LEGAZPI CITY: The liberation of Bicolandia from Japanese forces in 1945 was commemorated here on Saturday.
On April 1, 1945, the 158th Infantry Regimental Combat team of the US 6th Army command led by Brig. General Hanford Macnider and Captain Hoomer Mcgee landed in Legaspi Gulf on the shore of Barangay Rawis in this city. Macnider, with Filipino guerrilla fighters led by Lt. Col. Demetrio Camua, defeated the Japanese forces giving the victorious allies easy access to San Bernardino Strait, the gateway to the Visayas.
Mayor Noel Rosal with the World War 2 veterans, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, the business community and civic organizations reminisced about how the allies fought for the country’s freedom.
“Seventy two years ago today the US Allied forces landed in Legaspi Gulf on the shore of Barangay Rawis in this city. Fighting alongside Filipino soldiers, they liberated Bicol from the Japanese occupying forces. On this day, we pay tribute to their heroism. The landing of US Allied forces will not be in vain if we do our share in preserving the freedom they won for our country then,” Mayor Noel Rosal said.
The Japanese landing in Legaspi on December 12, 1941, was one in a series of advance landings by Imperial Japanese forces, their first step in their invasion of the Philippines.
According to the veterans’ accounts, the Imperial Japanese forces aimed to gain control of the region’s local air strips from which they would launch fighter aircraft for operations in central Luzon. By controlling Legazpi City, they would also have control over San Bernardino Strait, thus, prevent the Americans from bringing in reinforcements from the south.
Commodore Giovanni Carlo “Joby” Bacorbo, commander of Naval Forces Southern Luzon a, Singapore and HK and the US military bases in Hawaii, Wake Island, Guam and the Philippines said the Pacific war officially began on December 7, 1941 when Japan invaded Thailand and attacked the British possessions in Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong and the US military bases in Hawaii, Wake Island, Guam and the Philippines.
During this time, the Japanese were scoring victories in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. On December 12, a detachment with 2,500 men from the Imperial Japanese Army 16th Division led by Maj.Gen. Naoki Kimura, with the Infantry Group HQ, 33rd Infantry Regiment and a battery from the 22nd Field Artillery landed in the morning without opposition in Legazpi, as the nearest American forces were over 240 kilometers away.
The Battle of Leyte Gulf from October 23 to 26 1944 was the fulfillment of the promise Gen Douglas MacArthur made to the Filipinos when he said, “I shall return.”
On April 1, 1945, General Krueger designated the 158th Regional Combat Team led by Brig. Gen. Hanford MacNider to secure Legazpi.
The 158th Infantry battalion landed in Albay Gulf with the aim of cutting off the retreating Japanese forces. But the larger strategic goal of the Bicol Peninsula operation was to finish clearing the Visayan passages for the smooth sailing of Allied shipping. This was fully realized on May 2, 1945.
“World War II officially ended on September 2, 1945, when Japan surrendered aboard the battleship USS Missouri in the Tokyo Bay Naval Battle,” Bacorbo said.
Meanwhile, Rosal said that the fight against the foreign invaders is already part of history but he urged the Legazpeños to fight hand in hand with government against illegal drugs, other forms of criminality, poverty and the disastrous effects of climate change through mitigation and adaptation.