Australians, Filipino veterans meet after 64 years

March 6, 2009 at 9:33 am Leave a comment

By Yolanda Z. Sotelo

LINGAYEN– Sixty four years after the Battle of Lingayen Gulf during the World War II, some Australian and Filipino veterans of the war met for the first time at the back of the Capitol, right in front of beach where the Allied Forces landed on January 9, 1945.

The contribution of the Australians soldiers who fought side by side with Filipinos and Americans against the Japanese Imperial Army was recognized with the unveiling of the Australian Commemorative Plaque at the Veterans War Memorial on Friday by the Australian Embassy and the provincial government of Pangasinan. (see related story)

Australian veterans of the historic Gulf Landing headed by Les Kennedy, president of Australian Naval Commemoration Committee of Victoria, Australia, came for the commemorative program and laying of wreath at the back of the Capitol, and in Dagupan City beach.

The participation of the Australians in the war against the Japanese was a surprise even to the Filipino veterans who were present during the commemorative program.

The Filipinos and Australians shook hands and everyone said, “I’m glad to meet you.”

“I did not know that there were Australians in the Allied Forces. They all looked the same. It is only now we knew there were Australians,” war veteran Alberto Marquez, 84, of Alcala town, said. He was the vice district commander of the fifth district in Pangasinan during the war.

Another veteran, Onofre Pablizo, 88, “heard” about the presence of Australians during the Lingayen Gulf Landings “but we never met them.”

“It’s only now that we met them. I’m very glad to see them personally,” Pablizo said.

Australian veteran Ken Baldwin, 95, said everytime he gets a chance, he tells of the “courage of the Filipinos soldiers who (restrained) the Japanese Army long enough to enable the Unites States Army to go to Australia before the Japanese and spared us the (cruely) of their (Japanese) occupancy.”

“I think it’s my responsibility to tell that to everyone which was not even mentioned during the program here. We Australians are very grateful to the Filipinos for what they did,” he said.

Asked why it was only now that the contribution of Australia during the war was recognized, Baldwin said, “The US is a very powerful country and has pretty much the monopoly of publicity,” he said.

He added that there were about 7,000 Australian Navy that fought in the Philippines with the Allied Forces headed by the United States . At least 17 Australian warships were listed in the commemorative plaque that was unveiled.

“We were about 600 in the ship where I was, Baldwin said.

Veteran George Rappall said the ship he was in was “hit five times” by the Japanese Army. “We got hurt the most. They did not like us,” he said, recalling however that “we had lovely time” in the Philippines.

Lt. Col. Gary Barnes, assistant defense attaché of the Australian Embassy, congratulated the Australian veterans who came for the commemoration program, saying he thought he already knew everything about the Australian’s contribution in the war “but now I learned about the significant role of our Navy” in the Lingayen Gulf Landing.

Gov. Amado Espino Jr. requested the Australians to give the provincial government photos of the warships that saw action in the Lingayen Gulf. “We will make mini versions for the display at the War Memorial.”

He said the War Memorial was established by the late Governor Aguedo Agbayani in 1995 when the 50th anniversary of the Lingayen Gulf Landing was celebrated.

Entry filed under: News. Tags: , , , , .

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