Monday, October 20, 2014

Gen. MacArthur keeps his vow | Battle of Leyte

After taking island by island across the Pacific Ocean in his inexorable campaign toward Japan, on this date in 1944, Gen. Douglas MacArthur stepped into the water and waded onto Red Beach at Leyte, fulfilling his 1942 vow, “I shall return.”

70 years ago today, Gen. MacArthur was finally able to keep his promise to return to liberate the Philippine people from whom he was forced to flee when his forces were defeated in May 1942. The landing on this date inaugurated the Philippines Campaign of 1944-1945. Of course, it was with a force of over 100,000 troops and 700 ships that made the invasion possible, the beginning of the end of Japanese occupation of the Philippines.

A famous photo was taken of Gen. MacArthur, members of his staff, and key Philippine figures upon his arrival on this date.* On the beach just won the general made a dramatic radio broadcast:
This is the voice of freedom, General MacArthur speaking. People of the Philippines: I have returned.
By the grace of the Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil—consecrated in the blood of our two peoples. We have come, dedicated and committed to the task of destroying every vestige of enemy control over your daily lives, and of restoring upon a foundation of indestructible strength, the liberties of your people. 
At my side is your President, Sergio OsmeƱa worthy successor of that great patriot Manuel Quezon, with members of his cabinet. The seat of your government is now therefore firmly re-established on Philippine soil. 
The hour of your redemption is here. Your patriots have demonstrated an unswerving and resolute devotion to the principles of freedom that challenges the best that is written on the pages of human history. I now call upon your supreme effort that the enemy may know from the temper of an aroused and outraged people within that he has a force there to contend with no less violent than is the force committed from without. 
Rally to me. Let the indomitable spirit of Bataan and Corregidor lead on. As the lines of battle roll forward to bring you within the zone of operations, rise and strike. Strike at every favorable opportunity. For your homes and hearths, strike! strike! For future generations of your sons and daughters, strike! In the name of your sacred dead, strike! Let no heart be faint. Let every arm be steeled. The guidance of Divine God points the way. Follow in His Name to the Holy Grail of righteous victory.

The October 20, 1944 landing on Red Beach and Gen. MacArthur's
famously fulfilled vow,  is immortalized in this iconic photo.

Apparently, there is a little more history to this photo than it at first reveals. The original plan called for MacArthur to land at a dock, but none could be found that had survived the landing assault earlier that day. While still 50 yards off shore, the general's landing craft ran aground. The impatient MacArthur ordered the ramp to be lowered anyway. Then he stepped knee deep into the water and strode confidently toward the beach. His entourage was obliged to follow.

American troops battled for 67 days to subdue Leyte. The Japanese lost more than 55,000 soldiers during the 2 months of fighting and another 25,000 as the Americans completed their operations on the island in early 1945. By contrast the U.S. lost about 3,500 men.

On January 9, 1945, MacArthur's forces invaded the main Philippine island of Luzon. In February, his army cut off Japanese forces at Bataan, and captured Corregidor. In March, the Philippine capital of Manila was taken, and in June MacArthur announced his offensive operations on Luzon to be at an end. After entering Manila and being hailed by the surviving soldiers he left behind in March 1942, the general responded, "I'm a little late, but we finally came."

In 1981, a memorial was constructed to commemorate MacArthur's famous landing
on this spot and the liberation of the Philippines to follow. In November 2013, it was
seriously damaged in the devastating Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) but restored in time
for the 70th anniversary of the invasion.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

*Gen. MacArthur was transported by landing craft from his flagship, the USS Nashville, a cruiser that my dad, Frank Dolan, repaired during the first half of 1943, while stationed at Espiritu Santo on the repair ship USS Vestal.

Sources: Battles Lost and Won, Hanson W. Baldwin; The American ExperienceOlive-Drab

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