Australian Embassy
The Philippines

MR141020: Solidarity Greeting at the 70th Leyte Gulf Landings Anniversary

Solidarity Greeting at the 70th Leyte Gulf Landings Anniversary
By Ambassador Bill Tweddell
Palo, Leyte
20 October 2014

• Your Excellency Benigno S Aquino III, President of the Republic of the Philippines
• Veterans, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen


It is my honour and privilege to be here this morning to represent the people of Australia and, in particular, the men, women and veterans of the Australian Defence Force. We gather on this solemn occasion to offer our deep respect, and to acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of those who fought so bravely in these seas, in the skies above, and on this land, to contribute to the immense task of liberating the islands of the Philippines 70 years ago.

As history has recorded, in February 1942, General Douglas MacArthur made his way from the Philippines to Australia; and on 20th March, travelling south from Alice Springs with his wife and young son, he stepped from a train onto the platform in Terowie, a small town in South Australia’s mid-north, to salute a gathered crowd and make an unexpected, yet most famous, pronouncement.

His words were:
“The President of the United States ordered me to break through the Japanese lines and proceed from Corregidor to Australia for the purpose, as I understand it, of organising the American offensive against Japan, a primary objective of which is the relief of the Philippines.”

He then followed with the one line that defined his war efforts in the Philippines and Australia. “I came through and I shall return.”

These famous words were to be repeated a number of times before he formally assumed command of the Australian Armed Forces on 18 April 1942 – a Force that included 100,000 members of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force, 265,000 Australian Militia, and 38,000 Americans. It was to be two-and-a-half years of heavy fighting across the Pacific by American, Australian and other Allied Forces before General MacArthur was able to make good on his promise to return to the Philippines.

Last evening, I had the great privilege to host the dedication of a memorial to recognise the contribution made by Australian Defence Force personnel in the liberation of the Philippines. Over 4,000 Australian servicemen fought, 92 were killed and many hundredsmore wounded. Their contribution was a small yet significant part in the Allied victory, here and throughout the Pacific.

Today we honour those veterans who fought in the Leyte campaign. Some of those veterans are here with us today, along with the friends and relatives of the brave Filipino people who fought beside and supported the Allied forces during the campaign. We are humbly grateful for your service to the cause of reclaiming the peace.

On occasions such as this, we are reminded of the courage, resilience and sacrifice of our fellow countrymen and women in the face of severe adversity. Their selflessness and valour serve as a timeless example to us all of just how much can be achieved through solid alliances and shared values.

These common values were put to the test nearly12 months ago at this very location when Typhoon Yolanda made landfall, destroying the lives of so many Filipinos. I am proud to say that Australia was quick to respond with emergency assistance, including medical support and Defence personnel on the ground. Over 500 sailors, soldiers, air men and women answered the call, along with HMAS TOBRUK and our C17 and C130 transport aircraft and our civilian emergency responders. They, like their forefathers, were justifiably proud to work alongside their Filipino friends.

To the local government of Leyte and the Mayors and people of Tacloban and Palo, thank you for your generous hospitality, and for the continued remembrance you give annually, through this fine service, to your nation’s heroes and veterans, and to those who fought alongside you to liberate the Philippines.