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The Military career of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos during World War II has been the subject of debate and controversy, both in the Philippines and in international Military circles.
Marcos, who had received ROTC training, was activated for service in the US Armed Forces in the Philippines after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He served as a 3rd lieutenant during the mobilization in the summer and fall of 1941, continuing until April 1942, after which he was taken prisoner. According to Marcos' account, he was released from prison by the Japanese on August 4, 1942, and US Military records show that he rejoined USAFIP forces in December 1944. Marcos' Military service then formally ended with his discharge as a Major in the 14th Infantry, US Armed Forces in the Philippines Northern Luzon, in May 1945.
Controversies regarding Marcos' military service revolve around: the reason for his release from the Japanese POW camp; his actions between release from prison in August 1942 and return to the USAFIP in December 1944; his supposed rank upon discharge from USAFIP; and his claims to being the recipient of numerous military decorations, most of which were proven to be fraudulent.
Documents uncovered by the Washington Post in 1986 suggested that Marcos' release in August 1942 happened because his father, former congressman and provincial governor Mariano Marcos, "cooperated with the Japanese military authorities" as publicist.
After his release, Marcos claims that he spent much of the period between his August 1942 release and his December 1944 return to USAFIP as the leader of a guerilla organization called Ang Manga Mahárlika (Tagalog, "The Freeman") in Northern Luzon. According to Marcos' claim, this force had a strength of 9,000 men. His account of events was later cast into doubt after a United States military investigation exposed many of his claims as either false or inaccurate.
Another controversy arose in 1947, when Marcos began signing communications with the rank of Lt. Col., instead of Major. This prompted US officials to note that Marcos was only "recognized as a major in the roster of the 14th Infantry USAFIP, NL as of 12 December 1944 to his date of discharge."
The biggest controversy arising from Marcos' service during World War II, however, would concern his claims during the 1962 Senatorial Campaign of being "most decorated war hero of the Philippines" He claimed to have been the recipient of 33 war medals and decorations, including the Distinguished Service Cross and the Medal of Honor, but researchers later found that stories about the wartime exploits of Marcos were mostly propaganda, being inaccurate or untrue. Only two of the supposed 33 awards - the Gold Cross and the other the Distinguished Service Star- were given during the war, and both had been contested by Marcos' superiors.
Before World War II, Marcos was already a Reserve Officers' Training Corps graduate during his time studying law. Hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 8, 1941, the Japanese simultaneously bombed many places in the Philippines, including Clark Field. The 14th Army began its invasion with a landing on Batan Island (not to be confused with Bataan Peninsula), 120 miles (190 km) off the north coast of Luzon on the same day, by selected naval infantry units. Landings on Camiguin Island and at Vigan, Aparri, and Gonzaga in northern Luzon followed two days later.
Marcos was one of those who were called into the army as a 3rd lieutenant during the mobilization in the summer and fall of 1941. The U.S. Army has confirmed that Ferdinand Marcos fought on the U.S. side after the December 1941 Japanese invasion of the Philippines until April 1942, after which he was taken prisoner.
Marcos was one of the 78,000 Filipino and American troops who surrendered at Bataan on April 9, 1942, four months after the Japanese initiated their invasion of the Philippines. He survived the Bataan Death March that followed the surrender.
According to Marcos' account, he was freed from the Japanese POW camp on Aug. 4, 1942. 
This later became controversial when the Japanese government confirmed hat Philippine prisoners released at the time were either those who had "severe health problems", or those "whose families have cooperated with the Japanese military authorities." Lists of ailing prisoners released by the Manila press in the summer of 1942 did not include Ferdinand Marcos' name did not appear on any of those lists, and journalists later discovered documents stating that Ferdinand's father Mariano Marcos had been a propagandist working for the Japanese during the war, and had been "executed by anti-Japanese guerrillas" in 1945.
After the fall of Bataan, Marcos claimed to have led a guerrilla force called Ang Mahárlika (Tagalog, "The Freeman") in northern Luzon during World War II. According to Marcos' claim, this force had a strength of 9,000 men.
His account of events was later cast into doubt after a United States military investigation exposed many of his claims as either false or inaccurate. Meanwhile, Marcos claimed that he was able to get the United States Adjutant General to recognize 3,500 individual claims of soldiers then under his command.
According to Marcos publicist-turned critic Primitivo Mijares in his book The Conjugal Dictatorship, Marcos also filed a fake multimillion-dollar war reparations claim that he had supplied starving American and Filipino soldiers with several thousand head of cattle.
According to US Military records, Marcos rejoined USAFIP forces in December 1944. Marcos' Military service then formally ended with his discharge as a Major in the 14th Infantry, US Armed Forces in the Philippines Northern Luzon, in May 1945.
In communications starting around the end of 1947, Marcos began signing communications with the rank of Lt. Col., instead of Major. This prompted US officials to note that Marcos "is recognized as a major in the roster of the 14th Infantry USAFIP, NL as of 12 December 1944 to his date of discharge."
In 1962, Marcos would claim to be the "most decorated war hero of the Philippines" by garnering almost every medal and decoration that the Filipino and American governments could give to a soldier. Among his supposed 27 war medals and decorations were the Distinguished Service Cross (allegedly pinned by General Douglas MacArthur) and the Medal of Honor (allegedly pinned by General Jonathan M. Wainwright).
These claims have been discredited:
In 1986, research by historian Alfred W. McCoy into United States Army records showed most of Marcos's medals to be fraudulent. According to Ricardo José, former chairman of the Department of History of the University of the Philippines, Marcos's claims in his self-commissioned autobiography Marcos of the Philippines that Gen. Douglas MacArthur pinned on him the Distinguished Service Cross medal for delaying Japanese at Bataan for 3 months was highly improbable.
John Sharkey of the Washington Post found records that Marcos was in the list of those that were released due to either "having severe health problems and those whose families have cooperated with the Japanese military authorities." Since Marcos's name did not appear in the 1942 Manila Tribune list of ailing prisoners that were released by the Japanese, Sharkey believed that Marcos may have been freed due to his connections with his father.