In all my years of education, this quote remained ubiquitous in my social studies courses: “History is written by the victors.” There have been numerous criticisms of schools “editing” or glossing over certain events with the intention of portraying a particular group or individual in a beneficial perspective. In calamities such as World War II, there are definitely details embellished more so than others. With beloved Blockbuster hits such as Dunkirk and Saving Private Ryan, one would hope that all Allied soldiers involved are portrayed in solidarity and in all its glorious diversity as well. Unfortunately, this is not the case. A vast majority of the actors in both films are caucasian, and there is a pervasive assumption that the wars were fought primarily by white soldiers. However, arguably one of the largest naval battles in all of history, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, was fought on Philippine soil.
The events of this battle is discussed in detail in Storm Over Leyte: The Philippine Invasion and the Destruction of the Japanese Navy written by John Prados; however, in this article, I will summarize the events referencing this book.
The Battle of Leyte Gulf, or in Tagalog, “Labanan sa Golpo ng Leyte”, spanned three days, starting October 23, 1944 and ending October 26, 1944. The then president Franklin D. Roosevelt determined that America’s next major military operation would be the liberation of the Philippines. He met with two commanders, General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. After the plans were approved, Nimitz’s forces would storm Yap and MacArthur’s to Mindanao. The two would then converge for a strike on Leyte.
This battle is labelled as a turning point in the war, as it severed Japan’s access to its resource across Southeast Asia. It also allowed American forces to utilize the Philippines’ location in relation to Japan in order to base future strategies. The casualties resulted in a loss of “four aircraft carriers, three battleships, six heavy and four light cruisers, and eleven destroyers, along with several hundred aircraft and over 10,5000 sailors.” The Allied losses were minuscule in comparison. Per PBS, it was with the help of Filipino guerrillas that the American troops were able to determine the exact size and strength of the Japanese fleet.
The Filipino guerrillas was the force behind the Philippine resistance movement, translated to Kilusan ng Paglaban sa Pilipinas. During the occupation of Japan, there were about 260,000 persons within this organization who fought against the Japanese forces with underground and guerrilla warfare, which is as irregular warfare consisting of a small group of combatants, usually armed civilians.
However, there was a militant group who aided the Imperial Japanese army called the Patriotic Association of Filipinos, or Makabayang Katipunan ng mga Pilipino. To the Kilusan ng Paglaban sa Pilipinas, they were better known as the Makapili. The Japanese lured poor and or landless farmers with promises of land reform after the war, thus attracting approximately 6,000 members.
The Filipino guerrillas were essential to overthrowing the Japanese occupation. Near the end of the war, only twelve of the forty-eight provinces were still controlled by Japan.
A significant G was Wenceslao Q. Vinzons. He successfully headed the guerrilla movement in Bicol against Japanese invasion of this area. He acquired explosives from the province’s gold minds and lead a raid against the Japanese. In the Bicol region, there are six provinces, one of which being Camarines Norte. Vinzons led his raid in Basud, a municipality of Camarines Norte, using the explosives against the Japanese. He and his forces pushed forward and won the liberation of the provincial capital, Daet. This made Vinzons a prime objective of capture. Unfortunately, Vinzons was betrayed by a former guerrilla. He refused to aid his captors, and he was bayoneted to death on July 15, 1942. His family soon followed his fate.
America rewarded Allies of varying ethnicities with payments and benefits for assistance during the war. Despite this grant to others and their immense support, Filipinos were not included in these rewards.
This is just one example of Allied military involvement outside of the American and British forces, and this is only a brief summarization of the events. Even with their aid to the Americans, this battle is not commonly taught in schools. It should not take in-depth research to learn of these events. It is imperative that our school systems seek to provide a full, honest account of history. Despite having made previously less than honorable decisions, it is important to detail all events in its entirety. In doing so, we may learn from our mistakes in the past to grow into more compassionate and understanding individuals. Once we acknowledge our history is intertwined, we may one day erase the concept of anyone being the “other” and accept each other as one in the same.
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Keana A. Labra - Milpitas, CA
Utilizing her background in English Literature, Keana would like to learn more about Filipino literature and history to bring an understanding and awareness to the culture. As a Filipino American, she is interested in further researching the impact of the feminist movement and how it affects Filipino tradition. She would also like to uplift the Filipino Americans who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. She hopes to encourage fellow Filipino Americans to participate and immerse themselves in the Filipino culture. Her hobbies include watching anime and reading manga..