Magsaysay fought against the Japanese following their invasion of the Philippines beginning in December 1941 and became a captain in the Philippine Army's 31st Division. In April 1942 he joined a group of U.S. Army officers who continued guerrilla warfare against the Japanese and became known as the Zambales Guerrillas. The Japanese military listed Magsaysay as Japan's "Enemy Number One." He led his followers in liberating Zambales ahead of the arrival of American forces on 29 January 1945, and he became the military governor of Zambales the next month.
Intelligent and a dynamic speaker and debater, Magsaysay was elected to the Philippine Congress from Zambales on the Liberal Party ticket in April 1946 and was reelected in 1949. In 1950, President Elpidio Quirino appointed him secretary of national defense. Magsaysay helped improve army morale and played a leading role in the defeat of the communist Hukbalahap (Huk) guerrilla insurgency and in the capture of its entire politburo within a month of assuming office. In combating the Huk insurgency, Magsaysay worked closely with U.S. Army Colonel Edward Lansdale. Magsaysay's land program is also credited with playing an important role in disarming a number of the guerrillas.
A man of great conviction, Magsaysay fought corruption in politics. He resigned his cabinet post after a falling out with Quirino in 1953 and switched to the Nacionalista Party. Magsaysay then won the 1953 presidential elections against Quirino.
In foreign policy, President Magsaysay's staunch anticommunism won him American support and led ultimately to the formation of the 1954 Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), with Manila as its headquarters. On the home front, Magsaysay embarked on major land reform initiatives and began governmental restructuring. His career was abruptly ended when he was killed in a plane crash near Cebu in the Philippines on 17 March 1957.
Udai Bhanu Singh
Corpuz, Onofre D. The Philippines. New York: Prentice Hall, 1965.; Romulo, Carlos P., and Marvin M. Gray. The Magsaysay Story. New York: Pocket Books, 1957.