After more than a week, many survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines are still struggling to get basics like food, water and shelter. And places like Samar, Leyte, and Tacloban are now getting mentioned in the news all over the world. Samar and Leyte seem to have been hit the worst from the typhoon.
I know these place names. Not because I have ever been there (I haven’t), but because of their famous place in history – specifically, in the fall of 1944, when the Allied invasion of the Japanese-occupied Philippines led to what was the largest naval battle in all of World War Two, and possibly the largest in recorded human history.
It’s kind of hard to imagine now, at least for most of us here in the United States. But that fall, a gigantic series of battles stretched across hundreds of miles of ocean for four days in October 1944, in addition to the tremendous land battles that were taking place after the amphibious landings. And of course, many Filipinos had been fighting the Japanese ever since they had taken over the Philippines in 1942.
But having had family there, serving as sailors in the U.S. Navy ships offshore, I guess I have taken a particular interest in what happened out on the ocean during that period. And it’s a pretty remarkable story, especially the unbelievable part in which a small group of relatively small American warships managed to sacrifice themselves to fight off a much, much larger force of Japanese warships and prevent them from attacking the invasion fleet and beaches.
But what sticks in my mind, in light of current events, is how so many of the people on these islands, as poor as they were, did everything they could to help Americans. Survivors from sunken American ships, airmen from downed American aircraft, escaped prisoners, even holdouts who escaped capture when the Japanese took over the islands, all got help from the Filipinos, even when the Filipinos had very little to give. So in honor of that kindness, I ask again that if there is anything at all that people are able to do, anything that they are able to give, please do. That link has several charities doing some good work there.