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Recognizing and Honoring Filipino World War II Veterans

Location: Washington, DC

RECOGNIZING AND HONORING FILIPINO WORLD WAR II VETERANS -- (House of Representatives - September 19, 2006)


Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise in support of House Resolution 622, which recognizes and honors Filipino World War II veterans for their important contributions to the victorious outcome of World War II.

This resolution notes that the prior history of the Philippines as a United States territory, then as a self-governing commonwealth, during which time the Filipino Armed Forces were called into service under the command of General Douglas MacArthur in July 1941. Those servicemen fought with gallantry and courage, and thousands gave their lives resisting Japanese aggression and occupation. House Resolution 622 honors those Filipino veterans for their valiant fight, for the liberation of their homeland, and for their defense of democratic ideals.

I commend the cochair of the Philippine Caucus, the gentleman from California (Mr. Issa), for introducing this long overdue resolution. It was moved forward with the strong support of the chairman of the House International Relations Committee, the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Hyde).

My colleagues may not be aware that Chairman Hyde was a combat veteran of the Philippine campaign in World War II, and he piloted a landing craft in the January 1945 landing that marked the beginning of the liberation of Luzon.

Madam Speaker, I submit for printing in the Congressional Record a copy of an article from the September 10, 2006, edition of Philippine Panorama, the leading weekly news magazine in the Philippines
[From the Philippine Panorama, Sept. 10, 2006]

Memories of Lingayen
(By Beth Day Romulo)

Henry Hyde, chairman of the US House International Relations Committee, led a group of four congressmen, including Melvin Watt of North Carolina, Dana Rohrabacher of California, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Eni Faleomavaega of Samoa, on a visit to the Philippines (August 11th to 15th) to assess security in this country, discuss trade relations and, in the case of the 82-year old chairman, he hoped to visit with fellow veterans of World War Two, and see Lingayen Gulf again.

As a college freshman at Georgetown University, Hyde enlisted in the Navy in 1942. Why the Navy? He had never been to sea but liked the idea of ``a nice clean ship'' in comparison to life in a trench. ``It didn't occur to me that ships sink,'' he recalled wryly in an interview at the Makati Shangri-la Hotel where the group were staying. After an officers training program at Duke University, he attended a 90-day midshipmen's school at Notre Dame and won his commission as an Ensign in October 19 44. Told that he would go to commanders school at Harvard, he bought new blue uniforms as befit the occasion which he never wore, since his orders were suddenly changed and he was sent to sea in the Pacific theater, as part of the operation to liberate the Philippines.

Having never been at sea before, he became deathly seasick on his first night out of San Francisco, recovered on the third day and was fortunately never seasick again despite the fact that the Liberty ship took 30 days to reach Hollandia, New Guinea, zigzagging to miss Japanese submarines.

Joining the flotilla of supply ships offshore of the Philippines in January 1945, young Ensign Hyde was assigned command of an amphibious Landing Craft Tank (LCT), a flat-bottomed vessel with a ramp that could tow supplies to shore and unload on beaches. He had 12 crew members, all considerably older than he, so ``I grew a full beard.'' The big ships couldn't come ashore, so it was the duty of the LCT to load from the big ships (``at night and we couldn't use lights'') everything from trucks (LCT could carry five at a time) weapons, ammunition, supplies, and occasionally personnel. By this time, General MacArthur had made his historic landing at Leyte and by March 1945, the Americans controlled Manila and Subic Bay and the Japanese army had withdrawn to the North.

After two or three days at sea, water washed over the craft and filled the pontoons. The radio man was frantically calling ``we are sinking'' to the towing vessel and signaling with the blinker. Hyde recalls with wry humor that he was running around with a mattress ``trying to hold back the South China Sea.'' Eventually, the tow ship got the message and cut loose the lines which dragged down the LCT, and they limped into Lingayen.

Sent on a special mission to Aparri on the northern tip of Luzon, they arrived at a beach which had no grading. ``It was like a wall.'' They couldn't move onto shore, so came in as close as they could. The deserted beach suddenly swarmed with people who came out from the trees and bushes and waded out to unload their cargo. They were guerillas in dire need of supplies.

While not engaging in combat, the LCT was often under fire from enemy aircraft who dropped bombs near them ``but we were too busy to notice.''

At another time, Hyde's LCT was given a special mission to salvage the supplies from a Liberty Ship which had foundered on rocks and was lying on its side. They were sent, he found later, because a typhoon was coming and military brass didn't want to lose all the cargo. A destroyer escort took the LCT out to the grounded ship, then disappeared. They tied up to the starboard, started loading and the typhoon hit before they were finished. ``This taught me what real terror means.'' The LCT was banging helplessly against the ship. The wind blew off the conning tower and Hyde was convinced he would lose both his craft and his men. They donned their lifejackets, fully expecting to be washed overboard. ``I'll never forget it,'' Hyde recalled. ``The sky was green. The sea was green. And our complexions were green.''

Eventually, they were able to cut the lines free from the ship, and Ensign Hyde guided his craft through the swelling seas. in the direction he thought he would lead to Subic Bay. He was in luck. After all-night winds and heavy swells, dawn came. The storm was gone. And they could see Subic Bay. They unloaded their cargo. The LCT was repaired, and they headed back to the grounded ship for a second load. Getting out all the supplies and transporting them to. Subic Bay took a week in all.

Lighter moments came when the administrative ship in the flotilla distributed mail from home, and when they had shore leave. After Manila was liberated, there was ``a great officers club'' where we sat around, sipped beer, and told football stories. Sometimes, they played basketball with college students.

Hyde remembers spending his 21st birthday walking alone on the beach at Lingayen, wondering if he would ever see home again. Other young officers, with wives and children awaiting them, were allowed to' leave first. He was finally sent home in August 1946. When the ship was nearing San Francisco, he rose at 3 a.m. and went out on deck to wait for the sight of the lights on the bridge of San Francisco loom through the mist. ``It was the happiest moment of my life.''

When he had first sailed on the Liberty ship for the Philippines, a submarine was just coming in from the South China Sea, and the men coming and going waved at one another. He wondered then what they had experienced. Now, he knew.

Congressman Hyde was able to greet a large number of Philippine veterans at a wreath-laying ceremony at the American Cemetery in Ft. Bonifacio, some of whom had called upon him in his home constancy. He was also awarded the Philippine Liberation Medal by AFP Major General Horacio Tolentino in a ceremony on August 12th in recognition of his service during the Liberation of the Philippines.

Discovering the difficulties of getting to Lingayen by land, he flew over it instead, which inspired these memories.

The article profiles Chairman Hyde's service in the Philippines and describes, among many others things, his interaction with Filipino servicemen who were waging a guerilla campaign against the Imperial Japanese Army at that time.

I am grateful to have this opportunity today to express our appreciation to those veterans, both Filipino and Americans, who are with us. This resolution is a fitting tribute to their heroism and sacrifice and deserves our unanimous support.

Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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