A tribute to guerrilla fighter, Capt. Jose G. Red, 83

by Nestor Enriquez

JERSEY CITY – The Captain has fallen on January 4, 2018, in his hometown in Catanduanes, Philippines.

Jose Red, the World War II guerrilla fighter and a Knights of Rizal Jersey City Chapter founding father was a longtime Jersey City resident. He is proud of his participation in Los Banos raid, one of the greatest rescues in World War II history. Sir Jose Red is survived by his children Charles, Grace, Lorna, Nelson, Larry, Maribel, and Joshua now residing in Valley Stream, New York.

Red was not yet a soldier when the war broke out in the Philippines on December 8, 1941. Upon hearing that his father, a regular Army officer, was among the Death March prisoners, he joined a guerrilla unit, a member of a small independent group taking part in the irregular fighting, at a young age. He was told by members of his father’s Philippine Constabulary force that his father survived Bataan and was going to be discharged in Cabanatuan. That was the last thing he heard.

At that time, the Bicol resistance was headed by Wenceslao Vinzons. He was captured by the Japanese on July 8, 1942. He refused to pledge his alliance to his captors. He was bayoneted to death at the age of 31. His father, wife, sister and two of his children would also be killed after a week. This did not discourage him as he continued to fight for the resistance and became one of the top ranking officers at the age of 17 in the Bicol Peninsula. His only fear was the Japanese might persecute his parents.

Vinzons was the UP student council president and the editor-in-chief of the Philippine Collegian. He placed third in the Bar examinations and was elected the youngest delegate to the 1935 Constitutional Convention.

Born in Virac, Catanduanes, his first combat engagement was the successful raid of the Japanese Coal Mine in Panganiban, Catanduanes in June. The mine was guarded by about 10 Japanese soldiers. He opened the warehouse (bodega) and distributed the rice to the barrio folks. The place was the richest deposit of coal in the island even today.

His promotion was accelerated due to his assignment as an intelligence operative. He remembers with some who he fought with like Captain Barros, Head of the Southern Tagalog and one Carbonel of Naga, Camarines Sur. Acting on a tip, his unit ambushed and captured General Tanaka in a daring train engagement. His reports would reach the Army Intelligence Branch (AIB) at the General Douglas MacArthur headquarters in Australia which received messages through coded wireless radio and various improvised communication network.

Captain Red was not shy about the number of Japanese soldiers he had killed. He claimed a dozen at that time.

He would tell us about a “lucky charm” that might have saved his life.

On a rainy cold night in the mountain of Sierra Madre, he saw an old monk and approached him. He was freezing under the tree. The monk gave him a red liquid and told him, “Inumin mo into” (drink this). His body felt warm. He walked toward a brook where he saw a small stone. He took the mysterious stone and carried it with him until the end of the war. It would be his lucky charm. He remembered the old man saying it will be lost when he had no need for it anymore. When the war ended, he could not find the magical stone or agimat, which he carried with him and a rosary that hung around his neck.

Red was with the combined US Army Airborne and Filipino guerrilla forces that liberated the Allied civilian and military prisoners in Los Banos on 23 February 1945. Inside the compound of the University of the Philippines- Agricultural College in Los Banos was an estimated 2,000 prisoners. A week earlier, they also carried out a raid and rescue of Cabanatuan prisoners of war.

These were all risky missions which were executed successfully with speed and precision. Advanced intelligence gathering was a key factor. Estimates of the number of Japanese military forces in Cavite, Batangas, and Laguna provinces were provided to the 11th US Army Airborne. He was asked to go to Japan to end the war but Red declined the offer. He wanted to go home.

He saw his father still alive for the first time since Christmas of 1941. His mother quickly noticed that Red, who was then a Captain, had outranked his father. She jokingly ordered the father who survived the Bataan Death March to salute her son who was born on Dec 24, 1925.

His father continued his military service as Jose finished his school that was interrupted by the war years. The family transferred to Lipa Airbase and his father was surprised that his son knew more about the area than him. It was just one of the areas his son scouted for AIB (Army Intelligence Branch) of AUS (Army of US).

Red went to Manila to study using the Philippine Equivalent of G.I. Bill. He was accepted to UST pre-med program but forced later to shift to Commerce. He became an accountant for Sampaguita Pictures, a film production company owned by the Vera-Perez family. It produced war movies featuring Filipino guerrilla units.

Nestor Enriquez is the president of the Filipino American National Historical Society-New Jersey.  This article appeared first on his Facebook page and is reposted with his permission.

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