Benjamin C. Mallo - Remembrance

© 2010 All Rights Reserved | Camp Roxas Film Project, Tamuning, Guam
In Remembrance of Our Dad: Benjamin Corneja Mallo
By Steven R. Mallo

On Dec. 7, 1942, America was plunged into World War II against Japan. Philippines had been invaded and occupied. Out of the canneries, fields and orchards of Northern and Southern California, they came. 

My father, Benjamin Corneja Mallo, was among hundreds of immigrant Filipino men who answered the call to arms. They were men trapped in America, unable to return to defend their Motherland. Through America's call to arms, they would volunteer, return to the Philippines and eventually help liberate Manila.

Dad was inducted into the U.S. Army in San Francisco, Calif., on May 27, 1942. He was assigned to the 2nd Filipino Infantry in Camp Cook, Santa Maria, Calif. That month also saw the passing of the Filipino Naturalization Bill, which permitted Filipinos who served in the military to be granted U.S. citizenship. Dad was naturalized that month, proudly along with hundreds of his comrades in arms. 

In this time in history, non-whites who joined the U.S. military were generally assigned lower duties, such as laborers, roustabouts, kitchen helpers, orderlies, sanitation engineers and such. Fighting for America then was honorably reserved for white Americans. That was not so with Dad and others like him. Today, Dad’s legacy, along with his comrades, are inscribed in history books. 
History shows that non-Caucasian units served and distinguished themselves in battle such as the Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Tuskegee 99th Fighter Squadron in Europe. The Filipino 1st and 2nd Infantry also distinguished themselves as a highly decorated unit in the Pacific Campaign, in the jungles of New Guinea, on the shores of Leyte and in the liberation of Manila.

With the battle cry "Bahala-na!" (Come what may!), the Filipino 1st and 2nd Infantry  became battle hardened in New Guinea and returned with Gen. Douglas  McArthur to begin the liberation of the Philippines.

Dad never said much to us kids about the war. I guess the horrors of it were better left unsaid.  Dad was never an emotional person, until one day, on vacation in the Philippines, he broke down emotionally in a taxi cab. Mom just held him and said to us: "Just bad war memories."

I didn't think much of that until years later, when I recalled where we were and when it happened. We had passed by the Walled City of Intramuros and Santo Domingo Church

During the liberation of Manila, many survivors of the Bataan Death March, American and foreign civilians, were imprisoned by the Japanese there. Much like the GIs in Europe liberating German death camps in Auschwitchz, Dachau or Treblinka and stumbling upon the unspeakable and inhumane horrors of war, this now had become part of Dad’s lifetime memories.

After the liberation of Manila, Dad returned to Camp Beal, Calif., in December 1945, where he was honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant T-5. His battle decorations included the Philippine Liberation Medal with one Bronze Star, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign MedalAmerican Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.

Dad returned to Stockton, Calif., along with many other Filipino veterans after the war, ready to start a new life. He again found a job as an auto mechanic and pursued his other passion --- fast motorcycles.

Dad was a 10-year member of the American Motorcycle Association (AMA), Stockton chapter. Like most returning World War II veterans, riding motorcycles became a lifestyle. According to Dad, "Harleys were good bikes, but Indians were better." 

Dad's claim to fame was that he was on the 1947 Gypsy Tour in Hollister, Calif. For non-motorcycle buffs, the 1947 Gypsy Tour was a three-day rally sanctioned by the association, which eventually became the inspiration for the immortal Marlon Brando movie, The Wild One, and spawned the "outlaw biker" image. The Hollister 4th of July Bike Run is today considered to be the Mecca for all so-called “bikers.” 

Dad traveled most of America’s roads and byways on his trusty Indian motorcycle, always in search of new adventure. Some of his stories of the roads and the time spent on a hard-tail frame with a simple spring-loaded leather seat and a springer front-end, fascinated me. When I took up riding motorcycles in 1972, much to my mother’s reluctance, Dad shared a good few riding stories with me. I never forgot them
He considered a good rider to be able to endure long hours in the saddle without complaint. Sometime in 1982, I called Dad on Guam and told him I was going on my first long ride to Canada from San Francisco. He wished me luck, wished me a safe trip and mumbled something that I thought I heard:  ". . .yer a## is gonna blister!"

I didn’t pay much mind to that until, after 10 hours of the first day riding, I pulled into Eugene, Ore., with leg cramps and blisters, exactly where Dad had had predicted. I did finish that first long-distance ride, with a little humility and a better understanding of what Dad’s stories were all about.

I've attempted to retrace most of Dad's travels across America on my motorcycle and with my wife Diane. We've crossed the endless deserts of Nevada, saw the wonders of the Grand Canyon, squinted at the sight of the majestic Grand Tetons, raced elk and buffalo along the road in Yellowstone, slithered through a narrow bridge in Wolf Creek Pass, Colo., and walked on a natural stone bridge at the Arches National Park in Utah. To see with my eyes, what Dad saw decades ago, became evident why he did it in the first place.

