WW2 veteran who landed with MacArthur in Leyte gets Philippine liberation, defense medals

Randy Menor, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 21 2017 05:40 PM | Updated as of Jul 22 2017 11:21 PM

US Navy Lt. Commander Daniel Chandler (center) is assisted by his wife, Wilma de Lara-Chandler, in receiving a plaque of recognition from Retired General Restituto Aguilar of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office. Randy Menor, ABS CBN News

SOLSONA, Ilocos Norte- For many Filipinos, among the enduring memories of World War 2 is how American General Douglas MacArthur made good on his promise to return to the Philippines and defend it against Japanese invaders, landing on the shores of Leyte in 1944. 

One of the US soldiers who was with him when he fulfilled his “I shall return” promise to Filipinos was US Navy Lt. Commander Daniel Chandler.

Chandler was deployed during the Asia-Pacific campaign, notably during MacArthur's 1944 Leyte landing and the Lingayen Gulf landing in 1945, which led to the Philippines' liberation from the Japanese.

He survived the Lingayen Gulf Landing after a Kamikaze plane hit his unit's ship.

After his assignment in the Philippines, he served one year in the Korean War as a pioneer member of the elite UDT, which later became the Navy SEALS. His participation in the Korean War indirectly supported the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK).

Now 98, Chandler resides in Solsona, Ilocos Norte and is married to Wilma de Lara-Chandler, an Ilocana.

“I love the Filipino people, helpful. They (Filipinos) are very good to me," said Chandler when asked why he chose to live in the Philippines.

Among the dwindling number of living World War II veterans who fought for the Philippines, Chandler received recognition from the Philippine Veterans Welfare Office more than 70 years since the war.

Retired General Restituto Aguilar, chief of the Veterans Memorial and Historical Division of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), personally visited Chandler in his house in Solsona and bestowed on him the Philippine Liberation Medal and the Philippine Defense Medal.

“It is important that we recognize him (Chandler) [for] the services he gave to the Filipino people,” Aguilar said.

Chandler thanked the Philippine government for the recognition and urged Filipino soldiers to continue serving the country, sending them a message as the nation faced the terror threat.

“Be very careful. This is a dangerous world... the terrorists trying to put us under. Be sure that the people are safe in this dangerous time,” he said.

Chandler's brother-in-law, Solsona Vice Mayor Joseph de Lara, said the war veteran continues to be an inspiration to the Ilocano people.