Elmore and the 24th Infantry Division at Leyte Gulf

Elements of the 24th Division were transported aboard USS Elmore as part of the invasion of Leyte in October, 1944.


In the first days of October 1944, USS Elmore was anchored at Humboldt Bay off the Northern Coast of New Guinea, in preparation for the upcoming invasion of the Philippines. As this was an Army operation under General Douglas MacArthur, the ship would be transporting army troops to the beaches of Leyte Gulf. From 8 October to 11 October, Elmore loaded combat troops of the First Army Corps, 3rd Battalion, 24th Division. For the next week, the troops practiced amphibious landing operations at nearby Sko Beach, preparing for the upcoming invasion.


The famous image of General Douglas MacArthur making his return to the Philippines.

The Army's 24th Infantry Division at Leyte

The Army’s 24th Infantry Division was among the first US Army divisions to see combat in World War II and among the last to stop fighting. The division was headquartered at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, when the Japanese launched their attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. The 24th suffered casualties during the attack. In May 1943, the 24th Infantry Division staged to New Guinea. Despite resistance from the isolated Japanese forces in the area, the 24th Infantry Division advanced rapidly through the region. In two months, the 24th Division crossed the entirety of New Guinea. After occupation duty in the Hollandia area, the 24th Division was assigned to X Corps of the Sixth Army in preparation for the invasion of the Philippines.

Upon landing on “Red Beach,” the 24th Division’s immediate objective was to seize the town of Palo and advance rapidly to the northwest. The seizure of these areas would secure the important coastal airstrips for future air operations, cut off any Japanese attempts at reinforcement from the southern Philippines, secure the important eastern entrances into the interior, and enable the American forces to control San Pedro Bay and San Juanico Strait.

On 20 October, Elmore arrived in the Transport Area of Leyte Gulf in San Pedro Gulf and began unloading troops and cargo as part of the invasion. During the day, the ship had five seamen injured and one killed from mortar fire on the beach. Enemy aircraft triggered an Air Flash “Red” alert resulting in the ship going to General Quarters. This was the beginning of Japan’s desperate kamikaze scourge.


Landing barges loaded with troops sweep toward the beaches of Leyte Island as American and Jap planes duel to the death overhead. Troops watch the drama being written in the skies as they approach the hellfire on the shore on 20 October, 1944.

A number of the landing craft carrying the 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry, were hit and four of them sunk. There were numerous casualties: the commanding officer of Company C was killed; a squad of the Ammunition and Pioneer Platoon was almost wiped out; and the Cannon Company suffered the loss of two section leaders, a platoon leader, and part of its headquarters personnel.

The Japanese had constructed defensive positions in anticipation of an American assault. Several large, well-camouflaged pillboxes, connected by tunnels and constructed of palm logs and earth, were scattered throughout the area. The most prominent terrain feature was Hill 522 just north of Palo. This hill commanded the beach area, the town of Palo, and Highway 2, leading into the interior. It was partly wooded, and the Japanese had interlaced it with tunnels, trenches, and pillboxes.

By the end of the day, the 24th Division had established a firm beachhead near Palo, averaging a mile in depth, and had secured Hill 522 which overlooked Palo. During the action to secure Hill 522, fourteen men of the 1st Battalion were killed and ninety-five wounded. General Frederick A. Irving, in command of the 24th Division, came ashore at 1420. He later said that if Hill 522 had not been secured when it was, the Americans might have suffered a thousand casualties in the assault.


American troops advance towards San Jose on Leyte Island, Philippine Islands. 20 October 1944.

The 24th Division had secured Palo and the hill fortresses that blocked the entrance into northern Leyte Valley. The corps was now in a position to launch a drive into the interior of the valley. In the advance through northern Leyte Valley the 24th Division lost 210 killed, 859 wounded, and 6 missing in action, but it had killed an estimated 2,970 Japanese and taken 13 prisoners.

The island of Leyte was the first objective of the Philippine campaign and was captured by the end of December 1944. This was followed by the attack on Mindoro, and later, Luzon. Battles continued throughout the island of Luzon in the following weeks, with more U.S. troops having landed on the island. Filipino and American resistance fighters also attacked Japanese positions and secured several locations.

The Allies had taken control of all strategically and economically important locations of Luzon by early March,1945. Small groups of the remaining Japanese forces retreated to the mountainous areas in the north and southeast of the island, where they were besieged for months. Pockets of Japanese soldiers held out in the mountains—most ceasing resistance with the unconditional surrender of Japan, but a scattered few holding out for many years afterwards.

The MacArthur Landing Memorial National Park in Red Beach, Palo, marks the 1944 landing by the American liberation forces. It also has a lagoon where a life-size statue of General MacArthur stands. As a side note, MacArthur's true landing took place at Dulag, Leyte, a few miles to the south.

Invasion of Leyte Map

Source: Wikipedia

General Fred Irving, US Army

Major General Frederick Augustus Irving (September 3, 1894 – September 12, 1995) was a United States Army officer who served in both World War I and World War II and was superintendent of the United States Military Academy from 1951–1954.

