On this day in 1944, the Leyte Landings began when Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Philippine Commonwealth President Sergio Osmeña, along with over 100,000 American soldiers from the US Sixth Army landed at Red Beach, Palo, Leyte.
The landing was the first phase in the liberation of Leyte Island during World War II, which in turn led to the liberation of the entire Philippines between October 1944 and September 1945.
Rationale for the landings
The liberation of the Philippines was crucial to the United States’ victory in World War II. Airbases in Luzon Island could provide staging ground for aerial bombardment of Japanese military bases in Formosa (now Taiwan), China, Korea and Mainland Japan.
It was also a personal mission for Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who in March 1942 had to evacuate from the country and let it fall into the hands of the Japanese following the fall of Bataan and Corregidor. He had promised to return to the Philippines and liberate it before he left.
With America’s defeat in the Philippines, resistance to Japanese rule was left to various guerrilla groups. The liberation of the Philippines would be a propaganda coup for MacArthur and a morale boost for the US forces.
After the American capture of Peleliu in Palau and Morotai in the Dutch East Indies in September 1944, it provided the US with naval and air bases from which to stage an invasion of the Philippines.
To keep the invasion of Leyte a secret, the United States codenamed it Operation King II. It involved the US Seventh Fleet under VAdm. Thomas Kincaid transporting the US Sixth Army, led by Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger to the landing sites on the east coast of Leyte Island. Six landing sites were designated, each with a corresponding color code and stretching from Tacloban to Dulag along the Leyte Gulf.
Admiral William Halsey’s Third Fleet, in conjunction with the Seventh Fleet, was to provide air support until Army Air Forces units could begin operations from airfields on Leyte.
October 20, the day of the Leyte Landings, has been designated as A-Day, just as the day of the Normandy Landings was named D-Day. Preliminary operations to secure the entrance to Leyte Gulf were conducted from Oct. 17 to 18, such as the capture of Suluan, Homonhon and Dinagat Islands. Minesweepers were also sent to clear the waters off the landing sites of mines.
By Oct. 18, the Seventh Fleet had entered Leyte Gulf and commenced a two-day bombardment of Japanese ground positions near the landing sites to soften resistance.
The Leyte Landings began by 10 a.m. of A-Day, with the first LSTs (landing ship tanks) of the Seventh Fleet docking on the landing beaches and the first soldiers and tanks from the US Sixth Army began pouring into the landing sites.
At around 1 p.m. of A-Day, Gen. MacArthur and Pres. Osmeña along with their respective entourage, landed at Red Beach in Palo. Upon arriving on shore, MacArthur delivered a prepared speech that was broadcast in the Voice of Freedom, which said.
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 Osmeña, 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 hearts, 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!Gen. Douglas MacArthur
The Leyte Landings caught the Japanese forces by surprise but they were nevertheless unprepared. A few days later, the Imperial Japanese Navy dispatched two naval fleets to engage the American forces at Leyte Gulf, resulting in the largest naval battle in history, the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
Prefer, Nathan N., Leyte, 1944: The Soldiers’ Battle. Havertown, Pennsylvania: Casemate Publishers, 2012.
Ireland, Bernard, Leyte Gulf 1944: The world’s greatest sea battle. New York: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 2008.
Smith, Robert Ross, The War in the Pacific: The Approach to the Philippines. Washington, D.C.: United States Army Center of Military History, 1996.
Hamlin Cannon, M. Leyte: The Return to the Philippines. Washington D.C.: US Army Center of Military History, 1993.
Garand, George and Strowbridge, Truman, Western Pacific Operations: History of US Marine Corps Operations in World War II, Volume IV. Quantico, Virginia: USMC Historical Division, 1971.
Aside from Red Beach, what other colors did the US Sixth Army assign to the different landing areas in Leyte’s eastern shore?
Yesterday’s answer: Dr. Joaquin Gonzalez