(VOA Editorial)  (360)

(Following is an editorial, broadcast by the Voice of America October 20,

reflecting the views of the U.S. government.)

March 17, 1944.  General Douglas MacArthur, supreme commander of allied

forces in the southwest Pacific, addresses the people of Australia and

reaffirms a solemn promise:  "two years ago...when I landed on your soil, I

said to the people of the Philippines, whence I came, 'I shall return.'

Tonight I repeat those words.  'I shall return.'"

Fifty years ago today, General MacArthur kept that promise.  On the morning

of October 20, 1944, an allied fleet of more than 700 ships opened fire on

Imperial Japanese forces occupying Leyte island.  Over 200,000 U.S. troops

headed for the beaches.  The liberation of the Philippines had begun.

For the Filipino people, a nightmare was ending.  Imperial Japanese troops

invaded the islands in December 1941.  After five months of desperate

fighting, American and Filipino troops were forced to surrender.  Their

commander, General MacArthur, was ordered to Australia.  There he took

command of the allied armies that would drive the Japanese from the

Philippines and other conquered territories.


Thousands of Filipinos were murdered, raped, tortured and imprisoned by

Japanese troops and the dreaded Kempeitai (ken-pay-tie), or secret police.

Filipino men were taken for slave labor.  Filipino women were forced to

serve the Japanese army as prostitutes.

Despite savage reprisals by Japanese occupation forces, the people of the

Philippines fought back.  They attacked Japanese troops, sabotaged war

materiel, cut enemy communications and collected intelligence for allied

forces.  Their courage brought the reward of freedom.

To ensure the success of the invasion, the United States fought two of the

greatest naval battles in history in June and October of 1944:  the battle

of the Philippines Sea and the battle of Leyte Gulf.  By July 1945, the

liberation of the Philippines was complete -- at a cost of over 60,000

American casualties.  At ceremonies formally re-establishing the

Philippines government, General MacArthur told President Sergio Osmena that

his country was "again at liberty to pursue its the family of

free nations."