70 Years Later: World War 2 Ends In The Philippines

Some of my most vivid memories go back to 1945 Navy service in the island nation. At the time it was a U.S. possession and battleground being fought over by Imperial Japanese and American forces. 

A Short History A few days after the Japanese surprise December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, massive numbers of their forces landed in the Philippines. The unprepared American and Filipino troops were overwhelmed, and surrendered in May, 1942. Then the Japanese began a brutal, murderous three-year occupation of the islands.

In October, 1944, American troops, commanded by General Douglas MacArthur, returned to recapture the Philippines. Their first landing was on the island of Leyte. The campaign continued, ending at the main island of Luzon, and the capital city of Manila. While the city was declared recaptured in March 1945, there was still fighting until the official Japanese formal surrender in late August.

My Philippine Service: I arrived on Leyte in December 1944 with a Navy advance communications team. We moved up to Manila in March 1945. There we bunked in tents at the U.S. Fleet Landing along the city’s Pasig River. We ate chow with members of the Navy Underwater Demoliton Team (UDT evolved to SEALs). Our mess hall was located in the basement garage of the nearby Manila Hotel. 

The penthouse was the HQ of General MacArthur. Several times we saw him hurry by us on the way to his limo while flanked by bodyguards. He later moved his HQ to Tokyo in September after the formal Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri. The official end of the war was September 2, 1945.

Enduring Respect: My fondest memories of wartime experiences in the Philippines is of the people. They willingly helped our American military in every way possible, sometimes at the cost of their own lives to Japanese brutality. The citizens of The Philippines richly deserved their independence when it was declared on July 4, 1946. They were then and still are among the most loyal friends of the United States in the world.

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