On January 1, 1910, Higinio Marcos Balais was born in the Philippines.1 In 1927, Higinio arrived in Canada on the Empress of Canada ship sailing from Hong Kong. His occupation was listed as a student.2 He was 18 years of age, of Filipino nationality, and from Aparri, Cagayan, a city and province in the Philippine Islands.
He served in the United States Army during World War II from September 5, 1942, until October 14, 1943.3 Higinio was assigned to Company K4, 1st Filipino Infantry.5 He trained at Camp Ord, California, in the science of invasion and commando raiding.6
“The Filipino soldiers training in California are taking the business of sudden death seriously. Discarding their usual civilian bravado, they are learning to become efficient soldiers and to be at least as audacious, ingenious, pertinacious, and well-disciplined as their most likely future opponents, who have proved themselves all over the Pacific and in Asia as excellent soldiers.” James G. Wingo, in The Salt Lake Tribune, January 31, 1943
To read more of his article on the U.S. Army’s newest fighting unit, 31 Jan 1943, 49 – The Salt Lake Tribune at Newspapers.com. (See article included as jpg)
World War II started in 1939 due to unresolved issues from World War I. Germany wanted to invade Poland, when they did, Polish allies, France and Great Britain, helped Poland. Other allies and countries joined. The war was divided into two sides, the Axis powers and the Allies. The Axis powers consisted of Germany, Italy, and Japan. The Allies consisted of France, Great Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and China. The war ended in 1945 with Allies being victorious. There were about forty million to fifty million deaths during World War II.7
After Japan attacked the United States on December 7, 1941, Filipinos wanted to join the U.S. Army. During this time, Filipinos did not have citizenship, but were considered American nationals. Due to the Select Service Act and Training Act, American nationals were not allowed to serve within the United States military. On December 21, 1941, that changed. Congress revised the Select Service Act and the Training Act to allow anyone to enlist if they were a citizen or “any other male person residing in the United States.” On February 19, 1942, Henry L. Simon, the Secretary of War, announced that there would be a Filipino Battalion. In April of 1942 the Battalion was activated. The Battalion was replaced by the 1st Filipino Regiment in July of 1942. A second regiment was created in October of 1942. The Office of Adjunct General approved an insignia for the 1st Filipino Regiment. The colors were red, white, and blue, which represented the United States and the Filipino national colors. The Insignia was given a motto that said, “Laging Una,” which means “Always First.”8
Higinio was ranked as a private during his service.9 A private is the lowest enlistment rank in the Army. It is considered an entry level position for trainees beginning Basic Combat Training. A private’s role is to obey orders from their superior officers as best as possible.10 It appears Higinio served stateside during his enlistment.
Higinio passed away at the age of 44 on July 9, 1954. He was buried at the Rock Island Arsenal for his service during World War II.11 He had a brother, Salvadore Balais, who lived in Chicago, and was listed as his next of kin..
8 U.S. Army Center of Military History. “History of the U.S. Army’s 1st Filipino Regiment and 2d Filipino Battalion (Separate).” Accessed August 14, 2022.