Irving was a West Point graduate of the class of April 1917, and during the First World War he took part in the St. Mihiel offensive in France. He was wounded during battle and subsequently received the Silver Star for "leading his company through heavy artillery and machine gun fire."

Irving was also active during World War II, leading the 24th Infantry Division during the invasions of Hollandia, New Guinea and Leyte in the Philippines. He was commandant of cadets at West Point from 1941-1942.

Irving's service in the American military extended thirty-seven years, and he retired from service in 1954. He died in 1995 of congestive heart failure at Mount Vernon Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia. He was 101.


Maj. Gen. Franklin C. Sibert (left), X Corps commander, confers with Maj. Gen. Frederick A. Irving, commander of the 24th Division, at a forward command post, in the invasion of Leyte, Philippines.

"I Have Returned" Speech

In a speech, delivered via radio message from a portable radio set at Leyte, on October 20, 1944 General MacArthur sent this message:

This is the Voice of Freedom,
General MacArthur speaking.

People of the Philippines: I have returned.

By the grace of Almighty God our forces stand again on Philippine soil – soil consecrated in the blood of our two peoples. We have come, dedicated and committed to the task of destroying every vestige of enemy control over your daily lives, and of restoring, upon a foundation of indestructible strength, the liberties of your people.

At my side is your President, Sergio Osmena, worthy successor of that great patriot, Manuel Quezon, with members of his cabinet. The seat of your government is now, therefore, firmly re-established on Philippine soil.

The hour of your redemption is here. Your patriots have demonstrated an unswerving and resolute devotion to the principles of freedom that challenges the best that is written on the pages of human history.

I now call upon your supreme effort that the enemy may know from the temper of an aroused and outraged people within that he has a force there to contend with no less violent than is the force committed from without.

Rally to me. Let the indomitable spirit of Bataan and Corregidor lead on. As the lines of battle roll forward to bring you within the zone of operations, rise and strike!

For future generations of your sons and daughters, strike! In the name of your sacred dead, strike!

Let no heart be faint. Let every arm be steeled. The guidance of Divine God points the way. Follow in His name to the Holy Grail of righteous victory!

End of the 24th Division

The 24th Infantry Division was an infantry division of the United States Army. It was inactivated in October 1996, it was based at Fort Stewart, Georgia and later reactivated at Fort Riley, Kansas. Formed during World War II from the disbanding Hawaiian Division, the division saw action throughout the Pacific theater, first fighting in New Guinea before landing on the Philippine islands of Leyte and Luzon, driving Japanese forces from them.

Following the end of the war, the division participated in occupation duties in Japan, and was the first division to respond at the outbreak of the Korean War. For the first 18 months of the war, the division was heavily engaged on the front lines with North Korean and Chinese forces, suffering over 10,000 casualties. It was withdrawn from the front lines to the reserve force for the remainder of the war after the second battle for Wonju, but returned to Korea for patrol duty at the end of major combat operations.

After its deployment in the Korean War, the division was active in Europe and the United States during the Cold War, but saw relatively little combat until the Persian Gulf War, when it faced the Iraqi military. A few years after that conflict, it was inactivated as part of the post-Cold War U.S. military drawdown of the 1990's. The division was reactivated in October 1999 as a formation for training and deploying U.S. Army National Guard units before its deactivation in October 2006.

By Joseph Connor
World War II Magazine
December 14, 2016


Douglas MacArthur’s anger at being forced to wade ashore at Leyte in October 1944 (above) faded when he saw the powerful photo that resulted.

For more than 70 years, questions have swirled around the famous photos of General Douglas MacArthur’s beach landings—first on Leyte, then on Luzon—as American troops returned to liberate the Philippines. Stories persist that MacArthur, no stranger to controversy or drama, staged the photos by coming ashore several times until the cameraman got the perfect shot, or that the photos were posed days after the actual landings. Those who were present say neither of these oft-repeated stories is true. But what really happened is even stranger than these misguided rumors.

MacArthur’s return was the high point of his war. In July 1941 he had been named commander of U.S. Army Forces in the Far East, including all American and Filipino troops in the Philippines. In March 1942, with Japanese forces tightening their grip around the Philippines, MacArthur was ordered out of the islands for Australia. After reaching his destination, he vowed to liberate the Philippines, famously proclaiming, “I shall return.”

By April 1942, Japanese units advancing across the Philippines forced beleaguered Allied troops there to surrender. From then on, the Philippines “constituted the main object of my planning,” MacArthur said. By late 1944 he was poised to fulfill his promise—until an interservice battle threatened to derail his plans.

The U.S. Navy wanted American forces to bypass the Philippines and invade Formosa (now Taiwan) instead. MacArthur objected strenuously, both on strategic grounds and upon his belief that the United States had a moral duty to the people of the Philippines. The dispute went all the way up to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who ultimately sided with MacArthur.

