Filipina Heroine

Magdalena Leones

Magdalena Leones

The Silver Star is the third-highest honor for gallantry in the U.S. Armed Forces. Previous recipients include Audie Murphy, Chuck Yeager, and Norman Schwartzkopf. But few people have heard of Magdalena Leones – she was a Filipino woman that served as a guerrilla soldier under U.S. command in World War II.

Leones was in her 20s when she joined the Philippine-American military effort. She is part of a small group of women – and is the only Filipino woman – to receive the award for her heroism. She died on June 16th in Richmond, California at 96-years old.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors recognized her on June 28. “We are diminished by the passing of Corporal Magdalena Leones, Silver Star Filipina World War II veteran — the only Asian to receive this honor,” Supervisor Jane Kim said. “Corporal Leones has paved the way for many women that are breaking barriers in every arena. I look forward to her story and the story of the 250,000 Filipino World War II veterans being told for all to remember.”

Leones was part of why General Douglas MacArthur was able to return. Leones was able to gather the parts needed to make a radio that allowed communications with MacArthur, which in turn led to the invasions at Leyte and the re-taking of the Philippines.

Cpl. Magdalena Leones

Cpl. Magdalena Leones

The Army awarded the Silver Cross to Leones on October 22, 1945.

“For gallantry in action at Luzon, Philippine Islands, from 27 February to 26 September 1944,” the citation reads. “During the period cited, Corporal Leones repeatedly risked her life to carry important intelligence data, vital radio parts and medical supplies through heavily garrisoned enemy-held territory.”

“Although she knew that detection by the enemy would result in torture and execution, Corporal Leones fearlessly continued her perilous missions between guerrilla forces throughout Luzon with notable success. Through her intrepidity and skill as a special agent, Corporal Leones contributed materially to the early liberation of the Philippines.”

Lt. Gen. O.W. Griswold, commanding officer, U.S. Army, signed the citation. San Francisco’s Civic Center has had the citation and a replica medal on display in their Filipino Veterans Education Center since last January.

Rudy Asercion is a Vietnam veteran and the leader of American Legion Bataan Post 600 in San Francisco. He said that Leones’ heroism was not widely known, even in the Filipino community. “She was very private and deeply religious who never talked about her exploits,” Asercion told NBC News. “No one knew anything about her. We didn’t hear about the Silver Star until we commemorated the Leyte Landing and MacArthur’s return in 2004. Then I vetted and researched her and found out the truth. She’s a Filipina, an Asian woman. A Silver Star holder. The only one.”

Magdalena (Far right) with Leones family, 1960's

Magdalena (Far right) with Leones family, 1960’s

Leones moved to the States in the late 1960s.  She worked for the telephone company.  Family members mourned Leones in a small, private funeral.

Libingan ng mga Bayani

“Even with the Silver Star, there were no top brass, no admirals, or generals, to remember her. It’s very sad,” Asercion said. “No obit in the mainstream papers about her heroism either. Nothing.”   She will be buried in Libingan ng mga Bayani, the place where the Philippines buries its heroes.

“The biggest issue to me, is she was not recognized by anybody, in the Philippines or the U.S.,” Asercion said, still troubled by her lack of recognition. “She’s elite, a one of a kind hero.”

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes –

Ian Boxall – Bellevue, AUS; RC Army, Vietnam

Alfred Cabral – Walpole, MA; US Navy, WWII

Arthur Gordon – Rochester, NY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Cabot

William Herbert – Cherry Hill, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division, Signal Corps

Thelburn Knepp – Peoria, IL; US Army, WWII, ETO, 89th Infantry Division

Douglas Lane – Chatham, CAN; RC Army, WWII, 17th Field Reg/3rd Forward Observer Unit

Harold Madson – Eastpointe, MI; US Army, WWII & Korea, 1st Lt.

Darby Silvernail – Huntsville, AL; US Army, Afghanistan, Medical Corps

Kenneth Trickett – San Bernadino, CA; US Navy, WWII, fire control, USS Price

Edward Yamasaki – Honolulu, HI; US Army, WWII, ETO, 442nd RCT (author)

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on May 11, 2017, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 170 Comments.

  1. Thank you for honoring her, GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fantastic piece of history gp, what an outstanding and courageous woman was Magdalena Leones, a pity her story is not more wildly known and she being accorded the recognition she justly deserves.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing this. Her contributions should be remembered.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Would be good to see her celebrated during Women’s History Month and at the Smithsonians!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Yes, she could have made quite a name and reputation for herself on the grounds of that heroism. The fact she chose to keep quiet about it is to her infinite credit; it shows that some are brave for the right reasons. She seems to have had a great family, BTW – maybe they should accrue some bebefit from their mother’s courage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It seems that the braver they are, the quieter they are. That’s a credit to their character, but the younger generations don’t learn much from them. Hopefully all who knew her were taught by example. Thank you for coming by, Frederick.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you for this story. A brave and wonderful lady.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Did Schwartzkopf do anything actually heroic, or did it come with the job?

    Like

    • No one just gets ‘handed’ the job of General, they have to earn it. Starting as a West Point grad for him. An except from his biography:
      Schwarzkopf was highly decorated in Vietnam, being awarded three Silver Star Medals, two Purple Hearts, and the Legion of Merit. Rising through the ranks after the conflict, he later commanded the U.S. 24th Infantry Division.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What an impressive and inspiring story!

    Like

  9. I read a couple of newspaper reports from the time of her death, and had to smile at the story of her grandchild doing a report on her life at school, and not being believed by the teacher. After the child took grandma’s medal to school, the teacher became a believer! She apparently was self-effacing, and didn’t promote herself by touting her service. That’s rather a nice contrast to so much of what goes on today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The bravest are usually the most humble. Unfortunately, It makes me suspicious of some.
      Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Linda, I’m so glad your father’s stamps brought us together!!

      Like

  10. Thank you for making us aware of this Filipina heroine. What a fine work it is that you do here, GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. GP – There are too many unsung heroes. Thank you for sharing this story with us. A truly remarkable woman.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I was touched to read about Cpl. Leones. Having been born in the Philippines, I’m sad to say that I never heard of this humble heroine. I’m happy to know about her now and will have to ask my mom if she’d ever read about Cpl. Leones’ achievements and courage. Thank you for posting about her!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. A very interesting story. What a courageous lady.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank you very much.

    Like

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