One last trip, Dad spoke about a bike trip he called Four Corners, the four corners of America. It entailed riding from Seattle, Wash., to San Diego, Calif., to Key West, Fla., to Bangor, Me., in one continuous ride. He never said how long it took him. Like his first prediction, I'm sure I'll find out. If I don't make it in my lifetime, I sure either my son Benjamin (named after Dad), or my grandsons Matthias, Malaki or Maleko, who also ride, will complete our family legacy. Dad’s adventure spirit remains alive with his family.

In 1946, in Oakland, Calif., Dad answered a U.S. Civil Service job posting for a U.S. Navy automotive technician on Guam. Because Dad was a stateside-hired employee, he held a U.S. federal government ranking and was stationed with other U.S. civilians at the Bachelor Civilian Quarters (BCQ) in Camp Asan, now the site of present-day War in the Pacific National Historic Park.
His most prized possession, which was shipped to Guam courtesy of the U.S. government, was his trusty Indian motorcycle. He used to tell us stories about his escapades with other GI bikers on Guam who also rode Indians and Harleys and their many chases with the Guam Police Department.

In 1950, through relatives and friends, Dad was introduced to a young woman from Lambunao, Iloilo, by way of pen pals. The pen pal letters continued for several years, until Dad decided to actually meet this young woman. Several months later, Dad married Salvacion L. Lacuesta, our Mom. Dad brought Mom to Guam and decided that this island in the Pacific was the ideal place to raise a family. My sister was born in 1955 and I in 1957 in the newly built U.S. Naval Hospital in Agana Heights.
Mom, being an extremely religious and conservative Filipina woman, decided that motorcycles projected a negative image unbecoming of a new family man, so she made him sell his beloved Indian. Raising my sister and me became the top priority and certainly not a silly motorcycle.

Dad continued to work for the U.S. Navy Department of Public Works as an automotive and heavy equipment repair technician for 25 years until his retirement in 1971. 

In 1979, he joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 1509. Now he was able to truly share his experiences with other veterans.  His greatest moments were being able to march on Liberation Day, July 21, and Independence Day, July 4. He flew the American flag religiously every patriotic holiday to honor his living and fallen comrades and his country.

Dad suffered through a series of strokes, beginning in 1985, which took away a great deal of spirit from him.  Time had reduced this man, so full of vigor, to just a tired old warrior.
On Sept. 14, 1990, our beloved father, Benjamin C. Mallo, passed away at the age of 82. In keeping with his wishes, he was buried in the U.S. Veterans Cemetery in Piti, in full U.S. Army dress grey with military honors. 

Dad was Ilonggo by birth, an adopted son of America, part of the "Greatest Generation Ever," a loving husband, father and grandfather and great-grandfather. We and two nations owe you a debt which can never be repaid. 

Thank you, Dad.

#  #  #

Dad's Discharge papers from the U.S. Army -  December, 1945, Camp Beale, Calif. (1 of 2 pages)
Dad's Discharge papers from the U.S. Army -  December, 1945, Camp Beale, Calif. (2 of 2 pages)
Three generations in the saddle: Steven Mallo, with grandsons Mathias, twins Maleko and Malaki,  and son Ben Mallo at Prairie City OHV Park, Rancho Cordova, Calif.
From the private collection of Steven R. Mallo - used with permission

Patch for 1st and 2nd US Army Filipino Infantry Regiment 
Philippine Liberation Ribbon
WWII Victory medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign medal 
(From U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946)

Name: Benjamin C Mallo 
Birth Year: 1906  
Race: Filipino, citizen (Filipino)  
State: California  
County or City: San Joaquin  
Enlistment Date: 27 May 1942 
Enlistment State: California  
Enlistment City: San Francisco  
Branch: Branch Immaterial - Warrant Officers, USA  
Branch Code: Branch Immaterial - Warrant Officers, USA  
Grade: Private  
Grade Code: Private  
Term of Enlistment: Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law  
Component: Selectees (Enlisted Men)  
Source: Civil Life  
Education: 2 years of high school  
Marital Status: Single, without dependents  
Height: 62  
Weight: 119  
Source Information:
National Archives and Records Administration. U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005. Original data: Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938-1946 [Archival Database]; World War II Army Enlistment Records; Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 64; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
American Campaign medal
"Benjamin C. Mallo," Filipinos World War II U.S. Military Service, Maria Elizabeth Del Valle Embry, Antioch, Calif. / Cabayaosan, Paniqui, Tarlac, Philippines

Congressional Gold Medal Award Ceremony honoring Filipino Veterans of World War II, Oct. 28, 2019, San Francisco War Memorial, Herbst Theatre