Finally, on October 20, 1944, MacArthur made his long-anticipated return. At 10 a.m., his troops stormed ashore on Leyte, an island in the central Philippines. The heaviest fighting took place on Red Beach, but by early afternoon, MacArthur’s men had secured the area. Secured, however, did not mean safe. Japanese snipers remained active while small-arms and mortar fire continued throughout the day. Hundreds of small landing craft clogged the beaches, but the water was too shallow for larger landing craft to reach dry land.

Aboard the USS
Nashville two miles offshore, a restless MacArthur could not wait to put his feet back on Philippine soil. At 1 p.m., he and his staff left the cruiser to take the two-mile landing craft ride to Red Beach. MacArthur intended to step out onto dry land, but soon realized their vessel was too large to advance through the shallow depths near the coastline. An aide radioed the navy beachmaster and asked that a smaller craft be sent to bring them in. The beachmaster, whose word was law on the invasion beach, was too busy with the chaos of the overall invasion to be bothered with a general, no matter how many stars he wore. “Walk in—the water’s fine,” he growled.

The bow of the landing craft dropped and MacArthur and his entourage waded 50 yards through knee-deep water to reach land.

Major Gaetano Faillace, an army photographer assigned to MacArthur, took photos of the general wading ashore. The result was an image of a scowling MacArthur, jaw set firmly, with a steel-eyed look as he approached the beach. But what may have appeared as determination was, in reality, anger. MacArthur was fuming. As he sloshed through the water, he stared daggers at the impudent beachmaster, who had treated the general as he probably had not been treated since his days as a plebe at West Point. However, when MacArthur saw the photo, his anger quickly dissipated. A master at public relations, he knew a good photo when he saw one.

Still, rumors persisted that MacArthur had staged the Leyte photo. CBS radio correspondent William J. Dunn, who was on Red Beach that day, hotly disputed these rumors, calling them “one of the most ludicrous misconceptions to come out of the war.” The photo was “a one-time shot” taken within hours of the initial landing, Dunn said, not something repeated sometime later for the perfect picture. MacArthur biographer D. Clayton James agreed, noting that MacArthur’s “plans for the drama at Red Beach certainly did not include stepping off in knee-deep water.”

The next landing, however, was a different story.


Hoping to replicate the effective walk ashore at Leyte, MacArthur arranged for his landing craft to stop offshore at Luzon, which photographer Carl Mydans captured in this famous image.

On January 9, 1945, American troops arrived at Luzon, the main island in the Philippines, catching the Japanese by surprise. Opposition was light. MacArthur watched the landings from the cruiser USS Boise and at 2 p.m.—about four hours after the initial landings—he headed for shore.

Navy Seabees had quickly built a small pier with pontoons so that MacArthur and his staff could exit their vessel without getting wet. On seeing this, MacArthur ordered his boat to swerve away from the pier so that he could wade ashore through knee-deep water as he had done at Leyte. He knew that Life magazine photographer Carl Mydans was on the beach. As he strode toward shore, MacArthur struck the same pose and steadfast facial expression as at Leyte. Mydans snapped the famous photo that soon appeared on the front pages of newspapers across the United States and became what Time magazine called “an icon of its era.” No one, Mydans said later, appreciated the value of a picture more than MacArthur.

There is little doubt that MacArthur chose to avoid the pier—and dry feet—for dramatic effect. “Having spent a lot of time with MacArthur,” Mydans said, “it flashed on me what was happening. He was avoiding the pontoons.” Biographer D. Clayton James wrote that the Luzon landing “seems to have been a deliberate act of showmanship. With the worldwide attention that his Leyte walk through the water received, apparently the Barrymore side of MacArthur’s personality could not resist another big splash of publicity and surf.”

MacArthur, on the other hand, blamed fate. “As was getting to be a habit with me,” he wrote, perhaps with tongue in cheek, “I picked a boat that took too much draft to reach the beach, and I had to wade in.”


Editors from Life used Maydan’s other photos to present different view of the famous, widely published Luzon photo, perhaps as a ploy to make readers believe they were seeing something different after being scooped.

Other circumstances conspired to make it appear that MacArthur had waded in at Luzon more than once. Although Mydans worked for Life, on that day he was the pool photographer, which gave any news organization free license to use the image. On January 20, 1945, a tightly cropped version of the photo, making MacArthur the focal point, appeared in newspapers throughout the United States. When Life ran the photo a month later, editors used the uncropped version, which included other vessels and figures on the periphery and even another photographer in the foreground. Only a sharp-eyed viewer would realize that it was the photo they had already seen in newspapers weeks earlier, giving rise to the impression of repeat photo sessions. Life had also surrounded the iconic photo with other images Mydans had snapped moments before and after that one, including an unflattering shot of MacArthur being helped down the ramp of the landing craft. All of this may have been a ploy by the magazine—having been scooped by its own photographer—to make readers think they were seeing something new and different.

In the end, controversies about MacArthur’s landings will likely continue. “These are stories that once created will keep being told,” Mydans said, “and each new generation will find…some reason for telling it. Usually it’s with delight.”

Source: - This story was originally published in the January/February 2017 issue of World War II magazine

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