True, there was talk
of a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the landing on Leyte in October
1995 but not much was being done to commemorate other significant events.
The 503d Parachute Regimental Combat
Team had participated in at least eight major campaigns in the Pacific, including three
Combat Parachute jumps. But it did not appear anyone was making plans to commemorate the
events wed been involved with.
Id had never
considered organizing a tour before and had no experiences along that line. Tours Id
seen which had been organized by professionals some times were not really doing what the
travelers would prefer. I felt I knew what our people should do and see in order to really
commemorate the historic events wed known 50 years ago.
As a starter, I drafted up preliminary itineraries
and plans for the commemoration of our three combat jumps. The Annual Reunion of the 503d
took place in Rapid City in July 1992. I took these plans to the Board of Directors for
their consideration and possible approval. Since it would not cost the Association any
money and the Board would not have to do any of the work, the ideas were enthusiastically
Our Commanding Officer, Retired Brigadier General
George M. Jones was present. His health had gone down hill, steadily, since that time and
he was unable to travel with us.
The General liked the proposals, particularly,
those dealing with a return to the Philippines. He was, especially, insistent that we
should be in contact with Fidel Ramos, the President of the Philippines with whom he had a
Fidel V. (Edie) Ramos
had just been installed as President the previous month. Earlier he had been a four star
General and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Philippine Armed Forces. I had
met General Ramos in 1987 while he held that post under the then President
Information about the proposed trips was included
in several of the quarterly newsletters sent out by the Association to the members. The
suggestion we travel back to Nadzab, our first combat jump, and Noemfoor, our second
combat jump, was abandoned, after virtually no one expressed any interest. In the case of
Nadzab it as probably just as well because Id been warned crime conditions in New
Guinea were very bad. It is just as well there was little interest in Noemfoor because
there did not appear to be any facilities for tourists on the Island.
The proposed return to the Philippines
which would include Manila, Corregidor, our third combat jump, and Negros
received considerable interest. Over the remaining two plus years, many
people expressed serious interest with as many as 55 people at one time,
definitely, planning on going. When the final count came and everyone had
come up with their money, 43 people made the trip. Another seven 503rd
people, fearing we would not have room in our group traveled with another
group and participated in some of the events with us.
1993 I made another return trip to the Philippines – my fifth. This time, I
took special notice of things which would need to be reflected in our
detailed planning. During all my previous trips I’d stayed with native
families on Corregidor. I’d been in the Hotel on Corregidor but this time I
looked it over with the thought we would be staying there.
Then I made
my first return trip to the Island of Negros where we had been fighting when
the War ended in August 1945. That side trip was to contact Alfredo
Montelibino, the Mayor of Bacolod, Negros. This is the largest city on the
Island and has a population of about four hundred thousand people. I also
wanted to see Raphael Coscolluela, the Governor of Negros Occidental. I got
along very well with the Mayor and the Governor. The latter named Tina
Lapres an assistant on his staff, to be my contact.
return to the States I chose a Philippine tour company. It was Rajah Tours
International. Fortunately, they have an office in San Francisco so
communications were much easier than dealing with Manila, their
headquarters. They took care of all transportation arrangements, luggage
handling and hotel accommodations for us.
Now I’d like
to tell you about some of the HIGH POINTS of the trip and how they came