October 20, 1944 remains unforgettable with echoes of ‘I Shall Return!’

General Douglas MacArthur is one of the greatest military leaders of all time

General Douglas MacArthur is one of the greatest military leaders of all time

By Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko, Ph.D.

There are dates in the Philippines’ World War II history that have their staying power.

But not all belong to ‘must’ remembrances. A few brought joy. Some are meant to be shunted aside because they bring nothing but sorrow. But there is one date that has, as time moves on, continues to become indelible.

It was a promise. It was fulfilled on October 20, 1944, by its author himself, General Douglas MacArthur. Three words that made up a pledge by General MacArthur, one of the greatest military leaders of all time: “I Shall Return!”

And return he did.

The MacArthur promise was anchored on freedom and liberty tagged to the re-emergence of United States troops everywhere in the Philippines where World War II left its scars.

Who will efface the significance of those geographical locations identified as ‘war-torn’ on the Philippine map from December 1941 to April 1945?
The MacArthur Return on Philippine soil has become glued in the memory of those who read and re-read the news: how he walked ashore on that one and only date as soon as the U.S. forces he commanded, landed at Palo, Leyte, 10 miles south of the capital city of Tacloban.

That “Return” was the signal that caught the entire country on fire.

It was considered the beginning of the campaign called “Liberation of the Philippines” from those somber years, marked as indelible imprints of the invasion by enemy forces from “The Land of the Rising Sun.”

Through every medium possible, encouragement spread out in a speedy fashion, thanks to the underground units that responded immediately on the first salvo.

Before long, the three major islands of the country caught all those timely reverberations although silence prevailed among the populace that never lost hope.

Thankfulness joined hope among Northern Luzon’s people. When the Lingayen Gulf Landing happened, there was no doubt at all that the promise to ‘return’ throughout the country’s length and breadth moved closer and closer to absolute fulfillment. By the following year, in July 1945, the Philippines was once more in allied hands. Democratic institutions which belonged to pre-World War II Philippines’ Commonwealth government (in anticipation of autonomy promised on July 4, 1946) were restored.

When October 20, 2014 came around, just days ago, it was a distinct reminder to each Filipino child of war who lived through that debacle in their home country.

Who would forget that date when General MacArthur lived up to his pledge?

We, who identify with World War II as children of war, still remember the fervor that surged far and wide. We will never forget the awe-inspiring: “I Shall
Return.”

Numbers among those in high school and the higher elementary grades who witnessed the meaning of the arrival of “Liberation” still recount what that period (close to four years of somber enemy occupation), brings to memory. Were it not for the realization of “I Shall Return,” hope might have been lost.

If every Filipino wishes to let the message of October 20, 1944 resound, that very nurturing of freedom should remain unabated.

Dimensions of liberty which appeal to human decency should continue to be nurtured for the generations of today and tomorrow.

The Leyte Landing of 1944

The Leyte Landing of 1944



One Comment

  1. Excellent remembrance. Thank you.

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