TACLOBAN, Philippines - US Marines Monday expressed shock at the devastation unleashed by Super Typhoon Haiyan after they flew into a ravaged central Philippines island where General Douglas MacArthur famously fulfilled his vow: "I shall return."
About 90 US personnel based in Japan arrived in the city of Tacloban aboard two C-130 Hercules transport aircraft to deliver emergency supplies after receiving a bird's eye view of the immense scale of destruction across Leyte.
Tacloban, located in Leyte island where more than 10,000 people are thought to have died in what is feared to be the country's worst natural disaster, is close to the Red Beach where General MacArthur landed in 1944 during World War II.
The provincial capital was the first Philippine city to be liberated from Japan's occupying forces and it was also where former first lady Imelda Marcos spent much of her childhood.
The start of the liberation in 1944 came two years after the larger-than-life MacArthur had been forced to leave the Philippines in the face of a Japanese onslaught, while promising that he would be back to lead the counter-invasion.
On Monday, the head of the US contingent -- Brigadier General Paul Kennedy -- painted a grim picture of Leyte which suffered the most when one of the strongest typhoons in history tore into the archipelago three days ago.
"Everything's destroyed," said Kennedy, the commanding general of the Okinawa-based 3rd Marine Expedition Brigade.
"Roads are impassable, trees are all down, posts are down, power is down... I am not sure what else is there. I am not sure how else to describe this destruction.
"Every single village, every building is either significantly damaged or destroyed. Gone. The trees are all down, power lines are all down. Luckily the roads will be passable once we take the (fallen) trees off."
Kennedy's men were the advance guard of a Marine operation that in total will encompass up to nine C-130s plus four MV-22 Ospreys -- tilt-rotor planes that can operate without runways -- and two P3 Orion aircraft for search and rescue.
"We don't want to overwhelm this (place) with a bunch of people that need to be bedded and housed. That'll just make it worse," Kennedy said.
"We are gonna move stuff as they direct, as the Philippine government and the armed forces (ask)."
Gloria Steele, director of the US Agency for International Development, told reporters in Manila that the damage wreaked by Haiyan "looked far worse" than that caused by Typhoon Bopha in December 2012.
Bopha left about 1,900 people dead or missing when it smashed into the main southern island of Mindanao.