Photos and story by Bing Cardenas Branigin
WASHINGTON D.C. The United States Military Academy paid a belated yet poignant tribute for one of its own, Capt. Vicente Ebol Gepte who graduated from West Point in 1940, returned to the Philippines, fought the Japanese invaders and paid the ultimate price.
Capt. Gepte was one of two officers at the fledgling Philippine Military Academy selected to go to West Point in 1937. He sailed back to the Philippines soon after graduating and marrying Betsy Todd Higgins, against the wishes of her family, in Washington in June 1940. The family settled in Manila, where their only child Linda was born.
When the Japanese invaded, he served as Executive Officer with Gen. Vicente Lim, the first Filipino West Point graduate (Class ’14) who led the 41st Infantry Division that was involved in the Battle of Bataan. Capt. Gepte was captured and sent to a POW camp.
He was briefly reunited with his wife and daughter after he was released but he proved to be a dedicated patriot and promptly joined an underground unit called the Manila Intelligence Group. He was credited with unmasking a traitor blamed for the death of many prominent Filipinos.
Capt. Gepte was again taken by the Japanese, imprisoned and subsequently beheaded with several of his comrades on August 30, 1944.
Betsy and their daughter Linda were sent to the Japanese internment camp at the University of Sto. Tomas until they were rescued by US soldiers ahead of the liberation of Manila.
The US Military Academy held a solemn and dignified ceremony honoring Capt. Gepte and his heroism. The family was represented by Linda. The memorial service held at the Catholic chapel of West Point last Oct. 5, the program said, was a “tribute to the strong and enduring Filipino American friendship”.