|César Fernando Basa|
Lt. César Basa
|Died||December 12, 1941 (aged 25–26)
|Service/branch||Philippine Army Air Corps|
|Battles/wars||Battle of the Philippines|
César Fernando Basa (1915 – December 12, 1941) was a Filipino pilot and hero of World War II. Born in 1915, he was one of the pioneer fighter pilots in the Philippine Air Force and the first Filipino casualty during World War II.
Basa's fight took place at Batangas Field on the morning of December 12, 1941 when fifty-four Japanese bombers and fighter escorts raided the base. Five Filipino fighter pilots, led by Captain Jesús Villamor, engaged the numerically superior enemy in aerial combat at 12,000 feet (3,700 m). Lieutenant Basa arrived on the scene from an air patrol mission with only 15 minutes of fuel left in his tanks, but attempted to join his comrades in the fight. While still half the distance away, he was intercepted by seven Japanese fighters and shot down. Although he bailed out, he was strafed with machine-gun fire by the A6M Zero fighters. Captain Villamor and his pilots won the battle, with the only casualty being Basa. In recognition of his heroism, Lieutenant Basa was posthumously awarded the Silver Star. A dogfight ensued and Villamor and his men, fighting desperately, gave all what their P-26s can do to break up the pack of bombers and their fighter escorts before they could reach and bomb Batangas Field. Lt Cesar Basa who was two hours airborne conducting air reconnaissance and by now was low in fuel joined the aerial engagement unfortunately was himself shot-down. In the process, Basa’s P-26 was hit by enemy guns forcing him to bail out. It was when he was dangling helplessly from his parachute that the Zeroes riddled him with bullets. He was dead when he touched the ground sacrificing his life above and beyond the call of duty making him the first Filipino pilot casualty of war.
The other five Filipino pilots, in the meantime, were on their own, fighting it out with the numerically superior Zeroes. Lt Juliano in his effort to head off his three attackers executed a vertical maneuver and in the process saw one of his teammate’s aircraft plummeting down in smoke. He saw Lt. Antonio Mondigo extricate himself from the burning plane and bailed out. One of the Zeroes, seeing the billowing parachute, headed straight for Lt Mondigo but then Lt Juliano sensing the danger his colleague was in, flew within the line of vision of the Zero in the hope of destructing the pilot. The Japanese pilot took the bait and decided to go after him saving the life of Lt Mondigo who safely landed to the ground.