For the first time in seven decades, the annual grand celebration of the historic Leyte Landing by Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the Allied troops that liberated the Philippines from Japanese occupation in World War II will be observed with utmost simplicity on Tuesday due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Only local officials from the town of Palo fronting the Pacific Ocean where Allied Forces landed after crushing the powerful Japanese fleet during the world’s biggest naval battle will attend the ceremony, according to the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office headed by retired Lt. Gen. Ernesto Carolina.
In previous years, the Leyte Landing anniversary was celebrated with military parade, including reenactment of the landing at Palo beach where Gen. MacArthur and top military U.S. and Filipino officials, including returning President Sergio Osmena Sr. and Brig. Gen. Carlos Romulo landed on Oct. 20, 1944.
PVAO said the simple anniversary on Tuesday will be held with virtual internet coverage to enable the people, not only in the Philippines, but all over the world to witness the celebration which ended the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in the 1940s.
Historian Xiao Chua said the Leyte Landing was preceded by the greatest naval battle in history at Leyte Gulf that involved 211 American warships, including 16 aircraft carriers, and 12 battle ships.
In addition, American and Allied forces had 1,300 warplanes and over 300,000 troops, including Filipinos who were with the US Army.
In contrast, the once formidable Japanese Navy had only 68 warships and 300 aircraft.
Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita was the commander of the Japanese Imperial Army in the Philippines during the final battle of the Pacific War.
When World War II broke out in the Philippines on Dec. 8, 1941, the Japanese crushed the American and Filipino forces in Bataan and Corregidor and occupied the Philippines for over three years.
The invasion of Leyte began at dawn of Oct. 17, 1944 when US troops sneaked into the island that caught the Japanese by surprise.
The Japanese thought that McArthur would land in Mindanao but MacArthur diverted his plan and chose Leyte where American forces would land because Mindanao was heavily fortified by the Japanese, according to Chua.
The landing fulfilled McArthur’s promise of “I shall return” to liberate the Philippines from Japanese invaders.