Image claiming to show US troops ‘going to Philippines’ actually shows British troops

12 April 2024
What was claimed

An image circulating on social media shows US troops on a plane being deployed in the Philippines.

Our verdict

This is an old image of British troops that has been circulating online since at least 2021. It has been altered to include an American flag.

An image circulating on social media claims to show US troops being deployed in the Philippines, but it is actually an old image of British troops which has been circulating online since at least 2021. 

The picture shows soldiers sleeping in an enclosed area, with a US flag in the background and the Philippines and NATO flags superimposed in the bottom left hand corner. It has been shared over 30,000 times on Facebook, as well as on X (formerly known as Twitter). 

Many of the posts featuring the image say “17,500 US Troops from AFP Deploy to Subic Bay Base in the Philippines,” implying the photo depicts this. 

However, Google reverse image search shows the image was posted by UK-based users on Linkedin and Twitter in August 2021. This version of the image does not feature the US flag, nor the superimposed Philippines and NATO flags. 

One version of the photo posted on Linkedin says: “Op PITTING done, packed into the back of an RAF A400M like sardines, but with a job well done it is time to switch off and grab some very well deserved sleep. Well done everyone”.

Operation Pitting was the British military operation to evacuate British nationals and eligible Afghans from Afghanistan following the 2021 Taliban offensive. 

The same photo was shared in a now-deleted post on X by US Army Lieutenant General Maria R. Gervais in September 2021. She originally referred to the troops as “American hero's (sic)” but later corrected herself after online users pointed out the soldiers were British.

As some pointed out at the time, closer analysis of the photo shows the soldiers appear to be holding SA80 rifles which the British army describes as its “standard combat weapons”, rather than the M4 Carbine issued to their US counterparts.

It’s true that a number of US troops are heading to the Philippines for a regular military exercise. The upcoming ‘Balikatan’ exercise begins on 22 April and is an annual joint exercise between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and United States Armed Forces. 

A post on Facebook by the Armed Forces of the Philippines said a total of 16,000 composite personnel of both forces will participate this year. 17,500 participated in the 2023 iteration of the exercise, according to the US military. 

Image courtesy of Krisia 

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