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Posted on Jul 3, 2012 in War College

Filipino’s Lost Medal of Honor Returned After 90 Years

By Franz Tinio-Lopez

This article about Jose Nisperos’ lost U.S. Medal of Honor was provided to Armchair General by Franz Tinio-Lopez, Secretary Los Angeles Chapter, Philippine Scouts Heritage Society.

In November 1912, Jose Baliton Nisperos was awarded the US Medal of Honor. He is recognized as the first Asian and Filipino to receive the award. His medal was lost for almost 90 years. It was returned to the family on June 7, 2012.

His citation reads:

General Order No. 64 United States War Department
Dated November 25, 1912
For The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Private Jose B. Nisperos, United States Army, for most distinguished gallantry on 24 September 1911, while serving with 34th Company, Philippine Scouts, in action at Lapurap, Basilan Island, Philippine Islands. Having been badly wounded (his left arm was broken and lacerated and he had received several spear wounds in the body so that he could not stand), Private Nisperos continued to fire his rifle with one hand until the enemy was repulsed, thereby aiding materially in preventing the annihilation of his party and the mutilation of their bodies.


* * *

Nisperos grew up in the province of San Fernando, La Union. He enlisted in the Philippines Scouts of United States Army in December 30, 1907, served with the 18th Company for an enlistment of three years and finished with the rank of corporal. During this time, the Philippines was a territorial property and colony of the United States and was engaged (alongside the American colonizers) in a battle to suppress the Moro Resistance (1899-1913) in the Southern Philippines.

He signed up again as a private, assigned to the 34th Company Philippine Scouts on April 14, 1911.

The 34th Company was sent to the Basilan Island to subdue the "rebel forces." On September 24, 1911, Nisperos was a member of a patrol led by an American Officer and accompanied by some US Navy personnel. Their objective was a camp on a hilltop held by Yakan Outlaws. They came under heavy fire from bellow the crest of the hill as they ascended. The rebels tried to close in and finish off the patrol with bolos and spears.

Nisperos’ patrol sustained numerous casualties from the assault and were unable to return fire, except for Private Nispero, though his left arm was broken and bleeding profusely from several spear wounds. He was able to keep up sustained fire with his rifle using his right hand, holding off the rebels until reinforcements arrived. This kept the patrol from total annihilation and possible mutilation.

Nisperos survived and was evacuated to an Army hospital. His left arm was amputated, and he remained at the hospital for several months. For his actions Nisperos was recommended by his commanding officer for the Medal of Honor. Upon his release from hospital, Private Nisperos was appointed deputy sheriff in the district of Zamboanga by John P. Finley, district governor and Sheriff, around March 6, 1912. In June 1912, Nisperos was honorably discharged from further military service.

He was given a pension of $55.00 a month for the loss of his left arm, amputated so near the shoulder joint as to prevent use of an artificial limb.

Nisperos was presented the Medal of Honor on February 5, 1913, during an appropriate ceremony at Luneta Parade ground by Major General J. Franklin Bell, the commander of the Philippine Department and himself a Medal of Honor awardee.

After his military service, Nisperos resided with his family in San Fernando La Union. He died in 1922 at the age of 34, after a long illness. He was survived by his wife, Potenciana Casegura Nisperos, three daughters: Guia, Leonillia and Conception.

"Destitute and without means of support his wife applied for survivor benefits with the Department of Veterans Administration.

However being unable to prove that his death … was service related due to his injuries in military service their claim has not been approved up to this writing"…(1957 PRIMITIVO MILAN, FREE PRESS MAGAZINE, Philippines.)

The loss of the Medal of Honor by the family is mentioned in an article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer Northern edition on October 6, 1998: "The medal was taken in 1922 by Dr. Jose Bantug, a professor from Manila and former director of the Philippine Museum. According to Viginia Viduya a granddaughter of Nisperos." The Medal had been taken to Manila as proof for a request of support and entitled benefits from the US Veterans Administration for the survivors of Nisperos.

No result came of this, and the medal was not returned to the family.

A posting by Karl-Wilhelm Welteke in the pinoyhistory forum announced the planned ceremony by a local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 9892 in Bauang, La Union. It would mark the 100th Anniversary of Private Nisperos’ action of Sept 24, 1911.

Another posting by members of the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society (PSHS) indicated they would invite the surviving family of Nisperos to attend the Annual Reunion of the PSHS that was scheduled for April 2012 at the former Clark Airbase in Angeles Pampanga.

A following posting by a guest on the forum informed us that during an auction in 2010 by the Philippine Numismatic and Antiquarian society a US Medal of Honor with Nisperos name and 1911 date was sold for $1,100 US.

Maridhel V. Turzar, a granddaughter of Nisperos, posted an appeal on the forum for the return of the MOH.

The city of San Fernando, La Union, planned to honor Nisperos in March 2012 with the Saranay Award, given to outstanding citizens of La Union province. The city and provincial government also would re-inter the remains of Nisperos to a more prominent grave in the cemetery on April 2, 2012. Several newspaper articles featured the event and the appeal of Nisperos’ descendants for the return of the medal.

The Nisperos family was able to attend a Philippine Scouts Heritage Society reunion last April 2012 and repeated their desire for the return of Nisperos’ medal.

On June 7, 2012, the pinoyhistory forum was informed by the post of granddaughter Maridhel Turzar that the MOH was returned to them in person at the Megamall shopping center in Manila, by the collector who won the auction. They were accompanied by San Fernando City Mayor Pablo Ortega.

The Medal was displayed at the San Fernando City Hall for Philippine Independence Day activities June 12, 2012. We are looking forward to see the photos of the medal and the display when uploaded. For more information, click on the links below.


Asian Pacific Americans in the US Army website

US Army Medal of Honor Website

Karl-Wilhelm Welteke post

PSHS invitation to Nisperos family to Reuinon at Clark, Angeles, Pampanga RP

"snowpy" Guest 1st posting on pinoyhistory forum

MARIDHEL V. TURZAR posting on pinoyhistory forum.

Re-internment of Jose B. Nisperos April 2, 2012:

VFW Post 9892 correspondence, notes and Website

Philippine Star article of re-internment of Nisperos

Photos of re-internment: by Philip Garcia

Karl-Wilhelm Welteke Photos

Philippine Daily Inquirer article

MARIDHEL V. TURZAR post on forum of return of medal June 7, 2012