MANILA – The Philippines will jointly observe on Friday the 73rd anniversary of the historic Leyte Landing by allied forces led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur that liberated the country from Japanese occupation in World War II and the 151st birthday anniversary of Gen. Artemio Ricarte, hero of the Philippine revolution against Spain and the Philippine-American war.
The Leyte Landing will be observed at MacArthur Park in Palo, Leyte where the Americans and allied forces landed on that memorable day of Oct. 20, 1944 that paved the way for the liberation of the Philippines from Japanese occupation.
Retired Maj. Gen. Alfredo S. Cayton Jr of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) will represent Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Defense Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina, PVAO administrator, in the Leyte landing ceremony at Palo Beach.
Coinciding with the Leyte landing celebration on Friday is the commemoration of the 151st birth anniversary of Ricarte, hero of two Philippine revolutions – against Spain and the United States to be held at the Ricarte National Military Shrine in Batac City in Ilocos Norte.
Retired Brig. Gen. Restituto L. Aguilar, chief of PVAO historical records, will be the guest of honor and speaker at the Ricarte rites.
It may be recalled that it was on Oct. 20, 1944 that MacArthur fulfilled his solemn pledge to the Filipino people three years before when he said “I shall return” to liberate the Philippines from Japanese occupation.
The landing was preceded in what is dubbed as the “Battle at Leyte Gulf”, the greatest naval battle in history the world has known that remained unequalled to date in terms of the number of warships, aircraft and submarines involved and the huge number of war casualties.
It was during the great battle at Leyte Gulf that the once powerful Japanese Navy was destroyed by the US 3rth and 7th fleet.
The naval warfare involved four sea battles at Sibuyan Sea, Surigao Strait,Cape Engaño and the island of Samar in the Pacific Ocean.
It was during the Battle at Leyte Gulf that the Japanese deployed its first “kamikaze” or suicide pilots in attacking US warships.
Kamikaze pilots sunk 47 Allied warships and damaged 300 others. But a total of 4,000 Kamikaze pilots were killed during the Second World War.
The US had in its arsenal eight aircraft carriers, 24 small carriers, 1,712 warplanes, 12 battleships, 24 cruisers and 141 destroyers.
In the historic Battle at Leyte Gulf, the Japanese Navy lost nine carriers, more than 500 combat planes and a big number of smaller ships.
Before Bataan fell on April 9, 1942 MacArthur made a daring sea escape from his headquarters on Corregidor Island to Australia.
Aboard a convoy of lightly armed PT boats, MacArthur successfully broke the Japanese lines and arrived in Australia safely.
But before he boarded the PT boat, Gen. MacArthur uttered the now famous three-letter word: “I shall return” to liberate the Philippines and crush the Japanese invaders.
It came to pass on Oct. 20, 1944.
To remember that historic landing, the Philippine government built memorials of ranking military officials led by Gen. MacArthur and Filipino Brig. Gen. Carlos P. Romulo.
The memorial called MacArthur Park is one of the tourist attractions in Leyte.
In his speech shortly after US and allied forces landed at the Red Beach in Leyte, MacArthur said:
“TO THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES:
“I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God our forces stand again on Philippine soil - 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 Osmena, 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! 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!” (Ben Cal/PNA)