The Leyte Landings in 1944 was the largest battle in the history of naval warfare. That operation launched the Philippines Campaign of 1944 to 1945 for the liberation of the country. Over 350,000 allied troops with 4,000 Filipino guerrillas on the ground, supported by 300 ships and 1,500 planes descended on Leyte Gulf. It was one of the decisive battles of World War II.
Few people would be aware of the extent of Australia’s contribution to the campaign to liberate the Philippines: from the escaped Australian prisoners of war who fought alongside Filipino guerrillas in Mindanao; to the strategic support of the Australian Government; to General Douglas MacArthur who planned the campaign from Brisbane; and to the Australian sailors who endured the terrifying ordeal of kamikaze attacks on Australian ships in the Leyte and Lingayen Gulfs. In total, 4,000 Australian service personnel took part in the campaign and 92 sacrificed their lives.
The campaign not only turned the war in the Pacific but forged a legacy of cooperation between Australia and the Philippines. The quintessential Australian value of Mateship and the Filipino spirit of Bayanihan form the bedrock of our defence ties.
Over the decades, those ties have deepened. The depth of our defence cooperation was formalised through the historical signing of the reciprocal Status of Visiting Forces Agreement.
Training and educational exchanges are expansive. Many of the senior leadership in the Armed Forces of the Philippines trained in Australia, and thousands of Filipino servicemen and women have trained alongside their Australian counterparts.
The legacy of Mateship and Bayanihan continues, and today Australian and Filipino troops train together in urban warfare through joint naval exercises to once again stand shoulder-to-shoulder to face common threats in our region.