Leyte 1944 – the day General MacArthur returned

Published October 21, 2019, 4:19 PM

by Manila Bulletin

E CARTOON OCT 22, 2019
It was 75 years ago – on October 20, 1944 – that American and Filipino forces  led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur landed on the beach  in Palo,  Leyte, to begin the liberation of the Philippines. Japan had invaded the Philippines in 1942, occupying it for the next three years,  as it  commanded the sea route to Borneo and Sumatra through which Japan shipped the petroleum it needed for the war.

As he waded ashore at Red Beach in Palo, Leyte, General MacArthur was accompanied by Philippine President Sergio Osmena and  Gen. Carlos P. Romulo. There, on that day,  he announced the beginning of the liberation he had promised when he had to leave for Australia in 1942 and said,  “I shall return.” Now, he said,  “People of  the Philippines, I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God, our forces are again on Philippine soil.”

Less than three months later, on January 9, 1943, American liberation forces landed at Lingayen Gulf in Pangasinan with British, Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand allied troops and  were joined by Filipino guerrilla forces as they began the liberation of Luzon.

The historic landing in  Leyte was  commemorated last Sunday, October 20, 2019, with United States Charge d’Affairs John Law saying that the US-Philippine alliance remains strong to this day, with continuing joint military exercises against the new enemy,   insurgents that  threaten  the democratic way of life in Mindanao.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon read a speech by President Duterte citing the Leyte Landing in 1944 as not  just a military victory,  but one that solidified the bond between the Philippines and  the US  and “reclaimed the freedom that  became the cornerstone of the democratic way  of life that we all enjoy today.”

It must be noted, however, that even as we celebrate these victories in World War II, yesterday’s enemy, Japan, is today’s close friend and ally, both for  us and the US,our stongest and closest defense ally against new threats to peace in our part of the world.  President Dutere is attending today  the enthronement of Japan’ new Emperor Naruhito, grandson of World War II Emperor Hirohito.

World War II was  an important part in our history as a nation, both the defeats, as in Bataan, and the victories, as in Leyte  and Lingayen. But we mark their anniversaries not so much as celebrations as commemorations of events that we should never forget. For they are part of our history, part of the story of bravery shown by our fighting men ready to give their lives for the nation and for freedom,  and part of a history that now values peace as always the better way to national and world growth and development.