The 96th Infantry Division “Deadeyes” of World War II were honored and came together for their 60th annual reunion at Fort Snelling on Friday, July 28.
The event was in commemoration of the 73rd anniversary of the Battle of Leyte, Philippines, 1944 and 72nd anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa 1945. The ceremony included a traditional showing of colors and a wreath-laying ceremony.
Daisy Wallenmeyer was a featured speaker alongside Sen. Amy Klobuchar and others. She currently resides in Ham Lake after migrating from the Philippines to Minnesota in 1985. Wallenmeyer’s speech began with her explaining how American culture and ideologies were embedded in the Filipino lifestyle she grew up in due to influences following World War II.
“Most of the people of the Philippines have a high regard for America. The primary reason for that was the fact we owed our lives and our country to the veterans who saved us from an invasion by Japan,” Wallenmeyer said.
Wallenmeyer continued to speak about the harsh battles the people of the Philippines faced during World War II. She said the Battle of Leyte was the turning point of the war and the beginning of the liberation of the Philippines.
“Once the Japanese lost the decisive battle of Leyte, their morale was broken and many gave up hope of retaining the Philippines. In part, this was thanks to the bravery of the Deadeyes,” Wallenmeyer said.
She continued to honor the Deadeyes and the American veterans for their bravery. She mentioned her father, saying how her family and all Filipinos owed an immense debt to the American veterans that they could never repay.
Longtime friend Sue Schornak described veterans coming up to Wallenmeyer after her speech “as ants to a cube of sugar.” Her speech captivated all who attended the ceremony.
A proclamation from Gov. Mark Dayton was also read declaring July 28 as 96th Infantry Division Day in Minnesota.
“No one can imagine what the world would be like today if Japan had won the war. Thanks to your bravery, veterans of the 96th Infantry Division, we never will know,” Wallenmeyer said.