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U.S. veterans recall Philippine invasion

ENRIQUE MORALESRED BEACH, Philippines -- Hundreds of American veterans Saturday visited battle sites and reminisced about Gen. Douglas MacArthur's historic invasion of the Philippines 40 years ago that fulfilled his famous 'I shall return' pledge.

Forecasts of bad weather, however, delayed a re-enactment of the Oct. 20, 1944 invasion until Sunday.

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MacArthur, with a force of some 200,000 men and a 700-ship armada, led the invasion to liberate Filipinos from the Japanese Imperial Army in World War II.

The amphibious assault on Red Beach established the first beachhead of the liberation forces on the central Philippines island of Leyte. More soldiers went ashore on the first day of the invasion than landed in Normandy on D-Day, with the armada of ships the greatest ever seen in the Pacific.

On Saturday, radio DYDR in the nearby city of Tacloban, where MacArthur set up headquarters 5 miles from Red Beach, broadcast music from the Liberation Years, including Glenn Miller's 'In the Mood' and Benny Goodman's 'I'll Never Smile Again.'

Some 318 American veterans, three Australians, and 68 former soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army had arrived to mark the event but most festivities, including the reenactment, were delayed until Sunday.

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Hundreds of American and Filipino soldiers, backed by Philippine and U.S. jets, were to storm ashore to simulate the World War II battle as part of 'Return 84' exercises, which began Friday.

A U.S. Air Force colonel was to play the part of MacArthur wading ashore. A photograph of the real event became one of World War II's most famous pictures.

A former U.S. Navy communications officer recalled how he and 19 others set up a communications network on Red Beach under heavy machine-gun fire from a Japanese fighter plane.

'A lone Japanese 'kamikaze' plane zoomed from nowhere and started attacking us,' Chief Petty Officer Phomas P. MacDonnel, 60, of Norfolk Virgnia, said, recalling it was shot down in flames.

Gov. Benjamin Romualdez, brother of First Lady Imelda Marcos, feted the veterans at his residence Saturday. Some of the aging veterans visited battle sites, this time in the comfort of air conditioned buses.

Tacloban was spotless. Vice squads had swooped down on disco joints and bars earlier to mop up pockets of so-called 'hospitality girls' caught operating without health certificates.

Japan struck the Philippines just 10 hours after the Dec. 8, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Japanese occupied Manila on Jan. 2, 1942, forcing U.S.-Filipino forces under MacArthur's command and government leaders to withdraw to the Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor island.

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MacArthur was ordered to Australia several months later where he announced, 'I shall return.' Japanese resistance in the Philippines lasted until Japan's surrender on Sept. 3, 1945.

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