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Return to the Philippines

Famed aviator Charles A. Lindbergh with Maj. Thomas B. McGuire (left). During the summer of 1944, Lindbergh visited the Southwest Pacific Theatre and devised economical flight techniques to extend the range of P-38 fighters. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Famed aviator Charles A. Lindbergh with Maj. Thomas B. McGuire (left). During the summer of 1944, Lindbergh visited the Southwest Pacific Theatre and devised economical flight techniques to extend the range of P-38 fighters. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A kamikaze plane crashes just astern of a light carrier beneath a sky filled with antiaircraft bursts. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A kamikaze plane crashes just astern of a light carrier beneath a sky filled with antiaircraft bursts. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A Japanese pilot (center) parachutes to safety after his plane is blown apart by antiaircraft fire from a U.S. aircraft carrier. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A Japanese pilot (center) parachutes to safety after his plane is blown apart by antiaircraft fire from a U.S. aircraft carrier. (U.S. Air Force photo)

As a prelude to the long-anticipated campaign to retake the Philippines, AAF air power carried out maximum-range air strikes against petroleum facilities in the Netherlands East Indies. The Allies invaded the Palau Islands and Morotai to gain airfield facilities, and targets in the Philippines were struck beginning in August 1944, seriously reducing enemy air strength in the area. Supported by carrier-based planes of the 3rd Fleet, U.S. forces landed on Leyte on Oct. 20, 1944. Seven days later, 34 P-38s landed at a just-completed airstrip, thus becoming the first AAF planes to be based in the Philippines since early 1942.

The Japanese reacted swiftly, but in a series of decisive naval engagements in the Leyte Gulf, U.S. naval forces turned back enemy attempts to halt the invasion. It was during the Battle of Leyte Gulf that the enemy unleashed a new air weapon -- the Kamikaze or suicide plane. In the skies over Leyte, the enemy fought tenaciously but dissipated his strength in frequent small attacks. By Dec. 31, 1944, AAF and Marine pilots had destroyed at least 356 Japanese planes at a loss of only 23 U.S. fighters.

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