The Lioness of Filipina Agents: The Heroine of World War II Dies at 95

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Magdalena Leones is an unsung heroine of World War II.

She is the first Filipina to be recognized with the U.S. military’s prestigious Silver Star, the third-highest military decoration for valor.

Sadly, the war heroine has passed away on Thursday in her adoptive home in Richmond, California.

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According to a post by Wilfredo Pascual on Facebook:

HONORING MAGGIE. San Francisco. This 95-year old woman died in her home in Richmond last week, the only Asian woman awarded the Silver Star medal in World War II, the third highest honor for valor in the U.S. Army.

Magdalena Leones was a Filipina who risked her life many times carrying critical intelligence data, vital radio parts and medical supplies through heavily garrisoned enemy-held territory in the Philippines. She was caught three times but she managed to escape. Born in the mountains of Kalinga, she witnessed the execution of Filipinos and intervened to save the lives of others through her knowledge of Niponggo, which she learned while she was in jail. She took note of the names of enemy ships, its content, and the names of their skippers docked in La Union. Maggie was only in her early 20s when she joined the Philippine American forces.

She moved to California in 1969 where she worked as a clerk at Pacific Bell. She kept a low profile and never talked about her war exploits. One of her sons only learned about it when he started doing research. “She always kept it a big secret,” her son said. Her granddaughter once wrote a school report about her. She had to bring the medal to school because her teacher didn’t believe that her grandmother was a war hero.

Her body will be flown to the Philippines where she will be buried in full military honors at the Heroes Cemetery — Libingan ng mga Bayani — pending approval from the Philippine Government.

Maggie’s Silver Star Citation reads:

(General Orders No. 88 Hq XIV Corps, dated 22 October 1945)
Corporal Magdalena Leones, Special Agent, USAFIP, North Luzon

For gallantry in action at Luzon, Philippine Islands, from 27 February to 26 September 1944. During the period cited, Corporal Leones repeatedly risked her life to carry important intelligence data, vital radio parts and medical supplies through heavily garrisoned enemy-held territory. Although she knew that detection by the enemy would result in torture and execution, Corporal Leones fearlessly continued her perilous missions between guerrilla forces throughout Luzon with notable success. Through her intrepidity and skill as a special agent, Corporal Leones contributed materially to the early liberation of the Philippines.

Signed, Lt. General O.W. Griswold, US Army

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Let’s help get Lola Maggie a place at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

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