a prewar peasant leader, Hukbalahap hero, and PKM negotiator, was traveling with a Military Police escort on 24 August 1946 to participate in the “pacification” talks. He and his partyhis wife and five othersnever reached their destination. His escort later said they had been “kidnapped.” A headless body identified as that of Juan Feleo was reported found in the Pampanga River two weeks later, with the bodies of four of his companions nearby.158
With the murder of Juan Feleo, members of the central Luzon peasant organization moved rapidly, although disjointedly, to organize a peasant army. Self-defense groups set up even before the elections called themselves simply part of a “peasants’ army.” This title would remain in common usage, as would their previous wartime name: the rearmed peasants called themselves “Huks. “ A number of more grandiose names
for the new “army” was introduced in the year after Feleo’s death; the name finally decided upon (and first used in June 1947) was the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB), “People’s Liberation Army.” Although the movement would be known as the HMB, the guerrillas would be known as Huks from the first outbreaks of revolt in 1946 when the Huk Rebellion began in earnest.