Leyte: MacArthur's Return
By Mel Barger, LST-555
When Japanese forces were closing in on key defensive positions in the Philippines in March 1942, General Douglas MacArthur was ordered out by President Roosevelt. His great promise to the Philippines, “I shall return,” was fulfilled two and one/half years later when soldiers of the U.S. Sixth Army came ashore at Leyte.
MacArthur, with his wife and young son, had left Corregidor in a PT boat. PT boats were with General MacArthur when he returned, but also in the background as he waded ashore were the blunt bows of LSTs, ships that had not yet been built when he left the Philippines in early 1942. More than 26 LSTs were at Leyte on D-Day, 20 October 1944, and within a few days they were joined by nearly 100 others. It was now an accepted part of amphibious doctrine that the LSTs would carry in the heavy vehicles and equipment needed to mount a major landing. In the first day of operations at Leyte, more than 125,000 men were put ashore, along with 200,000 tons of equipment. While heavy transports accounted for much of this effort, the LSTs were very much in evidence. Beaching conditions were poor for LSTs at Leyte, but crews quickly adapted to the situation and managed to speed up the unloading with the objective of leaving the area as quickly as possible.
At Leyte, LSTs that remained in the area after 24 October actually were at great risk, although the full danger was not understood until much later. The LSTs and other transport ships of the landing operations survived largely because of superb actions by an outgunned portion of the U.S. fleet and a decision by Japanese Admiral Kurita to withdraw at the very hour he could have entered Leyte Bay and raised havoc with the transport ships anchored there. This threat happened because of Admiral William Halsey’s still-disputed decision to take the main fleet north to fight what proved to be a decoy group of carriers. For a short time, the amphibious forces at Leyte were in far greater danger than they knew.
LSTs at Leyte also found themselves under frequent attack by Japanese aircraft, and came to feel the first effects of the “kamikaze” strategy. Leyte was well within reach of land-based Japanese aircraft from other islands in the Philippines.
The following LSTs are credited with the action of Leyte: LST-18; LST-20; LST-22; LST-24; LST-26; LST-34; LST-66; LST-67; LST-68; LST-177; LST-118; LST-123; LST-125; LST-126; LST-168; LST-169; LST-170; LST-171; LST-181; LST-201; LST-202; LST-204; LST-205; LST-206; LST-207; LST-213; LST-219; LST-220; LST-223; LST-242; LST-245; LST-269; LST-270; LST-277; LST-341; LST-397; LST-451; LST-452; LST-454; LST-455; LST-456; LST-457; LST-458; LST-459; LST-460; LST-461; LST-462; LST-463; LST-464; LST-465; LST-466; LST-467; LST-468; LST-469; LST-470; LST-471; LST-473; LST-474; LST-475; LST-478; LST-482; LST-483; LST-486; LST-488; LST-549; LST-552; LST-552; LST-554; LST-555; LST-556; LST-557; LST-558; LST-559; LST-564; LST-565; LST-567; LST-568; LST-569; LST-573; LST-574; LST-577; LST-578; LST-579; LST-586; LST-605; LST-606; LST-608; LST-609; LST-610; LST-611; LST-612; LST-613; LST-614; LST-615; LST-616; LST-617; LST-618; LST-619; LST-623; LST-626; LST-658; LST-660; LST-663; LST-666; LST-667; LST-668; LST-669; LST-670; LST-671; LST-672; LST-673; LST-679; LST-686; LST-687; SLT-688; LST-693; LST-694; LST-695; LST-696; LST-697; LST-698; LST-699; LST-700; LST-703; LST-704; LST-705; LST-706; LST-707; LST-709; LST-714; LST-744; LST-745; LST-746; LST-748; LST-749; LST-750; LST-751; LST-775; LST-908; LST-911; LST-912; LST-913; LST-916; LST-917; LST-918; LST-919; LST-924; LST-990; LST-991; LST-993; LST-999; LST-1006; LST-1013; LST-1014; LST-1015; LST-1017; LST-1018; LST-1024; LST-1025; LST-1026; LST-1027.