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WW2 Battle of Surigao Strait remembered

November 01, 2019 - Friday 6:11 PM by PNA

Article Banner Image WREATH FOR THE HEROES. World War 11 veterans during the wreath laying on day 2 of the celebration

SURIGAO CITY – The commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the historic Battle of Surigao Strait took place early morning on October 25 at the Memorial Site in Punta Bilar here.

An ecumenical prayer opened the commemoration rite that was followed by the raising of the flags of the Philippines, Japan, Australia, and the US; laying of wreaths at the memorial site; and the lighting of the memorial flame.

A 21-gun salute by the 30th IB of the Philippine Army and playing of the Taps by the Bureau of Fire Protection Band were also offered to all those who perished during the battle.

The commemoration carried the theme “Immortalizing Heroism”.

REVISITING THE PAST. Retired Royal Admiral Guy Richmond Griffiths (right), 97, and David Henry Mattiskie, 96, (center) join the three-day commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the historic Battle of Surigao Strait, from October 23 to 25, 2019 in Surigao City. Photo Surigao City Tourism Facebook page

Surigao City Mayor Ernesto Matugas Jr., led the commemoration rites together with Surigao del Norte Vice Governor Eddie Gokiangkee, Jr. who represented Governor Francisco Matugas, and Dinagat Islands Governor Arlene "Kaka" J. Bag-ao.

Foreign dignitaries were also present during the event, including Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Steven Robinson; Commander Michinori Fukuda, the Assistant Defense Attache’ of the Embassy of Japan to the Philippines; Colonel Brian J. Clark, a commander of the US Navy and the Naval Attaché of the US Embassy; and Vice Admiral Stuart Mayer of the Royal Australian Navy and the Deputy Commander of the UN Command in the Republic of Korea.

REMEMBERING BATTLE OF SURIGAO STRAIT. Flags of the Philippines, US, Japan, and Australia are raised during the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Surigao Strait. The commemoration rite was participated by the top officials of Surigao City, Surigao del Norte, Dinagat Islands, the veterans of World War II, and dignitaries from different countries. 

World War II Filipino veterans, who formed the main local resistance force against the Japanese forces in Surigao City, were also present during the rites, together with Retired Royal Admiral Guy Richmond Griffiths and David Henry Mattiskie.

Griffiths, now 97; and Mattiskie, 96, were on board the HMAS Shropshire, an Australian gun cruiser that fought alongside the US Navy during the Battle of Surigao Strait.

FLORAL OFFERING AT SEA. World War 11 veterans and foreign guests throw flowers during the floral offering portion of the celebration at the sea at the Memorial Site in Punta Bilar in Surigao City where the battle took place. 

Historical accounts described the Battle of Surigao Strait, which took place at the dawn of October 25, 1944, as the “last big gun battle” and the “greatest triumph of the US Navy” during World War II in the area.

Forces involved during the Battle of Surigao Strait include the US Seventh Fleet under the command of Admiral Thomas Kinlaid.

US warships were supported by the Australian gun cruiser HMAS Shropshire and the destroyer HMAS Arunta.

During the battle, the allied forces faced the Southern Force of the Japanese Navy led Vice-Admiral Shoji Nishimura with the support of Japan’s Fifth Navy Fleet under the command of Vice-Admiral Kiyobe Shima.

Six Japanese warships were destroyed during the battle, including Fuso, Yamagumo, Asagumo, Yamashiro, Michishio, and Mogami.

Vice-Admiral Nishimura also died during the battle when his battleship Yamashiro sank, a historical account for the event stated.

Vice-Admiral Shima and his fleet retreated after seeing defeat, the account added.

OFF TO MEMORIAL SITE. Surigao officials, guests, and war veterans heading to the  Memorial Site in Punta Bilar for the floral offering 

About 4,000 Japanese and 39 American sailors perished during the battle.

The triumph of the allied naval forces of the US and Australia in the Battle of Surigao Strait saved the liberation forces of Gen. Douglas MacArthur that landed in Leyte Gulf on October 20, 1944, the historical account said.

“We are gathered here to honor those who have dedicated and sacrificed their lives for the attainment of peace,” Mayor Matugas said in his message during the commemoration rite.

The memorial site in Punta Bilar, he added, will immortalize the heroes of the Battle of Surigao Strait and will be remembered by the next generation.

“Let us continue to live in peace and avoid conflict in whatever form, manner or guise. Let us respect each country’s beliefs, embrace our cultural differences, and rejoice in our diversity," Matugas said.

In his message, ColonelClark considered the Battle of Surigao Strait as the greatest naval battle of World War II.

Clark said the Battle of Surigao Strait and the landing of Gen. MacArthur in Leyte marked the fulfillment of a solemn promise that America would stand strongly with the Philippines.

“Standing here with my Filipino, Australian and Japanese friends, I’m reminded that today gives us a chance to renew and strengthen the bonds that tie us together as friends, partners, and allies,” he added.

A floral offering at sea was placed near the area where the Battle of Surigao Strait took place. By Alexander Lopez/ PNA, Photos Surigao City Tourism Facebook