CARSON, CA — 75 years ago on October 20th was the historic landing of General Douglas MacArthur in Leyte, Philippines.
It was the start of the campaign to free the Philippines from Japanese occupation, leading to the largest naval battle of World War II, and Japan’s eventual defeat and surrender.
The community of Carson, California remembered that fateful day in Philippine history with an annual walk, a parade, and a day of festivities.
Among the special guests were American servicemen that were there during the Leyte Landing.
At 98 years old, WWII veteran Corporal Paul Cohen remembers that day and his mission clearly.
“Frightened, but not scared… to reconnoiter the beachhead for my troops to hit for safety. That was my job, forward observer.”
Cohen had actually arrived two hours before General Douglas Macarthur fulfilled his promise to return to the Philippines.
“We got there 9AM, and General Macarthur came ashore about 11, a couple hours later I have the recognition of being the first GI that General MacArthur spoke to. I was digging my foxhole. I jumped up to make sure that it was long enough and behold when I got up, there was General MacArthur, standing there with his entourage and I didn’t know what to say. In combat, you don’t salute officers. I didn’t know what to say. He tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘That’s alright soldier, carry on’ and kept on walking.”
Cohen carried on for about ten more months, until the Philippines was recaptured and liberated from Japanese troops.
It was a moment Cohen never forgot — and the Filipino community in Carson also hopes to continue remembering the Leyte Landing and the heroic efforts of soldiers like Cohen.
“We thank those who have shown us the way that no matter what, these are the most valuable things we have in life,” said Dr. Jenny Batongmalque.