Quick! Where did General Douglas MacArthur land when he returned to the Philippines to “liberate” the country from the Japanese invaders? It’s in the Imeldific island of Leyte, where a park, formerly called the MacArthur Park, was erected to commemorate the historic day. The bronze statues tower over everyone, including the larger-than-life statues of President Sergio Osmeña and General Carlos P. Romulo, who were with the landing party of Gen. MacArthur.
It’s now called the Leyte Landing Memorial, located at the Red Beach, Palo, Leyte. Just in case you go past the Memorial and gaze at the sea, you’ll notice that the beach brown to black — not red. The “red” in Red Beach doesn’t refer to the natural color of the sand, but its color after being drenched in blood.
The town of Palo is adjacent to, and the Memorial is a few minutes from, Tacloban City, the capital of the province of Leyte. There are no taxis in Tacloban City, so you could hire a tricycle, a ubiquitous mode of Philippine public transportation that resembles the famous German sidecar, in going to the park (yes, the Germans were also part of the Axis powers during World War II, but they were confronting the Allied powers in Europe, not here in the Pacific). There are at least four flights going in and out of Tacloban from Manila. You could also opt to go there by ship or by land (through the roll-on-roll off or “RORO” ships).
Gen. MacArthur had to leave the Philippines during the height of the Japanese attack. Upon reaching Australia, Gen. MacArthur uttered the phrase that is forever remembered by Filipinos: “I shall return“. Contrary to some misconceptions, these famous lines were uttered not when Gen. MacArthur left the Philippines, from his headquarters in Corregidor. Upon his return, General MacArthur issued a Proclamation, etched at the Leyte Landing Memorial. It reads:
To the People of the Philippines:
I have returned. By the grace of the 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 Osmena, 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! 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!
The Leyte Landing Memorial commemorates the historic return of the flamboyant general, together with hundreds of thousands of men and hundreds of ships, on October 20, 1944. It was the start of the end of Japanese occupation in the Philippines. October 20 is celebrated every year, as the anniversary date of the Leyte Landing. The marker of the National Historical Institute placed at the park reads:
On this spot, Palo, Leyte, General Douglas MacArthur returned to the Philippines on 20 October 1944, and personally led the swift drive against the Japanese forces in the Philippines. President Sergio Osmena and some members of the government-in-exile arrived with General MacArthur and proceeded to reorganize, restore and administer the government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. Declared a National Historical Landmark 2004.
So, the next time you’re stuck in Tacloban City, soak up a piece of history and drop by Leyte Landing Memorial (or you may still want to call it the MacArthur Park).
(Copyright, per Wikipedia: This image is a work of a U.S. Army soldier or employee, taken or made during the course of the person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.)