CELEBRATIONS of the 75th Leyte landing included the coronation of Miss Liberation Diamond (sponsored by the Provincial Government of Leyte, particularly Gov. Leopoldo Dominico L. Petilla and Congresswoman Karen Javier, and competently managed by the Pintados Foundation) and an official program at the MacArthur Landing Memorial National Park in Candahug, Palo, featuring NHCP Chairman Rene Escalante, Palo Mayor Frances Ann B. Petilla, VFP President retired Justice Manuel Pamaran (of the Hunters-ROTC Guerrillas), Charge d’Affaires of the United States Embassy in the Philippines John C. Law, and PVAO Administrator Ernesto Carolina, among others.
It should interest the beauty pageant winner (Emily Marie Brumby of Leyte) to know that the Battle of Leyte involved four related engagements in the gulfs and straits of the Philippine Archipelago. As Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., US Navy testified: “October 1944 marked the return of General MacArthur to the Philippines. Rangers had gone ashore on some of the islets in the mouth of Leyte Gulf on October 17th. Three days later, General MacArthur ordered his forces ashore on Leyte. They encountered light opposition. And just three days after that, on October 23rd, the battle for Leyte Gulf began. I shall describe this battle as, aboard the USS New Jersey, I saw it develop.”
“The Third Fleet was under my command. My superior was Admiral Nimitz. My mission was offensive. When I received orders to cover the Leyte landings my mission did not change.
It was still offensive. The tasks assigned my force were to gain air supremacy over the Philippines, to protect the landings and to maintain unremitting pressure against Japan, and to apply maximum attrition by all possible means in all areas. Finally, should opportunity for destruction of a major portion of the enemy fleet offer, such destruction would become the primary task of my forces.” [Proceedings Magazine, May 1952, Vol. 78/5/591]
For his part in the recent celebrations, Australian Ambassador Steven J. Robinson AO explained that there were 4,000 Australian service personnel, 92 of whom died during the liberation campaign. Further: “The great battle in the pacific serves as a timeless reminder that the success of military coalition operations ultimately rests on shared values. It also reminds us that we must always be ready to work or fight together, whenever and wherever duty calls.”
In Palo, Leyte that day (19 October 2019), Mr. Robinson’s embassy reiterated: “The Royal Australian Navy also played an important role in what is known as the world’s last big-gun naval battle at Surigao Strait, and in the Battle of Lingayen Gulf. Australian Army bombardment liaison teams helped to ensure the accuracy of naval fire in support of the landings and the Royal Australian Air Force contribution included aerial photo reconnaissance and aerial mine-laying.”
Meanwhile in Manila, the Hunters-ROTC Historical Society viewed the operations as part of MacArthur’s Measure: “On October 20, 1945 Gen. Douglas MacArthur landed in Leyte with US Armed Forces to begin the invasion of the Philippines and its liberation from Japan.
MacArthur who had left a defeated army in Bataan and Corregidor finally made good his promise that he would return. For those who went through the Death March, it was a few years late. But he made it nonetheless. And for those who held on to that promise: the Americans hiding out in the mountains, the internees, the POWs, the Filipino supporters and the patriots fighting the guerrilla war, it was a commitment fulfilled.”
“A country which his father once ruled as military governor, a place he grew up in and returned to, after his retirement from service, the Philippines meant a little more to MacArthur than island dots on a military map. He knew the people, and the places. Taking it back from Japan was a singular mission. He had fought for it in the backrooms of command with Pres. Roosevelt, Gen. Marshall and Admiral Nimitz. It was a strategy he had to prove on the battlefield, as the Allies fought through the jungles of New Guinea. For MacArthur, it was honor redeemed.”
“Seventy-five years ago, it gave the world a powerful statement: that in moments of crises, America could be relied on to keep its word. Never mind that many of those who followed didn’t quite live up to expectation. The image stuck and became a standard by which America’s future successes or failures could be measured by friends, foes and by Americans themselves. It is also a tradition that lives on.”
What do we commemorate? Action that week of October in 1944 included: “Morning 24th (USN Task Force) 38.4 attacked 1 group of southern force believed consisting of FUSO, YAMASKIUO, FSHIGAUN and 4 destroyers (prisoner of war states possibly carrying troops}.
3 to 4 Bomb hits plus rockets both BB. 1 CA bomb hit and 4 DD damaged by rockets and strafing. Para. 38.2, 38.3 (and in afternoon 38.4) Attacked (Japanese) center force believed consisting NAGATO, YAMATO, MUSASHI, DONGO, HARUNA (5BB) CHAKAI, HAGURO, MYOKO, TONE, CHIKUMA, KUMANO and SAZUYA (7 CA) NOSHIRO and 13 DD.
Reported damage. In addition to bomb hits there were at least 5 torpedo hits divided between the 2 YAMATOS. 1 stopped burning down by head. Bomb hits in 2 possibly 3 remaining BB and torpedo hits on 1 or both KONGO. 1 KONGO slowed and appeared badly damaged. At 1600 observer saw 2 damaged BB of 4 in force northwest of Masabte. Many hits on CA’s WTVLOORS Duplication 2 known badly damaged (1 of these probably sunk) at least 1 other damaged. 1 AGANO torpedoed and rolled over. 1 DD sunk. MUSASHI, KUMANO, HAGURO unable sortie from San Bernardino due damage according prisoner of war and apparently correct.” [Command Summary of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN, Volume 5 of 8, covering the period 01 January 1944 to 31 December 1944]
Who do we commemorate? National Security Adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon Jr. (who represented President Duterte at the official rites for the Diamond Jubilee of the Leyte operations) is in an excellent position to recall the significant role of Ruperto K. Kangleon (the 6th Secretary of National Defense, May 28, 1946 to August 31, 1950) as recorded in the DND website: “By virtue of his rank in the guerrilla movement, Kangleon was tasked to make advisories to Allied troops of the goings on in the province. And no less than General MacArthur trusted his opinion. That was why, when Kangleon suggested that the General land in Leyte instead of another place in the country, MacArthur listened. Kangleon gave him his guarantee that the united and well-organized guerrilla force in the province would be competent enough to secure the arrival of the American forces.”
Many more guerrillas are featured in “The War of our Fathers” (the Philippine Veterans Bank’s traveling exhibit that was unveiled last October 18 at Robinsons Mall Tacloban), especially Valeriano Abello, the 20-year-old Boy Scout in Tolosa who aided the US troops by directing their attacks on the Japanese through his semaphore skills.
Our next celebrations should include February 27 (Ruperto K. Kangleon Heritage Day, LGU Executive Proclamation 11 January 2011; as reported by the PIA on February 12, 2015).