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Today in PH History

October 20, 1944, General Douglas MacArthur landed in Palo, Leyte to reclaim the Philippines from the Japanese.



On October 20, 1944, General Douglas MacArthur as the head of the largest US fleet of transport and warships, and accompanied by Commonwealth President Sergio Osmeña and Gen. Carlos P. Romulo, landed on Palo, Leyte to reclaim the Philippines from the Japanese.

Gen. MacArthur made true his famous vow “I shall return” following his escape from Corregidor on March 11, 1942 for Australia, together with his wife and four-year-old son, and others on orders of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to avoid being overrun by Japanese Forces.

Sergio Osmeña,Carlos P. Romulo and American soldiers

Sergio Osmeña, Carlos P. Romulo and American officers on the ship’s bridge just before the landing in Palo, Leyte, on October 20, 1944.

“I shall return” is the last phrase of his statement before reporters:

“The President of the United States ordered me to break through the Japanese lines and proceed from Corregidor to Australia for the purpose, as I understand it, of organizing the American offensive against Japan, a primary objective of which is the relief of the Philippines. I came through and I shall return.”

With his feet finally back on Philippine soil, and his pledge at last being fulfilled, MacArthur spoke with great emotion just moments after he waded ashore:

“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 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!”

Other landings were made in Mindoro, Batangas and Lingayen in subsequent months.

On February 3, 1945, the bloody Battle of Manila begun.

The destroyed legislative building

(Complete demolition of the Legislature Building in Manila. One of the finest government buildings in the Far East, it was the pride of the Filipinos.)

Before this battle, Manila was considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Overlooking a tranquil bay, the so-called “Pearl of the Orient” was home to a unique culture drawn from four continents. No stranger to conflict, the city had been seized by the Spanish in the 16th century, attacked by the Chinese in the 17th, occupied by the British in the 18th, and taken by the Americans at the end of the 19th. But even this tumultuous history could not have prepared the Filipinos for what happened in February to early March of 1945, when Manila was utterly destroyed.

Amphibious landings and air attacks were made in various parts of the Philippines that were still in Japanese hands. MacArthur, who had taken over the government as Military Administrator, turned over the reins of the civil government to President Sergio Osmeña.

On July 4, 1945, he proclaimed the liberation of the entire Philippines from Japanese invasion.

Accordingly, MacArthur proposed that war be brought right at the Japan’s door — bombing occurred day and night at mainland of Japan, important Japanese ports and cities like Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Kure as well as the deadly atomic bomb unleashed in Hiroshima, killing thousands of inhabitants.

On September 2, 1945, Japan unconditionally signed the terms of surrender on board the battleship Missouri at Tokyo Bay. Hence, MacArthur, one of the best-known American military leaders of World War II led occupation forces in the reconstruction of Japan.

Article: Kahimyang Project


  1. MacArthur’s Speeches, People and Events, American Experience,
  2. Philippine News Agency archives
  3. Photo credit: Southeast Asia Digital Library

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