The World War II Multimedia Database

For the 72 Million

The Liberation of the Philippines, October 20, 1944 – August 15, 1945

The Philippines had suffered under the Japanese occupation. A highly effective guerrilla campaign controlled sixty percent of the islands, mostly jungle and mountain areas. United States Army General Douglas MacArthur had supplied them by submarine, and sent reinforcements and officers. Filipinos remained loyal to the United States, partly because of the American guarantee of independence, and also because the Japanese had pressed large numbers of Filipinos into work details and even put young Filipino women into brothels.

MacArthur returned to the Philippines in force on October 20, 1944. He waded in with Philippine President Sergio Osmeña, restaging the landing a second time for the newsreel cameras. The United States Army forces met resistance, but steadily advanced, until the landings at Ormoc on December 7, 1944. Most of the fighting was at sea during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

Ormoc saw the widespread use of kamikazes while the Americans ran into fortified positions and heavy artillery. MacArthur fought north through the Philippines all through the Fall of 1944, reaching Manila and the main island of Luzon in January 1945. The initial landing in Lingayen Gulf was unopposed, sparing the Japanese a prolonged bombardment as they retreated inland. The Japanese had a network of caves, pillboxes, and artillery. The defenders hoped to prevent an invasion of the home islands by offering a stiff resistance in the Philippines.

MacArthur entered a shattered Manila, which had been destroyed by the retreating Japanese. Japanese Imperial Army General Tomoyuki Yamashita had ordered a withdrawal on Manila without unnecessary violence, but 19,000 soldiers under Vice Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi were encircled. Most of Manila was taken in hand-to-hand combat block by block. The retreating Japanese killed civilians in vicious reprisals. They turned on the civilian population of Manila, killing 100,000. Almost all the Japanese were killed or committed suicide, including Iwabuchi.

General Yamashita retreated to the Philippine hills, taking 65,000 soldiers with him. He held out until the end of the war. MacArthur declared the Philippines secure on June 30, 1945, but fighting continued until August 15.

Yamashita was hanged in Manila for war crimes in 1946.The war crimes trials hastily blamed Yamashita, and he was convicted.

The Philippines put off rebuilding to serve as the staging area for the invasion of the Home Islands. When the war ended, the United States made extensive payments to the Philippines. The United States granted independence to the Philippines on July 4, 1946.

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