Diplomats from five countries—the United States (US), Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Canada—will join the Philippines in observing the 69th anniversary of the Battle of Leyte at the MacArthur Memorial National Park in Candagug, Palo, Leyte on Sunday.
Considered as the largest naval battle in history, the Battle of Leyte crippled the Imperial Japanese Navy in Southeast Asia and paved the way for the liberation of the Philippines.
Ambassadors Bill Twedell of Australia, Reuben Levermore of New Zealand, Christopher Thornley of Canada and Harry K. Thomas of the US and Deputy Chief of Mission Tesuro Amano of Japan will give their solidarity greetings.
They will be joined by Lt. Gen. Ernesto G. Carolina (Ret.), Administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), and Col. Francisco T. San Miguel (Ret.), executive vice president and secretary general of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines (VFP).
Leyte Gov. Leopoldo L. Petilla, Vice Gov. Carlo Loreto, Defense Usec. Eduardo G. Batac and Palo Mayor Remedios L. Petilla will also attend the ceremony.
The program begins with a march of the veterans, a tribute to the veterans and the lighting of the Peace Torch to be led by Cmdr. Apolonio Canillas, District Commander of the VFP-Leyte Chapter, and Brig. Gen. Joel Joseph A. Cabides, MNSA, AFP, Vice President of the VFP-SPAI Region 8 Chapter.
On October 20, 1944, American forces waded ashore in Leyte to start Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s mission to free the Philippines from Japanese control.
The ground forces were supported by two US Navy fleets—the 7th Fleet commanded by Vice Admiral Thomas Kinkaid, and the 3rd Fleet commanded by Adm. William “Ball” Halsey.
Vice Adm. Marc Mitscher’s Fast Carrier Task Force (TF38) provided cover at sea.
The Japanese quickly drew up a plan, codenamed Sho-Go 1, to destroy the US naval force and thwart the invasion. Adm. Soemu Toyoda, commander of the combined Japanese Fleet, deployed four carrier groups to seek and destroy the American armada.
The Northern Force, commanded by Adm. Jisaburo Ozawa, was the first to be deployed. His command included the Zuikaku carrier and the Zuiho, Chitose and Chiyoda light carriers.
Short of pilots and aircraft, Toyoda planned to draw Halsey’s 3rd Fleet away from Leyte through three separate forces strategically deployed in a T-style.
The Center Force, commanded by Vice Adm. Takeo Kurita, was the largest of the three, with five battleships, including the super battleships Yamato and Musashi, and 10 heavy cruisers.
Kurita’s force was to cross the Sibuyan Sea and the San Fernando Strait.
The other two smaller forces—the Southern Force commanded by Vice Adms. Shoji Nishirmura and Kiyohide Shima—were to steam south through the Surigao Strait.
The initial battle in Leyte Gulf flared at the Sibuyan Sea on October 23 and lasted until the following day. American aircraft and the submarines USS Darter and USS Dace attacked the Center Force, damage several ships, including the Musashi and flagship cruisers Atago and Maya of Kurita.
Kurita transferred to the Yamato, which retreated out of US aircraft range.
The US forces also took losses. Japanese bombers sank the USS Princeton. But a sizable force of six battleships and eight cruisers under the 7th Fleet Support Force commanded by Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf engaged the Southern Force on the evening of October 24.
Oldendorf’s fleet sank the battleships Yamashiro and Fuso and heavy cruiser Magami. Nishimura retreated along with Shima.
With the Japanese sea forces routed, the US troops secured the Leyte beachhead and proceeded inland almost without opposition.
The liberation of the Philippines had begun.