For U.S. imperialism to rule the world, it must have a loyal army. There have been several major examples of soldiers — especially those who were drafted — rebelling against their orders. In Vietnam, mass desertions, rebellions, sabotage and shootings of officers helped force an end to U.S. aggression. Another example occurred during the U.S. Siberian invasion of the fledgling Soviet Union in 1918 (the subject of a future article). Still another occurred following the end of World War II.
The war in the Pacific ended on August 14, 1945. The GI’s who helped defeat Japanese fascism had done their job and were ready to return to their families and resume normal lives. But the rulers had other plans.
In 1942, a ruling-class strategy meeting sponsored by the National Industrial Conference Board began mapping plans for the post-war world. U.S. rulers wanted to establish themselves as the dominant force in Asia and exploit the colonies of the former Dutch and French imperialists, from Indonesia to Indo-China, with all their oil, rubber and other valuable resources.
China, led by Mao Tse-Tung’s Chinese Communist Party, was the major challenge to U.S. hegemony and inspired billions of oppressed workers and peasants throughout Asia. The bosses plotted to encircle China by controlling Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines (a U.S. colony since 1898) down to Vietnam. Many of these areas contained potential nationalist and/or communist challenges.
In the Philippines, the People’s Anti-Japanese Army (a communist-led peasant guerrilla army known as the "Huks"), had cleared central Luzon (the largest of the Philippine islands) of the Japanese invaders and threatened to become the dominant force in the country. U.S. GI’s were grateful to the Huks. Their defeat of the Japanese occupiers saved thousands of GI’s lives, leaving U.S. soldiers very little to do militarily.
With the war over and U.S. soldiers ready to go home, they were told there "weren’t enough boats" to transport them, as if boats could only sail in one direction. Pressured by the GI’s about being forced to remain after the defeat of the enemy, an Army Colonel blurted out that they were staying to put down the Huks!
A GI on the U.A. Armed Forces newspaper managed to get this story past the censors and into the paper. In early January of 1946, United Press International (UPI) published the story worldwide. At that very time, Truman’s Secy. of War Porter, holding an unrelated press conference, was asked if the story was true. Unprepared for such a question, Porter spilled the beans — the troops would stay, according to the point system established for them during the war.
When that news reached the Philippine capital of Manila, "democracy’s army" filled the bars, dejected at being forced to stay long after the war’s end. On Sunday morning, thousands entered Manila carrying their weapons. Their mood was ugly. The MPs disappeared and the brass vanished. The GI’s formed two huge columns and snaked their way through the city. That evening some soldiers met and published a leaflet, exposing the government and sending friendly greetings to the Huks. The next morning, 15,000 met in a big field in the city and selected a leadership committee. They then called up General Stier, the Commanding Officer in the Western Pacific. He agreed to meet with a committee of five.
The 15,000 GI’s formed a column led by the five-soldier committee, and crossed the Pasay River, moving towards military headquarters. The committee was ushered into a room full of generals, who urged them to call off the scheduled evening meeting. The committee made it clear there was no way they could.
That evening, 35,000 GI’s showed up for a mass "go home" demonstration. The soldiers applauded when an enlisted lieutenant read greetings to the Huk guerrilla force.
By the end of the week, GI delegates came from all over the Philippines to an abandoned theatre on the outskirts of Manila and formed a committee of about 100. They represented tens of thousands of GI’s whose backgrounds cut across all lines, from cities all over the U.S., with but one goal in mind: the desire to go home.
The next day the brass flew the five-man committee back to the U.S. and gave them immediate honorable discharges. Soon the needed transport ships were "found" and the troops were sent home.
The "go-home" movement spread throughout Asia and Europe. The GIs’ refusal to obey orders was a major blow and set-back to U.S. imperialism’s timetable. It demonstrated once again that if the rulers cannot maintain the loyalty of the troops, they can not wage their imperialist wars.