Josefina Guerrero (1917 – 1996)

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As the Battle of Manila raged, young Josefina Guerrero walked through gunfire to bandage wounds and close the eyes of the dead. Her valor earned her the Medal of Freedom, but the thing that made her an effective spy was a disease that was destroying her.

– Synopsis on The Leper Spy: The Story of an Unlikely Hero of World War II

U.S. World War II Spy, 1942-1943

During World War II and Japan’s Occupation of the Philippines, Josefina Guerrero joined the guerilla movement and became a spy. She started off as a courier, delivering news of the war to the Filipino people. When American troops arrived in the Philippines, her responsibilities grew to map out Japanese fortifications and defenses. 

After World War II, Guerrero was exiled to leprosarium but tried to help clean and take care of the patients as much as she could despite being ill herself. She sent a letter describing the terrible conditions of the camp to a friend which eventually circulated to the media and caught the attention of the government, spurring them to improve the camps. 

In 1948, Guerrero moved to Carville, Louisiana to receive treatment for her disease (which would take 9 long years), while also advocating against destigmatizing and dehumanizing people afflicted with Hansen’s disease. The same year, Guerrero received the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Silver Palm.


“From Outcast to Spy to Outcast: The War Hero with Hansen’s Disease,” The National WWII Museum | New Orleans, accessed January 10, 2021,

Jhemmylrut Teng, “When Leprosy Made Her the Most Reliable Spy of World War II,” Medium, November 9, 2020,

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