Leyte last time

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    LEYTE this time (17-19 October 2019) hosts the National Conference On The 75th Anniversary Of The 1944 Leyte Landings (“Turning the Tide: Stories of Resistance, Resilience and Resurgence in the Philippines from 1942-1944”) convened by the National Historical Commission Of The Philippines in partnership with Leyte Normal University. For which NHCP Chairman Dr. Rene R. Escalante intoned: “20 October 1944 represented to many Filipinos the fulfillment of a promise: Douglas MacArthur has returned, the Yankees are back, Bataan and Corregidor will be avenged, and the Liberation of the Philippines is close at hand.

    “Yet that scene of MacArthur, Osmeña and company wading on Leyte’s shores – one which would later be immortalized in monuments and printed in our currency – would not have been possible in the first place if not for the valiant efforts of the Filipinos – the same people they left post haste two years ago – who kept the flame burning and continued the resistance against the occupying Japanese forces. Special recognition goes to the various guerrilla organizations active in various parts of the Philippines, as it was through their diligence that the Allied Forces obtained valuable information which enabled the Allies to finally stage their much awaited comeback in Southeast Asia, which was under the Japanese Empire’s iron grip for almost three years.”

    Among the new learnings was Earl Jude Paul L. Cleope’s take on the Liberation of Negros Oriental: “On September 3, 1944, the 77th Infantry of the 7th Military District launched Operation ‘Storm’ and by October 11, 1944, the operation ended, its mission accomplished in 38 days and the targeted mission areas were freed from enemy occupation by a ragtag army of Filipino volunteers and guerrilla forces. This situation was indeed a real value for the liberation forces whose landing was imminent by that time.” As well as Juan Paolo M. Calamlam’s research on the Anderson’s Guerrillas and its mission to Unify the Guerrillas and the USAFFE, 1942-1946: “Its leader, Maj. Bernard Anderson, aimed (1) to contact the USAFFE headquarters in Australia for a coordinated plan to liberate the Philippines, and (2) to unite the guerrilla units for the said plan. The Anderson’s Guerrillas carried both missions successfully.”

    Jose Eleazar R. Bersales tackled the Koga Incident and its role in the 1944 Leyte Landings: “General Douglas MacArthur finally fulfilled his promise to return to the Philippines in 1944, but not through Sarangani Bay in Mindanao and not in December that year as originally planned. Instead, his return began with the initial U.S. bombardment of the southwestern coast of Leyte on October 20, 1944. This change was the result of events that unfolded a few hundred kilometers away on April 1, 1944, when two Kawanishi flying boats bearing Admiral Meinichi Koga, commander-in-chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Combined Fleet, crashed off the coast of San Fernando, Cebu.”

    Leyte that time, according to the G-2, USAFPOA, was under the command of a native fighter for freedom: “From comparative chaos, Col. Kangleon brought order. The guerrillas led a completely independent life, moving their entire families out into the hills to positions completely cut off from their former surroundings, Their early function was principally one of survival, The Philippine Volunteer Guards were formed whose function was solely to secure food and other necessary supplies for the guerillas. Through gradual improvement in organization and technique, the guerrillas soon were able to indulge in ambush and harassing tactics against the Japs. In their early days, the guerrillas in many cases conducted their attacks on the enemy armed only with bolos, with which they did effective work. Demolitions also were extensively used. At first, many sorties had a minimum of success because of the emotional nature of the attacks on the enemy. Under Kangleon, the emotions of the Filipinos were curbed and the degree of success of the missions was increased greatly, through the use of definite plans for operations. Later they armed themselves with home-made shotguns, rifles and home-made grenades, etc, until January 1944, when Gen. MacArthur sent in a submarine with supplies. Throughout the intervening time, it must be remembered that supply of everything was scant and inflation was drastic.” [Intelligence Bulletin (of the United States Army Forces Pacific Ocean Areas), No. 6, December 17, 1944]

    The critical events of October 1944 have been subjected to Battle Analysis. For instance, “The Battle for Leyte Gulf, October 1944. Strategical and Tactical Analysis. 1953-1958” prepared for the Bureau of Naval Personnel by the Department of Analysis at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, under the direction of Commodore Richard W. Bates. [Government Publications Review, Vol. 17, 1990, pp. 237-249]

    The postmortem can be harsh: “The Leyte invasion force amounted to over 200,000 men, and the initial landings were successful. Complete recapture of the island, however, took much longer than anticipated due to lack of sufficient inshore naval power to interdict Japanese reinforcements, inadequate minesweeping capabilities, and appalling weather that delayed airfield construction and hindered close air support. However, these factors never really imperiled the invasion. It was the Imperial Japanese Navy’s reaction, and more importantly, poor American command decisions, that for a while placed the Leyte beachhead in serious danger.” [Michael H. Coles, Review of “The Battle for Leyte, 1944: Allied and Japanese Plans, Preparations, and Execution,” The Journal of Military History, April 2007]

    “In the early days of the Pacific War, the Americans split their command arrangements, with General Douglas MacArthur in charge of the Southwest Pacific Area and Admiral Chester Nimitz commanding the Pacific Ocean Area. This scheme worked well enough until the Leyte operation, when it produced much confusion over command relationships, leading to problems between Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey and Vice Admiral Thomas Kinkaid, Commander Allied Naval Forces, that almost lost them the battle.” [Donald M. Goldstein, Naval War College Review, Spring 2007]

    Be that as it may, Leyte that time was an arena for heroism: “At Leyte in December of that year, (Desmond) Doss crossed an open field under intense fire to retrieve two wounded soldiers. One was dead, so Doss evacuated the remaining wounded man, constructing a stretcher out of bamboo. Doss later received the Bronze star medal with oak leaf cluster in acknowledgement of these two actions. Years later Doss would say, ‘‘I knew these men; they were my buddies, some had wives and children. If they were hurt, I wanted to be there to take care of them’. This attitude and the decisive actions that accompanied them earned Doss the admiration and eternal gratitude of his fellow soldiers. Every infantryman learns to love and protect his platoon medic because they know he will risk everything to save lives; an illustration of medical mutualistic care.” [William C. Puddy, et.al., “Revisiting Desmond Doss (1919–2006): Merging Combat Medicine And Benevolence On The Battlefield,” The Journal of Emergency Medicine, Vol. 56, No. 1, 2019, pp. 114–119]

    Indeed, Leyte that time and this time, was a Critical Event. [“Collective Memories across 11 Nations for World War II: Similarities and Differences Regarding the Most Important Events,” Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition 8 (2019) 178–188]

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